Monday, May 23, 2016

Like yeast, things are on the rise...

I've always had a deep appreciation for food, even as a child. From watching my mom bake in the kitchen, to making mud pies with neighborhood friends, and even developing a early love for watching cooking shows (and that was before it was cool to watch cooking shows, by the way). After all, what child wants to watch Saturday morning cartoons when you can learn how to bake a danish or brine a duck! 

Since leaving my job I've found myself with an over abundant amount of free time. I have been able to get caught up on every baking and cooking show Netflix has to offer. I've also been able to deeply focus on my new love for YouTube University (As I've lovingly deemed it, due to it's availability of baking tutorials).

I've been learning a lot, and not just about how late I can stay up or how good I am at sleeping in (because believe me, I could win awards). I've learned how to get excited about being creative again and to appreciate my moments of failure and use them as fuel to do better and learn more.

So now after almost two months of being a temporary homemaker and devoted YouTube enthusiast, life has presented me an opportunity and I'm ready to jump in! It's going to be challenging, exciting and a new chapter in my life, the best part? It begins tomorrow! And to say I'm excited is probably an understatement. 

When I resigned from my job in March, while I felt an enormous weight lifted from my shoulders, but I also felt like I was replacing that weight with another. The weight of uncertainty. 

I knew I had dreams but when the world tells you how important a degree is and that your not good enough unless you have one, the prospect on doing something new can feel a bit hopeless. And besides, even if I try, who's going to want to take the chance?

There are many things in this world I question, but again and again God asks me not to question his abilities and to not put too much stock in the lack of my own.

Sometimes, the way I imagine my relationship with God goes something like this at times:

"Man, I really want to do this, but I can't. I don't have enough experience and I don't even know where to start."

*Cue image of God sitting on an enormous throne. Beams of light bursting all around him. Suddenly, the scene transitions and he's in a field of flowers holding my dream of being a teacher in his hand. Wind blowing but some how is hair remains perfect. He tosses my teaching dream at me "take this." And without explaination, I blink and the scene changes and he is now a mountain top holding a cupcake in his hand and taking a bite out of it like an apple. He lets out a hearty laugh and the cupcake drops into my hands. "Now take this!" 

Okay, I realize my depiction of God sounds an awful lot like the Old Spice guy. After all, isn't he the man that man should be like? Seems applicable.

Now back to me. My feelings of hopelessness begin to dissipate. Wait, is this what I think it is, are you talking to me? I look around and point at myself.

*Cue booming voice. But not scary, think more like a gentle giant.

"Seriously? Doubting my abilities again? Haha, you forget so easily." (Apparently my version of God is also a little cocky and went from Old Spice to sounding like to an old Nintendo game boss.)

But anyways, I've felt for the last few months God asking me to trust him. To take large and scary steps and allow myself to be okay with the unknown. Okay God, your the boss. Lets do this thing! And then it happened, an unexpected opportunity. 

I felt like I needed to pinch myself a few times. It has taken everything in me too hold back my excitement and not say anything but now I will share. 

Last week, I went in for an interview! I was so excited but I was also fighting myself hard to shake the huge nagging voice in my head saying, "You have no education in this field. You have no real experience. Who is going to take that kind of chance on you?" Shoosh you! That's what I've learned to tell myself when my doubt gets too loud. But on Friday a few days after the interview, I received the call I had been waiting for.

I don't remember exactly how it was communicated because my brain was too busy doing cartwheels and trying to keep my heart from throwing me into cardiac arrest, so I'll paraphrase:

"Congratulations! You're a baker. No pressure!"

WHAT?! I got the job!

That's right folks, as of tomorrow, I am a paid baker. Take that self doubt and lack of education!

So in honor of my new carrier path, I decided last night to do some baking. Because that's what bakers do, they bake things! Well, that and clean lots of dishes. Without further ado...

Homemade "I'm a baker" Strawberry Banana Bread Muffins

P.S. Coming soon, a new and improved blog site! I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lost in a ocean of sleep depervation

As you all now by now my sleeping pattern, as always, has been spiratic. The other night was no exception since there was no sleeping pattern, because there was no sleep.

After peeling my cake off the bottom of my oven, I decided I should update all of you on the rest of the story. 

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can get up to speed by reading my last post: If I were a Dinosaur, I'd eat Lava Cake. Or you can just look at this picture of cake as a refresher...

After getting amped-up over my cake fiasco and feeling rather defeated. My woe is me state of mind, led me to Facebook. This inturn led to Pinterest, which led to cleaning and staring at my ever growing mountain of dishes. Man, I hate dishes! I just want to yell at them, CLEAN YOURSELVES! 

I know what you're thinking. At this point I sound crazy and I probably should have gone to bed. Yes, you're right. But crazy doesn't need sleep, it thrives on the lack of it. And Well, I was feeling a bit crazy over the thought of having to start again from scratch with my cake.

So with cleaning out of the way, I decided my pity party for my cake was finally over and that I needed to try again. Because birds were chirping and now my time was even more limited. 

One thing I've learned in baking is, if it doesn't turn out right the first time, try again until it does. After all, someone will eat the failures. I would know, it's usually me.

I didn't mention it before, but the cake I was working on was a surprise birthday cake for one of my friends. Therefore, my own personal criticism and anxiety to complete it and do it well, was off the chart. I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times and I am quite aware that I am my hardest critic. 

This time no mistakes. After all, ain't nobody got time for that!

So I started my cake again, this time taking every precaution.

I made sure to measure my ingredients carefully. I filled my pans evenly and exactly halfway. No lava spill this time around. I sat close to my oven, eyeing my cakes like a hawk.

Someone once told me, watching your oven doesn't make what's inside bake faster. Well, that may be true but it does prevent burning and lava flow. So I took my chances and set up camp. The result, the most beautifully moist, chocolaty layers I have ever seen! Thank you God, I needed that. 

Next, I worked on my buttercream frosting and finishing up the rest of my meringue cookies.  Did I mention how awesome meringue cookies are and how they are so incredibly addicting to eat?! 

My husband who lacks a sweet tooth, grabbed at least three handfuls of these tasty tidbits, telling me how much he liked them. I could even hear him getting into them when I left the room. Now that's what I'm talking about!

I made white, pink, teal, and purple meringues. Some shaped like Kisses, others shaped like stars. I had so many by the time I was done, I was almost able to fill-up an entire large jar with these delectable bite sized cookies. 

Seeing the colors all intermingled in the large jar made me feel like a child in a candy shop. It took everything within me not to dip my hand in and shove a mouthful of those little beauties in my face. but I resisted, sort of. Hey, a girls gotta taste test her handy work. Quality control is essential, especially when a birthday cake is at stake. 

After my cakes cooled, it was time for my favorite part, the decorating! 

There is just something about taking plain cake, frosting, coloring and any other pretties you want and transforming it into edible art. So there you have it, a cake fit for a mermaid princess.

So, to conclude my little story, after a night of disasters and a morning of non-stop baking. I finally ended my late afternoon pushing a truckload of dishes to the sink, taking a shower and by making myself look a little less like death, just in time to head out to the Birthday party with cake in tow. 

All in all, I am happy. And I'm feeling pretty proud of my cake. Better yet, everyone said they loved it, especially the Birthday girl. My job here is done.

Friday, May 6, 2016

If I were a Dinosaur, I'd eat Lava Cake.

Okay. So I've screwed up many different baking projects, since I started to develop my interest in baking. I've mixed things incorrectly, left out ingredients, and mistaken Bisquick for flour. That was terrible. But today I felt like this may have been the time that has crowned itself, the day that takes the cake (pun intended).

Over the last few weeks, I've been following an amazing bakery through their Instagram posts. Every picture could be straight out of a magazine. I'm pretty sure if National Geographic did a cake article, they'd be featured, or at least mentioned.

 But what makes their cakes so beautiful, you ask? 

Well, perhaps it is the amazing pastel colors they use. the way they get their ombre frosting technique to look like glass, the fact that they use Macarons and Meringues as their cake decor. Maybe it's that their cakes are probably baked with the essence of envy and lust. Okay, probably not but either way, they're magical and I want to make one. 

So after staring at a few of their posts, I felt inspired. I'm going to make a luscious chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, Chocolate drizzling down the sides and so much beautiful color pop'n meringue, it would make a unicorn cry.

Step one: The Meringue Cookies.

First of all, I want to tell everyone that these are incredible hard to make (I'm lying) and second of all, They take forever and a day to bake for something so small (true story, at least that's the way it felt).

On my very first attempt, perfection. This was only after a few seconds of self-doubt and fantasizing about possible ways I might have messed them up. But in the end, they came out perfectly. I even went so far as to hand dip each one to create a water color effect. If I were Italian, I would have kissed my fingers and said "Magnifico!". 

Step Two: The Cake or 2:00 AM, The Burning (both are accurate).

I would just like to say that the recipe I followed said it would be easy, so to not feel intimidated. Okay recipe, I wont. That was some time around 1:00 AM. That time of night when hopes are high and I wasn't yet running into the bedroom, to hastily call upon my husband to assist me in opening all of the windows, before the chance of setting off the fire alarm in our apartment complex could occur. 

Oh no, that mad panic took place some time around 2:00 AM. The haunting hour. When cakes decide to erupt and go Pompeii all over your oven floor. Yes, there was smoke, burning, panic and a steady flow of chocolate cake cascading out of two perfectly centered cake pans. 

I would like to say I didn't cry, but it was now 2:35 AM and I had had high hopes for those pans of what could have been, chocolate perfection. So after wiping my tears and the bottom of my oven, there I stood with my husband staring at the two ugliest pans of half baked chocolate cake. 

My husband, who courageously tried to turn my grey skies back to blue, looked down at the cake and without lifting his head stated, "You can tell people you made lava cake." Ugh. At this point, I did the only thing any person grieving over their failed cake could do, I took out a fork.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to make your neighbors mad...

I think it goes without saying that a quite neighbor is a happy one, either that or they're really anti-social. But which ever way you look at it, if you find yourself living in an apartment complex, this tends to ring more true. 

For instance, take my husband and I. We have been living at our apartment complex for almost 7 months as a couple (newly married) and for me, I've been here for almost a year. Within our time here we have lovingly labeled each person who shares a wall with our home according to their habits...

....while sitting on the couch, hears the door slam. "Guy next door's home!"Dog barking at same time every night "Angry guys puppy needs to potty!"Stuff falling and sounding like tiny tremors "Wine lady is at it again."...

For the most part, besides these random occurrences, our complex has a reputation for being library silent. Well, that is until I start baking something. 

It was a hard reality one day while my husband I were sitting on our couch watching cat videos, that in the midst of our hysterical late night laughter routine, we heard one of our neighbors talking.

OMG! Is that a normal voice level? 

We both became silent and stared at each other.WE ARE THE NOISY NEIGHBORS! This was life shattering I tell you! I am not a person who knowingly or unknowingly likes to cause others inconveniences, and I am very certain that noise is an inconvenience when you share a wall or three. 

Quickly my mind recited every late night baking session I have ever had. Ugh, I hate me. That kitchen aid does not  sound like a tiny harp. So with that horrible realization, the last couple times I've baked, I've tried to be aware of my baking routine. What hour is it? Just because it's morning in Japan doesn't mean it's okay to bake in Oregon. Stupid conscience.

Well, after trying to make life easier for the rest of the world and dealing with a few other things that life was throwing at me. My neighbors have been able to rest easy for the last few months. That is, until this evening! 

But more on that in a second. We have some catching up to do!

I've been trying to tell myself over this last month that I'm still far too young for a midlife crisis but facts are facts people. I quite my job, chopped off my hair and turned 30. Those all seem like pretty self inflicted mid-life things to do if you ask me. But anyways, I've been asking myself a few questions over the past year and now I'm forcing myself to come face to face with them: What is my plan B and do I have one? 

I've had a deep need to do something creative with my life, and what could be one of those avenues for exploration you may ask? Baking of course! but not just baking but maybe every taking up photography as well, and what do I always take pictures of... food, of course! 

So there you have it. Two options for exploration. Baking and Photography.

My only issue though with the second part is that I have an iPhone for a camera. I so badly want a REAL camera. One that you have to manually adjust the focus and that doesn't ring at you or tell you you missed a call from your mom.

Well, I guess my coy and subtle hints that I've been giving my husband, such as: "You know what would make this picture look better? If it was taken on a real camera. You know what would be nice? A camera. I want a camera" finally payed off.

Okay, maybe I'm not actually good at hinting but the day has come and the sky opened up and there were beams of light! Scratch that, So there was no light except the glowing of the candles on my birthday cupcakes and the sky may not have opened up but I did get to open some pretty fantastic gifts. 

What were these fantastic gifts? let me tell you. To start, I got a month subscription to an online course to learn about photography and specifically, food photography! (Thank you to my best friend for that one). And then there is the topper, I'm also borrowing her awesome camera with all the fixings until I go with my husband to pick out my own(Yay husband, good job!).

Now that we went down a very windy rabbit trail, we now find ourselves back to the story about my noisy neighbors. Okay, it's me, I'm noisy. But anyway, with a camera in hand, how can you not be inspired to make something late at night? 

So there you have it, after three long months of no baking or what seemed like any creativity, of any kind. I found myself staring at copious amounts of frozen fruit, with a huge hankering for homemade Sorbet. (I know not baking, but still yummy.)

Since this was my first time making sorbet I didn't know what I was doing. This resulted in what probably felt like an hour to my neighbors but in actuality, I'm pretty sure I spent around 15 minutes trying to bend the fruit in my food processor. 

Apparently, it's challenging to turn rock solid fruits into a silky, smooth, frozen wonderland that is known as sorbet. But, I did it. 

To my neighbors, I apologize. To my husband and my best friend, I say thank you. 

Yay, Sorbet!

Strawberry Lemon Sorbet, mixed with Peach Sorbet.
Bon Appetit!


Monday, January 18, 2016

When life gives you lemons... they're sour.

It should be no surprise by now that I'm typing this at almost exactly 11:00 PM. After all, it's me we're talking about. The crazy midnight baker, at it again.

Recently, my baking hit a bit of a stand still. I went back to work after being on vacation for two weeks, got sick my first day back. Thought I was better, went back to work, still sick. Went back home. Well, you get it. I was out of commission for a while. So it wasn't until today that I started to hear the sweet sound of my kitchen aid calling to me.

"Holly, Where are you?"

"Who said that?!"

"It's me. Your gorgeous Tiffany Blue mixer."


"I miss you." *Whispered

We made whisk-to-eye contact. I run to the kitchen and there we both began to cry and embrace in the warmth of a hug.

Okay, maybe not. But one things for sure, I was ready to bake.

After junking out on online tutorials and watching an endless stream of cooking shows. Watching was no longer enough. I needed to get in on the action. I needed to bake.

I had found a new recipe online for making Macarons, so I thought I would give it a try.

I was skeptical at first and had a few moments of panic when I put the flavoring in and thought I had caused my batter to go flat. But when all was said and done, I ended up with some delicious smelling lemon macaron batter.

The first batch was beautiful. I watched those puppies like a hawk. Like a hawk who didn't want to burn his macarons. I would think if a hawk were making maracons, they would also feel this to be a priority and area of concern.

So there I sat, on the floor. Oven mit in hand, ready to swoop in and save my little yellow cookie babies at any moment. That was until I glanced up and noticed the timer on the oven was never set.

Panic! complete and utter PANIC!

How long have they been in there?! ARRRG!!! I WAS SUPPOSED TO ROTATE THEM HALF WAY!

Okay, calm down. After regrouping myself and saying a few phrases of self affirmation, with my oven mit ready I turned those suckers as fast as I could. However, When one turns a cookie sheet in a hot oven and only has on a short oven mit, Words of caution: THOSE WALLS BE HOT!

Okay, so now that that is finished. There I sat on the floor watching my macarons through the glass oven door and propping my hand up to the sink where I positioned it under cold running water. Nothing could stop me from obtaining cookie perfection, not even my own burnt hand (It was a tiny burn, but I like the sound of the extreme dedication in that sentence).

Two minutes shy of the timer going off, I pulled those beauties out of the over. Drum roll please! Yummy, delicious lemony macarons.

I placed my first batch to rest and cool. After that, I quickly whipped up my next batch and plunged them in the oven. After all, I am a pro now. What else could go wrong? (Insert more words of self affirmation because well, sometimes I get cocky.)

I filled the finished Macarons using a raspberry butter cream frosting I had made over the break. My mouth was watering. Next step, tasting. As a ritual, I always make sure to use my husband as a guinny pig, I mean taste tester. So after I practically force fed my husband while he was in the middle of a computer game, because I'm pushy and needed further affirmation of my improving baking skills. I got what I was waiting for, Success!

Next step, obligatory foodtography session and a quick tasting of my own handiwork.

Aww, so good.

Wait, wasn't I doing something else?...

There it was. The second batch sitting teary eyed, neglected and brokenhearted in the oven. Well, more accurately, cracked and burnt. They were ruined. Much like parents do with their first child, I had babied and panicked over the small stuff, then by the second batch, I thought I had it all figured out. And much like babies, macarons don't raise themselves.

So, to conclude. Sometimes life is sweet, and in other times sometimes your lemon maracons come out a little sour.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

I like my cupcakes tall, dark and frosted...

Being the particularly lazy person that I can be at times, and since I'm on vacation, I felt like I could justify my lack of motivation once my alarm clock went off at 10:00AM. Now 10:00AM probably sounds like a reasonable time to get out of bed but understand, since I had baked cupcakes until the wee hours of the night and didn't hit my head to the pillow until around 4:00AM, my body was seriously letting me know how much it hates my late night antics. 

So after a lazy morning of washing dishes and spending a horrendous amount of time goofing around with my makeup, which came out pretty stink-in awesome, I decided some time around 4:30PM that I would finally venture off to the store and pick up that annoying carton of heavy whipping cream. Ugh, I hate when I forget stuff.

So after getting in the car and determining that between the two stores of equal distance, the one located more closely to my husbands work was so much more appealing then the other, I went on my way... 

This may be a good time to share that I've struggled with ADD since I was a child but I've learned to overcome it, of course (Okay, maybe not all of the time). 

...Just as I hit the traffic light that happens to either turn towards the grocery store or point you straight towards my husband's office, I found myself driving straight. So, why not? After all, I had spent FAR too much time painting my face to waste it on the dairy section of the grocery store. Instead, I would surprise my husband at work! Woohoo!

It worked, DINNER AND A MOVIE!!!
(I may have fallen asleep for half of Star Wars. Hey, I was tired. I went to bed at 4:00AM, remember?!)

All this to say, 5 hours after my original plan to go buy heavy whipping cream, I finally found myself at the grocery store sharing my makeup talents with the dairy aisle.

And what do you know? It's Midnight!

There was mixing, whipping, melting and tears. Okay, maybe not tears but there were moments of sheer panic and fear when I thought I ruined my frosting. But in the end I was delighted in the results of my drawn out baking excursion.

Here you have it:

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes 
with Ganache and Blackberry frosting


Dark Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
with Ganache and Blackberry frosting

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In the beginning, there were naked cupcakes...

While normal people prepare for bed, turn on their reading lamps or even turn off their bedroom lights, this seems to be just about the time when my internal clock says "Lets bake!" I don't know why, but I've always been a notoriously motivated night owl. 

For me, there is something peaceful and creative about the night. For my husband and neighbors, I'm sure it translates into obnoxiously inconvenient sound but I always try to do my best to keep it on the down low. 

Tonight, I felt inspired. What if I made some cupcakes? I've been doing some thinking, exploring my baking interests and in doing so, I've been on a bit of a baking spree. 

Tonight's confectionery experiment: 
Chocolate Ganache Blackberry Cupcakes 

Oh the thrill! 

Though my adventure in baking did not turn out quite the way I imagined, I decided it will have to do for now. My blood pressure may have risen once or twice and I may have inserted a few curse words here or there, sorry mom but in the end, I got the cupcakes baked and they turned out beautifully. 

Unfortunately, that is also where my story of this particular midnight bake off ends for the evening. Turns out my fridge does not have a heavy whipping cream dispenser in the door, much to my dismay. 

So with extreme annoyance and regret, my decorating will have to wait until the morning. At that time, I will venture forth to the local grocery store and buy every last carton of heavy whipping cream they have, just to make sure I remain appropriately stocked (I will probably only purchase one). But in the mean time, please enjoy this single picture of my beautifully naked, chocolaty cupcakes.