& Fridays: Bookworms have hobbies too…

So what if those hobbies also involve books? 😛

I LOVE to bake. Not cook. Bake. I am much more confident whipping up a cake, some cookies, or cupcakes, rather than cooking a whole chicken, grilling steaks, or making soup from scratch. Plus, I have a sweet tooth, so it’s more fun to sample my baking experiments.

I love bringing my concoctions into work, making something for a special family meal, and overall seeing the happy looks on people’s faces when they bite into something that tastes delicious.

Cupcakes!: From the Cake Mix Doctor by Ann Byrn. Baking. Publisher: Workman Publishing Company.

Cupcakes!: From the Cake Mix Doctor by Ann Byrn. Baking. Publisher: Workman Publishing Company.

I can pinpoint the exact book that started all this.

It’s a cake mix manipulation cookbook, so as a young, maybe-I-want-to-bake-something kid in a bookstore, this looked promising.

I proceeded to bake about 20 different recipes from the book, and still use the Red Velvet Cupcake recipe today.

“That’s cheating!” you might say. Yeah, yeah, using a boxed mix instead of churning your own butter by hand or using real vanilla beans that you strip yourself and that you grow in your own backyard might seem like cheating to some people. But come on, it’s simple, and you’re transforming the flavors of a simple mix with extra moisture (extra eggs or putting pudding mix with the boxed mix to add depth), and mix-ins (my favorite Red Velvet one has mini chocolate chips – divine!).

I found I LOVED baking. I loved using Mom’s Kitchenaid mixer, I loved the smell of stuff baking in the oven, I loved tasting the final product, I loved giving them as gifts (relatively cheap, too!)

Fast forward a few years, and I still adore doing it. I have SHELVES of cookbooks. Probably a shelf per baked good. I have some dedicated to just cookies, some to cupcakes, some for just cakes, even doughnut books! And of course, Pinterest is invaluable. I type in “cookie recipes,” and a few dozen possibilities, complete with drool-worthy photos pop up. Some of my favorite recipes come from trusty Pinterest.

 

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal. Baking. Publisher: Ten Speed Press.

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal. Baking. Publisher: Ten Speed Press.

I’m currently working through some recipes from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal. Look at that cover, first of all. YUM.

I made the “Barter Brownies” recipe – a homemade, fudgy brownie recipe with chocolate crisped rice cereal topping on top. Holy. Moley. I brought it into work at the bookstore and people FLIPPED. I got a text from my coworker that said: “Your brownies have changed my life. I’ve never been this moved by food ever.”

I mean, wow. And that was just the first recipe I tried! I can’t imagine what the other cookies and treats will be like.

The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook. Publisher: Countryman Press.

The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook. Publisher: Countryman Press.

King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion houses my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Before that, when I made the classic treat, they looked lovely coming out of the oven, and promptly flattened after about fifteen minutes cooling. Even after I chilled the dough before baking!

Cake My Day! by Karen Tack, Alan Richardson. Baking. Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflen Harcourt.

Cake My Day! by Karen Tack, Alan Richardson. Baking. Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflen Harcourt.

And I adore the line of Hello, Cupcake! baking books. They feature clever, adorable cakes and cupcakes made with simple tools. They even recommend that you use cake mixes. One recipe even has you buy a pound cake straight from the store! Some are a little odd – I don’t know when you’ll need an Abominable Snowman cake, or cupcakes that look like a TV dinner, complete with corn on the cob and mashed potatoes. But I’ve made the duck cupcakes for a bake sale in college (our mascot was the duck), and they sold like hotcakes. My friend has two dachshunds, so I might make her a cake that resembles one. The cute possibilities are basically endless!

What is a passion of yours? Are you one of those lucky people who can look at the contents of a spare fridge and throw together a gourmet meal? Do you appreciate a good cookie now and then?

 

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