S’mores Icebox Candy Bars

S'mores Icebox Candy Bars

I’m putting on an orange leotard tomorrow.  An orange leotard.

I’m also putting on bright blue leggings tomorrow.. and white leg warmers… and sweat bands.

I’m going to encourage the big, puffy, curly hair that I spend most days trying to tame.  Yes, there will be blue eye shadow.

I’m going to step out in the world tomorrow as an 80’s aerobics instructor.  The only little hitch?  That I actually have to step out of the house in a skin tight orange leotard and skin tight blue leggings.  Oooh lordy.  Whose idea was it to take the Halloween celebration beyond my solo living room dance parties?  Yeeps!

Ironically, the only thing making me feel better about my very bright and very tight 80’s debut are these S’mores Icebox Candy Bars.  There are fifteen in a batch and I’ve worked through four just writing this post.  Send help.  Orange leotard, people…. send help.

S'mores Icebox Candy Bars

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My Favorite Scrambled Eggs


These eggs aren’t the only thing that’s scrambled.

My brains…. also pretty scrambled right now.

As far as I see it, there are two solutions to the scrambled brain mess that I’ve got going on inside my head right now: a whole weekend worth of sleep or a bag of fun size Snickers bars.

Aaaand Snickers it is… but first, let me show you what I eat morning, noon and night:  scrambled eggs.

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Lauren’s Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Lauren's Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Have I introduced you to my little sister Lauren?

Lauren… this is everyone.

Everyone… this is Lauren.

Lauren and I grew up in the kitchen together.  We made brownies, we burnt cookies, we frosted crooked cakes, and we could plow through a box of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch in 10 minutes flat.  We were always in the kitchen either creating or consuming.  True.

Things aren’t all that different for me and Lauren these days.  We spend a lot of time baking up treats, talking about Paula Dean, and arguing about which awkward teenage phase was worse:  my Blossom Hat Phase or her Sweatpants and Vest Wearing Phase.  Just typing those out… they each seem like equal tragedies.  Thank heavens we’ve moved past that.

Lauren's Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I’m introducing you to my sister because these two things are true:

1.  If Lauren were not in the world, I would surely be unable to breathe… that’s how much I love this girl.

2.  I shoved my camera in Lauren’s hands last week, told her to bake something and take pictures of it.  In her unending brilliance, she returned to me a camera full of pictures (including the self portrait below) and six of these cookies.  Holy heck!  A food blogger could get used to this kind of treatment.  For real.

Lauren's Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

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My Kitchen Basics

Kitchen Stuffs 

I cleared out my cooking cupboard and piled everything up on a table… I’m trying to make a point.  

I think it’s important you know that you don’t need cabinets full of fancy equipment to make glorious things happen in the kitchen.  

I think it’s important you know that I don’t have the most, biggest, nor the best equipment in my kitchen.  I do seem to have enough… and I’m scrappy enough to make things work.  

Let’s talk kitchen gear:  what you must have and what you might want to have on hand.  

Aaaand, go!

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Maple Pecan Muffins

Maple Pecan Muffins

Today’s Maple Pecan Muffins are dedicated to Tracey.

Tracey, you are dear and darling… and 15, which is equal parts hard and rad, I know.

Let me tell you a little about Tracey.  Tracey had her 15th birthday last week.  Tracey’s best friend Maggie sent me a pretty precious email asking me if I would send Tracey an autographed picture of myself for her birthday.  See,  Tracey is a great baker and a huuuuge fan of my site.

I’m not the sort to have pictures of myself to autograph on hand… that would be totally weird,  so I sent Tracey a little birthday gift and handwritten note.  Easy enough, right?   In return Tracey sent me a very long, very excited, exceedingly adorable email to thank me for her birthday present.  Seriously friends… this girl is priceless.


After reading Tracey’s email a handful of times (it was packed to the gills with information), here are a few things I want you to know about my new friend:

Tracey makes a mean lemon pound cake with blueberry sauce.

Tracey almost set her house ablaze trying to make these doughnuts.

Tracey is obsessed with muffins… and feeds them to her dog.  Let’s all just pretend like that’s normal.

Tracey got a “Tracey the Baker” apron for her birthday.  Clearly I have competition.

By sharing loads homemade cookies, Tracey is well on her way to becoming the most popular girl in school.  Don’t get too popular Tracey… it might be overrated.

Tracey giggles a lot… not in emails, but this is just something I’ve surmised from being 15 and eating a lot of sugar once upon a time.

Tracey?  Is that Jesus peeking over your shoulder on your fridge there?  If so… awesome.  If not… awkward.

Tracey these muffins are my little shout out to you because it seems like you get as excited about eggs and butter and sugar and flour as I do.  That makes me happy. Thank you.

Maple Pecan Muffins

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We Do Dinner!

We Do Dinner 

Hey!  Can I share some fun news!?  Sweet… thanks.

What makes dinner with friends even more fun and lovely?  A dash of holiday spirit… aaaand whiskey.  

I love the months between September and January because I get to cook and cook and cook.  Something about the holidays inspires people to gather and consume… it’s just heaven for me.  

We Do Dinner 

This holiday season I’m teaming up with my super chef friends and crackpot wine buddies to cater big ol’ homey holiday suppers for people in their homes.  You gather.  We throw down in the kitchen.  You consume.  We’re talking six course meals with things like Braised Cocoa Beef with Buckwheat and Corn Polenta Cakes and Christmas Lima Beans. Yea… the real deal.  How about Warm Apple Crostadas with Butterscotch Ice Cream and Bourbon Whipped Cream?  Yes.  Please.  Dang.  

We also do dishes.  Wait… chefs who do dishes!?  Well… we bring help.  That’s true.  

I’m telling you all of this goodness because if you’re in Los Angeles or San Francisco… well heck, maybe you’d like to throw a badass holiday dinner party.  Weeks sure are coming and going quickly so email us at joythebakerdinners (at) gmail (dot) com if you’d like to talk food… talk wine… talk menu and pricing… and talk holidays with you.

Persimmon Pudding

Persimmon Pudding

Persimmon Pudding, from tree to table.

Step One:  Find a neighbor with a gorgeous, almost cartoon like persimmon tree.  Ask your Mom to help you pick persimmons… Mom always likes to help.

Step Two:  Entice neighbor and Mamabear with the promise of fresh baked persimmon pudding if you’re granted access to their persimmon tree.

Step Three:  Try this phrase, “Hey Neighbor!  I think you’re just swell.  Can I borrow a ladder?  That’s one tall tree.  Sweet… thanks.”

Persimmon Pudding

Step Four:  If you decide to sneak a peek into the other neighbor’s yard while you’re up on that ladder picking persimmons… maybe you’ll want to be more subtle than my mother.  I’m just sayin…

Persimmon Pudding

Step Five:  Pick the ripest, softest persimmons.  Way to be, Mom!

Persimmon Pudding

Step Six:  Carefully place super ripe persimmons in bag to cart off home, thanking your neighbors Dan and Libby for their ladder and their abundant tree.

Persimmon Pudding

Step Seven:  If you don’t happen to have a neighbor with a persimmon tree, I’m betting that the local farmer’s market will have some gorgeous Hachiya persimmons for you this time of year…. and you won’t need a ladder.

Step Eight:  Call your favorite Aunt from Indiana and ask her to promptly send you all of the persimmon recipes she owns… that will be a lot.  Seriously.  Thanks Judy!

Persimmon Pudding

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Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Soup

Pumpkin Soup

Autumn To-Do List

Buy boots.  Wear new boots at every waking moment.

Bust out the scarves and go for it.  Two at a time?  Fine by me!

Make Dad’s Sweet Potato Pie.  I know… I’ve been talking about this for ages.  I need to shut my trap and get bakin’ already.

Don’t get Swine Flu, that would be seriously lame.

Is it time for flannel sheets?  Well.. is the Pope Catholic?  Heck yes!

Eat Roasted Pumpkin Soup by the truckload.  Do it.  Done.

Pumpkin Soup

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What’s going on in my world?  

Oooh the usual… just swabbing my cheeks, barcoding the samples, labeling them a biohazard, shoving them in an envelope and leaving them for the postman.  That’s normal… I do this nearly everyday.

I’m swabbing because I just put myself on the Be The Match list with the National Marrow Donation Program.  The National Marrow Donation Program houses a giant list and genetic samples of possible donors… a list about 12 million people long.  Dang!  Doctors look for genetic matches for patients that suffer from life threatening illnesses like leukemia and lymphoma.  Sometimes doctors and patients find a genetic match among the millions on the list… sometimes they don’t.  

If I’m a match, some doctors will come to knock me out and take bone marrow from my lower back.  Someone gets my good bone marrow and I grow my own bone marrow back.  Success!  I decided to become a part of the National Marrow Donation Program because I feel blessed enough to be strong and healthy, and would be more than happy to share that health with someone else.  

It’s a bit commitment … one that I considered for months before signing up.  See, there’s needles… and many hours of prep and testing before the actual donation begins.  And… needles.  

I’m not telling you about the National Marrow Donation Program because I want you to rush out and sign up.  It was the right choice for me… but it might not be for everyone.  But… if you think marrow donation might be right up your alley, well then heck!  Get on it!  I just wanted to share.  Now you know what I’m up to when I’m not in the kitchen making cookie dough, or avoiding dishes, or snacking, or drinking wine, or being otherwise silly and unproductive.  

Now you know. 


Spiced Apple Cake

Spiced Apple Cake

I sometimes wish that my future self could just pop into my present world just to… you know… say hi, and let me know that everything in the future is going along just swimmingly.  That never happens, but maybe I just haven’t given future me enough guidance.  With this in mind…  here’s a quick letter to future me.  Now maybe 48 year old me will get crackin’ on some answers.  Slacker.

Dear Future Me,

Hi.  How’s it going?  You look really pretty in that sweater.

I have a few questions for you.  I hope you’ll indulge me.

Are you still unreasonably afraid of spiders?  Probably.  You know what?  That’s ok.  That’s what spouses are for… clearing spiders from anywhere that might interfere with you.

Speaking of spouses… do you have one?  How’s that going?  Awesome.  I hope it’s awesome.  I hope you two hold hands and take morning walks and go out on dates.

Do you still buy the cheap mascara?  Have you been to Italy yet?

Tell me you still wear a little black dress and heels on occasion.  Please.

Kids.  Do we have Mom hands yet? Oooh, I love Mom hands.  I can’t wait to have Mom hands… well I can wait.  I’m waiting right this very second and I don’t feel bad.  But Mom hands…. I bet we totally have Mom hands.

How do you feel about eggplant?  Do you like eggplant yet?

What’s been good?  What’s been not so good?  Are you livin’ the dream?

Let me know how we are.  Send me a sign… maybe a paper airplane with your answers… whatever you need to do.

I’ll be sitting here with a cup of tea and my Spiced Apple Cake waiting to hear from you.


Present Me

Spiced Apple Cake

Quick Blurb of Shamelessness

Hi… it’s me, Joy the Baker.  I hang out here a lot.  So do you.  I like that.  Thanks.

Last week I was nominated for the Foodbuzz Blog Awards.  The Best Baking Blog… go figure.  If you’re feeling… votey, you might head on over to Foodbuzz to vote for all the fine folks that are up for an award.  Yea?  Thanks!


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Sunday Winners!

Green Kitchen Tools Giveaway 

Let’s make this quick and dirty, shall we?

From a cool 1,123 comments, Random.org has selected lucky winners 555 and 836.  That means Miss Andrea Cox and Stephanie from Hawaii… Holy Heck!  You win win win!  

But… there’s goodness for all of us.  The lovely folks at Green Kitchen Tools would like to offer each and every one of you 10% off whatever fancypants products you might like to treat yourself too.  Everyone likes a sale right!?  Consider this your own personal Green Kitchen Tools sale.  Simply type: GKT10P into the coupon code and… taadaaa!  Money saving magic.  

Tomorrow?  Spiced Diced Apple Cake.  Let me just tell you… it’s a good thing I took pictures of that dang cake already because I’ve already eaten half of it…. by myself… using the “I’ll just have a sliver” method.  It’s good.  It’s really really good.

Green Kitchen Tools Giveaway

Green Kitchen Tools Giveaway

Can I tell you about my new favorite kitchen tool?

Nope… not a big ladle… not a fancy spatula, but a mighty fine and beautifully crafted pizza cutter from Green Kitchen Tools.

Ironically enough, I have not yet used this pizza cutter to slice pizza, but so far it’s worked wonders helping me with the homemade pasta and slices right through the giant kale leaves that I like to eat for dinner.  Soon enough I’ll use the sharp blade and lovely bamboo handle to slice through my favorite pizza.

Before I get cooking, I wanted to take a minute to give two of you a set of these super sweet bamboo handled kitchen utensils.

One happy reader will get a full set of Green Kitchen Tools spoons, spatulas and pancake flippers.

Another giddy reader will get a full set of grill tools.  Sweet deal right?

All you have to do to enter this giveaway is leave a comment telling me about your favorite kitchen tool.  Come on!  Play along!

Green Kitchen Tools Giveaway

The Best Buttermilk Substitutions

 Buttermilk Substitute

Let’s take a quick minute to talk about buttermilk.

What is buttermilk?  Buttermilk is a slightly sour milk.   The sourness of buttermilk comes acids in the milk, most notably, lactic acids.  Because the proteins in buttermilk are slightly curdled, buttermilk is slightly thicker than regular milk, but not quite as thick as cream.  Buttermilk is also usually much lower in fat than regular milk and cream.

Say you wanted to make some butter and buttermilk waaaaay back in the day.  First you’d take your fresh milk from the cow, let’s say a big old bucket full… and you’d leave it out at room temperature for a few days.  After a few days the rich cream would separated and formed a thick layer on top of the milk.  During these few days, the milk would fermented a bit from the lactic acid forming bacterias in the milk.  Gross?  Not at all!  The bacteria produced would help lower the pH of the milk and protect with milk from icky microorganisms, making the butter easier to churn.  Once the butter is churned the residual liquid that’s produced…. that’s buttermilk!

Nowadays, buttermilk is a whole other production.  Cultured buttermilk, as it is called in the United States these days, is a pasteurized milk product.  Instead of letting the milk ferment naturally, most dairies now add a culture of lactic acid bacteria to produce the same thickening and curdling of the milk.  Many dairies also add tiny yellow colored flecks of butter to simulate the old fashioned product.

Buttermilk is an important part of baking.  The acidic milk combined with baking soda in a recipe is a baker’s dream.  See… when baking soda is combined with the lactic acids of buttermilk, the soda releases carbon dioxide that when heated, released tiny bubbles that expand and lift and lighten whatever you’re baking.

But what if you’re plum out of buttermilk?  There are solutions…. let’s talk.

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Easy No-Roll Pie Crust

No Roll Pie Crust and a Sugar Pie


This is important.

I need you to hold your pinky up for me.  We’re about to make a very important promise to one another.

I need you to promise me that you’ll never. ever.. ever… ever buy a store-bought pre-made pie crust again.  Don’t do it.  Promise me.

Those store bought pie crusts are full of all sorts of mystery fats, trans fats, dirty fats, mean fats… you don’t want all that mess in your pie!

Besides… I’ve come up with the pie crust recipe of your dreams.  Seriously.  Fluff the ingredients in a bowl, throw in some moisture, then press the dough directly into your pie pan.  No chilling.  No rolling.  No stress.  I’m looking out for you.

If you’re scared of pie, I’ve got you’re back…. promise… lemme show you.

No Roll Pie Crust and a Sugar Pie

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