Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Year in the Life of a Twenty-something

It's all coming to an end... The year 2012 that is.

The year I signed a lease on my first "grown up" apartment.

The year I went to Asia.

The year I bought and assembled my own bed (after sleeping on a mattress on the floor for 4 months).

I guess I'm sort of growing up, but believe me — I'm fighting it!

In the last year, through blogging about my baking escapades, I've shared quite a bit with you.

...About events and occasions that took place - as commemorated by a baked good.

...About being exhausted when I return home from work - unfortunately noted by lack of baking

...About thoughts that popped into my head and couldn't keep themselves out of my writing.

What I haven't shared are everyday events that neither inspired or required a baked treat or documented story.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Candy Woman Can

...Cuz' she mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.

This time of year, the cold weather and holidays often remind me of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — both movies and the book. Gotta love 'em!

These days, what's my latest adventure? Making candy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cranberry Apple Quick Bread and Chanukah Pastries

A friend's family owns a cranberry bog and gifted my roommate and me a Gallon sized bag full of fresh cranberries. Gracious recipient of gifts that I am, the first thing I said was, "hmm.. I don't really like cranberries."

Nice, right?

Once I composed myself, I realized that whatever my taste preferences have been up until this point, here is an opportunity (much like Operation Candied Ginger) to put my baking skills to another test: Can I bake something that will make me like fresh cranberries?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Grown-up Candied Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

While I’m quite partial to snickerdoodles (or really anything that ends in –doodle), there is something to be said about chocolate chip cookies. So simple and pure, dunked in milk they taste like pure childhood.

However, in my grown-up apartment where I’ve been paying my own bills, buying my own groceries and sleeping on furniture I bought myself, I try to act the part as much as possible. One could make the argument to swap the milk for something a bit… stronger, but I took a different route and made these Candied Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies. 

They’re made with homemade candied ginger and chocolate bits chipped off a bar of Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark chocolate.

How’s that for grown-up chocolate chip cookies? 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ginger vs. Honey: The Tale of the Gingerdoodle

Whenever I go shopping, I tend to shop in themes. By this, I mean if the first item I select happens to be some shade of blue and lacy, there is a high probability that another item in the batch will match that. By the time I wrap up the trip, I’ll have about three blue lace tops that all look rather similar from a distance but are very uniquely different in my eyes… The theme of the day is blue lace.

Similarly, I once thought of baking in themes. I thought of segments in which every day/week/month I would make something that fell within certain guidelines… Maize and Blue Saturdays was a theme throughout last year’s football season. Happy Hour Fridays with alcoholic ingredients once crossed my mind. Baking with “super foods” was another thought.

Clearly, I haven’t been baking in themes much, although occasionally I may bake one or two treats that have similar or complementing elements within the same short period of time. Like my shopping spurts, these occasions aren’t so much carefully planned in advance as they are about my taste or preference of the moment. For example, in the fall, I often like to utilize pumpkin and cinnamon… Who doesn’t?

Over the last few weeks, I found myself making a number of related sweets that fell very much into a theme. So much so, that I began to wonder how I was going to package them all. How I was going to introduce each to you in a way that moved seamlessly.

Then I stopped thinking and started writing. I find it’s much easier and far more therapeutic to pour out my thoughts however cluttered and unpolished they may be and worry about packaging and cleaning it all up later.

Ernest Hemingway captured this concept better than anyone when he said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Operation Candied Ginger

Ginger in and of itself is a strong, malleable and useful ingredient. As a spice, it stands out in cookies or cupcakes. As a healing aid, it settles the unsettled stomach. As a palate cleanser, it complements and clears the taste of sushi. Despite its range of offerings, until recently I would have told you I didn’t care for ginger. I’d add it in powdered form to recipes to complement nutmeg, cloves and other fall spices, but I would never want it to be the main ingredient.

So how did ginger become the central theme to so many treats that have come out of my kitchen lately?

I saw an opportunity to challenge everything I’d once thought about ginger (that it’s sort of gross) and I jumped on it… We’ll call this Operation Candied Ginger. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Bark... and Another One Bites the Dust

It's one of the first lessons you learn in Elementary school, yet somehow life has a way of continuing to constantly remind you: Things don't always work out the way you want them to. Fact of life. Truth universally acknowledged.

It's never for lack of trying and it certainly isn't for lack of optimism (read: idealism). It just happens sometimes despite all our best efforts... You burn something to the bottom of the pan that doesn't come out for a week... You forget to add an ingredient and it ruins the whole batch... Something outside of the kitchen that affects your whole life happens or doesn't happen to make you question everything.

No matter how devastating (or minor), you can't let life get you down. All you have to do is roll with the punches, and when you get knocked down... get back up again. Cue old bad 90s song ;-)

This Halloween, a hurricane whipped through the northeast affecting others much more seriously than it affected me – I stayed home in my pjs for a day, calling in to conference calls and communicating with co-workers via Skype... Despite the extra time, I put off my Halloween baking thinking it would just work out in the end.

Halloween night suddenly arrived and I put my brilliant idea into action. And...

My attempt at Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Bark didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to. The Hershey pumpkin spice kisses melted really awkwardly in my microwave and resisted all attempts of salvation. The Wilton candy melts that I planned to melt into beautiful decorative spider webs and the words "Happy Halloween" responded just as awkwardly to the microwave's melting methods. Rather than melt into a silky consistency, it just sort of globbed into really hot somewhat moldable clay.

However, as Halloween is still my favorite holiday of the year, I refused to let a little thing like melt-resistant chocolate affect my day! I made light of the error, squashed the weird clay-like candy melts on top of the gross orange goo and drew some details on with edible marker (one of those decorative pens that is safe to eat when it's been drawn on food).

Happy Baking and more importantly, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chai Frosting

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Over 20 years later, this famous quote from Ferris Bueller's Day Off still applies. A visit to my Alma Mater for the first time since I graduated reminded me that no matter how fast life seems to be moving, it is ALWAYS important to savor the moments and the people that can stop time. Browned Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chai Frosting are a pretty great treat to savor with your best friends... and that's just what I did with this batch!

Last weekend, in between cheering on the Wolverines for Homecoming and revisiting all of our favorite restaurants and bars, my friends and I made time to dance ridiculously, laugh our heads off and talk about absolutely everything that crossed our thoughts.

This weekend, a bar full of Boston's Michigan fans exploded in cheer at the end of the 4th quarter when Michigan scored the field goal that won us the game against Michigan State for the first time in 4 years! Much like I still can recall that moment of all-encompassing joy I felt last year when we beat Ohio State over Thanksgiving weekend, this is a moment of joy that will stay with me for years to come.

As the years pass, I won't remember the daily occurrences that took place between these two football Saturdays. The things I did at work, the dinners I made, even the desserts I baked would be forgotten (if not for this memory-keeping blog), but I will hold on to those time-stopping moments on either end.

And celebrate them with cupcakes whenever appropriate! ;-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Delight

Depending on who you ask, October represents a number of things. If you ask my dad, October is the month in which we celebrate his birthday... all month... with decorated hats. :)

For me, October is the month in which my favorite holiday takes place and my favorite flavor becomes widely available in fanatic abundance. Naturally, I am referring to Halloween and Pumpkin Spice.

This year, rumors are running high that Starbucks is running low on the infamous and coveted Pumpkin Spice syrup that flavors their Pumpkin Spice Lattes — Fall's most popular flavor. If the unthinkable happens and your local Starbucks runs out of this seasonal favorite (a result of horribly bad planning on their part), you'll have to be prepared to either suffer through withdrawal or make your own Pumpkin Spice Syrup!

To accompany your favorite flavored latte, Hershey makes (white) chocolate Pumpkin Spice Kisses! Each morsel is made up of creamy white chocolate surrounded by spiced chocolate to capture all the best spices of fall — nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves. They're fantastic! I scouted out every CVS, Walgreens and grocery store for weeks before I finally found and bought a couple of bags. They didn't last a week before I worked them into a batch of cookies!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Apple Cinnamon "Tree Hugger" Cupcakes

Often times, I borrow concepts or inspiration from other bloggers.

Often I borrow recipes to adapt or follow exactly (but more often, to adapt).

I look to other bloggers for photography tips, photo composition ideas, or decorating tricks.

I look to other bloggers for writing and design suggestions.

What I very rarely do is rip off ideas/names/recipes verbatim. I don't like taking things that aren't mine and I always look to tweak and Young-Idealistic-Baker-ify the recipes I post and names I assign to the final products I proudly share.

All things aside, when I stumbled upon an apple cinnamon cupcake recipe adapted from a more complex "Tree Hugger Apple" cupcake recipe, I couldn't resist borrowing (is it stealing?) the same name for these really similar adapted cupcakes.

After all, these particular cupcakes are the result of literal tree hugging as I climbed up an apple tree, hugging the trunk to reach the perfect apples.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apple Chips Fresh off the Tree

To celebrate this most glorious season, two girlfriends and I went to a farm to pick apples, eat donuts and ice cream, and act like we were kids again.

My friend put together this awesome photo collage that I couldn't resist sharing. That's me in the middle!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

GO BLUEberry Pie Cookies

Once again, it's my favorite time of the year. The air is getting cooler, apples and pumpkin are in season, my sweaters and boots can escape the depths of my closet and return to prime locations within easy reach, and football season is well underway!

Last year, I made a point to celebrate my alma mater every Saturday they played. I'm sure it hasn't gone unnoticed, but I've been blogging far less frequently as of late. This is not to say I have forgotten my Wolverines or have not been following the games. On the contrary — this year, I've discovered a pair of Michigan bars in the Boston area, both heavy with fans on game day. I watched my boys lose to Alabama and regain confidence and merit in their games against the Army and U Mass. Tonight, we play Notre Dame — remember how incredible that game was last year (when I made Maize and Blue swirled cupcakes to celebrate)? I'm looking forward to a similar battle!

As we move into full blown Fall, I will be baking up plenty of apple and pumpkin treats —two of my favorite flavors. To give Summer its proper send off and celebrate the Michigan Wolverines, I made a treat with fresh berries — Blueberry Pie Cookies!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vegan Dark Chocolate Avocado Brownies

On any given day, I can come up with a number of reasons NOT to bake:
  • I’m tired
  • I’d rather do something else
  • It’s too hot to turn on the oven
  • I’d have to go to the store to buy some ingredient
  • I’d have to stay up late to finish baking
  • I’d have to wake up early to photograph the final result

However, sometimes despite my best efforts, I cannot come up with a reasonable excuse. Sometimes there is a bowlful of very ripe fruit on the verge of going bad if I don’t act immediately. Sometimes I get hit with a craving so strong that nothing else seems as important as quickly satisfying the desire. Sometimes there is half a batch of frosting leftover from another recipe that is begging to be given a new canvas to rest on.

These Vegan Dark Chocolate Avocado Brownies came to life one evening thanks to one very ripe avocado on the counter and half a batch of the Mint and Lime Buttercream Frosting that topped the very delicious and subtly boozy Mojito Cupcakes

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mojito Cupcakes

We've all had our fair share of days that just can't end soon enough. Waiting for weekends that seem impossibly far away. Unsure what will best relax your nerves at the end of the day: a run, a drink, a cupcake or some combination of all three.

These cupcakes pack two of the tried and true stress remedies in a teeny bite-sized package. Perfect!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Coconut Mango Thumbprint Cookies

I know what you are all thinking: "This girl has been home from Asia for over two months and she still hasn't posted any baked goods inspired by the cuisine over there!"

You were all thinking that, weren't you? No matter... I've been thinking I wanted to share something inspired by a flavor I particularly enjoyed in Thailand for quite some time now, but haven't found the time...or exotic ingredients.

These Coconut Mango Thumbprint Cookies capture one of the single best flavors (mango) I encountered in Thailand, but are made with standard enough ingredients that they can be replicated at home, just about anywhere in range of a grocery store.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Call Me "Old Fashioned"

Now and then a moment occurs that is just too perfect for planning. At the very moment I pulled these whiskey-spiked cupcakes out of the oven, Lady Gaga belted, "you taste like whiskey when you kiss me. Oh, I'd do anything again to be your baby doll" on my iTunes. Gotta love it!

These cupcakes were in fact made to commemorate a very manly-themed birthday party my roommate and I threw over the weekend. The theme: Mustache Bash. Remind you of anything?

Last November Movember, I entered a Manly Movember Cupcake Competition with some killer Anchorman-inspired Spiced Squash Cupcakes with Scotch Butterscotch Frosting.

Chocolate Mustaches work out much better in November than in August in a third floor apartment that lacks air conditioning...

These birthday cupcakes needed to be equally manly... and classy... and delicious. Enter the Old Fashioned.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vegan Orange Doodles

Two things:
  1. I'm on a quest to bake the perfect cookie
  2. I've recently discovered that citrus is my achilles heel of baked goods. 

How do I bake so much and still look reasonably fit? I don't bake with citrus as much as I'd like to... Any other flavor, and I can take one piece/cupcake/cookie/whatever and walk away feeling perfectly satisfied, leaving the rest to tempt my friends, family, and coworkers. However, when there is fresh citrus in the batter, I want to eat handfuls of cookies and I greedily hide the leftover cake (no one from work even saw the Clementine Olive Oil Cake from a few months ago).

To kick off my Perfect Cookie Search, I baked an Orange Snickerdoodle Cookie (an Orangedoodle, if you will), adapting a recipe that yielded one of the best cookies I've had. Last summer, when I was just a wee novice baker, I made a batch of Vegan Lemon Lime Cookies, and was so pleasantly surprised to find that I loved them! They were chewy and flavorful, and everything that I want in a cookie. The question I sought to answer regarding these cookies was whether or not they were replicable with other flavors... for instance, orange.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My 100th Post: Let's have Samoa

Some bakers have an incredible gift for making baking intricate desserts seem like no big feat. My favorite bloggers regularly turn out the most beautifully decorated cakes and cookies, and until I started baking and occasionally decorating myself, I never appreciated how incredibly talented these bloggers truly are.

I've tried with some success to create cakes, cupcakes and cookies that are as beautiful as they are tasty.

I think my most stunning treats have been these Up-Scale Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, Michigan Football Gingerbread Cookies and Passover Pavlova.

All three of these desserts were serious labors of love — each of them took at least a full day to create!

While these time-intensive treats were certainly worth the work, I've found that some of the simplest things I've made are the most favored. For instance, this Birthday Cake Bark took less than an hour total, only required 4 ingredients and has been almost as popular as my more intricate goodies.

In the last year I've spent blogging and baking, I've learned something very important — the greatest successes ALL stem from creativity. Beautiful, ugly, simple, or intricate, all of my most popular blog posts are also the ones I consider the most creative and the ones I've enjoyed the most... and I guess you do too!

Today's Samoa Cupcakes came together in a marathon 2.5 hour baking session after work one day this week, and could not have been accomplished without the help of my roommate!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Easy Frosted Banana Cake Bars

For lack of time Because I'm exhausted, I feel like I've got to just cut to the chase with this one. Bananas are great. They make fabulous desserts. These frosted banana cake bars are no exception.

The bars came together quickly and easily thanks to MY SISTER (enough of a shout out for you, girl?)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Uh-Oreo, I've Christened my Kitchen

It's taken an unreasonably long time to assemble this blog post, but the time has come that I share my incredible discovery.... Homemade Oreos are Awesome!

Upon first moving in to our new apartment, before even buying any furniture, my roommate and I had a mission to fulfill. She shared a genius recipe for homemade Oreos, we bought the few additional ingredients I didn't already have from past shopping trips (shortening, eggs, and powdered sugar) and we mutually agreed that freshly baked Oreo cookies would serve as our perfect first roommate "dinner."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mango Swirl Cheesecake!

I have to say: whoever invented the food processor is a GENIUS! The simple machine can chop, puree, blend, cream and mix…. All in one easy-to-clean bowl!

Previously, I’d always assumed you need a hand mixer or if you’re fancy, a stand mixer, to make cakes and cookies and frosting… basically to make anything that involved the direction “cream together butter and sugar.” As it turns out, a food processor will do this just as well!

I said in my last post that no one ever bakes at the Cape Cod house. Instead, someone (or a few someones) brings an abundance of fruit, snacks, store-bought coffee cake and cookies. Often for dinner, we mix up a salad and grill fish and vegetables or steam lobsters or some combination of all of those. The Cape is NOT a place where one goes hungry.

Since the Cape house has never been the place to bake, it’s never been fully equipped with baking tools — no hand or stand mixer, no muffin pan, no cookie sheet, etc. After the gentlemen went to the store for ingredients, I scoped out the kitchen and decided whatever I chose to make would have to be baked in a 9 x 13 baking dish and mixed by hand
…until my eyes fell on the Cuisinart.

I correctly guessed that a tool that could puree would also be able to whip up butter with sugar. Thus the Mango Swirl Cheesecake Bars I’d imagined earlier in the day were able to become a reality.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Berry Wonderful 4th of July!

This year, as I have many years before, I am celebrating America's Independence Day (plus a few days) at my family's house on Cape Cod. This is a great place to spend the 4th of July because from the upstairs porch, we can watch all of the fireworks up and down the beach — last night, we could simultaneously watch 5 different fireworks displays: 2 to the left, 2 to the right, and one smack dab in front of us!

This house seeps my childhood memories out of every pore: eating lobster dinners at the overfilled kitchen table, playing lincoln logs upstairs in the rec room, piling on top of all of my cousins to take a family photo, and so many more. 

One thing I can safely say I've never done in this house though... bake!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Boston Cake Experiment: Sangria!

As I mentioned on Saturday, this past Sunday I participated in a real live baking contest! The Brooklyn Breweries and Food Experiment hosted Boston Cake Experiment took place Sunday evening in the basement of a bar.

About 17 teams designed, baked and served about 200-300 little servings of cake. Entries ranged from sweet to savory and from fairly traditional to downright strange — one cake even involved Spam!

I came up with the idea to make Sangria Cupcakes by adding my own lovingly crafted sangria into the batter and frosting, and "painting" more sangria on top of each cake so they would really soak up the alcohol flavor.

Here's my roommate and I getting ready for the crowd Sunday evening:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Heating up the Kitchen, Cooling down with Sangria

Just last week, my roommate made me aware of a cake competition — for tomorrow!

I've since played around online with recipes, debated over whether or not I have what it takes to design and bake nearly 300 servings of a cake in about a day and a half — all the allotted time I'd have considering my full-time job during the week, and made the somewhat rash decision to go ahead and enter.

I decided that I wanted to make Mini Sangria Cupcakes because they sounded like they would be boozy, fruity and delicious and because I couldn't find anything quite like what I was envisioning on the Internet – at least not that I could find during my frantic searches each evening.

Fresh idea = Fresh start!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

80 Years of Chocolate Chips

To celebrate my grandma's 80th birthday (Happy Birthday Grandma!), the whole family is gathered in Philadelphia for a party.

Unable to show up empty handed (duh!), I brought something that would grab even the most calorie-conscious of my family's attention — the secret, irresistible ingredient for this family? Chocolate chips!

Most years, for as long as I can remember we've celebrated my dad's and my grandma's birthdays with Chocolate Chip Cake, using a recipe that's withstood the test of time. It's a recipe that — believe it or not — I've never attempted. My brave mom made it years ago for my dad's birthday, only to be informed that "his mom makes it better."

Don't kid yourself into thinking, I'm intimidated by the famous chocolate chip cake — quite the opposite. I didn't have the recipe and knew someone else in the family would be showing up with cake. Instead, I brought in some somewhat healthy chocolate chip scones and traded the batch for the chocolate chip cake recipe and a handful of others. Next year, maybe I'll spruce up the cake with some Young Idealistic Baker decor!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Back and Baking!

After climbing the Great Wall of China
Yes, this Young Idealistic Baker has returned from a long hiatus… much longer than intended. My apologies.

Since my last post in early May, I have traveled to 5 very new and exciting countries, packed up all my belongings to move yet again to a new apartment — this time for a full year — and then proceeded to move loads and loads of heavy things up two flights of stairs to make this apartment a place to call home.

Somewhere between battling jet lag, returning to my fast-paced work environment and moving to my new home, I did find time to bake… once. Twice if you count the first failed attempt… but I don’t.

Last weekend, as I was first beginning to move things into my new digs, I thought it would be fun to make a batch of treats so my new roommate and I would have something to reward ourselves with after carrying all our belongings up so many stairs.

However, after a week of work, I was too tired to bake. After a day of moving things, I was too tired to bake. Anxious to avoid starting a trend, I set out to bake some mini muffins last Sunday, and man was that a good idea!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Travel Aid Truffles... Thin Minty Fresh

Bright and early tomorrow morning, I'll be jetting off to the exotic eastern world — rapidly touring parts of China, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand over the next two weeks.

In fact, I should probably finish packing instead of watching Modern Family while writing this blog.... at least I thrive under pressure, and will almost definitely finish packing before it technically becomes tomorrow.

To kick off my travels and tide over my co-workers, I made an incredibly simple batch of Thin Mint Oreo Truffles.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Baby's First Cupcakes

It's with great pleasure that I share this news with you...

We're having a baby!!!

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, the baby is not mine — there will be no buns in this oven for quite a while.

My boss is about 6 months pregnant, so when I say "Were having a baby," I'm referring to everyone in the office (myself included) who is expecting partial-owenership of Baby Boy Jackson once he arrives this summer.

Friday night, we all threw a company baby shower complete with games, dinner, and plenty of Young Idealistic Baker treats!

Here's the future mama with her cupcakes:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Roasted Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

Today, I'm feeling very nostalgic because in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan class of 2012 is gathered in the Big House to graduate. I have many friends there right now, and am thinking of many more who were with me this time last year.

Here are my roommates and me on the football field this time last year:

Still, in the midst of all the nostalgia and Wolverine Pride, I can't help but keep baking and innovating.

These latest cupcakes are strange and unusual, somehow simultaneously sweet and savory. Filled with roasted strawberry puree, freshly chopped basil, and balsamic vinegar, the flavors hint at a crisp summery salad as much as a sweet dessert.

These Roasted Strawberry Basil Cupcakes are topped with a Balsamic Swiss Meringue Buttercream and will definitely tease the senses. More than one co-worker expressed the same sentiment: "I can't tell if I'm eating a cupcake or a salad," and every single taster enjoyed my weird creation.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vegan Blueberry Almond Muffins

Easy, peasy, and vegan!

In the midst of a few complex and almost complicated creations (don't worry, those posts are coming soon!), I took a "baking breather" to whip up some incredibly simple and delicious Vegan Blueberry Almond Muffins. The prep time took no more than 10 minutes, and the last of the batch lasted nearly THREE DAYS (because I stashed a few).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Kissed by Hot Chocolate Cookies

The other night, struck by a chocolate craving, I decided to try out a recipe I'd found for Hot Chocolate Cookies topped with more chocolate and a marshmallow!

Fresh out of the oven or three seconds in the microwave, these chocolate-packed cookies form the perfect "hot chocolate" base for the melty marshmallow and dark chocolate kiss they're each topped with. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Berry Delicious Mug Cake

Did your show go to a commercial? Excellent!

Dash into the kitchen, whip up this Raspberry Mug Cake, and sit back down before the show starts up again. Seriously. Move, move, move!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Passover Pavlova

It's rare that I have an occasion to bake a cake, so when the opportunity presents itself (as it did this past Friday night for a family Passover seder) I don't let a little thing like a no-flour rule stop me from making a beautiful cake for my family!

For those unfamiliar, Jews don't eat anything with leavening for eight day to commemorate our ancestors' escape from slavery in Egypt — when they fled, there was no time for their bread to rise, so they ate flat unleavened bread, which today translates to Matzoh.

These specific rules mean something very important to Jewish bakers: No cake, no cupcakes, no cookies, no anything that calls for flour.

Luckily, there is a very beautiful dessert made of egg whites and sugar that is kosher for Passover — Pavlova.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Up-Scale Snickerdoodles

What happens when you come across a recipe of such brilliance that you can't bring yourself to change it, with the exception of only the most minute irrelevant details? Do you copy it verbatim and send praise and thanks to the creator? Do you make minor edits to the recipe and call it an "adapted?"

How do you take something great, and make it your own?

At the end of last week, one co-worker requested some muffins or cupcakes and another requested cinnamon cookies, more specifically the Cinnamon Roll Hamantashen I brought in a few weeks back. Challenge would have been accepted, had I not already discovered the solution at How Sweet Eats.

Snickerdoodle Cookie Cupcakes: Half cookie, half cupcake... Genius!

Since neither the idea, nor cupcake recipe were my own, I had to find another way to Young Idealistic Baker-ize them.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Crispy Snickerdoodle Cookies

I'm not going to give a big lead in to these cookies. Instead, I'll just say that these babies are small, crisp, and packed with cinnamon sugar and they are just one half of an incredibly brilliant creation (if I do say so myself). I recommend making these cookies now, so that you're prepared!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Birthday Cake Chocolate Bark — Art in Three Steps

To me, baking represents so much more than the creation of desserts.

When I'm methodically mixing together ingredients, baking is therapy — a means of moving past any negative or stressful experiences the day may bring.

When I'm developing a recipe, baking is science — a precise mixture of ingredients that yield a specific result.

When I'm trying my hardest to make my creations and photographs look as great as my blogger idols', baking is art.

Whatever you want to call it, baking always begins the same way: With a blank canvas and an idea.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sweet Day for Some Sweet Potato Pancakes

I haven't baked or blogged in over a week and that's only half of what's been going on.

After about 6 weeks of living in a scuzzy apartment with two grimy BC grads, I decided I couldn't take it another day, and I moved out of their frat pad and back into my Aunt and Uncle's wonderfully clean and cared for home. Today I woke up in my cousin's old bedroom feeling more refreshed and content that I have in weeks.

I've spent my day so far watching Project Runway and Mama Mia, while casually whipping up and consuming a batch of Sweet Potato Pancakes. As I'm writing, Dirty Dancing is just starting on TV and I can't even begin to express how wonderful I feel!

In a nutshell, I've traded this:

For this:


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Double Oreo Birthday Cupcakes

Happy (Belated) 100th Birthday to Milk's favorite cookie!

You heard right — Oreos have been bringing joy to people for 100 years!

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get my hands on a bag of the celebration Birthday Cake Oreos that Nabisco released to celebrate the centennial because my city-life grocery shopping is limited to corner grocery stores and Whole Foods. Lucky for me, one of my co-workers brought a bag in last week while half of the office was out of town at an event.... so no one was around to stop me from bringing them home!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hamantashen for Purim!

Last week for Purim, I baked up a small batch of Hamantashen, those traditional triangle cookies usually filled with jam. I swayed a bit from the tradition as usual, and turned half of my cookies into Cinnamon Roll Hamantashen... and they were superb!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Grab and Go Oatmeal

Lately, I've had a hard time getting food in my mouth before running out the door.

Does that ever happen to you?

I find that if I have something ready made or something that requires absolutely no prep time, like yogurt, I'll eat breakfast as I'm getting dressed and be fine with it. Things that require even the most minimal effort, like oatmeal with its measurements AND microwaving time? Fuggedaboudit.

These BAKED oatmeal muffins stepped up and saved me this week! I made a batch of six Sunday night, and have been grabbing one every morning on my way out the door, eating it either cold or zapped in the microwave for no more than 30 seconds.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Corona and Lime Blondies

Some things just mesh well together: Peanut Butter and Jelly, Chips and Dip, Corona and Lime.

When I found a recipe a while back for Corona Blondies, I knew I had to adapt it to incorporate lime. The bars came together in no time at all, and I brought them to a group of people who mesh together even better than the flavors — some of my best friends and old roommates!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

White Tea Lemon Shortbread Teabag Cookies

I didn't come up with the idea to create teabag-shaped cookies — saw some once on Pinterest and had to replicate them, naturally adding my own Young Idealisic Baker cupcake tags and recipe twist!  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins for Rebels!

So, I’ve broken a few baking/blogging rules with these Pumpkin Muffins.
  1. Peak pumpkin time is October – November. It’s February, and yet I made Pumpkin Muffins 
  2. I made 2 batches of plain old pumpkin muffins within two days… just ‘cuz 
  3. I adapted a famous baker’s brilliant recipe to fit my own preferences 

If I were a stickler for rules, I might actually be upset. However, I’ll be among the first to tell you: “Rules were made to be broken!”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chopsticks + Chocolate + Cherries = Perfect Valentine's Day Cupcakes!

How romantic is Valentine's Day? Really? In my 22 years, I've only had one Valentine's Day that actually contained any romance. Most years, it's about the chocolate. This year, my friend and I planned a fun evening of Chocolate Cupcakes and Thai food!

I mentioned in my last post that the Cherry Whipped Cream Recipe yielded WAY more than I needed for 14 cupcakes, so I bagged up the leftovers, scoured for new recipes, and brought my ideas and ziplock bag full of whipped cream to my friend's apartment last Tuesday after work. The plan was to order in Thai food, watch the New Girl on TV, and nosh on "baked" goods. Happy Valentine's Day to us!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cherry Coke Cupcakes for Pop Stars (and all my single ladies)

When I showed up in Michigan for freshman orientation, I realized I was going to spend the next four years in a constant debate of "soda" vs. "pop." Midwesterners tend to say "pop," but pretty much everyone else in the country says "soda," with the exception of a few southerners who refer to all carbonated beverages as "coke."

For today, and today only, I'm saying "pop" instead of "soda." This is because I want to dedicate these pop cupcakes to some diva-licious ladies, including the recently deceased Queen of Pop Whitney Houston.

I will always love you...

I started thinking of these Cherry Coke Cupcakes for Valentine's Day to dedicate to all my single ladies (Beyonce style), but then I realized that would leave out some of my favorite ladies. Instead, these pop cupcakes are dedicated to my favorite female pop icons AND all my single ladies (or any attached ladies who need a Valentine's Day pick-me-up).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Red Velvet Super Bowl Cupcakes, Final Part: Just Beet It

Red Velvet Cake has always struck me as something of a science project, and creating the recipe for these Beet Red Velvet Cupcakes brought me right back to high school chem.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Red Velvet Super Bowl Cupcakes, Part 2: The Best Red Velvet Cupcakes

I've made red velvet cupcakes from scratch twice before, and both times I was unsatisfied. When I made these Blue Velvet swirled with Colored White Cupcakes for a Michigan football Saturday, I used Cake Man Raven's recipe because it received first place during another blogger's extensive EIGHT-cake taste-off, and was wildly disappointed. I found the little cakes lacked cocoa flavor and tasted too strongly of oil, which was why I purposely neglected to accompany the post with the recipe. (Mind you, another blogger left a comment that the recipe didn't work well for cupcakes, but still — oil in a recipe should not affect the taste so negatively)

The first time I made red velvet cupcakes, years before I started this blog, I used Paula Deen's recipe, thinking it would be a guaranteed hit. Sadly, the only thing I really enjoyed about those cupcakes was the frosting, and even back then I had the good sense to alter it and make it my own — I've since perfected the recipe and can safely say this cream cheese frosting is the BEST frosting! ( my opinion)

After countless (4) hours of researching red velvet cupcakes, I decided I still wasn't totally enthralled with any of the "ultimate" or "famous" recipes I found online, with the exception of one. This one used butter as a fat, the same "make a paste with the cocoa and food coloring" technique that I liked when I made these phenomenal Red Velvet Brownies over the holidays, and claimed to be a near-perfect replica of the famous Magnolia's Bakery Red Velvet Cupcake, a.k.a. a top 5 cupcake in my book.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Red Velvet Super Bowl Cupcakes, Part 1: The Challenge

Last year for the Super Bowl, I tried my hand at decorated cupcakes for the first time EVER and wound up with these little beauties:

Fun to make and fun to eat! A few friends of mine even pitched in to help decorate. Can you tell which team I was rooting for?

This year, I decided to make Red Velvet Cupcakes topped with Cream Cheese Frosting and some Blue and Silver Sprinkles... The color scheme is the decoration — works for both teams!

Better yet, I turned these cupcakes into a competition. TWO recipes, TWO dozen red velvet cupcakes, and ONE Young Idealistic Baker original recipe.

This year, Cupcake Bowl > Super Bowl.

Those of you that are Puppy Bowl fans can decide where that fits into the equation.

Today and tomorrow, I'll have plentiful taste testers conduct blind tastes of both cupcakes and then I'll announce the winner and recipes in another post.

I'm rooting for my recipe (duh!) and the Patriots today!! Lets go Team(s)!

Happy Super Bowl Day!!