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Community Design Photo Contest

Before the holidays, I was contacted by LiveJournal about working with them to create a new (professional!) design for cooking that was more user-friendly, organized and attractive. They'd also like to help us promote the community on LJ in other communities and sites (including promotional placement on the LJ homepage).

On the topic of the design, though; we'd like to hold a photo contest here so that the community is represented in the design as well! Photos will be arranged in a collage for the header of the community. We will need at least five photos for this, and the exact number will be based on how many submissions (and therefore placements) we receive.

  1. Submitted photos must be photos you took yourself.

  2. Submitted photos must be cooking/food-related and not have a promotion or advertisement of any kind.

  3. Each person may submit up to two (2) photos in a comment to this post. All comments are screened.

  4. Photos should be at least 800px wide.

  5. Retouching is permitted for things like contrast, brightening, etc. but try not to go overboard with it.

  6. Photos must be submitted before 11:59PM EST on Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 Tuesday, February 24th 2015 @ 11:59PM EST (will extend if needed).

The top 3 entrants will receive a free paid account that lasts a year! \o/

Submission form for submitting one photo:

Submission form for submitting two photos:

Almond Coconut Pastry Braid

I'm a little braid-crazy right now. I can't help it; this dough is the BEST EVER to work with. No chilling needed and it rolls out beautifully with minimal flour and minimal effort. If you're afraid of working with dough, THIS is the perfect beginner recipe for you! And look how pretty it is!

I stuffed this braid with a butter-almond-coconut concoction that is absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

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To see photos showing how to fold the braid, read about how critically embarrassed middle schoolers can be, and see more photos of the finished product, come see the full post on Willow Bird Baking!

x-posted to food_porn, picturing_food, cooking, bakebakebake

Simple Sandwich Spreads: Pimento Cheese (and a link to Olive Cream Cheese)

I LOVE pimento cheese and sometimes I get the biggest craving for a pimento-cheese-on-white-bread sandwich and a Coke. I have realized that homemade pimento cheese is VASTLY superior to the weird-orange store-bought kind (don't get me wrong, I love that crazy neon stuff too), and I've spent quite awhile perfecting the recipe!

This is simply the best pimento cheese ever: extra sharp cheddar, pimentos, perfect seasoning, and a jalapeño kick! Making this in the food processor will result in a more puréed condiment, while mixing by hand will leave things textured. I prefer the latter for presentation's sake, but the former when I'm in a hurry. Either way, this pimento cheese is ALWAYS better after being allowed to sit and meld in the fridge for a day before serving.

If you want to click over to the blog, I also include a recipe for Olive Cream Cheese in honor of a friend, Edward, who just passed away. It was his nostalgic childhood favorite.

What's your favorite simple sandwich?

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To grab the Olive Cream Cheese recipe, read about Edward, and see more photos, come see the full post on Willow Bird Baking!

x-posted to food_porn, picturing_food, cooking, cookingupastorm

Lemon Cheesecake Braid

It's another pastry braid!! Because I'm obsessed.

This is actually my favorite braid so far, and that's saying a lot. I'm a huge fan of lemon, and this Lemon Cheesecake Braid is the perfect breakfast or dessert. The pastry gets crisp and and the filling is absolutely sublime. Again, these braids look totally fancy and will impress guests, but they're shockingly easy to make.

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To read about the precious family I used to babysit for and their current struggle, get braid assembly help, and see more photos, come see the full post on Willow Bird Baking!

x-posted to food_porn, picturing_food, cooking, bakebakebake

Vanilla sugar- how much when I'm using it to replace normal white sugar? (+ some muffin questions)

I got it as a gift and it smells just wonderful, btu I ahven't used it yet. I thought using it to replace the normal amount of sugar I use for making muffins would be a good idea, butis that wise? will it be too strong compared to normal sugar?

also, random, but sometimes (not always) while my muffins come out great and puddy and lovely, they kind of deflate a bit after I take them out. Thgey are still spft and moist and wonderful, but the top ends up kinda flattish (and not all of them, just some)...any idea why? and how to stop it?


Honey-Drizzled Cranberry Brie Pastry Braid

If you're having a New Year's Eve party (or even if you're just staying home in your jammies), this has to be on your table! This Honey-Drizzled Cranberry Brie Pastry Braid is totally gorgeous, absolutely delicious, shockingly easy! No, really, it's super simple to make.

Toast pecans for this recipe by baking them on a baking sheet for 4-6 minutes at 350 degrees F, tossing occasionally, until fragrant. If you wish, you can prepare this braid in advance: just complete all steps to assemble the braid, cover it with plastic wrap on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and refrigerate overnight. Set it out on the counter in the morning as the oven preheats, egg wash it, and then bake as usual. I included some photos on the blog that show the process of marking and assembling a Raspberry Almond Braid as an example. It’s super easy to do, but a little fiddly to explain in just words, so hopefully the photos will help.

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To read about how I was an accidental jerk in fourth grade, see braid assembly photos, and continue to bask in the glow of my blog redesign, come see the full post on Willow Bird Baking!

x-posted to food_porn, picturing_food, cooking, bakebakebake

Rum Baba

I often cook pastry with my son. We usually work in a kind of tandem. He loves to play with dough, and I like to eat it all.

To say the truth, it has become kind of tradition. And the initiative in most cases comes from my little son.

We have already cooked Gugelhupf with him, and we make Tiramisu very often, as well as lots of other desserts.

There are several recipes I brought from my trip to Armenia still waiting to be uploaded.

The procedure is usually the following: we sit down on a sofa with my laptop and my son chooses a dish by a photo. And the next day we cook it after buying all ingredients necessary.

This time my son has chosen this splendid Rum Baba: a great dessert on the Christmas Eve. One can enjoy it with a bottle of fine wine (but don’t give it to your child, OK?).

Dough ingredients:

  • 150 g flour

  • 6 g fresh (pressed) yeast

  • 65 g milk

  • 2 eggs

  • 60 g raisins

  • 20 g sugar

  • 20 g rum

  • 35 g butter


  • 1 l water

  • 500 g sugar

  • 100 g rum

  • 1 vanilla bean

  • Mint


  1. Prepare syrup first and then allow it to cool down, because hot rum baba shall be put in cold syrup.

  2. To prepare syrup, put water in a saucepan, add sugar, vanilla and mint.

  3. Bring to the boil, cook for 4-5 minutes, put aside to cool down.

  4. To prepare dough, mix all dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, salt) and put in a deep bowl.

  5. Warm the milk up to30ºC (86ºF), add yeast, eggs, rum and mix thoroughly.

  6. Add liquid composition to flour and mix for 15 minutes.

  7. The dough shall be elastic and not sticky.

  8. Finally, add butter previously warmed up to room temperature and cut in small pieces.

  9. Leave dough in a warm place (up to 40ºC, 104ºF) for 1 hour.

  10. After the dough has risen and become 3 times bigger, punch it down and put into baking cups (either silicone or metal).

  11. Leave the dough to rise once more (it will take about 20-30 minutes) and put into the oven for 35 minutes at 180ºC (356ºF).

  12. Babas shall become golden brown.

  13. Take hot pastry out of the forms and put immediately in cooled syrup.

  14. Turn babas over from time to time and syrup them, allowing syrup to soak in.

  15. Then put pastry on a metal grid, allowing extra syrup to drain away.

  16. Rum baba is best served well cooled with berries and mint syrup in a plate.

  17. And bon appetite! ... With love :)

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