A lot of people wonder what provokes someone to spend the time, effort, and money on baking. After all, you are on your feet for a really long time, it’s hands-on, and it isn’t cheap. Honestly, I can’t say that I am able to pinpoint a single reason why someone would enjoy baking but I will tell you why I, myself, love to bake and cook.
My passion for baking began with an easy bake oven. Remember those little things? They took forever to “bake” the cake mixes, they didn’t get very hot, and they required a lot of patience. I always loved baking with my easy bake oven. Every now and then I would get creative and try to bake things that weren’t necessarily supposed to go in an easy bake oven. When I was ten, I tried baking cookie dough from cookie dough ice cream in my easy bake. I, after all, loved cookie dough so in all my curiosity I scooped up a big bowl of ice cream, turned “on” my easy bake oven, and as I scoured through the ice cream I found bits of cookie dough that seemed just perfect to put on that little bitty pan (Operation: Cookie Dough Extraction). The result of such an amazing idea? A sticky pile of gunk and one disappointed ten year old girl’s heart.
On a more serious note: who doesn’t love the fragrance of nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin making it’s way through the house? I am from a family of seven and let me tell you, the face of any family member coming home to the smell of cookies or pie is priceless. It is safe to say that baking is basically one of the best superpowers, ever. In addition to that, baking with recipes that get more and more complex is rewarding. For example, I just recently made French Macarons for the first time. Anyone who bakes knows that macarons are awfully temperamental to make and it takes a careful eye to make sure they turn out right. The very first attempt at making macarons ended up being successful (with the help of JG, of course). The macarons developed feet, had a hard shell, chewy center, and a great raspberry filling. Did I mention that we were up until 4 am baking over the weekend because I was having WAY too much fun? Yep, that happened. JG is just too supportive of my addiction. My name is Holly and I am a baking geek.
Anyways, I digress. Baking is fun. It is complex. It is challenging. I yearn to learn more and more about it every day. I hope that you find inspiration in learning to bake as well because once you commit to it you will realize how fun, inspiring, and challenging it can be (yes, a challenge can be a good thing).
This pumpkin cupcake recipe by Ina Garten (who is also known as the Barefoot Contessa) is amazing. It consistently turns out so well and will make you want to eat three cupcakes, easily. I must advise you: hide one away for yourself. Before you know it, everyone will have eaten one or two (or three) and there won’t be any left! Enjoy.
Ina Garten’s Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 10 cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.
Ingredients for the Maple Frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
Directions for the Maple Frosting
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.