Monday, May 30, 2016

Baking for Pleasure

I was recently asked by a curious neighbor why I bake so much?  I went on a mental journey to figure out the meaning of my baking.  

So, here I go.  This is why I bake...

Sometimes I bake because I want to treat my loved ones.  Sometimes I bake because I want to satisfy a craving.  Sometimes I bake because I'm trying to practice a recipe, or because I want to test a change to a recipe.  However, most of all, baking brings me joy.  

I like the process, start to finish.  I really enjoy finding recipes.  I like to read the stories that are attached to them.  I like to read through the recipes, and I think about the actions that they require.  From there, I enjoy the prep work.  Measuring, sifting, gathering...all fun.  

Combining the ingredients is one of the obvious fun parts.  Humans love pouring, drizzling, and dumping things.  I watch my kids play in the water, and this is what they do.  They pour water from cup to cup with such focus.  Baking is my chance to play in an adult way.  It's not really socially acceptable for adults to sit around playing with cups of water. Ha.

When things are baking in the oven, I peek through the window a ridiculous number of times.  I like the anticipation.  So exciting!

Finishing touches, like frosting, are where I get to pretend to be an artist for a moment.  I've normally run out of time at this point, but I could really get crazy if I didn't have other obligations.  

Finally, I am so pleased to pause and enjoy the finished product.  I like that baked goods are temporary.  They bring me in to the present moment.  They are enjoyed, and then I move on.  

So, there's my long winded answer to why I bake.  The short answer: it's my pleasure.

Wait, one final note.  There is a part of baking that I don't really love...washing all of the dishes. Ugh.

This sweet cake was made purely for pleasure.  It's carrot cake with chocolate and vanilla icing.  I wanted to try my idea for making stripes, so this was my chance.  I'll post more about how it's done sometime soon.

My roses still look like carnations, but they were fun to make.  I sat on the floor so that my daughter could watch as I piped them.  She was really impressed. :) 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Peanut Butter & Jelly Babka...fourth attempt

I didn't take any beautiful pictures of this one. The main goal was to try out a different method for the peanut butter filling. I spread the peanut butter on to the dough. Then, I sprinkled the brown sugar. I went really light on the sugar. Next time, I'll add a bit more, but overall this method was way easier than mixing the sugar and pb before spreading. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Peanut Butter & Jelly Babka...third attempt

This time I skipped the streusel because I was wanting to try a different peanut butter filling and I didn't want to use up more peanut butter than necessary. As a pleasant surprise, the smooth top was attractive. I egg washed it after the second rise, and it created a tender top crust that I really liked. Hmm, now the streusel is in question too! 

As for the peanut butter filling, it was no longer crackly! It stayed smooth and creamy. It was a mixture of 2/3 c peanut butter with 1 c of brown sugar. It was a little sweeter than I would have liked, and parts of it were heavy. The heaviness caused the layers to collapse in places. Next time I will try it with a little less sugar. Hopefully it will be creamy, not too sweet, and not too heavy. I don't think that's too much to ask! :)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Growing Out a Curly Pixie, 6 Months

Here we are at half a year.  I went for a trim/shape up last week.  I was going to go at the end of the month, but my guy had a cancellation.  It was kind of unpleasant to think that the hair I had waited so patiently to grow was going to get chopped, but the side and back were getting to be unmanageable.  I'm really happy with the new shape.  I didn't lose too much, and it's waaay easier to style.  The pictures below are after I let it air dry, and I put a little oil.  That's it. It's pretty wild, but I like it best that way.

It's so nice to have enough hair to tuck behind my ears! Yay for that!

It's so much longer than it looks, but that's life with curly hair.

Here are the links to my other posts about this process...

Friday, May 13, 2016

Peanut Butter & Jelly Babka...second attempt

I tried a new babka recipe for the dough. I didn't like it as much, but I'm glad I tried it because it gives me more confidence that the other recipe is a keeper. 

For the strawberry swirl, I blended together strawberry jam and freeze dried strawberries. The result is just what I had hoped it would be! The color was bright, and the flavor was jammy. The berries also helped to thicken the mixture. This helped it to stay put and not run to the bottom of the loaf. Yay!

I also brushed the top with an egg wash before putting on the peanut butter streusel. That seemed to help more of it adhere. 

Next time I want to work on rolling them a bit tighter, and I want to try to make the peanut butter swirl more creamy after it's baked. 

I really enjoy these "attempts". Thanks for indulging me and following along. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Peanut Butter & Jelly Babka...first attempt

The first time I made babka, I made a chocolate babka. It was such a pleasure to make, that my mind started whirling with all kinds of babka dreams. Today I baked a peanut butter and jelly babka with peanut butter streusel.

I thought it would be cool to have the two swirls be two different colors. So, I did one swirl with a peanut butter and honey mixture, and the other swirl was straight strawberry jelly. The flavor is pretty fantastic, but I wasn't wowed by the two colors like I had hoped that I would be. Next time, I will mix the jelly with the peanut butter. I think the flavor and texture will benefit from the tweak. 

The peanut butter streusel topping (unbaked below) was a nice touch. Next time, I'll double the amount. No one complains about too much streusel!

I think more streusel will look more attractive too. With the minimal topping, the finished product looks a bit warty. 

I'll be sure to show you the result of my next experiment. :)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Italian Cream Cake + Caramel

My mom's favorite cake is coconut cake.  Her favorite cookies are Russian Tea Cakes. When I saw this recipe by Cook's Country for Italian Cream Cake, I knew this was just the cake to make for her on Mother's Day.  It has toasted, pulverized coconut in the cake, and cream of coconut is in the cream cheese frosting.  Toasted pecans are baked in to the cake, and I topped the cake with more toasted pecans.  The caramel isn't really part of a traditional Italian Cream Cake, but, c'mon, are you mad at me?

For the caramel, I used Baking a Moment's Simply Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce recipe.  I went light on the salt because I wanted to keep it sweet, sweet, sweet. I've had some caramel challenges in the past, but this recipe worked like a charm.  First you warm the cream and butter.  Then, you caramelize the sugar with corn syrup and water.  Finally, you combine it all to make the most luscious, creamy caramel of your dreams.  For the details, please visit her site. 

Do NOT pour this on your cake while it is warm.  You will melt your lovely frosting! If it is too thick, Baking a Moment recommends thinning it with water, one teaspoon at a time.

Like I mentioned before, the frosting has cream of coconut as one of the ingredients.  I wasn't familiar with this ingredient.  I found it in the Hispanic foods section at the grocery store.  Make sure to stir it up before measuring it out.  It was separated in the can, and I almost added only the solid portion. Thankfully I noticed the liquid part before I dumped it in my bowl.  After some stirring, I remeasured and it was all good.

I am so excited to share a slice of this with my mom tomorrow.  I hope she loves it!