Category Archives: Bandwagons

On your marks, get set. Bake!

A long, long time ago — all the way back in 2008 — I joined an online group called The Daring Bakers. Someone would post a baking challenge every month, and then members would attempt them and share their results. I think the first one I made was a caramel cake, and it was delicious. Others didn’t work out so well. (I’m looking at you, pao de queijo and savarin.) But some of them, like the buche de noel and the Momofuku crack pie, were delightful. And then there was the princessatorte and the Battenburg cake. We all have a hot mess or two in our history, and mine seem to involve various royal desserts.

The point is that I was baking weird, challenging things, and it was fun. Most of the time. Sometimes it just felt like a chore, and those chore-times started outnumbering the fun-times so I stopped doing it for awhile. When I wanted to start again, the Daring Bakers had disbanded.

I didn’t stop baking altogether, but I also didn’t push myself to embark upon new baking adventures. I missed the camaraderie — celebrating one another’s beautifully puffed puff pastry; commiserating over burnt caramel.

Then a few months ago something new popped up in my Facebook feed: Someone was starting a group dedicated to making food from “The Great British Baking Show.” I love that program as much as I love a good cake, even with the new hosts.

And so I signed up without hesitation.

Our first challenge was to make a “fruity cake.” Not a fruitcake in the holiday-brick-of-cake sense, but a sponge cake with fruit baked into it. I missed that note the first time around, and I made a chocolate sponge cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries and nary a fruit inside the cake.

It did not go particularly well.

A sponge cake gets all of its lift from air that’s beaten into the eggs, so you’re supposed to sift the flour over the well-beaten eggs and fold, fold, fold just a wee bit at a time. Instead, I decided just to dump it all in and then fold, which resulted in clumps of cocoa in the mix. After that misstep was followed by too much time in the oven, I had myself a very flat sponge.

It was not a good bake.

I cut the burnt edges off as best as I could and sallied forth, because we are not one to waste cake. Rockford and Pete claim it was good despite all.

Not wanting to be defeated by a sponge cake, I regrouped and tried again. This time I used As Easy As Apple Pie’s Italian Sponge Cake, which turned out indeed to be even easier than apple pie, provided you follow the directions. I added blueberries, brushed it thoroughly with lemon syrup and topped it with coconut whipped cream and candied lemon peel, and I was very, very happy with it.

(Even though the coconut whipped cream didn’t whip quite as I wanted it to and the blueberries all sunk to the bottom, which ended up being the top.)

I’m looking forward to seeing what concoction the organizers order up next, and I’m very much hoping it’s not a Tudor Week challenge.

So this is the New Year.

It’s the return of the All & Sundry survey! I’m not sure if it’s still a going concern over there, but we’re going to do it again here regardless. (Here are 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2015 and 2016 editions.)

What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
I participated in my first protest march, I started calling my elected representatives a few times a week, and I sent one of my kids to public school.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year I said I was going to try to treat myself with more kindness and mercy and go out with Rockford more often. I wasn’t consistent with either, but I think I improved on both fronts at least a little. I’m going to have the same goals for 2018.

January. We kicked 2017 off with a pretty decent snowfall.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! We were thrilled to meet a new nephew this year.

Did anyone close to you die?
I don’t believe so.

February. Rockford and I celebrated our anniversary at Nightbell.

What countries did you visit?
I did not leave the United States yet again this year. But I did go to Idaho, where I spent several hours soaking in a hot spring. Those were some of the loveliest hours of my year.

What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
A greater sense of peace.

March. Pete and I started documenting all of the dogs we petted in a Facebook album called Pupapalooza.

What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I have a terrible memory. I don’t have an answer for this.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Successfully cutting out dairy. I still miss sour cream quite a lot, but my stomach feels much better.

April. We took our nephew to Dollywood.

What was your biggest failure?
I mean, I would’ve liked to have lost more weight and been more active, but that’s pretty much what I say every year.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
My gallbladder turned on me and had to be excised.

May. Rockford and I spent a long weekend listening to live music at Shaky Knees.

What was the best thing you bought?
Some family photos that we had done for the church directory.

Where did most of your money go?
To the mortgage, as usual.

June. Idaho was more beautiful than I could’ve imagined.

What did you get really excited about?
Our upcoming trip to NYC to see “Hamilton”! And we’ll do other things too, but we wouldn’t be going if it weren’t for “Hamilton.”

What song will always remind you of 2017?
No clue.

July. The Tigers lost, but we still had fun.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Last year I said more family hikes. This year? More family hikes.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worry about that over which I have no control.

August. The total eclipse was one of the most moving things I’ve ever witnessed.

How did you spend Christmas?
At home! And then we went to my sister-in-law’s house and ate crab cakes and played Trivial Pursuit. I had a cold, but otherwise it was a pretty good day.

What was your favorite TV program?
I watched a lot of TV this year. Probably too much TV. I think the shows I enjoyed the most were “The Crown” and “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World.”

September. Our annual trek to the fair. Pete’s applesauce took first place.

What were your favorite books of the year?
Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” and Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies.”

What was your favorite music from this year?

I’m not sure how much of it was actually new music, but I love the “Baby Driver” soundtrack. I also gained a new appreciation for LCD Soundsystem, Sylvan Esso and The XX when we saw them live at Shaky Knees.

October. We took a walk in the woods.

What were your favorite films of the year?
I loved “Blade Runner 2049,” “Thor: Ragnorak” and “Logan.”

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 39 this year, and we celebrated with an extended cast of friends and family in Pigeon Forge, TN.

November. We took another walk in the woods.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Winning the Powerball jackpot the other day would’ve been a nice thing.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
I’m still going for that Jim James / Mrs. Roper vibe.

December. We end the year as we began it.

NaBloPoMo No Mo’

Alas, poor November, we documented it well.

We were a little sappy about Poppy and Pete.

We reminisced about the small traumas of childhood, both Grandma-induced and borne of our own weird imaginings.

We also, of course, talked a lot about food, from pot roast to pork loin.

We went on a photographic tour of our day, and we discussed what the future of “Stranger Things” might hold.

It’s been hard to kick the daily blogging habit after National Blog Posting Month in past Decembers. We’ll see if that stands true this year or if I drop it like a hot rock. Either way, thank you for joining me on my annual 30-days-of-blogging adventure. It’s been a good and wordy month.