DREAM Out Loud

Dreaming is terrifying! No, let me rephrase that… dreaming OUT LOUD is terrifying! It feels so good to dream up a future, an idea, or lifetime achievement  you’d like to see through to completion. That warm and exhilarating feeling of what “could be” feels AWESOME right?!  Can every dream just stay in this cozy little cocoon forever? Nope, sorry friends! Not if you want those dreams to become a reality…

Growing up, I didn’t consider myself very creative, or more specifically, a “dreamer.” In fact, I still RARELY remember my dreams! I never had an imaginary friend as a kid, and always learned from the triumphs and mistakes of my older siblings. I didn’t dream because I didn’t have to. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great childhood, I was very artistic, and had built-in friends with my siblings and cousins!  But dreaming was not my instinct, my logic steadily became dominant, and my dreams remained in hibernation… until now.

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalms 138:8

I am currently in a season of dreaming… dreaming of what my business will become and the next steps I will need to take to make this a reality. This word “dream” has been ever-present these last few months… and if you’re anything like me, you know to pay attention to instances that seem like coincidences! I quickly embraced “dream” as a word God is speaking into my life and wants me to live out.  My initial reaction was “Oh, cool, I get to have a fun season for a change!”…  that lasted a few weeks or so. Then, reality sunk in, the honeymoon period wore off, and I realized “Holy CRAP… I have to actually follow through with this!”  If I’m being totally honest I resisted it HARD when I fully understood this would be no cake-walk…. [oh, baking-related puns!] A dream is safe when it is in your head, only for you to know about, it reaches a vulnerable state once it is spoken out loud. All these dreams I have stored up have so much hope and freedom because they have yet to be spoken into existence. The moment we speak our dreams they become a target, at risk for future failure, and I am TERRIFIED of failure… who’s with me on the failure train?! 🚂🙋🏼‍♀️ 🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏽‍♀️ Once other people know about your dream, there comes a moment when you realize they also will know if you fail at that dream.  The challenge is to alter our perception of failure and view it as a positive step along the journey; failure is inevitable to some extent, it’s how you react to it that determines if you fall even deeper or rise to the occasion.

You can imagine how out of my comfort zone this is to start dreaming! It’s just not something I’m well-versed in. So, in an effort to keep this word at the forefront of my mind, I went out and bought myself a Giving Key with “DREAM” engraved on it. If you aren’t familiar with this company, the idea behind a Giving Key is to wear a word until you’ve conquered it, then pass it on to someone else who needs the word more than you do.  I LOVE this idea so much, and always thought if I got a key one day, it would be for something strong, like courage, or faith… no, God knew this was the word for me, the place I’m most vulnerable right now! Once I accepted my word and started wearing my key, it was like the sky opened up, and “dream” came pouring down on me… 

I thought about sharing all the ways this word has impacted me, all the instances it has shown up in surprising and bizarre situations¹… but there are just too many! Instead, I want to encourage anyone who has a dream out there, I can’t think of a person who doesn’t… whether it is that job promotion or total shift in careers; starting a family, or traveling, having the courage to step out and show the world what it is you’re made of… KEEP DREAMING THOSE BIG DREAMS!!!

“Now glory be to God, by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Ephesians 3:20 (LB)

Sitting in this season of “dream,” I have learned to be bold in my dreams and prayers. At a recent retreat, one of the biggest takeaways for me was hearing that prayers that are ordinary and not “out of this world” are insulting to a God who can do all things. If I don’t pray for impossible things, that means I don’t think He can do the impossible. Shouldn’t we take the same approach to our dreams? You see, God has given each of us unique talents for a reason, specific strengths² that we need to succeed in the plan/dream He has in store for us! Are we using our strengths to glorify His Kingdom? Or do we think that is a job for someone else “more equipped” than us? He has already perfectly and uniquely equipped you for what’s ahead!

The first step, I’m realizing, is to say what your dream is out loud. Dreams will NEVER become a reality unless they are spoken. Yes, it’s scary to know that your dreams may not come true, but it’s so silly to be trapped in the fear of failure when the possibility of success overshadows each small failure every time. Accepting the notion that I will fail, I will fall, but I WILL get back up and try again and again because this is what I’m passionate about, what I’m gifted at, and what God has called me to do!


This is my dream… to open up a cafe/bakery of my own… No, not just a shop, more like a second home! I want it to be a place where people feel like they are going to a friend’s house… where they feel comfortable to have real and honest conversations from across the table… where they can sit back and enjoy a few laughs over a cup of coffee… where love prevails… where encouragement and self-worth are spoken… where you can DOMINATE at a game of Yahtzee or corn hole, or just as easy sit and study for an exam… where healthy eating is encouraged, but decadent desserts are occasionally indulged!  This is MY DREAM, my HOME and my Heart, and hospitality runs deep in my veins (almost as deep as the Dodger Blue my family bleeds)!  I’m excited to see the ways this dream will grow and blossom… and I invite you to witness it unfold… in all it’s imperfect glory. Everyday we have a choice… a choice to be bold, to be confident in our own skin and the talents that are unique to us, to be positive and respectful to others, and ourselves. What will you choose to do with the time and gifts you have been given?

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

What is that dream you are too terrified to speak out loud? I encourage you, speak it! SHOUT IT OUT!! The only person standing in your way it YOU! Seriously take a few hours to sit and dream… and, if at the end of your dreaming session you realize this is doable… then your dream isn’t big enough. Dream big friends, for anything is possible with our God, and dreaming small dreams that don’t require mountains to be moved by Him is not really dreaming at all.

Thank you for dreaming with me, I hope you feel encouraged to pursue your dreams, there’s honestly nothing like it!

Steven Tyler sang it best… “DREAM ON…”

Footnotes:

¹Seriously!!!  Sermons, unexpected conversations, an impromptu toast at a book launch, and even a movie I saw recently… “The Greatest Showman.” OH friends, It was so exceptionally inspirational, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack ever since! If you know me, you know how much music is a part of my life…  I mean, what is life without music right?! Oftentimes I use music to express how I’m feeling, it has helped me dig deeper into my emotions… in particular being comfortable with crying [insert visual of me crying, singing “The Last Five Years” soundtrack, while sitting in traffic on the 110 freeway]  Music speaks to me, it’s a feeling of indescribable connection when the words match perfectly to a sequence of notes. But I digress… sorry to all my non musical nerds out there! I was inspired by the entire show which was all about dreaming and embracing who you are and who you were meant to be with confidence. If you get a chance, listen to “A Million Dreams” and “This Is Me”… they embody this season of dreams and confidence I am experiencing now. God has given me this challenge to be bold and speak my dreams… and has grown my confidence through it all.

‘Cause every night I lie in bed, the brightest colors fill my head. A million dreams are keeping me awake. I think of what the world could be, a vision of the one I see, a million dreams is all it’s gonna take, a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down, gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out. I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me. Look out ’cause here I come, and I’m marching on to the beat I drum. I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, THIS IS ME!

²If you haven’t taken the “Strengths Finder” test, I encourage you to do it! After taking this test, I was able to ground my dream around my strengths… which are specifically geared toward being an entrepreneur!

Keeping Tradition

True confession… I am a five-year-old at heart and will always be the first awake on Christmas morning!  When I was a kid, this was purely because of the excitement of opening presents. I would scan each package under the tree and organize them into piles depending on who they were for; this shortened the “passing out” process so we could get straight to the “opening phase”.  Now, as an adult my routine has changed; I’m still the first awake, I start the coffee and pop in a movie while I wait for everyone else to either wake up or arrive that morning.   It is so peaceful in the early morning on Christmas day… this is one of my favorite traditions, and trust me, my family has tons of traditions to choose from!

Traditioooooooon… TRADITION!

I often tell people that we have TOO MANY traditions… it can be exhausting trying to keep up with each one, and disappointing if one is passed over. It wasn’t till recently when chatting with my good friend, Ciara, that I realized how much I truly love Christmas and how traditions play a big part in that. Ciara and I each love different holiday and couldn’t really understand why the other had an extra pep in their step during “their” holiday… so, we each tried to enlighten the other by inviting them into our world and how WE experience the holiday.

Ciara’s SPOOKY Halloween Bash!

For Ciara, it’s Halloween… so I joined her big SPOOKY bash, I dressed up, committed to the scavenger hunt, and even bobbed for apples that night! You know what? It worked! I left with a greater love for a holiday I thought was pointless for anyone over the age of 13!  But the biggest thing I learned is that Halloween encourages people to let loose and let their inner child out! I guess it’s true that expressing and sharing your passion with others becomes somewhat infectious!

When the calendar rolled around to MY favorite holiday, I had the opportunity to sit down and really contemplate why I feel so warm and toasty this time of year (and I don’t mean staying inside from the cold weather… cause Los Angeles is NOT that cold… although I’m a wimp… so I guess it applies to me).

I first thought about all the family traditions we continue throughout the years, even the silly ones like throwing candy wrappers at the Christmas Tree to give it that extra glisten, and stealing the Twilight Edward ornament back and forth from each other’s trees.

Newport Boat Parade

Traditions are definitely NOT the meaning of Christmas, but they do something greater subconciously. Traditions ground me to the notion that my family will always be there for me. When I think of the Christmas season, I know we will try to see the Newport Boat Parade at our favorite spot on the beach. On Christmas Eve, I know we will be having tamales and a full house. When I think of Easter, I look forward to the night before when everyone comes over to help roll grape leaves in preparation for our big Armenian feast. When I think of Thanksgiving, I can’t wait to see the family and friends that will be in town at our open house breakfast.  Once summer rolls around, I long for the quality time I will get with friends and family during our Shaver Lake camping trip! These are the traditions I will keep. They are traditions that are based on bringing people together.  They root me to the idea that family matters… and this has been the foundation of joy during the holidays for me.  But this year, I have had a hard time knowing that there are so many families and relationships that are broken. It lead me to question if my holiday joy was selfish or not… a kind of a Cindy Lou Who moment!

Then, I realized that family ties run deep… they are bonded together by blood. How fitting is it that our brothers and sisters in Christ are also connected through the blood He shed for us!

The grounding factor of traditions in my family therefore ALWAYS extends to our brothers and sisters in Christ and the friends who have become family over the years… if you’ve ever joined our family for one of our holidays, you can be assured that we consider you a part of the family! Traditions represent dependability… not only in family, but the dependability that can be found in Christ. You see, the world is not perfect, WE are imperfect, our families are imperfect, but we can be adopted into God’s family.  He is the one true rock and firm foundation that I can ALWAY rely on!

The funny thing about traditions is that they can be created intentionally or accidentally, yet can last for generations! That’s insane! So enjoy all those quirky family traditions this year; and if you don’t have many traditions, I encourage you to start your own focusing on bringing loved ones together!!  The reason for the season is bigger than presents and parties… it is a celebration of the greatest news and hope for all mankind! Let us celebrate this season and never forget the powerful meaning of Christmas… the birth of Jesus Christ!

My heart is so full yet so heavy… it is such an odd feeling! It is my instinct to look for the positive in each situation, but sometimes you sit in the middle and cry, and guess what… that’s ok! In fact, that’s more than okay, it’s necessary! If this season has been a tough one for you, allow yourself to feel those feelings, but remember that this is a season and it will pass.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Maisano Family Christmas Day 2017

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

~Beth

Tastings and Truth Telling

House tidied up, CHECK. Music playing, CHECK. Candles lit, CHECK.

Am I waiting for a date to arrive or a wedding cake tasting client? That’s when it hit me… my story has brought me here; my imperfect past, disappointing failures, and quizzical stints of random hobbies have all perfectly aligned to make me excel in this industry!

When I invite a couple into my home for a tasting, it’s less about flavors and more about gaining a better understanding of who they are and what their vision is for the big day. I make it clear that flavors can be altered and textures can be changed. They think the tasting is about the cake, but I’ll share a secret with you… it’s not. The most important thing for me is the inside scoop I get when I see how they interact with each other, the subtle glances they give each other when making a decision together, the genuine smile when I hit the nail on the head with a cake that matches their personality and style. Suddenly, this couple who I’ve never met before starts to shift from stranger to friend.  It’s now more of a relationship rather than just another baking order… and my BEST work comes out when it is for those I know and love!

It wasn’t alway this way, I used to be terrified of wedding tastings… I know, odd considering I LOVE the actual wedding day itself. I think the reason tastings scared me so much is because I was nervous of what the couple would say; it was just me, this couple I didn’t know, and their raw approval of my baking skills. How terrifying is that?! The anxiety would build and the tasting would never go the way I had imagined, due to my stupid nerves and desire to be accepted as a REAL baker.

The truth is that I graduated with a psychology degree. I didn’t go to culinary school. I didn’t spend a semester in France learning how to bake classic French desserts. No, in my eyes I was a freud. I did my best to seem professional, to look like the real deal, but was always afraid that my secret would be discovered, after all… who we perceive ourselves to be will eventually be projected onto those around us. When friends would tell me how delicious my pies were or how talented I was… I would smile and say my “thank you’s” in politeness, but would never truly accept the compliment. I knew the truth. But there was a truer truth God was waiting to reveal to me…

I am LOVING the Jenna Kutcher “Goal Digger” podcast… if you haven’t checked it out… you should definitely get on that! She is not only successful and inspiring, but authentic and true to who she is and what her WHY is.  And guess what? She felt like a fraud in the beginning too! I thought I was alone in this, but am realizing that nowadays, so many of us young entrepreneurs are excelling at careers we never went to school for. The truth is in your work, not a piece of paper saying you are now qualified to do the work. God will work everything for His glory… even my seemingly useless degree in psychology.

Who am I, and what is my WHY? My WHY is not merely baking tasty treats. Those are the lure for my WHY… and let me tell you, they work like a charm. It’s about the people, the relationships that are forged over a late-night session of milk and cookies when you’re exhausted from being up all night because the baby won’t sleep or the toilet overflowed. It’s the chance to be a good and honorable person in an industry that can take advantage of a couple at the first sound of that magic work… WEDDING (we all know that prices go up the moment that bomb is dropped). It’s the opportunity to teach a skill to someone who didn’t grow up learning how to pack brown sugar the correct way, and the deeper relationship that can stem from that. It’s not really about the baking; although, yes, the baking is important. It’s about the people, and guess what… that’s what I got a degree in… understanding people!

You see, God has tailor-made each one of us to fulfill a certain purpose. Things in my past that seemed like failures at the time circle back and peek their head through in moments of clarity. God’s truer truth for my life is much more than a psycho-wanna be-baker; although that does sound like a great working title for my memoir! His truer truth is beautiful and alway evolving me into the person He created me to be… a woman of God, a woman who is capable and kind, who’s all about family (biologically and forged through friendships), loves nature, design, whiskey, musicals, Jesus, and lives to glorify His name… oh, and has a slight obsession with trying to find the best burger joint out there… so far, Oinkster takes the cake!

I encourage you to revisit those moments or seasons that seemed pointless or disappointing in the moment… you never know when they will be redeemed.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” -Philippians 1:6 (the Message)

When Life Gives You Blood Oranges…

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...When trying to decide what to write about today, my mind went a million different directions… honestly, a lot of them were bleak.  It took a few minutes of stillness to refocus, remove the negativity, and replace it with something uplifting.  Let’s be real, this world is broken and dark; it’s what we choose to do in the moments of darkness that define us.

I have been watching a TV show called “This is Us” recently… it is such a beautiful mess of a family that has their fair share of struggles.  Early on in the series, [and heads up, spoiler alert!] a young couple finds out they lost one of their triplets during childbirth.  In a sweet moment overlooking his two newborns, the doctor says to the father:

“I like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.”

The couple does in fact end up taking home three babies instead of two, by adopting a baby boy abandoned at a fire station that morning.  You see, they were always meant to have three children, they were destined to be “the Big Three”…  it’s amazing how a change in perspective can turn a situation around.

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...What are the lemons life has given you and how can you take steps to turn them into something resembling lemonade? Personally, I love lemons and don’t see why they are always depicted so negatively… they are so yummy, sour, and the zest is superb for baking… but for the sake of the metaphor, I’ll allow the connotation.  One of the “lemons” in my life is this season of “middle” I am in… a season of transition, knowing I am headed in the right direction yet eager to JUST BE THERE ALREADY!  It takes everything in me to slow my role and be content with the fact that life is a journey.

Now, I know we’ve been talking a lot about lemons, but I just HAD to share some exciting news with y’all… that BLOOD ORANGES ARE IN SEASON!!! I was at the grocery store the other day and saw them sitting there, smiling back at me, just waiting to be included in an awesome recipe.  How could I resist? I promptly scoured through the Pinterest world for some inspiration and came up with this beautiful collaboration of a blood orange upside-down poppy seed cake with an earl grey glaze… the tartness of the blood oranges pairs lovely with the hint of earl grey, almost neutralizing it, and the poppy seeds add another dimension altogether!

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...
Blood Orange Upside-Down Poppy Seed Cake with an Earl Grey Glaze

I wish my reaction toward the lemons of life was the same as my reaction to seeing blood oranges in the produce section… I can’t wait to bring them home and transform them into something beautiful and unique.  In that spirit, when faced with “lemons” in the future, I will see them in a different light, and instead, think to myself…

… when life gives you blood oranges, what will you make out of it?

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:13-16

Blood Orange upside down Poppy Seed cake with an Early Grey glazeWhen Life Gives You Blood Oranges...Makes 9″ Round

Ingredients

1 cup (230 g) Brown Sugar

¾ cup Oil

4 Eggs

1 ¾ cups (230 g) Flour

2 ¼ tsp Baking Powder

¾ tsp Salt

1 tsp Vanilla

2 Tbsp Poppy Seeds

Juice and Zest of 1 Blood Orange (plus more for slicing)

¾ cup Greek Yogurt (I use 0% Fage)

Butter and brown sugar for pan

Earl Grey Glaze

Earl Grey Teabag

1 cup Milk

2 cups Powdered Sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and prep your 9″ round pan by greasing it with melted butter, sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar over the butter and add slices of blood oranges in whatever design you prefer. OR if the whole “upside-down” concept is just a little too overwhelming for you, just grease your baking pan with crisco and dust with flour to make a normal cake.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar and oil till combined. Add eggs, blood orange juice, zest, and vanilla; stir till combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  4. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour. Mix till smooth, then add poppy seeds and stir till combined.
  5. Pour mixture over sliced blood oranges in 9″ round pan. Bake at 350° for about 45 minutes or till cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Let cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Trim the top of the cake if needed (to ensure the cake will be level once it is flipped over) and swiftly turn the cake upside-down onto a cooling rack.
  7. While cake is cooling, steep earl grey teabag in hot milk for about 5 minutes. Combine tea, one tablespoon at a time with powdered sugar in a small bowl. Note: you’ll want to mix till a glaze is created that is not too thick yet not too runny.
  8. Once cake has cooled, transfer to desired plate, cake stand etc. and spread glaze on top, letting it spill over edges slightly.  Use an offset spatula to spread the glaze (a spoon will work just fine too).
  9. Enjoy!

Happy Baking!!

The Secret to Scones

Just a quick note on scones, my friends…

First off, scones are delightful.  They are a staple in brunch menu items, don’t require outrageous prep work, and taste great fresh out of the oven or cooled (but let’s be real… warm scones are the beez kneez)!  If you want to know the secret to scones, or any baking trick for that matter, chances are it involves the use of butter; in the case of scones, the secret is COLD butter.

Perhaps my FAVORITE thing about scones isn’t that they go well with homemade lemon curd or blackberry jam, no, it is that the ingredients call for COLD butter. I know, I know… that may not sound all that spectacular, but when you bake as often as I do you learn to pay attention to prep work and ingredients that require special attention.  Throughout my baking career, I’ve noticed most recipes require softened butter; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to make a simple batch of cookies, only to be faced with the inevitable “butter-thawing dilemma”…  do I wait and let the butter thaw naturally? That could take HOURS… a cookie craving waits for no man!! OR, do I use the microwave and risk partial melting of said butter…  possibly compromising the structural integrity of the ENTIRE batch of cookies!  You think you had it bad?  Baker dilemmas are the WORST, amIright?!

Cut that Butter

I digress… where was I? Oh, yes… cold butter!  My point is that scones get their unique texture by cutting this COLD butter into the dry ingredients.

There are different techniques in cutting butter, some prefer a pastry cutter or fork; when it comes to making scones, I prefer to use my hands. The goal is to work the ingredients between your fingers till they resemble a corn meal-like texture.  If you’re a little lost on the action step of cutting butter using your fingers, pretend like you are rubbing sand between your fingers, this is also the universal sign for money.  See the difference in the pictures below… some large clumps are fine (this will add to the flakiness of the scones).

Before Cutting the Butter
After Cutting the Butter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Home Stretch

Once you’ve cut the butter (not to be confused with cutting the cheese), you’re pretty much done with all the difficult steps; all that’s left is to add your wet ingredients, then fold in the fruit.

Roll out your scones on a lightly floured surface to a generous ½ inch thickness and use a pizza slicer to cut your scones to whatever size/shape you’d like. (Note that smaller scones will inevitably cook faster.)

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking and Frosting

Don’t over bake your scones! Remember that each oven is different, so what works well in my oven does not necessarily mean it will work wonders in yours.  The key here is to bake these till they have a golden brown coloring. (I always check for this color on the bottom of the scones; I think it is most accurate.)  Once your scones are out of the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or so, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Drizzle frosting once the scones are slightly cooled. (If the scones are too hot, the frosting will melt too much… you don’t want that!)  Now, for the most challenging step – using self restraint as you try to eat only one while the aroma of these delicious peach scones fills your household.

Happy Brunching… and Happy Baking!

 

Cinnamon Rollers

#BAKEITBETH

If you are just now discovering #BAKEITBETH, let me fill you in on what it is and how it led to these amazing cinnamon rollers this past week.  #BAKEITBETH is a challenge that brings free and delicious baked goods into your life; even better, they are sweets that YOU choose!  Sounds too good to be true? It’s not.

Have you ever seen a picture on Pinterest and thought, “That looks easy! I could TOTALLY make that!”  Then, halfway through the recipe, you realize… this is not going well; only to have your fears confirmed in the end, joining many a Pinterest fails.  This is where I come in to help.  #BAKEITBETH has been created to walk you through a recipe and steer you away from common mistakes with tutorials and helpful tips & tricks.  Each week on Friday morning, Sweet Creations by Beth randomly selects a winner for the week, who will be the recipient of these delicious treats.

img_4430So, how do you enter? Great question!  Simply find a picture on Instagram and send a direct message to @sweetcreations_bybeth with the hashtag #bakeitbeth.  If you don’t know how to direct message on Instagram, see the helpful diagram I’ve created above! ☺️ This will enter you in for that week’s drawing.  You may enter as many times as you like.  Didn’t win this week? Don’t be disheartened, hold your head up high and enter again for next week… you’re bound to win eventually!

Interested in a particular recipe? Keep an eye out for tutorials and tips & tricks on the blog! More often than not, I will combine multiple recipes together, provide links to those recipes, and give you ways to succeed before starting the recipe.


Now, for the main event this week… Cinnamon Rollers!

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetFor this recipe, I stuck with the classic Pioneer Woman cinnamon rolls recipe and another gem I quickly found on Pinterest for the cream cheese filling.  Here are some quick tips on mastering this somewhat daunting task:

1. Don’t Triple This!

First off, I will say that I made TWO triple batches of cinnamon rolls… looking back, I think, or rather KNOW this was a mistake. The original recipe yields 8 cinnamon rolls, so, I figured 24 seemed better, and if I offer them to the world, I may need more than 24!  My logic was sound. I felt good about this decision… that was until my dough started spilling out of not only the original pot used, but the second larger pot needed once I realized how much the dough expands after adding the yeast. 😳

2.  Make Dough In Advance


It’s always a good idea to read a recipe in its entirety before trying to tackle it.  In this case, you can make the dough a day (or even two) before.  In fact, you SHOULD make this the day before your cinnamon roller consuming desires must be met.  This dough needs lots of time to cool, (about an hour) and rise (an additional hour) before you are free to refrigerate it.  Additionally, the cream cheese filling must be made in advance and plopped into the freezer for about an hour!  Have I mentioned
that being a baker requires LOTS of patience?!

*note: while making the filling, I used less milk in my recipe to speed up the freezing process.  You’ll want this pretty solid to create a good base for wrapping the strips of dough around.

3. Work Fast-ish

Once you have a hankerin’ for cinnamon, sugar, and buttery goodness, grab half the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  You’ll want to work quickly from here on out because the dough will start to rise and be squished by your working fingers as you roll up these yummy treats… hence the previous tip to “grab half the dough.”  Once the dough is rolled out, spread evenly with a thin layer of melted butter, and sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon.  Now, you can either roll the dough (horizontally) to make cinnamon rolls… or use a pizza cutter and slice a gazilion strips in preparation for the ROLLERS!!


The way I decided to do this was to fold the dough in half before slicing.  This not only made things cleaner for my pizza cutter, it made the rolling process go faster having the dough already doubled… but, to each his own.

Now, if you would like a cream cheese filling, scoop ½ Tablespoon of the frozen filling into your hand and begin wrapping individual slices over it, in alternating directions.  Your goal here is to cover the filling pretty well so it doesn’t fully escape during the baking process.  If you would rather not deal with the messy filling, go ahead and grab a strip that has been doubled, make a knot to get the ball rolling… haha (I couldn’t resist, sorry), then use single strips to complete the look of the cinnamon roller.

Place these on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and let sit for 20-30 minutes to rise.  Once these have risen, bake at 375° for 14-15 minutes, or till golden brown.  Transfer to cooling rack and drizzle with icing. ( I used powdered sugar and a splash of milk till the right consistency was reached, but now that I think about it, you should use the Pioneer Woman’s maple frosting, I’ve heard of it’s magical powers!)

3. Tasting Time


That’s it! Congratulations, you’ve made a seemingly difficult recipe look easy!  You are a pro, a master in the kitchen… you can do anything now!  I hope these tips helped! Please let me know if you get stuck on a certain step, I’m happy to help and solve any problems you may come across.

Happy Baking!!

Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

Ok guys, lets be real… these cookies are AMAZING!! Really, I am drooling over here thinking about how soft and rich with white chocolate each bite is… then, the perfect crunch of a macadamia nut hits you, and, BAM! Game Over. No need to look for another recipe. I will be giving you some tips and tricks for making these cookies, but please visit Joy’s site for the full recipe and step-by-step instructions.

Confession. I messed up quite a few times making this recipe.  I find though, that it is how you recover from your mistakes that really shows who you are as a baker.  It is the same in life; we are all imperfect and will make many mistakes in our lifetime, it is how you learn from them and press forward with integrity that establishes true character.

My first hiccup with this recipe started at the grocery store… as I strolled down the aisles of Smart ‘n’ Final, I reached the section that would host my final and most important ingredient (besides butter)… macadamia nuts.  Now, as I compared the different brands and prices, I finally decided on purchasing the large bag of roasted macadamia nuts… mainly because I like to have a little extra just in case disaster strikes.  It wasn’t until I began chopping them at home that I realized they were SALTED!!  Now, this really isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but as you may know, bakers like to control the amount of salt they use in a recipe. I am no exception to this rule.  In fact, I would say I pay more attention to salt now that I’ve fallen in love with using coarse salt in most recipes.  You can imagine the slight moment of panic that followed this realization of added salt… accompanied by a Phoebe-esque “Oh No!”  Luckily, I’m quick on my feet and promptly washed off the excess salt… no biggy.

Now, the first thing you’ll want to do when you have all your ingredients is to brown the butter… this needs to cool slightly before you can continue.  Browning butter really adds to the flavor of a recipe, bringing in a nutty flavor which pairs nicely with the macadamia nuts in this case!!  To brown butter, use a pot that has a lighter bottom (to track the color of the butter) and melt the butter on medium heat, past the foamy stage, till you reach a yellow then finally brown color.  Once the color of the butter is to your liking, transfer to a heat proof bowl to cool.  Don’t worry if you accidentally burn the butter on your first go around because you had the heat up too high and weren’t using the correct pan, like I did… oops… just try again.  Note: you will find little black sediments at the bottom of your pan, this is normal and can either be sifted with a mesh cloth or added to the recipe if you prefer a slightly burnt flavor.  In my second attempt at browning my butter, I over-corrected and didn’t brown it enough.  I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes and become the fearless butter browners I know and admire.

While you wait for your browned butter to cool, you may prep your dry ingredients for later and chop up your white chocolate and macadamia nuts.  I would recommend LARGE chunks because, why not?

From here on, the recipe is pretty standard… cream the butter and cream cheese with the sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla.  Towards the end of your mixing endeavors, you’ll need to whisk the dry ingredients together before adding them to the dough, THEN fold in your large chunks of white chocolate and macadamia nuts. I made a mistake here too, and thought the recipe said to fold the chunks into the dry ingredients before mixing altogether… my bad.  The dough turned out fine though, at the expense of my poor mixer, working extra hard and, I’m sure becoming off balanced… I should have known better, I should have known. Oh well!

Before you get too excited about your cookies, please, PLEASE refrigerate your dough for at least an hour… this makes all the difference!  Chilling cookie dough solidifies the fat which takes longer to melt than room temperature dough; this means that the cookies won’t spread thin and look like wafers. (this has been a problem of mine for such a long time… patience is a virtue my friends)  Once your dough is chilled, scoop out 1.5″ sized balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350° for 11-12 minutes or till golden brown, yet still slightly gooey inside.  A tip I LIVE by is to always rotate your baked goods at the halfway mark… this will correct any hot spots you may have in your oven and evenly distribute baking.  Once cookies are out of the oven, I tend to leave mine on the cookie sheet for another minute or two till they settle in and are solid enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

You are now free to taste your cookies!  All that hard work melts away in your mouth with each bite.

Happy tasting… and happy baking!

The Irish Reuben Sandwhich

 
Not sure what to do with those leftovers from St. Paddy’s Day? Didn’t have the time or energy to make it all happen on a Thursday night? I feel you… Don’t fret though, there’s still time to get your annual dose of Irish cooking in. Just hop on over to the grocery store and grab a corned beef brisket, a head of lettuce, an onion, rye bread and jarlesberg cheese… And make these Irish Reuben Sandwhiches this weekend! They are to die for!! 

The Irish Reuben
(Enough for PLENTY of Sandwhiches!)

4 lb Corned Beef Brisket (see ingredient list in the preparation section below for my recipe on making this yourself)

¼ Cup Olive Oil

1 Onion (thinly sliced)

1 Head Cabbage (thinly sliced)

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper

½ Cup Water

1 Cup Guiness Beer

3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Loaf of Pumpernickel or Dark Rye Bread

Jarlesberg Cheese (sliced)

Spicy Mustard  and Butter for spreading
Preparation:

Pull out those leftovers of corned beef or just make one yourself… Here’s how:

 In a crockpot, combine ½ onion (sliced), 5 red potatoes (quartered), 1  1/2 cups baby carrots, and 2 cups water. Place brisket on top. Pour ½ bottle Guinness on top of the brisket, sprinkle with pre packaged spices that came with the brisket, then set the crockpot on high and let it cook for 8 hours. (If you’d like to add sliced cabbage, just stir that in about an hour before serving)

Now that we have our corned beef ready, lefts work on making the grilled cabbage for the sandwich. 

In a large pan, heat olive oil and combine onion, cabbage, salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high for 5 minutes, stirring often, till the veggies start to brown and soften. Add water and beer, reduce heat to low, cover and cook an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, and cook uncovered an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Now to assemble this amazing Irish beast of a sandwhich… It’s just like making a grilled cheese!

  
Butter one side of bread and place it face down on a skillet (don’t turn on the heat just yet). Spread the other side of bread with mustard and layer ingredients accordingly: 

Butter ➕ Bread ➕ Mustard ➕ Cheese ➕ Cabbage ➕ Corned Beef ➕ Cabbage ➕ Cheese ➕ Mustard ➕ Bread ➕ Butter

Finally, top with final slice of bread, mustard side down, and butter the top.  Set to medium-low heat and let each side cook till cheese melts a bit. Be patient and let your sandwhich brown slowly at this lower heat as to not burn it!

  
 Now, the moment you’ve been waiting and your mouth has uncontrollably been salivating for… Cut the sandwhich in half, garnish with a pickle if you so desire (I forgot to add that in my picture in all the excitement of wanting to eat this myself), and chow down on this flavorful Irish Reuben Sandwhich! 

Happy (day after) St. Paddy’s Day ☘

Luck o’ the Irish Soda Bread

Well, Happy St. Paddy’s Day to you all!

I must begin by telling you how much fun I had in doing this photo shoot for my most recent Sweet Creation… Sweet Irish Soda Bread! My roommate Karley and I recently discovered our shared passion for blogging… and have utilized our unique gifts to make this photo shoot a success.  Karley is the one to thank for these amazing shots… she has such an artistic eye and gift for fashion, sure to make any girl a fashionista!  I have lived under the same roof as her for less than a year and can confidently say she has improved my overall sense of fashion and style since moving in with her… I was a boring mess!  Karley is such an inspiration to me; she pursues her passions and gifts full force and strives to devote time to things in life that will build her up and help her thrive!  She is a go-getter, my dance soulmate, face mask partner, harmonizer, and last but not least… has become a great friend!

Do yourself a favor and follow her blog NOW!!

Click here for Karley’s Blog!!

If you know me at all, you know that I am very enthusiastic and love, love, LOVE to celebrate any and every occasion imaginable! One only needs to step foot in my living room and glance up at the golden deer named “Rolf” mounted on the wall to see the current celebratory season and/or holiday displayed on his antlers (full disclosure… he is fake and from target).  One of my favorite holidays to celebrate is a day where it’s not only acceptable to pinch people, but is encouraged; a day where ordering a “Jameson on the rocks” it TOTALLY normal; a day where it’s impossible to hold back feeble attempts at an Irish accent (go ahead, let’s hear you say “Top O’ the Mornin’ to Ya!”); and a day where the color green is EVERYWHERE you look. As an Irish girl myself, I just had to devote my March blog post to this joyous day… St. Paddy’s Day!

You see, I am a myriad of different ethnicities… really though, I’m a mutt… I look like an Irish girl, claim an Italian last name, and love to see the shock on people’s face when they hear that I’m Armenian!  Sometimes I wish I could claim ownership of just a few nationalities to make my story and background a little LESS cmplicated…  but that would be so dull!!  I love the fact that my family is diverse and celebrates each part of our history, no matter how small a percentage we may actually be.

For as long as I can remember, my mom has always made an effort to make each holiday special… and St. Paddy’s Day was no exception.  She carried on many traditions, including making corned beef and cabbage for dinner and blarney stones for dessert.  As a baker myself, I strive to make connections between my heritage and the baking realm… and through the years I have grown to love the tradition of Irish Soda Bread!

Traditionally, Irish Soda Bread was a poor man’s bread.  It is made with the most basic ingredients that are also quite inexpensive… flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk (also known as soured milk).  Baking soda is used as the leaven in this recipe instead of yeast; making this a quick and easy bread to throw together in a pinch.  Also, traditional irish soda bread is made in a round shape with a scored “x” on the top (to ward off the evil spirits)… learning about these faith-based rituals is quite fun for me (I’m sure Hot Crossed Buns have a similar meaning, being popular during the Easter season).  Through the years, there have been additions to this classic bread that, in my opinion, only enhance the flavor!  The recipe I’d like to share with you is more of a sweet bread; perfect by itself and for anytime of the day.  I just know you will fall in love with this recipe and will feel comfortable making it in your own home to celebrate the day… because hey, everyone’s a little Irish on St. Paddy’s Day!  😉

Sweet Irish Soda Bread 

 1 Cup Raisins (150 g)

1 Cup Dried Cherries (125 g)

3 Cups Flour

1 Cup Sugar

1 Tbsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

¼ Cup Shortening

1/12 Cups Almond Milk

2 Eggs, slightly beaten

Sugar in the Raw (for sprinkling on top)

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to boil. Add raisins and cherries and continue to boil for 3 minutes (this will plum the dried fruit a bit). Drain and lightly coat with flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add shortening and use your CLEAN fingers to blend ingredients together until well incorporated. Stir in milk and eggs until fully moistened.  Finally, fold in dried fruit mix until evenly mixed.

Pour batter into a well greased and floured loaf pan and sprinkle generously with sugar in the raw.  Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before removing bread from pan.

Enjoy!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day… and, Happy Baking!

Oh My Heart… Oh, and Sweetheart Cherry Turnovers

IMG_2261.JPGCan I take a moment to be honest? It being the month of February, I find it only fitting to share my heart with you… both through baking and in my own personal life.  That is why I’ve chosen these amazing Sweetheart Cherry Turnovers as my featured recipe and tutorial! Aren’t they just the sweetest? With little hearts scored on top, they are perfect for Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day, or… ANY DAY!!

As much as I love these heart-inspired turnovers, their flaky crust and gooey cherry filling that yearns to escape through every creese and flaw imaginable, remind me how fragile our own hearts truly are.  I don’t often allow myself to be this vulnerable, but can I just say… the month of February is hard for a single girl!  Right as you feel you’ve recovered from the Christmas season, you realize what holiday is next on the calendar… and panic ensues.  February  is a month when the reality of ones singleness is made evidently clear through the constant reminder of love around every corner… literally.

Just the other day, I took a detour from my normal commute home to make a quick Target run… in search for a planner for the New Year. Whilst in a stellar mood, thinking about all the things that will soon be accomplish with the help of this handy dandy planner, I strolled down the aisles in pursuit of the next item on my shopping list.  As I turned the corner to look for my favorite toothpaste, I was stopped in my tracks by the sea of red and pink that made up the Valentine’s candy display.  Now, if I would have purchased my planner early in January, like most organized and goal-striving people, I would have possibly glanced at the upcoming month and had more time to process this shift of emotions that would soon come over me.  But alas, I procrastinated, and not only did I get the snickelefritz of the remaining unwanted planners, I was left with a sinking reminder of my relationship status.

The thing is, I am not a love-bashing or cynical person at all; on the contrary, it makes me happy to see others happily in love.  I’m a sap, a hopeless romantic, I LOVE love, and hope to someday join this party you all seem to be so fond of… but the fact of the matter is, I’m not there yet. I know we all go through seasons of life where we feel broken and struggle to see the light.  I would consider myself an extremely positive, strong, and grounded individual… yet somehow, this season of singleness has knocked me down like no other. Just like any other struggle, I know that it potentially has the power to daily take over my thoughts and consume me… Who am I kidding, of course there have been moments where this has happened…

But in the midst of all this, I have a hope… A light that I know will always outshine this darkness.  I know that there is work being done in me that only this time of singleness can accomplish. I know that God is good, that he hears our cries and prayers. I choose to look for the light in the darkness, not merely because it will lead me out of whatever it is I am facing, but it also will reveal what was once unseen.

I know I am not alone in this battle, there are so many who feel the pains of being alone. I encourage you to take heart, and look for the blessings and opportunities that this season has allowed.  Give yourself grace in times of frustration and guilt; your pain is real, valid and felt by so many who don’t often express it.  And know that, when others fail you (as imperfect humans tend to do), God will always be by your side guiding you and even carrying you through this.

You see, the beautiful thing about these turnovers (recipe to follow shortly, I promise) is that they take prepping and mending but also need ample room to vent and let steam loose.  May you take special care of your own heart this Valentine’s Day, whether in a relationship or not, listening and tending to it’s needs but also allowing it to be expressed to those you love.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” – Psalm 73:26

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

 

 

Sweetheart Cherry Turnovers

Yields: 16 Turnovers

Pie Crust Ingredients (Makes 3-9″ pie crusts or about 16-3″ turnovers)

3 cups (375 g) All-Purpose Flour

1 ½ cups (249 g) Crisco

1 tsp Salt

1 Egg

5 Tbsp Cold Water

1 Tbsp Vinegar


Flour (for dusting)

1 Egg white + 1 Tbsp Water (for egg wash)

Coarse Sugar (for sprinkling)

Cherry Filling Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Cornstarch

3 Tbsp Cold Water

4 cups Fresh Cherries, pitted (or 24 oz frozen cherries, unthawed)

1 ⅓ cups Dried Cherries

1 cup sugar

4 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

¼ tsp Kosher Salt

 

Directions:

First, prep your pie crust! It will need to sit in the freezer for a good 20-30 minutes.  This is a great step to do ahead of time, I like to have some on hand just in case any pie-related emergency should occur… if you have some already made and frozen, just let the dough thaw till it is workable, about 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, measure you flour, crisco and salt; with a pastry cutter (or fork), blend together till dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  In a separate small bowl, lightly mix together the remaining wet ingredients (egg, water, and vinegar), add this to your dough and gently fold until just combined (this step is important! Don’t overdo it!).  Put dough in a gallon-size ziploc bag, press down to flatten slightly, and freeze for at least 15 minutes.

OR you could just go out and buy one of those pre-made pie crusts from the grocery store… I won’t judge you… but this is my favorite pie crust recipe from the Pioneer Woman, it is pretty spectacular!

While you’re waiting for your pie crust to freeze, start prepping the cherry filling.  In a small bowl mix together cornstarch and water; this will be the thickening agent for later, so set it aside.  In a large saucepan, combine remaining ingredients (cherries, dried cherries, sugar, lemon juice vanilla and salt), cook on medium heat till cherry juices are released, stirring occasionally.  This should take about 5 minutes for fresh cherries; I used frozen cherries and it took closer to 8 minutes.  Add thickening mixture and bring to boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

While that is cooling, we will go ahead and prep our pie crust and egg wash.  In a small bowl mix together egg white with water to make the egg wash, plop a brush in that and set aside for later.  On a lightly floured surface, knead dough slightly and roll out to about ⅛” thickness.  Now at this point, you can choose what shape you’d like your turnover to be! Isn’t that exciting? If I’m being honest, the ones I made were shapeless, I had extras from a Native American baby shower where I made these cherry turnovers in the shape of little TP’s.  I would recommend using a 3″ circle cookie cutter and make tops and bottoms from that; you can also do the folding-in -half method, just make your shapes larger.

By this time, hopefully your cherry filling has cooled down. Scoop about 2 Tbsp onto a 3″ pie round, then brush egg wash along the edges.  Place another 3″ pie round on top, press down the edges lightly and seal using a fork to crimp.  Using a sharp knife, create slits on top for venting; you can draw a heart, or just a few lines… whatever suites your fancy.  Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle a little coarse sugar on top.  Place turnovers on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 375° for about 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to cooling rack.

And there you have it!  I am so pleased to share this Cherry Turnover recipe with you… it has been adapted from  a couple of different recipes, with an amazing end result (crust from the pioneer woman and filling from mybakingaddiction.com).  I look forward to sharing my future recipe collaborations with you, thanks for stopping by… and…

Happy Baking!!

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