Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 in Review

Here we are at the end of 2010 and the end of 2010: A Bake Odyssey? We don’t think so! We aren’t ready to let the learning end. We’ve had a lot of fun with this baking expedition. We don’t know anyone who bakes every week as a hobby and we agree that it is kind of a lot. It was a challenge that we are happy to have taken on.
We started this blog as a way to keep us honest and to have someone to report to. It turns out we’ve had thousands of people to report to. We didn’t think that would happen. We’ve reached people in all fifty states and over seventy countries.

Our most popular post by far was the Glee cupcakes and we are happy that so many people have enjoyed looking at and making their own. We’ve fulfilled requests for over 80 of you who wanted to make the label. That’s been a really fun part of this. We loved hearing the stories of Moms making these for their daughters, friends making them for each other, and even a bakery in Arizona making them for a children’s hospital. It’s been great to hear about all that kindness going around and we’re happy to have been a part of it.

Our favorite post has been the cupcakes for Briana's baby shower. They were applesauce spice cake with brown sugar frosting. They tasted really great and the trees on top came out pretty cute too.
We want to thank everyone for your comments, suggestions and support. We hope you’ve enjoyed this experience with us.
This isn’t the end for us for sure. There is still more we’d like to do but we just can’t see continuing with the same frequency. We will forever be in love with this baking hobby and will share any new recipes and ideas that we come across. 

4th Quarterly Challenge

For our last quarterly challenge, we really did challenge ourselves. It seems that it was so hard and w were so busy that we were quite lacking in the photo department. We'll tell you about it anyway. We decided to keep with the season and make gingerbread houses. We each made one but instead of also doing a collaborative effort, we opened the competition up to friends that were coming to the Christmas party. We had 2 takers: our friend Jerome built a house from scratch and Larry built a train from a kit. Both entries were very much appreciated but only one’s architect was cursing us, and the gingerbread format during construction.
We too were hating all things gingerbread in designing and building too. We researched and found a lot of great ideas and suggestions but as we were trying to implement some original ideas, we emerged with a very trying gingerbread experience.
Sara learned about rolling the dough evenly. Her walls came out a bit thick and uneven. This made the gift of rolling pin bands for Christmas all the more appreciated, if not ironic. The implementation of stained glass windows in her church also didn’t go according to plan. 

She used the same process as the sugar cookies that we made but these candies did not stay solid. We don’t know if it was because she used butterscotch candies or if the gingerbread somehow absorbed and transferred moisture to the candy, but it turned sticky and did not work. We considered putting a sign in front of the church soliciting donations for renovation.
I learned about flying buttresses and support walls and beams. I tried to make a train station, but found that the length of the structure could not be supported by only four walls. This was discovered the morning of the party when my gingerbread train station looked more like the Viking’s Metrodome.

Dad tried to fix it as we went about our other preparations but the walls broke too and he was looking at what he thought was a catastrophe. In the waning hours before the party, I cut off the broken pieces, shortened the structure and made a small house out of what was left. It was simple, not what I had planned, but it was done.
Jerome also had trouble with his house. The slope of the roof was pretty intense and one side slid off even though he applied a lot of frosting to glue it into place. He painted his house with chocolate and had snow and a lot of cute touches.
So, the winner of our last quarterly challenge is neither Erin nor Sara, but Jerome. Congrats and thanks for participating. We all agree that it will take a lot of convincing to get any of us to try making a gingerbread house again.

Lessons learned: Simpler is better when it comes to making a gingerbread house. Worry about the decorations and details after you have a standing structure.

12/19 Cranberry Cake

The weather this week has been pretty awful. It could have been our fault because we’ve been baking up a storm. We decided to finish off the year with a bang. In addition to our last quarterly challenge, we threw a party to celebrate the completion of our first year of baking and to celebrate the holidays.
We made fudge and pumpkin cheesecakes, hello dolly bars and spiced wine. This post though will be about the treat we were most excited about; the cranberry obsession cake.
Sara found this recipe online from Sunset magazine and was drooling and sharing it with me immediately. I must admit that I thought it could taste better if it were a raspberry cake but I agreed with Sara that cranberries were more Christmas-y.
The cake part came first and it was a perfect end to the year using our polished skills at separating egg whites. The recipe calls for 7 of them!
The cranberry filling was made next and it was truly delicious. I was really getting excited about this cake then.

The frosting was next and I’m again surprised at how good homemade frosting can taste. This is a new process that we hadn’t tried before. We used the rest of the egg whites in the carton (5 for those who weren’t paying attention) and cook them up with some sugar and a pinch of salt. This then gets beaten into a sort of meringue. 

Then a whole pound of butter and 12 oz of white chocolate get mixed in. We love this frosting.

We even made this cake again for Christmas dinner. The tartness of the cranberries is a great combination for the sweetness of the cake and frosting. It was really fantastic.

Lessons learned: In making this cake twice, we learned that some cherry preserves are better than others. We prefer… Also, we did not use the liqueur on the cake and felt it came out just fine. It wasn’t lacking anything.