The Lousy Cook Makes Bread

Happy first birthday, sourdough starter! (Those bubbles are yeast farts.)
Happy first birthday, sourdough starter! (Those bubbles are yeast farts.)

Before there was cake, there was bread.

Breadmaker sourdough loaf
First perfect breadmaker sourdough loaf (July; yes, after half a year of trying)

It all started with the potato bread. Seattle has amazing fresh bread choices, but the prices are as high as the quality. My son particularly likes the potato bread, a soft white bread with a caraway tang, but an active fourteen-year-old can put away a lot of bread, which quickly adds up to a lot of dough.Read More »

The Lousy Cook Makes a Fruitcake

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My brown Caribbean Black Cake (if I’d burned the sugar as the recipe required, I would have burned the house down, so I substituted dark molasses)

The first time I used my new KitchenAid mixer(s), I might have gone overboard. I threw out my hip while making a fruitcake.

The day started out by finally making The Fruitcake. To be specific, this was a Caribbean Black Cake six months in the making. I’d read about it in Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking the previous summer, the same week I watched the Great British Baking Show and decided it wouldn’t be too difficult to make my own 30th anniversary cake. Colwin’s Caribbean Black Cake recipe stresses that the cake must be extravagantly decorated (“colored icing, flowers, swags, and garlands”), as it is typically for weddings. Also, the cake recipe includes two bottles of booze. Sounded like a good starter cake for me: a cake Colwin confessed that she herself had not attempted to make.Read More »

Santa Visits the Lousy Cook–Twice!

(A very late post! Pretend it’s still 2016: a nice thought in oh so many ways.)

Cookie "dough" in Grandma's mixing bowl
Cookie “dough” in Grandma’s mixing bowl

(Note: I wasn’t paid for this post by the advertising department of a certain kitchen appliance, but I should be. I’m open to offers.)

I left my holiday cookie decorating class full of resolve to practice the decorating skills I had learned, instead of shoving everything into the fridge like after my cupcake decorating class two months ago, where it all still sits, untouched. But the day after the cookie class, I ran into trouble with Step One: making the actual cookies. My dough looked like wet sand. I posted to Facebook:

Sugar cookie dough is in crumbles. Mixed with my old hand mixer. Supposed to be in fridge for two hours but it’s literally a bunch of crumbles. Add more egg?Read More »

The Lousy Cook Takes a Cooking Class

Curry! Amanda Coba teaching at The Book Larder, recipe from Anna Jones's "A Modern Way to Cook"
Curry! Amanda Coba teaching at The Book Larder (Anna Jones recipe)

Hot on the heels of acquiring my first new set of pots and pans since 1987, I signed up for a cooking class.

My 30-year-old pots were a gift from my parents, in hopes, I think, that I wouldn’t move back in with them. Again. Rather impressive that I’ve used the same cookware since the advent of Prozac and The Simpsons, though my set has dwindled to three pots and two lids (two pots have no lid; one lid doesn’t match any pot, but I hate to toss the lid, since it’s good for extinguishing fires). Especially impressive since it’s glass cookware for a klutz (the other day the Man I Married asked me if dropping things was a sign of MS, and I asked him if insensitivity was a sign of divorce).Read More »

The Lousy Cook Decorates a Cupcake

POTENTIAL!
POTENTIAL! (The Blank Page)

There’s something to be said for starting small, so a noncredit (shocking, I know) cupcake decorating class at the local college caught my eye. Scaling down expectation while learning a new craft might be a good idea. Surely I could take the skills learned on a cupcake and inflate them for use—like, the next day—on a multi-tiered wedding anniversary cake with a bottom layer as big as a garbage-can lid?Read More »

The Lousy Cook Decorates a Cake

wedding-cupcakewedding-cake-cutting

I want a beautiful wedding cake. A gorgeous, opulent, over-the-top, Princess Diana wedding cake.

That I’ve been married for 28.25 years is beside the point.

We had a wedding cake in 1988, a small, heart-shaped carrot cake with real flowers: a lovely cake in keeping with a small budget and a small wedding on a small boat. If memory serves correctly, which it probably doesn’t, the cake was from Safeway. I no longer even recognize the groom I married in this picture, much less the cake.

I have no idea who that young man is, but he sure looks happy.
I have no idea who that young man is, but he sure looks happy.

It appears that the cake was really more of a cupcake on steroids. The Man I Married’s hand and the cake server are almost as large as the cake. Who cared? There was more than enough bubbly, courtesy of my parents, and that’s all that mattered. We had our priorities straight, as far as I’m concerned.

But, along with the size of my derriere, the wedding cake I desire has grown.Read More »

What a Writer Does on a Peaceful Island Writing Retreat in a Cabin Nestled in the Woods Overlooking a Harbor

Surveillance team behind my cabin
Surveillance team behind my cabin
Focaccia
Focaccia on Facebook

She lies awake at 2:15 a.m. wondering about those gunshots in the distance. Large caliber gun. She’s no firearms expert, but this she knows. Eight gunshots, exactly. Not equally spaced out. She counts, because she is a writer, and details matter. Also so that she can inform the sheriff when he arrives to ask, “Did anybody hear anything suspicious?” and he will be impressed enough with her answer that he will suspect she writes mystery novels about an amateur sleuth. Perhaps, though, the gun is fired by a hunter? But who hunts in the dark? Is it an escaped felon who has fled to the island and is feeding off deer while living in a cabin whose inhabitants he has mutilated? Why don’t more convicts escape to this island? It would make a lot of sense to escape here. If the writer were a nasty criminal, she’d hop the first ferry to this island. Nobody locks their doors, she’s been told. She has left her ground-floor bedroom window open because it’s hot. She gets up and locks the window, trying to fumble at the unfamiliar latch in the dark so that the felon doesn’t see inside the cabin to detect a lone, short, Weeble-ish inhabitant, easily overcome by prison breath. The criminal has seen on Facebook posts that she makes excellent sourdough focaccia. He will not kill her. He will keep her alive and force her to keep the sourdough starter alive, but he will become irritated because she puts too many vegetables but no salami on the pizza.Read More »