Coming Back and Bloggers Bake For Hope 2012

Hi there.

Remember me?

Bubbly baking blogger from Boston passionate about serving scrumptious sweets to her family and friends? Sound familiar?

Well, I have most certainly not forgotten you. On the contrary, you’ve been on my mind and in my heart all this time- it’s been deeply distressing to be separated from all the phenomenal people who used to visit my site, as well as my fellow blogging buddies and baking groups. While it’s been more difficult than you can imagine for me to jump back in the mix, my very special role as a contributing member to the baking blogosphere is simply too important to abandon forever. It is an honor and a privilege to share my kitchen conquests with you, and I treasure the unique opportunity to connect with other talented and enthusiastic cooks and bakers from literally all over the world. Thankfully, I’ve come to know you lot as an extremely understanding and supportive group of folks, who welcome my participation with open arms whenever possible. Looking forward, I plan to partake in some new and exciting endeavors, including joining the Avid Bakers Challenge, an amazing assemblage of bakers led by my dear friend Hanaâ of “Hanaâ’s Kitchen,” who tackle the same recipe together each month. In the immediate future, I have the privilege of utilizing my baking to contribute to a great cause, Bloggers Bake For Hope 2012. When I discovered this exceptional effort to raise funds for the Avon Foundation, I just knew it was time to return to “Hot Oven, Warm Heart,” and in some small way, draw upon my baking for good.

Organized by two highly generous bloggers, Jen of “Beantown Baker” and Fiona of “A Boston Food Diary,” Bloggers Bake for Hope is an online virtual bake-sale event, with all proceeds benefiting the Avon Foundation. Participating bloggers will provide information about their baked goods, and each item will get its own blog post, which can be found here, when the bake sale opens on Monday, April 30th. If you would like to place a bid, leave a comment on the appropriate page with the dollar amount (All bidding will start at $15). Bidding will close on Wednesday, May 2nd, with the highest bidder being awarded the item. They will be notified via email during the weekend of May 5th, at which point they can return to the homepage, and pay via Paypal by clicking on the button reading “donate.” Once the donation has been made, the winner’s address will be sent to the baker, who will ship the baked goods sometime during the month of May. It’s really much simpler than it sounds, I promise!

When selecting my submission, I drew upon my greatest inspiration, both in life and the kitchen, my beloved Grammy. She cooked her way into countless hearts over the years, serving up mouth-watering meals and special memories that will stay with those she touched forever. My best friend, and my hero, Grammy and I shared a sincere passion for preparing food and serving others that goes beyond words. Along with innumerable other life lessons that have shaped me into the woman I am today, she taught me what it means to translate love to the plate. As my passion for baking grew, her support was inimitable and I could see the pride she felt shining deeply in her eyes. Of the many treats I had the pleasure of making for her, these simple corn muffins, always served alongside my homemade jam, made her light up in a way I can’t describe. It was as if she couldn’t believe her granddaughter had possibly baked something so delicious. I never understood what was so special about these muffins, but I certainly understood how special she made me feel when she ate one.

I hope the recipient of my package, complete with Grammy’s favorite corn muffins and jam, knows just how much I appreciate their support, and that tucked inside they just might find a little bit of love I was sure not to forget.

Me and Grammy in her kitchen, 1989

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SMS: Strawberry-Ruby Grapefruit Preserves & Jam Thumbprints

Strawberry-Ruby Grapefruit Preserves & Jam Thumbprints

Throughout my entire childhood, my lunch menu featured one item, and one item only: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The ingredients evolved as I grew, from the most basic white bread, creamy pb, and grape jelly of my early days to wheat bread, crunchy pb, and strawberry preserves of my adolescence. I’ve probably prepared thousands of this classic over the years, always finishing with a generous smearing of sticky, sweet fruit spread, but I don’t ever remember considering the possibility of a homemade version. The notion that this condiment could be fashioned from fresh fruit and sugar never crossed my mind, but now I can happily say I’ve seen the light! With my first batch of preserves and subsequent canning completed, I’m eager to tackle all sorts of luscious jams and jellies while the bountiful summer produce is at its peak. Without a push from Margot of Effort to Deliciousness, I may never have attempted the Strawberry-Ruby Grapefruit Preserves in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. Thankfully, her daring SMS selection left me with four jars in my pantry, just calling out to be utilized creatively- and first up, a new recipe for jam thumbprints!

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I must admit, I was hesitant at first to undertake this project, but help from a friend gave me a sense of direction and ultimately put my mind at ease. Steph, of the always fabulous blog, A Whisk and A Spoon, was kind enough to point out an article in this month’s Cuisine At Home Magazine, that is chock-full of valuable at-home jam making and canning information. Armed with a number of essential tips plus the tools and glass mason jars I picked up at Walmart, I set up my pots, supplies, and ingredients with confidence and anticipation. By slicing, juicing, stirring, and boiling, the simple list of ingredients- strawberries, apples, grapefruit juice and zest, and sugar- transformed into a deep, dark, thick, gooey mixture that permeated my kitchen with a bright and tangy aroma. After filling the prepared jars, I “processed” them (or placed them in a water-bath at a rolling boil) in my biggest stockpot lined with a make-shift rack of an open metal steamer basket. I had to wait overnight to see if my efforts paid off, and thankfully, my jars passed the lid-popping test signifying that my first canning adventure was a success.

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With a bit of extra jam left over in the fridge, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to test-drive a cookie recipe I’ve had my eye on. In a few months, I’ll be baking for my cousin Chrissy’s wedding shower, and jam thumbprints were requested to accompany afternoon tea. After some searching, I discovered many positive reviews of Ina Garten’s recipe, so I was excited to see if it was truly a winner. Fortunately, my search ends here- delicate, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread coated in lightly toasted coconut, and balanced by a bejeweled center of fruity topping- the ultimate thumbprint. If you’re a thumbprint fan, and hey, who’s not?, most definitely give this variation a try. I give it two big thumbprints up! I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. And bonus- it’s the perfect vehicle to show off your mouth-watering homemade preserves. That is, if you have any left over after you devour the most sophisticated PB&J ever made!

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Thank you, Margot, for going out on a limb, and turning us bakers into jam-makers! Head on over to Effort for Deliciousness, where you’ll find the delectable preserves recipe, and check out what everyone else did with their jam by exploring the SMS blogroll.

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