Archive | September, 2010

Baking is a Science

28 Sep

Everyone knows baking is more exact than cooking, which means you must follow the recipe exactly.  One small misstep could be a disaster.

True confession – I don’t really believe this.  Or, at least I didn’t until Saturday.

See, I’ve been baking for years.  And sometimes, I don’t let the butter come to room temperature (what?!).  Sometimes, I don’t beat for a full 5 minutes (no?!).  Sometimes, I add the dry ingredients all at once (crazy?!).  The key, I realized, is that I still add the ingredients in the proper order (aha!).

On Saturday, I failed at the ingredient order.  Somehow I forgot to add the sugar.  I know, a pretty key ingredient for a batch of cupcakes.  Luckily, I tasted the batter (something I always do, and thankfully so!) and realized it didn’t taste quite right.  So I went a head and just added the sugar.  It couldn’t make that much of a difference, right?  Wrong.

These misstep cupcakes were much more dense (see picture to the right) than my normal vanilla cupcakes.  And, oddly enough, pulled away from the cupcake liners.  So, I moved on to round two, which I am happy to report came out perfectly (these went out for delivery, so I didn’t get a picture of the delicate, light cupcake).

Moral of the story, baking is a science.  Order does matter.  And even the Kristina’s Confections kitchen has a baking disaster now and then!

Christmas in April

27 Sep

I am a huge proponent of community service (as I hope everyone is!) and have done various projects over the years, from tutoring to visiting nursing homes to building houses.  I get it rightfully so.  My mom has volunteered for everything from cooking for the homeless to crocheting blankets for ill children.

For nearly a decade, Mom also has been involved with Christmas in April * Prince George’s County.  As you can imagine, the financial need of non-profits is highest during a recession.  Unfortunately, a recession means donations are down… considerably.

This was the very topic during a recent discussion my mom had with a Christmas in April staff member.  Luckily, my mom thought I could help out in my own way.  She offered a Kristina’s Confections basket for the upcoming Christmas in April fundraiser – a golf tournament and silent auction.  I was more than happy to donate a basket for such an amazing cause.

For the basket, I had to do some personalized sugar cookies.  Houses were a given.

Don’t you just want to live in one of these?  I like to think these are happy little cottages.

I added a couple dozen Grandma’s Cookies, for good measure.

And voila, the basket was complete!  (Sorry, not the best picture.  It was late.  Trust me, it looked nice and full.)

The Christmas in April fundraiser takes place today.  I hope it is a resounding success… and that my little basket does it’s little part.

And to you friends, I encourage you to donate – however, you can, big or small – to your favorite charity.  There is always a need, but I promise you the need is so much greater right now.  Every bit helps!

Celebrating Emily… and Salter!

23 Sep

My friend Ann hosted a baby shower this weekend for her lovely cousin, Emily, who is expecting John Salter at the end of October.

There wasn’t exactly a theme for the shower, but, if you know Emily, you know “beachy preppy” pretty much embodies every fiber of who she is and who Salter will be.  She has even declared that navy will be Salter’s signature color (who knew babies had signature colors these days?!).

Anyway, the lunch spread was delicious – Ann made homemade chicken salad, shrimp salad, egg salad and orzo salad.  And she bought delicious rolls.  Really delicious rolls (I love bread, so it was worth noting).  It was a perfect combination for a Sunday afternoon.

As for dessert, Ann asked me to make carrot cake  minis (Emily doesn’t like chocolate… I know, what?) and some sugar cookies.  Ann and I discussed a couple of different designs, but after seeing these anchor coasters Ann bought for the shower, I thought they would be great on large medallions.  Ann suggested a monogram (obviously) and so it was set:

And since it was a baby shower, the good ol’ onesie had to make an appearance.  Again, working off the coasters, I decided on these:

Simple. And definitely beachy preppy.

Now the wait is on for the little guy to make his big debut!!!

Flavor Focus: Carrot Cake

21 Sep

My Mom’s absolute favorite cake is carrot cake.  My Aunt Dot used to make her one every year for her birthday.  Aunt Dot actually hated doing it – grating the carrots really got to her – but Mom’s a December baby.  You know how that goes.  She had to get something special to outweigh all the negatives of being born a mere twelve days before Jesus.  Carrot cake it was.

When I started Kristina’s Confections I knew I needed a really great carrot cake – not only to appease Mom, but also for all the other carrot cake lovers – and there are plenty out there!

Carrot cake is a funny thing though.  There are a million versions, with all sorts of additions – pineapple, coconut, walnuts, raisins.  For me, I wanted to get back to the classic carrot cake – where the spices and the carrots shine.  So that’s what I did.    This is a back to the basic carrot cake, filled with grated carrots, tons of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a touch of vanilla.  And, of course, the classic cream cheese frosting tops it all off.

Aunt Dot is now watching this crazy life from a better view, but I think she’d be pretty impressed with my version of carrot cake.  She would claim hers had an edge, but that’s just family talk.  Mom doesn’t seem to have any complaints.

Perfect pairing: pretty much anytime, with anything!

Hail to the Redskins!

20 Sep

Truth be told, I am very superstitious when it comes to football.  In particular, when it comes to my beloved Washington Redskins.

And since yesterday was not pretty… moment of silence please… I can now post these.

See, I made these before our win last week against Dallas… moment of cheer… but didn’t want to jinx us (I know, perhaps a bit crazy, but I’m serious about my Skins).  With the loss yesterday, the jinx potential has subsided.

So enjoy.  And don’t forget…

Hail to the Redskins!
Hail victory!
Braves on the warparth!
FIGHT FOR OLD DC!!!

Flavor Focus: Banana Chocolate Chip

15 Sep

My mom LOVES bananas.  She eats one just about every day.  In fact, she fed me so many when I was little that I went on a banana hiatus from the age of twelve until seventeen.

I have, however, always eaten banana bread.  I love the moistness, the sweetness and the subtlety of the banana flavor.  And, quite honestly, when chocolate chips are added, there’s no stopping me!  And so you have the inspiration for my new Banana Chocolate Chip cupcake.

For the base, I went with traditional banana bread.  While I tweaked my normal banana bread recipe a bit to reduce the denseness (dense sweet bread = good; dense cupcake = not so good), I made sure to maintain the flavor and moistness.  I then added mini chocolate chips to ensure you got a little in each and every bite.

As for the frosting… well, what goes best with bananas and chocolate?  Peanut butter, of course!  So to top it all off is my peanut butter frosting.

Interestingly enough, my mom – a banana fanatic – does not typically like banana bread (I know, we defy all logic).  I didn’t even think she would taste this cupcake.  But as a supportive mother, she did and… LOVED them.  What more can I say?

Perfect pairing: circus party, Elvis tribute, after school surprise snack, picnic treat

Sneak Peak into Fall

14 Sep

With fall here, that means the holiday season is lurking just around the corner.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to rush things.  I know I’ll be longing for these 80 degree days in a few short months.

That said, I have been working on some fall sugar cookies… and perhaps baking with pumpkin and apple.  But that’s not crazy like Christmas trees in September (really, why so early?).

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy a little peak into the sugar cookie design process.

It all begins with me sketching out designs, complete with colors and decorating ideas.

Then I pick cookies that will use the same royal icing colors.

While the cookies are baking, I make, color and prep the royal icing.

Once the cookies are cooled, I outline the design.

Then the cookies are flooded.

Finally, all the embellishments – dots, lines, writing – are added.  You’ll have to stay tuned to see the final product.  Be sure to check back in early October!

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