For Everyone I Unintentionally Intimidated This Year, I Have a Holiday Gift For You

Here it is:

Baking Disaster

Apparently I’m only capable of showing proficiency at one home making skill at a time. At the present moment that would be sewing. Tune in next week to see if I remember how to make the one recipe I have memorized and can usually do in my sleep. Not so tonight.

I hear occasionally that I intimidate people. I laugh in their general direction because they have not seen the current state of stackage in my dining room right now. They don’t know how much laundry I need to wash. They have no idea how long it’s been since I’ve mopped the kitchen. Trust me when I say this: I’m the LAST person you should be intimidated by. Still, it happens on occasion. And for those people I offer this tangible proof of my imperfection, this photo of my very flat cookies.

It seems I was too impatient to let the butter soften. I saw the chunks of butter in the batter when I was scooping the cookies out and thought, “hmmm, wonder if those will go flat?” Experiment completed. They do.

I just wanted to put everyone at ease tonight. I only do one thing well at a time.

Congratulations Tom and Christine!

Tom and Christine

Our friends Tom and Christine are getting married and we couldn’t be happier for them. I made this cake to take to class tonight as an effort to begin the celebrating just a little bit early! I’ve got the cake making thing down now, thanks to the Cake Mix Doctor, but I still need some help with my decorating skills. Until then, I will settle for some stamping embellishments. I think they are pretty darn cute.

Pie Crust Revisited

I was just pulling up the link to the wax paper pie crust trick when I saw the comment from Sally asking for the recipe. Sorry, Sally! The recipe I use is pretty standard and comes right out of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook.

1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C shortening
dash of salt
5 T cold water

Cut the shortening into the flour/salt with a pastry blender, then add the water. The recipe says to add it one T at a time, but I usually put it all in at the same time and stir it up with a fork.

Now then, after the feast we had today, there will be no more pie in my immediate future. I’m a little nervous about Wednesday, but I’m going to try to take care of what I ate today tomorrow and Tuesday… 🙂

Snickerdoodle Cake

By request, here’s the recipe for Snickerdoodle Cake, taken directly from my new favorite cookbook: The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. The disclaimer, of course, is that you use a cake mix to make it, but I hold no shame in that. When we were first married, I made a few attempts at “from scratch” cakes and they were never that good. Never as good as a cake mix, in my opinion. And now, with this superb cookbook, cake mix cakes are even 100% better. I’ve made two cakes from it and sampled another one that a friend made and all three were absolutely delicious.

Snickerdoodle Cake

  • Solid vegetable shortening for greasing the pans (Do not skip this step. Trust me on this.)
  • Flour for dusting the pans (See above)
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix
  • 1 cup whole milk 8 T (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Preheat over to 350, generously grease two 9″ round cake pans with shortening then dust with flour. Shake out the excess and put the pans aside.

Place the cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side.

Bake the cakes until they are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 27 to 29 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto a rack, then invert them again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow them to cool completely, 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, prepare the Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting.

Place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter. Spread the top with frosting. place the second layer, right side up on top of the first layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with clean, smooth strokes.

Place this cake, uncovered, in the refrigerator until the frosting sets, 20 minutes. Cover the cake with waxed paper and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze it, wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to 6 months. thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

  • 8 T room temperature butter
  • 3 3/4 C confectioners’ sugar, sifted 3 to 4 T milk
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the powdered sugar, 3 T milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Blend with the mixer on low until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up to 1 T milk if the frosting seems too stiff.

Happy Valentine’s Day

I Heart You

I have always thought of these as seminary cookies because my friend Julie gave me the recipe when we visited her and Doug back in 1999 while they were still students at Covenant and we never in a quadzillion years thought we’d ever ever be here. Funny how that works. Here’s the recipe for you with very minor modifications:

The Best Sugar Cookies Ever
1 C soft butter (the real thing)
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
2 1/2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cream of tarter

Mix together, roll out using powdered sugar instead of flour on the table to prevent sticking, cut out and bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes.

The Best Sugar Cookie Icing Ever
1 C butter (again, the real thing)
2 1/2 C powdered sugar
2 1/4ish T milk
3/4ish t almond extract

Cream it together, add your favorite colors and presto, yummy yummy icing. Note: I doubled the cookie recipe for the batch you see above which made those plus the (ahem) few that we ate already. The icing recipe is actually halved from the normal because the full round of it always makes way way too much.

Pie Crusts – The Old Wax Paper Trick

Die hard 4H Women, turn your heads. My crusts will win no awards anywhere else but right here at my house, but that’s all that matters to me.

I am a purist when it comes to pie crusts. This doesn’t mean I make perfect crusts, but I’d rather serve an imperfect one I made myself than a perfect one I bought. I’m not that way in all areas of my life, but for this one I am.

So when I decided to make four pies for our open house two weeks ago, I was dreading it a bit. Because for me, a pie crust never just rolled out right the first time. And I know that the less you handle the dough the better, but I still couldn’t get it right on the first roll. Two rolls for every single crust. So I wasn’t looking forward to doing this four times.

And then I remembered – the gal in Colorado whom I used to meet with made a crust one afternoon and I was so surprised when she used wax paper. And I’m more surprised now that I didn’t remember her trick before two weeks ago, but that’s the way it goes. I remember it now and my pie crust making days will never be the same. Here’s how it goes:

Sprinkle a bit of water on the counter and place your first piece of wax paper on that (the water prevents the paper from sliding). Put your ball of dough on that piece.

Pie Crust 1

Put another piece of wax paper on top.

Pie Crust 2

Roll it out:

Pie Crust 3

Carefully peel off the top layer:

Pie Crust 4

Here’s where I’m sure I deviate from the perfect plan as I couldn’t remember how she then transferred the crust to the pie plate. I’m sure you could do the fold-it-in-fours thing, or you could do the cheater’s way out and go like this:

Pie Crust 6

Place your hand underneath it and flip it over quickly:

PIe Crust 7

Once again carefully peel off the wax paper…

Pie Crust 8

Make your edges pretty and presto. A painless pie crust.

Pie Crust 9

My hat goes off to both Shaunda McQueeney who taught me how to do that, even though it took me ten years to remember that she had, and also to Craig’s dad, Roger, who, about eight years ago asked if I had made the pie he was eating. I said to him, “Look at the crust – if it’s a nice one, then you know I didn’t make it.” He said back to me, “Well then, you just need to keep trying.”

And so I have.