cookies@bakingtherapist

April 11, 2012

Today marks the beginning of my new cookie business: cookies@ bakingtherapist. My business is an opportunity to share my absolute love of baking cookies and brownies with customers in the Twin Cities area. I bake extraordinary cookies (as grandiose as that may sound), have a repetoire of dozens of varieties, and can supply cookies for any occasion (including cookies that you can give as gifts to the people you love). Please contact me at bakingtherapist1@gmail.com for more information.
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Baking Everyday

September 2, 2011

If asked what I do everyday, no one would be surprised to learn that I breathe; sleep; eat; read; tell my daughters, “I love you;” have conversations; drink coffee (a whole milk miel latte); check out my favorite Internet sites; try to run; and worry about who knows what (I realize that last one could be interpreted in a number of ways). Many of the people in my life (co-workers, family, and friends) know that I bake everyday, but only a few people have a clue why, and I realize I am not completely sure myself.

What have I baked this week? I made an exquisite freeform Blueberry Tart with a Cornmeal Crust from The Craft of Baking (DeMasco, 2009), Peanut Butter Cup Crunch Brownie Bars from BrownEyedBaker’s blog (amazing), and Serendipity Deluxe Bars from Bakingblonde’s weblog (I brought them to work and earned an employee of the year award within 10 minutes). Right now I have Heartland Turtle Bars in the oven (Baked Explorations, no further citation is needed, I believe). I have plans for lemon bars and PBJ bars for this weekend (and maybe a raspberry tart with golden raspberries from the farmer’s market).

The amazement and questions that I receive when I tell people that I bake every morning (lately at 4:00am, no less) keep me amused. People I know often tell me they NEVER bake anything…no time or talent. How is it possible that you bake everyday? WHY do you do it? Why do I do it? Someone I spoke to yesterday thought it was a concrete task that must engender a sense of accomplishment. Yes. It allows me to be very generous since I share my baking with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Yes. It gives me something I can count on. Yes. It is relaxing. Yes. I am an absolute creature of habit (very few people know that I eat the same thing for lunch everyday—right now it is toast, peanut butter, and banana) and doing something daily is very comforting. Yes. Yes. It adds to my sense of identity. This not only includes letting people know that I am not just a baker, but I am a BAKER. I take my baking very seriously and feel a bit lost when I am unable to bake. On recent trips to NYC and Wisconsin, I felt at loose ends when there were no kitchens available to me at 5am. I had to substitute going to bakeries for baking myself. Yes. And finally, I love being a bit on the fringe. I have always loved describing who I am with labels few people wear with pride. Girl who doesn’t shave her legs or wear a bra? Yup, and was happy to admit it. Feminist when many of my friends were much more concerned with finding a male partner than looking at the politics of marriage in our culture? Yes, again. And now, older mother, going through a major life transition, who has hundreds of cookies and bars in her freezer, yet bakes everyday. Yes, yes, yes.

My daughters love telling their friends that I bake everyday and will often bring the spoils of our freezer to dance classes, teachers, or soccer practices. My oldest daughter has a nightly ritual…”freezer-diving” in which she trolls through our freezer looking for a long-lost treasure and proudly brings it to room temperature with the air of having found a forgotten pair of solid gold earrings. My father and partner shake their heads will slight amusement and tolerance. “Really. There isn’t room for one more cookie in our freezer. Where are we going to put the vegetarian burgers or eggrolls? We barely have room for a carton of ice cream. This is NOT going to work!” Yet every morning when the smell of butter and chocolate slowly seep into our home, the nods of understanding, acceptance, and even anticipation occur.

Is there something else I’d like to be able to say I do every day? Yesterday, my youngest daughter read an article about famine in Somalia. She was horrified (and I think a bit traumatized) by the picture of a young starving girl that accompanied the news story. She must have asked 50 times, “Why did I look at that picture, it was SO horrible?” Then, she began to plan a 7th grade bake sale with profits going to help end hunger in Somalia. She screwed up her courage to develop a way to approach her “scary” 7th grade Social Studies teacher about her plan and left the house triumphantly stating, “Good-bye, Mom. I’m going off to change the world today.” What could I do but cry? Do I change the world everyday? I’d like to think that I do…through my example to my girls, my conversations with people, and the sweetness I bring to others (and myself) through my baking. If everyone baked everyday and shared their creations, how might our world be a different place?

Cranberry-Apple Crisp, Oh My!

November 11, 2009

I have to say, I just love the crisps in Dorie’s book. I was quite pleased to see this recipe as this week’s selection for the TWD baking group. What could be a better autumn fall Sunday night dessert than apple crisp? I followed the recipe fairly closely, but made the following changes: First, I really didn’t envision coconut in the crisp, so increased the oatmeal by 1/2 cup and omitted coconut. Second, I used 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, rather than all white. Third, I mixed the topping in a mixer to maintain the integrity of the oats, rather than using a food processor and lose the great oatmeal texture. And the results were…stupendous! My family was in apple crisp heaven (and continues to be as we eat some of the leftovers for most meals of the day). Thanks, Dorie for a go-to crisp recipe that will be used time and time again.

I have had a very difficult two weeks. A close friend passed away, leaving me with so many questions about life, death, friendship, and family. My friend was courageous; single-minded; determined; and much, much larger than life.

I have loved the fact that she really embodied so many contradictions. She was elegant and able to interact with people of the highest rank or station, yet always reminded people of her humble small town roots. She was constantly discussing her lack of college degree, yet could run circles around people with Ph.D., MD, and JD degrees. She loved nothing more than to call one of her friends with a piece of gossip, yet kept a confidence better than anyone I know. She faced a cancer that was more challenging than I could ever possibly imagine, yet she often told me she counted herself as the luckiest person in the world…too lucky to buy a lottery ticket and cheat others from the opportunity of winning. The world is a grayer, quieter, less optimistic place with her passing. I miss her.

Over the weekend, my family was lucky enough to spend time with her middle child, my 14-year old daughter’s best friend. We spent time watching movies, cooking soup, listening to music AND making the apple crumble that was this week’s recipe. While I am curious to read what the rest of you have written about it, I found the apples to be a bit too sweet. When I make the crumble again, I will add less sugar to the filling (now that’s not something you’ll hear from my mouth too often!). That being said, the crumble, like many apple desserts evokes the feelings of fall, the world beginning its winter hibernation, and feelings that things are coming to an end while they are also beginning. The perfect dessert for my family and friends at this time.

TWD: Chocolate Souffle Dreams

September 8, 2009

I can’t really begin to tell you the amount of excitement I have had about this week’s TWD recipe: Chocolate Souffle.  A large part of my excitement is connected to the fact that for the last 5 years, or so, every January 1 when I have made my resolutions for the year I have stated, “This year I’m going to make a chocolate souffle.” At the end of each of these five years, as I’ve reviewed what I have and have not accomplished, I have had to face the fact that another year had passed and no chocolate souffle had been removed from my oven. I have made cheese souffles and even a couple spinach souffles, but up until yesterday I had never made a dessert souffle.

Some of the other aspirations that have been on my list have included: run 10 miles (done), travel to Australia (not done), bake 10 kinds of new cookies per year (done), get cement work done on the house (done), clean out my office (not done). Having an opportunity to complete a “resolution” that has been on my list for so many years was something that was quite exciting. Unfortunately, thinking about it for so long might have made my expectations too high. I’m not sure what the rest of the TWD bakers found, but my chocolate souffle did not turn out quite like I had hoped. I had my camera poised to take a picture, but the resulting souffle was a bit burnt on top and not attractive at all. I was afraid to open the oven too soon because of Dorie’s warning to not open the oven before the souffle is done. The chocolate flavor was extremely intense, thanks to the Valrhona chocolate I used, but the texture was somewhat dry. I paired my souffle with, of all things, David Lebovitz’s olive oil ice cream. My youngest daughter, who is typically rapturous in her praise of most things I bake, said, “Neither the souffle nor the ice cream would be very good on their own, but together they are quite tasty.” In some ways, I’d have to agree with her. Today, reflecting on what it means to have completed a goal and to feel disappointed with the results, I wonder what my next step should be. Do I keep trying to make a chocolate souffle that meets my expectations? Do I check it off my list and accept the defeat, only to choose something else to aspire to? Do I focus, instead, on perfecting Fallen Chocolate Souffle cakes, one of my favorite chocolate cakes to make? Whatever I decide, I am quite sure there will more chocolate souffles, of one sort or another,  in my future.

I don’t know about you, but I loved playing “Telephone” as a child, sitting around a friend’s party table while eating birthday cake and ice cream. While I laughed hysterically to hear the evolution of a rhyme, piece of gossip, or saying, I think my laughter was greatest because of my secret knowledge of how I “tweaked” what I had heard to help with the metamorphosis of the original message. Did I really mishear my friend when she said, “Laurie is lucky to have so many toys” which I mysteriously translated to “Laurie will always be lucky with the boys”? I remember giving myself permission to dream as I took in sounds in my left ear and shared these newly created words with my friend on the right.

 I realized that food blogging or creating recipes could be very much like this childhood game. Last week, while perusing my 10 favorite food blogs, I came across Zoe Francois’ recent recipe for Blueberry Cobbler with White Peach Ice Cream. The pictures were beautiful and luscious, the story of her July 4th trip to Avon armed with her cobbler was evocative, and yet no matter how much I tried to recreate her recipe exactly, I was inspired to make something else. I realize she took recipes from Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz and allowed those recipes to speak to her. Every element of her story said “Sour Cherry Cobbler with Goat Cheese Ice Cream” to me and no matter how much I tried, the voice in my head repeated those words. So, last weekend, with the sole aim of finding the ingredients for my cobbler, I went to the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market and bought two beautiful quarts of sour cherries and some large sprigs of organic rosemary (more on that later). I continued on to the Mill City Farmer’s Market and unexpectedly bought whole wheat flour from the women at Sunrise Flour Mill and finally, to Whole Foods Market for milk from Cedar Summit Farm and a large log of fresh goat cheese. I was ready.

I hope as you read my creation, you will allow these recipes to speak to you and create your own dessert. Who knows where we’ll end up once we’ve made it all around the table!

 

 Sour Cherry Cobbler adapted from zoebakes.com  who adapted it from Dorie Greenspan. As a TWD baker, I can’t say enough good things about both women’s cookbooks!

 For the filling:

5 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted

5-6 tablespoons sugar (I used 5)

1 3/4 tablespoon cornstarch

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

 

For the topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons salt (I actually thought this was a bit much and I might use a slightly smaller amount next time)

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (again, rosemary spoke to me and it was PERFECT)

6 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, placed in the freezer for 30 minutes

1/2 cup half and half

 

Cherries Ready to be Pitted

Cherries Ready to be Pitted

To prepare the filling, mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, cornstarch, zest, and black pepper. Put them into a ceramic baking dish. Set aside.

 I love Zoe’s technique for creating the topping. Mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder and rosemary. Grate the butter into the flour mixture and rub together until it looks like coarse meal. Add the half-and-half and stir with a fork (she uses a spoon, but I hear something different) until just combined. Try not to overmix. I used a small ice cream scoop and placed 9-10 golf ball sized pieces of biscuit batter over the top of the cherries. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and beautiful. Set it aside to cool as you make the ice cream.

Finished Cobbler

Finished Cobbler

 

Goat Cheese Ice Cream (pretty much taken verbatim from David Lebovitz’s beautiful book, The Perfect Scoop [buy this book if you don’t have it!!!!!])

 1 1/2 cups whole milk

2/3 cup sugar

8 ounces fresh goat cheese

6 large egg yolks

 Warm the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. While the milk is warming, crumble the goat cheese into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Whisk together the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks (I do it 1/4-1/2 cups at a time). Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (about 170-180 degrees). Do not let the mixture boil. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the goat cheese. Keep stirring until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Cool over an ice bath. At this point I allow the mixture to stay over the ice bath until it is cold and then freeze it in my ice cream maker as directed. Scoop over sour cherry cobbler for best results.

The rosemary, cherries and goat cheese are perfect together!

The rosemary, cherries and goat cheese are perfect together!

Think Local!!

June 16, 2009

One of the greatest pleasures of my life is going to the local farmers’ markets. I typically get up very early every Saturday morning (I am NOT a morning person, so this is a big deal) and go to two markets, one on either side of town. When I first moved here, I was introduced to the larger market in Minneapolis. There, one could buy citrus fruits in July and peaches in June…clearly produce that had not originated anywhere close to where it was being sold. While there is something tempting about buying a wide variety of produce, at cheaper prices, from some people who tout themselves as being “farmers,” I have since moved towards the smaller markets that require all sellers grow or create their wares in the area. Last Saturday I purchased locally “grown” Alfalfa honey, gorgeous non-sprayed strawberries, kale, garlic, and spinach. I love the process of thinking what I am going to create with my organic treasures that have been created not too far from my home.

On Sunday morning I found myself in a quandry.  I was getting ready to make ice cream for this week’s TWD challenge. I had purchased 6 large, beautifully fragrant nectarines at my local Whole Food Market late in the day on Saturday. While they were quite hard, I was certain that they would be ripe in time for me to churn them into ice cream. However, by the time I was ready to go, they would still not give to my touch. What to do? I began to worry at the thought of altering the recipe too much. Would it “count” if I used my beautiful, local strawberries in a recipe that said nothing about berries? Was I being too radical in my approach to the ice cream? None of the other TWD bloggers seemed to be considering any other fruits besides peaches, nectarines, or apricots (until yesterday, anyway). I decided to take a risk and move forward with my plans! I would make ice cream that honored the fruits that are grown here, rather than those from thousands of miles away. My risk turned out to be successful. I used a quart of strawberries, heated them with the honey (the local alfalfa honey purchased at the market) and followed Dorie’s recipe, for the most part, from there on out (I confess, I added a half teaspoon of kirsch to keep the ice cream from getting too hard). The results were luscious. The honey and strawberries seem to combine perfectly, with neither out-singing the other. The texture was smooth and creamy and we have enjoyed the ice cream over three days. Often I find that homemade ice cream loses its allure after the first day and I will throw out a previously made batch that has sat in the freezer for several months with no takers, completely covered in ice crystals. Once again, my TWD “baking” has taught me a lesson…trust your intuition and think local!