Understanding Ingredients As a Whole: The Art of Chemistry

website chemistry

My kitchen table was a mess.

As a treat, I made root beer floats for the children.  Unfortunately, I forgot my chemistry.  I put in the ice cream first, and then I added the soda.  If you know your chemistry, you’re already nodding your head, laughing at me, because you know why my table was a mess.

The cold temperature of the ice cream released the carbon dioxide – that wonderful gas which makes our sodas fizzy – from the root beer, and the gas bubbles reacted with the proteins in the ice cream, creating froth and foam – much too much froth and foam – which erupted like a volcano out of the glass and onto my table.

The children, especially my young son, were absolutely delighted by this impromptu science experiment, but it was a reminder to me that the art of cooking is always tempered by certain laws which we must keep in mind.

Recipes Have Ratios

For example, if we were to carefully analyze many different cake recipes right now, we would notice an average ratio to the ingredients in the recipes – something like this:

•2 cups flour ingredients

•2 cups liquid ingredients (which includes the eggs, where 2 whole large eggs equal to about ½ cup of liquid)

•1/2 cup fat ingredients (like butter or oil)

•1 cup dry sweetening ingredients (like sugar or brown sugar)

•2 tsp dry leavening ingredients (like baking powder or baking soda or a mix of the two)

•½ tsp to 1 tsp salt

•1 tsp to 2 tsp flavoring (like vanilla or cinnamon)

Recipes Have Patterns

We’d also discover a pattern to the ingredients where usually:  1. The weight of the liquid ingredients is the same as or more than the weight of the sugar.  (One cup of sugar is said to be about 7 ounces in weight.); 2. The sugar weight is equal to or more than the flour.  (One cup of white flour is said to weigh about 4 ½ ounces.); 3. The eggs weigh the same as or more than the fat.  (Two whole large eggs are said to weigh just under 4 ounces.); and 4. For every cup of flour, the recipe will call for 1 tsp of baking powder or ¼ tsp of baking soda.

Both the ratio and the patterns are important for us to know if we want to create foolproof cakes.  If, however, we know these basic conventions for cake baking, then we can artfully experiment within that framework to successfully create delicious cakes which are tailored to our dietary restrictions and needs – as well as other baked goods such as cookies and muffins which have their own ratios and ingredient patterns.

Paula’s Son’s Favorite Snack Muffin:  Peanut Butter Muffins


2 tbsp favorite plant based oil (olive, safflower, avocado, etc….)

2 tsp honey

3 tbsp Agave

1/2 cup rolled whole grain regular or gluten free oats

3 cups 100% whole wheat flour or 2 1/4 cups favorite GF whole grain flour blend 

2 cups rolled whole grain regular or gluten free oats, pulsed in a food processor until to make a crumbly oat flour

4 tsp gluten free baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt* 

1/2 cup Agave 

2 mashed or pureed ripe bananas

1 cup applesauce

2/3 cup peanut butter** (you can substitute another “butter” if you are allergic)

1/2 cup egg whites or 2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp of water 

1 1/2 cup soy milk (you may use another type of milk, if necessary)

1 tsp gluten free vanilla extract

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare muffin tins for 18-24 muffins, depending on the size muffins you want. (I would use “If You Care” muffin cups, but you can use Pam spray or grease them with butter or oil.)

2. Stir the canola oil, honey, and Agave together.  Mix in the rolled oats until they are completely coated.  Set aside.

3. Whisk together the flour, processed oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.

4. Mix together the Agave, mashed bananas, applesauce, peanut butter, and egg whites or flaxseed mixture.  Add the milk and vanilla.

5.  Quickly combine the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moist.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

6. Carefully sprinkle oat topping onto each muffin. (Will be sticky work!)

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

8. Cool for at least five minutes in the muffin tins before removing.

* You can omit the salt, if you want.

** I use Teddy’s no salt, no sugar added peanut butter.


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