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Fifteen Minutes of Fame Series: Clean Label

  • Sep 12, 2016
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Just as cheese puffs and cereals with fluorescent colors aren’t found in nature, neither are some of our go-to baking ingredients (Case in point: Does food coloring grow on trees? How about margarine?)

Consumers, and by extension, bakers, are continuing to embrace the clean label food movement, opting for a short list of ingredients with few to no artificial ones. While there’s no hard and fast definition of “clean label,” the gist is that if you can’t even pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

So what’s an innovative baker to do? The clean label world is a wide one indeed, so for the purposes of this blog, we’re going to home in on muffins. The muffins that peer out at us from behind bakery cases may look tantalizing, but they’re often loaded with calories, sodium and a host of unpronounceable ingredients.

Make clean muffins at home by sticking with a few simple ingredients — eggs, rolled oats and a healthy flour (or go flourless!) — and then personalizing to your taste. Experiment with mashed bananas or other fresh fruit; nuts such as walnuts or pecans; veggies such as shredded carrots or zucchini, or pureed pumpkin or sweet potato; and healthy spices, such as Ceylon cinnamon, or flavorings. Muffins are perfect for experimentation, so try your hand at different combinations, and don’t beat yourself up if your ingredient list gets a little long. Just try to avoid overly processed ingredients.

Serve your muffin concoctions for breakfast, brunch or a late afternoon or evening snack. Whatever the time or occasion, you’ll feel good about your (clean) choice.

Keep it Simple Series: Pound Cake

  • Sep 05, 2016
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Some of our past blogs have focused on outside-the-box baked goods, such as those made with exotic fruits. But sometimes it’s good to go back to the baking basics — items like chocolate cupcakes, blueberry muffins and, of course, pound cake.

For many of us, pound cake brings back sweet memories. It’s an irresistible favorite made by many a grandmother for her grandkids. And it has a rich history that goes back even further than your grandma’s time. In the first half of the 18th century, Europeans made cakes that called for four ingredients, each weighing a pound: flour, butter, eggs and sugar. The simplicity of the recipe made it easy to commit to memory, and the end result was a mammoth cake that could feed multiple families. As the cake evolved, bakers adjusted the proportions (though some maintained the original ratio of 1:1:1:1) and experimented with other ingredients. But the name stuck.

Today’s pound cake recipes open up a world of possibilities, the first of which is the pan. While Bundt molds are common, pound cake recipes work wonderfully well in our loaf pans, baking cups and tulip cups. From there, you can add sour cream, almond or lemon extract, or buttermilk to the original recipe. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar, or whip up some fresh cream. You can toast cake slices in the oven or even brown them on the grill. And then there are the aforementioned exotic fruits. Heat some fresh fruit — peaches work well  with sugar and spoon over just-warmed cake. Add a sprig of mint for garnish, and voila! Pound cake perfection.

Baking for the Generations: Generation X

  • Aug 22, 2016
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Photo credit to www.wannacomewith.com

They’re not Baby Boomers, and they’re not Millennials. As a result, they don’t always get the attention they deserve, but they are unique.

They may have been latchkey kids and played with Ataris. They probably watched Saturday morning cartoons and grew up with the original "Star Wars" movies. And in terms of food, they were familiar with Jiffy Pop, Sloppy Joes and anything set in gelatin.

They’re Generation X, and while there are no hard and fast dates, they came along roughly between the mid 1960s and the late 1970s.

In honor of our extensive line of baking cups, perfect for any kind of muffin or cupcake, we’re going to focus on two Gen X-inspired goodies.

Morning Glory Muffins. The story is that these babies originated in a Nantucket café in the late 1970s and that Gourmet magazine published the official recipe in the early 1980s. Whatever their roots, Morning Glory Muffins are chock full of a bit of everything — carrots, apples, raisins, cinnamon — and they are here to stay. Perfect as a meal in itself and/or with a tall glass of milk.

Hostess CupCakes. What child of the generation known as X doesn’t remember these chocolate-iced, vanilla crème-filled icons? (Or Twinkies, for that matter?) While the company has faced some financial woes over the years, Hostess is often credited with the first mass-produced cupcake. But who needs mass production? The internet is full of recipes that will let you make homemade Hostess cupcakes, complete with the signature white icing across the top.

Anyone else feeling nostalgic?

Fifteen Minutes of Fame Series: Tropical-Inspired Baked Goods

  • Aug 15, 2016
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Photo credit to www.bettycrocker.com

Aloha, fellow bakers!

In this week’s blog, we examine one of the latest trends in baking, and right now tropical-inspired baked goods are enjoying their 15 minutes of fame. So whether you’ve got an upcoming potluck invitation to a Hawaiian luau or not, you can’t go wrong with the following:

Pineapple Upside-Down Loaf. This classic cake is as easy as, well, pie. Start with melted butter and brown sugar in the bottom of a loaf pan. Top with a couple of fresh pineapples arranged around juicy cherries, then pour your favorite cake batter on top. After it bakes, turn it over and serve.  

Piña Colada Cupcakes. Happiness is a refreshingly delicious Piña Colada Cupcake (and maybe a real Piña Colada and “The Piña Colada Song” playing in the background). Your batter will contain coconut milk, coconut extract, pineapple juice and crushed pineapple. Top with fluffy buttercream and those aforementioned juicy cherries. Oh, and those little paper parasols.

Mango Muffins. Fresh and ripe mangos should occupy pride of place in your muffin batter. Why? The moist and tasty end product is studded with uber-healthy, uber-delicious mango chunks. Some health experts argue that a mango a day is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Passion Fruit Treats. This tropical delight may have the best name of all the fruits. And it’s much more than a fancy name; passion fruit has been revered since ancient times for its health benefits. Familiarize yourself with this exotic and intriguing fruit by including it in your loaf cakes, cupcakes and muffins.

Keep it Simple Series: Blueberry Muffins

  • Aug 10, 2016
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Here at Welcome Home Brands, we celebrate both outside-the-box baked goods (tangy currants as a go-to fruit and/or goat cheese frosting) as well as the staples of baking (hello, blueberry muffins). Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture deemed that the month of July is National Blueberry Month, and since July 11 is National Blueberry Muffin Day, it seems fitting to (belatedly) pay tribute to melt-in-your mouth blueberry muffins.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture aims to promote “greater appreciation and use of blueberries,” and with good reason. You likely know that blueberries are healthy, but do you know the specifics of why? Their signature deep blue color plays a role: Foods that reflect the rainbow are known to have more phytochemicals, which boost health benefits. In fact, blueberries have more antioxidants than any other fruit, which further boosts good health, fights harmful free radicals, and can help lower disease risk.

To get the most bang for your buck, use fresh blueberries in your muffins in order to maximize nutritional benefits and to up the deliciousness factor. To further enhance flavor, consider a cinnamon crumb topping, load up on the sour cream for extra moistness, or add almond extract or lemon zest for a yummy twist.

Or, attempt to emulate the legendary Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin, with its boatload of juicy berries and sparkling sugar crown. These fabled concoctions were served to grateful shoppers — and passersby who visited specifically for the muffins — on the top floor of Boston’s famed Jordan Marsh department store, and recipes (and recipe variations) for this famed muffin abound on the internet today.

Behold the blueberry muffin!

We Love Summer Series: The Best Seaside Baked Goods

  • Aug 02, 2016
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One of this summer’s hottest musical hits is DNCE’s catchy debut song “Cake By The Ocean.” And the idea of eating cake — or anything sweet — by the ocean is a good idea indeed. There’s the warmth of the sun on your face, the lull of the waves, the endless blue of the ocean — and the taste of a delicious treat in your mouth.

Not all treats are beach-worthy, so here is an agreeable assortment of seaside-friendly desserts.

  • Bar cookies. Use nuts or dried fruit in lieu of chocolate, which could melt. Perfect for hungry swimmers.
  • Shortbread cookies. Crisp and light, these buttery confections work well with a little extra salt for just the right combo of salty-sweet goodness.
  • Thumbprint cookies. Again, opt for fruit in lieu of chocolate in these colorful, bite-sized goodies.
  • Homemade granola bars. Healthy and homemade, granola bars can take whatever direction you wish depending on the ingredients you choose. Start with old-fashioned oats and work your way to coconut and almonds, honey and brown sugar. Vary as you desire; some recipes don’t even require baking.
  • Carrot or lemon-poppy seed cupcakes. The epitome of lightness and moistness, these cupcakes can be frozen before you head out, so that they’ll be just right when you hit the beach.
  • Angel food cake. With a reputation as the airiest cake around, angel food cake (or cupcakes!) is perfect for warm weather. Cut into slices and put into individual baggies for easy distribution on the beach.

As an alternative, you can go for beach-themed baked goods, like starfish-shaped cookies or cupcakes with beachy decorations, which are perfect no matter where you are. The ocean is optional.

We Love Summer: Best Poolside Baked Goods

  • Jul 25, 2016
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Photo credit to www.bettycrocker.com

Ah, summer, the season of plunges in the pool.

And as summer heats up, and the pool looks more and more promising, you’ll need to brush up on your repertoire of pool-worthy baked goods. We have some ideas for cool concoctions that pair perfectly with swimming.

Key lime cupcakes. You don’t have to live in Florida to appreciate these citrus creations. Made with lime’s smaller sibling, key lime cupcakes are big on zesty (yet still sweet) flavor. Add a little lemon curd and/or top with a key lime buttercream frosting for extra summer tang.

Peach crumble muffins. Forget cobblers; crumble muffins are the way to go when hosting a pool party. Peaches are a perennial summer fruit, but sub out for berries if you prefer. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream — perfect for waterlogged swimmers.

Sponge cake. Unlike some of its denser cake cousins, sponge cake is always delicate, light and airy — and a classic summer favorite. Use a simple recipe — the internet offers plenty you can make with only five ingredients — and take advantage of our loaf pans for convenience sake, and top with fresh fruit for deliciousness sake.  

Lemon tarts. Luscious lemon tarts are guaranteed showstoppers and the dessert equivalent of a dip in the pool. They can easily be made in our baking cups, perfect for handing out at the end of your poolside barbeque. Top each with a halo of light cream and a sprig of fresh mint, or dust with powdered sugar and enjoy.

Baking for the Generations: Baby Boomers

  • Jul 20, 2016
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Photo credit to www.amazon.com

It may seem like the millennials are the hottest generation in town, but don’t count out the boomers —  this demographic still carries a lot of weight.

When it comes to desserts, baby boomers have buying power, as they do with many consumer goods. They can afford to splurge, and they often do, particularly when ordering desserts or baked goods at restaurants. But they are interested in their health as well, and they want quality both in ingredients and presentation. Other considerations? While boomers are willing to splurge (calorie-wise), they didn’t grow up having dessert at every opportunity. It was a treat to be savored, which points back to the need for quality.

Finally, the baby boomer demographic counts a lot of empty-nesters among its flock, so when boomers bake for themselves, it may not be a whole cake or an entire pie. They want scaled-down recipes that easily serve one or two. For those of you who fall into that category, boomer or not, we can recommend some helpful materials. Food blogger and author Christina Lane has written “Dessert For Two: Small Batch Cookies, Brownies, Pies and Cakes,” and she provides a plethora of recipes — and gorgeous photographs — for anyone who wants to indulge their cravings without completely throwing caution to the wind.

And whether you grew up with "The Ed Sullivan Show" or "American Idol," Welcome Home Brands has the perfect bakeware for whipping up your favorite desserts.

 

What's Trending in Baking? Hybrid Desserts

  • Jul 08, 2016
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Photo credit to www.dominiqueansel.com

What’s trending today? While some people are following politics, fashion or celebrity trends, we’re more interested in baking trends, where hybrid desserts are all the rage. You may have heard of the cronut, a croissant-donut pastry created by New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel, and you may even be up on the cruffin, a croissant-muffin combo filled with cream, or the Townie, a delicious cross between a tart and a brownie.

But these desserts, while a great way to have your cake and eat it too, better watch out, as there are some new desserts in town. While the cronut and its like have been around a few years now, the hybrid dessert trend doesn’t show any sign of waning. Here are some other hybrids that might just be worthy of your time — and your taste buds.

Summer nights are perfect for s’mores, and these ooey-gooey fire-roasted treats are malleable. Rather than the traditional bar comprising graham crackers, milk chocolate and marshmallow, why not concoct s’mores cookie bars, s’mores ice cream sandwiches, s’mores cheesecake or — as the perfect compliment to your Welcome Home Brands bakeware — s’mores cupcakes?

Speaking of cupcakes, why not take an American tradition and sweeten it up even more? Apple pie cupcakes take our country’s love of this flaky dessert and the sugary phenomenon known as the cupcake, and combine the two. Soft and cinnamon-y, these cupcakes have a surprise center of apple pie goodness.

Still need ideas? Try mallomacs (a Mallomar-macaron combo), duffins (donut-muffin mixtures), wonuts (fried waffles crossed with donuts), or better yet, experiment and create your own!

WHB Keep it Simple Series: Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Jul 05, 2016
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In the past, we’ve highlighted outside-the-box baked goods, such as those with exotic nuts and tropical fruits. Now, we focus on the staples of baking, such as the classic chocolate cupcake. It’s delicious simplicity at its finest. Who can resist?

For a basic chocolate cupcake — whose flavor is so much more than basic — all you need are basic ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, milk, salt and cocoa powder. Easy-peasy. But if “simple” isn’t your cup of tea cake, you can easily spruce things up. Try substituting oil for butter for a moister cupcake, buttermilk in lieu of milk for stellar taste, and adding sour cream or an extra egg to increase the richness factor. The sky’s the limit when it comes to chocolate types — try bittersweet, dark or a combination — and frostings. For the latter, we like a nice buttercream, such as espresso, or a lovely ganache.

Cupcakes have always occupied pride of place in the culinary world, ever since they burst on the scene in the late 18th/early 19th century. Their versatility is what makes them so popular, from their early days when they were called number cakes because bakers could easily memorize the recipe: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar and so on. They were also called fairy cakes early on because of their small stature and because sometimes their tops are cut off and then placed back on the base in such a way as to resemble fairy wings.

Chocolate cupcakes remain versatile today, whether you choose the basic recipe or a more complex one. So gear up for National Chocolate Cupcake Day on Oct. 18. It’s still a few months away, but it’s never too early to celebrate!

A Kernel of Truth: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Cornstarch and Cornmeal

  • Jun 27, 2016
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Photo credit to rainydayfoods.com

Corn. It’s not just for summer barbecues anymore. Derivatives of this large-grain plant have long been used in baking, but how much do you really know about cornstarch and cornmeal? Here are 10 fun facts.

  1. Cornstarch is made from the endosperm of the corn, found at the center of a corn kernel. These endosperms are ground into a fine white powder.
  2. Cornstarch is flavorless after it’s been cooked.
  3. Cornstarch is gluten-free and contains very little saturated fat or cholesterol. It is predominantly a carbohydrate and, obviously, quite starchy.
  4. Looking for crumbly texture? Cornstarch is the ticket. It also can give your baked goods more moisture and heft.
  5. Looking to thicken recipes? This is what cornstarch does best. It thickens up your recipes a lot more than flour and appears clear in liquids.
  6. Worried about the fact that cornstarch is a processed starch? In all things, moderation. A tablespoon or two isn’t anything to be concerned about, but if you want some healthier alternatives, try arrowroot or tapioca.
  7. Cornmeal is made by grinding sweet corn into a fine powder, also called corn flour.
  8. It comes in a rainbow of colors (well, almost: white, yellow and blue) depending on the color of the corn.
  9. Extremely versatile, cornmeal is ideal for giving all manner of baked good a crumbly texture.
  10. It’s possible to make your own cornmeal by grinding popcorn in a high-end blender.

Dear Baker: What can I substitute for egg, butter or oil?

  • Jun 21, 2016
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We’ve all been there. You’ve set off on a culinary adventure, from the comfort of your own kitchen, whipping up a delectable dessert that is sure to wow. But suddenly you realize that you’re missing a key ingredient. No eggs? No butter? No oil? No problem. Here are some common substitution suggestions for this trio of baking staples.

Eggs

  • Flax seeds pack a one-two punch. They’re healthy and can act as a binding agent in baked goods. Use one tablespoon of the seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let thicken before adding to your batter.
  • Applesauce is a frequent understudy in many baking productions, and a quarter cup works well in lieu of an egg in most recipes. Opt for the unsweetened kind.
  • Ripe banana, surprisingly, can also fill in when you’re short an egg, and you may just love the taste even more. Mash half of the fruit and add.

Butter

  • Greek yogurt is all the rage these days — and a half-cup is a viable (and yummy) alternative to a cup of butter.
  • Olive oil is another go-to butter alternative; sub out three-quarters of a cup for a cup of butter and get a heart-healthy boost.
  • Avocado is in the heart-healthy club, too, and it can be subbed for butter in a 1:1 ratio.

Oil

If you don’t have oil but have butter, melt it and your problem is solved. If you have the aforementioned unsweetened applesauce or Greek yogurt on hand, these work too, as do sour cream or buttermilk.

As you play around with substitutions, either by necessity or perhaps by choice, you’ll likely discover some health-boosting, texture-enhancing, tastebud-loving alternatives.

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