I participated in this thing called Tumblr Eat Up a couple of times, it was a baking share with people through the internet. You’d get somebody address and tumblr blog name and someone different would get yours and you’d mail baked goods to person A, person F sends you one, you’re person H… yadda yadda yadda. I really liked doing it but decided if I’m going to make time to mail baked goods to a complete stranger, I should just do it for my friends. I guess it was kind of like a New Year’s resolution for me.
In January I sent these cookies to my friend Leigh, down in Florida. He didn’t get the package from the post office right away but he said the cookies were still tasty. He is an artist and is supposed send me a drawing in exchange (although exchange isn’t necessarily part of my baking for friends afar thing). He’s a busy boy so I haven’t gotten the drawing yet, but he did send me a picture of it in process. I’m excited!
My second package went to my friend Kristin in Austin, TX. I’ve know Kris since I was 10 or so and she moved to Texas almost 2 years ago and I try to be good about sending her something special on her birthday (which is in October) but failed this year so I send her an extra special Valentine’s Day package.
The month is almost over, so last night I realized I had to get my March package on the way. I like having it be a surprise for the person receiving them, so I won’t tell now, but I will give a hint: I made 2 batches of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies last night, one with raisins and one without. (The one with raisins I made for someone at work who’s birthday was yesterday.)
Baking with Cora and Lena, Part 2: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Weekend with Cora and Lena has closed as I just dropped my niece off with my Dad to bring her back to her home. We had a very fun busy time including an improv show, trip to the Museum of Science, bowling, going out to eat, painting nails and baking! Yesterday we made Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes and not so yummy frosting (sharmeee you were right, it looks like I was making swiss meringue buttercream, which I didn’t want to be doing).
Today we made bread. 2 loaves of bread.
We followed a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The New Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen.
I think we may have under-baked it a little bit but Lena said it was JUST PERFECT. Also we didn’t wait for it to completely cool down before starting to eat it.
In the past when Lena has visited me, we usually eat really healthy because I generally try to eat healthy (really, I do) but this weekend that was not the case.
The buttercream disaster (I should have trusted my instincts)
The cupcakes BEFORE we put some gross business on them.
(photo credit to Lena)
Recently I made a buttercream frosting that I enjoyed and when we were making our funfetti cupcakes I somehow forgot about it and started using a different one. Instead of a very simple butter, vanilla and confectionary sugar mixture, this recipe involved granulated sugar, and dissolving it into egg whites over simmering water and too much butter. FAR FAR TOO MUCH BUTTER. I kept checking the recipe to make sure I was using what it said, and I was, and it was TOO MUCH BUTTER. I thought to myself “Cora, that doesn’t sound good” but most other recipes from this book I was using have turned out just fine, so I was like… okay, new buttercream recipe, give it a try.
Now I know. That recipe is no good. I tried to save it by adding confectionary sugar which helped a little but not enough. Also, buttercream should not have taken that long to make.
Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes (Baking with Cora and Lena)
This weekend my wonderful niece Lena came and stayed with me in Boston. On her other visits we’ve baked together and it’s been really fun, so among the things I had planned, I promised we would bake again.
It was hard to decide what to do but we settled on Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes to celebrate spring (while it’s been cold this weekend, it’s sure starting to look like spring, and I am very hopeful about warmer weather soon).
She’s 5’1” now, and in middle school, soon enough she’ll be taller than me. In all seriousness, she’s the coolest 12 year old I know.
Funfetti cake out of the box used to me my go-to thing to bake, especially when I was in college. To make our cupcakes we followed a vanilla cupcake recipe I have and just added spring sprinkles in the batter.
Lena folding in the sprinkles.
The batter was looking great and tasted just right… now the frosting, that was a whole other (sad) story.
In addition to the lovely thing I went to this morning, where I learned a lot, I have an improv show tonight, so I decided to bake. There is a small possibility that we will have a very thin crowd so I decided to keep my baking simple and make something I’ve made MANY times with one of my favorite cookie recipes.
Ingredients ALL measured out before mixing (with the exception of the butterscotch chips, which was an afterthought).
3 cups 100% white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups softened butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature
I was making a lot of cookies, so I used a very big bowl.
Things I learned from the book signing + demo by Joanne Chang
I got a lot out of the 2 hour demo and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more from the book. But here are a just few things that I took away/learned/new things to think about:
Don’t let baking intimidate you.
Measure everything first. Something I do occasionally because it makes me feel like I’m on a cooking show but that she highly recommends. She also recommends weighing your ingredients because how much you put in a measuring cup, or if what you’re measuring is sifted or the way you look at the measurement line can vary. This is not something I will be doing anytime soon, but interesting to think about.
If you can take the butter and bend it, then it’s at room temperature.
The reason why the unsalted butter selection at the supermarket is smaller and generally more expensive is because the shelf life is much shorter (salted butter lasts much longer).
Always use unsalted butter when baking AND add salt. Using unsalted butter is important because each butter manufacturer uses a different amount of salt, so you don’t know how much you’re starting with. Also, always add salt (not necessarily a lot). But just like you add salt when cooking, because it enhances flavors.
When rolling out dough, if it is properly/fully chilled it won’t pick up any extra flour, so you don’t need to worry about it.
Use a large (16”-18”) pastry bag. The other ones are simply too small “unless you’re only decorating one cupcake.”
A couple of weeks ago I was on the website for The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, yaknow.. just looking around because I have been thinking about taking some sort of classes or schooling to enhance my baking and I saw that there was a book signing and demonstration by Joanne Chang of Flour.
Flour is a bakery and cafe that has 3 locations in Boston/Cambridge, makes really great sandwiches, cafe drinks and baked goods and usually has a long line around prime eating times. I’ve actually only been there once or twice but I’ve heard great things about the bakery and book, which came out last October.
The demo was just great! and Joanne was really wonderful and I learned a lot. She went back and forth between 2 different recipes while answering ANY sort of question and then we got to eat! I wish I remembered my camera, though.
A lot of the recipes in the book seem more complicated than anything I’ve ever made but I can’t wait to give some of them a try.
I thought I’d share. My nose has been stuffy, so I can’t completely taste them, but I was told they were really good. Although I think things taste better when it’s the end of the school day and you’re tired. Also, my cream cheese frosting is usually a hit.
I was at the store and I was looking at the vegetables and… they weren’t labeled. I didn’t know if I was buying a zucchini or a cucumber and I was too embarrassed to ask anybody. I decided to go with my gut instinct and thankfully I was right. And now I know how to tell the difference.
The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of zucchini and I decided to puree some of it and shred some of it.
The new cupcake book I have has tons and tons of recipes in it, but not a lot of detailed directions. However, I took what I have been learning from my other baking adventures and did what I thought felt right. (i.e. alternating the mix of dry ingredients with the wet when adding to the batter.. stuff like that.)
You can’t tell in the picture but I thought the batter looked neat, you could see the speckles of clove and cinnamon. And while I know it wouldn’t stay, the zucchini made it look green, for like a second.
Again, I am very proud of myself for not messing up. Although by the time they were done I was very lazy about the frosting. I did make it green though!
Yesterday I had a long day, and I was cranky and feeling poopy but when I got home at 7:00 pm, I knew that baking would fix my major ‘tude. SoI sat down with 2 of my 3 cupcake books (one a recent gift from my dear friend Susan, who is also a teacher at my school and a fine baker herself).
While it would have been nice to bake something with Bailey’s or some kind of liquor for St. Patrick’s Day. I was planning on bringing my baked goods to school, and that wouldn’t have been very appropriate. Instead, I decided to pick something green and find a recipe for it.
I found a recipe for zucchini cupcakes. Yes, zucchini, in a cupcake. I’ve made zucchini bread once before and I liked it, so why not, right?
A great idea: We've got cookie balls, put a glaze on 'em!
We thought it was brilliant.
We found a quick recipe for a Maple Glaze that is used for a pound cake, here. I love glazes now. They didn’t really exist to me until I made them for the first time for cupcakes back in January. They’re so easy to make and usually have very few ingredients.
It was great having an extra arm.
So then Michelle poured the maple glaze over the cookie mountains and they were something completely new. Yeah, we invented these cookies together.
Jonah took a spoon to the drip over and then continued to play with it. I was taking a sip of tea and saw this and then immediately spit my tea out in the sink and then almost choked because I was laughing.
Michelle’s pick, Maple Oatmeal Cookies (sans cranberries and walnuts), can be found here.
A lot of the pictures Jonah took are of the same thing, which at the time I bugged him about but it was actually nice having more to choose from and also not having to think about taking pictures while baking, which can get kind of tricky and messy. However, when making Michelle’s cookies, the camera sat dormant for a while. But here’s Michelle looking adorable with her batch.
We also used the ice cream scoop with her cookies, but got very different results because of the oatmeal and other things.
A bunch of sentence fragments and pictures from bakefest with Mich & Jo
I decided to make a chocolate peanut butter banana cookie I had made before, (sans walnuts) + chocolate chips (SIDENOTE: I realized the recipe is vegan.. well, before the chocolate chips, which is pretty cool) and Michelle decided upon an oatmeal maple cookie. Both recipes were on the computer and while we mostly made one batch at a time, there were a lot of ingredients out and confusion could have happened, but didn’t. I like to bake the way I like to bake and be in control of things, but Michelle and I worked well together. At least I think so.
It’s a wonder my computer isn’t totally clogged with flour.
While it may look like I’m impersonating a dinosaur here, I’m actually just looking at the recipe and my hand is just doing it’s own thing.
I keep overripe bananas in the freezer so they don’t go to waste and are quite handy for baking. Yesterday I actually purchased some really cheep bananas from Harvest Co-Op because they were overripe. Straight to the freezer! but what a deal.
Michelle actually tried pealing the bananas, I usually just break open the top and squeeze it out, like banana poo. Yeah, I just went there.
Oo! I got a new ice cream scoop. It has a black handle and is smaller then my yellow one. We used it to scoop the cookie dough which made perfectly round cookies. Quite large, but now I get how bakeries make so many big round cookies that are all the same size