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Effort to Deliciousness

Updated: 2018-03-02T08:24:27.005-08:00


Baked Sunday Mornings: Black & White Cookies


This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection is Black and White Cookies.  I had made black and white cookies one time before; I think it was from a David Lebovitz recipe.  My husband remembered that I had made them before and sounded a little surprised that I was attempting them again.  You see, last time the cookies were very delicious, but I got very frustrated with frosting - it was super-runny and the colors blobbed together.   Very disappointing.  Anyway, this time I was careful to make sure the frosting did not get too drippy and took the excellent tip in the book to use a piping bag to make them look nice and neat.
Although the cookies did not turn out quite as perfect as ones that you see in a bakery (and I totally did not notice the instruction to frost the flat side of the cookie), they are about a million times more aesthetically pleasing than my first batch.  And once again, very delicious.  Since it was several years ago, I don’t remember exactly what they tasted like, but I think this recipe is a bit cakier and I like it!  You can find the recipe here and view the other bakers’ links here.
I also made last week’s Sunrise Key Lime Tarts, then somehow my Sunday slipped away from me and I didn’t get around to posting them.  I have made key lime pie many times (it happens to be one of Josh’s more requested treats) and thanks to Cook’s Illustrated, I make a pretty good one.  I was happy to try the Baked version and we loved the pretzel crust – I am plotting more dessert ideas to make with it.  You can find the recipe here.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Aunt Sassy Cake


Did anyone watch Lisa Kudrow’s post “Friends” show, “The Comeback?” I’m assuming not too many people did since it was on HBO and only lasted one season. It was definitely not a binge-watching type of comedy, as it is slightly uncomfortable to watch (I feel the same way about “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia”), but I thought it was pretty funny. Anyway, the premise is a reality show about Lisa Kudrow playing a D-List actress making a comeback on a new televisions series (show within show within show) and her character on that show is the constantly humiliated Aunt Sassy.  I thought of the show when I saw the name of this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection, Aunt Sassy Cake. This lovely white cake is enriched with finely ground pistachios (plus a few chunks) in the batter and frosted with a honey vanilla buttercream. The recipe notes point out that this is not a simple throw-together cake, and I have to say, it did produce an impressive number of dirty dishes (I think any time you have to get the food processor out, the dishwashing time increases). We like big fluffy cakes, though, so it’s well worth it. I have made the “Baked” buttercream a number of times and for some reason, this particular batch was not too impressive in terms of texture. I am not exactly sure where I went wrong, but it was a bit gloppy. Chilling it did help and it tasted great. Please stop by the Baked Sunday Mornings site to check out the recipe and to see how the rest of the group fared.Oh, and I haven't posted for several weeks (so I guess this is my comeback) because I hadn't made the selected recipes, but I did make a couple of Baked treats in celebration of Josh's birthday.I made him Monkey Bubble Bread, which is quite possibly his favorite Baked recipe of all time.I didn't make him a cake until the following week since we celebrated with his family and his mom made him a chocolate cake, plus there was leftover cake from his office celebration, but when I did it was the Lemon Drop Cake from the first book.   I found a link to the recipe, which has not yet been made by the group.[...]

Baked Sunday Mornings: Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies


A number of years ago the on the first day of Daylight Savings, I showed up at the end of an exercise class. It was just slightly embarrassing. Today I managed to make it to a race this morning (I thought that running a race the night after we lost an hour of sleep was a little iffy, but luckily it was at 9 AM and only half a mile from my house) and to a power yoga class on time later in the day, but I am yet again late for my Baked Sunday Mornings post. Of course, since this happens on a regular basis, I can’t really say it has anything to do with the time change. One of these days I will actually manage to post on Sunday morning. (Posting at all is an improvement from last week where I had baked the recipe a whole week ahead of time, then didn’t get a photo before it was consumed.) 

This week the group baked Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies, which despite their beige appearance, were surprisingly tasty. Josh assumed that since the cookies had malt, they also had chocolate. Little does he know that there is an entire chapter in Baked Elements devoted to malted milk powder and not all them have chocolate! After years of frustration, we got a new oven a few months ago. This was the type of cookie that would bake very unevenly in the old oven, so I’m still pleasantly surprised when treats bake up in the amount of time the recipe specifies. The recipe says that these cookies should be kept at room temperature, but we found that keeping them in the refrigerator was good to firm up the filling without compromising any texture of the cookie. 

The recipe can be found here on the Baked Sunday Mornings site and you can see how the rest of the group fared via the roundup.

Baked Sunday Evening: Malted Milk Chocolate Pots de Crème


This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection was Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Budino, which is essentially a fancy name for pudding. However, I did not make it. Instead, I made another dessert in the pudding/custard family that I had missed back in January, Malted Milk Chocolate Pots de Crème. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: desserts that do not pair well with ice cream are generally not requested by Josh, so I do not make too many of them. Of the two, I thought the pots de crème may be better received. I can’t say for certain that Josh wouldn’t have liked the pudding, but I can say that these creamy cups of chocolate decadence were quite a hit here.

This recipe called for milk chocolate, and with very few exceptions, such as m&m's, we definitely prefer dark chocolate and I almost always sub a darker chocolate for milk. I think the Baked boys may have me sold on milk chocolate in the appropriate contexts, though, as the pots de crème were just perfect. It probably helped that I used a high quality chocolate (they had one ounce bars of Valrhona chocolate at Trader Joe’s and I bought two to make a half recipe of the pots de crème).

You can find this fabulous, not to mention both easy and impressive, recipe here on the Baked Sunday Mornings site and this week’s actual pudding recipe can be found here.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies


I have been looking for ways to fit more hours into a day. Unfortunately, since that is seemingly impossible, I have taken it upon myself to make the most out of the twenty four hours a day we have. I had always been an evening exerciser; however, I have been transitioning to morning workouts (though I do still like to run with Josh and Eloise some nights). As a result, I have more time in the evening to make dinner and hang out with Josh and Eloise, which is awesome. Another result? I wake up early almost all the time now, and when I woke up at six on Saturday morning and didn’t need to be to Spin class until eight, I decided it was a good time to make the dough for this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings treat, Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies. I halved the recipe, which has gotten easier to do since I measure most ingredients in grams these days. When I saw how crumbly my dough was, I was concerned that my early morning brain had miscalculated an ingredient or two because the dough did not look good at all (I checked and it sounded like the other bakers had similar issues). I also generally do not love chocolate and ginger together, so I had pretty low expectations for this recipe. 

I was pleasantly surprised on two counts: the dough rolled out easily when I went to make the cookies yesterday evening and they were very tasty! I think I don’t like when a heavy chocolate base is saturated with ginger, but the flavors where well-balanced in these cookies. They were also nice and light in texture, perhaps as result of the shortening. I haven’t had a chance to make the glaze and decorate them yet - perhaps later today. I doubt I would make these again, but it’s nice that the recipe was not a total wash. My dad and sister always give me fun Christmas gifts and the squirrel cookie cutters were actually part of a dog biscuit set. I may not use the dog bones or fire hydrants for human treats, but squirrels are cute enough for human use. 

For the recipe and to see how the other bakers’ treats turned out, please visit the Baked Sundays Mornings site. And have a great Sunday!

Baked Sunday Mornings (Evening): Cheesy Focaccia with Carmelized Onions and Sauteed Spinach


I’m super late with this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings post!   (And last week’s for that matter, which I made but didn’t post about since I was busy making another cake last Sunday and I wasn’t all that excited about how it turned out – the cake or my photos.  It looked like a big piece of toast with Nutella on it.)  This week’s selection was Cheesy Focaccia with Carmelized Onions and Sauteed Spinach.  We have pizza for dinner almost every Friday here.  We didn’t this week, though, since in an attempt to see a few of the nominated films before the Oscars, we actually went to see Silver Linings Playbook (really good) on Thursday and I had to bump a planned dinner to Friday.  So this is my long-winded way of saying that we lucked out that this week’s recipe was rather pizza-esque and we essentially got to have pizza this week anyway – yay!A while ago I decided the most difficult aspect of yeast breads was timing.  I’m usually pretty good at finding ways to work around rise times so I’m not just sitting around waiting, but I kind of felt like the focaccia (anyone else always mix up where the double-C is supposed to be in that word?) took over my afternoon.  I possibly misunderstood the instructions?  It seems like I could have done the final rise in pan while the oven heated, which by that point felt like it took forever.  Anyway, once I took the bubbling bread out of the oven and tasted the bread, I totally forgot about my frustration – it’s that good.  I have to say, although the bread is covered in two of my favorite toppings, I almost think it would have been better without them.  Next time!I made the bread yesterday, and then I warmed it up in the oven and served it during the Super Bowl.  It reheated beautifully and everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.  I am looking forward to checking out more cheesy goodness via the roundup on the Baked Sunday Mornings site.[...]

Baked Sunday Mornings: Lemon Pistachio Cornmeal Muffins


After missing a couple Sundays, then having somewhat of a recipe fail last week with the banana fritters, I was happy to see Lemon Pistachio Cornmeal Muffins on the schedule for Baked Sunday Mornings this week.  Why?  Because I had made them right after I got Baked Elements and loved them!  In fact, this rarely happens with baked goods, but I think I may have eaten more of them than my husband. 

I don't always like the grittiness of cornmeal, but I think it works really well in these muffins with the combination of ground-up pistachios in the muffins and the larger chunks of nuts on top.

These muffins are definitely worth a try, especially right now during citrus season.  You can find the recipe here on the Baked Sunday Mornings site and click here to see if the other bakers liked these muffins as much as I did.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Bananas Foster Fritters


Happy Sunday and 2013! After missing the past two Baked Sunday Mornings recipes, I am back with Bananas Foster Fritters. Two weeks ago was shortbread, which I wanted to make, but could not fathom more cookies after Christmas. Then I missed the pots de creme last week because I was sick, not to mention the fact that it was my birthday and cake was essential. (One of my goals for 2013 is to not overdo it on baking and have superfluous treats around.) Here is a photo of the fabulous birthday cake Josh made me. Per my request, it was a peanut butter cake with marshmallow filling and chocolate frosting, and he made the entire thing himself - no help from me at all.When I told Josh what the recipe for this week was, he said he was wondering why I came back from the grocery store with very ripe bananas (we are generally very good at letting them get overly ripe ourselves, which then “forces” me to make banana bread). The book has notes not to fear frying. Sigh. I’m sorry, but I do. I decided dive into this fearlessly, and unfortunately, had a few issues. The oil had no trouble getting to 375 degrees, but I had a bit of trouble maintaining it, leading the first round I fried to be overdone on the outside and too doughy on the inside. Subsequent batches did turn out better and Josh enjoyed having a doughnutty treat for breakfast today - don’t worry, I skipped the rum dipping sauce.  I know that if I kept practicing, I would be able to master deep-frying, but honestly I am content to enjoy doughnuts and french fries outside my home. Please be sure to stop by the Baked Sunday mornings site to see how the rest of the bakers fared. I am looking forward to many more baking adventures with the group this year![...]

Baked Sunday Mornings: Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream


This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection is Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream. I was a little nervous about how I was going to market this one since Josh doesn’t really care for eggnog. Since it didn’t involve a buying a carton of eggnog, I thought maybe I could get away with just calling it a spiced buttercream (and bringing it to my family if he didn’t end up liking it). I ended up telling him what it was, though, and he ended up liking the buttercream, which is good, since due to stormy weather conditions and my family living an hour away, I am not shopping with my mom and sister today as I had planned. :( Josh informed me he would be glued to the TV until 1 PM, but would then go shopping with me once it has been determined if he has won his fantasy football league’s super bowl. I can’t face the holiday crowds alone! 

For those of you who are not in the baking group, the reason the buttercream looks so speckled is because there is cinnamon in nutmeg in it, not because I am an extremely messy froster and got a ton of crumbs in it, though admittedly there are probably a few. I made a half recipe of the cake in six-inch cake pans, and two thirds of the buttercream recipe. I once ran out of frosting when I halved the recipe, so ever since then I always make at least two thirds or even the whole recipe to eliminate potential frustration. I find frosting cakes challenging enough as it is. 

This would be a superb dessert for Christmas dinner: not too fussy and very festive, not to mention delicious. I need to bring a dessert to my extended family’s holiday gathering on Christmas, so this selection was a week early in terms of the baking group schedule. The recipe can be found here on the group website and be sure to check out what the other bakers thought of this cake.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Spicy Brownies


I am not the best about planning ahead with the recipes for Baked Sunday Mornings.  Josh's office had a holiday cookie exchange earlier this week.  After much deliberation, I made these Speculoos Buttons, which were on the cover the December issue of Bon Appetit.  However, after baking this week's Baked Sunday Mornings selection, Spicy Brownies, on Saturday, I realized they would have been a perfectly acceptable treat for the cookie exchange.  The good news, though?  They were both excellent recipes!  I would definitely make the speculoos again (and probably will before the holiday season is over) and we loved the brownies.

I have made the famous Baked Brownies from the first book numerous times, and think they are pretty much my ideal brownie:  fudgy, but not gooey and perfectly proportioned in terms of sugar, butter, and chocolate.  Not to mention they do not have any annoying fussy steps and do not get many dishes dirty.  The spicy version is a fun twist and I am also looking forward to trying the peanut butter variation.  I made a half recipe in an 8x8 pan, which took 25 minutes to bake rather than the 30 recommended for the 9x13 pan.  I also omitted both kinds of ginger that were in the recipe because I am not big on the chocolate/ginger combination.  We had the brownies warm with vanilla ice cream last night, which was fabulous of course.  I do have to say that when I sampled one today, I thought it was even better,  since the spices had a chance to settle.

To see how the rest of the group fared, please visit the Baked Sunday Mornings site, where you will also be able to find the recipe.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting


I’ve only been baking with the Baked Sunday Mornings Group for a short time, but this week marks the group’s two year anniversary and we’re celebrating with cake - Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting.  I made myself wait until October 1 to begin baking with pumpkin and have managed to make a prodigious amount of pumpkin treats in less than two months.  I finished the end of a can of pumpkin with this cake and think it might be a good time to take a break from pumpkin goodies for at least a week or two.  That being said, this is a fantastic cake to end the pumpkin binge with.I made a half recipe of the cake in a six-inch cake pan, with enough leftover batter for a tester ramekin.  I wasn’t sure about using almond butter in the frosting, probably because I usually buy chunky almond butter (I thought smooth would be better for this recipe so that’s what I bought), and ended up thinking it was wonderful.  I loved that it was a little more salty than the average buttercream.  I had initially thought I might add some almond extract to amp up the almond flavor, which it did not end up needing at all.  I am happy to have found a new kind of frosting I like so much!I realized that Eloise has not made an appearance since I started blogging again, so this marks the return of Monster Cuisine.  We just got this mat to go below the sink in the kitchen and she thought it was a new pad for her.  You know, since of course we want a food-obsessed Weimaraner as close and comfortable to us as possible while we are cooking!Anyway, if you would like a delicious cake recipe, head on over to the Baked Sunday Mornings site.  You can also see if the other bakers enjoyed it as much as I did by viewing the bakers’ links.[...]

Baked Sunday Mornings: Baked Cheese Grits


I missed Baked Sunday Mornings last week because we were busy painting the upstairs of our house and packing things up, which allowed for little recreational time over the weekend. (Also, the recipe was very coconut-heavy, so I knew my husband wouldn’t it eat it and that definitely decreased my motivation to fit it in.) We have entered the stage of the home improvement project that we are not doing ourselves. I optimistically thought that it would be completed in the two day estimate we were provided with, and that as of Saturday evening, we would be putting the house back together and preparing for Thanksgiving. Clearly I am new to home renovations projects (I mean, other than the many hours of HGTV I’ve watched) because after two days, the project is only about a quarter completed, most of our possessions (including a lot of our furniture) are packed away, we can only use about half of our house, and I am taking photos from my iPhone. Luckily, at the moment, the useable half of the house does include the kitchen and I was able to make this Sunday’s selection, Baked Cheese Grits. 

I remember seeing grits mentioned in books occasionally when I was a kid and just assuming they were something with an unpleasant gritty texture. As a Californian, they are definitely not regular part of my diet or even on restaurant menus all that often (at least at places where I eat). I do make this recipe for Buttery Polenta with Parmesan and Olive Oil Fried Eggs on a regular basis for dinner during the cold months, which can also be made with grits. I made the cheese grits exactly as instructed in the book, and instead of having it for breakfast today, I plan to reheat it and serve it with fried eggs and greens per my usual polenta recipe later in the week. After coming home to a chaotic house, it will be nice to have dinner over halfway done some weeknight. And I keep reminding myself that it’s just a few days of living in dishevelment and that our home will be beautiful forever. 

To get the recipe for Baked Cheese Grits and to see how the rest of the group fared, head on over to the Baked Sunday Mornings site.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Buttermilk Pie (with a a hint of Maple Syrup)


This week the Baked Sunday Mornings group made Buttermilk Pie (with a hint of Maple Syrup). I was not familiar with buttermilk pies until a couple years back when I made a lemon buttermilk pie with another baking group. Custardy pies are not usually a favorite around here, but we enjoyed the buttermilk pie before, so I was looking forward to this one. Even so, I decided that it might be good to scale it back in size, as pies do lose their appeal after a few days and there are just two of us. During previous holiday seasons – and seriously, I guess it is that time – Crate and Barrel sold some cute six-inch ceramic pie plates. I went in search of them, but they do not seem to be available this year. Luckily I happened upon one at a different store, making it easy to cut the recipe in half. And yes, I am acutely aware, particularly this week, that I am fortunate that these are the types of “problems” I have. 

This was my first time making the pie dough from any of the Baked books. I usually make it by hand rather than in the processor and the processor made this dough appear smoother than my dough generally looks (I just hope it wasn’t overworked). I have yet to actually try the pie, so I have yet to assess if it turned out. I did make a little tester ramekin of the filling and loved it. I think this pie would be wonderful with any kind of fruit, from berries to spiced baked pears. 

The recipe notes do acknowledge that this pie is not very pretty and I have to say I found it hard to photograph, as there is not much contrast. To see how the other bakers’ pies turned out, please visit the Baked Sunday Mornings site.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle


 It’s been years since I’ve been in school, but I still manage to have anxiety dreams about not knowing I was enrolled in a class and not having my homework done for the class every now and again. I had one last night, which may or may not have had to do with getting this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings post up. You see, last week I managed to make the recipe, but then due to various factors, did not get around to posting. However, even though I did not pre-write my post ahead of time, this is the first Sunday morning in weeks that I haven’t had a long run or a race on my agenda, therefore; barring any computer problems, which are entirely possible these days,I would have plenty of time to write about this week’s selection, Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle. (And there are my Joe Froggers from last week below.)  I hadn’t made any sort of brittle in a long time and thought making candy was a fun selection for Halloween week. As I was patiently waiting for my sugar mixture to become “almost clear,” I decided to look at the group’s website to see if any of the other bakers had perhaps mentioned how long this might take, as it seemed to be taking a while. I decided to just push up the heat a little, since low on my stove is really low. I also decided to break out the candy thermometer to make sure the sugar got to 300 degrees, which took eight minutes after the butter melting, which is how long the recipe said it would take. I just get way too nervous about burning caramel, so I like to have the extra insurance of the thermometer rather than just visual cues. I thought the brittle was excellent. I had thought the total amount of salt in the recipe seemed high, but it ended up being perfect. In addition to the cinnamon, I added a pinch of cardamom, and think it perhaps could have done with a bit more spice. I am more inclined to snack on treats of the nutty/seedy variety than Josh is, so I am thinking the majority of this brittle will probably need be taken to one of our offices tomorrow. You can see how the rest of the group fared with this treat by checking out the other bakers’ links on the Baked Sunday Mornings site. [...]

Baked Sunday Mornings: atmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones


Over the past five years I have run numerous road races. There have been a few that have been not so great (usually involving hilly streets in in San Francisco), many that I have enjoyed and/or learned something from, and one particularly spectacular day in 2010 that involved completing a marathon and a proposal. There are a few common factors that pretty much all races I run have: Josh is with me, Rihanna is on the playlist, and I eat a Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch Clif Bar before the race. This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection, Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones, is basically the awesome pastry version of my pre-race fuel of choice, so naturally I felt pre-disposed to like it. 

These scones did not disappoint. I mean, seriously, peanut butter and chocolate chips for breakfast? No complaints here. Other than the chocolate chips, there really was not an excessive amount of sugar in the recipe - I have definitely made more decadent scones. I gave one to Josh warm out of the oven and he pronounced it “ridiculously good.”  (And went on to have a second shortly thereafter.)  I had made some healthy-ish muffins for his breakfasts last week, and he ate them, but these are definitely a step up in the breakfast department. 

You can find the recipe here on the Baked Sunday Mornings website and check the other bakers’ links here.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake with Caramel Rum (Vanilla) Frosting


I tend to be a very indecisive person. Sure, this is fine for major decisions, but my husband frequently has to remind me that cookbooks I am buying will not be the last I ever purchase when it takes me five days to place an Amazon order or that I will have another treat tomorrow when I agonize over whether I want a cookie or an ice cream cone. Yesterday morning I was having a hard time deciding what to make for dinner that night (it had to be good - I always make something nice on Saturday, not to mention it was the first night of National League baseball playoffs). The upside to last night’s meal? I knew no matter what I made for dinner,* we would have a fabulous dessert, as I had already made this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection, Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake with Caramel Rum (Vanilla) Frosting, from Baked Explorations. Bundt cakes are naturally beautiful, as you make them in a pretty pan, and rarely have more than a light glaze or dusting of powdered sugar to decorate them. This one had both a generous layer of frosting and a garnish, which borders on being a little gaudy and over-the-top sugary (I am trying not to think about how much sugar was involved - let’s just say it’s a good thing we buy ten-pound bags of it at Costco), but it works in both aesthetics and flavor. The cake in the book is very dark, which made me worry I didn’t cook my caramel mixture long enough. I was happy when I bit into it and tasted a nice carmelly cake with a nice sturdy crumb, rather than just a plain sugary cake. I almost wonder if the cake in the book was made with brown sugar. Two weeks in and we are very pleased with the selections for this group! You can find the recipe and see how the other bakers fared on the Baked Sunday Mornings site.*Dinner ended up being exceptionally good, too, meaning the only disappointing part of the evening was the Giants losing. I made Pork Shoulder Ragu with Papparedelle, from Dinner: a Love Story (DALS), which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cookbooks and has generated a handful of go-to recipes in the past few months. You can find the recipe for the pork ragu on the DALS website, here.[...]

Baked Sunday Mornings: Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels


Well. I certainly didn’t intend to post one recipe for Tuesdays With Dorie 2.0 and then stop posting for 8(!) months. I won’t bore you with a litany of excuses; the blog just got low on my priority list and I just decided that it wasn’t worth stressing myself out about something that was supposed to be fun. Yeah, I managed to get stressed out about a baking group. Every now and then I would mention I wanted to start doing it again and my husband would always encourage me to join another group - you know, since I had enjoyed doing it before, not at all because he wanted yummy treats. Anyway, I recently saw a blog post pop up in my Google Reader with a recipe for the Baked Sunday Mornings group and, having recently purchased Baked Elements, felt inspired to dust off the blog. This week the selection was Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels. I am proficient at making yeast doughs, but Josh is much better than me at shaping dough (which we found out on the rare occasions I make garlic knots), so I enlisted his help and made this recipe a team effort. I did parcel out the dough for him in eight equal portions. He asked how I knew if the were all the same size and I told him him I weighed them. At which point he obviously realized who he was talking to (his very meticulous wife) and said, “of course you did.” As Josh was shaping the pretzels and I was preparing the baking soda bath to boil them, I remembered why I like being in a baking group so much. I have been baking on a regular basis, and though there has been the occasional batch of sticky buns or interesting treats, I admit that I have defaulted more to the cookie/fruit crumble spectrum of baking. It is fun to be back trying new things. I think pretzels are delicious, and not surprisingly, ones brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar are even better. The one downside is the recipe’s disclaimer that they are best consumed within twelve hours. We are doing our best, though, and it is a slightly healthier endeavor than the one time I fried doughnuts at home and “forced” Josh to eat about eight chocolate doughnuts in twenty-four hours. (Above is a picture of the doughnuts, which I made two Octobers ago and never wrote about.) If you are interested in a great pretzel recipe and seeing more about Baked Sunday Mornings, you can check out the group’s website.[...]

TWD/BWJ: White Loaves


Tuesdays with Dorie are back and this time we're Baking with Julia! I had this somewhat delusional idea that this time around I would totally be organized; baking and preparing my post ahead of time. Naturally I didn’t get around to baking this week’s recipe, White Loaves, until this past weekend. Then my plans to write my post ahead of time also got derailed due to working late last night and being too tired once I got home, so here I am on Tuesday night, finally getting my post up and happy to be here. I’m excited for the new challenge (there are some complicated looking recipes in the new book) and reading about everyone’s experiences - apparently there are over 300 bakers.


I find the most difficult part of baking basic yeast breads is planning the time for multiple rises without the bread taking over your entire day. I solved this by putting the bread in the refrigerator after shaping the loaves on Saturday evening. I was planning on letting them rise in the morning, but they actually got rather billowy in the refrigerator so I didn’t have to wait long (I let them sit out around half an hour to take the chill off) to bake them. I followed the recipe exactly as written, though I used about an ounce and a half less flour than the recipe called for. I loved the tip in the book of removing the loaves from the pan for the last ten minutes of baking - it gave the bread wonderful crust.

I didn’t find this bread difficult to make, so I am rating it a 3.5 for Effort and Josh rated it an 8.5 for Deliciousness, for an EDR of 2.42. Thank you to our hostesses, Laurie of Slush and Jules of Someone’s in the Kitchen for getting the group off to a great start; you can find the recipe here. To see how the other bakers fared, click over to the TWD site.

TWD: Kids' Thumbprints


In order to stay positive and motivate myself to get through the week, I try to think of little things to look forward to each day of the week. For example, Josh often picks me up from work on Mondays, and on Wednesdays we run six miles together, eat Chinese food, and watch “Top Chef.” Tuesday’s thing is obviously Tuesdays With Dorie and it makes me sad that this is the very last TWD with this incarnation of the group. In February 2012, we will start a new book, Baking with Julia, but Kids’ Thumbprints are the very last recipe in Baking.I have always enjoyed baking, but since joining the group I have greatly expanded my repertoire and attempted many desserts I otherwise would not have tried. There was a point when I was so enthusiastic about the book that I thought I would bake every single recipe in it. Though I greatly admire those who have, I realized that was not a practical option for me at this point in my life. Josh (who has gone from boyfriend to fiance to husband since I began baking with TWD) would keep tabs on my baking to-do lists and help me edit based on time and his ability to consume the output. I do hope someday I have more time to take photographs and blog (I do seem to manage to bake plenty of treats). The very best part of TWD is definitely reading about the other bakers’ experiences each week. Not surprisingly, people who enjoy baking for others are incredibly nice and I am happy to have been introduced to such an amazing community.So the thumbprints? I brought them to work and they disappeared before I had a chance to try one. Luckily I had left a few at home so I managed to have a taste and they are super-yummy, not to mention a perfect treat to make during the holidays. We rated them a 7.5 for Deliciousness and I gave them a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.5. We are lucky enough to have the lovely Dorie herself hosting this week; I hope you enjoy reading her post as much as I did. Many thanks to her and all the other bakers for giving me something to look forward to on Tuesdays. I can’t wait for the fun to continue in February!P.S. The cookie jar featured in this post was a gift passed on from Josh's mom shortly after Josh and I moved in together. Josh has since purchased a very cute retro-style owl cookie jar for me, but I love picturing Josh as a little towhead grabbing cookies from this one![...]

TWD Rewind: World Peace Cookies



For the penultimate Tuesdays With Dorie, we were given a rewind option. Josh’s office had its annual cookie exchange last week. I had lofty plans to try a new recipe, but my limited spare time made me go with the more practical option of making a tried and true favorite: World Peace Cookies. World Peace Cookies were one of the few recipes I had made before I joined the group and I have probably made them more than any other recipe in Baking. Josh said they were a hit and several of his co-workers complimented my baking when I saw them at their Christmas party on Saturday. I didn’t get a chance to photograph them (and though I am too lazy to check for sure, I think I have erased my old photos), so that is why I am posting photos of my dog in a scarf. I don’t think I’ve ever posted them before and even if I had, I think it would be worth rewinding to. I promise I will manage to bake and post (hello, vacation!) our very last TWD recipe next week. To see what the other bakers rewound to, check out the TWD site.

TWD: Earl Grey Madeleines


Tuesdays With Dorie is doubling up on recipes this week and the one I made was Earl Grey Madeleines. My apologies to Kayte of Grandma’s Kitchen Table for not getting to the Honey Almond Fig Tart. I had assumed I wouldn’t be able to find fresh figs. Since they were hard to come by in October, I assumed they would be impossible to find in December. Funnily enough, I did just see some at the store tonight, though well after the other recipe, Earl Grey Madeleines had been made and mostly consumed. We are not what you’d call tea drinkers in this house. We like coffee - strong black coffee. It’s one of the few things we buy in bulk at Costco, along with ten-pound bags of sugar (surprise!) and economy-size boxes of generic milk bones for our voracious eater. However, Josh was required to dress up as a mummy for his office’s Halloween party (he claims there are not any pictures of the mummy crew from the party, a fact I may be verifying when I see his co-workers at their Christmas party next week). He put a great effort into his costume, researching the best way to get the soiled look, and had bought Earl Grey tea to dye the mummy wrappings. Lucky for me, not all the bags got used and I was able to utilize them in this recipe.


I have now made all the Madeleine recipes in Baking, and they are all delicious and fairly easy to make. My one qualm was that when I strained the tea-infused butter through the recommended layers of cheesecloth, I think I lost more of the butter than I would have liked, because the Madeleines were not quite as buttery and tender as others. Many thanks to Nicole of Bakeologie for a lovely selection. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the TWD site to see what the other bakers made this week.

TWD Rewind: Granola Grabbers


This week Tuesdays With Dorie has a Rewind week, which means we could choose any previously chosen recipe. We were also later told we had permission to post later in the week, in order to bake for Thanksgiving. I had already baked and photographed my selection by the time this announcement was made (and had my Thanksgiving desserts planned). I hadn’t written my post, though, and was happy to have one less thing on my to-do list before the holiday break started.
The recipe I selected was Granola Grabbers! Not very seasonal (the photo in the book shouts back-to-school fall recipe), but I had wanted to try these cookies forever. I hadn’t because I knew that this is exactly the type of cookie I love and that Josh “forgets” about and I try to not be the one who consumes the majority of the cookies in this house. In fact, as I was making them, I tried to think of another name that did not involve the world granola that might make them sound more enticing. I didn’t come up with anything. And I was totally right: I have eaten way more of them.

These cookies are packed not only with granola, but also additional nuts and raisins. They are pleasantly sweet and very hearty. They kind of remind me of Kellog’s granola, which I like but never buy anymore. I rated them an 8 for Deliciousness (Josh gave them a 7) and a 2 for Effort, for an EDR of 4. You can find the recipe here and visit the TWD site to see what everyone else selected this week.

TWD: Mini Madeleines



After ambitiously making both of the recipes selected for Tuesdays With Dorie last week, I am back to just one today: Mini Madeleines. I honestly cannot remember the last time I used my mini madeleine pan - probably right after I bought it three years ago, if at all. And they’re so tiny and adorable! A dozen of these cuties fit on one salad plate. I learned that mini madeleines bake really fast. The recipe said that they would take between eight and ten minutes; mine were very brown after eight minutes, so I baked the subsequent batches at seven and a half, and as evidenced by the color (not so sneakily disguised with powdered sugar), they probably would have been fine at seven minutes. I also learned that you really don’t need more than one teaspoon of batter per mold; they didn’t seem full enough, so my first batch ran over a bit.


I noticed the rest of the madeleine recipes in Baking all require using a mixture and these were just made with a whisk. I was curious what the texture would be like and they were perfectly cakey. Josh rated the madeleines an 8 for Deliciousness and I gave them a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR 3.2. Many thanks Di of Di’s Kitchen Notebook for giving me an opportunity to dust off the madeleine pans. You can find the recipe here on her site, and visit the TWD site to see what the other bakers concocted this week.

Twosdays With Dorie: Honey Nut Scones & Far Breton


After my lackluster participation in October, I was quite pleased with myself for making two Tuesdays With Dorie recipes this week. In order to complete the book by the end of 2011, we are doubling up on recipes this month - with the option to make one or both. You can stop by the Tuesdays With Dorie site to see what the rest of the bakers decided to bake.First up are Honey Whole Wheat Scones, selected by Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake; you can find the recipe here on her site. Josh has not had great breakfast treats the past couple weeks, they have been homemade so they haven’t been that bad, but nothing special. I am happy to say that these scones break the boring breakfast streak. Since these scones are just lightly sweetened, with two tablespoons of honey, I resisted sprinkling sugar on the top in order for them to maintain their wholesomeness. The only minor modification I made was mixing the nuts with the rest of the dry ingredients in order to work the dough as little as possible. I loved the bit of crunch the nuts added, and though they weren't sweet, we did not think they needed any extra accoutrements.The second recipe selected was Far Breton, by Nicole of Cookies on Friday; the recipe is posted here. I had no idea what to expect with the breton; the batter reminded me of crepe batter, and the flavor and texture kind of reminded of bread pudding without the bread. For something with a fancy name, it was quite simple to make. I made the batter (a half recipe) in the two-cup container that came with my immersion blender, which made the clean-up very easy.I did have trouble telling if the breton was done, so I erred on the longer side, and the texture was fine. This recipe kind of reminded me of my early days with Tuesdays With Dorie when it seemed like we were constantly making things I hadn’t heard of. It’s very satisfying to think of how my baking skills and repertoire have improved in the past three years.[...]

TWD: A Fig Cake for Fall


In the past month, I managed to bake three out of four Tuesdays With Dorie recipes, photograph two of those three, and wrote a post (but didn’t publish) one. I also managed to bake one of those recipes (the apple cake) without any butter. Seriously, I didn’t notice until Josh asked me what the “extra butter” was doing sitting on the counter. Somehow I just couldn’t get my act together this month. I decided this would finally be the week (okay, I had told myself that the previous week as well) and here I am with this week’s recipe, A Fig Cake for Fall. I have always loved figs. When I was a kid I would devour fig bars, particularly the whole wheat variety sold at health food stores. My dad, who shares my enthusiasm for figs, makes a hearty fig pudding every Christmas. I don't think my brother appreciated the pudding until we were adults, but I was a fan from day one.


Naturally, I had high hopes for this cake. I think its resemblance to some other upside-down cakes I’ve made made me think the fruit would be a bit more caramel-y and the cake a bit moister. It wasn’t an outright disappointment, just not fig perfection. Since it is not terribly sweet and contains fruit, I told Josh he could justify eating it for breakfast - sans the boozy sauce, of course.


We rate this cake a 7 for Deliciousness and I gave it a 3.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2. Thanks to Ursula of Cookie Rookie for a nice seasonal selection. You can find the recipe here on her site and see how the other bakers fared by visiting the TWD site.