Scoop or Spoon? – How to flour!

Baking isn’t something I do super often, but I do enjoy it.  My cooking style had always been more art than science.  “A pinch of this, a dash of that, pour until it feels right!”  That doesn’t works well for baking.  Baking is much more of a science.  It took me a while to figure this one out.  How much of a difference does it REALLY make?  I decided to find out by experimenting with flour in what I am calling the….

SCOOP OR SPOON HOLLIDAY SMACKDOWN!

I am making peanut butter cookies for Thanksgiving (Plus PB chips and using homemade peanut butter!) and decided to cut the recipe in half and do half with scooped flour and half with spooned.  The scooped one involves scooping out a mound of flour with the measuring cup, then leveling it off with a knife.  This packs in more flour than the spoon method.  Spooning means you scoop flour with a spoon and shake it into the cup.  Level with a knife.  Seriously, how big of a difference could there be?

Quite a bit of a difference as it turns out.  The recipe called for 2-1/2 cups of flour.  I cut that to 1-1/4 cups.  They measure 6-5/8 oz for the scooped version, and 5-3/4 oz for the spooned one.  Assuming the spooned is exactly what you want, that is a 15% increase in flour by weight.  That doesn’t sound terrible, but maybe it is.

The only way to know for certain is to go through with the half batches.  I creamed all the sugars as one big batch and divided them in half by weight.  The baking soda, salt, and baking powder were measured, combined, weighed, and divided.  This is a lot of work and a pile of dirty dishes for cookie science!  Once combined I made sure both went into the fridge (1hr according to the recipe) next together and in the same container.  The spooned batch was lighter in both color and texture.

They came out of the fridge at the same time and shared space on the cookie sheets.  A 1″ cookie scoop regulated the size to make sure that didn’t vary between the batches.

Once cooled I tested one a bunch of each.  It isn’t as big of a difference as I thought it might be.  The spoon cookies were lighter and soft on the inside while having a crisp on the outside.  The scoop ones were heavier and chewier.   I guess I prefer the spoon, but sometimes a dense PB cookie is pretty awesome.  Maybe this makes a bigger difference in sugar or chocolate chip cookies.  This recipe has about half the flour as a chocolate chip recipe.  If this were mythbusters we would say plausible but not confirmed maybe?  Regardless, I got to eat cookies for science!!!

On a completely unrelated note, I think I have eaten too many cookies.

Peanut Butter

Homemade peanut butter is one of life’s simple pleasures.  It is pretty easy to make, stores well, and every batch I have ever made tastes good.  A question that immediately comes to mind is: “Why make peanut butter?”  After all, it is cheap and plentiful at the store.  Even if you were just looking to avoid the hight fructose corn syrup that exists in most there are many “natural” brands that exist without added sugar.  That is all true, and yet still I like to make my own.  Why?

I think it comes out tasting better than the “natural” store bought brands, and it really doesn’t take much work.  Plus you can tweak things to your liking.  I enjoy a little honey in my peanut butter.  Some things are just worth trying to make once.  If only to see how it gets to the shelves of your stores.  It is easy to forget how much modern industrialization has saved us in labor and time.  An occasional reminder is refreshing.


 Directions

  1. I start with 2 cups (~10oz) of dry roasted peanuts (you can use honey roasted or any other nuts for that matter) in a food processor.
  2. Turn food processor on.  At one minute it should look coarse but kind of like peanut butter (see picture)
  3. At two minutes, it will look about done.  Don’t stop there!  I take the top off and scrape down all the sides to make sure everything is getting combined well.
  4. Take this time to add ingredients
    1. 2-3 teaspoons of peanut oil (for added creaminess)
    2. 1 Tablespoon of honey (I like tupelo)
    3. 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  5. Continue processing for an additional minute, and you have peanut butter!

Ingredients: I have worked out those ratios based on my tastes.  You can get by with out adding anything or by adding lots of stuff.  Just don’t go overboard with the salt, that can sneak up on you.  The two cups of starting peanuts used my 20oz jar in two pretty even batches.  Dropping down slightly to a 16oz jar of peanuts should be fine.

Food Processor: I have made this with a smaller food processor and it had a lot of trouble keeping up.  If yours doesn’t look like my picture at the set times, then keep going till you get the right texture.  Drop back on the amount of peanuts next time.  Mileage may vary with the quality and power of food processor.

Storage: I stick mine in cleaned half pint mason jars.  The 20oz of peanuts gave 3 half-pint jars of peanut butter.  These can not be canned with normal methods, but do store well in the fridge for a few months.  These jars will not last that long in the Hansel household.

Cold peanut butter tough to spread?  Give it a 20 second trip through the microwave to get the right viscosity.  A longer trip will make it more like a dessert drizzle for ice cream!  The texture is pretty smooth, but you will never get it as smooth as the skippy guys do.  Crunchy peanut butter can be made by chopping up a small batch of nuts in the processor before hand, and combining in the final few seconds of your batch.

-Chase