4 Ingredients You Can’t Do Without In Cooking & Baking

4 Ingredients You Can’t Do Without In Cooking & Baking

You will find through a Google search lists of all the necessary ingredients you need in your pantry to cook and bake.

There are though, four ingredients that are the most important, and you cannot do without them.

Each of the 4 most important cooking and baking ingredients serves a particular function, reacting with each other and other ingredients to create the structure, flavor and texture of the finished cooked dish or baked good.

These include:

Salt

Salt is one of the most important ingredient in everything we cook and bake.

Salt is unique and the only mineral we use in cooking and baking.

It primes our palates to identify and enjoy flavors and textures. Salt works to amplify and balance what we taste.

Different types of salts have varying textures and levels of salinity.

There are different types of salt.

Salt crystals differ in shape and size and the various types will melt at differing rates.

Choose a lighter, smaller crystal like table salt for baked goods and larger grains or flakes as a finishing salt.

Whichever type of salt is used, it directly influences flavor in a surprisingly complex way.

Adding a hint of salt to batter won’t give the cake a salty flavor. Rather, salt reduces bitterness and allows sweetness to come forward, producing a more well-rounded flavor.

Salt is not only a flavor enhancer, but also affects the tenderness of a baked good.

Ultimately, salt is used as a seasoning to enhance the taste of food. It makes bland foods such as carbohydrates, like bread or pasta palatable and it helps to bring out the natural flavors in food.


– Read and Know More About – What You Should Know When Cooking With Salt


Vinegar

Few ingredients have the versatility, range, and potency of vinegar when it comes to cooking.

There are different types of vinegars as well.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar – pickling vegetables – flaky pie crusts – salad dressing & vinaigrettes
  • Rice Wine Vinegar – Japanese sauces & condiments
  • Sherry Vinegar – glazing vegetables – pan sauces
  • Balsamic Vinegar – Meat, Salads & Desserts

– Try This Deliciously Yummy Balsamic-Honey Glazed Chicken and Asparagus


Citric Acid

Citric acid is used in preparing foods for preservation and adding flavor. The sour flavor to be exact.

Like those sweet and sour candies. Yes, their sweetness is from sugar and the sour flavor is from the use of citric acid, among other naturally occurring acids.

Citric acid is also used in pickling fruits and vegetables to making jams and jellies.

Zest of lemons as well as oranges contain citric acid and can be used as an agent for enhancing flavor in cooking and baking.

Lemon zest is a popular flavoring for baked goods and desserts as well as in savory dishes, such as meats and sauces.


Some Lemon Zesty Recipes


Lemon juice can replace or compliment vinegar in salad dressings, or to marinate and tenderize meat, poultry or fish.


Try These Salad Dressings And See How Vinegar Is The Star In These Vinaigrette’s To Complete Your Salad


Sugar

In addition to imparting sweetness, sugar is added to food to contribute not only to flavor (sweetness), but most importantly to color. Such as the browning of baked goods and meats.


Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee Rum SauceSugar Helped Not Only With Browning Of The Baked Good – But Also With The Carmel Color & Flavor Of The Sauce

Sugar interacts with other food ingredients, enhancing the flavor profile.

Here is some to remember about sugar in your baked goods.

Sugar is hygroscopic, which means that it both attracts water and holds onto it, leading to a moist cake.

If you reduce the necessary amount of sugar in a recipe, you’re also decreasing the cake’s ability to retain moisture.

You can replace the reduction of every 1/4 cup sugar with: 3 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup. Keep in mind the flavor of each replacement as regards the one you choose.

Sugar acts synergistically to increase the aroma of a flavor or balancing bitterness, such as with dark chocolate.


Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint CupcakesMade With Bitter Cacao & Balanced With The Sweetness Of Sugar

More Deliciously Yummy Recipes

Why We Cook

To think about cooking as purely functional would be to look at just one aspect of it. When in fact there are several reasons why we cook.

Cooking makes food more edible and in doing so cuts down on the time it takes to digest it.

Some foods we can eat raw, but there are others that need to be cooked, like meat or eggs for example.

How To Make The Perfect Egg In One Minute

Humankind has been on the earth for thousands of years and throughout the centuries we have learned the art of cooking.

Yes cooking is an art. If you are a professional-cook or not – when you put together different flavors you are creating a dish to satisfy your taste and hunger.

Frequently Asked Questions about Healthy Cooking

The More You Know

We spend just five percent (5%) of our day eating. So make the food you eat count towards a healthier you. Read more here: First Step To Being Healthy


The bottom line is, we have learned through trial and error that some foods need to be cooked.

So again, ever thought while you are preparing something to eat, why you cook it?

Why We Cook

It makes eating food safe, as cooking destroys bacteria, and the toxins they produce.

The food flavors multiple with using heat to cook. The heat browns meat, vegetables, breads, and cakes.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Brussels sprouts and Bacon

Cooking caramelizes sugar and helps herbs and spices to release their locked in flavors in a process known as the Maillard reaction.

Read More Here About Cooking With Herbs – Spices – and Caramelizing Sugar

How To Spice Thngs Up When Cooking
Spanish Flan – recipe and video on How To Carmelize Sugar

Food that has been cooked helps with your digestion as it softens starches and releases foods nutrients.

Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic Parmesan

Cooked food tastes delicious and brings new textures to food.

Cooking To Gather Family and Friends

You may have heard the expression, make friends by “breaking bread together.”

Research has shown that the ritual of cooking and sharing your cooked food with others is entrenched in our psyche, and it brings family and friends together.

Regularly eating cooked food with others also improves our well-being.

Cooking Supports A Healthy Life Style

Here’s a great response to why we cook.

Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, lead author of a study on home cooking and weight lossat the John Hopkins Center, says if you are trying to lose weight or not, people who cook most of their meals at home, consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all (Study Suggests Home Cooking is a Main Ingredient in Healthier Diet).

According to Civil Eats – The power of a communal meal, or eating together – either it be a Thanksgiving feast, a community potluck, or a dinner-table gathering can build cultural ties and tear down political walls.

So now you know. Let’s get cooking.

Peach Upside Down Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake with Butter and Brown Sugar Glaze

Here’s a Peach Upside Down Cake that is just peachy. This dessert is made with a brown sugar glaze. It’s a natural syrup with no added chemicals and it’s not like the ordinary glaze of just water, powdered sugar and a little milk.

Cutting the cake into six (6) servings would make it 49.5 grams of Carb, 18.75 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein. If you used raw sugar and whole wheat flour, both with their fiber intake, you could add 3 grams more of protein to this dessert.

If you view dessert like that, it isn’t so bad. It is true there are sugars in the recipe. But you can always change out processed foods for more natural foods that are minimally processed, therefore making a recipe closer to more natural and still enjoy dessert.

Peaches provide about 18 mg phytosterols, which are plant-based nutrients, and they lower your cholesterol levels. Knowing this about peaches also can make the dessert more Peachesappealing. Don’t you agree?

But wait there’s more. A large peach has niacin, or vitamin B-3, that helps with energy metabolism in your body.

Peaches are high in vitamin-C, which we all know is an antioxidant and an essential nutrient for a healthy immune system and strong joints. Peaches also have vitamin-A, an essential nutrient for healthy vision.

Peaches can also help regulate your blood pressure. The fruit provides about 332 mg potassium each, and they are sodium-free.

A high-sodium, low-potassium diet may cause high blood pressure and an increased risk for stroke and kidney disease, and most of us need to increase potassium and decrease sodium. Most all of the fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans are high-potassium, low-sodium foods.

Now for our featured dessert: Peach Upside Down Cake, and here is what you will need:

ingredients for Peach Upside Down CakeBrown-Sugar Glaze

¼ cup butter, softened

½ cup packed brown sugar

2 cups sliced, pitted and peeled peaches

Cake Ingredients 

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Line a 9-inch spring-form pan with parchment paper and set aside.

melting butter, adding brown sugar and spreading on bottom of spring form panGrab the room temperature butter and melt in a small sauce pan over medium heat and then add the brown sugar and stir until sugar is completely moistened and mix well with the butter. Next spread sugar mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared spring-form pan.

arranging peaches in uniform over brown sugar mixtureLine peaches in a circular pattern on the bottom of the spring form pan until it is filled with the peaches (as shown in image). Set aside.

pour batter over peaches and spreadIn a food processor, combine the ½ cup of butter and ¾ cup of sugar and process till creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and process until combined.  Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, process on -mix- speed after each addition just until combined.

Pour the batter over the peaches and spread evenly over the peaches using the back of a large spoon or flexible spatula.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.

Peach Upside Down Cake with Butter and Brown Sugar GlazeLoosen cake first by running a knife around sides and loosen ring and lift off. Grabbing edge of parchment paper, carefully pull cake to a serving platter. Cool for another 10 to 15 minutes.

slice of Peach upside Down Cake with Butter and Brown Sugar GlazePlate and serve.

 

What Others are Saying About Peach Desserts:

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

For someone new at flour less baking, wheat flour that is, can be a trial-and-error process. Flour, when used in baking, adds body, structure, and texture to baked goods. It often acts as a binder, because of the gluten, binding all the recipe ingredients together. When you remove the gluten or flour, you have to add something else in its place that will perform the same function.

Here are some tips to help achieve better baking results when going flour less.

To increase the nutrition value, substitute up to 1/4 cup ground flax seeds plus 1/4 cup water for 1/4 cup flour in a recipe (flax will absorb more moisture).

To add more moisture to your recipe, add gelatin, extra egg or oil. Honey or rice malt syrup helps retain moisture as well. Honey works great when using coconut flour.

Substitute brown sugar for white sugar to retain moisture.

To enhance the flavor of flour less foods, add chocolate chips, dried fruits or nuts and double the amount of spices asked for in the recipe.

For better structure, add dry milk solids or cottage cheese to the recipe. Replace evaporated milk for regular milk.

Add extra egg or egg whites if your recipe is too crumbly.

Don’t over beat or over mix since the kneading time or mixing time is shorter with no gluten to develop.

You can use ground oats in place of flour, but you will also need bananas or eggs to bind the ingredients together.

Eggs can replace many functions of gluten such as binding and enhancing texture and structure of the recipe. Two other starch-based products you can use to bind and thicken are guar gum and xanthan gum. They are interchangeable and used in small amounts, usally about 1 tablespoon. But these two binders can be expensive, and in place of them you can use corn starch, tapioca starch, or arrow root starch.

Guar Gum used as a food thickener in flourless bakingGuar gum is extracted from the bean of the guar plant. The guar plant is native to Pakistan and India. The guar bean is rich in protein and used to feed cattle, and as a vegetable used in Middle Eastern cooking.

Guar gum is also used to help preserve food, and to help it retain flavor, texture and moisture. Guar gum is recommended to use when baking with coconut flour, as this type of flour can case dryness to your baked.

Xanthan Gum used as a food thinkner in gluten free bakingXanthan gum has a substance called polysaccharide, which has the ability to form a gel and bind many times its weight in water, making it a very valuable food thickener.

If you are allergic to corn products, then it is recommended not to use xanthan gum, as it is derived from corn. But it can also be fermented by using wheat, dairy, or soy as well. Just read the ingredients label to see how it was made.

The key to flour-less baking is to experiment. You may have to try different ingredients or amounts to get the flavor and texture you want.

Now for our featured recipe: Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes.

1 ½ cups ground oats

½ cup sugar

½ cup cocao powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 mashed banana

¼ cup avocado oil or lite olive oil

¾ cup almond milk

½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting:

3 cups icing sugar

2 tablespoons of heavy cream, to thicken frosting

1/4 to 1/2  teaspoon peppermint extract

2 drops food coloring, optional

Cupcake Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.

Place oats in a blender and grind until fine.

Add ground oats, sugar, cacao, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk well. Add the mashed banana, oil, milk, apple cider vinegar and vanilla. Continue to whisk until smooth.

Divide batter among the 12 cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they start to firm on the top. Let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Instructions:

Add icing sugar, cream, peppermint extract and green food coloring, if using, to a medium sized mixing bowl. Use electric mixer to blend until smooth. Add more cream, a little at a time as you’re mixing to create the consistency you want.

Gluten-Free-Chocolate-CupcakesAfter you have frosted the little cakes, arrange on a dessert plate, and serve with milk, coffee, or your favorite dessert beverage.

If you like gluten-free recipes, you will also enjoy Gluten Free Tropical Carrot Cake.

 

What Others are saying About Cupcakes:

Pecan Buttermilk Banana Bread

Pecan Buttermilk Banana Bread

First Post July 28, 2014 – Update October 4, 2021

Many who are not vegan or not allergic to gluten, make there sweet breads with regular white flour. It can be bleached or unbleached.

This sweet bread or banana bread recipe featured uses 100% whole wheat.

Even though it’s made with 100% whole wheat, it won’t ruin the fun of enjoying this sweet treat.

The fact is, whole wheat is a complex carbohydrate and wont spike your glucose, or cause a serge of energy to only fall fast 20 minutes later.

What Goes Inside The Sweet Bread

The inside this bread has Almond Toffee Bits or better know as Heath Bars.

The outside of the bread is bake coated with sugar, for that extra sweetness.

The sugar coats better, and doesn’t clump like flour or leave a floury film on the baked cake.

Instead, it leaves a slight sweet coating on the bottom and sides.

Avocado oil or olive oil can be replaced with butter, considered a healthier alternative.

extra ripe bananasWe also used over ripe bananas. When bananas turn completely black, they have a lot of natural sweetness.

Pecan Buttermilk Banana Bread

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup butter, unsalted, melted (1/2 cup oil or apple sauce to replace butter)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. cinnamon or pie spice

1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium)

1 cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

½ cup almond toffee (or Heath Bars, about 4 crushed)

1 cup chopped pecans, divided

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

Coat a 9×5 inch loaf pan with butter or olive oil and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

In a large mixing bowl blend together the eggs, buttermilk, butter and bananas.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a medium bowl.

Add ½ cup pecans, almond toffee bits, and both sugars, mix in.

Add flour mixture to banana mixture, mix till well incorporated.

Pour into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle ½ cup pecans over batter.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Read more here: How to Make Really Moist Banana Bread

 

What Others are Saying About Banana Bread:

Healthier Baking with Sugar Substitutes

Healthier Baking with Sugar Substitutes

Sugar is a tasty ingredient that enhances everything by making it ‘sweet,’ and everyone now and then craves sweets.

It goes without saying, however, that anything in moderation is better, including sugar, because when sugar is consumed to excess it can wreak havoc with the way your body processes it, which leads to a rise in blood sugar levels and insulin secretion from the pancreas.

After a while the pancreas stops producing insulin because of extreme sugar consumption, and that’s never a good outcome for anyone. High sugar foods are also very fattening, and loaded with calories and is a culprit increasing the risk of  type II diabetes and heart disease.

For the sugar-health-conscious, there are quite a few sugar substitutes that people have been using for years to counter the effects of an over consumption of white processed sugar.

Sugar is used in so many food products that it can be difficult to avoid. However, there are many healthy choices that can be substituted for sugar when cooking.  All the sugar substitutes listed below are viable, practical and health-wise alternatives to processed sugar.

The difference in nutritional value alone should make anyone at least want to try to begin substituting and hopefully after a while sugar alternatives will become a way of life. It only takes a little bit of time to get used to living a sugar free lifestyle, and once you kick the habit, your body will love you for it.

Natural Sugar Substitutes

Pure Maple SyrupThis is an excellent substitute as it is wholly natural, tapped straight from its source, the maple tree and it has a boat load of antioxidants to keep your body in-tune while it fights off those nasty buggers called free radicals as they roam the body. Be sure, however, it is 100% pure maple syrup and not a ‘white sugar’ laden substitute.

Honey – An obvious choice, as it too is loaded with antioxidants and has been used for years by tea lovers around the world, but, don’t stop at your teacup. This gem can be added to anything that calls for plain white sugar and is undeniably a better choice. To get the most out of your honey, you may want to consider buying some that is locally and strawberriesorganically produced without any additives or preservatives. This will give you the best nutritional value from the honey in your cooking.

Pureed Fruit: Fruit has sugar, but, it is a natural sugar and so not nearly as harmful as the processed variety. Using pureed fruit in baking instead of sugar is a great option for healthier baking. Bananas, apricots and berries work great.

Apricot Puree: Apricots are high in nutrients with vitamin C, fiber, and iron. Add to baked goods in lieu of sugar, also eat it as a snack by mixing with plain non-fat Greek yogurt or enjoy it with hearty whole-grain bread.

No Sugar Added Applesauce: Another excellent substitute, as it’s sweet, natural and some bakers even prefer it to processed sugar because baked goods such as cookies are more because of it.

Raisins: Perhaps raisins used as a sugar substitute may not be your first plan but think about it. They’re sweet wholesome and delicious and when broken down in a food processer and added as a sugar substitute to your favorite dishes you may be pleasantly surprised how good your recipe tastes using raisins instead.

Cinnamon: This spice is grand for flavoring your favorite drink, hot or cold and many baked goods that you would normally add sugar to. Plus it has no calories and is great for an cocoa-powderimmunity boost, too.

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: This one is another great sugar alternative, plus it satisfies the chocolate craving. If you want to kick it up a notch create your favorite beverage, unsweetened, and toss in cocoa powder with a dash of vanilla. It will soothe the senses without the extra sugar buzz.

Cranberries: If you love cranberries this is the sugar alternative for you. They’re tart and sweet at the same time. Enjoy delicious multigrain pancakes, scones or muffins loaded with cranberries instead of sugar. Cranberries, too, are loaded with antioxidants, so give your taste buds a treat and remember cranberries aren’t just for the holidays.

Dates & Figs: Both add flavor, dimension and tons of nutrition as a sugar substitute to a slew of recipes. Baked goods such as cakes, muffins, even hearty breads will soon become a staple in your breakfast, lunch or dinner regimen using figs and dates as a substitute for sugar.

Orange, Lemon or Lime Juice: If you love citrus you’ll do well to squeeze a handful of either into your next hot or cold drink and forego the sugar, besides your body will show its appreciation, especially around flu season, as citrus is loaded with vitamin C.

Coconut Sugar: One great alternative to refined sugar is coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is made by heating the sap from coconut palms until it has been reduced to granules that can be used in the same way as regular sugar.

coconutIt has a similar flavor to brown sugar, but a lower glycaemic index, which means that it has less effect on blood and insulin levels within the body.

If you adore coconut, here’s a way to enjoy some without the guilt. Simply swap out the refined sugar with coconut sugar added to your favorite smoothie and clothes your eyes. You’ll think you’re on a tropical island and best of all it’s full of potassium, and let’s face it, are any of us really getting enough potassium in our diet, chances are a big ‘no.’  This also makes a great substitute in several baked goods.

Erythritol: This is a sugar alcohol that comes in powder form and made from a plant. It has been deemed safe and approved by the FDA.

 

 

What Others are saying About Sugar Substitutes:

Blueberry Lemon Flognarde

Blueberry Lemon Flognarde

This dessert is not a custard, like Crème Burlee or Spanish Flan but rather a fruit-filled batter like cake. Blueberry Lemon Florgnarde is considered a French dessert. As a matter of fact you can use any fruit to make this very splendidly tasteful dessert. If you wanted you could even have this dessert for breakfast. With the eggs, you have your protein and the blueberries provide the complex carbohydrate. It only has 6 tablespoons of sugar in it. Those three eggs provide 3 – 4 grams of protein per serving.

Here is what you will need:

ingredients for Blueberry Lemon Flognarde

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

6 tbsp. sugar, divided

¾ cup fresh blueberries

3 eggs

1 1/3 cups milk

2/3 cup flour

1 tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tbsp. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

preparing the pie plate for the Bluberry Lemon Flognarde

Butter a 9″ pie pan and arrange the blueberries to cover the bottom of the pie pan and sprinkle 3 tbsp. of sugar on top of the blueberries.

grating lemon zest

Next, with a grater and a fresh lemon, grate 1 tablespoon of zest. Save the rest of the lemon for another recipe. Cut it in to 4 quarters and freeze it. When you need a few spoonfuls of zest you have it in the freezer, saving time from going to the store for just one lemon. You can do the same with orange peels. I also use the zest of both the citrus peels when I make fresh ginger root tea.

processing ingredients for the lemon Blueberry Flognarde

Next, with a food processor, combine the remaining 3 tbsp. sugar, eggs, milk, flour, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt, and process until smooth, about 1 minute.

pouring Lemon Blueberry Flognarde over blueberries

Once all ingredients are processed, pour the batter over the blueberries. Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes or until firm and lightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes then dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve warm.

Flavorful Lemon Blueberry Flognarde

This dessert is very delectable to the palate and goes well with a good cup of coffee. It has a hint of lemon flavor and the fresh blueberries are very juicy.

 

What Others are saying About Blueberries and Lemon Zest:

Perfect Panna Cotta

Perfect Panna Cotta topped with strawberry sauce and a fresh strawberry

 

Panna Cotta is a classic northern Italian dessert with roots in the dairy-rich Piedmont region. Although it only takes a few minutes to prepare, it lends a sophisticated finish to any special meal or occasion. This recipe proves once again that a dish doesn’t have to be complicated to be out-of-this-world delicious.

 Here is what you will need

1/3 cup cold water

1 ½ tablespoons unflavored gelatin

2 cups heavy cream (you can use 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, can make for a creamer panna cotta)

2 cups half & half

½ cup honey or 1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Directions:

In a medium glass bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water and let stand for 5 – 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the heavy cream, half & half and honey to a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.

Pour the warm mixture over the gelatin and stir until thoroughly dissolved.

Divide into wine goblets and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours before serving.

To serve, top with strawberry sauce, seasonal fresh berries, caramel sauce or drizzled with honey.

To make your Italian dessert a Mocha Panna Cotta: delete the vanilla extract and replace with 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder and top with shaved dark chocolate.

 

What Others are Saying About Panna Cotta:

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