Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category
There is something about baking for a friend; a reminder of why baking is so important to me. It may sound strange to you, but when I get requested to bake for a special occasion it is easy to keep my cool. When the request is coming from a friend it adds a different layer to the scenario, a sense of nervousness sets in. In this case nerves work in my favor, they allow me to focus on a level that is hard to explain.
I take pride in everything I do; from selecting ingredients I can stand by to brainstorming with clients to develop the picture perfect cake (cupcake, cookies, etc). That is why I was honored to bake for Thiru Kumar of NY Dosas fame, he is also someone who takes great pride in what he does. Rain or shine, Thiru feeds the hungry people of New York nearly every day of the week. Over the past year, we developed a friendship that I am very grateful for. He was celebrating a very special day in his life, a wedding anniversary, and wanted me to contribute to the celebration. After a few days of talking to him, I had a simple and pure design in mind – nature.
“Plant seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love; it will all come back to you in abundance. This is the law of nature.”
There is something to be said about the feeling a connection gives us – hope and inspiration. I had the pleasure of experiencing a connection this weekend when I went strawberry picking with a friend. It may come as a surprise to most of you, but I have never picked a berry or an apple. If you have not either, try to go as soon as you can.
When I have a recipe in mind (which is quite often), there is no better feeling than going to a farmer’s market for all my ingredients. I can not stress the importance of supporting our farmers – especially the young agricultural visionaries just getting started. Travelling a few hours to Lyman Orchards this past weekend was life changing. While picking strawberries was entertaining, it also opened my eyes to the beauty of farming and connection with food. There is a state of zen that one reaches when being on a farm – so much time goes into the cultivating land and when a fruit or vegetable comes into season, magic is revealed.
After handpicking strawberries, we spent the day on the farm and purchased a bunch of preserves and jams. It was the perfect day. Once we returned to New York, we decided to put our reward into muffins. Did I mention they were apple cider muffins?
Thank you Naomi for making this possible.
I was never one to know my way around the kitchen. I was the girl who could somehow ruin eggs and screw up boiling water while being completely convinced that Salmonella was lurking inside of every piece of meat I’ve ever cooked; to put it plainly – a chef, I was not. It took roughly twenty-seven years (and a whole lot of flour) to figure out that I was actually a pretty fantastic baker.
I’ve always been appreciative of the culinary arts…or basically just a fat kid at heart. I love food…no, really – it’s pretty embarrassing that I become excited over the thought of my next meal…and desserts? Forget it! I love everything about that final round of dinner – the last hurrah of the evening’s culinary adventure. I dread that uncomfortable moment in a restaurant when the waiter offers the dessert menu, for all of my dining companions take hold of their bellies in unison, boldly proclaiming how stuffed they are and that they cannot possibly fit another ounce. I’m the girl that ALWAYS has room for dessert and rarely wants to share. Food has always been the focal point of every family event and holiday growing up. My giant Italian family is always feeding someone. If you go visiting, the first thing that you’re asked is “what do you want to eat?” You can forget about saying no. Something will be concocted for you and you WILL eat it and it WILL be delicious. Food is present when babies are born, when lifetime milestones are reached, and when people pass away. It’s no wonder I associate food with feelings of comfort and warmth and it is those same feelings that I seek to invoke with my creations.
About three years ago, I began to try my hand at the baking game. The only reason I really started was to bake “healthy” options since I refuse to give up sweets when I diet…and I’m pretty much always on a diet. I remember the first item I baked from scratch was a batch of low-fat banana chocolate chip muffins. Side Note: The recipe called for whole wheat flour, which is certainly…different. Do not be fooled. Whole wheat flour when baking muffins or cupcakes is nothing like regular old “bad for you” white flour. Thoroughly excited with my creation, I moved on to low-fat pumpkin spice cookies, since I melt at the thought of anything with the word “pumpkin” in it – and I scored another success. That year I became bold enough to offer to make the pecan pie for Thanksgiving, which if you know what a room full of hungry Italians is like, is a huge deal. The pecan pie is no joke in my family and needless to say my chocolate pecan pie was a huge hit – such a hit that this year will be my fourth year in a row baking it.
I must have been subconsciously bragging about my accomplishments because when I started my new job and “birthday season” rolled around, I suddenly found myself being asked to bake for all of the department birthdays. People began requesting specific types of cupcakes, which I always took to another level. I remember starting out with strawberry cupcakes with vanilla frosting, cannoli cream cupcakes (with homemade cannoli cream of course), moving right along into peanut butter & jelly cupcakes and chocolate pretzel cupcakes – just to name a few. By now I am known in my office as “the girl who bakes the cupcakes,” and it is absolutely wonderful. People associate me with “breaking a diet” and “indulging a little,” which only means my mission is being accomplished. To say I “love” my new hobby is an understatement. I find so much pleasure in creating something from beginning to end that makes other people happy. I love the smile on a person’s face when the take that first bite of my latest creation and tell me that I’ve done it again.
While my main focus is cupcakes, I began to dabble with cookies, monstrous brownies, and cakes – even moving into the sticky world of fondant, as well as pearls and shimmer effects. I debuted my latest “Guinness and Bailey’s” cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day today and they were quite the hit. I take my recipes from all corners of the Internet and in the countless cookbooks my family and friends have begun to shower me with (not completely selfless, I’m aware). Since I started baking, I feel more confident, relaxed and happy in a self-fulfilling way. If I’ve had a long day, baking a batch of cupcakes while dancing around to my favorite songs is a surefire way to cheer me up. I hope you enjoy following me through my journey from hobbyist to (hopefully) professional cupcake-maker extraordinaire and along the way find your own inspiration to become happily self-fulfilled.
The autumn air is crisp enough to inspire the most unmotivated of folks… a beautiful sight indeed. November is always a busy month for me and the operations of Oven Fresh Dreams. Firstly, Thanksgiving demands a large workload and attention to detail, which can get chaotic without the proper preparation. Luckily, this year will be different from the rest. After much success in the past (read previous post), Jeanny and I will be joining forces for the holiday rush. Thanksgiving orders will hopefully go a bit smoother, but that is not all. We will be selling traditionally seasonal pastries at a local bake sale on Sunday, November 10. It will be a very small venue, but the opportunity to connect with neighbors is priceless. If you are interested in finding more info about the bake sale or want to talk Thanksgiving baking email these addresses respectively: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
If you feel like testing your baking thumb, here is an easy to follow video.
P.S. Michelle Perez’s (She Can’t Draw) “Beyond The Cookie Cutter” interview will debut in December.
I will be the first to admit that baking “specialty” cakes are out of my comfort zone. However, I jump to the occasion whenever there is a request available because it pushes my limits and allows me to get creative. As much as I love sticking to traditional (i.e. wedding cakes) cakes, the real learning begins when you step out of your comfort zone. It also gives me a good excuse to collaborate with my close friend and former classmate Jeanny.
When it comes to collaborating or lending her a helping hand, I am always on board. Jeanny is a pleasure to work with because she understands how the kitchen works, she is neat and efficient. Aside from that, she is a cake powerful house. When I decided to focus my attention to bread and breakfast pastries, Jeanny dove into the word of cakes. There are many times where my imagination grows wild and I come up with elegant cake ideas. Once I present them to Jeanny she takes them to the next level, so you can say she is my fondant sensei. I look forward to the day where the student becomes the teacher, so I can show her a trick or two.
As soon as I heard she needed help with a dinosaur cake for her cousin’s birthday the ideas started flowing. I was thinking a big three tier cake with each tier symbolizing a different stage in a dinosaur’s life. The more I sketched, the more detailed my ideas became. However, one tiny problem came up. When I went to tell Jeanny my concept, she told me that the order was changed to a one tier tres leches cake. While the cake may be delicious and one of my favorites, it presented a lot of challenges for design. That’s when we decided to start from scratch. We had to think of a way to decorate a delicate and still make it look awesome.
After a quick brainstorming session, the idea came to us; a dig site cake. We knew Aiden was fascinated by dinosaur documentaries, so focusing on fossils felt right. The bones were made out fondant and the sand out of crushed graham crackers, it was going to be a sweet cake – Jeanny likes to add dulce de leche in between each layer.
In the end, the cake out looking like this…
The cake was a success and the birthday boy was happy; a job well done.
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