Chef Dez: Getting your bake on for the holidays

Tips on how to make the best of your holiday treats

Nothing compares to the aroma of baked Christmas goodies when coming in from the cold winter weather.

Our olfactory sensations (our sense of smell) contribute up to eighty percent to our sense of taste, and thus is a very important part of our ability to recognize and enjoy flavour. The art of holiday baking is a regular activity in many households this time of the year, and some baking tips may be helpful to you.

Flaky pie dough is a pastry that has a mixture of shortening and/or butter that is “cut in” so that there are small chunks still left in the finished product. This aids in creating steam pockets within the crust, which helps with the leavening process and thus creating the flaky texture. It is best to keep pie pastry as cold possible while mixing and rolling to prevent melting the butter and shortening pieces prematurely.

The best way of doing this is to first focus on your ingredients. Make sure you are using ice water (water from the fridge) instead of cold water, and frozen butter grated into the flour mixture is ideal. The frozen butter particles then are already the required size from the grater and will not suffer from the warm friction of too much mixing or “cutting” in. Secondly, try not to touch the dough with your hands too much, as the warmth from them will melt the butter. It is best to form the dough by folding it over consistently with a chilled metal dough cutter (or called a bench scraper). Once the dough is formed into a flat disk, wrap and place it in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled. Remove and proceed with rolling, ideally on a chilled marble surface.

One of the main things to remember when making pastry is to not overwork it. Overworking flour with liquid will create more gluten and thus a tougher more structured dough – save that process for bread doughs. Chilled vodka from the freezer is a good substitute for the chilled water in your pastry recipe because vodka is 40% alcohol and alcohol doesn’t create gluten formation in flour from overmixing – so it will give you a bit of a ‘safety net’. It’s also important to note that the alcohol will evaporate during the baking process so there’s no need to worry about anyone getting tipsy while eating your pies.

Cookies and quick breads are also very popular, and they both rely on baking soda and/or baking powder to rise. Baking soda and baking powder are considered chemical leaveners. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonateand it requires liquid and an acid to make a gaseous reaction. It is usually added to recipes that have a naturally occurring acid in the ingredients, such as buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, honey, molasses, and fruits.

Baking powder on the other hand is a complete leavener, as it only requires liquid for it to react in the same manner. The reason for this is that it contains a mixture of baking soda and the balanced amount of acid, along with starch to help prevent lumping. This is why you will see some recipes that call for baking powder and others with baking powder and/or baking soda. A good comparison of this would be a pancake recipe compared to a buttermilk pancake recipe.

Whatever desserts you choose to celebrate with, I wish you all the best of health and happiness this holiday season.

Just Posted

Strike taking a toll on families of WFP workers with Christmas approaching

Vancouver Islanders rally to provide assistance through grassroots charity campaigns

Judge dismisses second appeal of Victoria man who murdered unarmed man in 2010 botched robbery

Andrew Jonathon Belcourt has had two trials after his first appeal was granted

Parksville swimmer shatters four world records

Nicholas Bennett, 16, shines on world stage

Ladysmith set to star in new Syfy series: Resident Alien

Downtown had the look to play role of Patience, Colorado, filming starts next month

Vancouver Island sees one of the lowest November rainfalls in decades

Only a third of the expected rainfall was seen across the Capital Region

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Camosun College for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Carriageworks Restorations come together to care for car

Up to 1,500 new rental units proposed for Victoria

More than a million square feet of rental units proposed for downtown Yates Street development

Hundreds of students gather at Government House to decorate Christmas Trees

The annual tradition let Grade 2 and 3 students help celebrate for the holidays

In and out in 60 seconds, suspects get away with $10,000 in jewels from WestShore Gold and Silver

Langford business broken into just down the street from West Shore RCMP detachment

Parksville says high-traffic area no place for a car wash

Councillor also voices concern 24-hour operation could be disruptive to nearby nursing home

Oscar Hickes: Longest running hockey tournament on Vancouver Island cancelled

Patrick Murray, one of the organizers for the tournament, broke the sad news on social media.

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

Most Read