Currently viewing the tag: "sweets"

My children are curious ones, often on tip-toe or climbing up onto kitchen stools, trying to figure out what I’m always doing in the kitchen. Sometimes they jump in and help: throwing on their little aprons and grabbing spatulas and whisks, and other times they are content with just peeking into bowls and moving on. I find their interest in that space constantly ebbs and flows, and the days I’m in a hurry and don’t need help are the days they seem to want to offer it, and the occasions I’m dying to bake with them and teach them new things, well, those are the days they’d rather be doing anything else. Every once in awhile we land on the same page. My daughter is more eager than my son; he wants to sneak cookie dough, she wants to shape and bake cookies. I’ve watched her come a long way in the kitchen, and enjoy the moments when we make something together.

I’ve discovered that while she’s come a long way, I, however, still  have some needed areas of growth. Basically, I can be a control freak. I find myself hovering and managing. I want to pre-measure the ingredients, and find the right bowl. I don’t fully trust her to dip and sweep or mix things fully. She is well aware of my tight grip while sweetly encouraging me to step back and let her try. She is sure of her abilities, and isn’t worried when she’s lacking. This is the hardest part of parenting for me: watching your child get to a place you’ve been training them for, and then having to let go, trusting they can do whatever it is you’ve been preparing them to do. I’ve spent so much time nurturing and caring and equipping, that when my child is finally ready, I want to keep tagging along to micromanage any mishaps, not fully confident in her abilities.

I’m slowly making progress.

We did have a lot of fun together, making this cake. My kids could have gobbled up the crème fraîche layers plain (I could have as well), but the berries and white chocolate buttercream take this to the next level.

Le Creuset kindly sent us this 5 piece utensil set (with crock) from their Craft Series to use on our cake experiements (or #cakexperiments, as I like to call them on Instagram), and so far I’m impressed. The spatulas are ‘made for scraping the bowl clean’, and they do an incredible job. Their smooth surface is great for scraping batter from the surface in just two strokes, and the ergonomic handle keeps hand secure when scraping or spreading. And yes, this spatula can also spread, which is a dream come true. And guess what! One lucky reader can win this utensil set! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below (along with an email). This contest is open to US residents only. Winner will be announced June 20th, 2017. (For an extra entry,  follow Le Creuset on Instagram.)

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‘I believe food should capture your spirit. Your food, I believe, is a compilation of your journey in life – it collects bits and pieces as you go. From youth and culture, from travel, and from day-to-day experiences. It is also very much an evolution…

Food’s ability to bring people together is unparalleled. It is at the foundation of our cultures; it is the goodness we can bring to ourselves and others. When we celebrate food and retain its inherent quality, we nourish ourselves and our lives. We take the time to source good ingredients and produce. We support our local farmers and artisans, and we help sustain a beautiful cycle of goodness that extends to the people around us.’ -Karen Mordechai, Simple Fare

I received Karen’s new book this past week, and instantly was drawn to this dark chocolate cake. It did not disappoint. You may know Karen’s site Sunday Suppers, and her book is filled with the same beautiful photography and thoughtful recipes found there. I recommend checking it out.

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How to Eat a Poem
Don’t be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

For there is no core
or steam
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.
-Eve Merriam

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Nicole Gulotta, of the blog Eat This Poem, has a new book out, where both the poem above and the coffeecake below are found. It’s a lovely book, filled with poetry and recipes and thoughtful musings, much like her site. I’ve met Nicole a few times over the years and have followed her progress on this book; it’s been years of work and a labor of love. I highly recommend putting it on your wish list. I especially love the poem above, and have found a handful of other poets I need to check out. There are many recipes I am eager to try as well, but, I just can’t help myself and gravitated first towards the baking section (this is the case in any cookbook I pick up). I started with this coffeecake. Nicole’s version has pears but I used raspberries, in hopes that the usually warm April we’ve been having is here to stay. My family agreed it was delicious.

A few other things

I can’t get enough of this song.

Turntable Kitchen’s Sounds Delicious is in full swing (every month you receive an exclusive, limited-edition 12? vinyl record featuring an artist covering a full-length album of their choice). I received the first LP: Yumi Zouma covering Oasis’ What’s the Story Morning Glory, and it is so good!

I just ordered this sweatshirt from Miss Jones Baking Company and I absolutely love it. It’s so comfortable.

The Blackberry White Chocolate Cake from my book found it’s way into the Sunday Times, Ireland this month, which was very exciting. You can view the recipe here (although, you have to sign up to see it – it’s free.)

Yossy used my yellow cake recipe for the base of her Meyer Lemon and Raspberry Cake (her video is lovely!)

I have Banana Cupcakes with Banana Buttercream and Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars on Handmade Charlotte.

The dishware was sent to me by Martha Stewart Living, and is part of the Fleur collection, found exclusively at Macys.

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mini cakes

“Who I am is certainly part of how I look and vice versa. I want to know where I begin and end, what size I am, and what suits me… I am not “in” this body, I am this body. Waist or no waist.

But all the same, there’s something about me that doesn’t change, hasn’t changed, through all the remarkable, exciting, alarming, and disappointing transformations my body has gone through. There is a person there who isn’t only what she looks like, and to find her and know her I have to look through, look in, look deep. Not only in space, but in time.

There’s the ideal beauty of youth and health, which never really changes, and is always true. There’s the ideal beauty of movie stars and advertising models, the beauty-game ideal, which changes its rules all the time and from place to place, and is never entirely true. And there’s an ideal beauty that is harder to define or understand, because it occurs not just in the body but where the body and the spirit meet and define each other.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin on Aging and What Beauty Really Means (you can read more on Brainpickings, or find her book here.)

mini cakes

mini cakes

mini cakes

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Blueberry Apple Bars

A kind reader pointed out to me that there  is a slight mistake this Blueberry Apple Crumb Bar recipe in The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, so I’m putting the recipe here (with corrections). The ingredient list is correct in the book, but the directions mention ‘baking soda’ instead of ‘baking powder’, and list cinnamon in the filling when there is none. Sorry about that!

If any of you happen to live in Winona, Minnesota, or are visiting there this weekend, I’ll be doing a book signing at The Blue Heron Coffeehouse from 2-4 this Saturday, January 14th. The Blue Heron is the coffeehouse I talk about throughout my book, and where I learned to bake, and it’s wonderful to be going back for this event.

I am also teaching a class in St. Paul at Cooks of Crocus Hill Sunday, February 5th, from 1-2:30. I’ll be doing some demonstrations, sharing treats, and signing books. You can register here if interested!

You can find a few of my recipes from the book around the web. So many beautiful posts, I’m totally overwhelmed! Julie from Always with Butter made my chocolate chip cookies. Molly from My Name is Yeh made my yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Michelle from Hummingbird High made my cheesecake, and Cynthia from Two Red Bowls made my cheesecake with a hazelnut twist. Alex and Sonja from A Couple Cooks made my shortbread with chocolate. Food 52 made my oatmeal white chocolate cookies. Sara from Sprouted Kitchen made my whole wheat banana chocolate muffins. Cindy from Hungry Girl Por Vida made my honey cake and added grapefruit. Elizabeth from Brooklyn Supper made my orange cranberry bundt cake. Alana from Fix Feast Flair made my brown butter buttercream. Alanna from Bojon Gourmet made my peanut butter granola. There are a few more that I will post later!

Thank you again for all your support. It’s been so fun to see what everyone is making from the book on Instagram, and I appreciate all your kind words and reviews. If you make something from the book, please tag it #vanillabeanbakingbook so I can find it!

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pumpkin bread

Happy Merry. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Holiday season, however it looked and was celebrated. We do Christmas here, and had a loud and lovely Christmas Eve with family, then ended up being rained in (which is very weird for Minnesota – freezing rain and howling winds, but no snow) Christmas Day. So we watched movies, ordered Chinese food (my father-in-law was nice enough to venture out), read books, and put together elaborate Lego sets.  Both days were perfect, and I felt completely content as I fell asleep.

The tree was thrown out the day after Christmas, sadly. We picked a bad one this year (I blame it on 2016) and it needed to be out of our house. I usually hang on to those green pine needles as long as I can, not willingly to let the jingle bells and the silent nights go. But it felt nice, actually, to pack everything up just a little early and start thinking about the New Year. I’m not really one for resolutions and crash dieting come January, but I do like to spend some time reflecting on what I hope for in the next year. I also like the feeling of a fresh start. After a whole month of too many cookies and too much peppermint bark, focusing on health and wholeness is a necessity.  I enjoyed adding Pulses to my diet this year (although I will admit December didn’t see as much of them), and want to carry out my Pulse pledge in 2017 as well.

pumpkin bread

pumpkin bread

This bread is another baking recipe I’ve created as a Pulses Ambassador this year. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse, and I’ve taken the Pulse Pledge, committing to eat pulses once a week for the next year. Pulses are beans, chickpeas, lentils and dry peas; leguminous crops that are good for your health and good for the environment. I’ll be posting recipes involving them periodically this year, incorporating pulses not only in my savory cooking, but baking recipes as well. I’d love for you to join me! If the Pulse Pledge sounds interesting to you, you can read more about it here. It’s a 10 week commitment, and it doesn’t require elaborate baking: a serving of hummus and a bowl of soup are good ways to take them in, too. Also check out my Vanilla Lavender Cupcakes.

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. All opinions are my own.

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I spent ten Christmas Eves in a row working various retail jobs, everything from barista to Barnes and Noble. The holiday season started the day after Thanksgiving, with mile long lines continuing to Christmas Eve at 4pm, when the store gates finally clanged shut and stayed that way for one whole day. Work shifts in December were spent answering the constantly ringing phone, running around the store trying to find would-be presents, standing at the cash register hour upon hour swiping credit cards, dreading every 30 minutes when Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime would come on again, and cleaning up gigantic messes left by frantic customers. Then, at last, the night before Christmas, when the store gate was shut (although often people were begging outside it: please, can I buy just 1 pound of coffee? I just need one more book for my sister-in-law, will you let me in?) all the employees would feel that smack of exhaustion, the same one that comes at the end of finals week, when you are finally driving home for spring break. It would take hours to clean the store, and almost everyone could feel a serious cold coming on. Someone would order a pizza, and we’d munch in silence before taking off to our various celebrations, usually arriving sneezing and crazy-eyed, just wanting to crash into a bed.

I’ve now had ten years off on Christmas Eve. It is spent at home, quietly listening to holiday music, baking a batch of cookies, snuggling with my little ones watching White Christmas, and heading to my parent’s house early for festivities. I have a no-shopping on Christmas Eve rule for myself, but I must admit I feel something lacking each year without the craziness. The month of December doesn’t feel as sparkly and exciting to me without all the noise, the crowds of people, Mariah Carey singing Christmas songs through loud speakers all day long, racing up and down stairs trying to find books for exasperated customers. The thing I didn’t want to make the holiday about has now ended up defining the holiday to me. Those formative years of my teens and twenties, working hard all December long now shape how I need Christmas to feel to me as an adult. I can’t escape that, somehow.

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I remind myself each year that just because something feels a certain way, it doesn’t mean that’s how it actually is. This is usually easier said than done. As a parent, I now determine how the holiday will look for my children. I start traditions and routine both for enjoyment and for recognition. I see my kids feeling so many things, and getting swept up in what makes Christmas so exciting. But my mission as a caretaker is more than that. It’s to teach what the reason behind this month long, money-spending, jingle-belling really is. At the very core, it’s to look to others, to give with no expectation of getting anything in return, and to remember that we all belong to each other, all of us, across this spinning round snow globe that’s so easily shaken. No matter how the actual days of December end up shaping my two little ones, I want them to still always be able reach past how they feel, and know, deep down, the joy and hope of Christmas, and their capacity to bring it everywhere they go. “If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” —Lucy Larcom

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pumpkin scones

My littles are on Brightly today, making Pumpkin scones from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. If you haven’t been to the Brightly site yet please check it out! The space is a resource for parents to help create lifelong readers, something I’m passionate about. Launched in partnership with Penguin Random House, Brightly features book recommendations from all publishers for every age and stage, reading tips and insights, seasonal inspirations, author essays, contests, gift guides, and more. There are so many great book lists and ideas here.

pumpkin scones

pumpkin scones

pumpkin scones

pumpkin scones

pumpkin-scones

You can get the recipe for the Pumpkin Scones here. These scones are a family favorite, and might be what we wake up to this Christmas morning. “If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” —Lucy Larcom

 

wreath30a

‘The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended…

and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found —
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.’
-Mary Oliver, excerpted from American Primitive

**********************************************************************
Many of you know that I contribute over at Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day – I’ve been working  for Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François about four years. While I write some blog posts for them and spend a good deal of time pinning to their Pinterest boards, one of the highlights of my job is helping them work on cookbooks. A little over a year ago we spent another week together, along with photographer Stephen Scott Gross, mixing buckets of dough and baking piles of bread for their book.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I was a fan of the Bread in Five series before I met Jeff and Zoë, and now after spending time with the two of them, I can’t rave about them, and their books, enough. I’ve made boules, baguettes, bagels, doughnuts, beignets, coffee cake, sandwich bread, dinner rolls, bostok, and cinnamon rolls with their dough. They recently put out a new edition of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is revised and updated with new recipes. I’m a huge fan of the whole wheat brioche dough, and use it often in my baking. It works great made into whole grain doughnuts, Christmas Stollen, Caramel or Cinnamon Rolls, and this Pistachio Chocolate Twist, which is a new family favorite.
pistachio wreath

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If you haven’t tried out any Bread in 5 recipes yet, I highly encourage you to! If you’re new to bread baking, their recipes are a great place to start, and if you’ve been baking bread for awhile, there is so much room for experimentation. It’s an easy and delicious way to make bread a part of your daily life.

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saint lucia buns

Each December, I find myself searching for the perfect holiday traditions. Not that there are any perfect ones, of course, but with two little ones in our family, I crave some routine and consistency each year. Dream scenarios would be opening presents every Christmas morning as a family in our home, snuggling up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate Christmas Eve to watch Rudolph (and then later White Christmas), searching through holiday magazines and cookbooks for the best cookie recipes and then making them together over Christmas break, and sweet yeasted bread every day. Cinnamon rolls, fruit-filled Danish, braided pumpkin-spice knots, just anything along those lines, all Christmas-time long.

st. lucia buns

King Arthur Flour asked me to bring a Christmas classic to their Holiday Table, and I immediately thought of St. Lucia Buns. St. Lucia Day is before Christmas Day, taking place on the longest night of the year (according to the ancient Julian calendar), December 13th. While these buns are not dripping in icing and swirled with cinnamon, they are sweet and delicious nonetheless. They could be made in the middle of December, and then again on the 25th, served for breakfast, or an afternoon coffee break after opening piles of presents and shaking every last piece of candy out of stockings by the fire. Whenever you decide to make them is just fine; just make sure to add them to your baking list.

Browse some of my other picks for Classic Christmas recipes and favorite tips for the season at King Arthur Flour’s Holiday Table.

st. lucia buns

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