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

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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!!

Back to Basics

I’M BACK!!!!

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After a long absence, I have returned to the blogging world… refreshed and ready to start baking and blogging up a storm!!  This last year has been extremely eventful, and has forced me to put my blog on the back burner… figuratively speaking, that is.  But no more!  My love and passion for baking will not subside; I feel as if I may overflow with excitement at the mere mention of anything in the baking realm.  So here I am, leaping full force into this exciting adventure God has placed before me and intentionally steered my path toward. I’m here, I’m fierce, and I’m ready to PARTAYY!!!

Firstly, I’d like to fill you in on what has been happening in my life… For the past year and a half I have been working full time as a receptionist for an investment firm and baking any chance I can get (usually at night and on weekends).  This new position has been such a blessing in so many ways; it has given me structure and a scheduled lifestyle in a time when I needed it most.  God knew this year would be full of transitions, He never ceases to amaze me with his constant provision and protection.

Truth

In reflecting on the new year, I have been inspired to go back to the basics; to explore the purpose behind this passion of mine, and seek to make the most of every opportunity I have in this life, glorifying God along the way.  I must start with the basics, what do I know to be true?

This journey is constantly proving to expose layer after layer of insight on my life and the ways in which I am to be of service.  I am constantly seeking opportunities to use my gifts to glorify His kingdom, after all, that is the underlying purpose of all our lives.  There are two key truths that have been revealed through my passion for baking. First, it comes naturally to me. Now I know that may sound a bit old fashioned; that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, but it doesn’t make it any less true… the kitchen is my jam, the place I feel most confident and at home, the first room I explore in a vacation rental, and the audience of many a musical performances.  I am confident that God can work wonders anywhere, this includes the sometimes dirtied tiled floors of my kitchen (ok, they are more frequently dirty than I’d like to admit).  The second thing I know to be true is that I have always LOVED sharing my time through baking.

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Honestly, one of my favorite pastimes is chatting with friends across the marbled counter of my kitchen.  Many a good, deep, and raw conversation have occurred there… as I’ve seen that kitchen change and transform throughout the years, I can see the similar transformation it has had on my life and relationships that have blossomed because of it. Conversations about life and purpose have taken place as I’ve sat at the breakfast nook, on the countertops, and even the floors.  It is more than just another room in the house; it is a platform in which trust is built, and lives can be changed.  The fact that I come from a strong Italian AND Irish family may have some influence on my love for feeding people and wanting to love on them using my talents in the kitchen. That being said, I know that turning back and holding onto these basic truths will continue to guide me in the future; I don’t want to bake merely to provide a tasty treat, but to influence and inspire lives along the way, and to hopefully spark a flame for a passion one may have laying dormant deep inside.

Adventures with Mabelle

Recently, I was blessed by the presence of an old friend in my kitchen once again.  It had been about two years since I last saw her, yet we were able to pick up right where we left off (kindred spirits often do).  We spent the night baking sugar cookies for a bridal shower and catching up on the things we’d missed and looking toward the future, to our hopes and dreams in life.  This may sound like a fun night to some, but the significance of it was so touching in both our lives… you see, Mabelle was there at the start of my Sweet Creations.  She is a witness of a time my love for baking truly came alive!!  Every week, I would get together with Mabelle, a then high schooler from my church youth group, and we would bake. I’d show her the basics that my mom taught me so long ago, and we would make cupcakes and experiment on lucky charm rice crispy treats! I will always cherish those weekly sessions with Mabelle; the small kitchen we had at our disposal, the shallow countertops with seemingly zero space to roll out even the smallest pie crust, and the seeds that were planted in our young conversations.  That small kitchen has since been remodeled into a bakers dream with ample counter space, and it’s two bakers have been transformed as well.

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#adventuresofmabelle #mybearwitness

Mabelle is now recently graduated from college, with a passion for photography, traveling, and physical education for those with special needs.  She is an inspiration to many and shows her love for life, adventure, and others through her exuberant nature.  I am blessed to know her, call her a friend, and be a small part of her story as she seeks to pursue her passions in life and use her God-given gifts.  We are each a part of the other’s story… it was through Mabelle’s need to learn the basics that sparked a deeper love for baking in me; and through those weekly sessions, Mabelle’s perspective of the kitchen forever would be transformed to one of peace and comfort.   After spending time with Mabelle in my kitchen, I realized that small, seemingly ordinary acts, done with great love, can be extremely impactful.

Isn’t it funny how God works? For me, I had to go back to the basics, both in baking and in seeking Him, to find the path God dreamed for me.  So, here I stand, at a new chapter in my life… balancing a full time job by day, and baking by night.  Sometimes life can get overwhelming and hectic, but I choose to pursue God whole-heartedly and respond to His promises.  I am so thrilled to be diving back into the blogging world and vow to share not only the talents I have been entrusted with, but also to approach this revamped blog with an open heart and mind.  Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this… I can’t wait to continue on this journey with you!

‘Til next time… Happy Baking!!

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”  -Jeremiah 29:13

Another year, another… Birthday Cake…

Most people like to be pampered on their birthday… so, every year on my birthday, when I tell people that I make my own cake… without fail, their response is

“WHAT?! WHY???”

To me, it just makes sense! I LOVE baking, so making my own birthday cake is license to not only explore new skills and heights… it takes the pressure off a little. At the end of the day, I bake to please the customer, which means normally I am VERY strict and critical of my work; making sure absolutely everything tastes and looks amazing! Well, when it’s MY birthday, I get to try the crazy ideas I have in my head and if the cake topples over in the end (heaven forbid)… I can just whip up a batch of cupcakes or something. After all, “It’s my birthday and I can Bake what I want to!”

Plus, there is a sort of freedom that comes with baking your own cake! I know I will love it no matter what, because my present to myself is the actual baking; the end product is just a bonus. A strange phenomenon happens when you make your own birthday cake… usually when people pick up a cake from me, they tell me how much they love it and are so excited about it… but I always, ALWAYS want to make sure they are completely satisfied. Which means I second guess reactions sometimes; wondering and searching for a hint of confirmation that, indeed the cake is perfect. (now I sound like a perfectionist… but bakers HAVE to be, to some extent). But when I make my own birthday cake, I have that confirmation that the customer is completely satisfied, and the reactions of friends and family who see the cake just make the experience all that much better!

My favorite aspect of being a baker is the reveal (as you probably could tell by now); I LOVE hearing the excited screams of the 5 year-old birthday girl who is surprised with a perfect Hello Kitty Cake, or seeing the face of a proud mom and knowing she is imagining her sons reaction when he blows out the candles on his Superhero cake; the busy party planner who knows her best friend will LOVE these Onesie Sugar Cookies at her baby shower, and knowing they saved her so much time and effort… the list goes on and on…

All this to say… my 25th Birthday, a quarter of a century… I knew I had to make a pretty spectacular cake. I spent weeks and weeks coming up with the concept and the plans for this Sleeping Beauty Cake… and it paid off! Not only did the final product turn out AMAZING… but the process in itself boosted my confidence and gave my baking a firm foundation!

Here are a few images from the Sleeping Beauty scene that inspired my cake… if you aren’t familiar with the story, I’ll give you a brief explanation… the three fairies are trying to plan a surprise birthday party without using their magic; and the cake is whipped up and frosted, but the fairy forgot to bake it… so she tries propping it up with a broom… but the candles slide down the broomstick…

Inspiration and planning for my Sleeping Beauty Cake
Inspiration and planning for my Sleeping Beauty Cake

By Far, this cake is STILL my favorite cake, I am not sure I would EVER be able to top this one!

Wondering how I did it? Here is my Step by Step process…

First, I bought a wooden baseboard, cut it to the correct size and covered it with black contact paper.Then, I had to screw three sturdy wooden beams (or dowels, as we call them in the baking world). Ok, I didn’t do that part… I recruited my handyman brother to make sure they would actually stay in place… thanks Jon!! Next, I put my first layer of cake down through the dowels and onto the baseboard… I chose two flavors of cake: Chocolate with Peanut Butter Swirl, and Red Velvet! I decided to use the more sturdy cake (chocolate and peanut flavor) for the bottom half, which prevents sinking and wobbly cakes…

Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage One
Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage One

As I built up the base of the cake, I needed to give the illusion of the cake falling over… without it actually FALLING OVER… So I did a series of layers and tricks… the key was to keep a flat surface by cutting into the angles and placing the next layer INSIDE the topsy turvy layers. This was my first EVER attempt at a Topsy Turvy design… and was definitely a learning experience… It’s always good to make yourself the first ginny-pig! To complete the bottom and be able to go CRAZY on the top portion, I (or Jon) screwed in a platform to create stability and peace of mind (on my part).

Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage Two
Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage Two

Next, the broom stick was screwed on and I simply added the Red Velvet cakes! I tilted them to make the “falling over” illusion.  Throughout the whole process I made sure to “glue” the cake together with Buttercream Frosting… it works wonders, and hardens nicely when refrigerated!

Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage Three
Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage Three

We are getting close to the finish now… I whipped up some Turquoise Royal Icing (which is liquidly, but hardens). This was the most challenging part of the cake! I wasn’t sure if it would work, so it was kinda a shot in the dark! I was able to pull it off though, and create a dripping effect!! Next I cut out a few yellow fondant circles and pinned those on with real candles, “sliding” down the broom! Lastly, I made the broom base out of fondant and sprinkled the ENTIRE cake with Rainbow Disco Dust… the fishing touch to any fantasy cake!!

Sleeping Beauty Cake: Final Product!!!
Sleeping Beauty Cake: Final Product!!!

So there you have it… Dreams Do Come True!!! And, guess what guys… my birthday is coming up soon… stay tuned to see what cake I’ll come up with on February 24th to commemorate “Another Year, Another…Birthday Cake”

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If you’d like to order your own Dream Cake… email sweetcreationsbybeth@gmail.com

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Happy Baking!!

Introducing… ME!!!

Hello, my fellow bloggers!!!

Well, I’ve FINALLY done it… I am officially a blogger! I have a blog!! I can now ponder ideas throughout the day and think “That’s TOTALLY going on my blog!!” Secretly I’ve always wanted to say that… but now that I CAN… I think I’ll choose to exclaim it at LEAST once a week, or day… it’s really hard to say at this point.

You might be wondering what type of blog this will be… should you commit to OFFICIALLY following me? I’m just gonna throw this out there and say YES!! Yes you should! After all, everyone loves a good baking blog! I plan to make mine as exciting and diverse as possible… filled with tutorials, DIY projects, party planning tips, exciting new baking orders, and much, much more. I not only want to share pictures with you, but bring you along with me in the creative process that is Sweet Creations by Beth!!

A New Year… and a New Beginning!!

I’ve never been much of a New Year’s Resolution type of girl… but strangely, this year I am! Instead of “resolution” (since I associate that with people NOT KEEPING THEM), I will be making “Goals for 2014!”

One of my goals is already being fulfilled as we speak… This past year has been such amazing growth for Sweet Creations, which leads me to expand my horizons to the blogging world!

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

and… Happy Baking!!

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