French Bread with Julia Child

Baking bread from scratch always makes me stop and really appreciate baking. This French Bread, a classic recipe from Julia Child, is like being in a sometimes difficult, but always rewarding, 9 hour relationship. You have to figure out what this bread needs from you, and the bread might not tell you in a language you understand. Is it too sticky? Does it need more flour? Is it too dry? Does it need more water? Does it need time alone? Should you break up? What it comes down to is feel, intuition, and love. Yes, you must put yourself out there and love your bread. Put it all on the line, and dedicate yourself to a loaf. It might sound silly, but it’s critical. French bread is made up of 4 ingredients- flour, salt, water and yeast. None of these ingredients are a taste treat on their own. They come together, into what I think is one of the most fundamental and simple pleasures. I think what makes these 4 ingredients join so beautifully is the secret 5th ingredient. Yes- it’s love.

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Buttered Pecan Oatmeal with milk and sugar in the raw

I’ll be the first to admit, that I’ve been breakfast obsessed lately.  I fall asleep thinking about the breakfast.  I wake up thinking I better hurry to the kitchen to get breakfast and tea started.  I eat breakfast standing in front of my kitchen window watching my morning get brighter and brighter with the sun and listening the the morning’s news on the radio.  It’s a ritual I’ve become attached to.  Oatmeal is my no fail breakfast treat, and I’ve had pecans on the brain lately.  This buttered pecan oatmeal is rich, earthy and filling. The warm, sweet and nutty combination would be great with fruit too- any fruit- bananas, apples, peaches, berries.  It’s the kind of breakfast my dreams are made of.

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Mocha Coffee Coffee Cake

This breakfast cake is a bad influence.  Not possible, you say?  Well, when chocolate and coffee join forces against me, I crumble.  This cake made me want to call in sick to work this morning, and just spend the day on the couch with cake.  I didn’t, but oh, oh the temptation!  Maybe it’s the coffee and chocolate combination or maybe it’s the fact that I’m eating cake for breakfast, but it just makes me want to indulge in every other part of my life. These days, my indulgence involves my pajamas, the couch, The Gourmet Cookbook, and well… this cake.  It’s cake for breakfast!  Try it and indulge.

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Joy the Baker. The Podcast, 1.

I love to cook. I like to share. I have watched countless hours of cooking shows, and I have a camera. All of those things can only add up to one thing: I made a podcast!

My first leap into podcast land is with Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake. You’ll see the cake made from start to finish. You’ll see my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer. You’ll see my dorky face saying dorky things.

(If you don’t see a video player above, you may need to upgrade your Flash Player.) I know… don’t shake your fist at me! Just in case, here is a YouTube version (lower quality) of the same podcast after the jump.

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Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

These Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits take me back home.  I come from a biscuit loving family.  We take our biscuits rather seriously.  My Dad makes what he calls Mile High Biscuits.  They’re light and buttery, a beautiful golden color, and we always ate them hot with dinner.  We were generally a happy family of 4 sitting around the dinner table, sharing a meal, laughing, and talking about our days.  Biscuit night was always a different story. On biscuit nights, there was, without a doubt, scandal and conflict.

Why?  Well Dad always made a recipe of 12 biscuits.  Now let’s do the math- 12 biscuits for 4 people, that’s 3 each.  The problem is, no one never ended up with three biscuits.  Three words- my little sister.  My sister, the biscuit strategist, would cunningly place the biscuit basket at her side of the table, and with great stealth, gather about 8 biscuits for herself over the course of dinner.  I must admit, the girl is clever.  And with her darling smile and endless charm, she always got away with the lion’s share of biscuits. Always!  I’d stomp my feet, outraged, pleading “But Mom…!  It’s not fair!”  Mom would calmly reply “Joy, who said life was fair?  Now eat your broccoli before it gets cold.”At that point, defeated, I usually just ate my one biscuit slowly, while trying to shoot my sister down with the evil eye.  Mom was right though- life isn’t always fair, sometimes your sister just gets more biscuits than you, and steamed broccoli once it’s cold, is just wretched.

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Simple White Wedding Cake

Some wedding cakes are more flash than flavor.  This simple white wedding cake was definitely not one of those cakes.  It was all flavor, no flash.  Joe and Jen had a simple, but elegant wedding in a beautiful old hall in downtown Los Angeles.  They wanted to keep the look of their wedding cake simple and clean.  We settled on a white buttercream frosting with a buttercream pearl border.  The cake was decorated with  fresh roses, lillies,  red raspberries and bright mint leaves.

While outside was simple and elegant, the inside had a wallop of flavor.

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The Sweetest Week- Ever.

It’s been another sweet week folks!  It really has. Sweetest things that happened to me?  I was gifted a bag full of home grown blood oranges.  Pretty sweet.  Every night this week I read The Gourmet Cookbook before I fell asleep, using it as a pillow.  Rather Sweet.  And I bought these farm fresh, brown spotted organic eggs and they fed me all week.  Super Sweet!

Here are my favorite, foodie blog posts of the last week.  They make me smile.  They make me hungry.  They’ve done their job.

Bakerella has got some serious skillz with fondant.  And that’s skills with a ‘z’ so it must be serious.  Her fondant Care Bear is complete with a heart on the butt.  Yea, it’s no lie.  I hope her next fondant creation is a My Little Pony or maybe a Garbage Pail Kid… that would take her from skillz to skiz-illz.  (Sorry, I’m ridiculous).

I heart Food Blogga  for her Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins.  The citrus seems like a perfect way to brighten up a cold, unbearable winter.  Although you must forgive me, because both she and I live in Southern California and have no room to commiserate about winter.  Food Blogga also knows a lot about citrus and she’s full of good ideas.  Don’t take my word for it! Go see for yourself!

Tartelette… oh Tartelette.  She gets me every time.  This time it was her Strawberry Lime Tartelette creation.  And she has a new boyfriend…. he’s a hottie, but he’s no Pierre Herme.  Go for a visit.  You must.

My Peeps in a Row

I have my peeps in a row.  Now what do I do with them?  With over a month until Easter, I have many many days to spend with many many peeps.  Don’t get too attached, things will to happen to these little buddies.  I can’t say it’s all going to be pretty.  Peep soup.  Peep show in the microwave.  Peep cat toys. I’m determined to make something yummy and entertaining with these suckers.   Do you have any suggestions?

Gnarley Muffins

While they may not be the prettiest muffins you’ve ever laid eyes on, they just might be the healthiest.  These little gems are packed with banana, apple and flax seed goodness.  For those of you who aren’t nutrition obsessed California dieters,  flax seed are rich in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids which helps protect against heart disease and cancer.  In these muffins, flax seed meal (ground up flax seeds) replace butter and oil.  How great is that!? No butter, no oil muffins!  Just healthy fats in a yummy, moist, fruit muffin!

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Cinnamon Orange Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon tinted Mexican Wedding Cookies

Since I bake with what seems like a compulsion, I must admit that I often eat dessert for dinner.  Photographed above is my Wednesday night dinner-  Cinnamon Orange Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon tinted Mexican Wedding Cookies.  I know… it might seem like I went a little cinnamon crazy, but I had good reason-  Nikki at CrazyDelicious is hosting a Master Baker event, and this months theme in cinnamon!

So there were three things going on in my mad kitchen: cookies that are light, nutty and tender, hot chocolate that is perfectly rich and full of flavor , and funky orange slices that I would take back if I could…. Let’s start with the cookies.  They’re outta sight!

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Cake Mix Couture?

I think I’m supposed to hate cake mix.  I think, once you get a chef’s coat, you are supposed to turn you nose up at all things packaged, pre-mixed, and all around too good to be true.  Well the truth is, I don’t hate cake mix, or at least I don’t hate it as much as I should.

I could bore you with a pro and con list detailing my love hate relationship with cake mix, but I won’t.  I’ll just say this- I love cake mix because my Mom buys it for 35 cents and then passes it along to me, with that oh-so-great-I-found-a-bargain feeling.  Cake mixes are easy beyond belief, moist every time and really hard to screw up.  But the truth is, even easy to make, 35 cent cake mix isn’t really a bargain.  It’s filled with loads of oils and sugars that I can’t even pronounce.  If I can’t pronounce it, there’s a good chance my insides that don’t what to do with it either.  So, you win and you lose.  Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it?

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Almost Fudge Gateau

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie delight is Almost Fudge Gateau.  Don’t know how to pronounce Gateau?  Luckily that’s not a prerequisite to eat this cake.  The cake is an intensely chocolate, dense yet moist chocolate bomb.  It’s the kind of cake you might serve to your guests after a fancy dinner, and wonder why you didn’t just serve the cake itself for dinner.  Yea… this dark chocolate cake is worthy of being the main course.

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Apple Right Side Up

I took this apple tarte tatin, that wasn’t so much a tarte tatin at all, to a lovely dinner party of Sunday night.  What was so fun about this tart was that I cooked the apples in a cast iron skillet with butter and sugar before I left the house.  I let them cook in the pan while I rolled out a 10-inch circle of pie crust.  I packaged up the cast iron skillet and the pie dough and we went to the dinner party.  After dinner, I heated up the apples on our hosts stove, and tucked the refrigerated crust over the slightly warm apples, then popped the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes.  When the crust was browned and the juices underneath bubbling, I took the skillet from the oven, let it sit for a few minutes, then turned all of the warm apples and buttery crust upsidedown and onto a serving dish.  Everyone was super impressed, and I made their home smell like apple pie, which is just an added bonus.  This is the kind of dish that will get you invited for dinner again and again.

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Baby Shower Cakes

I made these Baby Block Cakes for a baby shower.  The expecting mom and dad didn’t know the sex of their little one, so they requested pale green and yellow, with their two initials ‘A’ and ‘V’ to top the blocks.  Inside the pale green and yellow fondant is moist yellow cake with strawberry buttercream.

Want to know more about fondant!?  Of course you do!

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Six Words

Have you heard of Ernest Hemingway’s six word story?

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

He does so much with so little, and it has a lasting power. This got me thinking about my six word story.  Considering the years I’ve had in the world.  The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve absorbed- how can I package that neatly in six worlds?  

My six words is no soul wrenching tragedy, it’s just where I am right now, and what I think to myself at the start of every new day.

I’m not done dreaming it yet.

What is your six word story?

Want to know more about the cupcakes?  They’re Red Velvet Raspberries, decorated with pink cream cheese frosting, fresh raspberries and mint leaves.  The recipe for the cakes and cream cheese are just a jump away. Now go have a lovey dovey day.

This Changes Everything

I had an experience with chocolate last night- and I mean EXPERIENCE: heart pounding, leg shaking, giggle coxing, divinely inspired- experience.  I think I hurt myself.  I think it was glorious.

What did it?  How did this happen?  Dark Chocolate Sorbet.  It swept me off my feet.

I’m sitting here struggling to find the words to describe this sorbet.  Literally.  It’s incredibly rich and deceptively creamy.  Please believe me when I say that even making this sorbet was magical.  I’m not talking rabbit out of a hat magic.  I’m talking about love at first site, sparks flying out of your ears, cannonball to the gut magic.  This changes everything.

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Brown Sugar- Apple Cheesecake

I can’t leave well enough alone. Nothing illustrates this fact better than my adaptation of Dorie Greenspan’s perfectly great recipe for Brown Sugar- Apple Cheesecake. If the recipe says round spring form pan, I want to use a square baking pan. If the recipe calls for apples inside the cheesecake, I want my apples on top. Call me a rebel. So in the world according the Joy, this cheesecake is served in bars, with browned apple and sugar goodness adorning the top. It’s delicious any way you slice it. Oh yes it is.

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Like Barefoot Contessa- but I’m not rich and I have my shoes on.

I’ve decided to jump into this food blogging world head first, eyes wide open, grasping for every bit of joy and pleasure along the way.

What’s the best way share my love for all things sweet and baked?

I could come to your house preaching the beauty of a preheated oven.

I could scream ‘pate a choux’ from the rooftops.

Or I could make videos that chronicle my baking adventures, my recipes and techniques. As an added bonus, you’ll get to see… me: part silly, part smiling, always baking.

I’ll have the podcast up in the next week or so.

I’m sharing. All you have to do is come see. Deal?

Update:  My first podcast is up!  You can watch it here