Baking With Julia: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

Gingerbread Baby CakesWow, has it really been two MONTHS since I posted anything?  Life got a little crazy and sad and real for a moment.  I assure you I’ve been baking right along with all of you, I just haven’t gotten around to writing and posting about it.  But now I’m back, my house smells like gingerbread and there’s a bunny nosing around my patio.  Can’t get much better than that.

This was a perfect recipe to return with — simple, comforting and delicious.  We just finished celebrating my son’s 4th birthday and I have to confess that after all the cupcakes and multicolored buttercream frosting, it was nice to indulge in a bit more grown-up dessert.

And another confession —

As I was making these cakes I got a little sentimental over their name.  Baby Cakes.  Because I finally have to admit, my own little baby is not a baby anymore.  My husband spent the birthday weekend breaking down the toddler bed and setting up the new big boy bed.  Which also meant packing away all the baby/toddler sheets, blankets, stuffed animals, etc.  That was followed by an overnight trip to Disneyland — which is where the bigger realization hit.

One year ago his favorite ride was Winnie the Pooh.  We rode it this trip, too.  Except afterwards he didn’t ask to ride it again.   And he didn’t care to go see Pooh and Tigger.  What did he want?  Big Thunder Mountain.  In one year we’ve gone from Winnie the Pooh to roller coasters.

So in honor of my own little “babycake,”  whip up a batch of these sweet treats and enjoy some quiet moments with those you love.

Thanks to Karen of Karen’s Kitchen Stories for hosting this week.  Visit her blog to see her beautiful version of this recipe as well as for the recipe itself.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf

Pumpkin Loaves = Baking fail.

Artsy-craftsy reading reward chart = Mommy win.

That last one is epic for me.  Generally glue sticks and I are not on speaking terms.  Throw in some craft scissors and construction paper, and you get to witness hours of frustration on my part.  But I’m over the moon that my son’s started reading and want to find ways to encourage him.  He loves putting stickers on things (what preschooler doesn’t) so I hunted down some autumn leaf stickers and figured we’ll put a leaf on his tree for each book he reads.  Hopefully it goes better than the bread.

OMG, the bread!

Huge, HUGE disappointment.  All on my end.  I’m seeing the other bakers’ beautiful photos of beautiful loaves and I’m suffering from some serious bread envy.  My dough never seemed to double during the first rise and didn’t really rise at all during the second one.  Oddly, it seemed to rise the most after its overnight chill in the refrigerator.

I can’t figure out what caused the lack of rise on this one.  My kitchen was certainly warm enough (since it was 102 this weekend!) and the yeast I used worked fine for the whole wheat loaves a couple weeks ago.

What’s more frustrating is that this bread is REALLY good.  The texture in mine was all kinds of off but at least I was able to get an idea of what it should taste like.  And I have to say the homey combination of pumpkin, raisins and walnuts combined with the tart punch from the cranberries is perfect for fall.  Which just means that I’m attempting them again.  This time around though I think I’ll leave out the overnight step of chilling the dough.  I’m curious to see if the other bakers found that it added anything to make it worth the extra time.

Oh, and the extra pumpkin from the recipe?  Perfect for making homemade pumpkin spice latte syrup.  🙂

If you want to see what this bread SHOULD look like, check out Rebecca’s post over at This Bountiful Backyard.  She also has a copy of the recipe posted if you’d like to try this one yourself.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

This recipe got me and my husband feeling all sorts of nostalgic.  Maybe it was the mah jongg exhibit we’d been to earlier.  Maybe it was my mom’s 1960’s cake plate.  Maybe it was the smell of oats and almonds and ginger or maybe it was the ribbon of streusel running through this fluffy little cake.  No matter what it was, it made both of us long for whatever the modern-day equivalent of a bridge club is.  The kind of casual get-together that requires nothing more than a pot of coffee, a simple little cake, and some good old-fashioned conversation.

So friends, let’s get together.  Scrabble, poker, cocktails, game night — come on over.  I’ll make cake.  🙂

Thanks to our hosts this week – Marlise of The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan of The Little French Bakery.  Check out their blogs to read about their baking experiences as well as for the recipe itself.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Peach Raspberry Galette

It was with great sadness that I ate the last slice of the Blueberry Nectarine Pie.  The only thing that stopped me from immediately making another one was the fact that there was a new Tuesdays with Dorie recipe to try this week – Mixed Berry Galette.  For the past couple of years, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of a galette (a kind of free-form pie) and have wanted to try one but never got around to actually making it.  So, thanks to this group, that’s one more thing I can cross off my baking bucket list.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that the filling is pretty much up to you.  I confess, I almost made it with a blueberry and nectarine filling.  What can I say?  I’m now an addict.  But I executed great restraint and opted for some fresh peaches and raspberries instead.

So, how did it compare?  Here’s an ode to a summer galette —

I love that you’re easy.

Yes, some may take this the wrong way, but it works for you.  No crimping.  No precise measuring.  Just roll, plop, fold and bake.

I love that you’re cute.

I was expecting a pie-sized dessert.  I was not prepared for the tiny little bundle of goodness sitting on my baking sheet.

And tucking the little blanket of dough around the layers of fresh fruit . . .

Next to sticky ice cream kisses from my son, it doesn’t get much cuter.

I love that you’re flexible.

Berries?  Peaches?  Apples?  Cranberries?  You name it, it can work in a galette.    Just toss it in.  Sprinkle with sugar.  And enjoy.  Baking with Julia even includes a variation with tomato and cheese.  If my heirlooms survive our 110 degree heat wave, you better believe I’m trying this.

I love that you’re a willing accomplice to my bad habits.

Take this conversation for example —

My husband:  Are you eating pie for breakfast?

Me:  Unh-uh.   It’s a galette.

See how nice that works?

However, all that being said, last week’s pie has still won my heart.  But it was close, little baby galette.  Real close.

Thanks to our hosts this week — Lisa of Tomato Thymes and Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness.  Check out their blogs to hear their baking experiences as well as for the recipe itself.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Blueberry Nectarine Pie

We all know the saying — “Easy as pie.”

Yeah, about that . . .

I had every intention of making this pie last week so I’d have plenty of time to write up my post.  Except work got crazy busy, and I found myself with no time to write about pie much less to make one.

I planned on buying the blueberries and nectarines fresh at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday.  Except I got there too late and there wasn’t a single blueberry to be found.

I convinced myself the sad looking nectarines I scraped together at the Farmer’s Market would be bursting with hidden farm-fresh flavor.  Except they weren’t.  (But on the trip to Sam’s Club to buy the missing blueberries, I discovered their nectarines were amazing.  Who’d have thought?)

After getting the little one down for a nap and making a cup of tea, I planned a leisurely afternoon of baking.  Except my husband called, stranded at work after dropping his keys down an elevator shaft.  Seriously?!  Nap, tea and leisurely baking — all out the window.

I fully intended to follow the recipe’s instructions to let the pie rest for 30 minutes before slicing into it.  Except it was 11:00 at night and I was tired.

The first slice of pie was a runny, gooey mess, but I didn’t care one bit.  I would have slurped this filling up through a straw.  It’s that good.

Ordinarily, blueberry pie is near the bottom of my list, but the nectarines in this have moved it to the top.  (Alright almost to the top.  Cherry pie’s a pretty tough competitor to knock out.)

There’s nothing else to say other than to bake this.  Now.  While the fruit’s at it’s peak and our summer days are still lazy.  (At least until your husband loses his keys.)

Thanks to our hosts this week — Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake and Hilary of Manchego’s Kitchen.  Check out their blogs to hear their baking experiences as well as for the recipe itself.  Trust me, you want this one.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Coconut Rum Biscotti

Books and biscotti — a perfect combination if you ask me.  Both by nature allow us to jump off the treadmill of our daily lives and relax.  Linger.  I challenge you to eat biscotti in a hurry.  It’s kind of impossible.  Biscotti’s designed to be nibbled, dunked, swirled.  Like a good book, it’s a thing to be savored.  And in our household, these biscotti are most definitely being savored.

I switched up the ingredients for this one a bit.  The original recipe in Baking with Julia is for Hazelnut Biscotti, but with temperatures creeping into the triple digits (yuck!) I didn’t feel like boiling and toasting the hazelnuts.  Macadamia nuts felt a bit more summery.  To go along with them, I swapped out the frangelico called for in the recipe with coconut rum.  Because, again, nothing says summer like a splash of rum.  Oh and don’t worry, I won’t say anything if you decide to add a splash of rum to your weekend coffee as well.  😉

And if you’re looking for a good book to read over the summer, I recommend Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder.  I’m only halfway through, so I can’t speak for the ending yet, but so far I’m completely caught up in the story.  Part Island of Dr. Moreau, part feminist Heart of Darkness, it’s a thrilling journey into the Amazon and the worlds of pharmaceutical research and medical ethics.  I’ve been sneaking downstairs early the past few mornings to squeeze in some extra reading time before the rest of the house is awake.  Now, thanks to Julia, I’ve got a sweet little treat to enjoy on those mornings.

Thanks to Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys for hosting this week.  Check out their blogs to hear their baking experiences as well as for the recipe itself.