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Posts Tagged ‘baking from scratch’

Homer Simpson’s a pretty wacky guy, but you have to say he’s right on the money in his effusing about pie.

I decided to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but wanted something a little different than the same ole, same ole. So I perused my collection of recipes (the size of which would have you thinking I was cooking/baking 3 meals daily every day of the week. Hah! Not quite.) I decided to make this yummy pie called “Paradise Pumpkin Pie.” You’ll get why in a second.

All the ingredients gathered to make the process go efficiently and smoothly.

I know this probably looks fine, but to me, it was kind of raggedy. It’s been a while since I made a pie crust, and I felt like I’d lost my magic touch (said the perfectionist.) This was a basic all-butter crust.

Now here’s what drew me to this pie and why they call it a “Paradise” Pumpkin Pie. This is the Paradise layer – a smooth mixture of cream cheese, an egg, some sugar, and vanilla. In essence, a layer of cheesecake to go under the pumpkin. Yum, right? Wait …

Don’t you love mixing up the pumpkin and all those spices? The smell alone is so delicious!

So here’s the pie right out of the oven. Not at all what the recipe photo looked like, and I admit I saw this problem as a potential right away – that the cheesecake layer could easily permeate the upper pumpkin layer. So I ever-so-carefully ladled – not poured – the pumpkin on top, doing my best not to disturb the Paradise layer. However, the result was a bit more like some kind of algae-blooming pie!

And here in the cooled slice, you can see the problem – exactly what I anticipated is what happened. The pie, instead of looking like a standard pumpkin pie with a surprise layer viewed when cut,  showed where the cheesecake layer had pushed up when the pumpkin was ladled over.

That said, the pie was delicious – the seasoning excellent, and the filling super creamy. Would I make this again? Sure. But now I’ll think of it as an “Almost Paradise Pumpkin Pie.” Then again, so many recipes, so little time.

p.s. After I put this post together, I realized I had actually made this pie – and posted about it – once before! Not only that, but it came out just fine 5 years ago. (A sure sign of a weary mind, but hey – now you can see what it should look like!) Check here for the recipe and an earlier version.

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Baking for some of us is an expression of creativity, a passion, or a simple pleasure. Personally I wish I had more time to bake, but when I do, I am reminded of the numerous perks of baking besides the obvious. Here are a few:

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5. Baking is a license to make a mess. We sometimes need permission to let that super-neat side go, (or that hyper-critical side that’s always complaining that we’re not being neat enough.) There’s nothing like poufs of flour and drooling egg whites on the counter to remind us that messy can often serve the higher power of creativity.

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4. It ends up being a great time to give our prep counters a thorough cleaning, a corollary to #5 above.

3. Baking is also an ideal opportunity to take stock of our pantry and insure that we don’t run out of the staples we need when our next baking impulse strikes.

2. Baking makes the house smell fabulous.

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1. The most obvious reason why baking is cool:

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Yum! We get to enjoy something truly delicious that came from our own two hands which is wholesome and free of all the extra and unnecessary additives of store-bought.

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Pictured here are Apple Buttermilk Muffins. I made 6 large muffins rather than 12 small, used pecans instead of walnuts, and I used the Macoun apples I already had in the house. It all added up to a treat worth savoring.

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Life today pulls us in so many directions; sometimes it seems the stress just keeps coming, doesn’t it? And sometimes, we have to stop the world, get off and just do something nice for ourselves.

With a window of time in front of me Sunday, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the myriad of things I should be/could be doing. My list, as I’m sure is the case with your own, was endless. Know what I did? (In case the photos hadn’t given me away.) I baked. For me. That’s right. Not for someone else, not to take to an event, not to bring to someone else’s house … just for me. Something I almost never do.

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Just out of the oven …

I know, shame on me. I picked up a recipe I’d clipped recently from one of the magazines my neighbor and I swap with one another regularly, (like getting free subscriptions for both of us!) Muffins are easy and make me happy during the week, too.

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Cooling off

The recipe I chose was from Cooking Light called Jammin’ Oat Muffins – made with steel cut, quick-cooking oats, (I only use McCann’s Irish, non-GMO oats), low fat milk and canola oil, both organic – all good choices. How did they come out? I’d say they were better than OK, but not ones I’d bake again. You know … so many recipes, so little time. I only save recipes now if they are fabulous and I would definitely make them again.

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The muffins were a tad heavier than I would have liked. In this photo, I wanted to also show off these gorgeous, kind-of-jacquard autumn placemats I found, too.

But the most important thing was I put a stop to the overwhelming demands in  my head and did something nice for myself. That, in fact, made them taste even better. The moral of the story is … don’t forget to take a little time doing whatever it is that makes you happy and be nice to yourself.

You can find the recipe here.

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It seems almost everything I start to write about lately is so serious, (and I have the drafts to prove it), so I decided to write instead about my latest baking experience. Or should I say (unintended) baking experiment.

Each year I volunteer at, and bake for, the annual Open House at the equine rescue I help. Last weekend I pored over recipes looking for something fabulous and Fall-ish to bake, and settled on a gorgeous cranberry-orange cake with orange glaze. I usually bake a Bundt cake of some kind, and then wrap individual slices for them to sell at the bake sale. I make a sign that says “From Scratch” and “All Butter” and between the two, my cake goes pretty quickly. I’d thought about making something vegan, but I’m not practiced enough, so I’ll stick with what I know best, traditional baking.

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Well, it started with the food shopping. I’d gotten almost all the week’s groceries on my list and went to get the butter. Crap. I’d looked at so many recipes, I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to use salted or unsalted. I decided on the latter. After I’d loaded up on my own fruits and veggies, I searched for the cranberries. No fresh to be found — not organic or otherwise. Hmmmm. I headed over to the frozen section — no organic, looked for regular. Nothing. I asked the fellow in the frozen fruit section and inquired. He says, “We used to have the frozen all year `round, now they come in the same time as the fresh.”

Cake-Batter2Really? REALLY? My whole cake idea is now shot. I decided to go with blueberries, because they’ll be good with orange, but because I’d already been in the store so long, I grabbed the frozen in front of me instead of schlepping yet again to the fresh section. (And I just heard all you bakers groan.)

Saturday morning I got out all the ingredients, including those that needed to come to room temperature. Oh yeah, another recipe with frozen blueberries tells me to thaw them and drain well. So they’re in a strainer over a nice deep bowl.

Okay, now I’m starting to bake. I put Loreena on my CD player, (Mask and Mirror), and happily begin mixing my dry ingredients. I can already see the blueberries may be a problem. But what can I do? Cake-DoneInPan2I proceed with the recipe, make a little salt adjustment because it was salted butter it called for, (of course it was), and everything else goes smoothly. I try some extra gentle blotting of the blueberries before adding them, but it makes no difference. My batter is turning blue. At best, marbled blue. The great cake I had such high hopes for has officially turned into a science project.

Well, I know it will taste good, because a sampling of the batter tells me so, and into the oven it goes. I now find myself hoping that some kids at Open House will see the blue cake and think it’s real cool and beg Mom to buy it. After 50 minutes, I test with a toothpick. It says it’s OK; I don’t believe it, and put it back in for another 10 minutes. And below, when I went to turn it out, is what I got. * Sigh* Pretty depressing, eh?

Cake-TurnedOut2I feel badly as now I’ll have nothing to bring, and badly because I just wasted a lot of time and money. I must say, in all my years of baking, that never happened! Guess there’s a first time for everything.

If you’d like to make the cake I’d planned, and see a photo of what it should look like, here’s the recipe. No substitutions, please.

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