Category Archives: Baking

Actioning Baking

My co-worker’s birthday was last Monday and in our department, the rule is that you action birthday treats for the person whose birthday comes after yours.

He suggested cupcakes, our family’s secret brownies or ice cream and fruit.  But I had other plans.  Because I will be so honest as to say that his birthday treats were 50% about him and 50% about me reinforcing my office baking dominance.

This is a source of great amusement to me because my co-workers think that I’m just 11/10 at baking and that I do it often.  They have no idea that pretty much every time I bring something in, it’s the only time I’ve baked since the last time I brought something in.  They have no idea that 99% of what I appear with is my first attempt at a recipe.  They have no idea that cooking is what I would actually describe as being my thing.

So after determining that he was neutral on the issue of nuts in baked goods, I settled on baking Café Latte’s Turtle Cake.

I have never been more terrified to serve something to a group of people in my entire life, since I have never made a chocolate cake before that has not come from a box, much less this ganache-like frosting.

It was a massive hit.

For a break from the dessert table, I was tasked with actioning bread for a little get-together.

I used the Dutch Oven Bread recipe from Ruhlman’s Twenty.  It revealed itself to me last week and when I saw it, I knew that I didn’t need to pick through any more recipes. 

We do not have a stand-mixer so the act of kneading was tasking.  Commentary ensued.

But I can honestly say that I cannot wait to make this bread over and over and over again.  When the end result turns out like this, I don’t think you would hesitate either.

It’s like…a honest-to-God loaf of real bread.  That came out of my oven.  I still cannot get over it.

Have you actioned any baking lately?

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A Shower for Megan…

Our Megan is getting married to the love of her life and since we can’t be there to celebrate with her in the flesh, we celebrate here, potluck style.

I feel like a good bar is an essential staple of any bridal shower dessert arrangement, so I opted to action Courtenay’s Good For You Bars (make sure to click there for the recipe!).

Why they’re good for you: Courtenay got the recipe from a real, live medical doctor.  They have peanuts and peanut butter so they’re loaded with protein (duh).  Runners eat them like starved wolves.

See?  Good for you.

Now.  Let’s get ready to Bake With Kat In The Name Of Happily Ever After!

The ingredients:

First you’ll make the base.

You may have to get in there with your hands (I definitely did), so just be prepared for that inevitable moment.

Take this.

And make it into this, using your mitts once more.  I don’t usually take my rings off to bake, but this whole process from start to finish is a situation where you’ll probably want to if you’re a ring-wearer.

Bake it up just to let all of the meltable-type things (peanut butter, brown sugar, corn syrup) play nicely together to make a solid base.

Meanwhile, address the peanut situation.

I feel like every time I try to chop nuts it turns into a debacle where I’m finding tiny chunks of pecan weeks later.  So this time I just took a rolling-pin to the bag that the peanuts were in.

Easier.

Melt the good stuff down.  Resist the urge to go in there with a spoon.  Or your head.

And then stir said peanuts in when the time is right.

Finally, you’ll spread the butterscotch-chocolate-peanut butter-peanut mixture over the base.

Try to focus on getting it all into the pan and not on how much you’ll get to lick out of the bowl if you don’t get it all into the pan.

Pro tip: If you have leftover chopped peanuts, you might want to dump those in while you’re licking the bowl.  A friend told me it’s probably a good idea.

The bars will go into the fridge until they set, though far be it from me to stop you from eating them as an oat-y/chocolate-y/peanut butter-y mess.  So for all of the patience you didn’t have to use actioning these, you will need to use those reserves now.

But I think this is worth it, no?

For the recipe, click here.

And please continue in our celebration of Megan!

Appetizers
Heather’s Deviled Eggs Three Ways
Gina’s Cheesy Edamame Crostini
Kirsten’s Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Puffs
Tina’s Easy Bacon Cream Cheese Roll-Ups
Rachel’s Sausage & Red Pepper Stuffed Mushrooms
Allison’s Retro Cheese Cookies

Drinks
Laurie’s Blueberry Lemonade Spritzers
Cassie’s Lemon-Berry Granita with Balsamic & Basil

Entrees
Michelle’s Fresh Melon & Crispy Prosciutto Salad
Jeanne’s Greek Salmon Wraps

Desserts
Julie’s Mini Cherry Pies
Lauren’s Summer Strawberry Jello Pie
KimBee’s Red Velvet Ice Cream Cupcakes
Madelyn’s Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries
Kathryn’s Eton Mess Shooters

What food do you look forward to the most at showers?

An Act of Improvement

Up today: More baking treat-making.

Because it’s Saturday.  Because last Monday I brought Vegan cookies (which my co-workers gamely chowed down on) to work.  Because Marcus’ cousin dropped off this year’s order of cookies last week and in the process of stashing them away, I discovered that we had three sleeves of Thin Mints in the freezer from last year.

I’ll be honest.  I think most Girl Scout Cookies are flavorless.  Maybe once upon a time they really were good or all of the other cookies you could buy at the store were that bad.  Maybe my palate has changed.  It’s anyone’s guess.

On that note, I’ll say that the Caramel DeLites (Samoas) have been my favorite since I was a pup, and that I’ve been known to down a Do Si Do or two before a run because they do not upset my stomach.

And then there’s that whole thing where I hate wasting food.  Yes, that.

So after I got done lunching, I whipped up a batch of Thin Mint Truffles.

Gorgeous, no?  There’s just something about draping things in chocolate and almond bark shells that’s just so aesthetically pleasing to these eyes of mine.

Probably because like wearing the color black, it’s just so darned forgiving.

I didn’t consult The Internet before making them, so I was more than a little bit nervous before I bit into my first one.  Sometimes it’s hard to know how these things will turn out.

The verdict?  Beyond the fact that they sit in your stomach like a rock (hard-boiled eggs watch out!) they are A Major Improvement over the original.  And I might be so bold as to say that I liked them even more than Oreo Truffles.

Buy a box and make them happen.

What’s your stance on Girl Scout Cookies?

p.s. Today marks the end of Cake Week!  If you too, have been compelled to Bake A Cake, PLEASE link up!  And if you haven’t gotten to drool over your keyboard yet, there’s still time!

MondayFilled Cupcakes from Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic
TuesdayMolten Lava Cake from Mads at La Petite Pancake
WednesdayIce Cream Cakelettes from Jeanne at Inside NanaBread’s Head
Thursday – Petite Bundt Cakes by Yours Truly
Friday Pupcakes from Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World
SaturdayOmbre Rose Cake from Megan at Wanna Be A Country Cleaver

Cake Week: From-Scratch Funfetti

It’s Cake Week!  And if you too, have been compelled to Bake A Cake, PLEASE link up!

Like pie from-scratch, cake from-scratch is something I’ve never attempted on my own before.  So I give thanks that Kirsten, Allison, Jeanne, Megan and Madelyn are so very supportive of me as I walk boldly (and somewhat blindly) into the world of baking.

When we were discussing Who Should Bake What, the idea of actioning bundt cakes was tossed around.  I may not seem like the kind of person that owns a large quantity of these pans, so let me surprise you by saying that I do.  Because in my possession I have a regular-sized pan, 8 mini-pans, one cupcake-style pan, and one cupcake-style pan with a holiday theme.

Midwest represent.

I get exhausted just listing them off.

But I think it’s obvious to all of us that The Universe is directing me to bundt.  In a lifetime commitment-sort of way.

The Universe was also directing me to action a from-scratch Funfetti Cake with Vanilla Glaze.  Because I had a Valentine’s Day-themed ladies’ night to attend and it’s a known fact that the hostess loves Funfetti 11/10.  That I love sprinkles nearly as much as life itself had nothing to do with the situation.

Note: I baked all cakes at 350 degrees.  The big cake stayed in the oven for 50 minutes, the smaller cakes stayed in for 30 minutes.

I did not use cake flour, because I don’t own it.  I know it’s not a terribly expensive ingredient, but since I don’t make cakes ever (really…this was my first from-scratch), it seemed silly to buy a bag that would occupy valuable pantry space.  To that end (I realize this may be heretical), the cake did come out moist, fluffy and with an appropriate crumb.  So if you too are one of the uninitiated, it’s safe to take a pass.

If you’re like me and you don’t necessarily have the time to mix up an entire cake the day-of (sometime we have Plans), you can toss the dry ingredients together in a bag ahead of time.

Even though I made this cake on Saturday, I definitely mixed up the dry mix on Thursday.

Once you add the dry and the wet together, you’re on your way!  Or so I thought.  Until I came to terms with the following:

  • Filling a regular-sized bundt pan without getting batter everywhere is…taxing.
  • Filling mini-bundt pans without getting batter everywhere is unrealistic and impossible.

But with hands and countertop covered in batter, I forged on.

To be richly rewarded.

When they come out of the oven, they will look like so.

This is also when you’ll realize that the only downside to buying rainbow sprinkles is that some of the sprinkles are…brown.  But baked-in, they didn’t come off as being especially muddy compared to the other colors.  So there’s that.

You will then begin contemplating the inevitable question of, How Am I Going To Get These Out Of Here?!

My mother-in-law is cursed as far as bundt cakes are concerned.  No matter what method she employs, she’s never able to coax them out of the pan once they’ve made it out of the oven.  So I was quite tickled to be able to send her a snap of this.

How glorious.  The tiny bundts are lighter because the metal grade/thickness of those pans was different.  So take heart, they’re still done.

Since they required a glaze, I admired them from afar while they cooled.  It was a pie-on-the-windowsill situation.

And then I got to work (literally) throwing sprinkles at my cakes, to great success.

This is a clear-cut case of More is More if I ever saw it.

And more importantly, the finished product.

Since I was going to eat more of the cake at the party, I aspirationally thought that maybe I would only eat half.  Until the sprinkles and the glaze took over and I devoured the whole thing.

Who said food photography and staging isn’t fun?

Cake Week continues, so check out our schedule of events!

MondayFilled Cupcakes from Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic
TuesdayMolten Lava Cake from Mads at La Petite Pancake
WednesdayIce Cream Cakelettes from Jeanne at Inside NanaBread’s Head
Thursday – Petite Bundt Cakes by Yours Truly
Friday – Pupcakes from Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World
Saturday – Ombre Rose Cake from Megan at Wanna Be A Country Cleaver

Have you ever actioned a cake from-scratch?

What’s your go-to party dessert?

A Bit of Baking

Today, I decided to action some baking.  Because The Holidays are long behind us and baking is Hardcore Soothing.

I know, I know.  How we came from the place where baking was anxiety-inducing to here and now, I will never understand.

I actioned the Chewy Chocolate-Raspberry Cookies from Veganomicon.  I was into the recipe for the following reasons:

  • I LOVE the chocolate-raspberry combination.
  • I’ve never attempted Vegan Baking.
  • I’ve never baked a chocolate cookie.
  • This recipe didn’t include any Faux-substitutes in the place of eggs/butter/milk.  Labeling something as Vegan doesn’t make it okay to bake with un-butter.

Most important order of business, does anyone else have a baking sheet that they would describe as being Seasoned?

Because obviously I do.  I think it can officially be classified as one of my Stalwarts.

I shouldn’t have been surprised about the fact that the Baking Cocoa that has been hanging out in my pantry for the last year still had the original seal on it.  But it did, so I got to deal with that.

It was just time, right?

The actual mixing and what-have-you was a relatively quick process.  I got to use the better part of a jar of Raspberry All-Fruit Spread that had been languishing in my fridge.  Which, retrospectively, I am beginning to suspect that this recipe would do just as well with Orange Marmalade.  You know, in the way that would evoke the Chocolate Oranges of Christmastime.

Let’s all remember that, no?

In addition I was directed to layer-in some vanilla and almond extracts as well.  Almond Extract: Also on the list of things in my pantry that still had the seal on it until this afternoon.

We were just breaking down barriers left and right in the kitchen today.

The finished product.  Look.

After eating one, I can completely see how having these with some ice cream would be completely delightful.  They’re very chewy and the combination of raspberry-vanilla-almond works together in a way that suggests all three of them and none of them at the same time.

Marcus?  Pronounced them very good for a Vegan cookie.

Amen.

Have you ever tried Vegan baking?

What’s hiding untouched in your pantry?

Switching into High Gear

Most important order of business.

Be a Good Cookie Week was an epic success.  Between the treats baked by Kirsten, her brother Mr. Stonebender, Jeanne, Allison, Megan, Mads and a few donations from Kirsten’s friends, we raised $529.40 for pediatric cancer research through CFKC.

When I started baking with these wonderful ladies, I thought that it would be a good time.  That it would force me to hone a domestic life-skill.  I had no idea that we would be able to raise that much money by the sole virtue of baking for our blogs, organizing cookie exchanges with friends and co-workers, and bringing other people along for the ride.

If you’re still looking for a way to get involved, register your cookie exchange/bake sale with Glad and they will donate $0.10 per cookie exchanged or sold through the end of December for up to a total of $100,000.  It’s just that easy.

Second most important order of business.

Our department cookie exchange was today and one co-worker brought in a snack called Tijuana Tidbits.

To me, that sounds like a drug.  But apparently, it is not.  Which means that it was probably invented by someone who has never set foot near Tijuana before.

Rather, it’s a delicious sweet and spicy trail mix incorporating tortilla chips, popcorn, mixed nuts, Crispix (does anyone actually eat them as cereal anymore?) and some sort of glaze.

Nope.  Definitely not even remotely related to Tijuana.  At all.

But this could become a year-round snacky-stalwart.

As in, I had to force myself to put the bag down so that I could enjoy them once more tomorrow night.

It’s going to be glorious.

Tijuana Tidbits aside, Hanukkah started tonight.

And I’ve been asked by a fair number of friends and co-workers what the holiday entails for us.

My conversion date was a few days before Hanukkah.  So at the party my parents threw for me in 2009, I got menorahs.  And LOTS of candles for said menorahs.  Because unlike Christmas Trees, you don’t just have to choose one menorah and stick with it.  Oh, no.  When you are a Hanukkah-observer, you have many, many menorahs.

One can never have too many ritual objects, you know?

Since Hanukkah and Christmas fall over the same period of time this year, what that means from a practical standpoint is that Marcus and I will be celebrating non-stop (and with other people) from the 23rd – 28th.

Sometimes it will be Hanukkah-themed, sometimes it will be Christmas-themed.  Since Hanukkah is actually a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar and Jesus wasn’t actually born three days after the Winter Solstice, I feel pretty comfortable surrounding myself with as many family members and friends as possible during this time and rolling with it.

Since Marcus and I agreed not to exchange gifts this year (we’ve been extremely blessed), it’s the little things that will make this first married Hanukkah of ours special.

We will light the menorah every night (my parents have a few as well, so we really do have all of our bases covered), which is something we haven’t managed to achieve before.  On Thursday night, I’m actioning a classic risotto for dinner.  Not because it has anything to do with Hanukkah OR Christmas, but because Marcus has been requesting it for awhile.  I thought it would be nice to enjoy it together on the one night of the holiday that we’ll actually be alone for.

Who knows – maybe 10 years from now a festive Hanukkah risotto will be a tradition of ours.

In the meantime, there simply has to be some peace amidst the chaos.

What does your holiday schedule look like?

What are the quirky holiday meals/dishes that appear on your family’s table?

In Search of a Restorative Effect

Oh man.

First order of business: Last night my sorority sisters wanted to know if the Oreo Truffles would be appearing on the blog.

Behold.

And yes, instead of actually editing my photos tonight, we’re just hitting the “Lomo” filter.

Today was a case study in how doing this…

Mission: Accomplished.

Turned into this…

Cocktails, anyone?

For the record, the two are totally unrelated.  My cookies did not strike me down.

Long story short, a quarter of the way into my run (it was 40 and sunny out on The Tundra today), I got smacked with the migraine of the century.  Which turned into…um…really not good.

Who knew that the 12 pack of Ginger Ale I got as a bonus at the gas station for buying a gift card for our Adopt-a-Family would actually come in handy?

Despite the fact that food wasn’t terrifically interesting to me today (that I ate toast for breakfast should have been a warning sign of its own), my mother’s mild chicken curry that sits in a slurry of vegetable sauce over rice did have something of a restorative effect.  I like to think of it as a modern twist on chicken noodle soup.

What do you turn to when you’re sick?  Soup?  Flat soda?  Toast?  Tums?

Bloggers: Do you regularly edit your photos for your blog before posting?

Disaster Strikes

The view from my kitchen at 8:00 AM.

Apparently I’m just More Inspired to bake at that hour than any other.  So I set to work preparing the filling for a batch of Oreo Truffles that will be coming with me to an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party tonight and the dough for the nine dozen cookies I’m meant to be bringing to my department’s cookie exchange on Tuesday.

For the record, if you offer to organize a cookie exchange and assume that you will not have 100% participation, then The Universe will make sure that you have the highest level of participation that anyone has ever seen in a cookie exchange ever.

Because when 17 people are ready to swap-it-out, suddenly it seems more practical to exchange cookies by the half-dozen rather than the whole dozen.

Marcus doesn’t eat desserts (though apparently he is A Major Fan of cookie dough).  I am but one person.  17 half-dozens of cookies is pushing it ’round these parts.

My morning baking session?  Went off without a hitch.  I rolled truffles and dipped pretzels, chilled cookie dough and all was right with the world.

When we returned home from lunch, I got cracking on my exchange cookies.  Rolling balls, unwrapping mass amounts of miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, preparing mini-muffin tins.

After pressing my dough into service and waiting the prescribed amount of time, I pulled my tins from the oven, and took them out to the garage to cool them down a bit.

Working with  Mother Nature.  It’s the Minnesotan way to get things done, you see?

I brought them in to “pry them from the pan with a knife” and discovered that something in the baking process had gone horribly, horribly wrong.

In an irreparable structural failure-sort of way.

As in, of the 84 cookies I baked (I still had a few dozen ready-to-go for tomorrow), THESE are my survivors.

Minus one.

In the spirit of Groundhog Day, I’ll be waking up to do it all over again (literally) tomorrow.

What is the biggest baking catastrophe you’ve ever experienced?

p.s. Be a Good Cookie Week is wrapping-up!  Check 0ut Mads’ Gingersnaps, Allison’s Christmas wish and An Island Mom’s Brownie Cookies!

Cookie Week: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Good morning, kittens!  I know, so early.  But today’s post is my contribution to Be a Good Cookie Week.

Earlier this year, Kirsten shared with us that she lost her sister, Cheryl, to cancer at an early age.  As the fall progressed (and with the holidays right around the corner) she mentioned to Allison, Jeanne, Mads, Megan and I that she was thinking about doing a little something to raise awareness for children’s cancer through her blog.

She had only just pressed the send button when the rest of us piled on board.  Because friends do not let friends walk that path alone.  We are grandmothers, mothers, and someday-mothers.  Aunts, sisters, daughters and nieces.  Childhood cancers are not a one person battle.

The cause that is close to her heart is Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, founded by Gretchen Holt-Witt.  Gretchen is a mother who watched her son Liam battle a cancer of the nervous system.  Getting even with cancer instead of remaining powerless and angry, Gretchen organized a bake sale.  Over the course of three weeks, she and the individuals who volunteered to help her in this fight for funding of pediatric cancer therapy research moved 96,000 cookies for a total of $400,000.

A movement was born.

When I re-read the post that Kirsten wrote, introducing us to this cause, one number really hit home for me.

Her sister, Cheryl, would have been 24 years old this year.

I am 24 years old this year.

It is a fact that I am totally unable to make any sense of.

The writing is on the wall.

Any age is too soon, but we cannot continue to let cancer take the lives our young.

Before we get started, I wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page.

When I read about other bloggers in the kitchen, I have a very clear-cut vision of what it must look like.

Their hair is done, they’re wearing a camera-ready outfit.  They never get ingredients on their clothes.  Their kitchens are immaculate.

Just so we’re all on the same page, this is what I look like when I impulsively decide to begin my baking immediately after an early breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Right?  Right.

For my batch of heaven, I decided to go with the Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from the CFKC Best Bake Sale Cookbook.

Making these was the perfect choice, because it’s something that’s on my 25 by 25 list and the first recipe I tried was…unimpressive.

This definitely righted that wrong.

The recipe asked me to grind the oats in my food processor.  Since I only made a half-batch, that seemed really excessive.  So I turned to my immersion blender instead.  God I love that thing.  You hook it up, do what you need to do and at the end, you only have a blender and a cup to clean.  It is so beyond easy.

I had already started mixing and dumping things by the time I realized I needed to start thinking like a food blogger and get snapping.  So here’s my effort.

In case you actually wanted to know what’s hiding in that green bowl, it was sugar.  Brown and white.

Amen.

I think I was supposed to use 1.5 cups of chocolate chips, but this ended up being more like…2.  How did this happen?  It’s very simple, really.  I had two open bags of chocolate chips floating around in my pantry and I wanted nothing more than to be rid of them both.  The ratio of chips to actual dough may or may not have been 1:1.

And it was good.

After wrasslin’ with parchment paper for the better part of 10 minutes, only to realize that it’s only necessary if you want to keep your baking sheets looking nice, I ditched the stuff and got my cookies in the oven.

Amen.

The finished product.  Behold.

Truthfully, I didn’t know that cookies like this could come out of my kitchen.

Once I’m done surviving the nine dozen cookies I need to action for a work cookie exchange next week, I’ll be pulling this recipe out again.

Only next time?  I’ll be making the full-batch instead of the half.

And don’t forget, the reindeer games are not over yet!

Monday – Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic
Tuesday – Jeanne from Inside NanaBread’s Head
Wednesday – Megan from Wanna Be A Country Clever
Thursday – Kat from Tenaciously Yours,
Friday – Mads from La Petite Pancake
Saturday – Allison from Decadent Philistines Save the World

Also, make sure to check out Kirsten and Jeanne’s giveaways!

What do you look like when you’re in the middle of some serious baking?

What is your go-to recipe for perfect cookies?

Exhibit A: Pumpkin Bars

Oh my word.  Let’s just pretend that yesterday’s post never happened.  When I looked back at it, I couldn’t help but to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  I blame Chardonnay and the documentary on the Burning Man festival that I was watching.  It’s hard to mind your P’s and Q’s in that sort of situation.

But today, I promise that I can do better for you kittens.

Since Thanksgiving is (literally) right around the corner, it’s time to start wrapping-up The Fall Five.

Yes, I still need to take my car in for a wash.  And I realize that somehow I’ve managed to spend the longest amount of time on what was probably the easiest goal.

The snow is coming this weekend so I promise that I’ll get it done.

Pinky swear.

But now, we move forward.

Last weekend it was time to action a batch of fall treats.  Originally I had visions of actioning MANY fall treats.  Pumpkin.  Apple.  Ginger.  Pecan.  Barks.  Muffins.  Cookies.  Cakes.

Then the reality of the situation set in.

I don’t have unlimited amounts of time.

My husband doesn’t like desserts.

I can’t lose the marathon weight and eat all of the desserts on my own.

So I scaled back and kept with the pumpkin theme that I’ve been embracing this fall.

You know you’re onto something when you Google Pumpkin Bars and the first recipe in the search results is from Paula Deen.

See Exhibit A.

Hello?  No brainer.  You say yes.  Because even though I’ve seen her make some dishes that would make your hair stand on-end from a healthy living standpoint, you know what comes out of her kitchen is always 11/10 delicious.

I mixed the batter.  Licked the frosting off of the beaters.  Made merry.  The usual routine.

My choice of recipe was reaffirmed last Saturday when I dropped Marcus off for a guys’ night en route to girls’ night.  When we walked into Mike’s house, the first thing I spied on the coffee table were a plate of…Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Bars (they do have a distinctive, cake-like look, after all).

As it turns out, Jillian had felt like The Universe was directing her to bake as well.  So, like any sane person, she Heeded The Message and hopped to.  As it turns out, The Universe had intended for us to bake The Exact Same Thing on The Same Day.  Like I said before, seeing her bars on the coffee table was like showing up at school wearing the same shirt as your best friend.

Except on a cosmic scale.

What’s your favorite fall treat to make?  Share your links/recipes if you have them!