So I didn’t win the lottery guys. I’m kind of disappointed, because I was pretty sure that it was going to happen to me. But alas, it looks like my Mega Millions
is going to some guy (or three) in Maryland, Illinois and Kansas
It’s funny to me, both the kind of hype that surrounded this jackpot and also the number of people who stated jokingly (and with maybe just an ounce
of hope) that they were going to win.
I was amongst them.
And though I know the odds of getting struck by lightning
are better, I do feel a sense of disappointment that I didn’t get to retire from my job (which I started on Wednesday) and begin the arduous task of spending a few
hundred million over a lifetime.
I read once that all people have a slightly inflated sense of self. We’re all basically programmed to think we’re more right, or good or lucky than the next person. The reason was evolutionary: people need to trust themselves and to take risks in order for the species to thrive.
I know there’s this psychological reason behind all the hype, but I m struck by the hope of people.
I’m sure some people, completely knowing and understanding the odds - understanding the extremity of the long-shot - felt just a little bit disappointed. Me too.
I like to think it’s a human mechanism for hope. That it’s the kind of thing that lets us imagine and believe that we
could change our lives in a big way. It gives us a chance to dream out loud to our friends at what we would do if given the chance to change our lives. The money is an opportunity, but more so a catalyst. A moment where we can step outside of the norm and give ourselves a reason to make a big change.
But, why not do it anyway?
Sure, you don’t have $400 million dollars, but how many people said they would travel more? How many people said they would eat better? How many people said they’d buy a house?
Sure, these things cost money, but so many of them aren’t prohibitive. You can’t buy a house, but you can take the weekend and redo a room, or move the furniture. Maybe you want to go on vacation – what’s stopping you from trekking out for a hike or a night out in a different city? Why can’t you start learning to cook today?
A better life is possible, if only we allow ourselves to have it. Money’s not the issue. It’s us. It’s the little voices in our heads telling us that there are more important things to do. More pressing issues. That the time is later, because now, this thing needs to happen.
But that’s a false thought. Money can come to us at any moment in our life, but time? Time is a hot commodity. There are only so many minutes left for each of us and the clock is ticking down.
So you and I, we may not have won the Mega Millions, but we did win one heck of a prize: time. Opportunity. Hope. That’s what fantasizing is. It’s your dreams spoken out loud.
So I think it’s time to let evolution take over. Trust yourself. Believe that luck is going to be on your side. Go out there and make your life look exactly the way you want it. Believe in yourself. It’s just the natural thing to do.
And the next time the lottery gets Mega, buy a ticket. You never know, you may just be a one in 147 million.
If eating better was part of your Lotto Wish List, start today! These little calzones are a bit time consuming, but are great for a novice. With the broccoli filling, use your instincts and taste a bit before you put it in. Does it taste good? Does it need salt? Pepper? more heat? More cheese? This filling does notneed to be set in stone. If you buy the pizza dough, it cuts out time. Don’t worry if a hole forms in the calzone as your making them – just
patch it up with a little extra dough. These are good to freeze and reheat for a snack or lunch. They also happen to be pretty good for you, so eat up.
KD's note: the original recipe calls for 8 calzones, but I double it and get about 16 out of the recipe. They're not as dough heavy and, I think, tastes better.
Broccoli Calzones (adapted, barely, from Martha Stewart)
1 tablespoon olive oil
(10 ounces each) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
Flour, for rolling dough
2 packages (1 pound each) balls fresh or frozen pizza dough, thawed if frozen
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded (6 ounces) part-skim mozzarella cheese
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Prepared tomato sauce (optional)
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion; cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add broccoli, garlic, and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Form calzones: Divide dough into 16 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, stretch each piece out, first to a 3-by-4-inch oval, then stretch again, this time to a 6-by-8-inch oval. (Let dough rest a few minutes if too elastic to work with.)
Stir cheeses into cooled broccoli mixture; season generously with salt and pepper. Assemble calzones: Spread a rounded 1/2 cup broccoli mixture over half of each piece of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border; fold over to form a half-moon. Press edges to seal. With a paring knife, cut 2 slits in the top of each calzone.
Using a wide metal spatula with a thin blade, transfer calzones to 2 baking sheets lined with parchment or waxed paper; reshape if needed. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with tomato sauce, if desired.
The thing about March in Northern California is that you never know what it’s going to be. One day, it’s beautiful, warm and balmy – you wonder how it could have ever been bad; and the next day, you’re caught in a torrential downpour, with water that chills you to the bones.
It’s kind of like life that way. Sometimes the sun is shining and it feels like everything is just right, suddenly, before you even know it, the tides turn and all you have is rain and clouds and gloom.
You try to weather the storm. But it's long. It feels like forever. You wonder how you could possibly stand being in the rain for one more second. You don't know what to do. You consider goin to bed and never getting up again. And just when you think that floods of the heavens will never cease, suddenly, just like that, the sun comes out.
You see, you can’t go through life without the rain, just like you can’t go through life with only sunshine. They need each other, the way the moon needs the sun, the yin - the yang, the body and mind.
We can only appreciate the sunshine because we’ve weathered the storm.
And next time, when we see the storm on the horizon, when we hear the drip drip drips, when the clouds seem like they’ll never go away, we find that this time, we’re armed with the knowledge that, there’s no need to worry, the storm will pass and eventually, if we keep on moving, the sun will shine again.
This is the kind of thing to eat in rain storm, or (if you’re me) any other time you want. There’s nothing better than chunky vegetable soup to warm you up and make you feel like you’re eating some real food.
KD's Note: This is probably not a traditional Minestrone, as I have ommitted the tubetti pasta and the pancetta that was in the original recipe. Feel free to add them if you are so inclined.
Minestrone Soup (adapted from Michael Chiarello)
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
6 medium garlic cloves, each cut in 1/2 lengthwise
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions (2 small onions)
1 cup small-diced celery (2 medium stalks)
1 cup small-diced carrots (2 to 3 medium carrots)
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary or thyme leaves
1 (14-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes 4 cups small-diced zucchini (green/yellow) (5 small zucchini)
2 cups small-diced, peeled russet potatoes (1 large russet)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
In a large saucepan over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions, celery, and carrots.
Cook until the vegetables are soft, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent browning. Add the chopped herbs. Raise the heat to high. Add the beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and potatoes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then bring it down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes, skimming any foam off the top of the soup. Season generously with pepper. Add salt, to taste. Serve warm with Parmesan and olive oil passed at the table.
Sometimes things go crazy. Just when you least expect them.
It all started when I got really tired. I’m in a social sports league where I play volleyball every Tuesday. The sports aspect to the league involves some pretty low key volleyball games and the social part involves going to the bar after the game. It’s pretty fly.
So I was at my Tuesday night volleyball game. We had a late game. We had apparently drawn the short stick and also had to ref after. It was a long night (and not in the fun long night kind of way).
After playing, refereeing and then driving the half hour home I dragged myself to bed, feeling all levels of tired. I turned on my computer (a decidedly bad nighttime ritual) and slowly, ever slowly, began to inch closer and closer to my pillow.
“But wait!” I thought to myself as I drifted closer and closer to the joy of a night’s sleep, “You really ought to get up to wash your face and take your contacts out!”
Fast forward to the morning.
I wake up, the light of day peeping ever so delicately through my window shades. “Oh, look, it’s 8 am” I think to myself. “The sun is shining, the birds are twittering, I’m so glad I got up and took my contacts out – oh crap - it’s 8am?!”
(This is the part of the story where anyone who works or goes to school or generally has a real job probably is thinking that they have this story figured out. Ha. Wait for it.)
My alarm clock is not, for various reasons - most important of which is that I don’t actually want to unplug the alarm clock and then have to reset it - next to my bed. I am also somewhat blind (not in the clinical sense, but it feels like it sometimes). Which means that if I can see my alarm clock from my bed you guessed it – I still have my contacts in!
You know how they say not to sleep in your contacts? Yeeaaahhh, don’t sleep in your contacts.
Sleeping in your contacts can, amongst other unfortunate things, cause your cornea to get scratched, which can lead to blindness.
No, I’m not blind.
But it does feel like it. I’ve been forced out of my contacts and am using eye drops every four hours. For a while there was an eye patch.
Not hot, friends. Not hot.
Subsequently, I had to wear glasses until it healed. While I don’t love having to do this, it’s not a huge deal.
I did, of course, have to wear them during volleyball the next week. No biggie. It’s pretty light hearted stuff and plus, I’ve been playing since I was twelve and what could possibly happen in some little Tuesday night game?
This can now go in the books as the first time I’ve been hit in the face with a volleyball. Actually, “hit” is not an appropriate word, “smashed” is more like it.
Imagine if there was a giant red bulls-eye between my eyes and that’s where the guy decides to spike it as hard as humanly possible. Right in the ol’ money maker. I may have yelled. I may have told the guy to learn how to play volleyball. Possibly.
There was blood from the gash between my eyes, a headache and now an unfortunate looking red mark. Hoorah.
In an attempt to give the giant welt between my eyes a chance to heal, I tried to put my contact lenses back in and managed to re-scratch my cornea, prolonging the healing time (and the wearing of glasses along with it).
Additionally, this weekend I managed to: slice my finger, throw my jaw out of alignment (and subsequently have to pop it back into place) and strain my calf muscle running. Lord.
So yeah, now would be about the time to eat cookies. Because if you’re going to be a scratched up, four-eyes with a crooked jaw and an eye patch, you might as well be fat, too. What the hell.
Snickerdoodles and milk. Classic.
I had some whole wheat pastry flour leftover from the brown bread, so I replaced a cup of AP flour with it. I couldn’t even tell the difference.
1 cup butter
1 ½ c. sugar
2 ¾ c. flour à(I replaced 1 c. with whole wheat pastry flour = 1 c. pastry flour + 1 ¾ c. AP flour)
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
For the topping:
2 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. cinnamon
Cream the butter, then add the sugar and beat until combined. Add the eggs and beat until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix to combine.
Add dry ingredient to wet and mix until just combined - do not over mix. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the coating. Using a heaping tablespoon, roll chilled dough into balls with your hands. Coat the outside of the dough balls in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place on a cookie sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400*F
The lovely thing about Irish food is that it’s perfect for rainy weather. It’s the kind of food that’s hearty and warm; it’s a pick-me-up, when the rain has soaked you to the bone.
It’s been raining for the past couple of days and it won’t stop until the end of the week culminating, rather fittingly, with St. Patrick’s Day, which lands on Saturday.
So, I made brown bread.
Brown bread is one of those ubiquitous things in Ireland and I –a yogurt and mueseli, hold the coffee kind of breakfast kid – took to a breakfast of brown bread, Irish butter and tea (with milk, please) like I was made for it.
Recipes abound for Irish bread on the ol’ Interwebs, but I was looking for something that was yeast-based (the stuff I got used to seeing in Ireland didn’t seem like it was soda bread, though what do I know?), brown (given) and simple (most genuine Irish accounts claim that all the extras like caraway seeds aren’t traditional).
So naturally, I wanted to use Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Brown Bread recipe.
Who’s Darina Allen? And what on earth is a Ballymaloe, you ask?
Darina Allen is Ireland’s premier food phenom who owns and operates the Ballymaloe Cookery School
in Shanagarry, Ireland. The school sits on 100 acres of organic farmland where they produce all their own food. Think of her as the fabulously Irish and chatty version of Alice Waters
. She’s that
kind of big deal.
The only problem with Darina’s recipe is that it’s so
simple, that it’s almost impossible to recreate. With only five ingredients (one of which is water), the recipe calls for strong wholemeal flour, treacle and fresh yeast.
Here’s the count:
Strong wholemeal flour: by mail order only.
Treacle: didn’t even look, molasses is close enough.
Fresh yeast: the only thing I could find in France, but of course, not in any of our local grocery stores.
Salt: oh thank goodness, I have that.
Despite all this, I decided to make it anyway. So you’ve been forewarned, this is not
the result of a precise recipe.
Verdict: Despite being super-glued to the pan, this bread was good fresh out of the oven. It was dense, as it’s meant to be, with a crunchy exterior and would probably be best as toast. Fun (and inexpensive) to try, but seeing as how it had to be tweaked so much, I’d pass on making it again until I’m at Ballymaloe. ;)
KD’s note: see my changes in italics throughout the recipe. I had difficulty removing the bread from the loaf pan and would consider NOT preheating the pan before and just simply preparing it with butter and flour as normal. Also, keep in mind that this is a no-knead recipe.
Ballymaloe Brown Bread (adapted from Epicurious)
Yield: Yield: 1 loaf
3 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (I added an extra teaspoon for good measure)
1 1/4 cups (400ml) water (I need more, use your instincts)
1 teaspoon molasses (I used 1 tablespoon)
3 1/2 cups (500g) whole-wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
2 teaspoon salt
Grease an 8in x 2 1/2in (20cm x 10cm x 6cm) loaf pan and warm it in a preheated oven 250°F/120°C, for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the yeast into 2/3 cup (150ml) of the water in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Add the molasses. Leave for 10 minutes, until frothy. Add the remaining water and stir.
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast. Stir in the flour to form a thick batter.
Use your hands to mix the batter gently in the bowl for 1 minute, until it begins to leave the sides of the bowl clean and forms a soft, sticky dough.
Place the dough in the prepared pan and cover with a dish towel. Proof until the dough is 1/2in (1 cm) above the top of the pan, about 25-30 minutes.
Bake in the preheated oven at 425°F/220°C for 30 minutes, then lower the oven to 400°F/200°C and bake for 15 minutes.
Turn the loaf out of the pan and onto a baking sheet. Return the bread, bottom side up, to the oven. Bake for a further 10 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Let cool on a wire rack.
Proofing: 25-30 minutes. Oven temperature: 425°F/220°C. Baking: 55 minutes Yeast alternative: 1oz (30g) cake yeast
How do we know that we’re some things and not others? Are we born that way, or do we just happen upon an interest and it sticks?
When my brother was a little boy, he had a teacher who asked her students to write in their journals every morning. My brother wrote about the weather.
Every day, without fail, when asked to write in their journals, he wrote about the weather.
Finally, the teacher approached my mother.
“I’m very concerned” the teacher said, “he’s doesn’t write about anything else but the weather.”
A veteran to the school system, and to some of the narrow-minded viewpoints within it, my mother replied, “So?”
“I think it could be a problem.” The teacher said.
Oh how little some can see.
Suffice it to say, my brother continued to write about the weather that year.
It’s not that my brother had nothing else to say, or was somehow a social outcast as may have been suggested.
My brother is a scientist.
An environmental scientist.
My brother was a little boy who was a scientist then, too.
And this is what the teacher didn’t see, what the teacher couldn’t understand in that moment: he wrote about the weather because he loved it. He wrote about the weather because he wanted to follow its progress and know and learn more about it. He wrote about the weather the way some people sing. He wrote about the weather the way some people write or do sports or play music. He wrote about the weather because it was who was.
I think we find our purpose and our passions when who we are - the very essence of ourselves - collides with a form of expression that fits us.
My brother is a scientist. I am a baker. We're all looking for that moment, I think. That moment when who we are collides with what we do. Some people do it in their jobs and some people do it as their hobbies and some people are still searching to find it. But it comes to all of us in different ways, at different moments and in different packages.
Sometimes, it just depends on the weather.
Banana Bread (very slightly adapted from Martha Stewart)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, and beat to incorporate.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture, and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla; mix to combine. Stir in nuts, and pour into prepared pan.
Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
Well, we’ve been at it again.
Guard your Kitchen Aids, friends. The Bee and I have been mixing.
You surely remember the marshmallow incident
, don’t you? You know how, through some unfortunate marshmallow whipping, we managed to more or less destroy an otherwise perfectly functional mixer?
Well, team Whip It was at it again. But this time, we brought out the big guns.
After declaring the mixer dead, the Bee’s husband (for whom I’ve yet to decide on an appropriate moniker) was on a mission to find a replacement. A replacement that could get the job done.
Now, I know the popular thing to get is a Kitchen Aid mixer, but I have to say, after some consideration, the consensus was that it wasn’t actually the best choice. Instead, with careful consideration and, of course, some research, the mixer purchased was….a Cuisinart! A sleek, black Cuisinart…we’re calling it Black Beauty.
Black Beauty in action.
Once we had Black Beauty and a date that we could get together both secured, we had to decided on the appropriate first thing to make in it. There were requirements. It had to be: something delicious (read: dessert), something we’d feel good about eating (healthy…maybe?) and something that required some heavy duty mixing – there’s no point in bringing out Black Beauty for a recipe that didn’t need the big guns!
I kind of thought it was the perfect time to do something that I’ve be wanting to try for a long time now: Pavlova.
What, you might ask, is Pavlova?
Well friends, it’s a cake. Made out of meringue. It’s like meringues on deliciously delightful steroids, covered in whipped cream and fresh berries. Oh, yes. It’s Superhero Meringue. Incredible Hulk Meringue. Captain America Meringue (post transformation). Spiderman post radioactive spider bite Meringue.
It’s the perfect thing to make in a giant mixer, really. So we did.
And it was delightful.
We also may have accidently made chocolate chip cookies andalsomaybesomechallahbread. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. It was Black Beauty’s fault.
So here’s the deal with the Pavlova: I took two reliable sources, Ina Garten and the Joy of Baking and got their takes on it. For the meringue, I followed Ina’s recipe, but cooked it at the temperature and time listed by Joy of Baking (we also formed it into a heart, just because it makes it adorable). Rather than buy pricey and out of season mixed berries, we went for only strawberries (which are more readily available and slightly cheaper at the moment) to top the cake. I converted Ina’s raspberry sauce into a strawberry sauce using strawberry jam and strawberries from the strawberry fields down the street that we froze at the top of the season last year. They were ridiculously sweet. This was a good switcheroo.
The verdict: the Pavlova was ridiculous. In a good way. It was light and sweet and fruity. Crispy and soft at the same time. Totally and utterly good. Make it. Make it right now.
Strawberry Pavlova (adapted from Ina Garten and Joy of Baking)
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe follows
1 1/2 pints (approximately) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
Strawberry Sauce, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw an 8-inch circle on the paper, using a 8-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won't get a pencil mark on the meringue.)
Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes. (You will know the sugar is dissolved when you rub the mixture between two fingers and can no longer feel any gritty sugar).
Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk (or a heart or some other shape you like)
. Bake for 60-75 minutes. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven. The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)
Invert the meringue disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Combine the strawberries in a bowl and toss with about 1/2 cup of strawberry sauce, or enough to coat the berries lightly. Spoon the berries carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue. Serve immediately in large scoops with extra strawberry sauce.Sweetened Whipped Cream
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don't overbeat!
Yield: 1 cupStrawberry Sauce (this is a very adaptable recipe, I eyeballed the ingredients and adjusted the sugar and jam according to the sweetness of the berries)
Generous ½ cup frozen (or fresh) strawberries
½ cup sugar
1 cup seedless strawberry jam (12-ounce jar)
Place the strawberries, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked berries and the jam into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.
Yield: 2 cups
So I should probably tell you about the bacon cupcakes. Seeing as how it’s been two weeks and much much longer in coming than I intended, you may be surprised at my confession.
It’s kind of weird.
Or maybe it’s just rare. Yes, we’re going to go with the more PC term and say that I am of a rare breed. Hm. As if we didn’t already know that.
So here it is, full disclosure: I’m not that into bacon. I mean, I like bacon. Don’t get me wrong. It’s alright. I eat it on occasion and I appreciate it as part of a weekend breakfast, nestled right next to some pancakes, or even cold and on a BLT (though I always find the BLT to be missing…something; I’m always a little hungry at the end).
I'm sorry bacon, I just don't love you that way.
But, let’s face it, when given the choice between bacon and not bacon, I often choose not bacon.
I’m sure there are those among you who are aghast at this statement. Bacon, even I can admit, is a bit of classic, and has been enjoying a particularly high level of attention these days. Some might say to the point of being overdone. But I don’t know. I get the whole salty/sweet combo that is all the rage and we certainly know that I’ll go to extremes for things like, say, salted caramel. Nonetheless, I was invited to a party that was very seductively entitled, “BaconFest.”
And even though I’m not that
into bacon, I am into cupcakes and I’m definitely
into experimenting with different techniques and new recipes. And anyway, I figure, when else are you going to get the opportunity to make maple bacon cupcakes without seeming a bit…decadent? (well really, has it ever stopped me from making something yet?) And BaconFest seems like the right moment.
I did some research and found most recipes out there to be a bit disappointing. I wanted the cupcake to incorporate maple and I also wanted to incorporate the bacon inside the cake batter. In fact, I was surprised at how many recipes didn’t actually use bacon in them at all. Most of them were some sort of pancake cake, with bacon simply used as garnish...which, well, kind of feels like a cop out, doesn’t it?
After a quick google search, I saw that one of the original maple bacon cupcakes (which, by the way, incorporates bacon in the batter) was dreamed up by none other than Sactown’s very own Vanilla Garlic
. Unfortunately, his recipe was too small and I was taking them to a party. Luckily, I found a very similar recipe from broma bakery
that ticked a lot of the boxes: maple frosting, bacon within the actual batter recipe and enough to feed more than just me and a friend. Success!
So I whipped them up. You know, like you do.
Verdict: beautiful cupcakes. Several rave reviews. Lots of bacon-ness. An all around good recipe.
Truth be told, these cupcakes are a bit savory for my liking. In my dream maple bacon cupcake world, the batter is sweeter with sharp bites of bacon throughout to hit you with some smoky, saltiness. I would have cut out the extra salt in the recipe and while the original recipe calls for milk, I substituted for buttermilk that I had on hand, which may have lent to the savory bent. Additionally, I would consider adding slightly less confectioners’ sugar to the frosting and a little bit of milk (or maybe even more maple syrup) to loosen it up a bit for piping. Finally, I cooked the bacon in the oven using Ina Garten’s technique
(though I only maple glazed the garnish bacon) and found that it made the bacon the perfect texture to crumble.
All in all a beautiful cupcake (do you like my rose piping technique??), but with all the pricey extras: the maple syrup and an entire package of bacon to start, just a little extravagant for your average, everyday cupcake needs. (What, you don’t have everyday cupcake needs?)
KD's Notes: I would consider ommitting the salt from this recipe. As for cooking the bacon, I roasted the strips in the oven using Ina Garten's technique, linked above. Also, you may wish to 1 1/2 this frosting recipe, as I found it to be not enough to cover all of the cupcakes.
Maple Bacon Cupcakes (slightly adapted from broma bakery)
For the cupcakes:
12 strips high-quality uncured bacon, and reserve 1/2 cup bacon drippings
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup maple syrup (real maple syrup, not imitation)
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
First, cook the bacon, either in the oven or a frying pan, until very crispy and brown. Reserve all the cooking liquid and allow to cool (I poured it directly from the sheet pan into a heat proof measuring cup. Be sure to save it all, as I had exactly the right amount of drippings).
Allow bacon to cool, then, using scissors, cut 7 of the strips into small bits, about the size of small peas (I cut the strips in half, then snipped them up from there). Cut the remaining 5 strips into quarters (these will go on the top of the cupcakes). Set everything aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, cream the butter, solidified bacon drippings, sugar, and maple syrup. Then add the eggs, one at a time and the milk. The texture will look clumpy/separated this is normal, don’t worry.
In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in thirds. Do not over mix. Finally, using a spatula, fold in the reserved bacon bits.
Pour the batter into lined cupcake molds. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (The original recipe calls for 30 minutes. Mine were completely done when I checked them at 20 minutes).
While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting. Cream the butter, and then add the vanilla and maple syrup. Lastly add in the confectioner's sugar. Mix until combined on low speed. If you are piping, you don’t want air bubbles!
Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost using a 1M (or 2D) frosting tip to create a rose or swirl. Or, use a knife/off-set spatula and garnish with the bacon pieces.
This is a rant. At least, I'm pretty sure this is going to turn into a rant quickly, since my patience has completely run out.
You have been warned.
I do not, as a general rule, hate technology. I think it has its time and place and I certainly think it has improved the quality of our lives in many, many ways.
But at this moment, I want to throw my [deleted expletive] computer at the wall. And here's why.
Not once, but twice now, I have gone to write a post for this blog and, not once, but twice, the window has shut down, without warning, after I'm almost completely done. Normally the recovery function would kick in and save most of, if not all, of my work. Nope. Not one single word was saved. Nothing.
I can't even begin to describe my level of anger at this. I want to take my (obviously useless) computer and throw it out of the window.
"But Katie!" You're thinking, "Did you look in the files on your computer? Did you go through all the automatically saved, temporary or recently used files stored on your computer?"
Yes. I did. For an hour, my computer person (more commonly known as my brother), sifted through endless files to try to find it. Nothing. A saved word file entitled, "Bacon Cupcakes" - empty. As though my little fingers didn't even type a measely word. Zilch. Zip. Zero.
And yes, I did push the save button. One time, this is what prompted the shutting down fiasco. The other, it seemed to have made no difference.
So today, in this moment, I hate you, technology. You can die. If you were a person, I'd want to hit you, and I'm not even (that) violent of a person. But I'm mad.
I ought to open a window and scream, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"
Heh. At least extreme anger at inanimate objects is kind of funny.
I am posting a happy, serene picture in an attempt to actualize such feelings within myself. We'll see how it goes.
I'm pretty sure I haven't told you about my ongoing relationship with John Mayer. You know, the loose-lipped, womanizing, singer/songwriter who I've been listening to since I was fifteen? Yep, that one. He hasn't always had such a dodgy reputation and let's face it, after this many years together, I'm way too deeply invested to just stop being involved with him. He used to be considered a nice, if not a bit eccentric guy who could kill it on the guitar. And despite the fact that he's been a little more than inappropriate
in his personal life in the past couple of years, I still happen to think that he's pretty darn interesting and, by any measure, an amazing guitarist and a great musician.
His new album, which had been delayed due to a granuloma
on his vocal chords, has finally been given a release day of May 22nd. Hooray! It’s called Born and Raised
and forgive me for totally digging the cover art:
It's totally old school and completely ignores the popular mid-century aesthetic that is all the rage right now. It's real art, which is rare on album covers these days. It's unexpected, but flawlessly executed and I love it.
Oh, and in case there was any doubt, yes, I am going to buy this album. Because me and Johnny boy? Well, we’re in this for the long haul.