Girl Versus Dough

a baker’s dozen: my top 13 essential baking tools

essential baking tools chart

Happy 2016, friends! This post is the first in a short series I’ll be doing this month on the blog called “A Baker’s Dozen.” Each week, I’ll share a post with 13 (get it?) tips, tricks and/or tools to help you become a better baker (though I think you’re pretty great already). Today’s post: My top 13 essential baking tools. Enjoy!

There have been — ahem — moments in my life as a baker when I have come to realize one of the following: a) I am using the absolute wrong tool (apologies to the challah that was burned alive by me baking it with wax paper), b) I don’t own the tool I need (apologies to the countless cookies and truffles that I’ve tried to shape and instead assaulted with unwieldy spoons and c) I have so many tools I never use (I’m looking at you, cupcake batter separator). It’s been a long and winding road of crimes committed to my baked goods by the wrong tools, the missing tools, the unnecessary tools, and I wish I could say I’ve left that life behind completely and am now in a state of complete kitchen optimization — but alas, I still have that batter separator stored away somewhere.

But I digress. Because maybe you’ve made the resolution that 2016 is your year to bake the perfect loaf of bread. Or maybe you made out like a gift card bandit at Christmas and you’re looking to invest in quality baking tools to step up your cake-baking game. Or maybe you’re just really tired of having your drawers and cabinets filled with things like batter separators and you’re finally ready to be a grownup and clean out all the clutter, all of it, the entire house, and you won’t rest until it’s all cleared and only stocked with the necessities! (My husband is reading this and shaking his head at my crazy right now.)

pomegranate kir royale

pomegranate kir royale cocktails

Happy week-after-Christmas and week-before-the-New-Year, friends! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas filled with family, food, love and maybe some presents you asked for from Santa.

I spent the long weekend in Chicago with my family. We munched on spinach dip with Hawaiian bread (a perennial favorite of ours for the holidays), sipped on warm glögg mulled with slices of citrus and cinnamon sticks, played Pictionary and maybe also this game once or three times, and opened gifts on Christmas Eve and Day. I got cozy scarves and a Boos cutting board and my husband got the most complicated Swiss Army knife I’ve ever seen and this (no, seriously). As for Avery, she was spoiled by the addition of a talking teapot and a Cozy Coupe to her toy collection, as well as all the girly clothes a little lady could ever want.

We also went to see Star Wars on Saturday and watched Christmas Vacation that night, and somewhere between there I made these pomegranate Kir Royale cocktails as an extension of the holiday festivities/preemptive celebration of New Year’s Eve. And because of the restraints of this winter sunshine (or lack thereof), I had to make them in the late morning. No matter. They were still well received.

merry christmas

Just popping in to say Merry Christmas! From my family to yours, we wish you a most joy-filled and blessed holiday.

xo

nutty blue cheese spread

nutty blue cheese spread with crackers

This is the week, you guys. This is the week for which all of the cookies have been baked, the jars have been filled, the gifts have been wrapped, the hot cocoas with giant marshmallows have been sipped, the stockings have been hung, the music has been played. It’s the final countdown to Christmas, the day of glad tidings, the day of His birth, the day of loved ones and mistletoe and making merry.

I’M SO READY.

This is my favorite holiday of them all for so many reasons. I can’t wait to see my family. I can’t wait to put glittery presents under their tinsel-covered Christmas tree. I can’t wait to drink Glühwein with my dad, make dessert with my mom, put coal in my brothers’ stockings (KIDDING, boys. Maybe.), join my husband as we watch our daughter’s eyes light up as she sees the magic of Christmas unfold in front of her. It’s all so whimsical, so magical, so delightfully holiday, I can’t even stand it. It all makes me so emotional, so nostalgic, so thankful, so joyful, so reflective that I can’t help sometimes but stand back and let it all unfold in front of me, too, like a child who has only experienced Christmas once before.

And when I come back into the fold, I’m ready to take it all in. Including this nutty blue cheese dip. YUMMEH.

ombré peppermint slice and bake cookies

Ombré Peppermint Slice and Bake Cookies

Today is the day! The day of ALL THE COOKIES.

It’s the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and these peppermint slice and bake cookies of an ombré nature are my contribution. It’s classic meets newfangled (is ombré even newfangled anymore? Do people even say “newfangled” anymore? My age is showing). It’s Christmas meets cookie meets get in my belly meets YUM.

The inspiration for this recipe comes from the cover of the December issue of Bon Appétit, which literally made me gasp with glee when I first saw it. The recipe in that issue for those particular cookies sounds pretty fantastic, but I needed a cookie that would hold up well being shipped cross-country, ergo the peppermint slice and bake route. I assure you, though, nothing was compromised in that decision.

rosemary cornmeal loaf with lingonberry butter

rosemary cornmeal loaf

Sorry I skipped out on you guys yesterday! It was a ridiculously busy weekend — all with good things, like Christmas parties and pizza and cookies and minty mochas and babies and cozy couch talk with friends — so busy that I plumb ran out of time to get this recipe up and ready for yesterday. It’s probably for the best, though, because if I had tried to get this post up on this particular Monday, all you may have read was “Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.”

But, Tuesday! Tuesday is a happy day. Tuesday means Christmas is one day sooner than it was yesterday (unless that freaks you out because you have purchased exactly zero presents for people, in which case, maybe head over to Amazon after reading this post), Tuesday means it’s one day closer to the weekend, Tuesday means I’m a little more awake and therefore able to legitimately share this rosemary cornmeal loaf recipe with you. With lingonberry butter. Hold me.