Currently viewing the tag: "baking"

I was recently on Twin Cities Live and made the chocolate bars pictured. They are based on a recipe from my cookbook: chocolate brownie base, buttercream filling, then topped off with chocolate ganache. Indulgent, but delicious. I made them for Valentine’s day with edible rose petals, which made them pretty and terribly precious, but if you’re not into that sort of thing, plain tops will work just fine. You can watch the video of me making them here.

I’ll have some chocolate hazelnut bars for you later this week, and hopefully the lemon pull-apart bread I had on Instagram that so many of you asked about. I’m still tweaking that recipe just a bit. And the rectangle cake, too! So many recipes, so little time.

I hope your weekend is full of good things. I am currently watching the snow fall down and trying not to think of my parents headed to the east coast for weeks on end while I pine for spring. I did start reading I Capture the Castle yesterday and can’t put it down; it’s delightful. xx

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It took me a long time to feel confident making pies. I never actually made one until my late twenties, as they had seemed so daunting and time consuming; so much work for something that had such a high percentage of not turning out right. My first attempt actually was incredible: I made a perfect apple pie. The crust was flaky and golden brown, the filling perfectly cooked, with apples soft but not mushy. I remember bringing it to my Grandma’s house, and she raved and raved about it (she may have mentioned it was better than the pie my mom made) and I’m pretty sure she ate the rest of it for dinner that night. Brimming with confidence, I made another pie the next day: same recipe, same apples, same kitchen equipment, and alas, it was a total disaster.

I’ve discovered I often have beginners luck with baking, only to completely mess up whatever I am making the next time I go to bake it. I think it’s the grace of the kitchen gods: they know of my love and need for baking, but also my lack of patience and follow through. I’m notorious on giving up on something if I don’t get it right away. They let me succeed once, giving me false confidence of my abilities, and then the next several times I just can’t get it right. I know I can make a pie, and make it well, but now I have to work for it. This then triggers my OCD and anxiety (both of which I’ve been diagnosed with), and now I cannot rest until I get it right again. It’s actually maddening, but after weeks and months of testing a recipe, I walk away pleased with my outcome, and confident about sharing it with others. It’s rather a daunting process (I should have just gone to pastry school?) but I’ve always learn best from my mistakes, and also repeating something over and over until I really understand it.

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‘I’m all over the place, up and down, scattered, withdrawing, trying to find some elusive sense of serenity.’
‘The world can’t give that serenity. The world can’t give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts.’
‘I hate that.’
‘I know. But the good news is that by the same token, the world can’t take it away.’
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I come to you with a recipe for turnovers filled with jam and cream cheese filling. I love puff pastry filled with fresh fruit, but, well, it’s January.

I often turn to jam when all my summer berries are not in season. I have mixed feelings about jam in baked goods; often it’s just too sweet, and then I regret using it. Here I’ve paired it with a tangy cream cheese filling, which balances the sweetness. I also try to use jams with a bitter or tart edge; orange marmalade and blackberry jam are two favorites. The combination of the flaky, buttery pastry, tart-but-sweet jam, tangy cream cheese, and a crunchy, sugary top is a great idea on a bitter, cold winter morning.

(Also, I couldn’t quite find words this morning to how I was feeling, but then remembered I already had said them here.)

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So far, I’ve spent most of January freezing. It’s not that unusual for me to be constantly cold, but here in Minnesota we’ve had a long string of below zero days, which means I’m wearing several pairs of socks and shivering under blankets. I’ve done quite a bit of baking this month, and hope to have more recipes for you soon. In the meantime, here’s a list of things I’ve been enjoying.

Elizabeth by Sarah Bradford – I often make a quick stop at my local thrift store and browse the books; there’s usually a treasure or two tucked away in there. I picked up this book last week and have been reading it before bed (trying to stay away from Twitter after 9pm) and have been enjoying it.

Ella and Louis Again – Somehow I missed this! I am in love with their first duet album, and have spent countless hours singing along to it. I’ve been listening to this all week.

I’m working my way through Parks and Rec again, and have been laughing so much. Here’s the best of Ron Swanson.

It was just Martin Luther King Jr. day. It’s still not too late to read his leader from Birmingham Jail.

The greatest dance number ever filmed (according to Fred Astaire).

The Onion’s food videos are rather funny.

Why you should care about Bob Newhart.

How the 25 greatest stories ever told would be ruined by technology.

The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, sung by Leonard Nimoy

Spatula City

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It’s my favorite time of year: THE HOLIDAYS! The snow is snowing, the bells are jingling, and there is a constant buzz of excitement everywhere. The 10 year old in me still tends to get caught up in all the buzz; often forgetting to focus on the present, and enjoying each moment with gratitude. Often the Christmas season is about what we get, instead of what we give. The older I get, the more I let go of the getting aspect, and am working on teaching my littles the same. It’s a work in progress.

One thing that helps me in this regard is baking. I look for pastries with multiple steps that require some focus, and I find that the act of concentrating on a specific task not only helps me slow everything down, but also opens up an important door – the door that cares about the quality of my soul. I find myself thinking through things that often get pushed aside in the rush of life. Pie is one of these solaces; while it is a slice of self-care, it also is the best way to share. My family alone can’t (well, shouldn’t) eat an entire pie, so sharing some is a great way to interact with family, friends, and neighbors. It’s the perfect way to give.

I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I often use their butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands. The pie crust for this apple crème fraîche pie was made with Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter, and as usual, it was a hit. The crust was tender and flaky, and held up well to the gigantic pile of apples placed upon it. My children declared it their favorite pie, ever, which is saying something.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus

Sources: Copper Sauce Pan by Mauviel || Fine Mesh Strainer by Rösle

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(This is another recipe lost in the archives I’m bringing back to life – it’s a great cake to make around the holidays. I’ve kept the original text.)

Early Monday morning I found myself in the kitchen, baking this pound cake. It was almost as if I didn’t have a choice; my mind and heart had been there all night, anyway, stirring and sifting flour, breaking eggs and pouring cream. The evening before our hearts had been broken: the lovely and dear Michele passed from this world. It is one of those tragic stories, the kind that you can never come to terms with, the kind that make you wrestle for answers. She was in her early 40’s, a mother to eight children, and had suffered the past 18 months from an inoperable brain tumor [glioblastoma]. Now she is gone, resting at last, but we are here, here on the other side of the door. Here letting our tears fall into cake batter.

Several years ago Michele asked me for this cake recipe.  She smiled her sweet smile, asking for a recipe with cardamom to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. I had been making this pound cake for years at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, where the recipe had been snagged off the back of a spice container. I emailed it to her, and soon it got sent around from one friend to another; everyone was falling in love with cardamom. When I saw her months later, she came up to me and gave me a small bag, a gift. I was instantly aware that the tiny sack was full of ground cardamom – the smell wandered to my nose and overtook me. Ever since she placed the spice in my hands, whenever I add cardamom to anything, there is a moment where Michele comes to mind. Michele, with her dark, thick hair, Michele with her honest and sincere smile, Michele with her steadfast heart. Michele, in the kitchen, baking cakes for her children.

Baking this cake, so early Monday morning, brought me some comfort. The cardamom filled my kitchen and washed over my senses. I talked to my little ones about her as we creamed the butter, as we added the eggs one at a time; remembering her as we moved  hands and arms to bring things together; all of this easing my heart for a moment, silencing the questions. In those few scattered hours making cake in her memory, I was acutely aware of the significance of food, of caring about food. There is an importance to what specific ingredients we put in our bodies, but there is also such value to what we are actually making. The dishes and meals we make for loved ones, and the act of preparing them: to cook and bake and eat them together connects us beyond the physical. It’s not about eating or creating just for the sake of doing so. There is something deeper, something soul-ful that happens when we slice the cake, when we break the bread. There is taste and smell that draws out memories, binding us to those present, those past. There is purpose in our food: both the physical and the unconscious, the labor of our hands, the labor of our heart. This, to me, is real communion: the act of sharing, the act of receiving.

I know
Not these my  hands
And yet I think there was
A woman like me once had hands
like these.
-Adelaide Crapsey

(Pretty blush pink Bundt pan from Nordic Ware/Amazon Kitchen)

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I have a few recipes tucked way back in my site archives that deserve the light of day again. Here is one of them – pumpkin pound cake with chocolate. This recipe also made it into my cookbook, but since it originally debuted here, I thought I’d make it shine with some new photos and feature it again for the holiday season.

This cake been a faithful to me for over 20 years. It always turns out tender and moist, with so much flavor; perfect for snowy morning get-to-gethers, afternoon coffee breaks, and late night nibbles. And for those of you new to baking or wanting to feel more confident in the kitchen, this is a great recipe to start with. The cake is easy to put together, doesn’t have any hard-to-find ingredients, and doesn’t need a lot of babysitting in the oven. Plus, it lasts for several days, so you can make it ahead of time.

Products Featured

Copper Pound Cake Pan from Nordic Ware

Strainer/Powder Sugar Duster from Rosle

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I know, I know, it’s Wednesday night, and you’ve probably already made your Thanksgiving pies, or have your recipe all set. I apologize for posting this so late. Several people asked for this recipe after I posted a photo of the pie on Instagram, so I thought better late than never? This is the pumpkin pie I’ve made at the last couple Thanksgivings, and it’s gone over quite well my family gathering. It is dreamy-creamy, and boasting of pumpkin flavor.

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We entered September with a bang: school for everyone except me, birthday celebrations, anniversary dinner (we ate here, it was incredible), and then we splurged on U2 tickets and saw the Joshua Tree tour (and they did play the Joshua Tree from start to finish and it was amazing) (also the poems they scrolled on giant screens before the show are worth reading) and then saw Maria Bamford the very next night (along with Jackie Kashian who was also hilarious) and then family visiting and then meet-the-teacher night and then scrubbing my house from top to bottom because summer made it embarrassingly dirty. There is still so much packed into the rest of this month I am actually looking forward to October, along with some cool fall breezes and falling leaves, long walks and even longer books.

September started out rather chilly, but this past week we found ourselves in a major heat wave, so naturally I found myself in the kitchen making pies, puff pastry, and Danish dough. I have this odd desire to bake on extremely hot days, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but then again, I have the same desire on icy cold days, so maybe it’s just that I’m obsessed with baking. Whatever the reason, this Danish braid was made, and I’ve declared it my new favorite. The braid itself was inspired by Zoe Francois – she made this beautiful Raspberry braid with Bread in 5’s no-knead dough, and the second I saw it, I knew I had to try one with my Easy Danish Dough. It worked wonderfully, and I have a feeling any guests I have for the next 6 months will be served some variation of this.

I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands. This Danish braid was made Land O Lakes® European Style Butter, and it turned out *fantastic*. The layers were perfectly flaky and each bite rang out with pure butter flavor.

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One must know
how to be quiet in all
the languages
and everywhere,
the leaves to fall,
allowing them to fall,
fall. *

The house is quiet again. The constant laughter, pitter-patter of feet, splashing of pool water, and occasional bickering has been replaced with the sound of measuring cups scooping out flour, rolling pins on cold stone, and the mixer paddle clunking against stainless steel. For most of my life autumn was a loud month – filled with nervous thoughts and new classrooms, espresso machines hissing and cash registers ringing. Now it is still and silent, like red and yellow leaves slowly making their way onto city streets. I appreciate the time to collect my thoughts and work uninterrupted, but I miss the noise and chaos with my whole aching heart.

But the commotion returns, at 4 pm each afternoon. Two little people burst through the door and throw their backpacks and lunch boxes here and there, telling me stories of what happened in class and what so-and-so said on the bus, and I hardly remember I was ever feeling lonely. It’s a slow adjustment, from autumn to winter, winter to spring, and then on to summer again, but somehow each year we cycle through.

It’s difficult
be autumn,
easy to be spring.
To ignite everything
that is born
to be ignited.
But to turn the world off,
sliding it
as if it were a hoop
of yellow things,
until colors are melted
– *from Ode to Autumn, Pablo Neruda

***If you are able to give to help Houston, Wit & Delight has a post highlighting several charities and organizations.***

The copper measuring cups pictured here are from the Martha Stewart Collection, and were sent to me to use. You can find them exclusively at Macy’s.

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