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Well folks, 2013 has arrived; the year that has me saying goodbye to my 20’s.  I don’t feel old, and I certainly don’t look old, so all that’s left to do is get my lie straight.  I am 27 years old.  Yeah, not too old, not too young.  27 is good.

I’m sorry it has once again been awhile since my last update.  I can say I was busy, which is true, but I’ll stop making excuses now.  Here’s what I’ve been up to:

November . . .

Thanksgiving!  I took the reigns and co-cooked the meal alongside my mother.  I usually bake a couple pies and maybe bring a side or two along, but I decided that 2013’s Thanksgiving Dinner is going to be made by me and me alone.  So 2012 was the dress rehearsal.

It went very well.  I made corn muffins, rolls, cranberry sauce, and a chocolate pecan pie (using Alton Brown’s recipe with normal pecans, and adding chocolate chips) the day before.  Then I went to my parents house and prepared the stuffing and sweet potato casserole with my mom.  Woke up bright and early Thanksgiving Day to make a derby pie and Thanksgiving brunch, cranberry/orange nut bread.  Back over to my parents house to get everything else cooking.

I kept a list of when everything needed to go in the oven so that I wouldn’t get flustered with the timing of it all.  The only thing I didn’t end up having a hand in cooking was the actual turkey.  My dad smoked it.  Then he carved it up using his new ceramic knives from Costco.  Big mistake.  The knife broke and we ended up spending half an hour looking for sharp white knife shards.

Throughout 2013, I’ll need to remake all of our standard (and experiment with new) dishes, and cook a whole turkey, so I’m ready to go for my big day.  My mom always does a great job and I hope I can live up to it!


December . . .

Started out the month with a quick hop to Las Vegas to see the Script.  Fourth show in 6 weeks, not bad!  They were playing a gig with Train and Better Than Ezra.  My friend Jessica and I almost didn’t get into the show because we had trouble with our tickets, but with determination, we managed to find tickets for $10 each.  Got in the venue just as the Script took the stage, timing couldn’t have been better.  And of course I brought them some goodies: chocolate cake balls and pecan pie bars.

Then started the crazy holiday baking frenzy.  In the course of a week, I make 8 different varieties of cookies/bars, totaling 315 pieces.  They were then boxed up and shipped to a lucky list of friends around the country, and the rest were bagged for local friends and coworkers.  I’m not a fan of freezing cookies which is why I ended up doing everything in one week, but next year I’m going to spread it out and use my freezer more.  I was insanely tired after all that baking.


The night before Christmas, I made homemade cinnamon rolls.  Woke up early the next day to frost them before heading over to my parents for the festivities.  They were delicious, mainly because I didn’t skimp on the cream cheese frosting.  I was rewarded for being such a good little baker with more cooking/baking items from Santa.


Last bit of baking in 2012 was a mini chocolate chip cake for a friend.  His birthday is New Year’s Eve Eve and it had been a long time since he had had a birthday cake.  I was a day late in giving it to him, but we celebrated on New Year’s Eve in Vegas.  Still can’t tell you how it was because we haven’t eaten it yet.  Unfortunately he got food poisoning and was unable to eat for the next couple of days.  It went in my freezer and we haven’t found the time to enjoy it yet.  Hopefully it still tastes good!

January . . .

I haven’t worked up the energy to bake, except for a half batch of brownies.  My Christmas tree is still up (being pitched tomorrow) and I feel like the holidays blew by.  The baking will resume again once I’ve caught my breath.


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Pardon my french.  Phew!  It’s 1:45am on October 27, the day all Daring Bakers posts go up.  I was really looking forward to this month’s challenge, but I was doing a bit of traveling this month and with a focus on exercise, I couldn’t bring myself to make my favorite pastry in the world and not indulge.  That being said, it’s almost Halloween, so screw the diet!  Mmm . . . millefeuilles.

That’s right, the challenge this month was to make puff pastry dough (which I’ve done before), pastry cream (which I’ve done before), and layer the two in perfect harmony with each other (which I’ve never done).  I’ve wanted to make millefeuilles for quite some time so I’m glad I was able to pull it together so last minute.

For the puff pastry, I used the recipe from two years ago when us Daring Bakers were challenged to make vols-au-vent.  Just a quick YouTube refresher on turning the dough, that part of the process was done.

I also used an old standard for pastry cream that I highly enjoy, doubling the recipe because you can never really have too much pastry cream.  Check.

Two days later and back from a short trip to Austin to see Bob Schneider, it was time to put it all together. There wasn’t too much instruction on rolling out the pastry dough except that it should be about the thickness of cardboard.  Not wanting to waste all my dough, I baked one of the three layers on the first cookie sheet, rather than baking all the layers at the same time.  As noted, I put another cookie sheet on top of the dough to weigh it down and stuck it in the oven to bake at 200F.

Uh oh.  The dough was not doing anything after 15 minutes.  Looking at the instructions again, it said to bake at 200C /400F.  Whoops!  I upped the temp and thought I’d try to keep baking the first layer anyways.  It worked fine, but I found that I needed to use two cookie sheets to weigh the dough down.  Puff pastry just wants to rise and rise and rise.

After baking the next two layers, I started getting all the other components ready to go.  The recipe provided by our host used a royal icing to top off the millefeuilles.  First of all, I’ve been to France about ten times.  And each time, going to a Boulangerie/Patisserie to get a millefeuille tops my list of things to do.  Never have I had one with royal icing on top.  It always has a smooth, shiny glaze that sets up just enough but never hardens completely.  That’s what I wanted to top mine off with.

After some internet searching, I found what I was looking for is poured white fondant.  Only fondant I’m familiar with is that gross dough like mass that you roll out to cover cakes.  Yes, I know fondant is so mainstream now, but it’s really not tasty.  However, there exists a pourable fondant that is made by boiling sugar and water, then adding a little cream of tarter and corn syrup.

Running out of time, I really hoped I would get this white fondant down on the first try.  The boiling process went well, paying close attention to getting it to the right temperature and then back down to about 120F before working with it again.  From my research, I found that you can finish it in a stand mixer rather than hand pull/knead it.  It will change from clear and runny to white and thick.  I think I may have read the instructions wrong because after 7 minutes of mixing, it hadn’t changed color or texture much.  After a reread, I changed my beater to the dough hook and voila!  White and thick.

Now wait a minute!  This fondant is not pourable!

After yet some more research and stumbling upon this very helpful blog, I whipped up a simple syrup and incorporated it into the fondant and all was right in the world.

Assembly went well except that my pastry cream of choice is maybe a little too thin for millefeuilles.  And even though I doubled the recipe, they didn’t bulk up to the height I wanted.  Don’t get me started on cutting them!  I cut them in a few chunks but need to finish cutting them in single servings when I wake up, which hopefully will give the pastry cream a little bit more time to set up.  Plus, I don’t have any super sharp knives which makes cutting them even harder.

Now, today is my grandma’s 80th birthday and we’re going to the Arboretum to celebrate.  Normally, I would make a cake for the occasion.  And for an 80th birthday, I wanted to go big.  But walking around an Arboretum really doesn’t fit as a place to bring a large cake to.  So birthday millefeuilles it is!  And hopefully my grandma will enjoy these pastries as much as I do.

Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

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So it’s been kind of an Irish month.  Okay, not really.  But I went to Globe, AZ in September and came across a bunch of cookbooks in an antique store.  I could have browsed for hours, but unfortunately didn’t have the time.  I did manage to find a sourdough book with a whole bunch of recipes using sourdough starter, which strangely enough is difficult to find online.  So I took my “friend” Paddy out of the refrigerator, freshened him up a bit, and made some sourdough bagels.

I’ve never made bagels before.  Using my starter had me worried as well since Paddy doesn’t seem to produce consistent results.  But at least this recipe didn’t require a 12+ hour rise, so if the end product wasn’t perfect, I wouldn’t be too disappointed.

So you boil and then bake bagels, eh?  Nifty process and it all went quite well.  I let my Kitchenaid mixer do the kneading, then left the dough to rise for about 3 hours.  Shaping the bagels was a cinch, then they rose for another 30 minutes before taking a boiling water bath.  I think the heat activated the yeast because they seemed to swell up well during the boil.  Then popped in the oven to finish before eating.  Texture wasn’t quite like I thought it would be for bagels, but they certainly made amazing ham, cheese, and avocado sandwiches.

A few weeks ago was my grandpa’s birthday.  His favorite cake is either chocolate with white frosting, or white with chocolate frosting.  I get kind of bored always doing the same kind of cakes, so I decided to experiment and make it a cookies and cream cake.  Chocolate cake and vanilla frosting would still be involved, but mixed in the frosting would be Oreos for a bit of a crunch.

Note to anyone wanting to try this: mix the Oreos in the frosting to help it all stick together.  I spread the frosting between the layers and then sprinkled cookie crumbs over it.  When cut, the layers didn’t hold together very well.  Overall, not my favorite cake.  I think the cookies just made me overly thirsty, so have a glass of milk nearby.  But a cookie crumb around the sides is a good solution when running out of frosting.

Just this past weekend, I went to see my good friends the Script (okay, they probably consider me more of a crazy fan) in San Diego and LA with my concert partner in crime, Jessica.  As always, I couldn’t show up empty handed.  But what kind of cookies should I make this time?  The list was long, but I settled on french macarons (now that I seem to have the hang of them), white chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies, and sugar cookies (to get creative with).

The macarons turned out well, except the vanilla ones had to bake quite a bit longer because the bottoms kept sticking to the parchment.  I’m not done learning about these delicate and frustrating cookies yet, but they were definitely more than presentable.  I realized for the chocolate macarons, I didn’t have any heavy cream to make chocolate ganache.  I took a chance (because I didn’t want to go to the store) and tried a heavy cream substitute comprised of milk and butter and by George, it worked!  I think I actually liked the ganache better with the heavy cream substitute because… duh!  Butter makes everything better.

The chocolate chip cookies were delish!  I still go with the good ol’ Toll House recipe on the chocolate chip bag.  I’ve found that as long as you take them out of the oven when they’re just slightly browned and let them finish baking on the cookie sheet, they’re perfect.  If you let them bake too long, they seem to be a bit dry.

Now for the sugar cookie fun.  I’ve done the band’s instruments before, meticulously hand painted with food coloring, so I didn’t want to do that again.  Seeing as how their new record #3 just came out (you can buy it here or on iTunes), I went with a #3 song theme.  Millionaires translated into round cookies with a gold Euro and writing underneath.  Six Degrees of Separation was done by making cookies in the shape of thermometers that measured six degrees.  Hall of Fame was done with Hollywood Star cookies with the band members names on them.  A hand cookie cutter folding the outside fingers down created the 3 fingers up cookies.  And Broken Arrow were also round cookies with a sky background and painted broken arrows flying across.  I wanted to do Kaleidoscope cookies but figured each one would take about 30 minutes to hand paint.

The cookie drop didn’t go as well as hoped.  Jessica and I went to the venue early to try to catch one of the guys.  We saw the tour manager so should have just given them to him, but he seemed busy.  After soundcheck, a guy who works at the venue said they were sitting down for dinner so probably wouldn’t be out for awhile.  I almost gave them to him to see if he’d take them back, but doubted they’d be delivered.  When I told Jessica this, she said “You don’t give your cookies to just any one.”  And my response was “no, just musicians.”  Ladies and gentlemen, my new slogan was born.  Ha!

Fortunately a few minutes later, one of the band’s crew members walked out to the buses and took the cookies.  I’m still not sure if the band ever saw them though since they went on the crew bus.  Oh well.

Was a great couple of shows and so good to see those guys back at it.  Now my count is 10 Script shows and I’m eagerly awaiting the next one, which will most likely be Atlanta in a couple weeks or Vegas in a month and a half.  No, I don’t have a live music problem . . .



Sourdough Bagels:

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 gallon water plus 2 tablespoons sugar

In a large mixing bowl combine sourdough starter with eggs and oil.  Mix together flour, salt, and sugar. Add to starter mixture.  Add enough additional flour for the dough to leave the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary.  Cover with a cloth.  Set in warm place free from drafts until doubled in size, about 3 hours.

Turn out onto floured surface and divide into 8-10 pieces; shape into balls.  Punch a hole in center with a floured finger.  Form a doughnut shape by gently enlarging hole, working each bagel into uniform shape.  Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

Add sugar to water and bring to a boil.  Drop each bagel into the boiling water one at a time.  Boil only 4-5 bagels at a time.  Cook for 7 minutes, turning once.  Drain; place on greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375F for 25-35 minutes.  Bagels should be golden brown and crusty.

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The last couple of months have been busy.  First, my sister and nephew came for a visit.  Then, I went back to France with them for a little holiday.  After that was back to life; back to reality.  But I still found occasions to bake.

It was all quite hush hush, but I flew to Dallas in July for the Voice auditions.  I was keeping it relatively quiet because if I didn’t get a call back, I wouldn’t have to tell any one about my failure.  I’ve auditioned for American Idol several times and never made it past the first round.  Unfortunately, the Voice was no different, but I don’t feel bad about it.  Actually, I nailed my audition.  I sang a slowed down version of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and where I saw a lot of participants succumb to nerves, I didn’t at all.  There were so many people auditioning so I brought decorated sugar cookies with me in order to stand out (and bribe, if necessary).  The cookies never fail for concerts, but I guess they don’t work at auditions.

A few weeks ago, I had a craving for sticky buns.  I rarely eat them, but they’re so unbelievably good, I decided to indulge.  Not exactly an easy recipe to halve, I gave away some to my parents and froze the rest for when I have another craving.  The recipe I used was pretty good, except I think it had too much orange zest in it.  And letting it rise in the fridge overnight didn’t really work, so it had to rise out of the fridge in the morning.  Nonetheless, they hit the spot.

And then last week, I went to a birthday party and decided to take some sugar cookies.  The birthday boy, Jim, loves (drinking) games, so I made him drunken jenga cookies.  I have to say, one of my favorite baking tools is an edible food color pen.  If I had to write in icing, they would not have turned out nearly as nice.

While baking those cookies, I remembered that some Script fans were putting together a little something for the band when their new album #3 released.  All I had to do was take a picture with three fingers up.  I’m Cookie Kelly, what better way was there to do that than draw three fingers up on a cookie?  It was good fun, though I probably could have made it a bit more detailed.  I’m not an artist, but I’m a perfectionist.

The rest of September should be pretty slow in the kitchen, but I’ve got to decide what kind of cookies to make the Script for when I see them in California next month.  It’s been 10 months . . . I’m having withdrawals.

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Oh August, what fun you brought; vacation time, a trip to France, and Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  And this months Daring Bakers Challenge was pate a choux (cream puff) swans.

We’ve made pate a choux before, if you recall the croquembouche.  But apparently it was so long ago, I forgot the technique.  Fortunately for YouTube, I only had to throw away the first attempt, which was completely runny.  That’s not unexpected when the liquid in the dough is about the same amount as the dry.  But attempt number two yielded a stiff dough like a pro.  I attribute that success due to adding the flour to the water/butter mixture after bringing it to a boil and still over heat.

I halved the recipe so I didn’t have a lot of dough to play with, but I tried to make sharks in addition to swans.  Try is the key word.  They seemed to look more like airplanes with a fin.  Therefore I just used the fin to create an impending shark attack scene with leftover pastry cream.

Pate a choux is pretty versatile, so I’m sure I will use the recipe yet again.  But I’m not so sure that I’ll repeat using it for swans.

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

Pate a choux

(cannot be doubled)

½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) butter
1 cup (240 ml) water
¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs


  1. Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
  2. Preheat oven to 415°F.
  3. In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and add flour all at once.  Mixture should come together in a stiff ball.  Remove from heat and continue mixing until room temperature.
  5. Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
  6. Spoon or pipe out classic rounds or other desired shapes.
  7. Bake in oven about 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F and bake until lightly browned, about another 10 minutes.
  8. Allow to completely cool before filling with pastry cream.

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It’s the 27th!  Daring Baker’s reveal date, almost forgot!  This month, we were challenged to make crackers.

Personally, I’d rather buy a box of crackers than make them from scratch.  It was like one of our challenges way back when . . . we had to make graham crackers, only to smash them up for a graham cracker crust.  Well, there was a little bit of smashing going on this month, but not too much.

I decided to make Ritz crackers and Cheese Nips.  I chose Ritz crackers (from this lovely blog) because they were the easiest to convert into a dessert.  If you read my blog, I’m definitely more of a dessert baker.  And the Cheese Nips (found here) were selected because I had a block of amazing habanero cheddar cheese in my fridge and thought it would produce really good crackers.

The Ritz cracker dough was quite sticky.  I halved the recipe and made it in my mini food processor, then rolled out the dough between sheets of wax paper.  I don’t have many small cookie cutters, so I went with hearts over simple squares or rounds.

Crackers are kind of tricky because you need to bake them enough so they’re not soft inside, but you don’t want to burn them either.  They definitely require a careful watch.  But once they were out of the oven, I moved on to part 2 and sandwiched them with peanut butter, then dipped the whole thing in melted white chocolate.  Okay, those were pretty great.

The Cheese Nip dough was a bit easier to work with.  I mixed it using my Kitchen Aid mixer then rolled out the dough with my pasta maker (which I have yet to use on actual pasta).  It was kind of fun watching the flat little squares puff up during baking.  Basically made of cheese, water, and flour, I didn’t know they’d rise so well.  But the finished product didn’t have the kick that I was looking for by using the habanero cheddar.  The crackers worked well on cheese cracker chicken though.

So crackers really aren’t that much trouble to make.  But again, I think I’ll stick with buying them.

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Ritz Crackers:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp + another 1/2 tsp salt for topping
  • 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, and 1/2 tsp of salt in the food processor.
  3. Pulse to combine.
  4. Add cold butter a few small pats at a time, and pulse to combine.
  5. Add vegetable oil.  Pulse to combine.
  6. Add water a little bit at a time.  Pulse to combine after each addition.  The dough should start to form a ball.
  7. Roll dough out as thin as you can.  Mine ended up being all different thicknesses.  Don’t sweat it.  They are homemade!  If you are really concerned, Jeffrey had luck using a pasta maker to make the dough all one thickness – great idea!
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough out.  You can make them Ritz-shaped or any shape that you like.
  9. Poke holes in the dough in the Ritz pattern or any pattern you like (smiley faces would be fun!).  Keep in mind that the holes are not just decorative; they help the crackers to bake correctly – so be sure to poke some.
  10. Bake the crackers on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet for ten minutes or until the crackers just begin to brown.
  11. While the crackers are baking, melt the remaining butter and mix in the remaining salt (Some people said that my crackers weren’t salty enough.  Add more or less salt to your taste.)
  12. As soon as you remove the crackers from the oven, brush them with the salty butter.

Homemade Cheese Nips:

Makes approximately 15 dozen crackers


  • 1 8-oz. block extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ice water


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cheddar, butter, and salt until soft and homogenous. Add the flour and mix on low speed; the dough will be dry and pebbly. Slowly add the water and continue to mix as the dough coalesces into a mass.

Pat the dough into a disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each into a very thin (1/8 inch or less) 10×12-inch rectangle. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut the rectangles into 1-inch squares, then transfer to the baking sheets. Use the tip of a chopstick to punch a hole into the center of each square.

Bake for 17 minutes or until puffed and browning at the edges. Watch carefully, as the high fat content of the crackers makes it a fine line between golden delicious and burnt. Immediately move the crackers to racks to cool.

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A little catch up

I’m getting pretty lazy on my blogging.  So it’s due time that I catch you up on my adventures in and out of the kitchen.  We’re going to rewind all the way to Easter.

Last year, I made an Easter duck cake, decorated in pastel flowers.  This year, I wanted to make something a bit lighter, to round off dinner nicely without being too rich or heavy.  So I chose to make a pavlova.

I’ve never made a full scale, traditional pavlova before.  If you remember a Daring Baker’s challenge two years ago, I made mini chocolate pavlova’s with ganache.  So after hunting around for a recipe, I used a recipe provided by one of my fellow Daring Kitchen bakers, Audax Artifex.  And for the topping, I folded whipped cream into pastry cream to add just a tad bit of richness.

The finished product was pretty good, though I did have some issues with the pavlova cracking.  I tried to cover up those imperfections the best I could with the cream, berries, and peeps (hey, it was Easter).

After Easter came a Bob Schneider show . . . or not.  He canceled it due to illness 12 hours before the show and 1 hour after I had finished making him cookies.  No problem, I was to see him two weeks later in Chicago so I individually wrapped the macarons and oatmeal white chocolate/cranberry cookies, packaged in two freezer bags, and preserved them in the freezer until that time.  I did remake the Bob Bars though because those are really easy.

Next up, the Fray.  These boys play bigger venues now, unlike the tiny 300-500 capacity joints I used to see them at six years ago.  So when they went on tour playing some mid-sized, general admission venues and excluded Phoenix, I boarded a plane to see them.  Let me just say, the Tabernacle in Atlanta is a pretty cool place.

Right when I landed in Atlanta, I headed on over to the venue to scope out the scene and to try to deliver the cookies so I didn’t have to hold on to them the entire night.  Well, it took a lot longer than I thought it would.  I waited over two and a half hours, talking to random security guys and photographers (who snapped some pics of me and the cookies) until I finally spotted Isaac (Slade) and pointed to my box . . . of cookies, guys!  He sent over his tour manager to collect, at which point I found out the show had sold out while I was waiting to drop off the cookies.  But these guys are so good to me, he added my name to the guest list last minute.

After that, I had to take some pictures with fans and sign autographs.  Okay, not quite.  But some girls had seen Isaac say hi to me and wanted to know how I knew him.  A picture was requested with the Fray’s psycho fan (me), but I politely declined.

After the show, my celebrity status increased when Isaac put a picture of my cookies on their facebook page.  In the course of 30 minutes, it received over 1,000 likes.  Yeah, that made my night.  What didn’t make my night though was sleeping at the Atlanta airport for four hours, trying to avoid beggars asking for money.  Hello?  I’m sleeping at the airport.  I don’t have money!  Actually, I’m just too cheap to spend money on a hotel for three hours.

My cookies with over 1,800 likes on facebook.

When we were young.

All grown up.

Next!  What?  Did you think I was done?  I have a lot of catching up to do.

The next thing to come out of my kitchen was coca cola cupcakes to celebrate the life of a coworker who passed away.  My office held a potluck with all his favorite things.  Basically, it was a lot of junk food.  He liked popcorn, chips, hotdogs, licorice, and coca cola.

The cupcakes turned out light and fluffy, with just a hint of the coca cola flavor.  I made my own frosting with a coca cola reduction to give it more of the cola flavor.  Topped with cola gummy bottles, they were rather cute.

Following cupcakes was my first foray into baking with rhubarb.  I’ve wanted to see what rhubarb was all about for a long time, but never got around to it.  So I made a strawberry/rhubarb crumble. Hmm . . . check that off the list.  Maybe some day, I’ll give it another shot.  It was like eating jelly with crunchy oatmeal bits on top.  Not terrible with ice cream, but not really my favorite.

Then came Father’s Day.  Perfect!  I could bake for my dad and satisfy my craving for carrot cake all at the same time.  Lately, I’ve had a thing for tall cakes.  I don’t really like short sheet cakes.  So I baked the cake in a 9×13 inch pan and cut it in half to stack.  Easy enough, but the frosting was another story.

I’ve come to find that cream cheese frosting can only really be made with full fat cream cheese.  Do not try to be healthier and use the reduced fat variety.  The frosting will be too runny and require way too much powdered sugar to get to a thicker consistency.  I had to refrigerate often to set the frosting.  Even with this minor setback, by adding little modeling chocolate decorations, the cake still turned out nicely.

Are you still with me?  Almost caught up, folks.

Sourdough.  Yes . . . again.  Third time’s the charm?  Well, kind of.

I used a different recipe, found on this blog.  It used a little bit more starter than the last recipe I tried.  And it definitely had a stiffer dough than the previous attempt, so I was pretty optimistic.  Unfortunately, the dough didn’t rise at all during baking so I was still left with a flat round.  BUT, it was eatable.  My sister visiting from France even requested I make it again.  I just might, but next time I’ll probably cheat and use a loaf pan so it has no choice but rise vertically.

Last, but not least, a birthday cake for my mom.  Last year, I made a pretty massive cake and took the leftovers to work for my coworkers.  I decided to go tall, but not quite so big.  I made a yellow cake, scaling the recipe to 1 1/2 since I have 9 inch cake pans.  I really need to buy 7 inch cake rounds.

I split each cake in half so it’d have 4 layers, and alternated the layers with caramel frosting and vanilla frosting, topped with chocolate ganache (because I ran out of frosting and didn’t have enough powdered sugar to make more).  The cake crumbs leftover from leveling the cake became cake balls to adorn the top.  Left over modeling chocolate in the fridge yielded some pansies, sort of.  My mom loves pansies, but I don’t have any molds or flower cutters so I have to make everything by hand.  The flower shapes were okay, but food coloring gel doesn’t stick well to modeling chocolate.  Food color pens seemed to adhere better, but the color doesn’t flow as well.  Nonetheless, all the components came together nicely and the cake was a success.

Phew!  There you have it.  Now you’re all caught up and I’ll do my best not to accumulate three months of baking for one blog post.   The recipe for Coca Cola cupcakes are below.

Coca Cola Cupcakes:

2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups small marshmallows
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup CocaCola®
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coca cola
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or more, if necessary, to thicken up the frosting)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, sift sugar and flour. Add marsh- mallows. In
saucepan, mix butter, oil, cocoa, and CocaCola. Bring to a boil and pour over dry
ingredients; blend well. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk just before adding to
batter along with eggs and vanilla extract, mixing well. Pour into well-greased cupcake molds. Remove from oven and frost immediately.
To make frosting, boil the coca cola in a small saucepan until reduced to a thick syrup.  In mixer, whip butter and add the vanilla, coca cola, and powdered sugar.  Mix until smooth.  Spread or pipe on cupcakes.

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No procrastinating on this month’s challenge at the Daring Kitchen.  Battenberg was the name of the game and seeing as how it is a British cake, I wanted to make it in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

A battenberg cake is just a light sponge, colored and “glued” together in a checkered pattern with apricot jam, and wrapped in marzipan.  I opted to swap out the jam for lemon curd which gave it a really nice, summery flavor.

I couldn’t find a battenberg pan that would ship from the US, so I did as our challenge host suggested and divided a pan with parchment.  I wanted to achieve a long, narrow cake, so I used a 9×13 inch pan and doubled the recipe so it would also be tall.

Really not a difficult challenge and I wish I had had more time this month to make another with different flavors.  The recipe will be archived along with many others I would not have known about if it weren’t for the Daring Kitchen.  You have not seen the last of battenberg cakes from me.


Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

Traditional Battenberg:

Servings: +- 8

¾ cup (1½ sticks) 175gm / 6 oz Unsalted Butter, softened & cut in cubes
¾ cup / 175gm / 6 oz Caster Sugar
1¼ cups / 175gm / 6 oz Self-Raising Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temp
½ cup / 65gm/ 2 1/3 oz Ground Almonds (Can be substituted with ground rice)
3/4 tsp / 3½ gm Baking Powder
½ tsp / 2½ ml Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp (1¼ ml) Almond Extract
Red Food Colouring, paste, liquid or gel

To Finish
1/3 cup (80 ml) 100gm /3 ½ oz Apricot Jam
1 cup / 225gm / 8 oz Marzipan, natural or yellow

1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/160°C Fan Assisted/Gas Mark 4
2. Grease an 8”/20cm square baking tin with butter
3. Line the tin with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle with the parchment (or foil)
– Tip: See photos or watch video above for detailed instructions
4. OR Prepare Battenberg tin by brushing the tin with melted butter and flouring
5. Whisk together the dry ingredients then combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth
6. Spoon half the mixture into the one side of the prepared baking tin
7. Add a few drops of red food liquid/gel/paste to the remaining batter, stir until the colour is thoroughly distributed, add more colour if needed
8. Spoon the pink batter into the other half of the prepared baking tin
9. Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula, making sure batter is in each corner
10. Bake for 25-30mins until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean (it should shrink away from the sides of the pan)
11. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack
12. Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake with a long serrated knife
13. Cut each coloured sponge in half lengthways so that you are left with four long strips of sponge

14. Neaten the strips and trim as necessary so that your checkered pattern is as neat and even as possible 15. Gently heat the apricot jam and pass through a small sieve

16. Brush warmed jam onto the strips of cake to stick the cake together in a checkered pattern (one yellow next to one pink. On top of that, one pink next to one yellow)
– Tip: See photos for detailed instructions
17. Dust a large flat surface with icing sugar then roll the marzipan in an oblong shape that is wide enough to cover the length of the cake and long enough to completely wrap the cake
18. Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam
19. Place the cake on the marzipan, jam side down
– Tip: Either in the middle or to the one side of the marzipan
20. Brush the remaining three sides with jam
21. Press the marzipan around the cake, making sure the join is either neatly in the one corner, or will be underneath the cake once turned over
– Tip: If you put the sponge to the one side of the marzipan, I found it easiest to “roll” the sponge over and over onto the marzipan instead of lifting the marzipan up onto the sponge
22. Carefully flip the cake over so that the seam is under the cake and score the top of the cake with a knife, you can also crimp the top corners with your fingers to decorate
23. Neaten the ends of the cake and remove excess marzipan by trimming off a small bit of cake on both ends to reveal the pattern

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It seems like the Daring Kitchen wants me to be a better bread maker.  We’ve had quite a few bread challenges as of late, which is not my area of expertise.  So when the challenge of making Challah came up, I decided to twist it (literally and figuratively) with a sour version using my starter Paddy.

Paddy’s been in the fridge for quite some time.  And he’s never been very good to me.  But I’ve been better about feeding him, making sure to weigh him and give him the same amount of weight in equal parts water and flour.  It was a feeding frenzy and he seemed to be ready to go, so I figured he’d be up for the challenge.

Challah dough differs from many other bread doughs I’ve made because it contains quite a bit of butter and eggs.  The recipe provided for the challenge used active dry yeast so since I was making a sourdough version, I had to do a bit of research.  I had no idea how much of Paddy to use.

I found the rule of 1-2-3.  The dough should be made up of approximately 1 part starter, 2 parts wet ingredients, and 3 parts dry ingredients.  When using 100% starter (equal parts water and flour), then the amount of starter in the dough should be 1/6 of the amount of the flours and liquids added together.  The liquids amount for 2/6 of the total weight of the dough, and the dry (flours) would be 3/6 of the total weight.  Good thing I like math.

After the dough was made (thank God for my Kitchenaid mixer’s dough hook), I let it rest in the oven overnight (turned off, of course).  Sourdough starter takes a lot longer to rise dough than active dry yeast.  12 hours later, I awoke to see a brilliantly risen blob.  You can’t imagine how thrilled I was.  Given my past experiences with Paddy, I was so excited to see that he did his job.

I punched down the dough and got braiding.  The large loaf was just going to be a normal sourdough Challah.  I filled the braids in the 2nd loaf with chopped apples and cinnamon.  Then the leftover dough was used to make little rolls.  Thanks to YouTube for showing me how to braid a 4 and 6 strand Challah.

After braiding, it was time for the 2nd rise, which is usually half the time of the first rise.  So another 6 hours later, the dough was finally ready to be baked.  I was nervous, I must admit.  But when the timer went off and I saw the beautiful loaves, I did a little happy dance.

My condo smelled amazing and the bread tasted equally as amazing.  I put that bread to good use and made grilled cheese sandwiches, mini buffalo chicken sandwiches, and french toast with the apple cinnamon one.  Maybe the fact that the bread was a success made it taste even better, but everything I used it for was absolutely delicious.

Coming down from that success, I had confidence that Paddy was finally up to making real sourdough bread.  So I halved a recipe and left the dough covered overnight to find in the morning that nothing much had happened.  It seems more spread out, but not necessarily risen.  I gave it a 2nd knead, mainly because the top had hardened so I wanted to remove the crust that formed, but found most of the dough stuck to my fingers.  Another 7 hours to rise didn’t produce the results I wanted, but I baked it in the oven anyways.  It wasn’t quite as flat and dense as my previous two attempts, but it still wasn’t something I wanted to eat.  So in the garbage it went and back in the fridge for Paddy.  I still have hope that someday, he’ll produce a great sourdough.


Ruth’s “Go-To” Whole Wheat Challah

w/ my adaption for using sourdough starter

(adapted from D’s Whole Wheat Challah)
Servings: 12

172 g starter
2/3 cup warm water (100°F/38°C)
½ cup (120 ml) (100 g) brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup (one stick) (115 g) margarine or unsalted butter – room temperature
2 tsp. (15 g) salt
3 large eggs
240 g bread flour
235 g all-purpose flour
½ cup (50 gm) rolled oats
Additional flour for kneading (70 to 140 gm)
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water for glaze


1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine yeast with warm water.
2. With paddle attachment beat  eggs, sugar, butter, bread flour, all purpose flour, and oats into the yeast mixture.
3. Once combined, switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding flour as/if needed. If kneading by hand, this should take about 10-12 minutes.
4. Form dough into a round, compact ball. Turn in oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen/tea towel. Let rise in warm area until doubled, approx. 12 hours.
5. Once dough has doubled, punch down.  Divide and form strands, then braid.

6. Cover and let rise another 6 hours.

7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
8. Brush loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with vanilla sugar/sesame seeds/poppy seeds/other topping here if desired)
9. Bake 30 to 40 min. until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
10. Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool before serving.

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

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Phew, just in the nick of time!  I almost missed this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge.  I was online last night and looked at the top and realized it was April 26.  Fortunately, the challenge wasn’t too complicated.  It was to make an Armenian pastry called Nazook.

Nazook is a dough rich in butter, rolled up with a sugar/butter/flour mix, and cut into pieces.  The dough needed to be chilled so I made it last night, but realized I only had about half the amount of sour cream that was needed so I halved the recipe.

This morning, I rolled out the dough and sprinkled the filling over it.  25 minutes in the oven was all it took, then the challenge was completed.  They’re actually quite tasty, but when I think about how much butter went into it (about 14 tablespoons in 18 pieces), I won’t be partaking in too many of them.  The leftovers will be frozen or taken to my coworkers.

Nice little pastries though, quick and easy.  I did add chocolate chips to half of them though, which is not really traditional, but tasted so good.

ing B
kers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

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