pretty in pink

I never understood baking, that something we eat could be that precise, right down to an eighth of a teaspoon. I don’t like opening the thick bag of flour, having to do so over the sink or a garbage can, for fear of it showering my floors and counter tops, never mind my black clothes.Then leveling it, just so, with a straight edge, only to then have to sift the stuff. I tried once to store my flour in airtight containers, use one of those fancy flour shovels, usually reserved for bins of ice. Bugs. Flying bugs. Hatched. Now I keep the flour in the fridge. Baking is just too calculated. You have to worry about measurements and the calibration of your oven. Your altitude. If baking were a woman, she’d have an irregular period, wear a sweatband, and be the first to tap her foot and remind you "it’s been thirty minutes on the elliptical. Time to let others go, like the sign says." Uptight and moody.

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And yet, I buy silicone liners for my baking sheets. I walk the aisles of Target and simply cannot resist. Sprinkles. Pink sugar. I think of half-baked butter cookies, the edges glittering in fine sanding sugar. And I add it all to the cart. Now I have an obligation to make Valentine’s Day cookies. So I buy the cookie cutters, in XO shapes, lips, and hearts. I imagine each one different, on a white serving plate, there for the taking. I wonder when I’ll be up to the challenge. In the meanwhile, I do love just looking at the sprinkles… and Martha Stewart photos (like above). Or how about making cookies with wafer paper and any stamps you have at home, like these beauties:

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And who ever said no to red velvet cupcakes? Or vintage wallpaper printed cookies? Thank you fancy flours for the instructions. Now, if only I can find the time.



  1. i just can never get baking right….i love to cook…it seems easy to me…
    baking…it feels like chemistry class….
    and oh yeah, i forgot..i never took chemistry.

  2. I'm much better at baking then at regular cooking. Baking is just a sum of all ingredients, set in an oven for a fixed time and you're done! Cooking is much less precise, and I always end up with odd flavours or burned stuff. Baking is just like math. But I'm one of those people who loved math in high school :)

  3. Wow, those cookies are works of art. How could anyone eat one. I don't do alot of baking, because I'll eat it. If I need a treat I'll just buy 1 (or a few) rather than have a dozen cookies or muffins in the house. And everyone knows freezing doesn't work. If you know they are there, they start calling your name!

  4. I love baking…and everything in my mind looks as good as those Martha Stewart pictures… even though they are never even close when I am finished…

  5. Target has great valentine's bakeware. I just got cutest heart shaped silicone cupcake and cake pans. I have no clue if or when I will ever use them, but all that pink was so tempting. I had to get some.

    FROM STEPHANIE: I know it. I got the dish towels, the baking liners, and spatulas, along with both sprinkle options. I never leave this damn house, anyway. I should find time to bake! Perhaps I'll make all the cookies then have a decorating party with a friend or two. How homemaker of me.

  6. I love the pictures of these cookies, how my pantry is filled with the sprinkles and everything to make the exact same cookie, but somehow they just don't come out as beautiful. Thanks for the link to the fancy flour website, how I wish I knew of it before the holidays. I tried everywhere to get the right snowflake cookie cutter. Hey just having all the ingredients makes me feel better, even if I don't have the time. It's kinda like, just in case…….. How weird is that?

    FROM STEPHANIE: I feel completely at ease when my pantry is equipped with chips, baking powders and sodas, all the fun makings of a rainy day. Even if I never make anything, I love knowing that I can. Same goes for whole peeled tomatoes, yellow cake mix, good olive oil, and potato flakes! Potato flakes? You ask. Yes, for making a wafer-thin potato crust on fish, especially seabass.

  7. Hey there, I am actually commenting on your cheese puffs recipe. Oddly enough, I think two cups of shredded cheese IS eight ounces, and that fact always freaks me out when I buy it at the store. I think it's because it's by weight and not volume.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Yes, another reader just emailed me the same thought. You're quite right. Incidentally, I just made mini cheese puffs (muffins, really) for the tots with a wheat flour blend, sweet potato/carrot baby food, and three types of cheese: cheddar, fontina, and gruyere. Very healthy with protein, fiber, and their veggies!

  8. You're dealing with a weight vs. volume issue with the cheddar cheese. A pint's a pound the world around ONLY for water. Anything other than water and this will be off as cheddar cheese has a different specific density. I don't know if 2 cups of cheddar will be 8oz or not, but you can't assume that 1 cup = 8 oz for a solid food. Hope that helps.

  9. I was first introduced to red velvet cake when I was four. By a little old lady named Miss Willie Brawley. I haven't had it in ages….maybe I should.

  10. i know you closed comments to the cheese puffs, but…
    a cup is 8 oz, liquid measure, approx. for dry measures, anything goes (a cup of cotton balls would weigh less than a cup of pebbles, but 8 oz. of either would be the same weight).

    FROM STEPHANIE: Yes, I thought about it, got some emails too, and figured it out. But thank you just the same.

  11. How funny. I am a creative person (musician/artist) and I currently work in accounting, the concrete fix-ed-ness of which I abhor and describe exactly as you've described the baking process.. but I adore baking. It's a creative outlet for me. I don't really think of the "precise" facet of it as much as the creative. I love to form, flavor, and decorate pretty little sweet things into works of art.

    Fun post.. and those wallpaper cookies are just gorgeous! (clicking on the link and shoving office work into a drawer)

  12. I wish my parents had exposed me to the kind of foods like the mini cheese muffins you described…although my mom is a fantastic cook (and is a lot more adventurous now), I grew up on cube steak and other drab dinners. It wasn't until I got to college that I realized there was life outside of the Olive Garden!

  13. Ooooh, please share the recipe for potato crusted sea bass!

    FROM STEPHANIE (well, the internet anyway):

    Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten uses potato flakes as a way to keep the fish fillets tender while cooking. Cracker crumbs also can be used.

    • 3 eggs

    • Four medium (about 7-ounce) flounder fillets

    • 1 cup instant potato flakes

    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    • 2 tablespoons butter

    • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

    Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Dip the fillets in the beaten egg, then dredge lightly in potato flakes. Pat the flakes onto the fish so the fillets are nicely coated.

    In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Cook the fillets 1 minute per side. Season with salt and pepper.

    Adapted from "Simple Cuisine: Easy Recipes for Four-Star Food"

  14. Dear Stephanie, from one cheese puff lover to another, these are the ultimate. I have made them dozens of times and they are gone in minutes to raves. Plus you can keep a stock handy in the freezer for guests. I hope that you try these.

    Cheese puffs

    1 loaf un-sliced white bread
    4 oz. cream cheese
    1/2 cup butter
    1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    1/2 tsp dry mustard
    1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

    2 egg whites stiffly beaten

    Trim crusts from bread. Cut into 1"cubes (or less). Melt 2 cheeses and the butter and spices in a saucepan. Remove from heat cool 3-4 minutes then fold in beaten egg whites. Dip bread cubes in cheese mixture until well coated, I use 2 forks to handle the bread. Place on cookie sheet not touching. Freeze. At this point you can bag them and have a supply on had for guests. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet oven 400 degrees 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

  15. I LOOOVE the new Valentine stuff at Target!
    Michael's craft store has a bunch of cookie cutters too. I found this out AFTER I bought overpriced ones at Williams Sonoma for the holidays. Sigh.
    I think baking is my favorite domestic activity. My grandma used a recipe for "monster cookies" oatmeal with M&Ms that calls for 1 DOZEN eggs!! OMG. I have the recipe card in her handwriting, which I treasure. I have so many childhood memories of cooking with her.

  16. I love it. The delicateness, so pink, so pretty. Ooooo, and wrapped with such a soft bow. So girly-girl :) :) Commercialization or not, I heart Valentine's Day!

  17. Pretty, pretty. I dream of baking divine things that look too pretty to eat. I even do, sometimes. Mostly just imagine them, though.
    As for red velvet cupcakes, my mom told me she had the BEST ever red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting at Christmas. This reminds me to get the recipe from her! Must make red velvet cake for Valentine's!!

    Happy Baking!

  18. Hey Michelle.. care to share the monster cookie recipe? (if it's a family-only kind of recipe I understand.) :)

  19. SURE! Hope you don't mind Stephanie. :)

    My gram baked on a large scale, usually for our family of 5 & church functions. She wrote that this serves "a lot" LOL No kidding, my eyes can't believe the measurements still so many years later! Everyone loves them, you have to make so many!

    Monster Cookies
    2 lb sugar, 1doz eggs, 1lb oleo, 3lb Crunchy Peanut Butter, 8tsp Baking Soda, 1tsp vanilla, 18C oatmeal (a large box +, not instant) 1lb choc chips, 1lb m&ms, 1lb raisins

    Mix in order. Grease cookie sheet & bake 12 minutes at 300. Let set before removing from pan.

  20. Some days you just seem to read my mind … well, me and likely a thousand others … I cook. I cook well. In fact some people pay me to cook. I, however, do not enjoy baking and some people don't get that there IS a difference. I always say I don't bake because you have to follow the rules and I don't do that .. with cooking you can change the rules as you go along or as you feel like it (pineapple in cheese puffs, blech!).
    Like you, I love (LOVE, LOVE) to buy baking gadgets and supplies. I like knowing that I can bake *it* (whatever *it* is) if and when I want to. I adore looking through the aisles of Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond … almost as much as The Container Store or any stationary store.

  21. I'm mainly a cook (pretty good for a home cook) but I do have my baking moments. They are ususally weather-related. Rainy day? Let's make cookies!

    I got more enthusiastic about baking when I bought Alton Brown's baking book. He makes a lot of sense. I don't weigh all my ingredients, though. Among other issues, I don't have the counter space for a scale.

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