FUN AND TIPS

EVENTS

Watch Hungry Monkey create Frosty S'Mores!

We've created a special, show-stopping, summer recipe for our hungry friends that you can make at home! We showed how to make it on NBC5 Chicago on Sunday, July 24th; click here to view the segment. Here's the recipe. It's fun, festive and truly decadent!




BAKING TIPS

A little tenderness

I love my KitchenAid, but I only use it to incorporate the ingredients so they are wet and there are no visible lumps; I mix a good portion by hand. I am especially careful once I’ve added the flour not to over-mix as that can make cakes tough.

The Secret of Moist

Search vintage cookbooks and the internet for cake recipes with buttermilk or sour cream in them; these old-fashioned ingredients make the best tender and moist cakes every time around.

Use the Best Ingredients

Don’t substitute. If you don’t have the right ingredients, wait until you do.

Weigh First

Weigh and/or measure every ingredient and have each one out in clear bowls before you start. You can find clear and inexpensive lightweight bowls at Bed Bath & Beyond or other home goods stores. Make sure you buy very small bowls, too, for vanilla, salt and baking soda/powder and other smaller quantity items. That way if your own hungry monkey interrupts, you won’t waste ingredients; it’s the worst when you can’t remember if you added the baking soda into the mix or have to run before you finish weighing the flour.

Invest in Good Kitchen Tools

The best gadgets by far are made by Oxo. They are cleverly designed and they speed your process along considerably if you find the right tool. I love their Bent Frosting knife. I use it to frost cakes since it has a handle that not only prevents you sticking your hand in the frosting as you go over the cake, but it also gives a nice, smooth professional edge.

Parchment

Parchment is the best invention ever. Thankfully, it’s now sold in grocery stores. I use parchment to line every single pan. If you are making your own cakes, butter the bottom of your pans, then place a piece of parchment cut out to the size of the bottom of the pan. Then, butter the top of the parchment, too. Your creations will come out of the pan perfectly every time.

Italian Paper Baking Molds

Okay, these are honestly the best thing ever made for bakers! You simply pour your batter into these molds—no butter, no flour, no mess, and no work—and, best of all, no mistakes where the batter gets stuck to the bottom of your pan. And they are elegant, too. You can find tons of shapes and sizes online—I buy mine from PartySource in New York. Check them out at: http://www.apartysource.com/

Darker Colored Pans

I generally don’t like baking in darker-colored baking pans (dark-colored pans conduct more heat and tend to over-cook baked goods at recommended temperatures). There is no need, however, to get rid of them — simply reduce your oven temperature by 15 – 25 degrees. Every oven varies, so it’s important to experiment.

Perfect Bananas

When making your own banana bread use bananas that are ripe, well spotted, but never black. Throw away black bananas as they have begun to break down or you won’t get that wonderful, fresh banana taste.

FROSTINGS

Here’s my favorite frosting for our carrot cake or either of our banana breads – a rich Orange Cream-Cheese Buttercream. It’s super easy. Mix in stand or hand mixer 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature. with 1, 8 oz package [brick] cream cheese. Mix until smooth, adding in 1 tsp. vanilla. Then, using a microplane (a fine grater than fits you’re your hand), take the zest off of one orange. The zest is just the top layer of the orange; don’t go too far down or you’ll hit the white part called the pith, just under the skin; it’s quite bitter. Last, add approximately 1 cup sifted powered sugar (or less…add slowly and taste it as you go along. I prefer it less sweet, but you might want to add more to suite your own taste). If you are baking your own 8” or 9” round cake, you should double this recipe. Using a bent frosting knife, glop on a ton of this – you might want to only do the top of the cake, since it’s very rich.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting for our Chocolate Chip or Classic Banana Bread. Mix in stand or hand mixer 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature with 1, 8 oz package (brick) cream cheese. Mix until smooth, adding in 1/2 tsp. vanilla and the seeds from the inside of a vanilla bean. If you have not used a vanilla bean before, simply take the bean in one hand and using a very sharp small paring knife, run it along the side of the bean, opening it up so you can scrape out all the luscious little brown beads, which is the priceless vanilla. Lastly, add approximately 1 cup sifted powered sugar (or less…add slowly and taste as you go along). I prefer it less sweet, but you might want to add more to suite your own taste. If you are baking your own 8” or 9” round cake, you should double this recipe. Again, it’s super rich, so you might only wish to frost the top of the cake.

SWEET TREATS

Hungry Monkey Recipes!

Lemon Vanilla Bean French Toast with Blueberry Compote

Compliments of Chef Sarah Stegner, Chef/Owner, Prairie Fire & Prairie Grass restaurants, Chicago, Illinois

6 whole eggs
½ cup half and half
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of sugar

(This recipe is very forgiving. You can increase the eggs or the milk depending on you want it to taste)

Heat a 10 inch non stick pan and put butter in it. It's best to use clarified butter, but regular butter should work as long as you don’t burn it. Dip generous slices of Lemon Vanilla Bean cake in the batter and then directly into a bubbling pan. Brown on one side and flip it over. Do it over medium heat. They key is to go slow and get a nice brown crust and let it heat all the way through!

Blueberry Compote (spoon over Lemon Vanilla Bean French Toast). Cook fresh blueberries and sugar to taste for just about 3 minutes over medium high heat.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread French Toast

Compliments of Chef Sarah Stegner, Chef/Owner, Prairie Fire & Prairie Grass restaurants, Chicago, Illinois

6 whole eggs
½ cup half and half
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of sugar

(This recipe is very forgiving. You can increase the eggs or the milk depending on you want it to taste

Heat a 10 inch non stick pan and put butter in it. It's best to use clarified butter, but regular butter will work as long as you are careful not too burn it. Dip generous slices of Chocolate Chip Banana Bread in the batter and then directly into a bubbling pan. Brown on one side and flip it over. Do it over medium heat. The key is to go slow and get a nice brown crust and let it heat all the way through! If you want to add a layer of pure decadence, place a slice of cream cheese in between two pieces of banana bread. Then dip into the batter and proceed to cook.

Enjoy!!

HUNGRY MONKEY BAKING CLASSES

We’re starting baking courses soon for kids (moms and dads are welcome, too); visit us again for course locations, times and dates! For course information, sign up for our e-mail news service (see “In The News”)