Baking with Fresh Fruit 101

Friday, March 24, 2017

If you’ve ever visited the “recipes” section on this blog, then you know that I love to get creative with cake recipes! I love thinking up creative flavors for cakes and then finding the right recipe to make them a reality. I have kind of a system when it comes to creating new cake recipes. If I want a nut flavored cake, for example, I will add ground nuts and alter the flour proportions accordingly in order to let that nutty flavor shine through the cake. If I want a citrus flavored cake, on the other hand, I will incorporate fresh lemon, lime, or orange zest into the recipe.

There’s one type of ingredient that I’ve found is incredibly difficult to bake with, and that’s fresh fruit. There’s just something about fresh fruit that really throws off the chemistry of a cake recipe—especially berries and apples. Most of my attempts to bake with fresh strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, etc. have ended in cake that is much too moist, won’t rise, and hardly light and fluffy the way cake should be. It’s gotten to the point before where I was almost tempted to bake with extracts rather than the real thing. (But doesn’t that take half the fun out of it?)

So as I’ve begun to figure out how to bake with fresh fruit (and how not to bake with fresh fruit), I thought I’d share my best tips with you! Here are some tips for baking with fresh fruit, while still maintaining the integrity of your cake or other baked good.

Bake with what’s in season.

First, I think it’s important to plan your baking around what’s in season. This helps you get the highest quality fruit for your baked goods—not to mention you can enjoy picking out your fresh fruit at a farmer’s market or roadside fruit stand. This list can give you a quick look at which fruits are at their peak by season.

Start with bananas.

If you’re looking to bake with more fresh fruit and raw ingredients, I think baking with bananas is a great place to start! Bananas are pretty much always in season, and the overripe ones that we are frequently left with are perfect for baking. In fact, feel like bananas are kind of this magical fruit that was almost made for baking. You’ll find recipes that use it as a substitute for eggs (which are almost irreplaceable, in my book), and often bananas serve as a foundational ingredient in cake, muffin, and bread recipes. This article mentions that you can even make donuts with bananas!

Cut large pieces of fruit into smaller pieces.

It might be tempting to leave larger fruit chunks in your cake or bread, but fruit is heavier than batter and will therefore sink to the bottom during baking. For this reason, it’s a good idea to cut larger pieces of fruit, like strawberries and pineapple, into smaller pieces before adding them to your batter.

When dicing fruit, use a sharp knife.

If you need to dice fruit for cake, bread, muffins, or anything else, don’t reach for just any knife. I highly recommend using an extra sharp knife to dice your berries, apples, pineapple, etc. This will help you actually dice your fruit without juicing it as you go, keeping the juice inside the fruit where it should be.

Pat freshly cut fruit dry.

Too much fruit juice is what can really throw off a recipe, making your cake or bread oddly moist and sticky. So whenever you’re working with freshly cut fruit, be sure to pat it dry as much as you can before adding it to your batter.

Roll fruit in flour or cocoa powder.

This might be my top tip here. Whenever you’re adding fruit pieces and berries to batter, be sure to roll them in flour or cocoa powder first! This helps keep them from sinking once they’re in the batter, and I think it also helps keep seeping fruit juices from interfering with the rest of the batter. Use flour when working with most recipes, and use cocoa powder whenever you’re working with a chocolate based recipe.

Reserve some of your fruit for the very end.

This tip comes in handy whenever you’re baking any sort of cake, bread, or muffin where you want to see the individual fruit pieces. Whenever you’re preparing a batter that includes small pieces of fruit, save a few pieces of fruit for adding to the batter right before you put it in the oven. For example, if you are making blueberry muffins, save a few small blueberries and set them on top of the batter once it’s already distributed between the wells in the muffin pan. This will give you muffins that actually have fresh blueberries right on top, where you want to see them.

How to Save Money on Your Wedding (without DIYing Everything)

Friday, February 17, 2017

So...I happen to be in the midst of wedding planning right now. (I guess that’s the first time I’ve mentioned that on the blog??) And I have to say, the expenses add up fast! Nate and I are getting married in Boston, which is a pretty expensive area wedding-wise. Plus, it’s a destination wedding for everyone, including us. So the DIY options are slim, and Nate and I (okay, mostly I) have had to jump through some hoops to keep costs down while still ending up with an elegant Boston wedding. So while I definitely can’t say that I’m a wedding planning expert, I can say that I’ve put a lot of thought and research into how you can cut costs when hiring local vendors for your wedding.

Free Printable: Redbox Movie Christmas Gift Tags

Friday, December 9, 2016

Today I have an easy DIY gift idea that literally everyone on your Christmas gifting list will love! It's an especially great idea for neighbors. My roommate back in Utah decided to do this for her neighbors, and she enlisted my help for the design portion. I present...Redbox movie code gift tags!

I made this on Canva, by the way, so don't think I'm that amazing of a designer or anything :)

Just have these printed on 4x6 photo paper at any photo printing center, like Walmart, Target, or Costco. I recommend choosing the matte option for your photos so that writing on them later is easier. Then purchase Redbox promo codes over here on Redbox's site. Then write each unique code on a gift tag, pair the tag with some popcorn and other fun treats, and gift it. Everyone on your list will get a fun movie night to enjoy with their family.

This post probably seems sponsored, but it's not haha. I just loved the idea and wanted to share it with you.

Hope you're having a lovely Christmas season so far!

Love, Maurine

How to Prepare for a TV Baking Segment

Thursday, November 24, 2016

I've done seven cooking segments on local TV now, and I've been asked a number of times how TV segments work. So I wanted to share some info with you!

You’d be surprised at how easy it is to land a baking segment on local TV as a food blogger. If you cook or bake and have a stellar recipe that you can share on camera, go ahead and try contacting a local TV station or two. Local daytime and morning shows are often looking for new talent, and they are constantly in need of new content for their shows. So really, the local TV stations that you reach out to could need you more than you need them.

Let’s say that you actually do hear back from a TV producer about doing a cooking or baking segment on their show. Then what? Here is a brief guide to preparing for your first TV cooking or baking segment.

Don’t freak out.

First things first: don’t freak out. Doing a cooking segment on TV sounds scarier than it actually is. As long as you plan carefully and come as prepared as you possibly can be, everything will be fine. Doing a TV segment, live or recorded, is generally less scary than giving a speech. Plus, your host will talk you through everything.

Be ready for quick turnaround.

A TV producer is much more likely to take you on as a first-time guest if they have last-minute spots that they need to fill. This could mean getting as little as two days’ notice to prepare for your segment. Be ready for quick turnaround by keeping a list of solid recipes and segment ideas ready just in case.

Communicate with the producer.

Once you and the producer have settled on a date, remain in close contact in order to nail down the details of the segment.

Decide on your recipe or topic.

You’ll first need to discuss the content of the segment. It helps to be forward here; in the same email where you say that you’d love to do the segment, go ahead and write out a list of ideas for content. Your producer will select one that they like best or make some suggestions for more unique content.

Send the recipe and a list of talking points.

After you decide on the recipe or topic for the segment, you’ll need to turn around very quickly and email the producer the full recipe with a list of talking points. In your talking points, give some general guidelines on how you see the segment going, and point out a couple things you’d like to share as “tips” during the segment.

Get the essential details.

As you are in communication with your producer, it’s also important to get the essential details on the segment to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Producers are generally very good about keeping you in the loop, but in case your producer isn’t, be sure to ask:

  • How long will my segment be?
  • Will it be live or recorded? (If it’s recorded, when will it air?)
  • What time should I arrive?
  • What time will I actually start?
  • What appliances and supplies do you have in your kitchen?

Prepare your props.

Food segments require a great deal of prep work. You’ll need:

  • Finished product of what you’ll be making (e.g., frosted cupcakes)
  • Partially finished product of what you’ll be making (e.g., unfrosted cupcakes + frosting in a piping bag)
  • Measured out ingredients of what you’ll be making (e.g., flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, etc.)
  • Food prep tools (e.g., hand mixer, rubber scraper, whisk, bowls, etc.)
  • Accent props (e.g., cake stand, platter, potholders, fresh fruit, etc.)

Plan to prepare your final product and partially finished product the day before your segment. (If you aren’t confident in doing it right the first time, plan to practice at least once before the day before.) And because you’ll be preparing the recipe during the actual segment, you’ll need to measure out your ingredients the night before as well. Bring any kitchen utensils you’ll need, even if you think the kitchen there might have them; you never know what might be missing. And don’t forget to include accent props like decorative platters and garnish because these things will really tie the look of your segment together.

Practice running through the segment.

Food segments are often ad-lib, meaning there isn’t really any practicing with the host beforehand. While you can’t really anticipate everything that your host will ask you, you can still prepare what you’ll say as you demonstrate steps in the recipe for your host. Video record yourself talking through the recipe so you can see what your bad habits are (saying “um,” touching your hair, etc.)

Dress the part.

Do your research to find out what TV hosts usually wear on the show, and try to dress accordingly. (When in doubt, it’s always safer to dress on the more formal side.) Keep in mind as you get dressed for your segment that they will need to “mic” you with a wireless microphone like this one. Usually the audio professionals can work around whatever you’re wearing, but it helps to have a beltline where they can attach the bodypack transmitter. As for makeup, it’s a good idea to apply a little more than you would on a daily basis, but don’t take this too far; today’s cameras are very good at picking up the makeup on people’s faces.

Come on time.

This goes without saying, but make sure you get to the TV station when the producer says you need to be there. Getting there late will only drive your nerves up.

Test everything before you start.

Nothing is worse than trying to operate a stand mixer or turn on a blender during a food segment, only to find that for some reason it won’t turn on. Make sure you know how everything operates beforehand, and test out everything that plugs in; you never know when a kitchen utensil might shut down on you or when an outlet needs resetting. (I know this from personal experience; luckily the producer and I reset the outlet right before the cameras went on!)

Have fun!

Again, as long as you do everything the producer says and come as prepared as possible, everything is going to be fine. Food segments can be nerve-wracking in those first few moments when they are starting, but chances are you’ll find your groove and forget that the camera is even there a minute or two in. Just be sure to smile, sound enthusiastic, and have fun with your host!