Baking Bloggers Unite! Some fave baking blogs

Now that my new website design is up showing off my loves of writing and baking thought I'd do a post showcasing some of the baking blogs I enjoy. Feel free to provide me links/mentions to your faves.

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2010 Year in Review of NYC’s baked good offerings.

Another year has passed and with that comes the NYC dessert round up! This year was an especially busy year with lots of tasty treats to try and a root canal to cap off the year. Could it be from all the sweets? Nah.

Doughnut Plant

I became addicted (and I mean New Jack City type addicted) to the freshly made doughnuts here. And not only was I addicted, I managed to get other people into it also. The thing about Doughnut Plant is that they have both yeast and cake doughnuts. So if you like Krispy Kreme style get a yeast doughnut, if you like Dunkin Donuts then the cake is for you. Not only do they have staples--my favorite by far is the tres leches doughnut--but they also have seasonal doughnuts. This past summer they had a sunflower doughnut in both yeast and cake form. Also available was strawberry. Currently they have a Panettone doughnut as well as a Meyer lemon one.

As much as I love the yeast doughnuts for their fluffiness and delicacy, the cake ones are phenomenal. The carrot cake doughnut was the perfect texture and had all the wonderful elements of a carrot cake complete with nuts, raisins (not so great), and a cream cheese icing filling! Yes, they got filling in the doughnut and the doughnut is round with a hole in the middle. How do they do it?  I don't ask, I just gorge.

Baked by Melissa

BBM's specialty is mini (and I mean mini) cupcakes. These things are decadent and flavorful and have nice fillings and icings. How do they get fillings in something so tiny? Again, I don't ask, I just mangia.

The cake is moist and I like the variety of flavors that BBM offers. I've tried all their staples. But my favorites are the cookie dough with a cookie or blondie-ish brown sugar cake with cookie dough in the middle and chocolate icing and a dab of cookie dough on top, and the peanut butter cup which, as you guessed it, is a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling some chocolate icing and a dab of peanut butter on top.

Something new BBM initiated was the ability to create your own cupcake for online orders and a cupcake of the month. I tried their pumpkin cupcake (of course) and while I liked the cake it was too light and the cinnamon filling too dense making a mess of a tasty cupcake. Otherwise, I have no complaints about BBM. If you follow them on Facebook you can learn of new deals and participate in their annual golden ticket competition during the 31 days of December.

Billy's Bakery

My boss introduced me to Billy's Bakery when she went to get some items for a friend. I didn't realize there was a bakery that close to our office and had to see for myself.

Their cupcakes are tasty and moist and not too sugary. One cupcake I had, a plain vanilla with vanilla cream frosting, was a sore disappointment though. It was kind of dry and tasteless. But other cupcakes I've had--banana, pumpkin, carrot cake--did not disappoint. I also like their cookies at the cheap price of seventy-five cents, which may have gone up slightly. Their chocolate cake with chocolate icing is also a staple in our office for birthdays so I become very excited when I see a large chocolate cake and an empty box with Billy's teal label on it.

Babycakes

Babycakes isn't that far from Doughnut Plant so why not hit this place up? Babycakes is known for being a vegan-friendly bakery. And since I know more vegans or vegetarians who are lactose intolerant I figured I should see what the hype is about. Especially since this place has been featured in many NYC mags (TimeOut New York, NYTimes, etc.).

Well, I was slightly surprised and disappointed. I had the lemon spelt cupcake and the carrot cake cupcake. The lemon spelt was delicious and moist and lemony and sweet. I adored it. The texture didn't differ too much from your run-of-the-mill cupcake with eggs and butter and such so I was a happy camper. On the other end of the spectrum I detested the carrot cake cupcake. It had a strong clove or molasses taste that caused me to be unable to finish it. I loathe molasses with the very beings of my soul and was not keen on this taste.

I'd definitely go back and try more of their offerings, especially in regards to muffins and cookies to get a better sense of the variety they attain when making baked goods and to learn a few tricks of my own.

Amy's Bread

Amy's Bread is a hot spot for lunch time crowds. If you go during the lunch time rush (between 12-1:30) then expect a long line and to be rushed for an order. Know what you want and keep the line moving. I didn't partake in their sandwiches or soups, I spotted bars and cupcakes and was on a mission. I tried their lemon bar and coconut dream bar. The coconut dream bar was in fact a dream. It had chocolate and coconuts and brown sugar and bits of heaven as far as I'm concerned. I loved this bar and it was a large portion for the price.

Unfortunately, I was not as fond of the lemon bar. It was too tart for my taste and the crust was soggy. Too much lemon not enough bar to balance out the taste. But, for lemon bar standards I guess it suited most.

One Girl Cookies

I heard about One Girl Cookies from The New York Times. It was featured because of the rise in variety of whoopie pies. And don't you know once I read that they do a pumpkin whoopie pie year-round I was sold!

It was a quick trip to Brooklyn from my office and back and it was worth it. Their whoopie pie is moist and delicious and more pie than whoopie or whichever is which in the title. I'm not a huge icing fan so the fact that this had a thick moist and cakey cookie on either end and less icing was a big bonus for me. I loved it and found eating two within a 20 minute period was a bit much. These things are pretty big. A few friends have told me they had bad experiences at One Girl Cookies with a stale cookie, but I say try this place again. You won't be disappointed and make sure they give you the fresh made stuff in the back. No display cookies, new cookies.

Insomnia Cookies

Their claim to fame is that they deliver cookies late night to college campuses. So if you're an NYU student I really envy you right now. Cookies & late night, man that's a great idea.

I went there during their "happy hour" which is after the lunch time rush around 2pm to 6pm or so when you can get 3 cookies for $2.50. Since this was the case when I went I took advantage. I had a sugar cookie, peanut butter cookie, and white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. All were delicious and they serve them to you out of an oven or heater of sorts so you get cookies warm. Warm, I tell you!

I also got a brownie which was okay, it was more cakey than dense and pretty chocolatey. Since they're named for cookies I definitely say try that and get a bunch because eating a warm cookie is the best feeling in the world. Don't argue with me on this one, just don't.

Clinton Street Baking Company

While breakfast for dinner is nothing new the blueberry pancakes and scones and pretty much everything I've tried (chicken and waffles, biscuits, scrambled eggs, cheese grits) from Clinton Street have been amazing! Of course there's no beating the blueberry pancakes.

Some friends and I went one evening and shared a batch of the pancakes while also partaking in the special that Wednesday of chicken and waffles. I had just come from Book Expo with an aching back and don't you know the food from Clinton Street cheered me right up!

The pancakes are wonderfully fluffy with a unique taste from the method of how they're whipped to perfection. The blueberry compote and maple butter (more a syrupy texture than solid) combined make this the best pancake I have ever tasted. And I love me some IHOP but Clinton Street (muah!)

When dining in the evening they give away the day's scones that didn't sell in paper bags. So you get a treat to take home! I've tried the chocolate chip and berry scones which are wonderfully crisp on the outside and moist (not too moist) on the inside. Just as a scone should be. The buttermilk biscuit (your pre-dining treat) is a wonderful homemade biscuit that reminds me of the ones my aunt made when I was younger. It has the same consistency of the scone, which is perfect!

The service at Clinton Street is great and unfortunately when the sun is up this place is always packed. So I'd encourage you to go in the evening when it may be easier to get a table and plus, remember, free scones!

Dessert Club Chikalicious

After Ramen&Friends posted about Dessert Club having bread pudding I had to try it! I bought a friend a salted caramel cupcake which she said was very tasty.

Their customer service leaves something to be desired at the smaller location (they have a dessert bar directly across the street from them in the E. Village) but I liked the bread pudding okay. It wasn't sweet and reminded me of milk and the texture was on point but a bit more liquidy than solid.

For Anna's macaron crawl we stopped by there for macarons! I loved the salted caramel one it tasted exactly like it's name, so consider me sufficiently satisfied. I'll definitely stop by there to try those cupcakes though.

Bubby's

I have the Bubby's cookbook and was introduced to this place at Book Expo of America a few years back when they toyed with having a cookbook station that also provided samples from the recipe.

Well, I was in heavy pie mode this past summer and fall and just wanted pie. I had tried bites of two of Four and Twenty's molasses pie (hated) and lemon pie (didn't like either) so they aren't worth noting for 2010. I knew Bubby's was near my office and figured why not see what they have to offer.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised at their peach crumble pie. I love fresh peaches and summer is the best time for them. The pie wasn't overly sweet but a crumble (crumb) topping is one of the best. I love dutch apple pies and so on and so forth so I was pleased with the delicate sweetness of fresh peaches in their own syrup and a lovely crust with a nice brown sugar crumble.

Red Hen Baking Company

Okay, so this place isn't in New York City but it is worth mentioning. Believe me. If you saw my August post on the grandiose maple bun then you know I hold a special place in my heart for Red Hen Baking Co. as I do for Vermont in general.

My post from August 2010 pretty much sums up my undying love for the maple bun. But there were other really good and healthy treats at Red Hen as well. I had a wonderful turkey sandwich with avocado mayo on wheat grain bread and an apple to boot! They have maple beer and carbonated drinks and fresh maple...everything! I would urge anyone going to or passing through Vermont to stop through Middlesex and visit this wonderful place of wonder and tastiness.

Just keep in mind if you want a maple bun to get there early.

Little Pie Company

In September BravoTV's new show Top Chef Just Desserts premiered and as part of the promotion they sponsored a Dessert Day throughout the U.S. For a New Yorker this was particularly pleasing because there are a vast amount of bakeries, in particularly in Manhattan.

The catch was that the bakeries were giving out samples for two hours (from 12pm-2pm). So, some co-workers and I made a trip around Tribeca. Little Pie Company was the last place we hit and I was introduced to their sour cream apple pie with walnut topping. Like the crumble topping at Bubby's it was amazing! Brown sugar type praline topping. Very delicious. And the sour cream adds to the apple filling.

When next I visited this place I tasted their sour cream apple coffee cake. Just as delicious! Except instead of pie crust you have buttery cake! Go to this place, run! They also offer to heat the goodies for you so you can have a nice warm piece of pie with your coffee, tea, or what-have-you.

Whole Foods

My husband was the one to introduce me to Whole Foods about five or six years ago. At the time the main one was in Columbus Circle and now there are probably at least a half dozen or more locations in NYC alone.

Whole Foods is a bit pricey but not the most expensive supermarket you'll find, trust me. You get great produce and nice healthy and vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free friendly goods and they have quite the culinary stations. I like their dinners and my husband salivates over their mac n' cheese. But something else to love beyond the salad bar and soups and such is their dessert bar. Yes, dessert bar.

I've always been a fan of their bread pudding, simple, moist and topped with caramel! Can't beat it. But in 2010 I was introduced to their pumpkin whoopie pie which did not disappoint. It's large and only $1.49! I never really care for the icing inside the whoopie pie, but the 'pie' aspect albeit the cookie was moist like a cake and I find I love most pumpkin treats that are more cakey than dense or bar-like. When I last went to Whole Foods they still had the pumpkin whoopie pie so I urge you to snatch one up before spring.

Melt Bakery

All hail deep-fried pie! Chef Julian Plyter has created a wonderful, wonderful thing. At the Grub Street Fair I was caught by the words 'deep fried pie' as my buddy LPink and I were making our way out of the festival.

They offered deep fried apple pie with cinnamon sugar and deep fried pumpkin pie with ginger sugar. Also available were their ice cream cookie sandwiches that have been featured in Time Out NY and such.

Melt doesn't have a storefront or much of an online presence at the moment but I loved what I tasted. I bought my husband the deep fried apple and enjoyed the deep fried pumpkin for myself. The pumpkin was made with wheat flour and had a nice crumbly and not too sweet crust. With the sugar sprinkled all over it you couldn't have too much. The pie was like an empanada with the filling inside, a triangle of dough! I loved it, the ginger sugar wasn't ginger heavy and I got to taste every element of this wonderful dessert. Mr. Plyter please get a store soon and try to come to Queens while you're at it. Thanks, Jenn!

Hot Blondies

From my post on the Grub Street Food Fair I was introduced to Hot Blondies. They don't have a store front in NYC either, but they are very well established online so order away!

My friend LPink and I shared a peanut butter chocolate chip blondie which blew my mind! The more peanut butter the better, I say! Bring it, Hot Blondies! But the blondie was moist with the chewy texture known to blondies/brownies and had the right amount of mini chocolate chips (bittersweet, I believe) and was a decent size to split between two people.

A couple days later I indulged in the classic blondie which was good, not overly sugary pretty plain in taste. When I make blondies the brown sugar taste usually jumps at you not too much but enough that you know you're eating a blondie. While the confection was good I'd say I enjoyed the peanut butter one more.

Hot Blondies also inspired me for my latest b-day theme 'Blondies vs. Brunettes (aka Brownies)' so I look forward to trying more of their treats online and also posting about my latest b-day challenge.

Wafels and Dinges

And Grub Street pops up again! I could not sing Wafles and Dinges praises enough. The owner is amazingly friendly and his offerings are tasty as heck.

A fresh belgian wafle with spekuloos and strawberries and what not. What more can I say that I didn't already say in October? Nothing? Well, there you go.

Make My Cake

Well, the holidays came and went and for Thanksgiving my mom purchased a boat load of sweets! She bought two pies (sweet potato and apple) and a red and white cake (red velvet one layer and butter cake for another) from Make My Cake.

This is a go-to spot for my mom and she often gets the pies and such from their. How the pies and cake handled a 15+ hour drive to South Carolina I will never know, but it did and they tasted good. The cake doesn't stay as well as you'd like so make sure to seal it up tight or eat it immediately. The red velvet isn't that heavy, it tastes like an overall butter cake. If you like red velvet I suggest continuing your search. For me, Grandma's red velvet was always the best!

As for pies I preferred the sweet potato. Apple pies I like with a crumb topping (as you may already know) so a basic dough top was 'eh.' It wasn't bad, just not as tasty a crust (not flaky or buttery) as I would've liked. But it definitely sufficed for the holidays.

We Take The Cake

Before Oprah, there was Food Network. Well not really, but before I knew Oprah claimed the key lime bundt from We Take The Cake as one of her favorite things I saw this place on Food Network's Road Tasted with the Deen Brothers.

I don't really order food online for the main fact that I am impatient and like my goods now. Plus, I wonder how fresh one can really keep baked goods as it travels all over the U.S. (I had ordered breads from Breadwinner after seeing a 'Papa Don't Peach' bread and others also featured on Road Tasted and was delighted by that though.)

So, I took a chance and in May I ordered the famous key lime bundt from We Take The Cake in Florida and waited a whole 3 days. (They automatically do 2-day shipping to make sure you get the cake at supreme freshness, plus I ordered on  a Sunday.) Wow, one of the longest waits of my life!

When I received my package it was labeled as precious cargo. I opened it to see a bundt cake vacuum sealed with a nice cup of icing tucked in the middle for me to nuke and slather on. As soon as I got home I tore that thing open and by God I was in heaven! The cake was as moist as if it just came out of the oven. I took chunk after chunk barely leaving any for my husband and others. The cake didn't need the icing, but it was a nice touch. And readers, that bundt--which wasn't extremely large, but fairly sized for a party of four I'd estimate--was gone within 2 days.

I don't dare order another one because I know I wouldn't be able to resist devouring the whole thing. And the fact that you pay to have it shipped means you worship it even more. It's not as though I can simply take the subway and head over to this magical place that makes amazing key lime bundts. Oh no, I have to order and wait patiently for this order to be confirmed, shipped, and delivered. Oprah you and I have something in common.

Another year gone, more goods devoured, and a new year to appreciate what we do have and reach some goals. How many bakeries will I pursue and successfully conquer this year? Who knows, but I'll keep on trucking. Now, for exercise.

Wrap up! My year in baking...(Pt. 2)

And here are my remaining baking efforts for the year. The second half of the year brought a lot of use of my oven. Thankfully, it can take it. August:

The Dish: If it isn't already evident that I'm a lemon nut then here's more proof. My baked good for August was: Lemon Poppyseed Cake. Hell, I had left over lemons and, as mentioned, a whole lot of poppyseeds. Why not make bread?

Tarter than your average "cake"

End result: Also from Sweet Melissa's Cookbook, but I was not a fan of this one. Too tart and not sugary enough for me. Plus, I believe I left one loaf in a bit longer than necessary so it was a bit too crisp on the bottom. But, I brought it to work and people enjoyed it. I was told that the fact it was more lemony than sugary made it taste more like a traditional bread rather than cake. Go fig.

September:

The Dish: The previous month I had gone to Vermont for a Writer's Conference. My roomie at the conference went to a Maple shop and I implored her to get me maple sugar if she could find it. She did! (Thanks, Iris!) And so I made it a point to find something to use this decadent sugar for. And so I found a simple recipe, because I like simple, for Mapledoodles.

Not my favorite recipe of the year, so I'll keep on the look out...

End result: For me, I think these cookies tasted better cool rather than warm. I got a metallic like taste from either the maple extract or the maple sugar. And lastly, too much maple! This recipe called for maple extract and maple sugar in the cookie along with maple sugar outside of the cookie and an (optional) maple glaze! I had to hold off from doing maple outside of the cookie because the taste was too darn strong! Decent enough cookies, but I've seen alternate mapledoodle recipes I'll try.

The Dish: In addition to the, somewhat disappointing, mapledoodles I made a classic fave: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies! My same friend who is a gifted baker introduced me to pumpkin chocolate chip bars, which are amazing! This is a take on that.

A personal fave!

End result: These have a cakey texture rather than your normal cookie texture. And to eat these warm is amazing! The moist cakey-ness along with melty chocolate chips makes these to die for. It's filled with the same spices you'd use to make pumpkin pie as well as pumpkin filling and is amazing!

You'll fall in love with these and the recipe I use makes five dozen or more which is never enough! People in the office loved them and I found the adult mentors liked them too. Kids and teenagers may be a bit sketched out by pumpkin cookies, but once they try them they'll be reformed. I'm drooling just thinking about them.

October:

The Dish: Of course one would think that I'd save the pumpkin treats for October, but in all honest they're good any time! But this month I actually delved into a treat I've eaten a lot, but never had the cajones to make: pound cake!

Turns out it's super-easy!

Basically butter cake, but an old time fave...

End result: Main difference is that it is made with light brown sugar rather than regular granulated as per the recipe on the back of the Domino's sugar box. So it looks a bit darker as well. Tasted really good and familiar, almost like my grandma's!

Made it for my drinking group (hey ladies!) and they enjoyed it. Moistness keeps if sealed well for a couple of days, but definitely tastes best right out of the oven and with some accoutrements such as cream or berries.

The Dish: I also did a pumpkin recipe for Halloween! Last year I had an awful pumpkin bar recipe. The bars were incredibly dense and not sweet at all. Not happy. So I went with a Paula Deen recipe this year because, quite frankly, you can trust her butter-filled delicacies. And I wasn't disappointed!

Just between you and me, this is pumpkin cake...

End result: I just couldn't be bothered with icing and didn't want to deter from the pumpkin taste, so there you go. I have to say that this was more of a cake then a bar. It was mighty fluffy and could've used icing. It tasted fabulous and I'll make again instead calling it Ms. Deen's pumpkin cake!

November:

The Dish: And as the year comes full circle so does this month's dessert which was, well, lemon of course! This time lemon cupcakes with lemony cream on top. I made it for my department's first ever Dessert Hour before Thanksgiving and these cupcakes were a hit! If you're not a big dessert person lemon is excellent because it's not too strong and complements the sweet just right.

The lemony cream is the best part!

End result: These cupcakes are somewhat of a semi-homemade approach and you just do your own thing after using the cake mix. Lemon curd is the secret ingredient for these minicakes and it's really good. I have to say my main delight was in the lemony cream (heavy whipping cream, lemon curd, and confectioner's sugar that you beat the hell out of). I've made it again since I had left over ingredients and it was well received with some brown sugar bundt cake on Christmas. Also, used the lemony cream on a pumpkin tart with friends for Thanksgiving and everyone loved it! So it just goes to show that again...lemon shows its versatility!

The Dish: And lastly for the year of the pumpkin (and lemon) was pumpkin chocolate chip muffins from the same book I got the lemon cupcake recipe Cupcakes from the Cake (mix) Doctor by Anne Byrn It was hard for my husband to find a chocolate chip muffin mix, but when he did I went buck wild with left over pumpkin filling and enjoyed the results merrily.

Notice a trend?

End result: Pumpkin and chocolate is basically the best combination...ever. Just don't argue with me on this one. These muffins kept, when well sealed, and I brought some in for co-workers who are also pumpkin fanatics. Needless to say they loved them also.

December:

Well, another marathon baking month for moi this month.

The Dishes:

First up, Almond toffee crunch cookies from Cookies to Die for. Another hunt for me, but I found toffee bits! You put almond extract, chopped almonds (which I left out so my husband could eat the cookies), toffee bits, and your basic cookie ingredients to make this decadent type cookie.

The toffee's the best part, I think.

End result: Well, the recipe said you could make five dozen and I stayed up making about eight or nine dozen. Almond extract has quite a particular taste so if you're a fan of that (or say almond croissants and such) then you'll enjoy these cookies immensely. They're soft and slightly crispy. The toffee sticks to your teeth, but that's the best part about toffee! I'll probably try these again and use vanilla extract instead of almond and see how much more you can taste the toffee.

Next up, peanut butter cookies (from scratch!) from the Sweet Melissa book. Another super easy recipe, hoorah! I added chocolate chips because I think most things with chocolate are awesome so I just keep adding. I made these for a friend's holiday cookie party when my original cookie dough went up in smoke or crumbles I should say.

Peanut butter and chocolate? Pure genius!

End result: The recipe calls these chewy peanut butter cookies, but if you cook them a bit longer they become crunchy, which isn't a bad thing really. I've gotten them in the middle for the past two times I've made them. Very enjoyable and I have the ingredients at home so I'll make these again and again.

And then there were maple chocolate chip cookies! This was the basic chocolate chip cookie recipe (courtesy of Hershey's) and instead of brown sugar I added in maple sugar and a smidge of maple extract.

Maple sugar can make all the difference.

End result: Again, better the next day. I dunno if it's the maple extract or sugar but right out of the oven there's a bit of a metallic taste. However, the next day when cool (and super chewy) these cookies tasted awesome with a hint of maple. Co-workers loved this holiday treat!

And for me that's it for the year in baking. I look forward to the new year and new recipes and experiments in the kitchen.

Happy Holidays and Happy Baking!

Wrap up! My year in baking... (Pt. 1)

I enjoy baking and cooking. Baking more so because of the fact that I actually seem to be good at it and things turn out the way they're supposed to (most of the time). I can't always say the same for savory or meat dishes in my hands. Since I started my current job I found I was surrounded by people who enjoyed baking and even more so enjoyed eating what someone else baked. It only seemed fair that I participate in the activities since I enjoyed their offerings. I usually only baked for the holidays (cheap gifts!) and to say "thank you" for donating to a special cause (hundreds raised for AIDS Walk and rewarded by cupcakes!) And so within the past year my baking efforts have quadrupled. I bake new recipes regularly and am happy to offer my services for others including my current mentoring group.

Many of my baking successes have been posted to my Facebook album page, but I wanted to also include them here because, well, I like y'alls.

I present...my baking efforts of 2009!

January:

The Dish: For my cupcake-themed birthday party I made lemon-raspberry cupcakes and my husband contributed red velvet cupcakes with a cinnamon buttercream icing. Both were well regarded at the party. I first made the lemon-raspberry cupcakes for my mom and mother-in-law on Mother's Day in 2008, I made them again to say "thanks for donating to AIDS Walk in my name" that same year, and then again this year.

This recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine. And thus far my husband and I have not been let down by the recipes we've tried in there.

Lemony goodness with a fruity surprise in the middle

End result: I'm a lemon lover so this is a great treat. You use lemon zest and fresh lemon juice in the cupcake so that it has a light (not overpowering) lemony taste. In addition you put in a teaspoon scoop of raspberry jelly inside as a nice treat and top it all off with an intensely sugary lemon icing (lemon juice, confectioners sugar; add some jam if you want to make it pink).

Voila...you have lemon goodness! Party-goers enjoyed this treat a lot and many raved about it even against the well loved red velvet.

April:

I will say not much went down during the winter months baking wise.

The Dish: Lemon strikes again! In cookie form this time. Lemon Poppyseed Cookies have become a staple for me this year. The people love 'em, and I have to give the people what they want. And since I have a crap load of poppyseed's I might as well make these treats as often as possible.

Lemon strikes again!

End result: The lemon comes from, again, lemon zest! Which is amazing in every sense of the word. You can't add too much so don't be afraid to add more than the recipe dictates.

Did I mention people love these cookies? I most recently made them for my department's book club and these things were ravaged. A co-worker even said she was introduced to a flavor she didn't know she liked. That's right, baking causes miracles!

May:

My oven started getting heavy use when NY AIDS Walk came around and I was basically pimping my baking skills for donations. And dagnabbit it worked! Even during a recession I was able to raise several hundred dollars for the cause. Heck yeah!

Requests were varied and some people just got some of what I made others. But let me tell you it was a baking bonanza for a good couple weeks.

There were brownies, yawn. But then I made cupcakes!

The Dishes:

1) Carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I skimped on the icing and bought some whipped. After spending almost an hour zesting (not smart on my part) 2 cups of carrots I was tired and it was late on a school night no less.

Good and good for you!

End result: Those who donated enjoyed this treat as well. Though, I felt it tasted more like a muffin than a cupcake. Moist and good and all but light on the sugar taste. So perhaps it's better for you?

2) Coconut cupcakes with cream cheese icing: Since I had left over icing from the carrot cake cupcakes you know where it went. This recipe was interesting because it called for coconut flakes in and on top of the cupcake as well as coconut extract. But, in a war of extracts the vanilla won because I tasted that more than the coconut. And toasting the coconut then sprinkling it on top gave off a nice effect I think.

Delightful coconut and vanilla flavors.

End result: My donator who is a coconut lover really enjoyed this cupcake. So I'm pretty sure he'll be donating again next year.

June:

The Dish: May was also busy in that I went to Book Expo of America and don't think I didn't go about trying to get as many cookbooks (books in general) as I could. I did snag Cookies to Die For by Bev Shaffer and found one of the easiest recipes to make and went for it: Maple Butter Cookies. One thing to note is that you have to refrigerate the dough after making so it's a day affair to make these cookies.

More butter than maple and that ain't bad.

End result: Unfortunately the supermarkets nearest me don't have the best brands of maple syrup that was called for in this recipe. So I don't think the maple taste was as heavy as it should be. But the public enjoyed. Personally, I think they're biased by butter, which I am as well.

The Dish: I also made Blondies for the first time. Not realizing how easy it is to make these things these have now become a staple when visiting people. Need me to bring something? Heck, I'll make blondies! Anyone probably has the ingredients for these in their home: flour, butter, brown sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and perhaps chocolate chips. There you know the recipe, now go out there and bake!

Tower o' blondies!

End result: I've made these three times this year because they're so easy. If you're nervous about blondies don't be. It's basically a chocolate chip cookie in bar form. Sounds delicious right? My co-workers thought so and so I'll continue to make them.

July:

My husband and I had visited Sweet Melissa Patisserie in Brooklyn a little while earlier and I tried her pumpkin bread pudding, which I liked. So when I found out she had a book and additionally saw her win a decorating competition on FoodNetwork I knew I had to get her recipes! She had pumpkin recipes for crying out loud!

The Dish: And so, with book in hand, I made Snickerdoodles. A friend first introduced me to this and she is also a phenomenal baker. Hers are quite moist, these are moist but a bit firmer.

Sugar and cinnamon, a perfect pair.

End result: Pretty easy to make and I've had requests for these. I made some for a friend's birthday party and even though the cookies were still a bit warm in the dense humidity of July the three or four dozen cookies I bought were ravished within the first 30 minutes I set them down. Someone asked if this was a family recipe and I had to give credit where it was due. Thanks, Melissa!

The remainder of the year to be summed up in the next post...