Monday, January 14, 2013

The Beginning

At the risk of sounding like I float through life directionless and without any semblance of a plan, I confess that I do a lot of things pretty randomly. I go to the library and choose random books I've never heard of (some are really good; many of them are bad). I've chosen pediatricians, dentists, OB/GYNs by choosing the most interesting names in the online directory. And I would never plan out meals; I'd just make whatever I felt like and happened to have the ingredients for that day.


I think being able to whip up something delicious from random ingredients is a useful skill, but it also means I'd be worrying all day about what to make. So lately I've been planning out our weekly meals, and it's pretty much awesome. I'm a little self-conscious about announcing this development, since there's a pretty good possibility it's a little like announcing, "Hey, I just found this great thing: it's called 'the internet'! You should try it!"
Anyway, I started realizing that the qualities that make me a decent, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants cook also make me a kind of terrible baker. Adaptability, substitutions, omissions, speed, throwing things in haphazardly without measuring...none of those really help in baking. In fact, they can ruin things.
But I would like to be a better baker. And I will need a map. Thus, the map for my quest:

How did I choose this book? Randomly.
I'd heard about it on various blogs and decided to go for it. That's it.
I will be making a recipe from this book every week until I've made every one (except the cocktails, unless I figure out a way to make them decent mocktails.) I will be analyzing my execution of the recipe and then sharing my personal assessment of it, but take what I say with a grain of salt; we'll all have different preferences. Due to copyright restrictions, I will not be posting the recipe, but if you really, really want it, you can contact me and I can probably share it with you. That's okay, right?

So, to kick things off, I randomly chose a recipe that wasn't too difficult so I can ease my way into things. Enter

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl

A yummy coffee cake. The texture was great and the crumb topping was delicious. It was over baked  which is my fault. I followed the directions carefully and everything, but my oven is lame, so the lower half is almost 25 degrees hotter than the upper half. I'll be more careful next time. The flavor was...good, not amazing. It was better the next day, though it's naturally not as moist after all that time. I'd been looking forward to the chocolate cinnamon swirl, but it pretty much got lost in everything else. And I even busted out the fancy, high-end cocoa powder I bought for it! I'm thinking maybe next time I'll put just one layer of it in the middle so it's not diluted into two layer, or just double the swirl stuff. 

Final assessment: it's worth making again, but it's not something that'll get huge raves. 

And, if you're interested, I just found out you can get a pre-packaged mix for this recipe at your local Williams-Sonoma! One of these I'll buy one and give you a comparison.



  1. I expect you to mail me some of these things.

  2. I am a horrible baker for the same reasons. I have a hard time really following a recipe. Sounds like a good goal and a fun adventure!

  3. I am in love with you. Please marry me and make delicious food such as this, and in return I will give you adorable children and fill our home with the sound of you laughing at something stupid I just did.

  4. I think it's awesome that you are doing this and I'm really excited to see how the recipes turn out, although while reading it I felt some pangs of guilt over my failed contribution to the challengers blog. I've heard that high-end cocoa powder really does make a difference in baked goods but anytime I've set out to buy some, cheapness wins out and I end up with Hershey's. Do you think it was worth it?

    1. I didn't even notice the cocoa in the coffee cake, so it was kind of a waste. I haven't used it in anything else yet, so the jury's still out. I'm looking forward to trying it in an old recipe so I can compare. I've been getting all sorts of nicer ingredients lately (vanilla, cinnamon). I think they're better, but they cost so much more, it's kind of hard to justify.