December 02, 2010

So you think you can bake?

Yes... I think so...Maybe... Well, I used to be able to.
Hmmmm.  Good question.

When I was younger, I used to bake all the time.  My favorite go-to recipe was chocolate chip cookies, found in my mother's Second Helpings Please cookbook.  I can still remember the recipe.  2/3 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, 3 cups flour, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla.... I used to whip up a batch of cookies without a second thought.  And if ever I was feeling too lazy to spoon out the dough, they became chocolate chip bars.

During university, I got more adventurous.  I used to watch cooking shows on Saturday morning on PBS (no cable, pre-Food Network) to get inspired, and then spend the rest of the day trying a new recipe.  Being a student with a very low income, I would buy only one kitchen gadget at a time, and it was a big deal.  I can still remember the excitement when I bought my pastry cutter and no longer had to use two forks to combine the butter and flour.  Because I was studying to be a dietitian, I was enrolled in food science courses, one of which included a cooking lab.  We experimented with the chemistry behind baking by purposely making mistakes and seeing the results.  Do your muffins have too many tunnels? Are the tops peaked too high?  There's a reason for that!  Over-stirring, under-stirring, too much baking powder, not get the picture.

Fast forward to me being a busy working girl, and baking seems to have fallen off my resume.  It was a combination of not having the time, not having the mouths to feed (I certainly don't want to eat a cake all by myself), and losing the passion.  I love to cook, even if I don't do it often, but baking is a whole different  phenomenon.  When you bake, you actually have to follow recipes.  Don't get me wrong, I love reading recipes and cook books but I use them for inspiration, not as instructions.  I can't remember the last time I actually measured something that I was cooking.

And so, my adventures in baking have recommenced.  I purchased some new baking books on cupcakes, cookies and whoopie pies.  I bought liners, wrappers, sprinkles, food dye and decorating tips.  Armed with my new baking accessories, I was ready to rediscover the joys of baking.  I was excited.  And this is only the beginning....

It all starts with my fabulous KitchenAid mixmaster.

These are would-be whoopie pies.  They weren't successful because it turns out you can't just use cake batter in a whoopie pie pan.  The result is way too soft and delicate to make sandwiches out of.  But they were delicious eaten like a muffin top!


I learnt a very useful tip from one of my fellow food bloggers.  If you add some raspberry jam to vanilla icing, not only does it add raspberry flavor, but it turns the color pink.  I like this way better than food dye.  

I also learnt that the easiest way to ice mini cupcakes is by heating the icing and dipping the cupcake upside down into it.  This technique results in a smooth, even, glossy coating.  

On Thanksgiving, we made gingerbread men.  Little hands are very helpful, especially when they are stirring the cookie dough and not just eating it.  

 Gingerbread army men, lined up and reporting for duty, Sir!  
(They were made by little boys after all)

Most of the icing went straight into their mouths, but we managed to decorate too  :)

Thanks to a fabulous book, What's New Cupcake, we learnt how to turn our cupcakes into little green monsters.  All you need are some gummy candy rings, gumdrops and a little imagination.  

We also made rubber duckies.  The head is made from a donut hole, the tail is a marshmallow cut on the diagonal and the eyes are M&Ms.  Cute, eh?

   If this isn't incentive to keep on baking, I don't know what is.
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  1. How fun! I like the idea of mixing raspberry jam into icing. That's brilliant! Your gingerbread men and decorated cupcakes are so adorable!!

  2. What adorable cupcakes. I love the way they are decorated and now know the secret to icing them. The little rubber duckies are so cute. Keep cup-caking.