Thursday, October 6, 2011

Baking with Joy

Picture     These past few years we’ve really been dealing with some heavy and stressful family trials (in this economy –who isn’t right?) – And I’ve come to find it’s the little things you’ve got to discover happiness therein.
 I begin baking for my son’s school last year and instantly felt at peace with the immediate satisfaction of a homemade iced cupcake! The long hours during the day made up of early mornings, breakfast, getting out the door on time, laundry, cleaning, job hunting and then afternoon pickups, dinner, homework, the bedtime routine can become a bit of a blur and we end up easily losing our joy. And so with this new revelation, I suddenly found myself relishing the quiet moments of measuring out the flour and sifting the baking powder to be quite cathartic. I have a small TV in the kitchen (yup, I know- that sounds awful doesn’t it?) but I can put on an old Woody Allen movie and drift into baking with such ease and delight, it’s unbelievable!

OK, so I know this isn’t the remedy for everyone. My sister finds tranquility in a good step class (heck, I would too if I could afford her fantastic gym!). My brother runs and my husband is brilliant at computer programming; he finds pleasure in some stuff that boggles my mind (but hey, that’s good- it’s his scene, not mine) and any joy that reminds you how wonderful life really is –that is marvelous!
So, after the long day and my sweet boys are in bed, I turn to the stove and say “let’s get busy”.  The sound of the mixer, the smells of vanilla, chocolate and flour fill the air and abruptly I am aware and deeply mindful of being a mother. I grew up with a kitchen full of slow, scratch cooking and incredible baking. Therefore when I take in those aromas, I’m transported back to a time when I was young and my Mom made our house a home with her love for all things made from the heart. And well- the movies come into play as Dad was always watching some old classic film as Mom cheerfully baked away on a chilly Sunday afternoon.
 All my worries and the stresses of the day start to alter as I realize their real lack of importance. I am again mindful of what is really significant and genuine in my life. So within moments these qualms float away on a soundtrack of another film playing in my warm kitchen as the smells of sweet deliciousness cascades around our entire home with another batch of cupcakes made for my family. Swiftly and harmoniously I find myself blissful again in my own loving and happy home.

   Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 1 ½ cups of flour
  • ½ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp of baking soda
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) of room temp butter
  • 1  1/3 cups of sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 2 large eggs (at room temp- it makes a huge difference when baking)
  • 1 cup of milk
  Peanut Butter Butter Cream

  • 2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar (more can be added -just depends on your taste)
  • chocolate chips for decoration

 Preheat oven to 350
- Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
- Beat butter in mixer, slowly add sugar until creamy. Add eggs one at a time. Then add vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture (always start with the dry mixture and end with it as well-for best results) alternating with the milk. Scrape down sides to make sure everything is combined.
- Scoop into 18 baking cups (do not overfill these)
- Bake for 20 minutes- check early since oven temperatures may vary.
 For frosting;
- Cream peanut butter and butter in the bowl in your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed. Then turn it to a lower speed and mix in sugar until combined. Next, beat mixture on high speed until smooth, around 3 minutes.

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