Sandra bakes Smitten Kitchen

by Sandra

I may be stating the obvious, but I enjoy baking. I like it because besides the occasional slip-up, I know the results will turn out well. I know I will see the faces of my friends swoon in sugary ecstacy. It is predictable, and predictably good. It has been a relief, especially lately, as this semester’s final projects have left my professors scratching their collective heads. My writing may need work, but I know my baking is good, and that is why I do it.

I’ve been taking a lot of recipes lately from Smitten Kitchen. It hasn’t been intentional, but understandable, especially when her combination of simple recipes and gorgeous photographs appeared in my Google reader day after day during the month of November. How could I resist?

Basically, I couldn’t, and not one, not two, not three—but five of her recipes landed in my baking queue, all in a row. They go as follows …


These are pumpkin swirl brownies. I baked them for a recent SCR meeting. SCR stands for Southern California Review, the student-edited and run literary journal of the MPW. I am taking over as editor-in-chief next semester, and I am stoked at the new position. It’s an appointment that has an air of possibility to it—something that could lead to something else—and this unknown aspect excites me. These brownies were well-received, even though one Facebooker commented that they looked a little gross, which I guess is true. The orange and brown color combo looks a bit, well, 1970s, doesn’t it?


I can’t remember why exactly I made these crispy salted oatmeal white chocolate cookies. The name is a mouthful, I know, but so are the cookies. They reminded me of a recipe that my grandma, the one who looked like Yoda in her older years, made—Special K cookies. Leave it up to an Estonian to take a supposed diet food and turn it into something unhealthy. My memory of those cookies—the crispness of the cereal against the smooth sweetness of the butterscotch morsels—is still incredibly vivid. My only complaint was that there were never enough of the chips in the batter, and would eat them in a way that my final bite would be a mouthful of butterscotch. That was not a problem with these updated cookies, as chunks of white chocolate occasionally dominated the rest of the dough. The play of salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth is very successful in this recipe.


As it is in these as well—chocolate toffee cookies! You’ll have to excuse my exuberance over these little brown gems, but just look at them! Decadent chocolate and lovely melted toffee chips, all offset with the crunch of walnuts and sea salt on top. What’s not to love? Nothing—these are drop-dead awesome cookies. An interesting trend to point out here: a remarkable amount of cookie recipes that I’ve come across lately have included the step to  sprinkle sea salt atop the unbaked dough before their turn in the oven. Odd, you might think, but the concept is the same as sprinkling salt on watermelon or mango—it brings the sweetness out even more, and it is a welcome addition.


What would Thanksgiving be without at least one cranberry recipe? Not much of one, and since our Thanksgiving “dinner” started at eleven in the morning this year, I thought these meyer lemon and fresh cranberry scones would tide our hungry guests over before the main event. And boy did they. I made these in two batches, one in the morning and one in the evening, so that people could eat them for breakfast the next day. Okay well one person in particular. Yeah, I guess now would be a good time to mention that that silly online dating website finally spat out a good one. That’s all I’m gonna say about that here and now, you know, for brevity’s sake. It’s still casual; no definition has been placed on the relationship beyond that of “dating.” But yes, it’s nice to have someone to bake things for, and also yes, there is a reason why the phrase “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is a cliché—’cause clichés are generally true … but ahem, anyway, look at this awesome picture!


This is a dark chocolate tart with gingersnap crust! Incidentally, do you know how hard it is to find a tart pan? I should have gone directly to the kitchen supply store, but instead I schlepped to three other places beforehand. On the weekend after Thanksgiving, of all times, for crying out loud. But I finally found one, and was able to make this delectable near-flourless chocolate concoction. December is the month of holiday merriment, including Christmas tree decorating parties like the one Clee and Steve threw. I love my old roommate and her husband and the baby they’re expecting in April. This was the last piece of tart saved from the party. What else can one say about pure chocolate? Not much. The only thing I could have wished for was that the ginger of the gingersnap crust was more prominent, and also that I’d had a food processor to more finally grind the cookies up into a proper crust, but alas, I cannot have it all.

If I bake six more recipes in the next two-and-a-half weeks, I will reach 52—an average of one recipe per week for 2008. It’s an unintentioned goal, but since I’m so close now, I may as well at least try. Will I be able to do it? I hope so. I’ve already got several things in the docket, like this and this and probably that. Oh, and most definitely this, even though technically it doesn’t require baking. I think I’ll go ahead and count it, though.