Monday, November 17, 2008

A Few Of My Favorite Things

If it has not been made clear to you thus far that I adore baked goods, you haven't been reading my blog nearly close enough. Shame on you. I suggest you go back to last January when I began blogging and read each post over again, much more thoroughly this time. You might want to take notes. Or... if you prefer to cheat yourself out of hours and hours AND HOURS of hilarious, thoughtful, sometimes bitchy posts, fine. Just take my word for it--I love baked goods.

I am also a bit of a baked goods snob. Like everyone who is a connoisseur of something--be it fine wines, Swiss watches, or incredibly bloody video games--you get to know what you like, what is quality and what is trash. And unfortunately, a lot of baked goods and pseudo-baked goods out there are trash. At the bottom of the scale is Hostess. Hostess was a dream come true to me as a snack-food-deprived child. But as a baked goods critic-of-sorts now, I wouldn't waste my time, let alone the calories, on something so base.

Store bought cakes come next. Some are good, some are not so good. The factory produced ones are usually pretty disappointing, while the in-store bakery ones can be pretty decent if you shop around.

Restaurants vary in their ability to make a good dessert. Some are excellent. Some so-so. Some not worth eating again even for the cherished sugar rush they produce.

Mostly the ones that I like best are homemade. Nothing beats the fresh ingredients and tender loving care of a homemade dessert (except perhaps the fresh ingredients and tender loving care of a French bakery dessert. But I digress...) And if you make it yourself, you get all the glory and appreciation for the fact that your cake tastes 1000x better than store-bought.

There's probably something else you have picked up on about me if you read my blog: I hate to be a follower. I'm not a train-jumper, a trend follower, a copy cat, or a craze-keeper-up-wither. Usually my policy is that I prefer to do anything that no one else I know is doing. Unless said trend is clearly, totally, 100% ME, in which case I'll avoid following the trend until it has almost become passé. Then, and only then, will I jump on the bandwagon-- pretty much just before the bandwagon breaks down. So it is with some level of chagrin that I admit to being a pretty shameless copy cat of my sister when it comes to baking. She just picked it up sooner and got better. So now I just have to set my pride to the side and learn from the expert.

Yes, in case you were wondering, I am finally going to arrive at the point of this post: My Favorite Things. This installment is Baking Strips. Are you completely let down? All that introduction and talk about sugary confections and I'm going to talk about baking strips? Well, you'll see why in just a second. First, let me explain what they are. Baking strips are little strips of cloth that you soak in water prior to baking layer cakes, then you wrap them around the cake pan. And then when the cake bakes, rather than getting a huge hump in the middle of it, it rises completely evenly, making it flat on top. Ever try to make those humped cakes into a layer cake? It's a nightmare. Not only is it virtually impossible to cut them flat on the top. But then you have to try to get the frosting to stick to them without picking up crumbs from the cut-off area. (Or else you have to flip them over and deal with the same issue on the bottom of the cakes). Baking strips are the magic cure to the cake hump. And they could not be easier to use.

Here, examine my proof:

See how nice and flat they are? And they still have that golden brown, firm skin on the top that makes frosting them so much eaiser.

Now you can see why I must bow down and worship the flour covered floor my sister bakes upon. Because without these little numbers, my cakes would be humpy. And while they'd probably still taste good, I'd miss out on all the oohs and ahs produced by a truly delicious AND ergonomically correct cake.


CaraDee said...

Here I was thinking that you wrapped them and set them on a cookie sheet and poured the batter in them. That was strange. Now I get it...blah. Anyway, how did you know that I was thinking that exact thing like yesterday? I was picturing a layer cake for Brandon's bday, but not wanting to deal with cutting off the humps. You are amazing. Oh, and by amazing, I mean generous for letting me borrow yours.

Tiffany said...

Amazing. Truly.

I want to be a baked goods snob.

Najma said...

Yep, I agree, these are a great invention. I use them all the time too when doing cakes.

Mindi said...

what if you have your own personal baker in the form of your sister, and don't use this?

(i like to call her my MASTERBAKER.)

Anonymous said...

I think you just gave me a Christmas idea for my MIL who loves to bake, thank you!

tiburon said...

I will just take the masterbaker.

Why don't you apply? I shall allow you to provide all my baked goods.

Christie said...

I"m still laughing at Mindi's comment - I need a masterbaker. LOL

And now I'm really craving something sweet!

Notme said...

What a great idea! Where did you get them? Now can you tell me how to get my cupcakes with a nice little hump on top rather than coming up to the paper and going flat?

Mia said...

I think I just want to be invited to your (or Jennie's) house next time you bake! I guess having my own masterbaker would be a good second.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet idea. As for the French bakeries, that was the only reason I thought serving a mission in France would have been neat.

alex dumas said...

I'm glad somebody cares about these little items while the rest of us don't even know they exist. I will hire you as my masterbaker if you like, and I will oooh and aaah over your creations and get really fat.