Much like anyone else you know who set a New Year’s resolution, I’ve failed.
Okay, fail might be a harsh word, but I definitely this project slide for a few weeks and I’m hoping to get back on track. Sometimes it’s hard to find motivation to sit down and write when you don’t feel like there’s anything to write about. Especially in the winter... On the east coast... With a foot of snow in your backyard...
I’ll keep it short and sweet. I held off on my Week 7 bake because I knew I was going to have a visitor for Week 8. My grandmother (Mimi) came to visit for a few days and we did a pretty good job of eating our way through Boston and baking some treats. Though we didn’t love any of the caramel recipes we found, we ended up trying out Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars. Think of it as a blondie with the addition of Skippy Salted Caramel Peanut Butter - which we couldn’t find at the store. We decided to improvise and used regular peanut butter but added some Hershey’s Caramel Syrup to our dough. It turned out fine, but nothing special.
The Lemon Cream Cheese Scones were another story - I’d definitely make them again. Some scones are too dense and others are too crumbly, but these little triangles of goodness had just the right consistency and zing. I might add a little more lemon zest to both the batter and the glaze next time - or maybe I’ll serve them with lemon curd in addition to raspberry jam. I think they’d be great to eat by the beach on a warm summer’s day, surrounding by the salty sea breeze...exactly where I’d like to be right now.
Week 6: Allergy-Friendly - Flourless Chocolate Cake with Espresso Whipped Cream
The name of the game this week is EASE!
Just kidding...this week’s theme is allergy-friendly. But I don’t have any friends with major food allergies, and I don’t particularly care for vegan or allergy-free baking (hello, peanut butter is like my all-time favorite ingredient). So I decided to go with our favorite Passover classic - the flourless (gluten-free!) chocolate cake.
But then I thought about having an entire flourless chocolate cake sitting in my house for a week...and I decided to make it for just the two of us instead.
One of my favorite style of food blogs to follow is cooking and baking for two. As a young adult/millennial/grad student, it just doesn’t make sense for me to be making huge amounts of food that Noah and I will never be able to finish before it goes bad. I tend to opt for smaller portions and desserts for two, which isn’t really conducive to this 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge. But this week I was able to scale down the cake for two, so I call that a win.
The other best part of this recipe (besides no leftovers) is that I had all the ingredients in my pantry already. Yay for not having to trek to the store! I had a dark chocolate sea salt bar on hand, so I just omitted the salt that the recipe called for. I made these in my crème brûlée ramekins which are the perfect size for most single-serving dessert recipes. While they didn’t come out as dense and rich as a classic flourless chocolate cake, these little guys had a texture closer to a slightly overcooked lava cake and I was certainly happy with the way they turned out.
I challenge you to find me a dessert that wouldn’t taste better with a dollop of freshly made espresso whipped cream. Instead of dirtying my stand mixer, I decided to make the whipped cream in a mason jar. Rather than finding a clean one, I took an empty jar from our coffee cabinet that used to hold beans and clearly still had the essence of them in the jar (yum). Pour in some heavy cream, a spoonful of sugar, and a teensy bit of vanilla and shakeshakeshake for about three minutes. Ta da, espresso whipped cream!
Weeks 9, 10, 11, and 12: Mini, Savory, Meringue, Brownies
Week 7 and 8: Caramel - Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars / Muffins & Scones - Lemon Cream Cheese Scones
Guys...piping is HARD.
Look, I knew what I was getting into with piping week. I knew it was going to be rough, as evident by my warning at the end of last week’s post. Piping requires a lot of patience, of which I have very little, so I didn’t have super high expectations for the week. The other struggle this week was that piping is a vague topic and I wasn’t feeling inspired. You can pipe cookies, you can pipe flowers, you can pipe meringue, you can pipe macarons, you can pipe buttercream on a cake - the possibilities are endless (but at the same time I don’t need to go through another entire bag of powdered sugar!).
All I want to say is that you should be very appreciative of your local baker who makes beautiful cookies piped with intricate designs. When it comes to sugar cookies (not the soft Lofthouse kind but the chewy kind with hard frosting), they’re often topped with royal icing. Royal icing is notoriously finicky and you need a different texture of icing for outlining, flooding, and decorating. That means three different bowls, and you’ll need to multiply that by however many colors you’d like to use. And here’s a heads up: royal icing doesn’t taste great. It’s not like the buttercream frosting that many of you know and love - it’s just super sweet and eventually hardens up, so it’s nice for sugar cookies.
One of the things I’m learning throughout this journey is that baking requires a lot of unique ingredients and special equipment. Each week I find myself trying to improvise my bakes with materials that I just don’t have. Is this because I’m trying a variety of recipes, rather than focusing on just cakes or just bread? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly something that struck me as interesting that I didn’t quite expect when I started this adventure.
Pro tip: cannoli dip makes an excellent frosting for these chocolate sugar cookies once you get sick of royal icing.
February & March
Hi, I'm Rebecca Berland.
Week 5: Piping Techniques - Chocolate Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing
writer, editor, self-proclaimed ice cream aficionado
Click here for more information on the 2019 challenge.
Do you ever sit down to do something, but you’re so overwhelmed with how behind you are that it’s easier to get up and not do that thing (which makes it worse and therefore more overwhelming) rather than just doing the damn thing? That’s how I’m starting to feel with this baking project.
What happened was that I got behind one week. Then we went to Colorado for vacation and I skipped a week. Then I got home and tried to catch up, but it was just easier not to. So here we are - I’ve made all the bakes, I just haven’t written about them. In order to get this whole thing off my back, I’m going to give you a short, sweet, to-the-point summary of the last five weeks and then we’re all going to move on with our lives and get back on track.
I’ve made a promise to myself that I’m going to complete all 52 weeks, and I intend to keep that promise, so don’t fret. I know you were worried.
Let’s do this thing.
Week 9: Mini - Mini Pop Tarts
These babies were suuuuuuper easy and so cute! Two ingredients - pie crust and jam. Pop it in the oven for 15 minutes and you’re good to go.
Week 10: Savory - Gougeres
My first foray into high altitude baking! This was particularly interesting since I’m in a Science of Food and Cooking class this semester. I had to Google how to bake in high altitude - we weren’t Denver high (5000 feet), we were Vail high (8000 feet). I had to increase the temperature, increase the amount of water in the batter, and decrease the cooking time. They came out like little cheese popovers and they were delicious right from the oven.
Week 11: Meringue - Raspberry Meringues with Chocolate Ganache
Meringue sucks. I should have made a pavlova, but I’m a sucker for ganache so I thought I’d give these a try. I just don’t love meringue - it’s weirdly chewy and way too sweet. These were sort of a fail and they weren’t even pretty.
Week 12: Brownies - Alton Brown’s Cocoa Brownies 2.0
Brownie week, a classic! One of Noah’s favorite desserts, and one that I don’t usually make from scratch, so I wanted to find a good recipe. Alton Brown is the celebrity king of food science, and he just revamped his regular brownie recipe to include an option for even fudgier treats. Bake the brownies for 15 minutes, let them sit on the counter for 15 minutes, and then put them back in the oven for another 30 to finish baking. The verdict? Not sure that I'd call these fudgey - they're a little cakey but definitely dense. Similar to a lava cake in texture and definitely delicious heated up with a schmear of raspberry jam and a dollop of vanilla gelato.