Joy the Baker

Strawberry Coffee Cake

May 31, 2009

Strawberry Coffee Cake

Strawberries make me restless.

It’s a fact.  Yes, a strange fact, but no less true.

See, in my part of the world, strawberries come along every year right around May.  This is around the time when I’ve loooooong ago let slide any New Year’s resolutions I might have made for myself, when it’s possible that I’ve slacked a bit on my workout routine, and the goal of reading a chapter of a book a night before I fall asleep has somehow transferred into watching an old episode of House every night before I pass out.

Don’t even get me started on the mania that I try to pass off as my closet.  It’s not pretty.

So…. strawberries come along at a time of year when I’ve cemented in some slightly lazy and ooooooh so comfortable habits for myself.

I don’t know how or why this works, but strawberries inspire me to shake my world up a bit, maybe introduce something new, maybe hop on one leg every morning just for the hell of it…. whatever.  This is the time of year when I change things up a bit.

This year, strawberries have inspired me to do two things:  learn Italian and combine fresh strawberries with one of my favorite cakes of all time…. streusel topped coffee cake.

Let’s do this.

Strawberry Coffee Cake

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125 Comments

Lemon Cloud Tea Cookies

May 27, 2009

Lemon Cloud Tea Cookies

I think we should all sit down and have tea and cookies today.  Tea and cookies and a little chat and laughter in the late afternoon sun.  What do you think?  Are you in?

In the past few days, my inbox has filled with emails from people with big, arms-up-in-the-air, life questions.  If you’ll allow me to paraphrase, they go something like this:

Dear Joy,

This might sound totally weird and crazy, but I think I’m going to get laid off from my job soon, and I’ve always wanted to be a baker and I was wondering if you could tell me… what the heck to do next.

Sincerely yours,

Ok… first things first… let’s hug it out.  That will help.  Next, you should know, as I’m sure you already do, that I don’t have all the answers.  Not even close.  I am a firm believer in the idea that if you go after what you love, in a balls-out, take-no-prisoners kind of way, you succeed.  Succeed?  Heck yes!  Because you’ll be ultra happy that you’re, in the very least, doing something you love.

So!  If you want to be a baker… do it!  Bake every day!  Bake and bring cookies into the office job that might not be your favorite place in the world.  Bake and try to sell to the coffee shop down the street.  Bake and give it to the local homeless shelter.  Bake and blog about it.  Read books about baking.  Talk to bakers about baking.  Take a cheap cooking class at the community college.  Ask to apprentice one (very early) morning at a local bakery.  Dive in.  It’s what I did, and if I can scratch out a living in the kitchen every month, I think you can too.  On the real.

This concludes today’s installment of My Two Cents.

Now… how about cookies?

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80 Comments

Brown Sugar Bacon Waffles

May 26, 2009

Brown Sugar Bacon Waffles>

Please.  Take a few moments to dig through your kitchen cabinets to find your waffle maker.  Please do this.  I’ll wait.

….. There?  Find it?

Now.  Please.  These waffles need to be made now, tonight, first thing tomorrow morning, or whenever you get hungry… now?  They’re that good.

I need to go wash my hair.  That’s not a euphemism for anything.  I really need to wash my hair.  By the time I come back, I hope you’ve preheated that old waffle machine.

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165 Comments

Memorial Day

May 25, 2009

Memorial

We used to be one of those families that would drive out to the cemetery on Sunday afternoon after church service.  I can remember chasing my sister around the cemetery slopes, slipping on the moist grass in my church shoes and getting bright green stains on my Sunday dress while my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents sat around our family graves exchanging stories.

The bright afternoon sun, the way the wind whipped over the rounded hills of the cemetery, and hearing my family talk and laugh about our family who had passed… it’s one of those super calming childhood memories that I keep tucked away, and pull out on days like today.  The remembering is important.

Today it feels good to remember all of the men, women and families who have sacrificed so much for our country.  While thanking you may seem trite, I mean it from way down on the inside.  Thank you.

10 Comments

Say Hello to Summer!

May 22, 2009

Bee

This little bee sure is living large in my one pot spring garden!

But enough about spring.  Spring is so… um, last season?  No… not exactly.

Let’s talk about summer!  What’s your favorite way to kick off summer?

Me?  My favorite way to greet summer is to have a rip roarin’ good time Memorial Day Weekend!

I’m diving into this one, two, THREE day weekend by celebrating my birthday and throwing down with my family in the kitchen.  My Dad is making chicken and waffles.  Holy heck!  Chicken and waffles will be  followed promptly by family board games and… nap time.  What could be better?  A pool!?  You’re right!  How is it that I don’t have a friend with a pool in this town!?

My weekend will be full of family, fun and loads of kitchen time.

I hope that you’re able to take time this weekend to enjoy your families.  Maybe you’ll even have a moment to hop in the kitchen and throw together a late breakfast or gorgeous cake.  Do it… it’s important.

Here’s some inspiration.

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58 Comments

Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise on The Best BLT

May 20, 2009

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

You know that team building exercise you might play at sleep-away camp that requires you to fall backwards into the waiting arms of a fellow camper?  The Trust Fall?  The basic idea is that you completely let yourself fall backwards, trusting that the person behind you has arms outstretched to catch you before you hit the ground.  It’s a very literal way of saying “Hey!  I’ve got your back!”  or “Don’t worry, I’ll catch you if you fall.”  If the person you’ve entrusted to catch you is not paying attention and flirting with her sleep-away boyfriend as you fall… well, you might have trust issues for life.  Not cool.

I bring up the old Trust Fall because we’re talking about sandwiches.  Sandwiches are serious business.  I feel like I need to do a good round of Trust Falling with someone before we’re allowed to make each other sandwiches.  Like I said… sandwiches are serious.

I need to know that someone has got my back when they make me a sandwich.  Who’s making me a sandwich?  No one… that’s not the point.  It’s all about trust, and care and attention.  Like… which slices of bread they choose from the loaf, and how the mayonnaise doesn’t sneak over the edges, and how the tomato slices are just thin enough, and the lettuce is mostly dry from the washing.  Sandwiches have a lot of details.  There’s a lot going on.  I need to trust that my sandwich maker can handle these details… you know?

What?  Too much?  It’s just a sandwich?  Yea… a sandwich.  I take my sandwiches to heart.  I haven’t done the old Trust Fall with the young gentlemen at my local sandwich shop, so frankly, I don’t know if I can trust them to make me a sandwich… ridiculous, but true.

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

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67 Comments

Root Beer Float Cake

May 18, 2009

Root Beer Float Cake

Before I made this cake on Sunday afternoon, I sat down with a nice, tall root beer float.  Sure, it was 10:30 in the morning.  I suppose that technically that means I had a root beer float for breakfast.  That’s one of the great thing about being an adult, you can have a float for breakfast with no resistance.

Something about a root beet float puts me on a conveyor belt back to some really random childhood memories.  The taste, the bubbles, the increasingly creamy soda… it take me back to constantly skinned knees, playing in a beat-up old red wagon with my sister, and sitting in front of an old black and white television watching baseball with my grandfather.  Funny what a little ice cream and soda can do in your brain, right?

But cake!?  Root Beet Float Cake?  I have so many questions.  Will it have the same memory inducing effects as the real deal?  Is that asking too much?  Wait, is this cake chocolate or root beer?  Can I eat it for breakfast?  Will it change my life for the better?

Answers and cake, just a click away.

Root Beer Float Cake

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189 Comments

Up and At ‘Em with Joy the Baker

May 15, 2009

montage

If you’ve hung around these parts long enough, you may have pieced together a few facts about me.  You probably know that I have a strange and undying affection for pancakes.  You probably know that my family loves biscuits, and I’ve been known to drop an entire cake all over the counter top instead of on the cake plate.

You may know that  I shoot all of the food on this website with a Canon Rebel XSi and a 100mm macro lens.  It’s fancy for me.  Only a few months ago, my camera was worth more than my car.  I love this camera, but for everyday shooting… for the shots on the fly and on the go, I reach for my camera phone.  I know, it sounds crazy, right!?  It’s just that sometimes my little iphone is the easiest way for me to document my happenings on the sly.

Below are some fun facts and camera phone pictures from my life this year.  It’s a little peek into my world.  Some food.  Some shopping.  Some reading and some wine.  I just want you to see that not everything in my life is as staged and well lit as the stuff that I show you on my dining room table.

I’ll spare you all the shameless self portraits I may or may not have taken with my phone.  Ok… I’m embarrassed.  Come on… let’s play Joy the Baker’s camera phone life.

IMG_0084

Fun Fact:  The Suzzallo Reading Room at the University of Washington is one of my favorite places in the world.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen asleep while trying to study in that library.  I’ve even fallen asleep and missed the last bus home.  Overnight at the library?  Let me tell you… not all that cozy.

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79 Comments

Lavender Honey Winner

May 15, 2009

Lavender Honey

Well geeeez!

Remember that Mother’s Day giveaway!?  Yea?  Just barely?

Big warm hugs and a giant thank you to all of you who shared stories about your amazing mothers.  Your stories… phew!  You got me cryin’ a few times… I can’t lie.  Thanks for being so open and lovely about your moms.  I loved reading all of your entries.

The winner of the dreamy Lavender Honey?  Amy of Sing for Your Supper.  Right on Amy!  Way to go being comment 58!  Way to go Random.org for being great at picking random numbers… like 58.  Sweet!

9 Comments

Raspberry and Jam Muffins

May 13, 2009

Raspberry and Jam Muffins

I woke up to an utterly dreamy California morning on Tuesday.  The soft morning sun was just streaming through my bedroom window, the birds were singing good morning, and I knew that I had a whole basket of clean laundry for the week ahead.  Pretty sweet morning, right?

Sure… the only problem was that my brain was entirely unwilling to join  the sunny spirit.  Nope.  I felt like on  big stale loaf of bread.  After an extended love affair with my snooze button, I determined, behind closed eyelids, that the only thing that would change my circumstance was streusel topping.  On the shuffle from my warm bed to the kitchen counter I decided that blueberry muffins with streusel topping would flip the light switch in my brain.

There was only one problem with my blueberry muffin plan.  I had not a blueberry in sight.  No fresh.  No frozen… just a whole lotta outta luck.  After rifling through my freezer and fridge I emerged with the tail end of a bag of frozen raspberries, and half a jar of strawberry jam.  I figured that, brought together under the welcoming umbrella of streusel topping, these two would simply have to work.  Not but thirty minutes later, puffy streusel topped muffins found their way out of the oven and into my face.  While they didn’t pay that pesky credit card bill, or make that much needed dentist appointment, they at least kept me from crawling back in bed for a handful of hours.  Sometimes, that kind of help is just enough.

It’s not every morning that you jump out of bed ready for the world, fully equipped to make blueberry muffins.  When those morning escape you, I promise that with a little jam, the remains of your frozen fruit collection, and loads of streusel topping, you just might be able to set things right.

Raspberry and Jam Muffins

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68 Comments

Crustless Quiche with Spinach and Mushrooms

May 11, 2009

Crustless Quiche

I’m not sure exactly how to say this, so I’m just going to go ahead and put it out there.

For the first time in…. ever… I had fun at a baby shower.   Real time, legitimate good times at a baby shower.  I wasn’t even faking it, not even a little bit.

I’m going to stand by what may be an unpopular position.  In the past I’ve found most baby showers I’ve had to attend, a troubling combination of boring and humiliating.  Between standing around listening to various labor horror stories and playing disgusting baby games that involve Tootsie Rolls and diapers, I typically just barely manage a fake smile.

This weekend’s baby shower was different.  My friends Mitch and Lara got together, got married, and made another human that Lara is currently growing in her belly.  These people are filled with hilarity, and an uncommon and humble goodness.  Watching them open their baby gifts with grace and a downright speedy efficiency (thanks!), I couldn’t help but imagine their little girl filling the onesies, hats and socks they received.  While it may sound silly, the reality of this impending life became more lovely and amazing as each gift was opened.

That I may or may not have been able to cheat at one of the baby team relay games has very little to do with me having a great time at the shower.  Don’t press me on this.  Please.

Now, without a well-crafted transition, I bring you Crustless But Still Dang Good Quiche.

Crustless Quiche

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107 Comments

Summer Sweet Raspberry Lemonade

May 8, 2009

Raspberry Lemonade

When it comes time for a little human to call me Mom, there are several things I hope for.  Here are a few of those hopes:

I hope that I’ll no longer run screaming from the room at the sight of a spider.  Mom has to take care of the spider… that’s sort of part of the deal as Mom, right?  Maybe can I always get away with saying, “Let’s go get Daddy to take care of that spider.”  I hope that works.

I hope that a deep affection for pickles and pancakes, though not necessarily on the same plate, is hereditary.

I hope that I have as good a pair of Mom Hands as my mom.

Most importantly, I hope that I create as patient and loving, supportive and hilarious a family as was provided for me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who have the patience and care to raise new, happy, and lovely people in the world.

Here’s some dreamy Raspberry Lemonade, and all sort sof recipes that you might consider making for your mom and family this weekend.

Raspberry Lemonade

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48 Comments

Mother’s Day Lavender Honey Giveaway!

May 6, 2009

Lavender Honey

I’ll be the first to admit that I had some pretty ugly teenage years.

Sure. I had awkward limbs, a face full of acne, and was otherwise unfortunate looking, but I’m talking about what an utter brat I was for a solid two (plus) years.

Did you go through some seriously bratty years?  Just say yes.  We’ve all been there, right?  If you try to tell me you were a perfect angel, I just won’t believe you.

I seem to remember the distinct feeling that I knew everything there was to know about the world at the ripe old age of fifteen.  I thought most everything was beyond “annoying”, and I used that word… to death.  If eye rolling were an Olympic sport… gold medal… me.

I also had this obnoxious habit of assuming that everything that belonged to my mother, somehow also belonged to me.  From her favorite stationary, to her hidden stash of chocolates and the entire contents of her jewelry box, I acted as though it was all up for grabs.  Terrible, right?  Only when I was out in the world trying to save up my pennies to buy myself a nice box of tea, or my favorite rose lotion, did I realize that my mom deserved to have her treats without my mittens all up in them.

Lavender Honey

While I can take my obnoxious teenage years back, I suppose my real penance will come when my own teenage daughter pillages my valuables.  Until that joyous time, here’s what I’m going to do:  I’m going to give one of you a jar of beautiful French Lavender Honey.

Leave me a comment in this post and tell me this:

Tell me how your mom is spectacular, despite your possible teenage indiscretions.

I know a lot of you are moms, tell me what makes it all worthwhile.

I’d really like for this lovely honey to go to a Mom… it is, after all, Mother’s Day.  Maybe that means you’re a hard working Mom and need a tea and toast break.  Maybe that means you win this honey and give it to your Mom as a “thanks for being awesome” gift.

Comments close Thursday at midnight Pacific Standard Time and the winner will be chosen by the Random Number Generator.  Happy Mother’s Day!

301 Comments

Milk Chocolate Pudding with Cream and Raspberry Sauce

May 4, 2009

Milk Chocolate Pudding

I was notorious in my family for being the child that could only be comforted by my mother.

Most playful family weekends, the scene went something like this:  I’d be in the backyard playing with my little sister, my dad and Scamper, the family dog on our creaky, rusted and awesomely fun swing set.  My favorite move was to swing as high as I could, count to three with my sister and jump out of the swings onto the grass.  Sounds innocent enough, but I was always getting my little girl fingers stuck in the chains of the swing as I dismounted.

I’d hit the ground and look at my dad with the silent cry face… the face kids give their parents before the completely lose it and burst into tears.  My dad would invariable come over and try to talk me out of losing it, but I was already halfway into the ugly cry by then.  It was then that no one but my mom could handle the cajoling and kissing of my finger.  I’d run into the house, screaming like a maniac and clutching my (not even bleeding) finger, looking for my mother who had found just a few moments peace to take a shower or a short nap.  I’d force myself into her lap, lift the offending, pained finger, and wait for the mom comfort to blanket me.  So good.

Come to think of it, that swing set caused as many injuries as it did smiles.

Come to think of it, jumping off the swing set is always worth the hurt finger.

Come to think of it, this pudding has much the same healing qualities as my mom’s lap.

Milk Chocolate Pudding

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70 Comments

Sweet and Spicy Almonds

May 1, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Baked Almonds

Here’s a fun thing to do!  Take a few minutes to close your eyes and imagine yourself as an old person.  I’m not talking about late sixties.  That’s not old yet.  I’m talking about great great grandmother old.. pushing the mid-nineties.

Sounds crazy?  Why would you spend time picturing white hair in bobby pins, shuffling feet and rocking chairs?  I feel like getting old is a luxury.  Not everyone gets to do it, so why not sit and enjoy the thought a bit?

I imagine that I’m the kind of old lady that talks to her over fed cats, and yells across the house to her practically deaf husband.  I hope I’m the kind of old lady who has a piano in the house just so my grandchildren can come over and practice their scales while I shuffle around the kitchen baking them cookies.

I want to be the kind of old lady that always thinks a glass of champagne is a good idea.

I want to be the kind of old lady who always has something out on the living room table for that unexpected guest.  Maybe it’s those soft chalky mints.  Maybe a freshly baked pie.  Maybe it’s these Sweet and Spicy Baked Almonds.  These nuts, my friends, have me daydreaming of old lady times somehow… with a smile on my face.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Almonds

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48 Comments

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