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baked goods

Food, Recipes

Heart Shaped Peanut Butter Cookies

It is officially the month of amore, with Valentine’s Day lurking just around the corner and it makes us all go a little heart shaped crazy. Not everyone is a fan of Valentine’s Day. It can be a bit commercial and overdone, but what I love about these cookies in particular is that you really don’t necessarily need a Valentine to make and enjoy these cookies. Go ahead and make them for yourself…self love, am I right?!

I always look at Valentine’s as a time to show just about anyone I love how much they are appreciated. I don’t like a whole lot of fanfare and grand gestures, but these cookies are an inexpensive and touching way to show you care. I pick up a heart shaped container from the Dollar General store, along with a bag of Valentine’s Day edition M&M’s, make a batch of these cookies and call it a day.

I always like to use a good peanut butter dough for this recipe, because it has some heft and will hold its shape really well for these particular cookies. You want them to look like hearts once they are baking, as opposed to amorphous blobs, and consistency of peanut butter cookie dough allows this to happen. This also means that you do not need a cookie cutter or any fancy tools, just your own two hands. The result is a really cute, rustic and homemade shaped heart that I find particularly endearing.

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Favorite Bakeries, Featured, Food, Inspiration

The List – Southern Bakery Tour 2024

In the spirit of resolutions in the new year, I have set my sights on a list of bakeries that I wish to visit in 2024. Think of it as a reverse resolution to…eat more? This past year has been one of research and full immersion in all things baking-related, for me. I am coming up on one year since reestablishing this website, and throughout 2023, I poured myself in to learning and cultivating skills related to the art of baking at a very steady pace. My appetite has been voracious, and can only be attributed to pure passion.

I am what you might refer to as a “Bake-a-Saurus Rex.” Ok, maybe that is only how I refer to myself. My fella will enter the kitchen in the morning to find every inch of the countertops covered in baking ingredients and parchment lined baking pans as far as the eye can see. I am somewhere lurching in the distance in my apron, dusted in flour and furiously thumbing through the pages of one cookbook or another. He will pause and cautiously say…”Hmmm. What are we making today?!” God love him and his patience for my predilection towards all things baking.

I can’t tell you what has driven it, but I have grown to simply LOVE the act of baking. I wake up thinking about what I want to make each day, and I fall asleep scanning recipes online. I read cookbooks, I scour Instagram, I watch tutorial videos galore, and I have been experimenting in the kitchen more than ever. I am a woman possessed. And with all of the inevitable trials and errors that come from learning to bake (believe me there is a LOT to learn) I find myself having an incredibly healthy appreciation for the pros that do this day in and day out, churning out ungodly amounts of pastries for the masses.

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Favorite Bakeries, Favorite Recipes, Recipes

Honey Oat Cookies

There are many bakeries that are on my list to try in 2024, and Back in the Day Bakery is at the very top. Over Christmas, a good friend gifted me their lovely cookbook, which is chock full of the most delicious baking recipes, both sweet and savory. I love to sit down with a cup of tea and peruse my cookbooks. It is one of my very favorite past times. This book already has recipe after recipe earmarked to add to the 2024 baking roster for my very own little test kitchen, right here in Bluffton, SC.

I have to give kudos to my friend Savannah in giving me this cookbook. Not only is it completely up my alley, but I honestly (and I’m not sure how) had never caught wind of this landmark bakery that exists right here in my own back yard!! It is a stone’s throw from my home, located in the beautifully eclectic downtown Savannah, GA. I will be publishing a list of bakeries that I wish to visit in 2024 for inspiration, to hold myself accountable for a few road trips this year, but this one will easily be added to the top.

When I cracked open this cookbook, I was impressed with how organized the chapters are laid out and assembled, by category and flavor. It appeals to my categorical Virgo nature. There are many intriguing options within this book, but this recipe for Honey Oat Cookies grabbed me as the first to try for a few reasons.

First, I absolutely LOVE the combo of oats, honey and chocolate. It is a such a hearty and delicious combo, especially with the hint of cinnamon, crunch of coconut and tinge of sea salt added in. Even if you aren’t a big coconut fan, as I know many are averse to the consistency, these have just the right amount to add flavor without overwhelming the cookie. Second, it is the beginning of the year, and with all of the oats involved in this recipe, it is practically health food, am I right?!

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Food, Recipes

Classic Strawberry Shortcake

I love strawberries. Anytime that they come into season, or taste sweet enough to eat, the chances are good that you will find several cartons lying in wait in my refrigerator. Although delicious on their own, I love visiting different dessert recipes featuring these beautiful, vibrant berries.

One that has stood the test of time for me is the classic Strawberry Shortcake. Equal parts dense, buttery cake, mixed with light, fluffy whipped cream, and sweet, tart strawberries, it is one of the most perfect and refreshing desserts in my book.

Recently, strawberries have been popping up everywhere in the grocery store and they have been super sweet and delicious, leaving me with a hankering for a good helping of this sweet treat. If you find yourself in the same boat, here is a super easy, one-bowl recipe that you can whip up quick as can be, and have a dessert on the table in no time at all.

This recipe is a visual stunner that will leave you looking like a baking pro. Little effort with big results…one of my favorite baking combos! If you haven’t ever tried making a homemade version, then you must give it a try. It is one of the easiest recipes you will find, and virtually foolproof.

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Food, Recipes

Classic Buttery Popovers

For the longest time, I have admired popovers for their delicious simplicity, but have avoided making them because they call for their own, special pan with high walls with a thin cylindrical shape in order for the dough to rise and cook evenly and properly. But, my desire for warm, soft biscuits finally overtook my hesitation. Hunger always wins for me! This recipe calls for the simplest of ingredients that about everyone has in their pantry or fridge. Though most recipes advise against using a muffin pan, I decided to go for it anyway and finally give these a try, despite missing the proper tools…and you know what? They tasted delicious anyway!

I dislike purchasing unnecessary kitchen equipment, as I feel you can generally make due with something that you already have, and stockpiling specialty items can quickly get out of control. That said, these were delicious enough to be worthy of their own special pan. They are the perfect mix of warm biscuit, with a chewier eggy texture that reminds me a bit of a souffle. Give them a try and whip up a batch using your standard 12-well muffin tin and see what you think. Be sure to have plenty of room temp butter ready to go. These are a definite vehicle for it!

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Favorite Recipes, Food, People, Recipes

Mom’s Molasses Ginger Cookies

My Christmas holiday doesn’t officially start until I take my first bite of my Mom’s legendary gingerbread cookies. These are made with sweet, thick molasses, which gives them the most scrumptious chew in the center, juxtaposed perfectly by crisp edges to nibble and the crunch of sweet granulated sugar on top. These remain the top requested cookie from my cousins and family members each year after decades of baking.

My Mom used to toil to assemble giant cookie baskets each Christmas for friends and family, and I remember every square inch of our countertops being covered in cookies of any and all varieties, from Rugelach to Peanut Butter Balls, but this gingerbread cookie was the one I always plucked from the pile as they cooled (when Mom wasn’t looking, of course). If you are a holiday cookie maker, give this one a try. The tang of ginger mixed with the warmth of cinnamon and cloves is irresistible. This recipe is worthy of a spot in the annual lineup.

Pro Tips

Be sure to leave time for chilling the dough when you set out to make these, as it is a crucial step in the process to achieve the correct consistency in your cookie.

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Favorite Recipes, People, Recipes, Uncategorized

Simple Scottish Shortbread Cookies

This recipe is a must for the holidays, and a perfect slightly sweet treat for the winter months. Traditional shortbread originally hails from Scotland, and this firm, biscuit-like cookie pairs perfectly with both hot tea and whiskey, making it the perfect accompaniment for any occasion. My Mom is an exceptional baker, and my family has gathered around a plate of her shortbread cookies and a hot pot of tea for as long as I can remember, as we discuss life’s mysteries, accomplishments, failures, loves, losses…you name it. Once you have tried this combo, it is hard to turn back. Nothing compares to gathering around the kitchen table and sharing a cookie and conversation. Make a batch of these and keep them on hand for just those occasions.

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Favorite Ingredients, Food

Variations of Vanilla

Since I have started to really take an interest in baking, I have unearthed a whole new world of ingredients that I never knew existed. This is how you know you really love something and that it is a passion. I truly get butterflies in my stomach learning about the intricacies of the art, tools and ingredients for baking.

Now, baking seems pretty straightforward, right? The standard recipes all call for flour sugar, eggs, vanilla and baking soda or powder, with dashes of additional accoutrement peppered in to define the flavor of the dessert at hand. Sounds like it should be pretty simple, but not so fast!

It is quite extraordinary, when you really break it down. Every time I peruse my cookbooks in search of my next project, almost every recipe calls for that same roster of ingredients. It reminds me of music in that sense. There are only so many notes available in the spectrum, yet artists continually come up with new melodies and hit songs using their creativity to unlock completely new sounds and genres. Baking is like that too, only the artists make their music in the kitchen, and their hit songs equate to their recipes.

So how is it, when the ingredients are consistently so similar, that bakers are able to conjure up such different textures and flavors?! I am finding, through practice, trial, and error, that so much of baking is just like any other art. It calls for sleight of hand, creative vision and willingness for experimentation to become great. 

So here is how it goes. You take your basic recipes, you learn them inside and out and you practice the techniques. You try, you fail. You try again, and you probably fail again. You do this over and over until you don’t fail anymore and you start to hit your groove. And then it finally hits you. Suddenly, it is as if you have unlocked a whole new level in the video game that you could never break past. It is when the lightbulb goes off and you start to get a knack for it.

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Favorite Bakeries, Food, Inspiration

Kouign Amann – The Queen of Pastries

I have been taking a deep dive into baking and pastry making lately. As I have mentioned before, I consider myself to be somewhat of a novice when it comes to baking, thought I am slowly getting more skilled with lots of practice.

I grew up in a very accomplished baking family, but shockingly, I never took an interest or considered myself to have any talent in this department. I wasn’t super into sweets growing up, and all of my attempts to bake were half-hearted and lackluster, particularly in comparison to that of my more talented family members.

Skip to the current moment. I couldn’t tell you what changed, but I have what could be described as an insatiable appetite for all things baking. As soon as I begin to research one recipe, I fall into a rabbit hole of 10 more, along with the techniques that accompany them, and before you know it hours have passed. I find this whole new world of baking to be so incredibly interesting and it satisfies my thirst for continual growth and knowledge. I am teaching myself the ropes, one recipe and technique at a time.

I think we all have the ability to psych ourselves out and let fear get the best of us, particularly as we get older. We may convince ourselves that once we have defined ourselves as unskilled at something, we can never change it, particularly as we grow in age. I say bullocks to that. If there is something that you want to do, move past the fears and try it.

This has been my goal with baking. To stop telling myself I can’t, because I am finding as I go and have the courage to try, that I really CAN bake, and bake pretty darned well! It also brings me immense joy, so here I am doing the work and sharing in the hopes of inspiring others to reach their goals of baking too.

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Food, Recipes

Chocolate Butterscotch Haystacks

This recipe is a classic and when I stumbled across it just recently, you would have thought I won the lottery. My Mom used to make these for us as kids and I can’t say I have thought about them since I was in my early teens.

I remember arm wrestling my brother for the last one because they were that good. They have it all. They are salty and sweet. They are chilled, so they have a cool, crunch that hits all of the senses.

Haystacks are a blend of two of the most complimentary sweet and buttery chip flavors, combined with the savory crunch of Chow Mein noodles and salty peanuts. This recipe is also dangerously easy and calls for very few ingredients and kitchen tools, so it is the perfect dessert to whip up in a hurry for holiday parties, or as a treat for friends, family and kids. This recipe is ideal for making with kids, as they can have fun helping to assemble these cute little nests of goodness.

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