Pioneering Muffins

I have been sucked into the world of Pinterest. I’m still learning how to use it. But I’ve made about a dozen boards already, and it’s so much fun.

Through Pinterest, I found a recipe for “Moist Pumpkin Spice Muffins (With Cream Cheese Frosting).”

I pinned and clicked and wanted to see what the recipe called for. I have a weakness for pumpkin. I love pumpkin pie. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin scents. . .


The link shot me over to the site of the Pioneer Woman from Food Channel! My mom loves her stuff. I scrolled, and (sorry about my scepticism) but I was surprised to find that I liked it!

She had a picture to go with each step. And for those like me who are challenged, this is the most helpful thing. It’s why I like doing step by step pictures on my blog. It’s helpful.

Anyway, I was hooked. And the pictures gave me confidence. I thought, “I can do this.”

And we had all the ingredients. All I needed to get was canned pumpkin.

On the other hand, when I was telling people I was making pumpkin muffins, they would give me this look and feel compelled to remind me that it isn’t fall.

People. I wear dark colors in spring. I don’t care!

Pumpkin muffins. I think you just don’t understand the enormity of this glorious circumstance. PUMPKIN MUFFINS!

We were having the Singles/College and Career Sunday school over at our house for a fellowship, so I decided to make these muffins for the event.

I’ve saved myself so many times by taking all the ingredients I’ll need and putting them on the counter. It wouldn’t be the first time that half way through the recipe I realize we’re missing vanilla or butter. Butter happens more often. And then I’m stuck with awkward batter in a bowl and don’t know what to do with it.

These are all the ingredients you’ll need for the recipe. (PS, I am in no way saying this recipe is mine. I’ve made it clear that I’m following Pioneer Woman.)

So, obedient to the recipe, I started by sifting a cup of flour.

Half a cup of sugar.
I was totally trying this whole capturing-slowmotion-pouring thing.
A teaspoon of baking powder (not to be confused with baking soda, which usually comes in an orange box).

Then the three musketeers, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, which obviously refused to stay still because the picture came out fuzzy in all of them.

Then you bang the heck out of the strainer against your hand until it all falls through, fluffy and perfect.

Pioneer Woman says that if she has little kernels still at the bottom of her strainer, she’ll rub them through with her fingers.

Or you can be like me who gave up and thought that my muffins could definitely survive without those pieces and thus tapped the strainer to the side of the sink until all the pieces fell out.

We can’t all be Pioneer Woman.

Next was butter.

Four table spoons, which you then slice into smaller pieces. My butter was soft by the time I got to this, so my slicing was slow, as if it was for revenge.

If that wasn’t enough, I tossed the chunks into my bowl and mashed the life out of it until it was no longer there.

This is what it looks like “fully incorporated.”

In a seperate bowl, you plop your heaping cup of pumpkin. I made a mess.

Then evaporated milk.

Which you’re supposed to “shake well” before opening. Of course, I didn’t notice that until I already pierced the side. I attempted to hold my thumb there as I shook it but it still got everywhere.

Then vanilla.

Finally an egg. Then you mix it all up until it’s this ugly pale orange color.

It apparently offended my camera because my camera refused to focus.

Next you dump this mixture into your dry mixture and stir it in. Pioneer Woman put it this way, “don’t beat it to death. Have a heart.” That made me laugh.

Especially after my Revenge Of The Butter episode.

I’m uber professional, so I use an ice cream scooper to fill up my muffin (well cupcake) tins. I had greased them with Crisco before hand.

Before I had begun, I realized my initial mistake: the recipe only made ten muffins, it said. And we were having a bunch of college age people coming. My mom’s solution was that we’d cut them in half.

So anyway, about at this point, I was feeling very good about myself. I slid them into the oven and set the timer. Then came back a few minutes later and thought I’d take a picture of them in the oven.

Then I started on the dishes.

 About which time, I started yelling…

“OH NO! No! No, no, no!” I scrambled to dry my hands and grab my phone, and I checked the recipe and sure enough. I forgot to add the cinnamon sugar topping before sticking them in the oven.

I snatched them out of the oven. They had six minutes to go and were already fluffed and perfect… minus the topping.

I gathered all my baking skills together and tried not to kick myself because this is exactly where we went wrong last time. Except this time I didn’t overdose on the salt.

I tried an egg white glaze, painting it on, then sprinkling the sugar mixture.

I stuck it back in the oven, but I knew the muffins were done and there was no way the sugar was going to melt in such a short period of time.

The sugar wasn’t sticking the way I wanted it to.

As I final precaution, I got a spoon of water and used my finger to flick droplets onto the muffins.

This saved me the most. It actually looked like I iced them a little afterwards.

Now, I have an explanation on why it went wrong.

I was over-using my phone. This is seriously my excuse? This is seriously my excuse. I was using my phone to look at the recipe, I was using my phone to take the pictures, I was using the phone to listen to Spotify, I was using the phone to text people how I was making muffins. Overload.

Simple fix! I’ll print out the recipe next time. And I ended up quitting spotify and turning on the radio in the front room instead.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

They were good, though. Not as sweet as I would like, but the topping did help. I skipped the cream cheese icing since this was for an outdoor party, and that sounded too messy. But the muffins were a hit. They didn’t last very long.

But they definitely were moist. I told Jake there weren’t any carbs in them so he tried one. He said they were delicious, and yes I can cook, and I had his blessing that I was now ready and prepared to find a man, which I found way funnier than it actually was so I yelled, “Yaye, I can find a man!!” in an excited voice that was definitely too loud to be socially acceptable.

So this was a success/fail.

I guess my desserts never look like the picture anyway..

Christmas Eve Cookies

It has been months since I’ve baked anything. Mostly due to the fact that our ancient oven broke, and we did have the new one sitting in the car port, but they took forever sending a guy to come and install it. 

Also, I just started my new job. =-) You can read all about it, I’ll be posting more, on my main site/blog.

Anyway, it only makes sense that I’d be itching to bake something. Dying even. Yesterday, I finally got my chance.

My family always has people over Christmas Eve. And the desserts, starting from Thanksgiving, become more frequent and more varied all the way up to New Years, where we go heart-attack crazy with sweets.

This Christmas, everyone in the family participated, right down to my little brother who made strawberry danishes.

My mom baked raspberry muffins and her first cheesecake (which turned out perfect!). And my older brother, back from school, was put to work making my Abuelita’s recipe. . . which I just realized I can’t describe. It’s layered cookies between evaporated milk and lemon, and I’m sure other things, and once it’s set, the cookies are moist and you cut it like a cake and it’s creamy and lemony.

I didn’t plan my desserts at all. I jotted on an envelope some recipes that inspired me on Pinterest, but that was about it.

I somehow mentioned mint cookies though, because my mom was expecting me to make those. So I used a recipe for mint star cookies I’ve made on this blog before.

It uses butter, superfine sugar, flour, an egg yolk, peppermint of course, salt, and chocolate for the drizzle.
You begin by creaming the butter and sugar, so, I believe you should get into the habit of immediately pulling out your butter sticks, first. That way they can thaw to room temperature by the time you’ve found your cook book, tied your apron, fixed your hair, spanked a child — whatever it is you do.
Otherwise, you’ll have to pop them in the microwave.
I did mine about twenty seconds.

So cream the butter and sugar. The book says use a wooden spoon, but *hair flip* I’m too professional for that now.

Sift flour and salt before adding it to the mix.
Then shape into two balls and pray you find room in the fridge. There mine went, right by my older brother’s dessert with the cookies I was telling you about.
The dough didn’t take me long to make and it had to sit in the fridge for about an hour, so I thought, why not make something else?
My mom said we didn’t have anything chocolate. Bingo.
This, is where things get crazy.
Recipes in my cookie book all require 3/4th a cup of sugar, two sticks of butter, and 2 1/4th cup of flour, I believe.

Here’s what I could scrounge up; about a fourth of superfine sugar, one stick of butter (not even shown in the picture), and about 1 1/4th cup of flour.

I could do this!!

I cut the whole thing in half.

One stick of butter.

This is trippy. I thought, heck I’ll use regular sugar instead of superfine, who’s gonna see the difference? 
. . Everybody, my dense friend, everybody. . 
Turns out, there is a difference between superfine and regular sugar. Honestly. Who knew?
Cream what you’ve got.

Add vanilla. The recipe calls for two teaspoons, so I put two teaspoons. Then gasped, covered my mouth, and suddenly giggled, because I forgot I was doing everything in half.

Why is there vanilla in a chocolate cookie anyway? 
So, I figured the vanilla mistake would be my little secret.
Sift what you’ve got. Mine was about a cup.
For the coco powder, I learned the hard way why you use liquid measuring cups for measuring liquid and the other ones for measuring everything else. 

No way of leveling. .

You live an learn.

I mixed it all together then added mini chocolate chips. They’re so cute, they raised my voice a few octaves. If you’ve never seen a mini chocolate chip, drop everything and go buy a bag right now.  You haven’t lived. They’re sooo small! Like chocolate chip babies. Or if a chocolate chip pooped, a chocolate chip.

I used a mini ice cream scooper to form balls and squished them slighly.

The double chocolate chip cookies were a little more than one baking sheet’s worth, so I finished up on those and moved back to the mint stars.

For a surface, I stretched a piece of plastic cross a cutting board and tucked it into the other side, without cutting it from the box it rolled out of. I put the ball of dough on the plastic and used the plastic the dough was wrapped in for the top layer – so it’d be completely between two sheets of plastic – and rolled it out that way so it wouldn’t stick to the rolling pin. Then I cut stars.

For the very last star, I press the cookie cutter in the middle like usual, then peel off the sides and press it into the cookie cutter by hand.

You can do this with an empty star (without initially having dough cut into it), if you don’t mind your awkward cookie to be thin. In this case, my awkward cookie would be thick, if that makes sense.

To finish off these cookies, you add a chocolate drizzle and they look pretty.

Like this.

So I put my chocolate chips in my melting pot and waited. . I was waiting so long that my mom told me she could melt the chocolate chips on the stove in no time flat, which sounded nice, so she took over.

I saw her add a few spoonfuls of water, then she began mixing forever.

Long story short, we don’t know what happened. It was thick and ugly. I added oil, trying to smooth it out and the oil refused to incorporate. It got worse the more it cooled, so I quickly dumped it into a zip lock back and tried to pipe some form of drizzle on the cookies, and the bag busted, the chocolate was so thick.

This chocolate was alive. And angry. We wouldn’t have been surprised if it swallowed us alive. But after the bag busted open, I was done with it.

My mother, on the other hand, wasn’t. She went into her Super Mama Safe The Day, Fix The Unfixable! mood.

Her first idea; spreading.

Then the cookie broke in her hand.

Next idea: make. . . truffles?

She formed them into balls and stuck them in the fridge and was very proud at that. She even tasted and must’ve been pleased, because she served them at the party. I have yet to try them.

Unfortunately for the frosted cookie. .

Ultimate segregation.

My little brother asked what happened. I said, “this is what happens when a cookie’s bad.”

So in the end, we had double chocolate chip cookies that actually turned out! I was shocked.

And naked, no drizzle, mint star cookies.

They plated nicely, though, I think.

So all, around, good baking day! I was also inspired.

This is the book I got my recipes from, I’ve mentioned it before. The reason I got this book is because I thought, “all I need to do is get the hang of one recipe (or one dough) and I can make one hundred different cookies!”

For a baker like me, that idea sounds preetty darn good.

Well, as I was baking these cookies, I thought, why not go through the whole book, cookie by cookie, starting at One?

Kind of like in that movie Julie and Julia. So. What do you say? Good idea? Boring idea? Any comment?

I think it’s cool. It’s not a project for a culinary master, but for anyone. And for you guys at home, you can buy yourselves a copy of this book and bake along if you want. =-)

I’m selling myself on this idea.

So yeah. There’s that. X-) Right now, I really need to sleep. I have a cold, and work tomorrow. Oh the joys! 
Comment below if you can!

Lemon buzz crush

So. Things came up, and I haven’t been in the writing mood lately. But I’ve decided to tell myself to suck it up and just write.

If there are any aspiring writers out there looking for advice, mine would be: just stinkin’ suck it up and write.

Best advice I’ve given myself, let me tell ya.

Anyhow, yesterday afternoon, we had the worship leader from my new church and his family over for lunch. It was kinda like having a celebrity over. Well, for me at least – because I’m dramatic. Anyway, on Saturday, I started feeling a little better, which was good, because I was supposed to make dessert.

It’s pretty trippy actually, because I had a dream about a lemon cake with cream cheese filling and lemon icing. More like a vision. But somehow I new what kind of cake it was.

So when my mom asked me what I’d like to make, I spouted that “off the top of my head.” She just kind of looked at me.

But I was determined. I hadn’t had drive for a couple days, so I had pent up energy, and motivation from watching Julie and Julia. The best part was that I had my handy dandy kitchen aid. And okay, I made the cakes from boxes. I wasn’t in the best mood to laugh at a catastrophe, or to tackle something I’ve absolutely never done before.

And I knew there was just as much possibility of me screwing up a cake mix as there is with a recipe from scratch.

I don’t know if anyone else does this. And I might have mentioned it before, I don’t know. But I never listen to the baking instructions. If it says bake 20-35 minutes. I’ll put it in at fifteen and then check it. And then I’ll add a few minutes. And check it. And by then, I’ve already lost count of how many minutes I’ve left it in there, and I’ll just check it every five minutes until I shake it and it doesn’t jiggle, and then I do the knife check.

I’m sure I’m making it way too hard on myself. I’m just so paranoid that it’ll burn. And I really don’t understand bake times to begin with. It’s also become a habit. . Eh. Habitual paranoia. Haha, maybe I’ve found my problem *cough*

But oh well. My house isn’t that big. And my bedrooms practically right next to the kitchen. So I just kept pausing Julie and Julia (they didn’t mind) after every five minutes to make sure the cake wasn’t burning.

I got two cake mixes. And was determined to have a two tier lemon cake. So after I got the first cake out of the oven, I washed the kitchen aid paddle and bowl (I didn’t plan on it, I thought I could bust cakes out with production, but the battery bowls had been sitting there for half an hour and looked icky) then whipped up a second cake batter, which consists of me flipping a switch on the KA (new name for kitchen aid) and setting a timer while I grease and flour the cake pan within the time span of two minutes.

I’m usually exhausted after baking. It’s pretty pathetic. I’ll bake, bake, bake, then crash in bed, usually still wearing my apron. But I wasn’t at all, honestly. I really hadn’t done anything by the time they had baked and cooled outside the oven. So I went on to stage two, which is a bit new, since I’m usually swaying on my heels, my eyes half shut, by then. (Slight exaggeration.)

We’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t correctly level your cake before you stack it, it will. .

Look like that. . . Appetizing. .

So, use this weird looking thing, called a cake-leveler. I think.

(Eh, my instant upload isn’t working. . But here’s an advertisement for a “professional” leveler. It’s basically a U-shaped thing, with a wire running across it, pulled taught to be able to cut the cake smoothly. The one advertised is a little freakish, with the three wires cutting at the same time and everything. But it comes with a turn table. I could use one of those, haha.);sz=400×400;ord=timestamp?;lid=41000613802463797;pid=28908;usg=AFHzDLvITAdCHiDJeNMucv_Rb9khn57iPQ;;pubid=634072;;width=400;height=400

Usually, and I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise, I can’t use a cake leveler to save my life. Not only does the cake have slopes, but I end up tugging off chunks from the side of the cake. And it gets all crumbily. And the crumbs get in the icing. . Egh. It’s just nasty looking.

But I managed to find ways around both of those things!

The best way to level, this’ll sound stupid, but have your cake on a leveled surface (unless you’re blessed with a turn table). I put mine straight on the wooden cutting board. Then, make sure you keep the leveler upright (that way, it doesn’t really matter how you go about it, the cake with still cut leveled). Using a sawing motion seems to be the best way to go about it, without tugging on your cake and damaging it. Hold the cake against the sides, when you’re cutting toward it, to keep from hacking off the corner. The cake tends to be a little harder on the sides and corners from being more baked and likes to take chunks with it if you handle it too roughly.

I suppose the best way to do it without creating too many crumbs is cutting it right the first time. But that didn’t happen for me. I summoned my courage and went over it again with the leveler, set at the same height, and taking the gamble that I’ll make it worse than it was. But I fixed it! It’s the best leveled cake I’ve ever done!

Now I wasn’t absolutely sure the cream cheese frosting would taste good with lemon, which wasn’t a big deal. I had all these cake tops from leveling, that I just broke off a piece and spread some cream cheese frosting. I had to taste test a few times to be sure. Then, I decided which cake should be on the bottom, and spread the top of it with half the container of the cream cheese frosting. Then I added just a little more, to make sure you could see the frosting once it’s cut.

I’ve watched quite a few episodes of Cake Boss. And I always see them scoop heaps of icing onto the cake before spreading it out with a knife. This is how to keep crumbs from getting to your frosting. Just spread it from the middle out, always keeping about a quarter of an inch of icing ahead of your knife. Don’t spread it out thin until you touch your cake and then pull up, because the icing sticks to the cake and you’re just pulling up cake crumbs that’ll mix with your icing. I don’t know if this makes any sense. Basically, heap a lot of frosting on and spread it out somewhat thick so you never touch your knife to the cake.

I dropped the top layer on it after I frosted it enough, then I iced the top of that one with the lemon icing. It felt like the best idea to start with the top in case I didn’t have enough icing for the whole cake, but I did, so I smoothed it, albeit a little thinner, over the sides. Then tried adding a rose-y design on the top, and took a million pictures. I was so proud of myself. I was telling my friend, Julie, that I have a crush on this cake. It’s gorgeous.

And! Our worship leader’s wife said it was delicious! MY cake. Delicious. I’ve never heard that before about anything I’ve made. I tried to smile humbly as my mom told her that I baked  it. =->