Month: December 2014

Scavenger’s Cobbler

In the past week, my mother did the impossible.

She cooked a four course meal for eleven people with four separate sets of dietary restrictions. She did so while hosting an enormous group of out-of-town relatives, running her small business, and still managing to be a lovely human being. My mother is fucking magic.

I took over for her when it came to desserts. When I asked, “Mom, what fruits are in season?” she said, “None.”

When I said, “Mom, what fruits should I put in this dairy-free cobbler?” she said, “There are apples in the drawer and I bought you those frozen raspberries.” And I thought–her head is about to explode. Let’s just make this work.

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Aw, Cookies

I have never decorated cookies before. I understand that this is quintessential holiday stuff in most households, but for my family, the priorities were different. The cookie-to-mouth express line did not have time to stop for icing. There was no 24-hour maintenance period to allow the designs to dry. The sole purpose of cookies was to get into our faces as quickly as possible.

This time around, though, I wanted to make Hawkeye cookies.

This is Clint Barton.

aw coffee

This is Kate Bishop.

kate drives

They are both Hawkeye. You can read about them in Matt Fraction’s incredible Hawkeye comics. Here’s the first volume. I wanted to make cookies that mimicked the targets on the cover.

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That did not work out exactly as planned.

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SPICE CAKE OF OCCULT DESTINY

Or, as I presented it to my friends and coworkers, the spice cloud cake.

I pulled out all the stops for this cake. First, it’s a chiffon cake. These fuckers are impossibly fussy, and that is why I love them. Second, there was a bake off at work. If you want me to go above and beyond, tell me there’s a prize. Tell me that someone else wants it. Then maybe hire someone to clean up in my wake.

In theory, the spice cloud tastes like falling gently through a feather pillow made of chai masala. In practice, it is a mildly spiced, very light, very fluffy four-layer cake with whipped cream frosting. This cake was three days and two rounds of test baking in the making. I used two recipes, three cameras, and every baking pan I own.

A Soliloquy

I won! Which was super gratifying. But, for me, the recipe isn’t finished. The flavor isn’t strong enough. It needs to be paired with a stiffer icing. There has to be a simpler way to bring in the spices. On the other hand–lots of people liked this cake. I had a lot of fun making it. And maybe this recipe is right for someone reading the blog.

When I describe my baking to other people, most of them say, “I could never do that.” Bullshit. None of this is particularly difficult. I can figure it out. They can do it. They don’t want to.

They don’t have to want to.

None of this is an obligation.

I don’t know why you bake, or why you read this blog, but I’m telling you right now: you do not owe anyone fancy baked goods. You just don’t. (Unless they pay you a fair and equitable wage and offer comprehensive health insurance.) Never, ever, ever make a cake so fussy that it stops being fun. Don’t ever feel obligated to turn a hobby or a favor or a gift into an ordeal because you feel like you ought to work harder. Does baking challenge you? Does it soothe you? Do you feel better while you’re baking than before you started?

Good. That is enough. If you want to go further, you can—but no force in the universe other than your own genuine desire should push you into a project that makes you feel overwhelmed instead of fulfilled. Especially not a sense that you aren’t good enough. The cake that you enjoy making is the best fucking cake in the world. Making a fancy cake won’t make you more worthy. You don’t need to be more worthy. You are enough.

For me, the fussiness is the point. I adore all those steps. I love to tinker. Creating something new is the whole point for me. (Other than yelling on the Internet. I really like yelling on the Internet.) So I’m going to keep playing with this recipe, because that is what I want to do. This brings me joy. I hope that reading about it brings you joy. Read and create in ways that feel right. You deserve that freedom, and you sure as hell deserve that happiness.

On to the actual cake making.

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Petit Foes

My childhood reading was split between high fantasy, Books For Young Ladies and wilderness survival stories. I wanted to be a Lady. I wanted to wear big boots and be competent in the woods. I wanted to be an elf.

Spoiler alert: None of those things happened.

I’ve lost hope of waking up in Rivendell, but I’m still obsessed with petit fours, those elusive cakes of the upper class. Petit fours are tiny and delicate and complex. They combine my love of fussiness with my worship of tiny baked goods.

These are petit fours:

petit four google

This is my latest attempt at cake decorating:

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Yeah. That’s not going to happen.

But I cope with anger by making tiny fussy things, and boy did I need an outlet. I got one of these calls on Monday morning-my first day of work after a family funeral. Fake IRS guy informed me that I was about to be thrown in jail for tax fraud, and I believed him for about 20 minutes.

Hey, fake IRS guy? Fuck you.

I wanted bitter chocolate and biting coffee and the satisfaction of melting the fuck out of sugar. I wanted to slam things around in the kitchen and risk my life with molten candy. So I made petit foes instead–bitter chocolate and coffee flavored cakes, drenched in homemade caramel syrup and served with a side of justice.

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That’ll do, cake. That’ll do.

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Apple Oat Death Stars

This recipe is seasonal as fuck. First of all, it contains all the obligatory flavors of early winter—apples, spices, and butter. Second, it accurately captures how I feel about winter. I’d like to take over a space station and blow the whole season up from orbit. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. So I made these instead.

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Let’s all pretend that I broke that one open on purpose.

I’m not saying that spiced apples in crisp oatmeal cookie crusts are acceptable substitutes for lasers and fiery revenge. All I’m saying is that my inner evil dictator is appeased.

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