Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

For those of you that may not be as familiar with eating dessert for breakfast as Amanda seemed to be in her post the other day… I would propose this: Bake a strawberry cobbler with butter cookie topping. Serve four small portions for dessert on Thursday, cover with plastic wrap, hide carefully in the fridge and then, Friday morning take the cobbler out of the fridge right when you wake up. Make a cup of tea. Eat remaining cobbler. Delight in the world.

Strawberry Cobbler with Sugar Cookie Topping
adapted from The Best Recipe

For filling:

3 pints fresh or 36 ounces frozen strawberries

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash berries and hull. Leave whole unless large, in which case cut in half. If using frozen, just proceed with recipe. Combine filling ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Scrape with a rubber spatula into a pie plate and cover with foil. Place on baking sheet in the oven. Bake 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in medium bowl until light and fluffy, 1 minute with electric mixer (3 minutes if by hand). Beat in egg yolk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients by hand until just combined.

After the fruit has baked for the 15 minutes, remove from oven and take away foil. Stir the fruit to mix. Drop cookie topping onto the fruit by the tablespoon evenly over the fruit, though it will not be completely covered. Return pie plate to cookie sheet in the oven, bake 40 minutes until the topping is browned and fruit is bubbly. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Can stay at room temperature for several hours and reheated just before serving, however, I prefer it at room temp.


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There is just something about that old chestnut, the school bake sale. Something that is missing, that is. Home-baked goodies. The 21st century bake sale has been transformed by the 21st century lifestyle: Lack of time to bake, germ phobia, a desire to consume only what is recognizable. When I peruse cookbooks like The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, which will recommend a particularly homey and quick treat as “nice for a bake sale,” it seems quaint. Many bake sales now display Costco-size boxes of chips, cookies and candy and flats of cokes and bottled waters.

The bake sale is a humble way to raise money for a good cause. A little flour, eggs and sugar yield cozy morsels gobbled up by community members who toss their coins or bills into a jar. Not to mention the fun of trying other families’ favorites and even sampling a taste of another culture. The exchange of money for treats has become less personal with the re-selling of store-bought goods, although certainly efficient. Re-selling cheap, pre-packaged products turns a tidy profit.

NYTimes recently published an article about the changing landscape of the school bake sale with an emphasis on the battle against obesity. How do selling pre-packaged products help make headway against the epidemic? I understand that some children have allergies and serious intolerances but I think the concerns can be addressed by thoughtful bakers rather than resorting to a table full of processed junk food.

I am an advocate for the old-fashioned bake sale. It is an opportunity to gather around a community table and share a bite for a good cause. The time and care taken to bake something homemade makes it a pleasure for me to donate funds. A bake sale is a chance to make an intimate and meaningful exchange, an antidote to our teched-out, super-busy, fragmented way of life. Perhaps, if we all learn to bake one thing well – simple vanilla cupcakes sprinkled with sugar or killer oatmeal cookies – bake sales can still live up to their billing.

Remember the musical Oklahoma! when at the church picnic fresh-baked pies were auctioned off and love was found? Could the bake sale be the new J-date?  Support the cause!

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Just read Lydia K. Bundtzen’s article, “Lucent Figs and Suave Veal Chops; Sylvia Plath and Food,” from the 10th anniversary issue of Gastronomica. Gives a peek into the daily life of this mysterious and controversial woman. Bundtzen quotes from Plath’s journals in which she outlines a potential story. Plath notes:

“…woman at end of rope…lost sense of order of universe…. stayed by need to create an order: slowly, methodically begins to bake cakes, one each hour, calls store for eggs etc. from midnight to midnight. Husband comes home; new understanding. She can go on making order in her limited way: beautiful cakes…”

There is something about baking cakes that is alluring. When I get the bug it is intense and unshakable. I must bake a cake…now! Sometimes it seems easy and fun. Setting the mise-en-place, allowing the eggs and butter time to settle to room temperature and letting my inner pacing draw down into that which is best suited to home baking. But there are those days when the cake baking is more desperate. Like I am trying to create order out of the chaos of each moment. Each ingredient an obstacle to calm. I rush, uncomfortable in my skin. By the time the cake comes out of the oven, I’m annoyed with the mess I’ve made and that I now must make a frosting which will prove no-doubt impossible to keep smooth and free of crumbs and I want to toss the warm cake into the trash and wonder if I will be able to taste the stress in the final product. If I can hold on through these moments and resist the urge to demolish the whole enterprise, I know that no matter how harried and difficult the process is – I end with a cake on the counter. Something whole and recognizable made by me. The magic of baking is that in the end there is order.

Until it’s time for dessert.

The cake pictured above is a white cake with strawberry buttercream filling and a chocolate ganache frosting. All from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. You can find the recipe for a Yellow Layer Cake and many other of Rose’s recipes on her website by clicking *here*.

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