Sunday, October 27, 2013

Failures & Moving On

There was once a time in my life when I viewed failure as something negative, downright appalling. For me, failure was the epitome of being unsuccessful, off your game, wasting resources and precious time. It took me until just the past year of my life to fully realize that without failure, we have no yardstick by which to measure our success. Failure is a part of life, a well-needed one, and we are better because of it (or at least I feel I am). The world of baking is no exception to the basic laws of failure, and even a well-versed amateur chef like myself faces mishaps and defeats time and again.
For those of you who are outside my small world it was my birthday last week, which usually means ample celebrating occurs, along with plenty of baking opportunities. I take birthdays and celebrating very seriously (only until the fun-having starts), and typically engage in a week-long festive celebration involving as many of my friends and family as possible. For some reason this year was different. My desire to celebrate was near non-existent and the usual urge to bake completely missing. That might partly explain why these cupcakes (which turned out more like muffins) failed me. My heart just wasn't in it. Hideous little things, aren't they? Happy birthday to, or maybe not.
I've learned over the years that if a recipe isn't working out, one of a few things may be in play: the original recipe sucks and requires some tweaking; my ingredients aren't the freshest possible and I should hit the store, then try again; or other areas of my life are so intense at this point in time that everything I do (including baking) is being impacted, therefore I need to stop avoiding my troubles and deal with them head on. I bet you can guess which of these was likely the truest of my birthday week baking mishap adventure... three cheers for being a grown up! Wait, maybe only one and a half cheers.
Now, you may have noticed this post is full of inspirational (if not slightly annoying) quotes in place of an actual recipe. This is in hopes that you, and I, find a shiny, happy, glimmer of keep your ass moving and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Take a lesson from me, be proud of those failures. Much like our scars and and personal histories, they shape how we interact in this world and how we treat others. A person who hasn't experienced a heartfelt failure is someone who has my sympathy, for I fear that person isn't fully grasping all that life has to offer us. I imagine it is similar to viewing the world in only one color.
I promise you a few things: there are other cupcake recipes to try, fresher ingredients to track down, and many more successes and failures to come in the future. None of us are above failing, and hell I don't think I would want to go an entire lifetime without a single failure. Yes, I may need a reminder now and then of why failing isn't a bad thing...but that is why I have you wonderful folk (you keep me honest).
So on that note...bake on, lovelies! There world awaits your culinary prowess and positiveness. Toss those sad little cupcakes out, shake it off, and try again another day. The only failure here is not trying again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Basil Lime Cookies

I don't know about you, but every so often I need a pick me up. A heart warming, happy feeling, good time pick me up. The kind that leaves you smiling and dreamy eyed, recalling good moments of your life. Sometimes this pick me up comes in the form of a sunny day, a snuggle session with Bert the Cat, or even an impromptu car ride through the woods. And occasionally I turn to a new recipe to brighten my spirits. Most recently I turned to these lovely babies - Basil Lime Cookies. Now before you starting judging how odd a cookie would taste with basil AND lime in the ingredients list, I implore you to take a bite out of one of these. You can thank me later. I made a batch of these for my new dentist's office and hot damn, did they love me for it. That's winning in my book!
Mmmmm, cookies that defy the laws of nature. My favorite! The most common remark from taste testers: surprisingly refreshing, and highly addictive. Score! Cookies that leave you wanting more, again I consider this a success. It's an easy recipe, with simple ingredients, and may even make an appearance on the 2013 cookie tray spread (wow, the holiday season is creeping up fast!).
And in other news, my photography side project is slowly taking shape. Feel free to swing by the blog and/or the facebook page to check out what's been in my viewfinder of late. Happy baking!!

Basil Lime Cookies
Borrowed from: Big Fat Baker
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 3 tbsp very finely chopped fresh basil leaves (I used a wee bit more here)
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line the cookie sheets with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

In a stand mixer (or hand-held mixer) cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

Mix in the egg, vanilla, zest, and basil. Mix together until fully combined.

In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then mix into the butter mixture until combined.

Roll 1 tbsp of dough to make a little sphere. Repeat with remaining dough. Place about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies/oven. Allow to cool on a cooling rack for a few minutes then watch how fast they disappear! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Swirl Bundt Cake

Oh yes, I'm bringing the bundt cake back. Honestly I have a hard time finding things wrong with bundt cakes. For starters, the cake pan does most of the work. And if it looks or tastes bad, you can smother it with a glaze or frosting. Bundt cakes always seem to feed more and go farther than others. Mixing chocolate and peanut butter seemed the right approach to me, and hence this beautiful gem was born (borrowed).
A fairly straight forward recipe here, nothing much to it. And I bet most of you have the ingredients in your cupboards this very moment. As with most things I bake, I ate my small share (i.e. tax) and quickly gifted the rest away before I engaged in too much crumby behavior. 
Just in case you haven't been by his website page yet, Burt the Cat is doing great and getting into his pesky kitty phase. He's becoming quite the ham! Feel free to swing by and check out his plans to slowly take over the world (and drive me insane). 
Enjoy the baking, everyone! 

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Swirl Bundt Cake

Borrowed From: Hungry Couple
  • 2 Cups all purpose flour, divided
  • 2 Teaspoons baking powder, divided
  • 1 Teaspoon baking soda, divided
  • 1/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 Cups sugar
  • 3 Eggs 
  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Cup peanut butter
In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and eggs.  Add the butter and continue beating.  Add the water, vanilla and salt.  Divide the mixture evenly into two bowls.

Add the peanut butter to one bowl, beat until smooth and fold in the first bowl of flour, baking powder and baking soda.To the second bowl, fold in the flour mixture with the cocoa powder.

Butter and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.  Add half the peanut butter batter to the pan, followed by half the chocolate batter, followed by the second half of the peanut butter batter and topped off with the final half of the chocolate batter.  Using a butter knife, gently swirl the batters together but do not over mix.  

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool very well before removing from the pan.  Makes approximately 10 servings.