Monday 7 July 2014

Baking Adventures

Since my post on healthy eating, all I can think about is baking. Funny how that is, eh? Luckily, I don’t have time to do any baking.  Well, at least I don’t have time before 10pm, which is never a good time to bake. Since no baking means no eating the entire batch of what I’ve baked before it goes stale, it’s a good thing.  I guess I can stick with my attempts at healthier eating, if I don’t have time to bake.

Baking is something I’ve always enjoyed, and have done it for as long as I can remember.  I know that this is a direct result of my grandmothers.  One grandmother baked with me every Saturday night.  It started with Easy Bake oven creations, but grew bigger and bigger over the years.  My other grandmother was affectionately known as “Cookie Nan.” How could I NOT like baking?   On top of that, my dad was always baking – bread, pinwheels, fudge, all kinds of tasty treats.  I’ve never had to wonder why I have a sweet tooth.

Over the past year, with my quest to sharpen up my “mom skills,” I had some goals that I wanted to accomplish in the baking department: 1) homemade chocolate cake, 2) bread, and 3) cheesecake.  I am happy to say that I was able to accomplish (with mixed success) all three!

1) 100% from Scratch Chocolate Cake:

I have always made my own frosting, but my cakes have always been from a box. Actually, I always thought that homemade cake was dry and dense.  Then I realized that most cake I’ve eaten didn’t come from a box, so I began searching for a really good homemade cake recipe.  My search started on Pinterest. Pinterest is both wonderful and horrible for scatterbrains like me – so many ideas! I read lots of recipes and reviews of the recipes until I found this one: With a name like “The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe Ever,” how could I go wrong? As a bonus, this blogger taught me about using espresso powder with chocolate. It is DELICIOUS! I love how it gives the cake a hint of a mocha flavour, without really tasting like coffee. What else can I add a little coffee to? Hmmm.

I should note that this picture was taken after the first time I made the cake.  The frosting tasted a lot better than it looked.  It was really light and fluffy, but wasn't as spreadable as I like. The next time I made it, I added a little extra milk to the recipe and it was a lot easier to frost the cake. 
2)  Bread:

I’d never baked bread before. My grandmother made the most delicious bread, as does my father, and many other relatives.  I felt like it was something I needed to know. Breadmaking should be in my genes, but to me, it seemed scary.  All that mixing, kneading, and waiting. Then there was the yeast. I always seem to kill the yeast.  I'd make the water was too hot, or too cold, or I waited too long, or didn’t wait long enough.  This is where the science comes into play.  Then there was the kneeding. Yikes. Luckily, I have a Kitchenaid Mixer with the dough attachment, so that took some of the pressure off.  I then took some time (an hour? two hours? three days? a week? Pinterest sucks you in!) and found a recipe to try. It was great, because it walked me through the whole process. That recipe can be found here: I ended up dividing the recipe into four loaves the next time I made it, because as you can see below, when I made three loaves, they were a little oversized: 

 As a side note, this is from a blog about a woman who lives “off the grid.” It’s interesting and worth a read. Sadly, I just read that they are selling their unique home, due to illness.  Maybe you know someone who wants to live in Saskatchewan and are looking for a change of pace - it may be worth checking out!

3)  "Real" Cheesecake:

Baked cheesecake always seemed like it would be really tricky. All the fear of overbaking, underbaking, or cracking.  I felt like it would be a real accomplishment to successfully make one.  I also figured that if I was going to spend the time making one, it had better be a good one – full of sugar. I found an Oreo crust cheesecake. (Found here: It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I expected, although I did stress every second of the baking process, watching for signs of over baking or cracks forming. Sadly, it did get some small cracks when cooling, but it WAS fully cooked, and had the potential for putting me in a sugar coma. Also, the caramel pecan chocolate topping covered up all the little cracks, so if I ever make one again, it will be one with some sort of topping.  It’s funny though. Once I accomplished it, I had no desire to make another.  Probably because the sugar has never fully left my system.   
(I really need to get some serving plates.  Although you can hardly see it here, my Nightmare Before Christmas platter doesn't always go with what needs to be served!)

So, what’s next? I thought about it, and I've have three new baking goals:
1)  scones - something maple-y and walnut-y
2) carrot cake - I've recently discovered that I actually like carrot cake.  I'm wondering if I can find a "healthy" carrot cake.  That's the goal!
3)  My husband’s birthday coming up, and I'm probably going to try to make a cake.
I’ll keep you posted!

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