This will be my first semester not in school since...well, since I was in kindergarten. Needless to say, it's going to be weird, just as it has been for probably everyone before me. I have no doubt, though, that I will not miss the homework. Especially after last semester, which almost killed me. Nope, I have a personal goal of continuing to read nonfiction throughout my life, but the key is to find well-written nonfiction. It's difficult. But I digress. The real issue I think I'm going to have is not having long term projects to work on. I'm better when I know where I'm headed and what I need to do.
So one way I will fix that is giving myself baking goals. I figure writing about said goals will help me keep to them. So here are eight (well, seven solid ones and an eighth iffy one) goals for me to achieve by the end of the year. December 31. Not too tough, right? Well, I hope not. Some of these things are affected by weather (macarons and humidity don't get along well, so those will be set aside for a bit until Kansas decides to calm down weather-wise). But I'm hopeful.
1. Macarons — The French version, not the American, which is full of (nasty nasty) coconut. They're delicate cookies that are piped and then sandwiched around a filling. I've tried them at Dean and Deluca, and they were pretty tasty. They have a crunchy exterior but the inside of the cookie is soft. I think they'll take a bit of work, and some experimentation with flavor. I'm not big on fruit+chocolate in dessert (this macaron was raspberry with chocolate filling). I think these will be accomplished with the help of Aunt Betty. Edit: Goal met in August. Click here to see the macarons I made.
2. Jayhawk cake pops — I've been practicing cake pops lately just to get a feel for them, but I think I want to make some that look like Jayhawks for football tailgating soon. I hope to base them off of these Sesame Street Big Bird ones...but this will take some practice. I'd just like to know I can decorate these to look like something rather than a sphere covered in sprinkles.
3. Fondant-covered cake — Which leads me here. My cake experience in the last year has mostly been with the ice cream variety, but all that Ace of Cakes I watch (and Food Network Challenge, and etc., and you get the idea) makes me want to try out this smooth finish for cakes. I know it's a lot harder than people make it look, so this might take some practice. I would like to make this a goal for football tailgating too. Maybe a Jayhawk head? Or maybe an easier shape, like a football. Whatever. There are some amazing cake decorators out there though, so I have quite a bit of places to pull tips from. Edit: Okay, I didn't cover a cake completely, but I made a bow out of fondant for my grandma's 90th birthday cake. I plan to work with it more, but for now, this is it. Click here to see the cake.
4. Maple leaf candies — My stepmom is from Canada, and in my multiple visits up north, got hooked on maple leaf candies like these. This stuff is addictive, probably because it's pretty much just sugar. What's not to like? I tried making these once in high school and failed miserably, so now, with my well-stocked kitchen and slightly increased knowledge, I want to try making them again. Especially because one maple leaf at the store costs $4. Sheesh! Edit: Goal met in October. It was technically maple fudge, and not leaf-shaped, but it tasted the same. I think it counts. Click here to see it.
5. Marshmallows — Yup, homemade marshmallows! Another candy-like item I want to try, specifically after seeing this Etsy site Mia Mallows. Mango marshmallows, lime marshmallows, pineapple, peppermint, peanut butter, etc. I think I will start with plain ones like Alton Brown makes in this recipe. This might wait till later on when it starts getting cold so I can put them in my grandma's homemade hot chocolate. Mmmm. Edit: Goal met in August. Click here to see my first homemade marshmallows.
6. Buche de Noel — Another holiday item, basically a giant swiss roll made to look like a log. I actually had it in my high school French class because it's another traditional French dessert, like macarons. I've been wanting to make a roll-up cake for a while, so a holiday one seems like a good goal to have. Edit: Goal met in December. Click here for my Christmas Buche de Noel.
7. Doughnuts — When I visited Mary in New York last year, I got a doughnut cutter. I have yet to use it. I think that's a little ridiculous, so doughnuts of some sort (likely cake, and possibly these devil's food ones) are on the list. Edit: Goal met in September...twice. Click here for my chocolate glazed doughnuts and here for my apple cider ones.
8. Frosted sugar cookies (my partial goal) — Okay, frosted cookies seem pretty basic, right? The kind I'm talking are iced with royal icing and decorated impeccably, a skill I'm not sure I can master in a few months. So I'm setting a goal to try royal icing and start experimenting, and improve. Take a look at some of these amazing cookies others have made (and I hope I can someday make): margaritas, princesses, beer and hot dogs, popcorn, animal crackers and many many more. So you can see why this is long term rather than instantaneous, yes? Edit: Goal met in September for my first Daring Bakers' Challenge. Click here for my fall-themed cookies.
I've also signed up for something called the Daring Baker challenge, a monthly challenge where bloggers around the country make the exact same recipe of some really difficult/obscure dessert and see how they all end up. I'm not approved yet, though, so hopefully I can actually do it!
So those are my baking goals. I have a couple other minor things in there I want to do, like some vegan baking, but that is what I'm trying next week :) So hopefully this keeps me busy, at least for a while!