Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bake-Over, Make Me Over

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?  yes
Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?  yes
Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?  yes
Are you afraid that if you don't work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?  yes
Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?  yes
Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?  yes

The black bottom cupcakes have helped me to confront these Workaholics Anonymous questions, the yin-yang of the chocolate and vanilla peacefully urging me on to what I might one day call balance in my life.  In other words, I am coming to the slow conclusion that my life needs a make-over.  Which is not a fabulous conclusion to come to at the beginning of the school year when you are a teacher and work for a school whose #1 motto is "Whatever It Takes."  

It's been a while since I've written, or even looked at any baking blogs.  When I was a student and home all day sitting at my computer it was easy to find the time to write and take pictures and bake, but now that I've been sitting in meetings all day and writing lesson plans, it's a bit more difficult.  With all my emotional energy invested in my job, I am, sadly, losing sight of the beloved baked good, of the balanced black bottom cupcake. 

Which is why a bake-over was a good concept.  Sometimes I dream that I won't have any work on a weekend and I can just go home and bake.  Maybe one day I'll get to this point, but for now the "mandatory fun" of a scheduled bake-over seemed just what the Dr. ordered to help make me over into someone who was not work-driven (and, in case you were wondering, if you answered yes to any of the questions above, they do have Workaholics Anonymous clubs.)

Originally Chrissy's (of Cup O' Cake Designs) idea (a variation of the "bake-off," which has a competitive purpose), the "bake-over" is collaborative in nature.  While our husbands drank beer and more beer at a local brewfest, us girls made cheesy crackers 2 ways, peanut-butter chocolate brownies, black-bottom cupcakes, and jam thumbprints.  Woa!  The kitchen was pretty lucky that day, as were the revelers upon coming home and finding our goods.  As for work, at least the kind with which I am familiar, there was none to be had.  And, having a varied tray of yummy desserts and crackers for each person to take home is a major plus.

Chrissy's cheese crackers were decadent, and I couldn't keep my hands off the tray.  I particularly liked the chipotle ones whose smoky chile flavor was a nice compliment to the cheese.  These would be awesome for a party and you could probably freeze the dough ahead of time, then just defrost and cut out when ready to bake.  I also recommend toasting any leftover crackers.  They crisp up pretty quickly and result in the same heavenly salty crunch as when they come straight from the oven.  I know this because Chrissy was kind enough to let Linda and I sample some of the crackers while still piping hot, and because the toasted leftover crackers welcomed me home from work several nights this past week.

The brownies, baked by Linda, have a mountainous peanut-butter topping that literally melts in your mouth.  The underlayer is pure chocolatey goodness.  Even the wary brownie eater will enjoy these I think.  

Black bottom cupcakes were just as satisfying as Fooding Through Life promised they would be with the rich, cheesy creamy centers suspended in an ocean of deep chocolate.  These are satisfying.

As for the cookies, the ones I didn't burn came out well.  The centers bend a bit, sort of like the flexible Pepperidge Farm Verona cookies whose gelled center will stretch rather than break when bent in half.  It's a lovely texture and the sweet raspberry jam filling couples rather nicely with the lemony scent of its butter cookie surroundings.  

So, if you ask me to do something and I tell you I can't because "I have to work," just give me a gentle reminder that a Bake-Over might be a good idea.  

The Recipes

1.  Cheese Crackers
(Instructions courtesy of Chrissy)

1 Stick of Butter – at room temperature

2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese

1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1. Preheat your oven to 325° and get out your food processor.

2. Throw all of those ingredients into the food processor and pulse until well mixed, about 10 times.

3. Dump the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to bring it together forming a ball of dough.

4. If the consistency allows, roll the dough out into a very thin layer.  Maybe 1/8 inch.  If the dough is too loose to roll, toss it into the fridge for 15 minutes.

5. Once rolled out, cut the crackers.  You can use cookie cutters here if you would like fancy shapes, but I just used a pizza cutter for basic crackers. It’s your call.

6. Place the crackers onto a cookie sheet covered with foil or even better, a Silpat baking mat (if you don't have a Silpat I'm sure you could use parchment paper).

7. Bake for 11 minutes or until the crackers start to get just golden on the edges.
8. Place on a cooling rack until the crackers are no longer warm.

who got them from Baking Bites


Almost Precious said...

Unfortunately work can and does get in the way of life. Nice that you decided it was time to come up for air and do the thing you enjoy the most...baking. The cupcakes look so moist and chocolaty, and the thumbprint cookies look almost too pretty to eat. Notice I said "almost". :)

Brewfus said...

I was fortunate enough to have tasted each of these wonderful baked goods. And, you can rest assured, Ms. Kitten, that I will be using that little bit of advise in the last line of this post once the school year is in full swing!

Abbie said...

The cheese crackers sound great, but the photos of the cupcakes really won me over. Yum!

Julia said...

The important things in life don't usually happen at work...a tough realization, but a really valuable one at that.
And the goodies look and sound amazing. Great post as usual!