Monday, September 17, 2012

Top 5 Easy Scratch Items

Alright, when I am honest with myself, I must accept that not everyone enjoys the time and effort scratch baking involves. Sometimes people actually have other things to do.

But the good news is that there ARE some things that are so easy to make from scratch, it's almost pointless to buy them pre-made. Here is my list of things that are so quick and easy, once you make them you won't go back to a box or a can.

Fresh Whipped Cream - This is about the easiest thing you can make from scratch: Put your mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer to chill for a while. Make sure your cream is very cold (I stick that in the freezer for about ten minutes too - just don't forget about it in there). Whip the cream with a wire whisk by hand or use an electric mixer. When the cream just begins to thicken, add in however much sugar and vanilla you would like (my preference is about 2 Tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla for one pint of cream). Continue beating until it forms stiff peaks. Just remember to watch it carefully toward the end, or it will become butter!

Frosting: Why would anyone use canned frosting? It is SO bad. Do people just not know how quick and easy frosting is to make? If you are intimidated by Meringue Buttercreams or Ganaches, you can just whip up a batch of good ol' Butter Frosting (some people call it "American Buttercream"): One stick of room temperature butter, 1 pound of confectioner's sugar, 1 Tablespoon vanilla (less if you like) and just enough milk to moisten it (usually about 2 Tablespoons). Beat with an electric mixer for 3-5 minutes until fluffy. Done.

Skillet Cake - This rivals box mixes for speed and simplicity. Is it my favorite cake? No. But it is pretty good and you can whip it up super fast. You don't have to make it in a skillet, you can use a square baking dish instead. Mix the dry ingredients right there in the pan (don't even bother to sift the flour), and stir them together really good. Add the wet ingredients and stir well. Bake as directed, then sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost as desired. Here is one recipe: Quick & Easy Skillet Cake

Graham Cracker Crust: Manufacturers may be able to put out fairly good pre-made flaky pie crusts. But pre-made cracker crumb crusts are still terrible. Instead, use this simple recipe to make your own: Put crackers in a food processor and grind to fine crumbs. Measure out 1 1/2 Cups of crumbs into a bowl with 6 Tablespoons melted butter and, if desired, a little sugar. Mix well and then press into a pie shell. Chill until set for ice box pies, or prebake the crust at 350 for 10 minutes for cooked pies.

Homemade Pancakes:  Many pancake mixes require the addition of fresh eggs and milk, so it's not much more effort to just make them from scratch. Then you can control the ingredients and choose a recipe you love. This one is my favorite: Homemade Pancakes

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