I am so excited to again share with you this awesome penpal system that Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean has been hosting for the past several months.  I told you about it in this post, but to refresh your memory it is simply an exchange where you get paired with a fellow foodie and you have a spending limit of $15 to send someone a package full of some of your favorite treats and finds and you get a package in return!  Pretty great idea, right?

This month my Foodie Penpal was Matt from Fave Diets and he hooked me up with some great goodies!

He fed my cookbook addiction with these 2 fabulous books that I cannot wait to try and review!

He also knew that I love to bake so he sent me some Stevia sweeteners to try.  I have been using the Lemon Drop one in water to help me drink more!

I sent a package to Alexandria at Eat Well Run Well so head on over to see what I sent her!

And best of all, if you would like to participate in next month’s Foodie Penpal exchange here is what you need to know:

-On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treatsThe spending limit is $15The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

**The BIG news this month is that we’re going to do a trial run in Canada.  I’m still not exactly sure how it will work with shipping costs and stuff since I’m not sure you guys up North have flat rate shipping boxes, but if you’re willing to give it a try for a month and provide me with some feedback, that would be awesome!

Sound like fun? If you’re interested in participating for February, please send  an email to Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:
-Your full name
-Your email address
-Your blog name/address
-Your twitter handle (if applicable)
WHETHER YOU ARE A US RESIDENT OR CANADIAN RESIDENT. – this is SUPER important so I can get you on the right list!

Have a great week and I hope you will consider participating!

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I have shared many treats with you from one of my favorite cookbooks Baked Explorations.

This to-die-for Monkey Bubble Bread was a masterpiece from that book.

And let’s not forget that the best brownies I have ever had (aka Sweet and Salty Brownies) are another glorious invention from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

The book also has some more savory offerings such as these Honey Corn Muffins.

What I have never shared with you is what constitutes a great cookbook in my opinion.  There are so many books out there and I think that reviews are a great way to know what you are getting before you invest and add to your collection.  So a couple of times a month from now on, I plan to share my review of one of the many cookbooks in my collection.

About the author:  I like to hear what the author’s intention was when writing the book.  Has she had great success at her bakery in NYC and now wants to share her much-loved and coveted recipes with you and the rest of the world?  Has he put his unique spin on classic recipes and wants to share his new ideas and techniques?  Do they want to supply their readers with everything that they would need to host a fancy meal for any occasion?  This statement of intent can often be found in a preface or introduction to a cookbook and I think that it can give you an insightful perspective as to where the author is coming from.

Recipe appeal:  Does just reading the names of the recipes and viewing the photos in the book make me want to drool?  If so, that is a good sign for a book.

Photos:  My number one priority for a cookbook is great photos accompanying most (ideally all) of the recipes.  It is always nice to see a beautifully styled photo of what you are attempting to create.  Also, if the author is trying to show you a certain technique, a smart layout with step-by-step images is so helpful and reassuring.

Story:  Another feature of a cookbook that I enjoy is some type of narrative or explanation with each recipe.  I also appreciate special notes or tips for successful execution.  It’s great to be told that a recipe can be made ahead or special instructions for how to store the finished product.  And I love to hear the story about how the recipes from the cookbook came to be or who’s grandmother they were passed down from.

Organization:  I live for organization.   Nothing gives me satisfaction like organizing a drawer or closet or even filing my torn-out recipes into appropriate categories in a binder does.  Call me Type A.  Call me a perfectionist.  I just love it.  So it should not surprise you that I lap up a great table of contents and well organized chapters.

    

(source)

So now that we have discussed what I look for in a good cookbook, let’s talk Baked Explorations!

Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito open their second book with a delightful description from Matt about how desserts have changed the way that he plans vacations.  He gives relatable examples of how the trips he plans now must include a quest for a particular dessert that the area is well-known for or a visit to a famous bakery in the area.  He explains that this book is dedicated to celebrating desserts that are traditional in different parts of the country and some that are wonderful but have somehow been forgotten about.

I feel that Matt is so accurate in his introduction when he says,

“Desserts like fashion, are highly influenced by cycles and trends.  If you were afloat in a sea of lava cake (aka molten chocolate cake) during the nineties, you were not alone.  The dessert was on every restaurant menu (regardless of cuisine and price point) throughout the decade.  As of this writing, spiking desserts with bacon is de rigueur.  These fashions are part of a natural cycle.  Lava cake will slowly fade into misty, dew-covered nostalgia, and bacon-flavored chocolate will become a fleeting trend, like parachute pants.  When Renato and I dig through our pile of neglected desserts, we like to focus on investigating those beauties that lived through a few heady trend cycles and then were unjustly tossed to the gutter, like grasshopper pie.”

I love that!  Desserts being like fashion trends is so true!  Hello cupcake shops on every corner.  French macarons becoming common on every bakery menu.  I could not agree with Matt more.  And I appreciate that he and Renato dedicate this cookbook to all of the regional American baked goods that were classics in their own time and place but have been brushed aside somewhat or lost in translation.

Baked Explorations offers some serious recipe appeal.  Tell me what could be wrong with Nutella Scones?  Yes, I would love to eat a piece of Double-Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread for breakfast.   Thank you for asking!

(source:  Baked Explorations)

If you didn’t want an Almond Joy Tart, I would begin to wonder what was wrong with you!

(source:  Baked Explorations)

There is a Whiskey Pear Tart and you might say “Whiskey??”  But the author describes that the whiskey “sexes things up with smokey undertones”.  Ok, if you say so, I’m totally on board.  I can’t wait to make the Salt-N-Pepper Sandwich Cookies which are sure to be a sweet and savory treat.

(source:  Baked Explorations)

They tackle classic Whoopie Pies, Black and White Cookies, Buckeyes and too many yummy looking cakes to name.

The photos in this book are absolutely stunning as you can see.  There is an old-world nostalgic feel to them.  While there is only about 1 photo per 3-4 recipes, the quality of the images is enough to keep me satisfied.

In addition to the photos and drool-worthy recipes, one of my favorite things about this book is that there is a witty and entertaining introduction to each recipe.  Where in the world did Strawberry Jell-o Salad come from and why did Matt and Renato choose to include it in this book?  Oh let them tell you.  Is Budino anything other than Italian pudding and why is fresh made pudding so much better than store-bought?  You will learn.

As far as organization, this book does not miss the mark.  The 200+ page book is divided into five simple chapters:  Breakfast, Tarts and Pies, Cookies and Bars, Cakes and Confections and Pastry.  There are also helpful tips about tools, equipment, brand recommendations and measurements.

I hope you have gathered from my words how much I love this book and that I would highly recommend it to anyone with any interest at all in baking.

Wondering where to buy your copy?  I most often find that Amazon has the best prices for new books.  CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY OF BAKED EXPLORATIONS.

What did you think of my first cookbook review?  Helpful?  Interesting?  Any books you would like to see reviewed?

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So it’s time to reveal this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge!  If you remember, back in November I shared this very challenging cake with you and explained a little bit about the Daring Bakers.

This month’s challenge was much more manageable and so easy and fun to make.  Who doesn’t love a good biscuit?  Or scone as they are referred to in other parts of the world.  Sure, they only have a few ingredients and are relatively simple to make, but ask anyone who has failed at attempting to make biscuits and they will tell you that just a few too many kneads or not using the ingredients at the right temperature and you may end up with hard, unappetizing biscuits that resemble hockey pucks more than you would actually like to admit.

But with a few helpful tips and fresh ingredients, you can make light, tall and flakey biscuits in literally just a few minutes.  Before you know it, you will be smearing a warm and tender biscuit with honey, butter or whatever your little heart desires.

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

Tips for making successful biscuits:

  • Butter and milk must be cold because the chunks of butter are what result in a flakey biscuit (and we want flakey biscuits)
  • Dough must not be overworked or your scones will be hard hockey pucks
  • Make sure your ingredients are fresh and more specifically your baking powder.  How to tell if baking powder is fresh?  Add a 1/2 tsp of baking powder to warm water and it should bubble.  What about baking soda?  Add the same amount to some vinegar and again look for bubbles.  No bubbles=time for new leavening agents!

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 combine dry ingredients and sift together

cut in cold butter until looks like tiny peas (coarse meal)

mix in milk

pour dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead minimally

flatten out dough to about 3/4 thick and cut biscuits

bake

What would you like to slather onto one of these tender,  flakey biscuits?

 

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I know, I don’t really need to write anything else do I?

Sometimes when I make things I just know they are extra special.

For example, when I made these Coffee-spiked Chocolate Caramel Bars I knew they were the bomb dot com.  Yes, I really just said that.

And I had a feeling these Coconut M&M Cookie Bars would be a hit.

And when my sister and I whipped up these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream and Peanut Butter Cups, I had a feeling I would be adding these to my all time favorites list.

Chocolate and peanut butter is by far my favorite flavor combination and so I knew I would like these cupcakes, but what I didn’t realize was just how much the chocolate buttercream and peanut butter cups on top would put them over the edge!  This is the best chocolate frosting I have ever made!  It was just the right amount of rich chocolate flavor and then the subtle saltiness from the peanut butter cup chunks was simply perfection.

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combine peanut butter and butter

add brown sugar, then eggs

combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl

alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to the peanut butter mixture

add chocolate chips

drop batter into prepared pans bake, cool and decorate

 

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When I started this blog last summer, I don’t think I fully comprehended what I was in for.  Really all I knew was that I was excited to share recipes with my friends and family.  What I didn’t know was how obsessed with lighting I would become.  Yes, you read correctly.  Getting the right lighting to make your food photography pop is enough to make a person pull her hair out.  I didn’t know how many amazingly talented people there are on the this thing called the world wide web!  And when I started this blog I had no idea what camaraderie I would feel with other bloggers and how wonderfully supportive the whole community is.

Which brings me to why I am so excited for today’s post!  I have been drawn to Cassie since I first started following her over at Bake Your Day.  There are just some people that seem to exude sunshine and have such a bright personality and positive attitude and Cassie seems to be one of those rare people.  She is always posting the most delicious recipes with beautiful photos and also shares stories about her sweet relationship with her husband.  I am so grateful and honored to host her here today!

Hello Satisfy My Sweet Tooth readers!  I am Cassie and I blog about food and life at Bake Your Day.  I love food, and people, and life and I was so thrilled when Mercedes asked me to guest post for her.  One thing that I love so much about blogging is all of the other amazing and talented bloggers out there.  Mercedes is one of them!  We have similar writing and cooking styles so I am excited to share a new recipe with you today!

It’s absolutely no secret that I love cookies.  But with attempts at starting the year on a healthy note, a big batch of cookies is not exactly a smart move.  I’m pretty sold on these individual batches of cookies.  What’s not to love about individual servings?!  I started playing around with the recipe after I made this big oatmeal cookie.  It’s so fluffy and just sweet enough.  I topped it with sprinkles because, well, who doesn’t love sprinkles?

Thanks Mercedes for having me on your site.  Enjoy!  XO ~ Cassie

 

Enjoy and thank you Cassie!

 

 

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