Sunday, April 1, 2012

All I need is an apron and a rolling pin...

I love to bake. It's one of my favorite things to do. Baking is a soothing and satisfying activity. It's creative and delicious. I've been baking forever. I got the baking bug from my parents. They both are excellent bakers and always involved my brother and I if we wanted (Scott makes a wicked pumpkin pie). We even bake Christmas cookies together every year.

We call him the Belushi Snowman. He looks like a Blues Brother.

For the last 5 or so years, my co-workers have been the main beneficiaries of my baking. Every new recipe and experiment has made its way into the office. When I was in the DC office, my co-workers seemed surprised that someone would take the time to make something from scratch and bring it in for them. While I would love to tell each and every one of them that I baked for them because I'm a nice person, I would be lying. The truth is that I am a nice person BUT I really like guinea pigs. Most of the recipes I made for them were new so it was sort of like having a test kitchen of people who had no idea they were the testers.

This group tried my first batch of homemade marshmallows and graham crackers. Of course I brought in chocolate too and we had a S'Mores making party in the kitchen. A microwave is no substitute for a campfire but it works in a pinch. Homemade marshmallows are the greatest things ever in the world to make. It's like whipping up a bowl of happiness. If you've never made marshmallows, I hope you'll go out, buy a stand mixer, and make a batch. They're delicious. And magical. Homemade marshmallows are the only way to combat a Lou Reed gloom. If you've ever experienced a Lou Reed gloom you know what I'm talking about. Trust me, marshmallows make it all better.

I've made countless banana breads (my dad's recipe), chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin cookies, and Fruity Pebble treat marshmallow squares (like Rice Krispie treats but with Fruity Pebbles). People tend to like the simpler things which I appreciate.

Fruity Pebble Christmas tree 

Since moving to California I've done a lot less baking. I used to just bake because the mood struck me or it sounded like a good idea. Or I was very stressed; baking is stress relief. I'm not really sure why it is that I don't bake as much anymore. (I have a theory that it's all the food judgement and weirdness that exists out here but that's just a theory.) Now I bake for occasions, primarily holidays. I've made Mardi Gras cookies and king cake; Groundhog Day cookies (oh yes); pumpkin cookies for Halloween and Thanksgiving (these are like crack-I could make 10 dozen and it wouldn't be enough and there are only 6 of us in the office).

They're wearing scarves and ties.

Today I made pop tarts. This is one of my new favorite recipes (thanks Food Network Magazine). I've done grape and strawberry with vanilla frosting but today a new combination: Nutella and raspberry frosting. Everyone loves Nutella and raspberry just sounds like it will go well with it. I'm not making these for any reason other than that I want to. Hopefully, my co-workers will enjoy these little treats (homemade  pop tarts taste less like a pop tart and more like a little pie).

Aren't they pretty?

With Easter in just a few days what I really want to make is a bunny cake. You make two round, single layer lemon cakes. One cake is the face and the other you cut into ears (and a bow tie if you do it right). Frost the cake and use jelly beans and licorice to make the face. The recipe is from my mom; she used to make it when we were kids (lemon pound cake is so good). I have absolutely no reason to make a bunny cake except that it will be fun and lemony and delicious. Maybe I could freeze it for some future need. I can't think of a reason I would need a bunny cake at some other time other than Easter but I might be able to come up with one before Sunday.

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