Tag Archives: baking hacks

Harry Eastwood’s Quick and Healthy Substitutes for Baking

Spring has sprung, and with it comes a plethora of bold and beautiful baked goods, recipes and seasonal veggies that brighten our spirits after a long, dreary winter. And, like many of us, The Big Bake judge Harry Eastwood is excited to change things up in the kitchen — and incorporate more healthy substitutes into her baking.

“Most of my favourite seasonal ingredients are linked to what’s out in the garden,” she says. “I get quite strong urges for things that are bright and fresh, like lemons.”

Watch: Sweet Substitutes from Joy Wilson

The British-born, Paris-based chef and cookbook author knows more than her fair share about baking hacks and substitutions — not to mention how to seamlessly weave together healthy substitutes and seasonal ingredients. “I’m done with [recipes] that are long and slow,” she says. “I crave foods that are a certain colour more than a certain flavour this time of year.”

Related: 20 Comforting Baking Projects That Deserve a Pat on the Back

So, as the talented teams on The Big Bake continue to wow us with their spring-inspired cake creations, we look to Harry for her easiest healthy baking substitutions for when you’re in a pinch.

Farewell to a Baking Staple

One of the easiest baking ingredients to swap out? Butter. Although that might be a little difficult to hear for those with a serious sweet tooth, the truth is that you won’t actually miss it all that much in your favourite baked goods. (We promise!) “You definitely don’t taste the butter in a sponge cake,” Harry points out as an example. “You taste the buttercream icing. [Butter is] the easiest thing you can lose without noticing so long as you replace it with a healthy fat, like ground nuts, because there needs to be a balancing act with what you put in.” If you’re doing some spring baking, consider replacing butter in our most crave-worthy carrot cake recipes in every form. Other healthy butter substitutes include applesauce, Greek yogurt, buttermilk and avocado.

Related: Anna Olson’s Quick Guide to Ingredient Substitutions

Make it Moist

If you’ve got a variety of veggies on hand and you’re looking to make an epic cake that has some real moisture to it, Harry suggests adding in some of those sweet seasonal veggies. Not only will your cake come out soft and spongy, but it’ll be a whole lot healthier to boot. “I think vegetable cake is so underrated just because it’s healthier,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good! If you have a vegetable cake with buttercream icing on top, I defy you to tell the difference. The point of a vegetable cake is that people don’t know it’s a vegetable cake.” Psst, it also comes in handy if you’ve got a few picky eaters on your hands and are looking for novel ways to get them to eat their greens.

Harry’s Go-To Secret Ingredient

As for Harry’s all-time favourite healthy baking substitute, one need look no further than the nearest produce aisle. Surprisingly, it’s not avocado. “Zucchini is probably my favourite ingredient to add into cakes because it’s very easy to introduce without anybody having a clue,” she laughs. “If you’ve succeeded at [sneaking it in], then you’ve done a good job. You’ve nailed it.”

For more inspiration, try these Common Ingredient Substitutions That Will Bring Your Recipes to Life or enjoy these Underrated Spring Vegetables That Belong in Your Meal Rotation.

5 Genius Ways to Use Cornbread Mix (Hint: Buttermilk Pancakes)

It’s always best to have a few easy-peasy dishes in your recipe arsenal to rely on in a pinch. One product we can’t get enough of is cornbread mix. Classic cornbread is oh-so-delicious and perfect to accompany fried chicken, macaroni and cheese or your favourite chili recipe, but with a couple of flourishes, you can whip up a myriad of creative and easy dishes that will have you using this convenient product all the time!

1. Jalapeno and Bacon Cornbread Muffins

This simple recipe involves using the mix as you normally would, and adding one diced jalapeno (keep in the seeds if you want extra spice) and ½ cup (about 6 slices) of cooked, crumbled bacon. Portion into 12 lined muffin cups and bake at 375°F until golden, about 20 minutes. For a cute decoration, top each muffin with a thin slice of jalapeno before baking.

Read More: 45 Totally Awesome Ways to Use a Muffin Tin

2. Maple Pecan Cornbread Cake

A surefire winner, this simple skillet cake can be made by adding 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1 cup chopped pecans to the mix and pouring into a well-buttered cast iron skillet. Bake at 350°F until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Once out of the oven, poke the top of the warm cake with a toothpick and brush with a bit more maple syrup. Kick it up a notch by serving warm with a scoop of maple pecan or vanilla ice cream.

3. Savoury Buttermilk Pancakes

This recipe is bound to become your new favourite savoury brunch dish. Make these pancakes by adding 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup shredded old cheddar cheese, 1 egg, 2 Tbsp melted butter to 1 cup of mix along with 3 finely sliced green onions and 1/2 cup of thawed frozen corn kernels. Cook in batches in a non-stick skillet brushed with butter over medium-low until bubbles appear on surface; flip and continue to cook until golden on both sides, about 6 minutes.

Read More: 70 Pancake Recipes That Will Make You Drool

4. Mexican Spiced Cornbread

An exciting twist on regular cornbread, stir 2 Tbsp adobo and 3 chopped chipotle peppers into the batter along with ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro stems, 1 tsp each chili, garlic and onion powders and ½ tsp cumin. Bake as directed on the package until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

5. Cornbread Crab Cakes

These delicious cakes will have you coming back for more! Mix together 2 cups crab meat with 2/3 cup cornbread mix, ¼ cup mayonnaise, 1 egg, 2 minced green onions, 2 Tbsp each minced parsley and cilantro, 1 tsp lemon zest and ½ tsp salt. Form into ¼ cup patties and fry in batches in a generously oiled non-stick skillet until golden on both sides, flipping halfway, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Looking for more life-changing cooking hacks? Here are 5 Ways to Fix Over-Salted Food, 5 Tasty Ways to Use Hummus (That Aren’t Dip!) and 5 Make-Ahead Chicken Marinades to Freeze Now.

5 Genius Hacks to Transform Dry Pancake Mix

Dry pancake mix is a godsend. Just add water and voila! You have a perfect batter for fluffy, no-fuss pancakes. But pancake mix can come in handy for more than just breakfast. With a few extra ingredients, this pantry staple can be transformed into a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Check out these 5 genius recipes that are perfect when your pantry is lacking baking staples, but you have a box of good old pancake mix.

peanut-butter-muffins

Peanut Butter and Banana Protein Muffins

Mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, 2 mashed up ripe bananas, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 eggs and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl. Add in 1 cup of pancake mix and stir until combined. Divide mixture into a lined muffin tin. Spoon a little extra peanut butter onto the centre of each muffin. Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes. Makes 8.

Beer Batter Chicken

Make the batter according to the instructions on the back of your box but instead of using water use a light beer like a pilsner or a lager. Cut chicken breast into 2-inch long and 1 inch thick pieces. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high in a pot so that its minimum 2 inches deep. Drip a little bit of batter into the oil to test the temperature. When the batter gets golden and crispy, your oil is ready. Dip the chicken into the beer batter and let any excess drip off. Fry chicken in the oil until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes. Place fried pieces on a paper towel lined plate. Work in small batches. This same batter method can be used for beer battered fish or vegetables.

Zucchini Fritters

Mix 1 cup of pancake mix with 1 small grated zucchini and a small grated onion. Season with a little salt. The mixture will have enough moisture to create a thick batter so you don’t need to add any water. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, adding a little cooking oil to coat. Make golf size portions with the mixture then flatten them into pancakes. Cook in the pan until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with Greek yogurt sprinkled with za’atar.

pancake-mix-clafoutis

Easy Clafoutis

Mix 1 cup of pancake mix with 1 cup of 10% cream and 1 beaten egg. Grease a 9-inch tart pan. Arrange 1 1/2 cups of sliced strawberries (or other berries) into the pan. Pour batter over strawberries. Bake in a 350F oven until top is golden, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Garnish with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.

Simple Crepes

In a blender place 1 1/2 cups of milk, 2 eggs, 1 cup of pancake mix. Blend until even. Let the mixture rest for 1 hour (or for in the fridge until ready to use). Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Grease with enough butter to coat the pan. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter on the pan. working quickly, hold the handle of the pan and move the batter around to coat the surface of the pan. Cook until bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the crepe, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds. Repeat with remaining batter. Stuff crepes with whatever you like! Nutella and strawberries, whipped cream and fresh berries, stewed apples.

Love pancakes? Take your pancake mix and use it to shake up your Saturday morning with these Pancake Recipes That Will Make You Drool.

6 Bakery Hacks That Will Make You Feel Like a Pro

Some say that homemade is best, but to be honest, we think those people have never been to some of the amazing bakeries featured on The Baker Sisters. Sure, some of us know how to whip up the best batch of cookies on the block, while others may boast cake-baking skills that would rival Nonna’s. But at the end of the day, it’s the tricks of the trade that really elevate a baked good to the next level.

The-Baker-Sisters-at-Sweet-Hereafter-Cheesecakery

Well, we’re ready to level up, and we’ve enlisted Jean Parker and Rachel Smith’s help to do it. Here are six genius hacks that all next-level bakeries use that will have your home kitchen smelling like a bakery in no time.

1. Make use of your freezer

Perhaps you’ve heard that freezing—or at least refrigerating—your cookie dough before baking is a surefire way to get gooey-but-crispy cookies? As it turns out freezing many of your concoctions in advance is a great way to add extra moisture and ensure a perfect bake.

“Your fridge and freezer are just as important as your oven sometimes,” Jean says. “That and giving yourself the time. For a home baker it’s hard to wait 12 hours for [something], but you do.”

Bakeries certainly seem to have the time, which is why they’ll freeze cakes or cinnamon buns before baking or decorating. Now that’s what we call a cool trick.

2. Enhance with citrus

Peach-Buckle-Proof-Bakery
Proof Bakery’s Peach Buckle recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of lemon zest. 

One of the best ways to elevate the flavour profile of something is by hitting all of those complex layers of seasonings—that’s true whether you’re baking or cooking. But one of the most common mistakes we make is adding too much salt and not enough acidity. Well, it turns out that latter ingredient elevates baked goods, too.

“You’d be surprised how much lemon juice is in a lot of things that you don’t necessarily get that flavour,” Rachel says. “It’s like salt. They can enhance flavours and really change the flavour profile.”

You’ve  seen lemon juice in apple, blueberry or strawberry pies (to name a few) but don’t be afraid to try it in chocolate cake, too.

Lemon-Chevre-Brownie-Purebread-Bakery-Vancouver
Vancouver’s Purebread bakery marries lemon and chocolate flavours in their Lemon Chevre Brownie.

3. Invoke some flour power

How many times have you baked fruity muffins or chocolate-chip scones, only to have the fruit bleed through and sink to the bottom, or the chocolate chips melt into a gooey mess? It turns out there’s a very simple solution to all of those problems: a little flour power.

“Coating chips and berries in flour is a huge one,” Jean says. “It prevents them from sinking or melting. Blueberries, if you toss them in flour first, won’t blend into the batter.”

It’s so simple, yet makes concoctions so pretty. Who knew?

4. Swap flour for cocoa

No, as much as we love all things chocolate we don’t mean swapping out flour for cocoa powder when you’re baking in general. But when you’re coating a cake pan—especially a cake pan being prepped for a chocolaty concoction—that’s a swap the real pros make.

“A lot of the time you’ll see a baker dust their pan with flour to help prevent it from sticking,” Rachel explains. “But if you’re doing a chocolate-based cake, use cocoa powder so it actually doesn’t change the colour of the cake. I learned that at Little Bird in Saskatoon from Tasha and Kim.”

5. Get creative with jam and jelly

Not all Pinterest-worthy projects actually come out like the photos that inspire us—that’s why #PinterestFails were created in the first place. But if you’ve been eyeing a trendy birch-bark stump cake the way the bakers at Saskatoon’s Little Bird were, it’s time to get creative with your decorating to achieve the desired effect. And sometimes that means using creative ingredients like jams or jellies.

Double-Chocolate-Birch-CakeSaskatoon’s Little Bird Patisserie & Cafe makes this gorgeous Double Chocolate Birch Cake.

“I made a birch bark stump [at Little Bird]. It was insane,” Rachel says. “Watching somebody decorate a cake, you learn little tips. [They] took brown food jelly and put holes in the side of the cake, and then smeared it with an offset spatula to create those lines of the birch bark around it. When you see the finished product, you just look at it and wonder how the heck did they do that. It’s actually quite simple, those little details.”

6. Oil it up

Want to know the secret to a moist, indulgent cake? We’ll give you a hint: it’s not an extra pat of butter, despite how deliciously rich that sounds. Nope, the secret to moist cake comes in the form of a more unexpected ingredient: oil.

Chocoalte-Chip-Marscarpone-Cupcakes-Giada-de-Laurentiis
Giada De Laurentiis knows that secret to moist cake, too! Try her recipe for chocolate chip and marscarpone cupcakes.

“Oil doesn’t evaporate because there’s no water in it, but butter is made with water so it evaporates,” Rachel explains. “Butter is great for flavour; it’s not necessarily great for a tender cake.”

Aha. So it turns out butter doesn’t make everything better. Just most things.

Rachel-Smith-at-Purebread-Bakery-Vancouver

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start baking like the pros.