Apr 8 2014

Neighborhood Bread

Since Forth and SpitfireMoms have become a part of my life the last year+ I’ve been struggling a bit to figure out what goes here when there’s so much that goes there.

Tonight, though, I wanted to share a game changer. It’s my neighborhood bread recipe.

It started at Mike & Jenny‘s, a family two blocks over, who got the recipe from Mike’s mom Gayle. M&J baked it often and passed the recipe on and on and on. When we were all regularly haunting one another’s houses before kindergarten sapped some of the strength of the Playgroup, the bread became a frequent player in our gatherings.

I made it for this recent Thanksgiving and served it with Rare Bird Preserves.

Today I made it again. A mention of herb butter and an easy bread recipe piqued enough interest that sharing the recipe seemed like a good dead easily done.

Here’s where I go to get the recipe.
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Yup. Everytime. I keep my next door neighbor’s text close to my heart.

Why? Because as I said to my friend Johanna who dared me to describe it in 10 words: 5 ingredients including water. Stir twice. Rise. Dump. Bake. Eat.

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I’ve yet to screw it up and I, eventually, screw up most things I bake. I’ve even audibled in whole wheat flour and it’s been awesome.

Today I forgot to bake it. It needs two hours to rise. I accidentally left it for eight. EIGHT HOURS. And it turned out perfectly. CopperTop thanked me for baking it. And she pretty much lives on air.

The coolest part about this bread, I think, is that storage is easy. Prop it cut side down on the counter and it’s good overnight, at least.

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Magic, yummy bread. So easy. Get to it. You’re welcome.

 


Sep 24 2013

Book Club Baking: Champagne Cupcakes

I have a standard (and excellent) vanilla cupcake recipe I’ve been relying on for a while now. It’s fast and easy and I could probably make it in my sleep.

For our book club meeting, though, I wanted to bring something a bit more interesting without having to put more than a bit more effort in. I didn’t feel like going to the store and wanted to make do with whatever I had on hand. How’s that for restrictive parameters?

I Googled something like “awesome cupcakes” or “world’s most awesome cupcakes.” Lemon Sugar’s recipe for champagne cupcakes popped up. I assumed it was going to involve fanciness I just wasn’t up to. But Erin, the maestra of Lemon Sugar, said it was easy peasy yoga pant baking.

And, luckily, I had a bottle of champagne on hand.

Book Club Baking: champagne cupcakes from @lemon__sugar @lemonsugarblog

And you know what? It was super easy AND only used a portion of the bottle. So I got to sip in my PJs and bake and feel fancy, accomplished, and all without working too hard. Heck, this month I even finished the book early.

She went for pink frosting, I used purple gel food coloring which came out more pale blue than anything else. I decided that was champagne-y. Someday I will not accidentally double the recipe despite the warnings to not double it. We had so much GD frosting.

A few dragées because why not (and it turns out the source recipe used ‘em too. I’m a genius!).

I had it in my head that there would be a Pop Rocks experience…that the bubbles would somehow crystalize and solidify and burst? They didn’t. But I would definitely say there was an effervescence to the cupcakes that was really lovely. The addition of the champagne syrup Erin devised was awesome and essential.

I won’t repost the whole recipe but, again, you should go here and bake ‘em yourself. People will think you are fancy! Nay, people will know you are fancy!

Champagne cupcakes!

 


Aug 21 2013

A Will Signing Party

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We were sitting at an Indian buffet. To paraphrase, Adam said something like, “It can take on an almost celebratory feel.”

An almost celebratory feel. I could get behind that.

I remember asking my mom where we, meaning my sister & I, would go if something happened to her and my dad. We would go where I thought we would go, to an aunt whose home was like our second home and who made us feel like her own already. I don’t remember how old I was but I’d hazard a guess at 4th or 5th grade.

When we, meaning Brett & I, moved in together and eventually married, we did all the stuff you can do easily and online. Made one another our emergency contacts. Made one another beneficiaries of things and stuff. As a teacher and a know-it-all, I had long wondered what the hell took people so long when they had kids. Why didn’t people, like, just have their wills done already?

And then we had a kid.

When she was a newborn(ish) we sent a letter to my sister asking her to act as guardian because clearly we were about to start AND complete the process. I was all over everything like the amazing new mom I knew I’d be.

And she turned one. And then two. And we’d talk about it every once in a while. Inertia is a powerful thing.

And then a few months ago, our dear friend Adam Salzman started a law firm focused on estate planning.

You know when you can’t really ignore the universe anymore? The only person who would be closer to us would be either Brett or I opening a law firm. I sheepishly mentioned to Adam that we, you know, kind of still needed to do this.

We filled out some paperwork on our assets and answered a questionnaire. We met, first at our house and then at an Indian restaurant to nosh and talk.

The process was so much easier than I thought because we worked with someone who took the time to listen and who knows the law.

The process was so much more important than I thought. I hadn’t known much about probate courts and the bogged-downed-ness if wishes and plans weren’t explicitly mapped out.

Adam wasn’t just interested in completing our will. He was interested in us understanding what we were doing. I assumed we’d sign things with the same “Um, ok” feeling we had when we did and redid our mortgage…that things would be pointed at and glossed over. Nope. Not this time.

As a couple, we had already discussed guardianship so it wasn’t wrought with all-family Thanksgiving debates about Lo’s future. Thinking about the logistics of time and geography and our wishes and her interests, talking about those frankly and honestly and without blame or future blame, and mapping it out before we sat down was a smart step. It can be impossibly hard, I realize that. I can say, though, that no hard conversation is ever made easier by just not having it.

It is, also, an incredibly hard thing to think about someone else raising this little person we love so so much that we can’t wait to see what she does tomorrow, let alone in 15 years.

It’s also an incredibly powerful thing. It gave time and space for us to discuss what we want for her in broader and longer terms, in ways far more concrete than the wistful conversations we had when I was newly pregnant. It was beautiful to hear her dad talk in ways that showed what a wonderful father he is, even as we wrapped our collective head around our potential absence. It was good to affirm our initial thoughts about guardianship. They were still accurate and felt right. It was important to do.

Because of those conversations and ones we had in our consultation, Adam helped us craft two provisions specific to our family (not that we’re inventing any wheels here folks, just sharing what we thought about).

First, we asked for specific gifts to be set aside for any children who would become Lo’s de facto siblings, should someone else raise her. In all instances of her care we mapped out, she’d become the third and youngest kiddo for a family to care for. To honor the love we know those other kiddos would give her, we wanted to set aside something as a thank you. We think so much of the children of her potential guardians and they factored into our decisions. Our choices impacted them, too. These young people? They’d rock as big brothers and sisters to our little Lo.

Second, we wanted to empower her guardians to make her world interesting. We want so badly for her to see things and try things and do things. We’d never want a guardian to feel crippled by concern that they are offending us by spending “our” money. We wouldn’t have picked the people we picked if we thought their lack of discretion would be an issue. If anything, we want to empower them to think bigger. If that means using some of the money to fly the whole family somewhere or to send Lo to some awesome camp I can’t even fathom? We think that’s a wonderful honoring of us. Go. Do. Please.

Adam crafted a smart, sound, thoughtful estate plan. I exhaled about as deeply as I ever have. For so many moments as a mom I feel doubt or second guess my choices. The blogs and the articles make questioning nearly everything an automatic part of motherhood.

This, this legal and non-huggy thing, was something I could be completely confident and happy about. I rocked motherhood in that moment.

And so, when it came time to finalize the will, it felt like a thing to celebrate. To celebrate the couple we are, the family we have, the people around us who we know would rally around Lo if we were gone. The people who rally around her now. We wanted to cheers as we checked off this thing that we had meant to get done and had, really, been downgraded in the family triage till the universe kicked us in the pants.

We needed three witnesses. Our neighborhood playgroup, so important to us as parents, was summoned. Could a few of them come over for a quick thing? I’d make it worth their time. I’d make it celebratory.

I got some prosecco and I bought a cake. I had intended to bake…perhaps something with mint so I could riff on “last will and testament” but the kid wanted to go to the park. Since we are doing all this for her and her future happiness, it seemed a bit silly to deny her present happiness when a Whole Foods vanilla with vanilla 5″ cake is so damn good anyway. (Seriously, they are good. They have a lemon one too. Also v. good)

And you know what? We had four witnesses. One who biked over simply because he said he knew if it was at our house it was going to be fun. Yes, our will signing was fun.

Surely, you say, I must realize this is a topic fraught with complexity and layers and messiness for many individuals and couples. Grandparents and aunts and blended families and having kids younger or older or not at all. Pets. People plan for pets! You’re right. I do realize. I don’t mean to be flippant or braggy. We have one kid. It makes things easier. We agreed about guardianship. That made things easier. Our estate attorney knows our family history. Man, did that make things easier.

Instead of saying “But it is SO EASY,” I just want to encourage the start. And the second step. Whether it’s a “Hey, we should talk about this.” or a “Hmm, we need to update that bad boy now that we are so wildly successful.” or a whatever it is. Hard conversations and hard things are usually not made any easier by endlessly delaying their start. We triaged much of our life for two years and thankfully they were two years when Brett & I stayed relatively healthy and earthbound. Estate planning is one of those things that if you don’t do and suddenly need, you’re kind of in a jam.

And, however messy it gets, it has an end point, and I don’t mean someone’s death, though this is certainly all about the end of my mortal days. I mean the end point of the process. At some point the decisions are made, the document is drafted, and that sweet relief IS cause for a lil’ celebrating.

We signed and then we toasted (for reals, no sip was had before those beasts were signed). We ate cake and told stories and had another glass. Because here’s the thing. This is an incredible thing we’ve got. This life. With this kid and these friends. And as we plan for a time we might not be here for, you can be damn sure I’m going to enjoy the time I’ve got.

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Jul 11 2013

The Kindness of Neighbors, Not Strangers.

We are, you know, not living in our home this summer. So we are not, you know, with our neighbors and community. We love Oak Park, the community and friendships and co-ops and goodness. I wrote about the powerful impact of a neighborhood a little over a year ago and stand by every sentence in that post (minus the upkeep of the soup exchange).

It’s hard to leave for a month. To have the playgroup talking about outdoor concerts, to have Loie ask about her beloved music teacher, to know our garden will (again) be shriveled up and sad because we’re gone for so long. We miss an annual BBQ at a friend’s, marching in the July 4th parade, and at least two of our beloved tot’s birthdays. Saturday donuts at the Farmers’ Market and all those summery delights.

It can be hard, too, to figure out our place with our temporary neighbors when away.

But leaving and coming are both part of the process, both important for us and both processed and talked about.

I love when a good anecdote brings those concepts, or any concepts, into high relief (especially when it comes with relief at the end of the anecdote).

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And thus:

Noise travels in our San Francisco home. We have next door neighbors who are in the same building, as opposed to the next house, here. We try to keep jumping, crashing, and cavorting to the second story to spare our downstairs neighbors. Instead, we reserve that space for sleep. Because sleep should be quiet.

Lo’s had a few rough nights this week were she’s woken up at 3:55 on the dot and yelped. A quick back rub, snuggle, and song gets her back to sleep fast but I’m incredibly sensitive to disrupting the sleep of people who call this building home. For one, I have a terrible time falling back to sleep so I empathize with the jolt of a toddler pre-dawn alarm clock.

And (more importantly) two, we’ve not yet been able to prove our worth as neighbors and likely won’t have time to in our brief stay. We can’t get anyone’s mail while their away or feed a fish, pour a hefty glass of wine while watching Mad Men or bring something over in celebration or comfort.

The give and take, back and forth, relationship piece of neighboring is harder, maybe impossible, when it’s a temporary measure.

So yesterday, when a downstair’s neighbor passed me on the street it took me a moment to recognize and place her: Ah, YES, a neighbor.

When she said “Oh! I have a note I’ve been meaning to drop off at your door,” it took me less than a moment to fully panic. To brace myself for the comment about being woken up, the question about what I was going to do about it, the sigh that implies “You are not my neighbor, I am allowed to be only annoyed with you, not compassionate.”

Blood rushed to my ears (and I imagine my cheeks). I squeaked an “Oh! Really?” as Lo hopped up and down next to me.

The note?

It came with two children’s books. And kind words about being a grandparent and a correct spelling of Loie’s name.

The neighbor had a book about San Francisco and a book about Chicago she thought Loie and the children of our friends might enjoy. She though that Loie might like seeing things familiar and be introduced to things she’ll meet. And she wanted us, as Chicagoans, to take that book home with us.

I damn near wept on the sidewalk. With relief, yes. But also with a sense of the power of neighborliness and a wee bit of shame that I assumed the worst.

Might she be frustrated with the yelps? Sure, she wouldn’t be the only one.

Might I need to keep a more open mind about how long it takes to build a dash of community and neighborliness? Sure, and it seems like I’m the only one.

 


Jun 25 2013

30-something friendship bracelets

I spent most of my teen summers as a camp counselor at the local YMCA. It was the best.

Part of every summer in those sartorially challenging early 90s was the accumulation of whatever friendship bracelets were in. Not necessarily an exchange on bracelets like you might do in 5th grade, more an acknowledgement that this year’s craft teacher dug string or lanyard (Was mine the only camp that called it gimp? And did you know it’s really called scoubidou? And is that where Scooby Doo comes from?) or beads. During swim class or on rainy days we’d work on our crafts, pretending we were bored but being dutiful, and over the course of 8-week sessions clog our arms with bracelets. This is probably an exaggeration. No, it is. But the genearal conceit is truthful.

I’ve abandoned that kind of thing since leaving teaching and since, you know, crossing into adulthood in general. I don’t need to wear the weird lopsided whatever a student made me anymore. I’ve opted for less jewelry so Lo does less pulling and tugging. I know that soon enough I’ll be gifted all manner of things to wear as the tot grows up so for now, no lanyard for me.

Last evening, though, I looked down at my wrist and realized I am, in effect, wearing friendship bracelets.

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The red bead is coral. It’s on a thin white string. It’s meant to not last.

It’s from a Blessingway, a new-to-me tradition that can be held in place of or in tandem with a babyshower (ours was flower wreath and more eating awesome food than the link). A circle of women come together around a mama-to-be and pledge to support and love on her and the wee one. We each bring a bead (oh GOD I hate choosing things like ONE bead to represent me. Not because I’m so spectacularly multi-faceted and interesting but because I fear I’m not) and it is strung on a necklace for the be-laboring lady to find focus. Coral happens to be this friend’s stone of choice. I’m so excited for her. So excited for her husband. She was one of the urban tribe whose support pulled me through that so-hard summer. Her husband randomly  shows up with pie on our doorstep. They are, simply, spectacular human beings. What a lucky little! And me? I’m excited to support them in whatever way I/we can even if it’s giving them space and time to figure it out before descending on them to snuggle the heck outta their newborn (so they can nap/shower/exhale).

The green string should last a bit longer. It’s mean to. It has a small lightbulb charm, the take away from our most recent Forth salon. Our theme for this event was “Letting Go.” We were a bit nervous that the magic of the first event was impossible to repeat. It was. But there was still magic. It was just different. And awesome, too.

They represent the types of relationships I am so glad to be fostering in my 30s. I am so lucky and proud of the women in my life. From the women whose tots make my tot smile and whose friendships make long days shorter to my brainiac friends in a bookclub that (gasp) reads the book to the friendships we’re forming through Forth, there’s just an abundance of lovely in my life.

I’m enjoying my summer arms with their friendship bracelets even if I wear more sunscreen and, you know, have a real job now. In those halcyon days, I’d probably have close to 30-something bracelets. Now, I’m ok just being 30-something myself.

 


Jun 6 2013

Test Kitchen: A Forth of Rhubarb

(If this venture had ended badly I was gonna call this Rhubarb Hubris. Rhubris?)

I fancy myself pretty worldly. I’ve been some cool places and eaten some things.

I had, until last week, never touched rhubarb. Honestly, until my friends at the Sugar Beet set about to Beet some seasonal food sense into me, I’m not even sure I would’ve been able to tell a stalk of rhubarb from a flamingo’s leg before last year.

Why not decide to try it out for a big event, untested and with only a good tot nap standing between me and disaster?  What harm?

Before Forth was rained out by the April 18 Flood of the Century (Which, c’mon, happened like four times this year but wins at our house because ONE stair heading upstairs flooded. What?)I had baked a ginger pear bundt cake. The thing is damn good. Our event is seasonal though, based on a rambling vision I shared with Lisa & Kelly, and ginger pear just doesn’t shriek Spring. I took the FotC (Flood of the Century) as a chance to reboot and pick something a bit more May. And Spring? That’s rhubarb’s time to shine (I think).

I picked a rhubarb tart with a citrus glaze. I Pinned it. I planned it. And, because I am me, I waited until about an hour before I needed to leave to approach the rhubarb for the first time. Dude, it’s stringy and harder to cut than I expected. Like celery’s really cranky, blushing older sister.

But I worked it out.

rhubarb tart

 

I mean, that looks good, right? (Good as in I opted to ignore the instructions to cut/place the rhubarb in a geometric or organized pattern and decided it would be a “rustic” tart, which means mishappen rhubarb bits, a crust that is barely a rectangle, but shabby chic enough.)

I then went to work on the glaze. Easy, I can reduce shit like nobody’s business. Ten minutes later I had a saucepan full of near-glass. My solution? Try it to see if it was good. I proceeded to burn a whole in my chin (note: I also was heading to take head shots for Design Cloud.). It was not good, my face was melting. But because I am a stress shopper I had enough extra oranges and limes to sack up and try the glaze again. And this time? I added vanilla to show it who’s boss.

Y’all? I think it turned out pretty lovely. Made all the lovelier by staging from a new crush, Janelle of re:Find Joy,who is about as delightful a human being as ever.

rhubris be damned

And, by the by, Forth was ah-mazing. More on that soon.

Rhubarb Tart with Citrus Glaze, from epicurious

  • 1 cup fresh orange juice *I juiced 2 oranges. I think.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 pound rhubarb stalks, thinly sliced diagonally (1/8 inch)
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17 1/4-ounces package), thawed
    *DO THIS. Like, don’t forget everytime you are going to use puff pastry that it needs to thaw for about 40 minutes. Especially when you have provided yourself about that time to do the whole damn thing.
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • *I added a hearty splash of vanilla to the glaze per some reviewer’s recommendations.

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.

Stir together orange juice, lime juice, and sugar in a bowl. Add rhubarb and let stand, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut pastry in half lengthwise, then roll out each piece into an 11-by 7-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Arrange pastry rectangles side by side on an ungreased large baking sheet.

Make a 1/2-inch border around each pastry rectangle by lightly scoring a line parallel to each edge (do not cut all the way through). Prick pastry inside border all over with a fork.

Strain rhubarb mixture through a sieve set over a bowl, reserving liquid. Top 1 pastry rectangle (within border) with half of rhubarb, overlapping slices slightly. Repeat with remaining pastry and rhubarb.

Bake until pastry is puffed and golden (underside of pastry should also be golden), about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil reserved rhubarb liquid in a small saucepan, skimming foam if necessary, until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 15 to 18 minutes.

Transfer tarts to a rack. Brush rhubarb and pastry with glaze and sprinkle with zest.


May 30 2013

Bake Forth: chocolate chip meringues

Tonight is the first Forth, a salon-inspired gathering I’m staring with Lisa Guillot of Step Brightly and Kelly Allison of Kelly Allison Photography. We’ve got a crew of insanely amazing women coming together at Design Cloud to talk about the power of starting. Each woman attending is a specialist in starting, having recently ventured into new waters or for their power to inspire others to start. What better group to start something new with?

We hope to have four events a year around seasonal themes. We hope to maybe help other women launch similar events in other cities. We hope it’s awesome.

I’m in that place where I’m so ramped up I want to keep creating. I was up late. I was up early. Lots of bags and piles. Brett’s been very patient.

So, I’m writing about baking because I just kind of need to put one more thing out there.

A long-serving go to recipe for me has been these chocolate chip meringue drops. I can get behind a one-bowl, five-ingredient recipe that takes about 10 minutes to prep and then sits in the oven for hours. I can proudly say I’ve never burned this one.

It’s easy, easily scalable and the drops have that satisfying crunch that means you can either enjoy one and be done or keep on crunching and feel like you are accomplishing something. No picture because, honestly, they look a bit too turdish. But trust me, they’re anything but.

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper. *I’ve used both foil and parchment.
  2. In large metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar while continuing to beat until they hold stiff peaks. Mix in the vanilla and cocoa on low speed, then fold in chocolate chips by hand. Drop small mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. *I’ve done bigger and smaller versions.
  3. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven, and leave the cookies in the oven for 2 more hours, or until centers are dry. Remove from pan and store in an airtight container. *You can leave them in longer if you are a Nervous Nelly. Our oven’s been cranky lately so leaving in an extra 15-20 minutes ensures they’re dried. 

Now, more piles! Lists!


Mar 17 2013

Something I Love

Oh, Bittercube Bitters. I love you.

We have great friends.Two firmly in that great category are Kim & Kyle. They’re great for lots of reasons, they have similar views on wanting to go just about anywhere, they’re wildly talented, and they have killer taste. For the holidays this year they surprised us with a fantastic holiday card and a spot-on perfect gift, a sample of Bittercube Bitters.

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bittercube.com

These small batch bitters are the brainchildren of two midwesterners. One worked at the Violet Hour in our fair Chicago while his partner’s rooted in Minneapolis. They spent a year perfecting and concocting and, while it’s hardly accurate, I love the idea of potions brewing and steam rising as they worked on a batch.

It seems like we’re usually known for our beer, and we do that really well, but it’s nice to see we can make any booze better. There are bitters to make an IPA pop, plenty of interesting things to work into something ginny. The package includes a slew of ideas to make a cocktail party feel like an imperative.

For the purported end of the world on December 12, we hosted a pizza party for our playgroup. And to drink we set up “The Bitter End” cocktail station. To be fair, the 25+ kids running around made for a less-than-cocktail party vibe (yes, the tags I had on hand are offensively large, I know). But we did our best.

bitterend - Version 2

Last night we had Kim & Kyle over to eat & talk, and toasted friendship with a Bittercube-personalized gin & tonic. This morning we were off to a surprise birthday brunch. Our gift? A sampler pack of Bittercube bitters.


Mar 13 2013

Sweet (Some)day

How cute is this? A wee little hand snagging a treat while my back is turned photographing ingredients.

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Monday was not a day baking was going to happen. Until about 11 Sunday night I assumed I’d be unable to make it into Design Cloud.

And so, when 9 am rolled around and  I rolled into work, I was baked goodsless, a way I hate to be. I promised to make amends today.

We meet on Wednesdays in the morning to survey the creative freedom landscape and I thought having something to tempt the masses might be nice. There is usually a decent crowd just processing their coffee so I thought something breakfast-y would be a good match.

I started where I often start, at 101 Cookbooks. I came upon this recipe for donut muffins and stopped. Donut muffins? YES. The critical element in the baking is nutmeg, the critical element to replicate donut goodness is the cinnamon sugar coating.

But, well, there wasn’t really a recipe. There was talk of one and description of mixing things but not 1/2 cup of this and 1 tsp of that.

Google brought up this, which mentioned nutmeg, so off I went. Allrecipes.com usually has a large review pool and I found this.

The recipe is here. I use unsalted butter. And I stress about what percentage of milk to use. We have whole for the kid. Skim for my coffee/Brett’s cereal obsession. Both seem extreme. My solution was to splash both into a measuring cup at the same time till I got 1/2 a cup. Real professional.

Here’s a before & after the cinnamon sugar coating.
Both were tasty. But that coating was an extra dash of awesome.
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  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

And for the top:

  • 1/4 cup margarine, melted (again, mama uses unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 24 mini-muffin cups.
2. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup margarine, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then mix in the baking powder and flour until just combined. Fill the prepared mini muffin cups about half full.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops are lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
4. While muffins are baking, place 1/4 cup of melted margarine in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Remove muffins from their cups, dip each muffin in the melted margarine, and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Let cool and serve.

 

 


Mar 6 2013

Sweet Monday

This week I dug into my easy wins with a modified version of this recipe. (Psst. I ignore all her optionals and do white chocolate and dried cherries. Details are below.) This was supposed to be easy because I needed to make two separate batches.

Aside from Sweet Monday at Design Cloud, I was jazzed to bake to support the Sugar Beet Co-op‘s film screening as part of the One Earth Food Festival. My dears at the Beet, Cheryl & Jenny, were putting together a luncheon. As a proud co-op member (and general helper outer) I said I’d bring something.

And that something went horribly awry. Underdone in the center and a nearly scorched earth diorama on the edges. I wound up carving out cooked-enough pieces and sending Brett to deliver the sad, sweet shrapnel.

I was flummoxed. I screw all kinds of things up in my daily life. This recipe is not one of those things. When we bought the house and redid the kitchen, we got a double oven specifically so that I could use the top oven for baking (less energy, just kind of sounds cool). The top oven has consistently not done a great job with baking at temp or on time. I’ve been setting it 5º higher and baking for a few minutes longer, both of which did me heaps of not much here.

After the CopperTop was up for an hour in the wee hours and I was up again at the crack of dawn feverishly packing my brown sugar, I demanded redemption. Replaced the baking powder and soda. Used the larger oven in our double oven. Let the eggs reach room temperature. If baking is like science, a scientist should tweak one thing at a time. But even if it is, I am not and I went to tweaking town. It still took about 15 minutes longer than it should’ve. And the edges were still dancing way too close to crispy. But there was no shrapnel.

And the best part is that I caught an express train so I arrived with still warm treats to tempt. And tempt they did, crispy edges and all.

blondies2

Tempted? Assuming you don’t screw them up as much as me, they’re worth it.

Oatmeal Blondies with White Chocolate and Dried Cherry

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • chocolate chips (optional)
  • raisins (optional)
  • chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until thoroughly mixed and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract until well mixed, and mix in salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour, rolled oats, plus other junk. Mix well to moisten all ingredients, and spread into the prepared baking pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before cutting into bars.

**Clearly step 3 is full of crap. I baked those beasts for a hundred hours. Raw in the middle. Burned on the edges. I felt shame.
***Clearly the next logical step is for me to get the oven (ovens?) checked. Sigh.