Pumpkin – In baking recipes we will always be referring to what’s known in the USA as Solid Pumpkin Pack. This is simply the flesh of the fresh pumpkin that has been roasted, scooped out, pureed and then commercially canned.
I have a brand preference in pumpkin and that for me will always be Libby’s.
I have tried other brands and in my opinion they just haven’t made the grade. Perhaps due to the fact that it turns out that some canned pumpkin is actually squash. Some manufacturers make “pumpkin” puree from one or more kinds of winter squashes such as butternut, Hubbard, and Boston Marrow, which can be less stringy and richer in sweetness and color.
You can of course make your own Pumpkin Puree I do find however that the homemade version is alot more liquid than its canned counterpart.
Either way you choose, you can’t go wrong with Pumpkin Desserts!

1 – 16 ounce can of pure pumpkin = 448g (2cups)

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Strawberries– Once again I am an advocate for freezing my berries. Of course you cannot always use frozen berries for all baking applications such as Fresh Fruit Tarts and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and garnishes. Nor can you use frozen strawberries inside cake fillings as the moisture content will break down your cakes and cause a soggy slice. Strawberries are 85-90% water content in their fresh natural form, so the freezing process tends to break them down and creates a more liquid mass.
But in most cases whether I am making a Strawberry Compote for the Strawberry Sponge Cake or mixing strawberries into my muffins and scones, I do prefer the frozen form. Just keep in mind that extra liquid- which is not really “extra” at all, it is simply a breaking down of the fibers that keep its structure can add liquid to your recipe that the fresh ones would not.
Frozen strawberries tend to be sweeter than fresh strawberries, especially during off season months. You can buy strawberries already frozen in the supermarket, or you can freeze fresh berries yourself during their peak. Either way, in my opinion you are getting the best “tasting” strawberry because they are frozen during their peak, which when it comes to any type of produce PEAK SEASON is the KEY.
So do not be turned off from this frozen product, as I find that the ugliest strawberries (which always get turned into frozen during manufacturing as they cannot be sold in the market due to aesthetics) will be the best tasting berry!
1 U.S Dry Pint = 1 pound = approx 2 cups sliced = approx 305g (hulled berries)

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Sugar The topic of sugar can tend to get lengthy as there are many different sugars available today from granulated in all of its forms ranging from superfine to coarse grain crystal sugars for decorating, to liquid forms of corn syrup and molasses to artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Stevia. The list will go on and on.

White Granulated Sugar– or table sugar has fine to medium-sized granules and is the sugar most often used in recipes. There is a science that takes place in recipes , mainly the recipes asking for the Creaming Method that require granulated sugars to get the job done. Which is why it is difficult in Creaming Method recipes to substitute any other type of sugar. This mix method forces the sugar granules, which if you look under a microscope have pointy jagged edges, to pierce the fat in the recipe in turn producing air bubbles. If you were to substitute a liquid sugar such as corn syrup or honey, or even a superfine sugar you will not achieve the same result that you would had you used the superior granulated variety. Sugar is hydroscopic, meaning it is “water loving”. It attracts moisture in the batter which reduces the amount of gluten formed in the flour. Less gluten in the batter makes a baked good with a more tender crumb and a lighter end result. Not to mention its preserving properties.

Superfine Sugar also known as Castor Sugar is white granulated sugar with much smaller grains.  It is what the name implies, Superfine Grain.  It is a good choice in making meringues or in recipe where you want the sugar to dissolve rapidly. Read about how the different sugars can affect your baked good here in There is  a Method to my Madness

Granulated Sugar 1 cup = 200 g / 1 teaspoon = 4 grams / 1 tablespoon = 12 grams
Superfine Sugar 1 cup = 200g / 1 teaspoon = 4 grams / 1 tablespoon = 12 grams

Light Brown & Dark Brown Sugars Originally brown sugar was made in the process of fully refining white sugar. In the refining of white sugar there is a number of steps from the start of the harvest of the sugar cane stalks to the end result of the refined sugar that you buy in the store.
At one time brown sugar was just one step in the process of making white sugar where some of the natural molasses was still left in. Nowadays though Brown Sugar is simply fully refined white sugar that has molasses added back into it. The darker the color the stronger the molasses taste.
Equal weights of brown and white sugars have the same sweetening power. But because white sugar is denser than brown sugar we must firmly pack the brown sugar in the cup when using volume measures in order to get the same sweetness of that same amount of white sugar.
Substituting brown sugar for white sugar in a recipe will produce a baked good that is a little bit more moist with a very subtle butterscotch flavor.
I tend to use light brown sugar vs dark brown sugar more in my recipes all the way around. I am not against dark brown sugar, I have used it, I guess I just prefer to have one less ingredient hanging around that has a shorter shelf life. (Brown sugars can dry out if not stored properly)(Proper storage of brown sugar is in an air tight glass jar or plastic bag.)
If I wanted to hike up the molasses flavor in my recipe, I usually just do so with molasses.
Light Brown Sugar (packed):1 cup = 21o g
Dark Brown Sugar (packed):1 cup = 215 g

Homemade Light Brown Sugar

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (15g)

Place ingredients in mixing bowl and mix until the molasses in completely incorporated.  Use as regular light brown sugar.

Homemade Dark Brown Sugar

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
  • 2 tablespoon molasses (30g) )If you want a more robust flavor and another tablespoon or two)

Place ingredients in mixing bowl and mix until the molasses in completely incorporated.  Use as regular dark brown sugar.

Confectioners’ Sugar– Also known as Icing Sugar Or Powdered Sugar. You may have heard me refer to confectioners sugar as 10X sugar. I do this because in my shorthand way of speaking and writing recipes, it truly is 10X sugar! Meaning it has been processed (or sifted down) 10 times!
It also has cornstarch added to it to prevent clumping.

In other countries it maybe known as Icing Sugar
Confectioners Sugar- 1 cup = 115 g / 1 pound box = approx 4 cups



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Vanilla Beans

Vanilla Beans– Bourbon, Tahitian and Mexican. The three top origins of Vanilla Beans.

Bourbon: Does not mean it has Whiskey in it. It refers to the I’le de Bourbon, now known as Réunion. Most Bourbon vanilla is now grown on the island of Madagascar, the largest vanilla-producing region on the world. Bourbon vanilla is the strongest and most full-flavored of all the vanillas.

Tahiti-Tahitian vanilla has a more delicate flavor, are the thickest of the three and almost black in color. They are very aromatic, with floral accents. The most expensive variety but not necessarily the best for baking, as they have a subtle impact and quite honestly are used more in the cosmetics industry to make all things vanilla scented.

Mexico– Real Mexican vanilla can be considered the best in the world. The Mexican vanilla bean is a thicker and darker bean that has a smooth, strong, rich fragrance and flavor

Purchasing & Storing Vanilla Beans: Never buy hard, dry and shriveled beans because they are past their prime. Beans should be plump and somewhat moist. Wrap your vanilla beans in either wax paper or plastic wrap and store in an airtight glass or Tupperware container. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible from the container to prevent the vanilla beans from drying out. You should never store your vanilla beans in the refrigerator. Refrigeration will dry out your beans and excess moisture can promote a particular type of mold specific to vanilla. In a cool dry place they will stay fresh for about 8-12 months.

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Cocoa Powder 101


Ok, let’s try to make some easy sense of what cocoa powder is, and what it does in your recipe.

I want to first make one note that for some reason people tend to think that Dutched Process Cocoa powder should be used in every single recipe calling for cocoa powder.

This is not really true; although Dutched Process Cocoa Powder may seem to have all of the qualities you have been searching for when it comes to deep, dark chocolate in a recipe.

Using this cocoa powder in a recipe that calls for Natural unprocessed cocoa can actually turn your tall dark & handsome into a dull, lifeless stranger!

Let’s first take a look at what makes one different from the other and why it is important to understand a little bit of science here when choosing which one is best for your recipe.

**Quick tip: Natural unprocessed Cocoa Powder works in ALL recipes, Dutched Process is not so forgiving!

If the recipe has baking SODA in it- you will use Natural Cocoa Powder. If the recipe has baking POWDER in it you will use Dutched Process (or of course- Natural)

How Cocoa Powder is Made:
There are two ways cocoa powder is processed after the initial pressing of the chocolate liquor which removes ¾ of it’s natural cocoa butter.

Cocoa Powder is unsweetened and tastes very bitter, but gives a deep chocolate flavor which makes it great for recipes like brownies, cookies and some chocolate cakes.

Dutch Process (or Alkalized)cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that have been washed with a potassium solution, it is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids.

Because it is neutral it DOES NOT react with baking soda therefore it is necessary to use it in recipes calling for baking powder as the leavening agent.

And remember baking powder is a combination of baking soda and an acid which when a liquid is present it starts the reaction.

(Some recipes may still include baking soda in cocoa powder recipes, it just is not in the quantities relied upon for the main leavening)

Natural Cocoa Powder is made from cocoa beans that are simply roasted, then pulverized into a fine powder.

Because natural cocoa powder has not had its acidity tempered it is used in recipes calling for baking soda which will then cause a reaction in your recipe and create leavening of your baked goods.

(Again: natural cocoa can be used in recipes with baking powder as well- so basically NATURAL COCOA POWDER  CAN BE USED INTERCHANGEABLY IN RECIPES NO MATTER WHAT THE LEAVENER)

For Dutch Process Cocoa Powder Substitutions in a recipe that  calls for baking soda: 


 omit the baking soda and salt in the recipe


Dutch-Processed Cocoa:
1 cup = 92 grams

Natural or Nonalkalized Cocoa:

1 cup = 82 grams



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