A Year (ish) in Baking

The last several months have been filled with baking firsts for me, and I figure that the easiest way to get through it all would be an abridged over-view of the things I happened to take photos of in the last 8 months I mean. . . the accomplishments of the last (almost) year. There will be a similar post in the near future chronicling my exploits in yarn. And I guess I should talk about music at some point too.

Maybe this blog should have been called My Life in Food and Yarn (and Music)

_____________________________________________________________

I’ll go chronologically, since that’s pretty much the easiest way to go.

First, and most spectacularly, is my first attempt at a decorated fondant cake. A friend of mine is a huge fan of Invader Zim (see Wikipedia on Invader Zim if you don’t already know what that is. . .). And another friend of mine saw this cake on the lovely Internets:

And so I just had to make it. . . Which resulted in:
 Finished product!
Piggy!
Partially eaten cake (revealing the crazy innards of GIR’s ‘brain’)
And I also, of course had to elaborate on the original idea. As you can see above, I baked candy (and nuts and bolts, that had been properly sterilized first of course) into the cake of GIR’s head, to simulate the junk used to create him originally (my lovely boyfriend’s idea). Not only did this make the cake a sugar shock special, it was also an asshole to bake (which I will expand upon when I do a post solely devoted to this cake). And GIR’s body was made in red velvet cake, because, why not make something that’s really complicated even more complicated?
Other firsts in the last year include:
  • My first sweet potato pie. Okay, pies. I don’t do things by halves.

  • My first pecan pie. The recipe for which is actually my boyfriend’s mom’s (who happens to have been a chef and restauranteur at various points in her career). I’m not a fan of pecans myself, but it’s one of the boyfriend’s favourites. . .

  • My first totally made up recipe! I generally use other people’s, thinking that if they’ve gone to all the trouble of testing things out, why should I repeat that (very) hard work?? I generally always fiddle with recipes to make them more to my liking. But these apple pies mark the first time I’ve ever said to myself “How hard could this be?” And guess what – it wasn’t all that hard. And they were damn tasty pies, if I do say so myself. I of course forgot to write anything down. But if it wasn’t so hard the last time, how hard could subsequent attempts really be?

  • In all the years I’ve been baking, I have never encountered a double yolk egg. Imagine my surprise when, making a regular batch of chocolate chip cookies, I break one egg to find a double yolker – holy crap! – and then I break the second egg and find that it too is a double?? That was an interesting day. And I have the heightened cholesterol scores to prove it.
In addition to the good days of successful first tries and the attendant adrenalin rush, there are also days where nothing goes right, I feel really crappy, my friends and family have crazy shit going on in their lives, or I feel like a chicken running around with its head cut off. And on those days, I cook and bake the blues away (and share the bounty with those near enough to partake in it). Baking is essentially a comfort food for me. I don’t need to eat what I make, thought it does help a lot to share the spoils. I just need the act of baking, and the worst times just fade to the background.
This particular day, I felt pretty sick and woozy – I have some allergies, one of which is to perfume, and the day before I had gone to the bathroom at work to find that someone before me had decided to reapply her perfume. Using the whole bottle. When the vent fans weren’t working. And didn’t even bother to try and prop open the door.
It was not good. 
So I made some chicken noodle soup, and Toblerone shortbread cookies (which should not be allowed since they are basically crack). I don’t remember much of that day, but I remember the soup was awesome.
Sometimes things don’t always work out too well. . .

I was house-sitting for a friend, and they have a convection oven (!!!). But this was not the most successful batch of chocolate chip cookies. They were still perfectly tasty, but the regular way of making this recipe did not work in the new context. But I have ideas for the next time I might get to use that oven. . .

There are Christmas cookies and all that seasonal baking. From mid-November to late-December, I am a baking fiend. Every night I go to bed with stiff stiff legs from standing all day baking, and running to the grocery store for some last minute/forgotten item. And on top of the baking I do for my own family, I still find time to help others with their holiday baking.

Tourtieres, that I make for a friend of the family
 
Traditional English Christmas cake (my grandmother’s recipe)

I also bake a stupid number of Christmas cookies. You’ll have to wait, Dear Internet, until the next holiday season for pictures, unfortunately. But I usually bake gingerbread, two or three kinds of shortbread (ginger shortbread, as well as traditional at the very least), rugalach, spitzbuben, huzar’s love, mincemeat tarts, (with my own mincemeat recipe), and loz (an almond sweet meat that is a perfect pain in the ass to make, but is very tasty), among others. I also occasionally make truffles. And I’m hopefully going to have time to make rum balls this year (I’ve been researching different recipes for a couple of years now).

I also like to play up my friends’ food preferences. One such person has a love of Toblerone. So I made Toblerone ganache tarts. Who wouldn’t?:

And there’s always leftovers. . . How tragic
I also like playing with gum paste to see what can (and can’t. . .) be done with it. For my boyfriend’s last birthday, a bunch of us devised a Futurama theme (you can go look it up yourself if you seriously don’t know what that is) for the party. And I made little figurines to go with the cake that one of his best friends made.
The gang. There were going to be more. . . but I gave up. This was much harder than I thought it would be. Leela especially was a complete disaster
 
I’m pretty impressed with how Zoidberg turned out though
On my bi-monthly perusal of ThinkGeek, I found these cookie cutters:
Science!

Which I just had to get for Father’s Day (my dad’s an enormous nerd – in fact, he started out his career as a rocket scientist). And so, I made these cookies this passed Saturday:
I bake. . . with SCIENCE
Science is awesome from every angle!

And the damn piping machine (that belonged to my grandmother) was totally impossible to use. So some lines are more artistically squiggly than I would prefer. But I have to give credit where credit is due – the sugar cookie recipe that comes with these cutters turned out to be quite good. And surprisingly, not too sweet (??) either. I don’t generally like sugar cookie dough – it can be a total bastard – but this one was nicer to work with than usual. 

So there are my exploits from the last bunch of months. At least, the ones I recorded for posterity. . .
I think that’s more than enough to be getting on with, don’t you? But how could I forget?? There are lemon tartlets and rosemary-parmesan mini madeleines coming up this week! And a birthday treat for a friend. Though I still have to decide what that will actually be. . . I have time. Ish. 
And on one final note, raspberries are the best food. Even these mutant monsters from California still evoke for me the tart sweetness of fresh local berries, and remind me of the heart of summer for me.
even if they have more size and uniformity than flavour. . .
Happy Summer, Dear Internet!
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