When you feel like you’re failing at your hobby

Snickerdoodles and Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s been over 3 months since I last updated, and while I needed to take the time away from my stand mixer to deal with the challenges life was throwing at me and focus on moving and then going on my very first international trip, I still felt guilty about not keeping up with the things I loved doing: Baking and writing about it.

Clearly, having to pack up the townhouse, move into a smaller apartment, unpack and settle took time and energy. But it’s done now. I have my kitchen and work table set up; my Kitchenaid has it’s place on a freshly painted bookcase (it’s teal, which makes the red mixer pop … I’ve even had guests mention how I’ve displayed it as functional art); and all my bakeware is tucked into cute over-the-cabinet baskets … that are so high over my head I have to grab a step stool. Ok. So maybe I didn’t make it TOO easy to get back into the swing of things.

Treat Yo Self Waffle Cupcakes

Before moving, I made “Parks and Rec” themed Cinnamon vanilla “Treat Yo Self!” cupcakes with maple buttercream for a coworker’s bridal shower, and it felt all right. It was like I was on autopilot when I was baking. But my coworker loved the dessert, and her smile reminded me of why I, and so many bakers, do this. But it didn’t kick my butt back into gear.

It’s a weird place to be in … baking was what I did to relieve stress. To be creative. And then I’d come here, post my Instagrammed photos (très chic, eh?), and share a recipe and some words of advice. And sometimes I’d get feedback! And it was awesome. So why is it so hard now?

I think this is natural … I baked my butt off for 3 years, and now I’m in a lull. I’m not doing a cupcake a week (though there’s a chance people would be up for it). I finished up my caramel corn/cookie club. Even my writing gig with Table Matters came to a close as a new editor came in and shelved that site at the end of 2014.

But between reader Lori T. leaving a comment about how much she enjoyed making my Root Beer Float cupcakes the other day and knowing that my parents would enjoy some cookies as belated birthday and Mother’s Day gifts, I got back into the kitchen last night. I started with a simple snickerdoodle, and as the dough chilled, I started making a variation on my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (mainly because I was out of brown sugar and molasses).

I scooped. I rotated pans in the oven. I slid warm cookies off their baking pans and on to cooling racks. And while I didn’t necessarily feel triumphant, I remembered that I AM a baker. Even when I’m not doing it regularly, or when I’m not creating some sort of off the wall recipe.

I don’t have a firm plan for this blog. I want to get back into baking and sharing, but I think it’ll need to be done in a more relaxed, non-scheduled way (which is SO different from my editorial multi-schedule day job!). And when I don’t feel like writing about baking, but want to put SOMETHING out there, find me over here: Back to Philly.

Hey there National Pizza Day!

Homemade pizza


I found out a little late, but yes, today — Feb. 9 — is National Pizza Day. Of course, it seems like every day of the year is National Something or Another, but pizza has always been one of my favorite things to make. It’s a great party entree, perfect for a small dinner when you size it down … and you know. It’s PIZZA!

So to celebrate, here’s a recipe for pizza dough that I’ve used for several years. It’s trusted, true, and makes enough to either prep 2 pizzas for a party or 4 pizzas for two!

Homemade pizza with marinara

Homemade crust, homemade marinara sauce, pickled banana peppers, sage, basil, rosemary, mozzarella and fresh cracked pepper.


Perfect Pizza Dough

  • 1 lb bread flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey or sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 8 oz water, room temperature
  • Optional: fresh cracked pepper, herbs
  • Selection of delicious sauces and toppings

Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and combine the flour, oil, honey (or sugar), salt, and yeast in the bowl.

Pour in the water and mix on low speed until combined, 1-2 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough becomes a pretty tight ball. It should be a little tacky, but should not stick to the bowl.

Spray a large mixing bowl (at least twice the size of the dough) with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around, coating all sides.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and ferment. You have 2 options here:

• Room temperature: Place the covered bowl in a slightly warm area and let the dough rise for 2-4 hours.

• Refrigerator: If you don’t have time to let the dough ferment at room temperature, or would like a slightly-sweet dough, refrigerate for at least 8 hours before working with it. Bring up to room temperature before working with the dough.

Once you’re ready to divide the dough, lightly flour your work surface. Place the dough on it and divide it into 4 (for pizzas that will serve 2 people 2 slices) or 2 (for a pizza that will fit a traditional pizza pan).

Wrap the dough pieces up in plastic wrap and freeze what you’re not using.

For the piece of dough you are using, shape it and place it on a lightly floured pizza pan (or use a pizza stone, if that’s your thing).

To bake, heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Prebake the crust with nothing on it for 5 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven, add your toppings, and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes (or until your cheese is either melty or golden, depending on your cheese).


2015: What will be the ‘new cupcake’?

What's the new cupcake infographic

Source: Slate.com

Thanks to the Will Write for Food newsletter, I came across the chart above from a July 2014 post on Slate.com titled “Every Food That’s Ever Been Called ‘The New Cupcake’ in One Chart.”

I find it pretty fascinating that for the past 8 years, so many food writers have been calling for “the new cupcake.” From the Slate.com article:

Since the mid-2000s, food journalists and publicists have announced new trends by calling various foods “the new cupcake” literally hundreds of times. What is “the new cupcake” according to all these trend stories? We searched news database Nexis for the phrase “the new cupcake” and tallied every instance of its use in English language publications, whether it was a writer declaring doughnuts “the new cupcakes,” wondering whether frozen yogurt was the “new cupcake,” or quoting someone else asserting that pie was “the new cupcake.”

How about this? What if we stop looking for “the new cupcake” in 2015 and simply recognize new and interesting desserts as they come along? Or acknowledge when a retro dessert makes its way back into the limelight?

CFP turns 4 and gets a new, furry moniker

Table Matters Baked Goods

It’s that time again … this little blog turns 4 today, and as it (and I) have grown and changed, it’s time for a new name.

The name Squirrelly Girl Bakes came to me as I thought about potential bakeshop names. I adore squirrels and all their furry weirdness, and somehow the name just seems perfect for a little bakery tucked into a quite town … somewhere.

I’m no closer to figuring out if and when I might open a shop than I was a year ago, but one thing I know I want is a departure from cupcakes. Sure, I’ll still make them, and share the recipes, but the actual Project behind Cupcake Friday has come to an end. While I’m still learning a lot about baking, I haven’t really learned anything new from toting cupcakes across state lines to share with coworkers.

I’m also continuing to develop new cookie and caramel club recipes for my select monthly club, and I might even stretch into the realm of sharing other baked items of the more savory nature … can we say pizza?

2015 is a big year of change for me. I recently turned 33, will be moving in a couple months, am finalizing a fairly heartbreaking divorce, and doing who knows what else.

But I can promise that when I’m baking, you’ll read about it.

Here’s to this darling little blog turning 4, to getting a new name, and to all of you wonderful readers. You’re great.

[Sidenote: I’m still shifting everything over, but cupcakefridayproject.com will redirect. All my wordpress links will still be CFP, because, well, that’s WP, but you’ll still find everything. I’m also in the process of changing the Facebook page name … that is currently under a 14-day waiting period. Feel free to point out anything else I may have missed!]

Cupcake Friday Project’s 2014

Cupcake Friday Project's 2014 stats
2014 is drawing to a close … and I’m not sorry to say that I look forward to it ending. Now, I know that for many, 2014 has been a great year, and I’m happy for all of you and the joy that entered your lives. Sadly, that was not the case for me, and I can see that reflected here on my blog.

In 2013, I wrote 103 new posts, co-hosted an event, held fundraisers for She’s the First and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and did a lot of baking. But in 2014, I only wrote 43 posts. I didn’t bake for any fundraisers, I didn’t host events … and I stopped bringing in treats to work.

What changed? Well, I had a lot of things — both good and bad — going on in my life. But because I want to think of myself as a positive person, let’s look at some of the great stuff I achieved in 2014 … things that I may not have shared here:

Cookie Monster cycling jersey

My fellow cyclists LOVED my jersey! I earned the nickname “Cookie” and was asked often if I had cookies to share. Sadly, I did not.

I participated in my first Bike MS City to Shore Ride, biking 45 miles in late September and raising $1,601. I’ll be back next year, this time maybe riding 80 miles if I can get the training in, otherwise I’ll be riding a solid 45.

Working on Luscious Bakery's Food Truck

Vending at The Oval, right outside the beautiful Philadelphia Art Museum.

I’ve always loved food trucks, but in 2014 I got to actually work on one. Though I only worked on the Luscious Bakery truck a handful of times, mainly due to my 9-5 style work schedule, I consider the shifts Jamie offered me hugely influential. I got to learn another side of the bakery business, and learn directly from someone I consider a wonderful friend and mentor. I hope to spend more time on “Marcia” in 2015, and watch Jamie’s business grow and flourish.

My Table Matters Writing Portfolio

Maybe one of the main reasons I didn’t write as often here is due to the fact that from May-November, I developed recipes and wrote for Table Matters. In total, I wrote 8 articles, ranging from personal stories about family trips to CNY and shortcake to how to make best use of the bounty of figs in the early fall. I even pitched the idea of tackling my Grandma Betty’s Hungarian Chocolate Cake again, this time finding a quiet success in the deep chocolate layers of the cake. I shared 21 recipes during that time period, often using ideas I had put on the back burner, just waiting for a good reason.

Cookie and Caramel Corn Club goodies

Top, left to right: pecan pie caramel corn; blueberries and cream cookies; sriracha peanut butter cookies; Middle, left to right: peanut butter chocolate delights; salted caramel corn; matcha green tea cookies with crystallized ginger; Bottom, left to right: cacao nib and orange shortbread; chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles; peanut butter and jelly caramel corn

I also began a small, mail order cookie and caramel corn club in 2014, with a handful of dedicated customers. To date, I have baked more than 35 dozen cookies and over 13.75 lbs of caramel corn. I took November and December off, but will finish up my club offerings during 1Q of 2015. Then who knows what I’ll do next! Some of the recipes have been posted here, with more to come, and others to perfect.

By my counts, I developed 34 new recipes in 2014, though only a handful made it to this blog. They break down into:

  • 12 cookie recipes
  • 8 caramel corn recipes
  • 5 pie/tart recipes
  • 3 cupcake recipes
  • 2 cake recipes
  • 1 blondie recipe
  • 1 brittle recipe
  • 1 brownie recipe
  • 1 scone recipe

Looking at all of this, I can see that while I may have only published fewer than 50 posts in 2014, I did a lot. And sometimes you need to take a closer look before you throw your hands up in the air and say “I got nothing accomplished!” Because all of this is evidence that I did do a lot this year.

So what will 2015 bring? Jan. 28 will be Cupcake Friday Project’s 4th anniversary … it’s kind of amazing to look back at the last 4 years of blogging and see every I did. I hope to continue writing for Table Matters, and may begin pitching a few other food publications. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

For all of you, I hope that 2015 brings you light and love, butter and sugar, and as many good things as possible. Until next year!

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Snacktime delight cookies

Snacktime Delight Cookies: 2014 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is back for 2014, marking it’s 4th year! From the site:

The GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year’s cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.

The swap is partnered with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, which is a fantastic nonprofit, and supported by sponsors such as OXO and Dixie Crystals. And it’s just really a lot of fun.

I’ve been participating in the swap since 2012, and have baked up recipes such as Chocolate toffee chip cookies with almonds and smoked sea salt and Dark chocolate caramel corn delights.

For this year, I took my favorite chocolate chip cookie base and mixed in pretzels and ruffled potato chips to make a fun snacktime-style cookie. They’re buttery, salty and just the right level of sweetness.

Snacktime Delight Cookies Packaged for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

I also received some really lovely cookies, ranging from  soft chocolate cookies from Sara of Sensibly Sara (they melt in your mouth!), chocolate chip cranberry cookies from Crystal of Mrs. Happy Homemaker, and Hononghjerter from Ba-Li Cravings. But most importantly, the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap raises money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

Do you have a food blog and want to participate next year? Sign up here to receive notifications about when the 2014 swap will start to organize and do your part to share some cheer over the holidays and raise money to help some really wonderful kids. It’s good for the soul.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Snacktime delight cookies

Yields: 40 cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 10 oz (approximately 2 cups) flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 oz (approximately 3/4 cup) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 oz (approximately 1/2 tightly packed cup plus 2 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 oz crumbled pretzels
  • 3 oz crumbled ruffled potato chips

Melt the butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat.

Cook the butter, swirling regularly, until the butter is browned and has a nutty aroma. This should take about 5-7 minutes, depending on the strength of your stovetop.

Whisk in the ice water (which replaces the moisture cooked out while browning the butter), and cool in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine both sugars, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix on medium high speed until the mixture is golden, about 5 minutes.

Set the mixer on low and slowly pour in the browned butter. Once added, turn the speed up to medium and mix until combined.

On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping down when necessary.

Add the chocolate chips, pretzels and potato chips, mixing gently to combine.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill the cookie dough for at least 8 hours or up to 72 hours.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line cookie sheets with either parchment or baking silicone.

Scoop the cookies onto the sheet, leaving at least 1.5 inches between cookies.

Bake for 7 minutes, then rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for an additional 6-7 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and place on cooling racks. After about 5 minutes, the cookies can be transferred off of the cookie sheet and directly onto the rack.

Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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