A Baker’s Resolution: 12 daunting recipes in 12 months

A Baker’s Resolution: 12 daunting recipes in 12 months

What doodling looks like to a baker... lots of food I want to make over the next year; with pictures instead of lists, and with better typography.  

What doodling looks like to a baker... lots of food I want to make over the next year; with pictures instead of lists, and with better typography.  

January is a month of fresh starts! We make plans and goals and try new things. This year I am challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone and finally attempt to make some recipes that, for one reason or another, have given me apprehension my whole baking life. So basically... since I was 12. Why should a few ingredients and multi-step recipes cause anxiety in the one place I feel most comfortable... my kitchen? What's the worst that could happen?

  1. I waste a lot of time.
  2. I waste a lot of money on ingredients.
  3. I admit to myself that my skills are lacking.
  4. I have to pick myself up, dust off the four and begin again.

The best case scenario:

  1. I get it right the first time!
  2. May family and neighbors get to enjoy my efforts. 
  3. Nothing is wasted except a lot of years of self-doubt.
  4. I am a Martha Stewart prodigy and The Food Network contacts me for my own show.  

I think the pros outweigh the cons on this one. Here is the list of sweets and savories I will attempt to make in 2018, one for every month of this new year. Wish me luck!

1. Homemade Bread 

Photo from:  Amanda’s Plate

Photo from: Amanda’s Plate

Any bread. As long as it’s not made in my breadmaker.  Sourdough, ciabatta, brioche, challah;  it’s all good! For years I’ve been making the same variation of wheat or white loaf sandwich bread in my bread maker. It’s delicious and I love it, but it’s not exactly the first bread I crave when we are having Sunday Sauce or a comforting soup. 

2.  Marshmallows

photo from:  Mommypotamus   

photo from: Mommypotamus  

How fun would that be? I know my kids would be in Heaven if I could perfect sweet, airy marshmallows! I am daydreaming of gifting them in cute  cellophane bags tied with ribbon; they’re cut into heart shapes and tinted just the right shade of pink! In reality, I am worried my kitchen will be a sticky mess and I will end up with something more like mangled fluff.


3.  Cinnamon Rolls

Photo from  Gimme Some Oven .  

Photo from Gimme Some Oven.  

I know, I know, it’s so easy, right? At least that’s what all my baker friends tell me. They always look so beautiful,  fluffy and delicious. What could go wrong? Well, if breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day, I could be setting everyone up for disaster! I grew up on those orange pop-n-bake sweet rolls, so now you know where my bar is set.

4. Fresh Pasta 

photo from:  Garden Betty

photo from: Garden Betty

I’ve seen it made many times, even assisted a coworker in a class we taught at William-Sonoma.  However, make it myself? No way! I was too worried about public humiliation for that. This task may also prove to be a little more challenging since it requires the purchase of a pasta roller. Not that I am against purchasing new kitchen equipment, especially if it pays off in the end, but I may have to organize my cupboards to properly (ahem) hide it first!  Hopefully I’ve timed it just as my tax rebate comes through!

5. Rugelach

photo from:   Once Upon A Chef

photo from:  Once Upon A Chef

These are one of my favorite desserts. Is it a pastry? Is it a cookie? I don’t know, but I’m in love! Every so often my mother-in-law will ask me what I want for my birthday. It’s just before Christmas, so I always feel guilty telling her something that can be purchased. I much prefer when I can request her to make her mother’s recipe for classic rugelach.  She gave me the recipe years ago and I glance at it every Christmas, but I just couldn’t convince myself to give it a go.  I hope I can do it justice and make them both proud.

6. Potato Gnocchi 

photo credit:  Love Bakes Good Cakes  

photo credit: Love Bakes Good Cakes 

Soft little pillows of dough that (when made right) can stand up to a heavy Alfredo or the most delicate fried sage & browned butter.  I’ve eaten enough in my lifetime to know the difference between a good gnocchi and a bad one. I’m hoping with enough practice, I can find just the right technique! 

 7. French Macarons

Photo from:  Ahead of Thyme

Photo from: Ahead of Thyme

These are a showstopper, there’s no question. When a rainbow of macarons are on display in a dessert case, presented at the table, or even gifted in a delicate white box, you can hear a collective “Oooh!”  as your guests eyes get a little wider. Who doesn’t want to be the one who creates something like that? I certainly would love to master that skill! At one point in my life, I had toyed with the idea of going to culinary school. To me, these airy sandwich cookies symbolize all that could’ve been.

8. Italian & Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Italian & Swiss Meringue Buttercreams, photo credits:  American Heritage Cooking  (left) and   Natasha’s Kitchen  (right). 

Italian & Swiss Meringue Buttercreams, photo credits: American Heritage Cooking (left) and  Natasha’s Kitchen (right). 

I make cupcakes all the time. They are so much easier than baking, assembling and decorating a large layer cake. They’re  individually portioned and bake perfectly. I never worry about them being undercooked or too dry.  Even though I know they will taste amazing, they always look the same. I use a variation of a simple buttercream frosting, depending on if it is chocolate or vanilla. I would love to branch out and try different buttercream techniques, just to see what the hype is all about, and if I’ve been missing out. 

9. Pierogies

Photo credit:  Lazy Cat Kitchen   

Photo credit: Lazy Cat Kitchen  

Have I ever mentioned that I’m Irish? I find it funny that the Irish are known for their love and use of potatoes, yet it’s the Polish and Slovakian heritages that have their own recipe. I think of them essentially as “potato ravioli”; mashed potatoes mixed together with various ingredients (ranging from cheese and chives to bacon and sauerkraut) then stuffed into a dough and boiled or baked.  

We are fortunate enough to live in the hometown of the Pierogie Guy. He makes the best pierogies I have ever had! I didn’t even think I liked them until I tried his. He’s perfected and updated his family recipe based on the tastes of local clientele. In Upstate New York we love pulled pork and “Buffalo chicken” anything. Honestly, two of my favorite flavors! You can even find these sold at the concession stands during Little League games in the summer.

I also attend a Ukrainian church, which hosts a large Ukrainian Festival every summer. My mother and stepfather help to boil & mash potatoes, then fill & crimp the pierogies together each year. I have never attempted to make one myself!  She will be so proud... and probably enlist me to help out this year. 

10. Pizza Dough 

Photo credit:  Ciao Florentina   

Photo credit: Ciao Florentina  

I love homemade pizza! I also love woodfired pizza from restaurant. Heck, I even like a really good chain restaurant pizza.  I think we can mostly agree that what makes a pizza terrible is the crust. Too thick, too thin, no salt, overcooked... it can really ruin your dinner. You could have the best ingredients as toppings, but if that crust is bad, there’s no redeeming it. I’d like to make great dough at home. It’s cost-effective and pretty fun for the whole family. Plus, that might be the only way I can get a non “meat lovers” (for my husband and two sons) or a “plain cheese” (for my other two sons) pizza.  Once I get this crust down, you can be sure my first pie will include fig jam, caramelized onions, goat cheese crumbles, prosciutto and arugula!  I can hear my husband and children groaning from here. 

11. Cookies Decorated with Royal Icing 

Photo credit:   Bake at 350°   

Photo credit:  Bake at 350°  

Cut out cookies are my jam! I have a really great dough recipe that I adore but as I’ve already mentioned, I’m not much of a decorator. A quick dip technique in a simple glaze flavored with extracts is the extent of it. What I wouldn’t give to really up my game and make use of those adorable cookie cutters I’ve been collecting. Mastering the art of cookie decorating can really only be achieved with a piped buttercream frosting (which I don’t prefer on sugar cookies) or royal icing. I’ve always shied away from the latter since I am not much of an artist. I think I can talk myself into it, since it’s pretty much a color-by-number for grown-ups, right? Famous last words...

12. Rainbow Layer Cookies 

This is the recipe I most excited about, and most scared for.  Everyone knows what this famous cookie is supposed to taste like. Messing it up is just... sad. Sad for the baker, sad for the consumer. It can’t be too thick or else it’s a dense cake. It can’t be too thin or it will be difficult to assemble. The chocolate has to be done just right or it will crumble and separate from the cookie. Not to mention, if people notice the jam layers, you’ve done it wrong. They should be visible yet so thin you can’t detect it once you’ve bitten into the cookie {gulp!} Just in time for Christmas cookie platters, and rounding out the end of the year, this recipe will be the pièce de résistance of my baking list. 

My baking bucket list: 12 recipes I hope to master in 12 months.  

My baking bucket list: 12 recipes I hope to master in 12 months.  

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Happy New Year! My 2018 Resolutions

Happy New Year! My 2018 Resolutions