Some Thoughts on Baking

This here, above, was my first attempt at making a French baguette.

What does a fashionista eat for breakfast? Two Fabergé eggs and a Fendi baguette.

Pardon the corniness. That was an old joke I made up while I was a student at Parsons School of Design. I thought about it the other day when I tried my hand at making a French baguette from scratch. We finally installed an oven so we've been experimenting with baking. My hope is that I'll soon advance to making croissants/pain au chocolats because there's nothing I miss more in the morning than having a croissant/pain au chocolat with my coffee, like the ones from Le Bergamot or Ceci-Cela or Patisserie Claude–not the fake ones that they sell at Costco. That might be a lofty ambition because I haven't baked a single thing from scratch for over a decade! I once tried to make a loaf of Irish soda bread that literally turned out to be a brick and hung up my apron in defeat shortly thereafter. Besides, eating baked goods was quickly going out of fashion amongst the New York set, where keeping a svelte figure reigns supreme. And the thing about baking is that you usually end up eating whatever it is that you bake. I love tearing into a yummy carb as much as the next person, but–oof–makes feel like have a tire around my waist! I guess I've sort of abandoned the idea of dieting since moving to the mountains. You know how you're either predominantly left-brained or right-brained? Well, I always thought of myself as predominantly a cook in the kitchen rather than a baker. I like to cook intuitively and never gave too much credence to the measurements in recipes. With baking, it's more of a science. You have to be accurate with measurements and rising times and baking times, and temperatures. It was beyond my left-brained self. I figured, there were so many fabulous bakeries in the city–why go through all the trouble when you can just point-and-pay? Now that I'm out here at the ranch, though, I've discovered the joys of baking. It's not as hard as I thought it was! Nothing ever is when you take the time to figure it out, I suppose. There's something so lovely about getting flour on your hands, kneading dough, and just going through that whole process. Makes you appreciate these sorts of simple pleasures a whole lot more. 

Not Your Average Girl

I don't have "mermaid waves" in my hair. I don't wear chambray shirts with fuschia lipstick and chunky, colorful costume jewelry. I don't have a wall in my home with a picture frame collage. I don't have any DIY talents under my belt. I don't have any ambition to rule the world or become CEO of a company or sit on a board or start my own non-profit organization–nor do I keep quotes about "success" as a motivational tool. I think Valentine's Day is a farce. I don't have any pictures of myself jumping in the air, or wearing a bikini in a line-up with ten other girls in bikinis, for that matter. I've never caught Bieber Fever and I don't know the lyrics to any of Taylor Swift's songs. I haven't quite mastered baking desserts, although I'd like to. I believe in female empowerment, but not necessarily in that Sheryl Sandberg-Lean In-Ban-Bossy kind of way. More than that, I believe in being yourself. 

The internet, it seems, is producing a wave of homogenized millenial females and I feel like a square peg. Who's with me on this? 

Yeonhee's Pumpkin Honey Muffins

My friend Yeonhee makes baking look so easy. She'll waltz into the kitchen, measure out the ingredients into a giant bowl, and, twenty minutes later, there'll be a batch of warm muffins sitting on the counter. These are absolutely delicious! They're fluffy and wheaty, with a nice pumpkin flavor. As someone who's not apt at baking, I was amazed. It's a guaranteed way to look like a domestic diva, with very little baking experience.

1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 cup of honey
2 eggs
3/4 cup of pumpkin purée
1/2 cup of olive oil


1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl until everything is smoothly blended together.

2. Grease the muffin tin with olive or vegetable oil and dust it with a coat of flour. Carefully fill each muffin tin halfway. (She uses a 6-muffin tin.)

3. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 - 25 minutes. (She bakes them for 20 minutes and leaves them in the oven for an additional 3 minutes, with the heat turned off.) Remove from oven and let it cool.

The Secrets of Pie Crust from Brown Betty Dessert Boutique

A slice of sweet potato pie and a glass of red wine #singlegirldinner

Baking is not my forte. Twelve years ago, I tried my hand at baking a loaf of Irish soda bread and it turned out like a brick. I haven't made another attempt since. But, tonight, I had a second encounter with baking, thanks to my friend Deanne, who invited me to join her at Soho House for a baking demo with Linda and Norrinda, the mother-daughter duo behind Brown Betty Dessert Boutique. We learned how to make an Apple Brown Betty, oatmeal cookies, and buttermilk & lemon pound cake cupcakes.

Linda was happy to share her tips with us, and, after three glasses of red wine, I managed to remember a few on making a pie crust:

1. In addition to butter, Linda adds vegetable shortening and Philadelphia cream cheese for an extra buttery and flaky crust.

2. When baking the crust, cover the crust with parchment paper and pour three cups of dry beans on top to weigh it down and prevent it from shrinking. Alternatively, you can use a fancy pie weight.

3. Take notes while you're baking, and, if it turns out well, do everything exactly the same way next time!