18 September 2012

baking go-tos


I don't have as much time for experimental baking these days. So when I do bake, it's usually for someone's birthday, or going-away party, or just because I'm stressed and I know my coworkers will help me eat the remains — and I therefore tend to fall back on a no-fail recipe that's sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

I give full credit to Giada, Betty, and co., but I think the love also has to do with the fact that these recipes each have something special, making them more interesting than your average chocolate chip cookies or brownies. They seem fancy even though they're fairly easy to make.

So here we go...these are the baked goods I'm known for making, and I can vouch for their consistent deliciousness.

(My tip:  Add a dash of vanilla to the batter, even it's not called for. Try not to eat all the lemon glaze with a spoon.)

* Snickerdoodle Bars (pictured above, adapted from Betty Crocker)
(My tip:  Add a bit of cream cheese to the icing.)

(My tip:  These are just as good with the peanut butter icing only and no ganache, if you're short on time.)

(My tip:  Watch the marshmallows carefully after you put the cookies back in the oven; if overbaked, they can melt away to nothing, which is just less pretty.)

Of course, I also have my go-to favorite chocolate chip cookie, banana bread, and sugar cookie recipes for simpler occasions. What are your baking stand-bys when you need something you know is good? :)


13 September 2012



My favorite, favorite season is here, it's here! I slept wearing a hoodie last night! My lungs are full to bursting with crystal clear air! If I weren't feeling a bit under the weather, I think every step would morph into a skip and a hop.

I just found this post in my drafts folder, and though I wrote it back in April in anticipation of summer, it seems a fitting ode to its departure, with musings on memory's fragility (better than the rude "good riddance" in my head, anyway, haha).

*  *  *

Something in me is dreaming of summer, while my conscious mind wants nothing more than cool, sweet spring to stay forever, wrapping me in wind that smells like the ocean.

But vivid sensory memories, emotional snapshots from other seasons, come upon me involuntarily, jogged by some scent, a song, the feeling of the air, a certain slant of sunlight, or sometimes nothing at all — and they bring summer.

On my walk to work this morning I caught a whiff of sandalwood that reminded me of a handmade, creamy pink-and-white soap we found at the local pharmacy when I was in grade school. I loved using it for my post-pool showers, hoping its entrancing smell, which seemed to me so exotic, so mature, would linger on my chlorined skin. All it did was meld into the general scent of summer that surrounded me, warm skin and sweat, nylon bathing suits drying on the patio, cool grassy mud in the shade by the house, a melted grape popsicle, baking asphalt under bike tires, citronella candles. Yet its distinct smell stayed with me, and I have never been able to find another like it.

Then while I was sitting at my desk today, a color blanketed my mind unbidden, that summer twilight shade of somehow purple, gray, green, and cool white light retreating from the merciless yellow sun. It smells like honeysuckle, it tastes like honey, watermelon, corn and tomato pie. I remember walking through this light to the grocery store, cicadas buzzing, along a busy road, past the greenhouse, past the soccer game. We picked out the best produce we could find but settled for cheap wine. You made sausages and biscuits, brushing the tops with butter, while I carefully cut up a kiwi and set the table with jam. Later we walked to the park, slipping through the gate, hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars through the willow's branches, knowing the gate would be locked by the time we tried to leave but not caring, not really.

Sometimes I wish I had pictures of these moments, the little flares of light marking the timeline of my life that no one thought to preserve. Obviously they live in my memories right now, but I'm strangely anxious that someday they will fade, I'll forget why they mattered. After all, there can't be enough room in one brain to keep every lovely, sensual moment that ever was.

I write in physical journals I might never read, I take too many photos to appreciate, yet these are my most treasured possessions as, sometimes, I fear more than anything the subjectivity, the transience, the delicate preservation of life through one person's mind.