Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Muffin Re-Named

A couple months ago, I asked if anyone had ideas for Re-Naming Muffin 51.  Here are some of the names that were suggested:
  • Pepper-Berry Super-rise!
  • Pepper Sweeties
  • Pepper Berry Nebula
  • Spicy Berry Oddysey
  • Pepper Dolls
  • Pep-jam!
  • Spicy Sweeties
  • Black Pepper Gems
  • Pepper Jewels 
  • Muffin of Venus
A name needs to fit well.  A name needs to be snug like flesh, sexy like panties, and comfortable like blue jeans.  But none of these names fit our black-pepper-strawberry-jam muffin.  So for two months, our poor little muffin has been without a moniker.  The new name for Muffin 51 became the undiscussed subject.  Meg would settle her big, sleepy eyes on me across the table as we packaged up orders and I'd think, "She wonders why I'm not happy with any of the names that have been suggested.  Maybe she wants us to look in a baby-name book.  Maybe she wants to name it Elaina or Giddeon."  And reading my mind she'd say, in her expanded and relaxed way, "Hey. . . no worries. . . let's not rush it. . . the name will come."  Meg is patient.  I believe patient women have the pleasure of having their knees kissed longer and more often because they aren't busy rushing the lips of the kisser."

So two months had passed when a new comment was posted on the Re-Naming Muffin 51 thread.  Here it is: 

What about something Beatles themed involving Sgt. Pepper and Strawberry Fields?  If you packaged up muffin 51 along with Meg's Bacon/Maple muffin you could call the bundle the "Pig and Pepper" after the chapter in Alice in Wonderland.

My dear genius friend,  Richard Penner, posted this comment.  Per his recommendation, we have re-named the muffin, Sgt. Pepper's Strawberry Fields Muffin.  Richard thinks big, universal rather. . .he's superconsequential and Penneresque, two terms coined by, Regis Lacher, my other dear genius friend.  Being more of a terrestrial, skin picker myself, our muffin is only being re-named  at this point, but selling the Pig and Pepper bundle will likely be in the works.  

Meg and I love the new name.  And since I listened to Helter Skelter over, and over, and over again at the age of 16 (I believed that song sounded the way falling in love would feel) I'm pleased that Richard suggested we name our muffin after a Beatles' song.  

A huge thank you to Richard for naming our sweet and spicy muffin, now we just ask that you all eat it!

~ Trilety

Monday, April 25, 2011

Baking and Beyond with Baking Soda

In continuing with our little science tutorials of late, I'd like to introduce another ingredient friend of mine called baking soda. I had a pretty good idea of what baking soda is and what it can do before looking it up, but I quickly found that there is more to know... but isn't there always more to know?

The following information was taken from the websites and

Baking soda is also known as bicarbonate of soda. It baking, reacts with acidic ingredients, such as buttermilk, yogurt, honey, maple syrup, cocoa, lemon and molasses to create bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, and causes batter to rise. It starts to work immediately when exposed to the acidic ingredient, so a batter made with baking soda should generally be baked as soon after mixing as possible. Baking soda can also aid in browning during baking.

Whether or not you should use baking soda in a recipe (as opposed to baking powder, for example) is dependent on the other ingredients in the recipe. Baking soda will yield a bitter taste unless countered by the acidity of another ingredient, such as those listed above. Baking soda is commonly used in cookie recipes by itself. Also, if you use too much in any recipe, the end product will have a soapy chemical taste to it, so be careful! Bleh!

It's also good to know that this leavening agent used in our baked goods had many many other purposes outside of food. The following information comes from

Personal Care
1. Make toothpaste
A paste made from baking soda and a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution can be used as an alternative to commercial non-fluoride toothpastes. (Or here’s a formula for a minty version.) You can also just dip your toothbrush with toothpaste into baking soda for an extra boost.
2. Freshen your mouth
Put one teaspoon in half a glass of water, swish, spit, and rinse. Odors are neutralized, not just covered up.
3. Soak oral appliance
Soak oral appliances (like retainers, mouthpieces, and dentures) in a solution of 2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in a glass or small bowl of warm water. The baking soda loosens food particles and neutralizes odors to keep appliances fresh. You can also brush appliances clean using baking soda.
4. Use as a facial scrub and body exfoliant
Give yourself an invigorating facial and body scrub. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub in a gentle circular motion to exfoliate the skin. Rinse clean. This is gentle enough for daily use.
5. Skip harsh deodorant
Pat baking soda onto your underarms to neutralize body odor.
6. Use as an antacid
Baking soda is a safe and effective antacid to relieve heartburn, sour stomach, and/or acid indigestion. Refer to baking soda package for instructions. (this is something I use all the time!)
7. Treat insect bites and itchy skin
For insect bites, make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply as a salve onto affected skin. To ease the itch, shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it into damp skin after bath or shower.
8. Make a hand cleanser and softener
Skip harsh soaps and gently scrub away ground-in dirt and neutralize odors on hands with a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water or 3 parts baking soda with gentle liquid hand soap. Then rinse clean.
9. Help your hair
Vinegar is amazing for your hair, but baking soda has its place in the shower too. Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda into your palm along with your favorite shampoo. Shampoo as usual and rinse thoroughly — baking soda helps remove the residue that styling products leave behind so your hair is cleaner and more manageable.
10. Clean brushes and combs
For lustrous hair with more shine, keep brushes and combs clean. Remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a small basin of warm water. Rinse and allow to dry.
11. Make a bath soak
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your bath to neutralize acids on the skin and help wash away oil and perspiration. It also makes your skin feel very soft. Or just focus on soothing your feet. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a tub of warm water and soak feet. Gently scrub.

12. Make a surface soft scrub
For safe, effective cleaning of bathroom tubs, tile, and sinks — even fiberglass and glossy tiles — sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge and scrub as usual. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. For extra cleaning power, make a paste with baking soda, coarse salt, and liquid dish soap — let it sit then scour off.
13. Hand-wash dishes and pots and pans
Add 2 heaping tablespoons baking soda (along with your regular dish detergent) to the dish water to help cut grease and foods left on dishes, pots, and pans. For cooked-on foods, let them soak in the baking soda and detergent with water first, then use dry baking soda on a clean damp sponge or cloth as a scratch-less scouring powder.
14. Freshen sponges
Soak stale-smelling sponges in a strong baking soda solution to get rid of the mess (4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water). For more thorough disinfecting, use the microwave.
15. Clean the microwave
Baking soda on a clean damp sponge cleans gently inside and outside the microwave and never leaves a harsh chemical smell. Rinse well with water.
16. Polish silver flatware
Use a baking soda paste made with 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub onto the silver with a clean cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry for shining sterling and silver-plate serving pieces.
17. Clean coffee and tea pots
Remove coffee and tea stains and eliminate bitter off-tastes by washing mugs and coffee makers in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. For stubborn stains, try soaking overnight in the baking soda solution and detergent or scrubbing with baking soda on a clean damp sponge.
18. Clean the oven
Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with water to dampen the baking soda. Let sit overnight. In the morning, scrub, scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum, and rinse.
19. Clean floors
Remove dirt and grime (without unwanted scratch marks) from no-wax and tile floors using 1/2 cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water — mop and rinse clean for a sparkling floor. For scuff marks, use baking soda on a clean damp sponge, then rinse.
20. Clean furniture
Clean and remove marks (even crayon) from walls and painted furniture by applying baking soda to a damp sponge and rubbing lightly. Wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.
21. Clean shower curtains
Clean and deodorize your vinyl shower curtain by sprinkling baking soda directly on a clean damp sponge or brush. Scrub the shower curtain and rinse clean. Hang it up to dry.
22. Boost your liquid laundry detergent
Give your laundry a boost by adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to your laundry to make liquid detergent work harder. A better balance of pH in the wash gets clothes cleaner, fresher, and brighter. Or you can add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle for fresher sheets and towels or to neutralize gym clothes and odoriferous clothing.
23. Clean and freshen sports gear
Use a baking soda solution (4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water) to clean and deodorize smelly sports equipment. Sprinkle baking soda into golf bags and gym bags to deodorize and clean golf irons (without scratching them!) with a baking soda paste (3 parts baking soda to 1 part water) and a brush. Rinse thoroughly.
24. Remove oil and grease stains
Use baking soda to clean up light-duty oil and grease spills on your garage floor or in your driveway. Sprinkle baking soda on the spot and scrub with a wet brush.
25. Clean batteries
Baking soda can be used to neutralize battery acid corrosion on cars, mowers, etc., because its a mild alkali. Be sure to disconnect the battery terminals before cleaning. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water and apply with a damp cloth to scrub corrosion from the battery terminal. After cleaning and reconnecting the terminals, wipe them with petroleum jelly to prevent future corrosion. Please be careful when working around a battery — they contain a strong acid.
26. Clean cars
Use baking soda to clean your car lights, chrome, windows, tires, vinyl seats, and floor mats without worrying about unwanted scratch marks. Use a baking soda solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Apply with a sponge or soft cloth to remove road grime, tree sap, bugs, and tar. For stubborn stains use baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge or soft brush. Eliminate odors by sprinkling baking soda directly on fabric car seats and carpets. Wait 15 minutes (or longer for strong odors) and vacuum up the baking soda.

27. Deodorize your refrigerator
Place an open box in the back of the fridge to neutralize odors.
28. Deodorize trashcans and recyclables
Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of your trashcan to keep stinky trash smells at bay. Clean your recyclables container periodically by sprinkling baking soda on a damp sponge. Wipe clean and rinse. Also, sprinkle baking soda on top as you add recyclables to the bin.
29. Deodorize drains and garbage disposals
To deodorize your sink and tub drains and garbage disposal and keep lingering odors from resurfacing, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water — it will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain. (This a good way to dispose of baking soda that is being retired from your refrigerator.)
30. Deodorize and clean dishwashers
Use baking soda to deodorize before you run the dishwasher and then as a gentle cleanser in the wash cycle.
31. Deodorize lunch boxes
Between uses, place a spill-proof box of baking soda in everyone’s lunch box to absorb lingering odors.
32. Remove odor from carpets
Liberally sprinkle baking soda on the carpet. Let set overnight or as long as possible (the longer it sets the better it works). Sweep up the larger amounts of baking soda, and vacuum up the rest. (Note that your vacuum cleaner bag will get full and heavy.) An added bonus: You'll also deodorize your vacuum cleaner.
33. Freshen closets
Place a box on the shelf to keep the closet smelling fresh.
34. Deodorize pet items
Cover the bottom of your cat box with baking soda, then fill as usual with litter. To freshen between changes, sprinkle baking soda on top of the litter after a thorough cleaning. Eliminate odors from your pet's bedding by sprinkling liberally with baking soda, wait 15 minutes (or longer for stronger odors), then vacuum up.
35. Deodorize sneakers
Keep odors from spreading in smelly sneakers by shaking baking soda into them when not in use. Shake out before wearing.
36. Freshen stuffed animals
Keep favorite cuddly toys fresh with a dry shower of baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on and let it sit for 15 minutes before brushing off.

37. Cure all camping needs
Baking soda is a must-have for your next camping trip. It's a dish-washer, pot-scrubber, hand-cleanser, deodorant, toothpaste, and fire extinguisher, and has many other uses.
38. Extinguish fires
Baking soda can help in the initial handling of minor grease or electrical kitchen fires, because when baking soda is heated, it gives off carbon dioxide, which helps to smother the flames. For small cooking fires (frying pans, broilers, ovens, grills), turn off the gas or electricity if you can safely do so. Stand back and throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame to help put out the fire — and call the fire department just to be safe.
39. Care for the septic system
Regular use of baking soda in your drains can help keep your septic system flowing freely. One cup of baking soda per week will help maintain a favorable pH in your septic tank.
40. Scrub fruits and vegetables
Baking soda is the food safe way to clean dirt and residue off fresh fruit and vegetables. Just sprinkle a little on a clean damp sponge, scrub and rinse. Here’s another way to clean your vegetables as well.

This bird's conclusion? Baking soda is AMAZING!!! Isn't it though?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What do you know about Flax?

Last week, Meg cracked the shell of egg science.  She chooses her eggs carefully, caressing each mottled, brown shell before whacking it against the rim of a bowl.  I like using glass bowls, because their physiology involves lips rather than rims.  

This bird's baked goods are made without eggs.  So there's no cracking in my kitchen, just grinding.  

During my early vegan years, I tried many egg substitutes. 

I used tofu in my cookie recipes, later cleverly named Trilety's Tofuicious Chocolate Chip (and sometimes cranberry) Cookies.  I don't use tofu in baking anymore because it yields a cookie too moist for my taste, and I'd prefer to use ingredients that undergo little to no processing. 

I used beans as a substitute for both eggs and butter.  My pinto-bean brownie recipe is a relic, as the treats were not a hit with friends and family.  Pinto beans can be abused - they can be refried and mashed, but whipping them into a brownie must be humiliating.  They are an autonomous bean and need to have their own plate at the table. 

Finally, I started to use flax seed. This seed, which must appear a monstrous, golden rain drop in the world of Sesame Seeds, is healthy and works superbly as a binder/egg substitute in cookies, cakes, and muffins.  (Admission: I have yet to get flax seed to work in a brownie)  

Here are a few health benefits of flax:

  • High in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and lignans (the phytochemical believed to be responsible for reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Reduces total blood cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol.  (I remember that LDL is the Lousy cholesterol and HDL is the Happy cholesterol)
  • Clinical trials have been conducted by the National Institute of Health to confirm the health benefits of flax seed.
We source our flax seed from Grain Place Foods, a local processor and grower.

I used to enjoy the curious and sensual experience of baking with eggs.  Eggs are delicate and wet.  You can try to hold the insides of an egg in your hand, but inevitably, the clear glisten of the viscous egg white will find its way between your fingers like spit between thighs, and you know you just have to let it go.  The yellow of a yolk was a shock to the eye, like the molted spring feathers of a gold finch, it seemed a color that could only be produced by a clever machine or an artistic god.  I miss the slick, stick of eggs, but flax is even better.  

The surface of the flax seed is smooth and shiny, so it appears wet but it's quite dry - a surprise that keeps your hands clean.  

This is what flax seed looks like before it's ground.

Flax seed should be ground to be digested by our guts.  Don't be fooled into buying cereals or baked goods that include whole flax seeds, they may pass un-digested through your intestines.  After flax is ground, its form changes to that of a dense powder, like humid sand or mollisol soil.  It's a joy to sift the powdery clumps of ground flax in a properly washed and dried hand.  

Here is what flax seed looks like after its form has been altered by the metal molars of a grinder.

To provide a proper substitute for the coagulating properties of an egg, flax seed needs to clot, and to do that it needs a liquid.  I mix my ground flax with water, maple syrup, or non-dairy milk.

Now you know how this bird gets her cookies to stay together.  I prefer crumbs on my face, and not in the bag/box.  

Eat some flax! It's good for your bowels! 

~ Trilety

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What do you know about eggs?

Now that I have quite a bit of experience with baking, I am increasingly interested in how it works. So many people say that baking is a science, which makes me chuckle because I never had a passion for the subject. I was more art and english literature in school and found math and science to be hard and tedious. But! Here I am in the kitchen with my baking powder and soda and vinegar and eggs and all that. And now I like it! 
So, I recently searched 'baking with eggs' online and found some cool factoids to share. Have you ever wondered why the heck we use eggs in baking? (except in our vegan products of course) And by the way, Two Birds uses only locally sourced eggs in all of its classic style baked goods.
The following was taken from

Why are eggs used in the baking industry? Eggs perform more than 20 different functions, enabling bakers to eliminate the use of additives or additional ingredients. Those functions include the abilities to add color, coagulate, emulsify and add texture to bakery foods. Using eggs in bakery food formulas will simplify bakery foods' ingredient labels.
How do eggs add color to bakery foods? Color is enhanced because of the cartenoids present in eggs. Found in the lipid portion of egg yolks, cartenoids give the crusts of bakery foods a golden brown color.
How do eggs coagulate in bakery foods? When eggs are heated or beaten, they turn mixtures from a liquid into a semi-solid or solid state. Coagulation also binds ingredients together, preventing crumbing, and forms the building block structures for bakery foods.
What emulsification properties do eggs have? This ingredient is renowned for its emulsification properties. Egg yolks allow fats to stay dispersed in water and water to stay dispersed in fats. This promotes thickening and product stability.
Does emulsification enhance other features in bakery foods? Yes. Egg products provide a soft texture due to the ingredient's emulsification properties. Eggs coat liquids and fats to give bakery foods a smooth, creamy texture. Lecithin, found in egg yolks, also enhances texture. Lecithin reduces moisture loss, which ensures a soft, tender crumb texture.
Can eggs provide moisture in any other ways? By mixing eggs with cream or milk, bakers can create different types of glazes. These glazes retain the moisture in bakery foods and also bind seeds, crumbs, nuts and other coatings to the bakery foods' crusts.
What other properties do eggs have? Eggs, particularly egg whites, provide foaming properties. Through whipping, eggs incorporate air and foam, which gives volume and structure to bakery foods. Foaming holds bakery foods together and promotes a lighter product with smooth mouthfeel. Eggs produce a larger foam volume than other foaming agents, making it ideal for baking. This is especially ideal for cakes, such as angel food cake, because the aeration provides necessary structure.
Are eggs ideal ingredients for sweet goods? Yes. In applications where there is a high ratio of sugar to water, such as frostings or sweet goods, eggs slow down the crystallization process to give a smooth texture. This is especially true of egg whites. In frostings and glazes, eggs also thicken and create a firm base.
What other bakery foods are ideal for eggs? Eggs work well in nutritional bars because they provide high-quality protein, flavor and richness. Eggs also bind the ingredients and give structure in nutritional bars. Eggs also can be incorporated into gel fillings for sweet goods.
How easy is it to incorporate eggs into bakery foods? It's simple. Eggs are available in many different forms, including whole or separated, plain, enhanced, fortified or blended. Eggs also are accessible as liquid, dried or frozen products.
Are egg products, such as liquid, dried or frozen eggs, as functional and nutritious as shelled eggs? Most egg products offer the same functions and nutrition as shelled eggs. In addition, egg products require less storage space. Egg products are economical, because costs concerning breakage, shipping and handling are eliminated or reduced. If properly stored, egg products retain their quality for several months and provide consistent performance. Salmonella and other bacteria also are destroyed during pasteurization of egg products.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I made a birthday cake for a birthday girl a few days ago. Yes, these birds have been known to make cakes on occasion, though for me, it's really only for friends and only on birthdays. Birthday cakes are one of the funnest things to make, in my opinion; an not just cakes, but very specifically Birthday cakes. What a great gift, right? They are hand made and lots of time and love are put into them. And well, store-bought cakes are lovely too, I say but you're taking your chances on the contents. It really surprised me when I came to learn that it is normal in the industry to use cake mixes. Is that just me, or is that common knowledge?

The Birthday cake I mentioned above was orange flavor with rich chocolate frosting on top. The great thing about cakes, as well as cookies and muffins, is that once you have a great base recipe down, you can modify and experiment with it. You can add a little more spice or some zest or even fruit in some instances. You can put your own spin on it. I find myself getting more and more creative in this way. I cannot recall making the same cake twice. There are so many great combinations, why repeat?!

And so, when considering our cookies and muffins, these Two Birds apply the same creativity, very intentionally. For example, Curry of Kali muffins combine coconut and dates with curry powder, while Early Grey muffins contain whole milk infused with Earl Grey tea. These flavors seem unusual at first perhaps, but then you find them intriguing so you step out and try one, and pretty soon your favorite blueberry muffin seems a bit plain. Super-fun flavor combinations is something that makes Two Birds baked goods unique and is something we are quite proud of. We dream of baking!