Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Taste of Spring

Ah, spring, where are you? Seriously, what's up with the whole teasing-me-with-75-degree-weather-and-then-disappearing-again thing? Really. That's just heartless. Last week was beautiful--blue skies, trees starting to bud, SUNSHINE...aaaand now the cold-and-rainy is back. SIGH.

Oh, well. Drama aside, I know it'll come soon enough. And, hey, if I can't have spring yet, at least I can have spring desserts.

Now, in my mind, spring dessert=fruit. So when we had some friends over last night, I was determined to make something involving fruit. Also, I have a new tart pan that I bought at TJ Maxx a while back and haven't had a chance to use yet. On top of that, I've been eying this recipe in one of my cookbooks for a while now; the picture is amazing (see the pic). So, easy decision. White chocolate tart it was.

Step one: shortbread crust. Just some butter, confectioners' sugar, and eggs. Mix it, bake it. Easy as...um...shortbread?



Step two: Let the sucker cool while I cut up fruit.


Step three (and can I say that this picture does NOT do this step justice?): melt white chocolate and mix it up with whipping cream and cream cheese. (Beauty. Sheer beauty.) Then spread it over the shortbread.


Step four: the fruit! (And this took me WAY longer than it should have. Goofy perfectionism.)

Some oranges...


Step five: Once it's all assembled, make a glaze and brush it all over the fruit to make it shiny and keep it from drying out and getting funky.

Step six: Brew some coffee, cut a slice, and feel a little more content with waiting for spring to show up.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet Beginnings

Maybe it’s the sort of rebellious triumph of licking the beaters with impunity. Or it could be powdered-sugar-dust-cloud delirium. (Do you count calories that you breathe?) Or maybe it's the glee of playing not just with my food but actually in it, up to my elbows in butter and chocolate. Whatever it is, there’s something that makes baking--for me, anyway--crazy addictive.

What's not to love, right? Cookies, cakes, pastries—they're fun to make, fun to eat, and fun to give to other people. There’s just a whimsy to it, a creativity, and I’ve known it since I was a kid, when my baking adventures were limited to licking Mom's beaters (as in the photo to the right) and experimenting with the Play-Doh dessert factory and Easy Bake oven (ah, the joy of cooking with a light bulb). Somewhere around junior high I graduated to the real thing. My grandmother gave me my first tube pan and sifter, and I started churning out nutmeg sugar cookies like mad. Good times.

To skip over about a decade of muffin, cake, and cookie stories, the summary is that this is a hobby that's become more of an obsession over the years. And now I'm trying to edge my way into the world of "doing this as a job" instead of just "pawning off food on anyone who will take it." (In other words, I need to start making some money off doing what I love, since it's pretty much either that or go broke from all the baking expenses.) I've been working as an editor/writer for the last few years but am planning to enter a pastry arts program at a local community college this fall. And I'm working on picking up some baking "gigs" here and there even now.

What's surprising is that, until recently, it never entered my mind to blog about this. I say “surprisingly” because writing is another love of mine. My degree is in print media, and I’ve been working as an editor/writer since I was in college. Writing love + baking love= I can soliloquize about flour and eggs indefinitely and with a good amount of zeal. But, really, who would read that (other than my mom)? Ah, silly, silly, na├»ve me.

It was about a year ago that I typed something like “green tea cupcake recipe” into Google. I clicked a random link and—voila!—pictures of cupcakes, recipes, links, personal anecdotes, etc., flooded the screen. Um…wow? I had unintentionally stumbled into the wonderful world of the food blog—the baking blog. For me, this was like waking up at a combination Disneyland/Candyland. Magic!

Anyway, I’ve been reading these things voraciously for months now, getting ideas, learning techniques, trying recipes, admiring photos, and generally just reveling in baking intoxication (and feeling really justified in it, since other people apparently do the same thing). Now I’ve finally decided to join the ranks and start logging my own baking adventures. Thus this site.

The idea is that this will be some form of inspiration for me, plus a chronicle of sorts. The site is sadly underpopulated right now, obviously. I don’t have a fancy-pants camera and thus won’t be posting high-res, magazine-quality food pictures. The writing will be off-the-cuff and probably rambling. No doubt I’ll be horrible about updating, if my past blogging experience is any indication. And maybe it will only be my mom who reads is (love ya, Mom!).
But, in any event…here it is. Hello, world of baking blogging.