throwback thursday

A few weeks ago, balanced on top of a tall nesting table trying to get my camera perfectly square to a baking sheet on top of a smaller nesting table and trying to figure out how I could adjust the blinds at the same time to get the lighting just right, I started wondering when I decided that cooking was something I enjoyed, and why I felt the need to photograph every batch of cookies, find something clever to say to go with it, and post it on the interwebs.

Because that doesn’t sound fun at all.

I think part of this journey can be traced back to baking chocolate chip cookies in elementary school. Another part can be blamed on my brother buying me my first polaroid camera. Another part can be attributed to my last relationship, where I did all of the cooking for almost six years.

And another part, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned much on this blog, can be blamed on cake decorating.

I don’t do much cake decorating anymore, but there was a time when I took all of the Wilton cake decorating courses, and made reasonably pretty cakes for all sorts of dubious occasions.

I’m in the midst of moving now and haven’t had a chance to bake anything in the new place yet, but here are a few photos of how this all got started.

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EWeek Cake2

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minions

couch-ella

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There is a part of me that so desperately wants to be a barefoot hippie flower child that goes to music festivals in crop tops that show off my perfect abs (from only eating hippie food) and dances around like no one’s watching, except they are watching and I’m photographed as the sun starts to set so the pictures come out washed in warmth.

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I am not that girl.

I don’t own a crop top because I don’t have perfect abs (because I have a baking blog and am so, so bored by hippie food). I’m also not really into music or bands or large groups of other people or alcohol or being unclean or camping. Or spending hundreds of dollars to do all that.

So instead I listen to music and dance in my underwear in my kitchen as I bake cookies. The only thing missing is the rose-tinted photos.

I can live with this.

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Ugly Cookies

(But so delicious.)

Ingredients

quarter cup butter
one teaspoon molasses
one third cup sugar
one egg yolk
one tablespoon milk
half cup bread flour
quarter teaspoon sea salt
half cup chocolate chips
flaked sea salt, to sprinkle on top

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Brown the butter by heating it over medium in a small saucepan until it’s melted and starts to foam. As the foam subsides, you’ll see little bits at the bottom – wait until these brown (and the whole things smells delicious) and then remove from heat.
Transfer the browned butter to a mixing bowl (some sources suggest letting it cool first, but I’m impatient, so I just went for it right away) and add the molasses, sugar, yolk and milk. Mix really well. Add flour and salt, and mix until all the flour is combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon onto the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle each cookie with sea salt.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges have darkened and the centre of the cookie looks dry.

exasperated

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With the move to the new condo in sight (this Friday!), I’ve been spending some way too much time on Pinterest looking at home decor ideas.

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Something seems to be in the air, because my RSS feed is also full of bloggers about to pack up shop and relocate.

And I’ve just gotta say… you people make me crazy.

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There are people, weeks away from moving, who have started packing up all their belongings – including kitchen things. (What are they going to eat, I ask you.)

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And there is the never-ending onslaught of showroom-worthy bedrooms and kitchens and living rooms, where everything is white. White walls, white bedsheets, white carpets, white couches, white cupboards, white flowers. There is usually a dog sitting on the middle of the couch (which occasionally isn’t white, and has miraculously not shed everywhere), or a perfect girl dressed all in white sitting on her white bed drinking coffee (the only thing in the room that isn’t white).

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I’m not buying it. I’m even a little offended by the non-dirty pet. And we all know if I was drinking coffee in my white bed it would at the very least be all over my white outfit.

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And why is this girl so skinny? Does she not do anything other than have perfectly messy hair in her perfectly clean apartment and stare out the window?

I bet she’s the kind of organized girl who packs up all her kitchen belongings a month before she has to move.

This is probably why she’s so skinny.

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I, on the other hand, will be drinking red wine (fearless, I’m telling you) making the messiest things I can think of, right up until the day I move.

Using colourful, not-white cookware.

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Peanut Butter Blondies (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

Ingredients

three quarters cup peanut butter
one third cup canola oil
one cup brown sugar
one quarter cup coconut milk
two teaspoons vanilla
one cup cricket flour (previous discussion on crickets here. I use Bitty flour)
half teaspoon salt
half teaspoon baking powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan and set aside.
Throw all the wet ingredients (peanut butter through vanilla) in a large bowl and stir the hell out of it until everything is well combined. The oil can sometimes be a bit stubborn, so make sure to keep mixing until it’s all incorporated. Then add the dry ingredients (flour through baking powder) and mix until those are all blended in as well.
Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the edges are starting to brown and the centre looks set. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
I drizzled melted chocolate over the cut squares, for maximum mess factor.

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becoming a better human being

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My best friend and I are trying to become perfect human beings by June.

(Before you get all uppity about my use of the word perfect, you should know that I don’t mean flawless. I just wanted to set the bar a bit higher than “better.”)

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I’ve done a lot of soul-searching these past few weeks. That mostly means I’ve had a lot of candid conversations over a lot of bottles of wine. I’m figuring out what kind of person I want to be and what kind of people I want in my life and what kinds of things I want to do with my time.

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By now I think we’re all aware that I’m a scattered, obsessive compulsive mess who eats too many cookies. By June I am hoping to be a home-owner who can do more than three pull-ups in a row and only eats sugar twice per calendar week. I could probably tone it down on the wine, too.

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I also want to be kind and generous and bake the best cinnamon buns ever.

(If I strategically time my baking so that they’re out of the oven on a Saturday just before midnight, I can basically eat four while they’re still warm without breaking my sugar rule.)

Cinnamon Buns

Ingredients

eight grams instant yeast (equivalent of one packet or two and a quarter teaspoons)
one cup milk
half cup butter (divided into 2x 3 tbsp and 1x 2 tbsp)
one tablespoon sugar
half teaspoon salt
three cups bread flour
half tablespoon cinnamon
quarter cup brown sugar
half cup skor bits

Directions

In a microwaveable bowl, heat the milk and 3 tablespoons of butter until the butter is melted and the whole thing is about the temperature of a baby’s bottle. Pour it into a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top, and let it sit for about ten minutes to activate.
Once the yeast is foamy, add the sugar and salt and stir gently. Stirring every half a cup, add the flour. When the flour is all in and starting to come together, take it out of the bowl and knead it for about ten minutes. Roll it into a ball. Lightly oil the bowl and place the ball of dough back inside. Cover the top with saran wrap and place it somewhere warm-ish to rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Just before the dough is done, melt 3 more tablespoons of butter. In a small, separate bowl, mix cinnamon, brown sugar and skor bits.
Roll out the dough to a large rectangle, and spread the melted butter on top. Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon mixture on the butter, and then roll up the dough and pinch the edge to seal the rolls. Slice into buns – I made 10 that were about an inch and a half high. Place in a 8×8 square pan and re-cover with saran wrap and set aside to rise while the oven preheats.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the last 2 tablespoons of butter and pour/spoon/brush over the buns just before you put them in the oven. Bake until they’re puffy and golden brown on top – about 25 to 30 minutes.
Ideally, serve right away.

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feliz cumpleaños

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It’s been two years of blogging.

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730 days, 15 loaves of bread, 114 cupcakes, 417 muffins, 2,786 cookies. And probably only 1 salad.*

*Statistics are an estimate.

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Just like one year ago, I am not in the mood for traditional birthday cake. Just like last year, I am incredibly grateful for all of you who have hung around on this journey to see what we can create from butter, flour, sugar and eggs.

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I’m humbled by the thought that people enjoy reading the random musings that go on in my head. I’m amused that this adventure has resulted in me carrying around a pound of butter in my purse on more than one occasion. I’m thrilled that this whole whatever-this-is will be moving into a new kitchen soon.

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Yep. I bought a condo. I’m officially on my way to becoming an adult.

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I have high hopes for this kitchen. I imagine it will host parties where I make way too many bite-sized desserts and squeal as I pop champagne. Parties where we start in fancy dresses and our nails done, and finish the night with our hair down and heels off, sprawled across my couch laughing so hard our mascara runs down our cheeks. I wish for quiet Sunday brunches of waffles and eggs and bacon, with the dogs asleep on the rug. I expect the occasional shouting match over doing the dishes that devolves into drinking wine off the kitchen floor and crying as we hold onto one another and promise each other the world. I dream of tired mac & cheese dinners, extravagant turkey dinners, and Indian dinners ordered from down the street.

I want this kitchen to be a place where we do the work. Where friends and family come together to share ideas and fight and laugh and cry and solve problems and talk for hours about nothing, and, above all, make our relationships stronger.

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Thank you for hanging out with me for the past two years. Here’s to the next ten.

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Frozen Mocha Cheesecake

A lifelong favourite from my second mom. Probably one of the first things I’ll make in my new place.

Lightly adapted from Eagle Brand

Ingredients

one and a quarter cups oreo cookie crumbs
quarter cup butter, melted
quarter cup sugar
one package (250 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
one can (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk
one cup chocolate chips, melted (I used semi-sweet)
two tablespoons espresso powder
half tablespoon hot water
one cup whipping cream, whipped

Directions

Grease a 9″ springform pan or baking pan (my Le Creuset one seems to be somewhere between an 8×8 and 9×13, but I would suggest trying a 9×13). Mix the oreo crumbs, butter and sugar and press into the base of whichever pan you’re using and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk on medium until well mixed. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in melted chocolate. Dissolve the espresso powder in hot water, and add into the cream cheese mixture. Mix it all really well until it looks even. Remove from the stand mixer and gently fold in whipped cream.
Scrape filling onto prepared crust, cover with saran wrap and freeze until solid – at least 4-6 hours. Serve frozen.

the silence is killing me

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Every so often, I do something for which there is no excuse.

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This time, I fed my friends insects under the guise of brownies.

Crickets, to be exact.

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Instead of getting grossed out, can we have a super quick nerd moment together? Eating crickets is cool, and not just because I’m Asian and Asians like to sell deep fried insects on the street. Crickets, gram for gram, contain more protein, fibre, calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium than beef sirloin, eggs, or whole milk. By a lot. I first read about them in Men’s Health (yes, I read Men’s Health. I digress, but if you’re bored and scouring the interwebs for fascinating reads, this is also worth checking out – as is the entire book) and immediately went and ordered some cricket flour from Bitty Foods.

Crickets are also way more sustainable in terms of water use and land space than, say, beef. You also don’t have to stick your hands into raw meat to prepare them for cooking (forgive me for that mental image, I’m still recovering from a cooking class in which I had to debone a chicken).

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No, they don’t taste like the deliciousness that is perfect gluten-filled flour, but for a gluten-free option, they’re now my favourite. They’re slightly chewy and almost nutty and totally delicious.

And hey, worst case, they’re a protein vehicle for justifying eating mass amounts of chocolate. Can’t go wrong with that.

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Side bar: if you’re not a huge baker but want to get in on the cricket action, I also tried these Exo protein bars and they are absolutely amazing.

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Cricket Flour Brownies (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

Ingredients

four teaspoons ground flax
three tablespoons water
three quarters cup almond meal
three quarters cup cricket flour
two tablespoons arrowroot powder
half cup cocoa powder
half teaspoon salt
quarter teaspoon baking soda
half cup milk or dark chocolate, melted
one third cup coconut oil, melted
one cup coconut sugar
quarter cup almond milk
one teaspoon vanilla
half cup pecan bits
two teaspoons cocoa nibs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×8 square pan or line it with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small cup, vigorously mix flax and water. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk almond meal, cricket flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda. Make a well in the middle and add flax mixture, melted chocolate, coconut oil, coconut sugar, almond milk, and vanilla. Whisk away until everything is well combined and starting to come away from the edges of the bowl – no need to worry about over-mixing since there is no gluten!
Fold in pecan bits and cocoa nibs, and spoon into the prepared pan.
Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs attached; about 40-50 minutes. I let mine cool and then drizzled additional chocolate on top – adding flaked sea salt to that would be a godsend.
Cut into squares once cool and store in an airtight container.

Note that people with shellfish allergies may be allergic to crickets.