Wednesday, August 1, 2018

New Dessert/Bread Recipes

One of my 2018 goals is to try six new-to-me dessert or bread recipes. Mission accomplished! In order of increasing complexity:

1. Carrot Cake

I have lost count of the number of times I've repeated this recipe in 2018. Nearly all of the ingredients are pantry staples. Have a leftover carrot or two? Make this! No cream cheese for the frosting? No worries. The cake is tasty on it's own.

This cake is petite (the red dish pictured above measures 5" x 7"). By my appetite, that's four servings per cake--just enough to be worth the effort without so much that it goes stale before you can eat it.

This recipe can be found in America's Test Kitchen's Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook.

2. Molasses Spice Cookies

Don't let the name fool you--these are gingersnaps. I love a crispy store bought gingersnap, but had never tasted a variation of the cookie that was crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. This is a new favorite that I plan on including in my holiday baking traditions.

This recipe can be found in America's Test Kitchen's Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook.

3. Maple Pecan Scone

I tried this recipe at the beginning of the year because I had a bag of pecans left over from holiday baking. The recipe yields four scones. After toasting the pecans, the dough can be assembled in a small food processor, then plunked onto a sheet of parchment, hand shaped, sliced into four wedges and transferred to a cookie sheet (just pick up the piece of parchment and plop it on top of the cookie sheet to keep things simple) to be placed in the oven. The glaze is made of maple syrup, powdered sugar and a splash of water. You'll never open your wallet for a stale Starbucks scone again!

This recipe can be found in America's Test Kitchen's Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook along with cranberry/orange and ginger variations that I look forward to trying in the future.

4. Soft Pretzels

Not my first attempt at homemade soft pretzels, but certainly my first successful attempt. I give all the credit to the recipe, which explained that, once shaped, each pretzel should be dipped in boiling water spiked with baking soda before going into the oven. This extra step makes all the difference.

This recipe can be found on the Pioneer Woman's website.

5. Fig Newtons

I've never tried a Fig Newton, but there's someone special in my life that adores them. When Smitten Kitchen posted her Fig Newton recipe days before this someone special's birthday, I knew I was meant to give this recipe a try. (Trader Joe's will have sticky dried figs you need in just the right quantity.) Piping the fig filling and rolling the dough around that filling was a challenge, but the cookies tasted great in the end.

6. Sticky Buns

Holy hell, this was a labor intensive recipe. First, there are the chopped and toasted pecans. Don't let them burn! Second, there's a yeasted dough that you let rise for two separate 1.5-2 hr periods. Next, there's a from-scratch caramel sauce. (Caramel sauce has gotten less intimidating since I purchased a candy thermometer, but it's still a bit daunting.) Then, there's shaping and slicing the buns. (Pro tip from America's Test Kitchen: use a piece of dental floss to slice the buns and they'll retain a picture perfect swirl.) Finally, there's flipping over a hot pan that contains scalding caramel sauce in order to turn the buns out onto a serving dish. If you make it through, you'll end up with stick buns that would make Cinnabon swoon.

This recipe can be found in America's Test Kitchen's Baking Illustrated.

I'll challenge myself to try six new dessert recipes next year. I love the perceived progress that comes with building up my repertoire of recipes, the novelty of trying new foods and the joy of discovering a new technique that elevates the recipe's results from mediocre to memorable.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Bucilla Christmas Ornament (Airplane Santa)

I just finished making this Christmas ornament, most of the materials for which were included in the kit for the Airplane Santa Bucilla Christmas stocking that I made last winter. Finishing small craft projects like this one gives me a sense of control and progress, feelings that can be hard to come by in other areas of life. The sequins seem a bit cheesy, but I bet I'll like the way they sparkle under the lights on the Christmas tree.

As with the Christmas stocking, the instructions for this ornament call for tagboard to be inserted in the wings and tail fins of the plane to provide structure and dimension. Due to the small size of the ornament, I found that old business cards served perfectly.

Here's a look at the matching stocking:

Bucilla has plenty of cute stocking designs, but I'm partial to this one!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

12 Books in 2018 (Part 1)

I loved reading as a child and young adult. It set me on a path towards a liberal arts major in college and, ultimately, law school. As an attorney, I read hundreds of pages of material every week, but it's not the sort of stuff that sparks the imagination.

So, when I was pulling together a list of goals for 2018, I decided to read 12 books this year just for fun.

To facilitate this, armed with last year's library card and a hand-me-down iPad, I downloaded the Libby app, linked it to my library card number, and unlocked a universe of ebooks. Incredible! I am in love with this tool that makes the library's collection so accessible.

Here are six books that I've read just for fun during the first half of 2018:

  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. There's a lot of pride in the prose. As with most tragedies, I was full of frustration with the major characters. Not a pick me up, but this is literature where the rest of the books on this list verge on something you'd expect to see on Bravo.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The protagonist is not as likable as Eleanor Oliphant, but the plot twist is on par. A decade ago, I would have found it all incredibly far fetched. Now I know better.