Thursday, September 1, 2011

on a totally unrelated but important note

On September 17, I will be participating in the Hemophilia Walk again in honor of my friend's son, Jeff, who died from complications related to hemophilia. Hemophilia patients can be faced with enormous medical bills that insurance will not cover, in addition to the cost of many trips to the doctor and the toll the stress takes on the patient and his/her family. The Western PA Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation provides DIRECT assistance to hemophilia patients and their families. Donations to this organization make a direct impact on people in need, in addition to also supporting research and raising awareness. My friend was a recipient of the support and services of this organization and now works diligently to provide that support to others in Jeff's memory.

If you would like to sponsor me, you can access the fundraising website here. When you make an online donation you will automatically receive an e-tax receipt from the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of NHF. You can also search for me under the team name, Jeff's Journey.

I appreciate any support you are able to give.

P.S. For additional information about the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of NHF and the National Hemophilia Foundation or this year’s Hemophilia Walk, please visit

Monday, August 29, 2011

just a bite!

One of my favorite snacks from childhood was a soft pretzel. We often had them in the freezer for a treat and we could pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds, drown it in salt, and enjoy. Last year I wondered if I could easily make soft pretzels myself, and I found this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod. This weekend I decided I needed a relatively low calorie, salty snack with a side of nostalgia. So, while it's a stretch for a typical baked goods blog, they are technically a baked treat and are delicious, which seems qualified enough for me.

By the way, these are really easy to make. It would also be easy to spruce up with different flavors, and I could also see kids making shapes with the dough to make their own pretzels. (Maybe that's because next time I want to make shapes myself...)

First you get the yeast started with some brown sugar, butter, and water.

Add in the other ingredients after it's had time to activate, and use the dough hook to mix it around.

Eventually the dough will start to pull away from the side of the bowl.

Put it in an oiled bowl in a warm place and let it sit for an hour. It will go from this:

To this:

Chop the dough into 8 pieces, and roll into logs.

Cut into one inch bites.

Then prep your baking soda solution by boiling some water and adding a whole bunch of baking soda.

It will foam like crazy when you add it in.

Get your bites ready, dunk for 30 seconds, and fish them out.

Prepare the egg wash and place the little wet bites on a sheet tray to go in the oven.

Salt generously!

After about 10 minutes (in our HOT oven), you get these delightful snacks, which are warm, golden brown, and hard to resist.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

vanilla bean cream cheese cupcakes

Though I often like to try an adventurous cupcake recipe, sometimes simplicity is the way to go. My friend Jess had a birthday recently and requested vanilla cake with vanilla bean frosting. I ended up making cream cheese frosting, which was an interesting combination with my classic white cake recipe. (Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook.)

(I like this method of ingredient shots better; once everything is prepped it's much easier to get the recipe done with minimal mess. Though I'm pretty brand loyal to the ingredients I bake with, so if you ever want to know what brand/type of ingredient I use, just ask!)

This next shot is a good visual of how the bowl looks when being scraped by a beater blade. It's a Kitchen Aid mixer blade fitted with rubber scrapers that keeps the bowl scraped down as it moves around. My classic blade that comes with the mixer started chipping (!!!), so I had to throw it out lest I get paint pieces in someone's birthday treat. Thank goodness Amber and Anthony had given me a beater blade years ago for my birthday! It's now my trusty blade for most everything!

Cupcakes in the oven? Time for the frosting!

Not-so-secret special ingredient? Vanilla bean. Terrible shot, but using vanilla beans is easy. Cut down the middle with a paring knife, open the bean and scrape the seeds out.

The recipe I use for cream cheese frosting is rich. A little goes a long way, so I don't pipe it on cupcakes in piles. However those who believe that cake is merely a delivery method for icing would probably beg to differ.

Since these were for Jess' birthday, they needed something a little extra. A party on top.