I’m going Hyper-Christmas™ this year, people. I’m talking going to cookie exchanges, lots of baking and candymaking, cranking up the Bublé (is it just me, or is he the new Bing Crosby?), and making my kids wear matching Christmas jammies because I’m their mother and I only have a few good years to get away with such frippery. Fa-la-la-la-la!!
I’m pretty pumped about the whole thing, and now that my girl is getting old enough to really get into baking with me all the way through a recipe and not peacing out right after dumping everything into the mixing bowl, I’ve been thinking about seasonal things we can make together every year, and start a new little tradition of our own. Of course, every holiday season officially kicks off with a batch of my very favorite sugar cookies, but this year I came across a cozy recipe that absolutely screams Christmas–sweet, colorful, a bit of history from my German heritage involved, and just enough of a process to make it holiday-worthy and not something you’d do on any old weekend. Lately I’ve been so inspired by all the amazing German baked goods Luisa has been sharing on Instagram as she writes her next sure-to-be-fabulous book, and now I’m all, GUTEN TAG, LET’S MAKE ALL THE KUCHEN, BITTE. It’s pure magic, the things she’s been turning out.
You GUYS. I know you’re probably in the middle of trimming your tree or lighting your menorah or wearing your craziest sequined sweater or whatever you do to celebrate the holidays, but I’m interrupting your crazed online shopping and boozy nog-drinking schedule to share with you something that is super important.
I’d like for you to meet the face of the beautiful beast that has taken over my life for the past 15+ months (and no, it’s not another human baby, good grief!). Isn’t it a DELIGHT? It’s the cover of Real Sweet, my hunk of a third cookbook, which will be born into the world this coming April, courtesy of the brilliant folks at William Morrow. I really, really can’t wait for you to bake your way through its pages and use it in your own kitchens. It’s a whole new way to bake, and I really couldn’t be more excited about the whole thing.
Real Sweet is a baking and sweet treat-making recipe collection, yes, but it’s also a primer on the wildly delicious world of natural and unrefined sugars. Unlike my first two books, which ran on lots and lots of white granulated sugar, you won’t find a speck of the white stuff in the pages of Real Sweet. Instead, you’ll find sugars here that are decidedly less processed, infinitely more flavorful, and do so much more than just provide sweetness a la white sugar.
From granulated alternatives like sparkling turbinado, coconut sugar, maple sugar, heady dark muscovado, and brown-buttery panela, to tasty liquid swaps like honey, agave nectar, and pure maple syrup, the sweet stars in this book pull double duty as both sweetener and seasoning. After months (and months!) of recipe testing, it still blows my mind what a simple change of sugar can do for the flavor, texture, and overall crave-worthy power of a baked good. I’m hooked on these alternative sugars, people, and I hope you will be, too.
What I’ll deliver to you when Real Sweet drops is a whole bunch of real-world recipes for the treats we really love, but made with better, more flavorful sugars, with a more “hip” than “hippie” vibe. The more virtuous items that we can feel good about tucking into our kids’ lunchboxes are in the mix, but so are whimsical candies; bake sale classics like cookies and bars; custards and ice creams; and a whole chapter dedicated to some seriously impressive, fancy dinner party desserts. It’s a book you can bake from all year long, with ingredients that you can feel good about baking with and playing with, including whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits, but don’t worry–there’s plenty of full-fat dairy and chocolate to round things out. Life’s too short! Good times all around!
This sexy beast of a book weighs in at 272 pages, chockablock with recipes and info, sweet tips and tricks, and loads of gorgeous, full-color photography from the gloriously talented Leigh Beisch. And guess what? You can totally pre-order it!
In the coming months, I’ll share some Real Sweet samples so you can look forward to what you’ll get when you have a copy in your hot little hands. I know we’re still in the middle of the holiday rush, but I’m feeling really good about 2015 and all that’s in store for us–let’s make natural sugars a thing in the New Year! Heck yeah!
I don’t know how many of you out there are all woo-woo when it’s comes to astrology, but for me, I’m a–let’s see, what would be the opposite of “fair weather fan”? Sucky weather fan?–let’s just say that I can get into astrology and like to take a peek/read way too much into cosmic forecasts when it feels like life is throwing hard things at me, machine-gun-style. Apparently Mercury was retrograde up until this past weekend, and sweet baby Jesus, I was feeling alllll of that retrogradeness, from stupid mistakes to flat tires to blah health and the list goes on. Don’t even get me started on the multiple cake failures I had going. Tragic all the way around.
I had really wanted to tell you about said cake today, but it’s still not quite ready for you yet, and since three misses is my self-imposed limit for the early stages of recipe testing lest I hurl myself off the roof, I decided to shelve that dang cake for now until some other groovy planetary shift can perfect it for me. In the meantime, I say we go with some chocolate and salted caramel because even in the face of otherworldly forces, those two items, even just eaten off a spoon, will never let us down.
September didn’t quite go as planned around here. Take, for instance, this recipe. I started this post nearly two weeks ago, when Italian prune plums were readily available for their fleeting season (I hope you can still find some where you are?), and summer was just showing signs of letting go. Now, moving into the first days of October, I’m finally getting to tell you about this cake, and feeling quite a bit different about life in general than I did just a couple weeks ago.
Let’s talk back-to-school lunchboxes, shall we?
As much as I wish I could be one of Those Moms that packs totally gorgeous, colorblocked, Bento-style lunches on the regular, it really is just not happening around here. For one thing, I’m packing lunch for a notoriously picky eater, who would gladly eat the same turkey sandwich everyday for the rest of her life and would rather talk to her neighbor at lunchtime than waste time doing something as silly as eating food, so sending her to school with glorious, Warhol-esque lunch displays isn’t likely to be a big thrill.
Also? To be real? Raising the packed lunch bar too high stresses me out in the most unnatural manner. Because I’ve seen the amazing, ever-ante-upping, Instagram-worthy lunchbox game that some moms have going on out there. I even “heart”, “favorite”, and “like” these museum-worthy lunches, because really, what OCD person (me) doesn’t enjoy playing voyeur over perfectly-spaced, teeny organic strawberries and cubed dragonfruit and origami-ed finger sandwiches? I’m starting to feel like an artfully packed meal is some kind of status symbol and I’m just not sure I have room for that kind of, um…intensity in my weekday life. You feel me?
…And just like that, Labor Day is behind us. Unreal, right? It’s been a busy summer here–lots of coming and going, more book work (final edits, tweaks, design decisions, last-minute recipe makeovers because I can’t leave well enough alone, etc.), feeling out new projects, starting those first weeks of a new school year. It’s all very exciting and a little bit crazymaking. Something I love about this time of year, though, is celebrating Little C’s birthday at the end of August.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, she’s turned into the type of child who talks about the approach of her “birthday month” during the entire last week of July, so the weeks leading up to the big day can be somewhat excruciating. Both because she likes to remind us roughly every hour how many days are left until her birthday, and because the reminders give me pause and make me think about how fast she’s growing up. I mean, six! SIX. Any trace of baby girl has been left in the dust, blazing a trail of pink and purple glitter and waters-testing sass. It’s a little sad, and fantastic, all at the same time.
Something else that’s fantastic about six is the certainty with which I was given her request for this year’s birthday treats. There was to be no cake at Miss Six’s weekend birthday party (we opted for loads of sprinkle-fied Rice Krispie treats instead, which received raves from the crowd–such a nice change for those of us who attend about 50 caked-up kids’ birthday parties per year). But on her actual birthday, after dinner at home, she wanted “a very tall strawberry cake with cream”. And so we did exactly that. Who can argue with Miss Six?
How terrifically FUN is summer vacation, darling readers?! No school, so much free time! Throwing routine and schedules to the wind until they flit about like snow! Hooray!
Now let me ask the parents of small children the same question.
(GOOD LORD, HOW IS IT ONLY MID-JULY?)
Sound familiar? I feel you. After surviving Kindergarten, this summer marks the beginning of having Little C on a Real School schedule, meaning she is out until the third week of August (the baby, however, is now 16 months and interested in equal parts cuddling and destruction). We’ve been hanging in there so far–there have been days that my girl has done various activities and day camps, but there are still plenty of hours spent here at home in the Fog Known As San Francisco Summer.
Given the free time and the weather, baking together is on the agenda. And really, seeing as we’ll be careening towards fall and the holidays before we know it, my baking-with-my-wombfruit moments are likely to accumulate. And I don’t think I’m the only one, because I’ve gotten a few tweets and e-mails lately asking if I have any tips for baking with kids. So in the spirit of keeping everyone entertained, satisfying our sweet teeth, and doing that oh-so-noble task of getting our kids involved in the kitchen, here are a few of my favorite tips for baking with small people, particularly if you typically enjoy keeping culinary chaos to a minimum (that would be me here, raising my hand).
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