Thursday, July 6, 2017

Homesteader's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Homestead Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love to adapt recipes to fit and utilize homegrown goodies from the homestead.  This recipe utilizes our raw honey, a duck egg, and my homemade honey bourbon vanilla extract.  I am always telling folks that duck eggs are better for baking, so it should not be a surprise that most all my baking recipes will include them.  Raw honey is a much better choice for sweetening goodies than white sugar, and who really wants to use imitation vanilla extract?  To top it off, these cookies are made with whole wheat flour.  So, enough talk, lets get to it.

1/2 cup unsalted butter*
6 tablespoons pure honey*
1 duck egg
1 teaspoon homemade honey bourbon vanilla extract*
1/2 cup light brown cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour*
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Whip room temperature butter in a mixer.
     (I love my Kitchen Aid!)
2.  Add honey, egg, vanilla extract, and sugar.  Mix well.
3.  Slowly add flour, but do not over blend.
4.  Add baking soda and sea salt, careful to not over blend.
5.  With a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips.
6.  Chill dough for about 15 minutes in the fridge.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7.  Drop dough onto baking stone.
8.  Bake for about 7 minutes, depending on size of cookie.

These cookies should be thick, with a brownie-like consistency and LOTS of chocolate chips.

Rules of baking:
1. Fresh, high quality ingredients are a must!  Do not, do not, do not buy cheap flour.  I used Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat for this recipe, King Arthur is another good brand.
2.  Your butter must be room temperature.  Not melted, just room temp.  It will make a difference in the end result.
3.  Be sure that the honey you purchase is pure and not cut with or a product of high fructose corn syrup.  Yuck!
3.  You do not have to use homemade vanilla extract, but quality really matters here, so buy the good pure stuff!
4.  For more even baking, I always use baking stones for cookies, not metal cookies sheets.
5.  Never, never, never over-bake cookies.  They should still be super soft when they come out of the oven.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Benefits of Beeswax Candles

     Like many, my path to all natural products began out of necessity.  One particularly frustrating ailment that I developed was a sensitivity to fragrances.  It took a while to figure out that the lovely scent I added to the warmer dish quickly resulted in a case of vertigo.  As much as I enjoyed the ambiance of a burning candle around the holidays, the same scenario resulted and often included a headache and coughing fit.  It was quite sad to give up the lovely aroma of spiced apples and pumpkin in the fall and cinnamon or pine anything in the winter.  Hence, I did a little more research.  As far as those lovely fragrances, I have since learned to blend pure essential oils to match seasonal bliss, with no sensitivity.  That is a different post, or series of them, though!  The neat, less discussed discovery this led me to, was a deeper understanding as to how the type of wax really matters as well.  It is the more subtle ingredient as far as the candle scent goes, the one that you likely give very little consideration to as long as it smells good.  However, it can pose some serious health considerations.
  First, consider the makeup of the wax.  Some common types of wax are paraffin, soy, and beeswax.  According to the National Candle Association, paraffin is the world's most commonly used candle wax.  The primary composition is straight-chained, saturated hydrocarbons, and is removed from petroleum during the refining process.  Well......they lost me as a customer at petroleum, but if you are still hanging on to your paraffin candle, here is another concern.  Paraffin candles produce soot when burned that is subject to inhalation when it is airborne.  Apparently, paraffin candles scented with large amounts of fragrances oils in glass containers product the most soot.  These particles can be particularly problematic for those with asthma, children, and elderly.  For those interested, the EPA released and article in 2001 titled,  "Candles and Incense as Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution:  Market Analysis and Literature Review".  You can find it online.  The article discuses the things I mention above, as well as cancer concerns and the issue of lead core wicks (discussed below).
       Soy results from hydrogenated soybean oil.  While it is plant derived, my research indicated that even a 100% soy candle must be processed with a small amount of paraffin.  Still, a far better choice than pure paraffin.  Some, including myself, find environmental concerns with soy, as it is most likely from a GMO source.  Soy is rivaled only by corn in the GMO world.  One resource listed that 81% of the global soybean crop is genetically modified!  I am sure that number is ever-changing, but still so high it is unbelievable.  While the jury is still in debate about the real health and environmental risks of genetically modified crops, my personal convictions lead me to make other choices.  As far as just burning a candle, I found that soy is a much safer choice than paraffin and far less expensive than beeswax, the next contender.     
     As a beekeeper, I am always interested to learn more about all the amazing benefits that we experience from those tiny little creatures.  After learning how to render my own beeswax, I naturally began to use it in my herbal salve and balm recipes.  Since I had long given up on candles, it took me a bit longer to consider this option.  Once again, I was astounded by what I found as I began to research the possibility.  First of all, it is very important to understand that you want to select a candle that is made of pure beeswax.  A company can actually produce a beeswax candle, using only a little beeswax and a lot of paraffin wax!  Why would they do that?  Well, beeswax is rare and expensive....up to ten times more expensive than paraffin and eight times more than soy.  So, do not be surprised if your beeswax candle costs two to four times as much as a soy candle of comparable design and be leery of a commercially-produced "cheap" beeswax candle.
Beeswax rendered from our hives at Happy Acres.
     Now, on to the benefits of beeswax.  Like soy, beeswax is natural, bio-degradable, and clean-burning.  Very little soot is released when beeswax is burned.  Beeswax has been used since ancient times....tired and true, the oldest candle known to man.  Also, beeswax candles have a lovely, natural honey scent.  It is actually not necessary to add any essential oils at all to pure beeswax candles and still enjoy a nice aroma.  When essential oils are added to pure beeswax, the honey scent will always be present, thus smelling more delicate than the same scent in other candles.  This is wonderful for those of us that prefer a lighter, natural smell.  Beeswax has the highest melting point of known waxes, resulting in a longer burn time and little drip.  That can certainly help offset the higher cost.  And now, to the really neat part....beeswax is considered hypo-allergenic and may actually help to improve air quality!  What???  From what I have read, beeswax emits negative ions when burned.  There are many claims to this matter and some that argue against the validity, so I dug a little deeper.  I found a study that did validate that beeswax candles emit negative ions.  So did paraffin candles, but at a much lower rate.  So for what it is worth, why does this matter and how does it work?  To put it simply, airborne contaminants are held by positively charged ions.  The negative ions are drawn towards the positive ions, attach and pull those little dust and mold particles to the ground.  To me, that sounds pretty neat!
     Last, after reading the 2001 article released by the EPA, it became evident that they type of wick used in a candle really matters....lead is the big concern!  Thank goodness that US manufacturers have agreed to eliminate lead from their wicks, but do not be fooled into thinking all candles come from the US.  As always, check the source and make sure the wicks are lead-free.  We chose organic hemp wicks coated with beeswax for our candles, for a natural, clean burn.   
     What type of candle you choose is certainly up to you.  Financial and health considerations are different for each.  Personally, I will choose the most natural materials possible for all of the products that we create for ourselves and our customer.  I love knowing that beeswax can be safely applied to the skin and is safe for consumption, so it makes me feel great as a choice for candles!  

You can find more information about our candles on our Happy Acres Homestead website:

Here are several links to references, more information, and other blog posts regarding beeswax: