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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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...