Lessons in Baking Vol. 1 or Shit Real Bakers Already Know

A whole long weekend has passed and all I have to show is lots of not-good bread. I mean it’s edible. But it’s not good. …And in some cases it may not have been all that edible. In the hope that some of my baking-inclined readers might be able to dole out some advice and to prevent similar mistakes, here’s a rundown of What Went Wrong This Week (another potential title for this post).

Lessons from Garlic-Rosemary Buns
Inside is better than outside.

Clearly not enough garlicAgainst my garlic-loving inclinations, I followed a version of a garlic-rosemary bread recipe that calls for the garlic and rosemary to be brushed on the outside of each bun. I reasoned with myself. Perhaps the strong garlic flavor and impossible-to-wash-off rosemary scent will penetrate the bun during the magical baking process. The recipe was on a BBC website and the ingredients were listed by weight–surely such precision wouldn’t be wrong about something as important as the flavor!

Utter nonsense. You can be bet version two is going to be literally rolling in garlic.

Baking temperature matters. A lot.

Garlic Rosemary Buns in the OvenI made a lot of changes to the original recipes I found. Mostly because they all seemed to call for a more rustic bread, and when I picture Garlic Rosemary Buns, I always think of something soft and moist and begging to be gobbled by the half dozen (then regretted–but not enough to prevent it from happening again). You just can’t do that with rustic bread which is designed to withstand rain and the Middle Ages and the French. As a result, the make up of the flour mixture changed pretty significantly, but I kept the baking temperature for a bread that is basically all crust. Instead of soft, fragrant bread pillows I ended up with dry flour cakes.

Garlic Rosemary Buns Crust
It’s like a bad dinner roll.

Lessons from Jamdandies: Attempt II

Believe it or not, but the fact that Jamdandies are mentioned in this post means there will be a third attempt. I am beginning to think I should have picked the larger bag of flour at Costco. I’m going to be one of those people that has to use those flatbeds because all her stuff can’t fit into an over-sized cart. Like a business or someone building a shed at Home Depot.

Jam is awesome.
Cookie Moat Jamdandies
If I wanted a jam-less bite of cookie I’d eat shortbread.

Continue reading Lessons in Baking Vol. 1 or Shit Real Bakers Already Know

Jamdandies the Dandyjams Edition

“Yolande was fitting the tea cozy over the pot when I came in. There were cups on the table. I knew where her cookie plates lived, so I got one down and put my offerings on it: chocolate chip hazelnut, Jamdandies, Cashew Turtles, plus butterscotch brownies and half a dozen muffins.”
– Sunshine

For the inaugural baked good, a lot of friends and family were eager to encourage a hobby that would keep them in sugary treats for months. Most still have no idea (and no intention of understanding) what “that book” is about, but flour and butter and sugar is the universal sign for yum, which means for this first post, I have lots of help.

My friend Laura and my cousin Jo want to help me kick start this. Jo’s cuter-than-a-button-covered-in-jam daughter would be sampling the results so I wanted to start with something kid and fun-friendly. The First Dessert? *drumroll* Jamdandies.

It’s also one of the Class 4 Don’t Know What It Is desserts, which allows me to play around a little. As I’ll be doing this a lot, I’ve come up with some “rules”.

The Kinda Incontrovertible Tenants of Making Up Recipes:

1. It must be delicious.

This is really an all-encompassing life rule.

2. It shouldn’t be too fussy.

In theory, these are recipes that one person could make for a whole coffeehouse. Individual chocolate typography is not going to happen.

3. From scratch as often as possible.

If you make it yourself, it’s going to be better. Icing from a jar will taste like icing from a jar. That said, store bought jam or vanilla extract is much more practical than starting the canning process or 2 months of staring at a vanilla bean in a jar (in a dark cupboard).

4. WWSD (What Would Sunshine Do?)

The first and last resort question of every recipe.

┬áSo with those tenants firmly in mind, what in a baker’s dozen is a Jamdandy?

My one-pack-a-day elementary school cookie Judging by the name and the contextual quote, it’s a jam-related cookie. Since Sunshine is one of those practical baker types, I’m thinking it’s her version of a fancy-fied jam-related cookie–which to me refers to something in the family of those thumbprint jam shortbread Knott’s Berry Farm staples. Dandifying this childhood classic can really only happen in two places: the ingredients or the appearance. Let’s go with both ‘cuz why not?

Cleaner and smaller is as much effort as a coffeehouse baker would go through to inject class into a cookie. Here’s where it gets kid-friendly: tiny cookie cutters!


Put back the candy cane and pumpkin.
Dug out some fancy shapes from the back of the cupboard.

Since my usual method of baking cookies involves blobs and chunks and impatience, these things have not seen the light of day since I bought them. There was quite a bit of box and bag opening to find ’em pretty as a picture with their stickers still on, no dough stuck under the metal lip, no corners bent out of place.

Shortbread is already pretty fancy, but there are ways to kick it up a notch. For the cookies you can play with the dough AND the jam. Combo recommendations: Raspberry Jam with Vanilla Bean Cookies, Cherry Jam with Almond Extract Cookies, and Blueberry Ginger Jam with plain Shortbread. So here we go!

Jamdandies: Attempt 1

Adapted from the Food Network

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1/4 cup powdered sugar (for decoration)

For Raspberry Vanilla Bean
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod
1/3 cup raspberry jam

For Cherry Almond
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup cherry jam

For Blueberry Ginger (or other Fancy Jam)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup blueberry ginger jam

Ingredients sans vanila Continue reading Jamdandies the Dandyjams Edition