The Great Nailed It Bake-Off

My roommate, Annie, and I LOVE to binge baking shows. Something about the thrill of watching people create delicious (or sometimes not at all delicious) baked goods satisfies us both to no end. After comparing herself multiple times to the struggling contestants on the Netflix show Nailed It, Annie decided it was time to actually put her skills to the test. Not knowing at all what she was in for, she asked me to create a baking challenge for her to complete in our apartment. Let’s just say I didn’t hold back.

So, after hours of brainstorming and of culinary preparation, last week at 10:30 a.m. we kicked off the Memorial Day “Great Nailed It Bake Off” in our apartment. What follows is a summary of the saga that ensued throughout the day…

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Annie surprised herself with how nervous she was, but she suited up for the day nevertheless. Initially hating this apron, she’s grown quite fond of it over the course of  this year. She was ready.

The first task was revealed: Royal Iced Steelers Cookies. She only hesitated for a moment before diving into the kitchen.

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Her confidence only grew over the next hour and a half, during which she sped through the challenge, enthusiastically pulling cookies out of the oven and inserting musical interludes. (She created three perfectly tailored playlists specifically for this occasion).

She finished with a hefty five minutes to spare, and it appeared that she actually had indeed “nailed” it. IMG_3589

Unfortunately for Annie, who’d continuously stored her cookies in our freezer between layers of icing, I withheld an important bit of information: royal icing does not set in cold temperatures.

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So the cookies didn’t look quite as…perky, a few minutes later. But this didn’t endanger Annie’s spirit. She was proud of her success–and of the job she’d done on our kitchen–and welcomed the next challenge.

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That is, until she found out what the next challenge was. Round 2, inspired by The Great British Bake Off’s “Technical” challenges, was an apple galette. Not just any apple galette, but a Warm Apple Galette with Spiced Toffee Drizzle from @thebakefeed.

 

 

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https://www.bakefromscratch.com/warm-apple-galette-spiced-toffee-drizzle/

A galette is essentially a pie without a pie pan: a sheet of pastry folded around a fruit filling and baked. Annie did not know this, nor did she have a picture to help her. Needless to say, her enthusiasm dropped drastically when she discovered the evil I’d unleashed upon her.

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A lot less singing and a lot more grunting occurred this round. But, after a frightening mandolin slicing technique that threatened the safety of her fingers, a hilarious over-abundance of apples, a personal rendition of the “fold and pleat” method in the recipe that she called the “hug and squish”, and a cooling technique that involved walking through our apartment with the galette, she presented a final product. (On our personal “gingham altar” in honor of the show)

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Despite undercooked pastry and a soggy bottom that would have sent Paul Hollywood into panic, it tasted pretty darn good. Perhaps my favorite part of the round was when she engineered a tool involving a spoon, paper towel, and tape to sop up the leakage (from the 5937397 pounds of apples she’d tried to shove into one circle of pastry). She posed with her invention after finishing the challenge.

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Nothing, though, could prepare Annie for what I had in store for the finale. I wanted challenge three to be something dear to her heart, something that would prompt her to muster up all the baking energy she had left left in her. So, for her “Showstopper” challenge, I decided to have Annie create this…

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Toothless Cake!! The product of three hours of prep work the day before, I unveiled this cake as the final element of Annie’s day. Her reaction did not disappoint.

She was ecstatic. When the timer began, though, her joy instantly transformed into a focus that was unmatched by the rest of the day. I watched as she silently glided through the kitchen with a laser gaze, fueled by the image of her beloved DreamWorks dragon.

With her intensity, I knew I could look forward to something grand at the end of the day. However, when I came back to the kitchen 2 1/2 hours later for the reveal, I had no idea just how spectacular the creation was that awaited me:

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It was ADORABLE. Her cake, that we came to lovely refer to as The Bat, exceeded every expectation I held. It was decided. Annie may have been the only contestant, but she won with this cake.

After confirming that the taste was just as spectacular as the exterior, we wrapped up our baking extravaganza. Six hours of baking behind her, Annie was exhausted, overheated, and dyed a vibrant shade of fuchsia, but so very proud.

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We both crashed that night in sugar comas, thoroughly satisfied with the result of our little event–it was an experience we truly will never forget. And we haven’t brought ourselves to throw away the bat just yet; he greets us with those bug eyes every time we enter the dining room.

Annie is plotting her revenge on me in the form of a Chopped themed challenge. Stay tuned 🙂

If you’re ever in need of a little spontaneous fun in your household, perhaps consider the possibilities that lie in the kitchen. I promise it WON’T disappoint.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God…

Ecclesiastes 2:24

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Spiced Coffee Cake (V)

IMG_1652Three weeks of quarantine, and I’d say it’s about time for another blog about my daily disasters. Most of you know that I am quite open about the clumsiness, frequent slip-ups, and comical misfortunes that so often seem to characterize my life. And believe it or not, this shelter-in-place has done absolutely nothing to slow the rate of my “incidents.” So, forget about the worries plaguing your brain for five minutes, and sit back and enjoy the latest laughable moments of my week.

I have to provide some background for this in the form of a shout out to my incredible physical therapist. To say she is my physical therapist is to short-change her importance to me: she has, over the past few years, become a mentor, friend, and mom away from home. Anyway, I had emailed her with an update about how I was doing since I’d had to stop seeing her for appointments–she always reaches out when she hasn’t been able to see me in a while. I apparently mentioned in my email that I was baking as much as possible but that flour was frustratingly hard to come by given the recent grocery stockpiling trends. I say apparently because I forgot that I’d even said that until last Sunday, when I received a text and accompanying picture from her informing me that she’d bought me a 25 lb. bag of flour because she “could not resist” when she’d heard about my struggle. She’s just amazing.IMG_1633

She let me know she’d put the flour in the trunk of her car at work so that I could safely retrieve it without violating any social distancing orders. Yesterday afternoon, I donned my recycled t-shirt mask and headed out on probably the third car ride I’ve taken in the last month. After a pleasant drive accompanied by the lively tunes of my recent 1940s/1950s jazz kick, I pulled into the parking lot, eager to retrieve the precious cargo. Not seeing her usual car–and deciding it wasn’t the best idea to go peeking into random car trunks with a mask on–I texted her from my car and discovered she’d taken their other one that day. I excitedly spotted the car and the flour in the window, opened the door, placed a plate of “thank you” coffee cake on the seat, and grabbed the 25 pounds of what may as well have been gold, for me.

I hobbled over to the back of my own car, fueled by visions of the endless hours of baking that awaited me. The bag made a pleasing thud as I dropped it into the trunk, but it was accompanied by a slightly less pleasing cloud of flour that tickled my face. My excitement had blinded me to the little hole I’d poked in the process of transferring it across the parking lot. I pulled back and blinked away the white puffs, noticing the rip on the surface of the bag.IMG_1578

Naturally, in a situation that had no further consequence (the bag was already in the car; I was outside, so no worry about a mess; the hole was on top, risking no further leakage), I panicked. Naturally, my brain was overwhelmed by the sudden interruption to its celebratory state and found the most reasonable reflexive bodily reaction to be for me to give the torn bag a nice, hearty, slightly spastic slap. And, naturally, I was wearing black leggings and a black sweater and black socks and black shoes that day. The bag wheezed with the impact and shot out a wide spray of its contents–I’ve come to understand that, when it comes to flour, the size of a hole is in no way proportionate to the amount of carnage. Giant tear= nuclear flour explosion. Little bitty tear= equally nuclear flour explosion.

Suddenly becoming fully present in the current moment, I took a step away from the car to evaluate my mistake. My entire front was, indeed, dusted in a layer of white–from my mask all the way down to my sneakers. Now, you have to understand just how accustomed I’ve become to miniature disasters: this didn’t even come close to phasing me. Without thinking, I simply engaged in the practical deescalation steps that one develops when they possess the clumsy inclinations that I do. We’ll call it the triple A:

  1. Address the immediate damage (I thoroughly patted myself down)
  2. Assess and minimize the level of spectators, applying a sarcasm diversion as needed (I scanned the parking lot for any familiar faces and found none)
  3. Act like nothing happened (I calmly got in my car and left the scene, lightly coated in flour but safely undetected)IMG_1624

And that, my friends, is how I cope with my chronic common sense deficiency.

In true character, I returned home, washed my hands, carefully transferred the flour to a safe storage bin, threw away the ripped bag inside a plastic bag to avoid a mess, and…locked my car key in my trunk. By that point, all I could do was laugh. I somehow manage to jeopardize even my most well-engineered moments of caution. Thankfully, I won’t be needing my car for the foreseeable future, so I can write this to you with relatively no qualms. I’ll get around to solving that problem another day (breaking into my own car–oh, I’m certain that will result in a story to tell). For now, I’ll rest in the joy of laughing at myself, of having so many generous people in my life, and of all the baking I can do with 25–ok, maybe 24–pounds of flour.

Hoping you find a reason to laugh today 🙂

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

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Spiced Coffee Cake (V)

Ingredients

CAKE

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 flax egg (1 1/2 tsp flax mixed with 4 1/2 tsp water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water

FILLING/TOPPING

  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (vegan, if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/4 tsp maple syrup

Instructions

CAKE

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8″ cake pan.
  2. Make filling/topping: in a bowl, whisk together oats, cardamom, ginger, and salt. Mix in shortening and maple syrup, and set aside.
  3. In a separate large bowl, mix together shortening, sugars, and vinegar. Use a spatula to fold and mix until well combined.
  4. Mix in flax egg.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, and salt.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture and the water to the shortening mixture in small additions, alternating between each and whisking well after each addition. Continue until all ingredients are incorporated. The batter will be very thick
  7. Spread half of the batter onto the bottom of the prepared cake pan.
  8. Sprinkle half of the filling mixture evenly across the first layer of cake batter.
  9. Spoon the remaining cake batter on top of the filling, and spread to cover the pan with a spatula.
  10. Top with the remaining filling, and bake until knife/toothpick comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes.
  11. Enjoy! Store extras in sealed container on the counter.

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April Fool’s Primanti Bros. Sandwich (V)

APRIL FOOL’S!!!

IMG_1441I did not, in fact, post a meat-filled sandwich on my very vegan blog. This is actually a tiny dessert!

Did you fall for it?? I must say, it was very difficult for me to pull off. Not the actual creation of the “sandwich”–that part went surprisingly well! Oh, no– it was the secret-keeping part that I struggled to handle! The moment I posted that picture, I went into instant panic, excitement, and anticipation:

 

I feel so rebellious! I’ve never lied on my social media before…

Wow, people believe it. This is exciting.

Ah, geez, I hope no one unfollows me for posting this picture on a vegan Instagram…Maybe I should just take it down.

How will I sleep tonight knowing I’m so close to doing the big reveal??

Yes, I’m ridiculous. Then again, it doesn’t take much to excite me when I’m spending every day in my apartment! I realize that this recipe isn’t exactly on track with my recent “quarantine-friendly” posts, but I hope that it gives you a bit of entertainment, especially those who need it most right now! Looking forward to everyone’s reaction to this and also to the abundance of pranks that will certainly result from everyone’s down time 🙂

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
    and your lips with shouts of joy.

Job 8:21

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April Fool’s Primanti Bros. Sandwich (V)

STRAWBERRY FRUIT LEATHER “MEAT”

Ingredients

  • strawberries
  • sweetener (if needed; I used liquid Stevia)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 140-150°F.
  2. Puree strawberries and sweetener until smooth.
  3. Spread onto a plastic or parchment-lined baking tray.
  4. Bake until desired texture is reached, 6-8 hours.

MINI LOAF CAKE “BREAD”

**Makes 4 mini loaves**

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 TBSP sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup “buttermilk” (1 tsp vinegar mixed with enough room temperature almond milk to make 1/2 cup; left to sit at least five minutes)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease and flour four mini loaf tins.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with paddle attachment of a stand mixer on medium speed.
  3. Mix in corn syrup and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Begin adding the flour mixture and the “buttermilk” to the butter mixture, alternating between each and mixing after each addition until everything is incorporated.
  6. Divide batter between the four pans, and bake until very light golden brown on the outside, about 50-55 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely before slicing. If you plan to make the trick sandwich, it’s helpful to freeze the loaves first! Makes for easier cutting, and the cake softens (it will develop a crust when it first cools after baking).

FRIED BANANA “FRIES”

Ingredients

  • banana
  • maple syrup
  • vegan butter

Instructions

  1. Slice the banana thinly.
  2. Melt a spoonful of oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add a spoonful of maple syrup.
  3. Remove pan from heat, and place banana slices in pan.
  4. When they’ve caramelized slightly, flip them.
  5. When the other side has cooked, remove from heat.
  6. Slice into thin “fries.” (If you do this, they will be rather difficult to work with, but patience is a virtue :D)

APPLE SLICE “CHEESE and TOMATOES”

I think you can figure out that one 🙂

SWEETENED COCONUT FLAKES “COLESLAW”

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Mug Cakes: 14 ingredients, 4 cakes (V)

IMG_1164 (1)Is it just me, or does it feel as though we’ve been home for a month already? It’s only day 10 of this quasi-quarantine, and I almost can’t grasp the idea that my life was proceeding at a normal pace just over a week ago. My heart goes out to all of the people suffering from the virus, those in actual quarantine: I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that is! Regardless of the level of affect you’re feeling from these circumstances, I hope that, if you’re able, you’ll try spending some of the extra hours in your kitchen. In fact, you’ll only need about five minutes for today’s desserts!IMG_1111

I explained last week that I hoped to provide some recipes that wouldn’t require unusual ingredients because I don’t want to provide any temptation to disrupt the social distancing efforts! I knew that this mission would eventually lead me to mug cakes, and I couldn’t hold out for long–today is the day. Not only are these single-serve treats incredibly convenient to make at home; they have been a blast to create! The quantity of wasted ingredients and time often limits the number of trials I can execute in my recipes (usually about three tries max), but these cakes provided opportunity for lots of attempts and tweaks with relatively minimal consequence. It’s a win-win situation for us: I end up with less guilt and more experimental freedom, and you end up receiving recipes that have been thoroughly tweaked until they’re the most delicious they can be!

There’s also something quite appealing about single-serving desserts. They’re personal; they come together quickly; you don’t have to share with anyone (maybe my favorite factor); and they eliminate the struggle of self-control that so easily taints indulgence with guilt. Plus, I assume that the idea of baking an entire cake or pie isn’t exactly realistic for those of you stuck at home by yourself for the foreseeable future! There’s simply very little, if anything at all, that one can criticize about adorably tiny, warm, yummy cake. IMG_1154

I’d argue that this concept of single servings is applicable beyond food right now, though. With such chaos ensuing in our world and so much extra time in our schedules to observe that chaos, I find myself consuming news updates and mindless entertainment by the heaping spoonfuls. The magnetism of my phone, of every notification, is something of which I’ve become increasingly cognizant: I don’t know that I’ve gone more than a few minutes without it next to me since this ordeal began.

Perhaps this is something you’ve found yourself experiencing as well–I think the majority of us have been roped in by the incessant online dialogue in some capacity. And while it’s responsible to stay informed about the goings on in society, especially in times such as these, it’s just as responsible to care for yourself by limiting your media consumption. By nature, pandemics are rapidly progressing: things are changing by the hour in every affected city. But will knowing about these changes immediately, each as they occur, really contribute anything to us beyond stress and depression? Not likely. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad news right now. This means that it’s entirely possible for us to remain in a steady track of receiving this negative information if we expose ourselves to it. IMG_1175

Please, for your own health, come up for air now and then.

As reckless as it might feel (and I completely sympathize with this feeling), put your phone away for a few hours, even just one. Go outside. Read something that’s not current events. Call your family (without going to speaker so you can still check your phone). Give your complete attention to something that’s not a newsfeed. And know that you can do so without even a bit of guilt. The world will continue on, and you will eventually learn what you missed. Like the saying goes, everything is best in moderation. And it’s the moments we allow ourselves to indulge in the things that this virus hasn’t uprooted–those sweet, single-serve joys– that will eventually see us through it.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

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Mug Cakes: 14 Ingredients, 4 cakes (V)

MUG WALNUT BROWNIE

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 TBSP applesauce
  • 2 tsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)

Instructions

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in wet ingredients.
  3. Mix in walnuts, and sprinkle the last of them on top.
  4. Microwave until cooked through, about 1 minute 30 seconds.

CARROT MUG CAKE

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot (lightly fill cup, don’t pack it)
  • 3 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)

Instructions

  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in carrots and almond milk.
  3. Mix in walnuts, sprinkling the final pieces on top.
  4. Microwave until cooked through, about 1 minute 30 seconds.

BANANA NUT MUG CAKE

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small banana
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)

Instructions

  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in the almond milk.
  3. Mash the banana into the mixture.
  4. Mix in the walnuts, leaving the last bit to sprinkle on the top.
  5. Microwave until cooked through, about 2 minutes.

APPLE CINNAMON MUG CAKE

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 4 TBSP applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)

Instructions

  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and 2 TBSP light brown sugar in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix oil, milk and 3 TBSP applesauce into the dry ingredients.
  3. Mix in walnuts, sprinkling the last bits on top.
  4. Spread the last TBSP of applesauce on top of the mixture.
  5. Sprinkle the last TBSP of light brown sugar on top of the applesauce.
  6. Microwave until cooked through, about 2 minutes.

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Arnold Palmer Mini Cupcakes (V)

IMG_0492One of the perks about living here in Pittsburgh–and in East Liberty, especially–is that everything I ever need to access is within a five mile radius. I live just a fifteen minute drive from work, and I can walk from my apartment to multiple schools, a few pharmacies, a library, a number of grocery stores, and dozens of restaurants. I’ve become quite comfortable with being able to leave and get something I need and be back home within minutes, which is a luxury I’d never experienced until I moved here. This means that, if I realize I’ve forgotten a staple while shopping or suddenly run out of a baking ingredient, it’s not too much of a hassle to go out and get it.

When I realized on Saturday, then, that I wouldn’t have enough flour left to feed my sourdough starters and bake a loaf, it only slightly bothered me that I’d already done my grocery shopping at ALDI the day before and made a Trader Joe’s trip that morning to get an ingredient that ALDI didn’t carry. I decided to stop at Target on the way home from church the following morning to grab some flour and sugar.

It was a shockingly sunny day for March 1st–we’ve had an abnormal amount of daylight this year, and I’ve struggled to trust that it’s not too good to be true and that some torrential disaster isn’t going to descend upon us any day now. Needless to say, I was sans jacket and in an especially perky mood with my Vitamin D battery fully charged. I’d even picked out a cute, floral outfit that morning to match my seasonal mood. With that in mind, I didn’t mind making the stop; however, I was very much ready to be back in my kitchen and finish up the cupcake recipe because I was so close to finishing it.

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I headed up the stairs, grabbed a basket, and went directly towards the baking aisle. I picked up a bag of sugar and a bag of whole wheat flour, and then I reached far between the shelves and picked out an all-purpose flour (I’ve always been a back of the shelf gal because I’m convinced the best selection is never in the front with the most-touched items). Plus, the closest bags definitely looked like they’d seen better days. Satisfied with my haul, I hoisted the basket onto my hip and made my way to the front of the store to my favorite line, the 10 or less checkout lane.

As the woman in front of me pulled out her wallet, I was relieved to drop my weighty basket onto the conveyor belt. As I did, I noticed the familiar face of a pianist from the studios behind me, and we exchanged warm smiles. Wow, it really is just a happy day, I thought, as I turned back to my basket and the dusty pile of flour that was spewing from its holes. Oh no.

I froze when I realized the bag had broke, momentarily unsure what to do as the white powdery mess of my basket moved towards the register. I instinctively grabbed it and held it still, realizing that this in no way solved the problem but for some reason wanting desperately to avoid allowing it to reach the cashier. With one hand anchored, I attempted to use my other to prop the bag of flour up so that the tear was at the top. Naturally, this sent more clumps of flour shooting out of the basket’s holes and puffs of smoky white particulate billowing over the rest of my groceries. I immediately felt the need to inform someone but was stuck in that awkward pull between interrupting the ongoing checkout traffic to get someone’s attention and silently but unsuccessfully attempting to fix the problem on my own. Finding that neither of these options pleased me, I settled on emitting a series of increasingly audible whisper-shouts for help that came out as sporadic, unnoticed “um’s” and “excuse me’s.”IMG_0477

At last, the cashier flagged another employee for help (though she was most certainly clued in by the white disaster two feet from her station and not from my sorry S.O.S. attempts). Like a child who’s just been caught stealing a cookie and awaiting her fate, I looked, wide-eyed, at both of them until the woman in front of me in line reassured me that I could go get another one. With this, I snapped out of my trance, let go of the basket, and bee-lined back to the other end of the store to get more flour. Of course, that cheery outfit I’d proudly donned earlier included a long skirt with the skinniest hem in my closet–it greatly limited the range of my steps. And so, through the crowded walkway of Target, I executed a strange, brisk speed walk, my shins aggressively hitting my skirt with each hurried pace. I stooped to grab a new bag, inspected it for any weak areas, and retraced my path, which I then noticed was sprinkled periodically with white dots of flour.

I reached the register just as the kind employee who’d come to my rescue was finishing wiping down my basket and its contents. I thanked her repeatedly and avoided eye contact with everyone except the Target dog on the debit card screen until the transaction was complete. Then, I grabbed my bags and attempted to walk down the stairs in a way that would mask the fact that I was lugging 15 lb of groceries, still fighting the circle of fabric around my ankles that had never felt narrower than now. I unlocked my car, basically threw the flour into the passenger seat, realized how stupid that choice was, checked to make sure I hadn’t just caused a second disaster, and sighed in relief as I started home. I mused at the fact that I, Allison Durand, thought I could take a quick ingredient stop that would actually be quick. As usual, my life is endlessly entertaining.

Lucky for me, it would have taken a lot more than a little spilt flour for my mood to take a downturn on that sunny day. Takeaways for today: 1) Take advantage of the joy of sunlight and warmth when it’s here! 2) Thank your store employees for dealing with hot messes like me. 3) Cupcakes are ALWAYS worth the extra trip out.

Happy March, y’all!

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Psalm 113:3

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Arnold Palmer Mini Cupcakes (V)

*Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients

SWEET TEA CURD FILLING

  • 1 1/4 cups sweet tea
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup butter

CUPCAKES

  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup lemon flavored seltzer water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 TBSP lemon zest

SWEET TEA ICING

  • 5 black tea bags
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1 lb. (about 3 cups) powdered sugar, (vegan if desired)
  • salt to taste

Instructions

SWEET TEA CURD FILLING

  1. Whisk the sweet tea, sugar, and cornstarch together in a saucepan, and turn heat to medium.
  2. Stirring constantly with a spoon or spatula, cook mixture until it thickens and coats the back of your utensil (this will happen just before it’s hot enough to come to a boil).
  3. Immediately remove from heat, and whisk in butter.
  4. Allow to cool completely in the fridge (Spread onto a baking sheet for faster cooling if needed.

CUPCAKES

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a mini muffin tin with liners or grease well.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, and lemon juice.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
  4. Begin adding the flour mixture and the seltzer water to the oil mixture, alternating and mixing between each addition until all of the ingredients have been incorporated.
  5. Spoon batter into cupcake cups, filling them about 2/3 full.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

FROSTING

  1. Steep the tea bags in the boiling water for ten minutes. Remove bags, squeeze excess tea from them, and allow tea to cool completely.
  2. Place vegan butter the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  3. Begin adding powdered sugar and tea, a little at a time, mixing on medium-low speed after each addition (Use the tea sparingly to make sure your frosting isn’t too loose).
  4. Continue until you’ve added all the powdered sugar and as much of the tea as you can while keeping the frosting thick.
  5. Mix in salt to taste.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Using a small knife or piping tip, carve out a small ball of cake in the center of each cupcake top.
  2. Fill the hole with the sweet tea curd filling.
  3. Pipe the frosting onto each cupcake, covering the filling.
  4. Top as desired (I used lemon zest and home made sweet tea caramel), and enjoy!

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