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NORMAL CHEF: Holiday baking

So now that Halloween is done and over, everyone always seems to shift into the holiday mode. This edition of The Normal Chef is going to center around some tips, gift ideas, general information.
Here is one of the best and cheapest ones I am offering, every holiday baking season, start off with a brand new box of baking soda and baking powder, although there little tests that you can do to see how viable, they are they are so cheap just buy yourself new ones.
Remember when you are scooping out your flour, do just that scoop it, don't pack it, and remember to level it off or you will get an incorrect amount and it can make a difference in the product that you are baking.
I always sift my dry ingredients before I use them, one is because I am able to get rid of any of the lumps in there, that includes granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, flour and even powder sugar, it allows for a lighter baked good as well as making sure that they are all incorporated together.
Use dry measuring cups to measure dry and liquid measure cups for liquid, making sure that you are on eye level when pouring the liquid into the measuring cup.
If the recipe ask for room temperature products, let it come to room temperature, it does make a difference. As a last resort you can heat it little by little in a microwave but have to be very careful not to overdue it. On the opposite side if it says cold butter, use cold butter, all these instructions are for a specific reasons, always try to remember that baking is a lot of chemical reactions that is why you want to be as precise as possible.
Always crack your eggs first into a separate bowl so you do not get any shell in there.
If you can make a list of all things you want to bake this holiday season and start paying attention to your grocery stores sales flyer, especially when they have buy 1 get 1 free specials and stock up. Are you a name brand person or do you use generic, it is a personal choice, for me the most part I use generic except flat will not use generic cream cheese and strictly a jiff peanut butter girl. I also will not use almond bark to dip my chocolates in, I buy Ghirardelli chocolate, melt it in a double boiler and add some coconut oil to it if I have to. It is worth the extra money because it makes a huge difference in taste.
If you are gifting baked goods this holiday season which I am a big fan of, I love to see what other people bake, start saving containers know, you can reuse oatmeal, cornmeal, and Pringles containers to store and ship cookies in, a finished coffee can with a lid works great also. Get creative put your own spin on them you can re wrap the containers with Christmas paper, crafting paper, deli paper what ever interest you.
Bottom line don't be afraid to get in there and bake something, have a cookie exchange party, a candy making day, try something new, and do it with friends and family it really makes the task a lot more fun.
These are 2 of my most loved quick breads, they are simple to make and easy to bake, so I am sharing these recipes again this season.

Banana Bread: 

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

1c granulated sugar                          1/2c shortening
2 each mashed bananas                   2 eggs
1/2t salt                                              1t baking soda
2c flour                                               4T water

Cream the shortening and sugar together, until light golden brown, add eggs and mix until fully incorporated, next add in your bananas, and mix together, then add your combined, sifted dry ingredients and mix together, if you want to fold in any chopped nuts now is the time and add your water mix and scrape into a loaf pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven put it on a rack to cool, after 10 minutes remove from the pan and cool completely

Cranberry Orange Bread:

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2c flour                                           3/4c sugar
11/2t baking powder                       3/4t salt
1/4c butter/margarine softened       1T grated orange peel
3/4c orange juice                            1 egg
1 c cranberries, chopped                 1/2c chopped nuts

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Stir in butter until  mixture is crumbly. Stir in orange peel,orange juice, and egg just until flour mixture is moistened. Stir in cranberries and nuts and pour in loaf pan and bake in preheated oven 50 to 65 minutes until a toothpick inserted in comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a rack cool 10 minutes and then remove from pan and cool completely

These 2 recipes are perfect to double or triple and bake up to give as gifts, you can do full size loaves or do the smaller ones, and do a baking time of 35 to 40 minutes. As normal on ovens bake differently so check at lowest time setting and adjust accordingly..

So my fellow normal chefs lets have a wonderful holiday season and if you have any culinary or even entertaining questions please feel free to contact me.

Natilie Cavnar is a cooking fanatic who loves to try new recipes, and create some of her own, ask her what you want at thenormalchef@gmail.com.

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