Monday, May 30, 2011

Red, White, and Blueberry Muffins

For Memorial Day, or any other patriotic holiday, consider making Red, White, and Blueberry Muffins.  I made these last night (my own recipe), and they are pretty!  It's a white batter, with lemon flavoring, with blueberries and craisins.  It's too late to make these for today's Memorial Day celebration, but you can make them for Flag Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day.  They are pretty and delicious!


(makes 12 standard-sized muffins)

Oven 375 degrees F

1/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 egg whites
1 cup sour cream (light is fine)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Prepare muffin tins with cooking/baking spray or line with cupcake liners

Cream 1/4 cup butter with 1 cup sugar until very thoroughly combined (about 3 minutes)
Add 1 tsp. lemon extract, then beat in 2 egg whites, one at a time
Add 1 cup (1/2 pt.) sour cream, mix well.
Mix 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

White batter

Combine flour ingredients into butter/egg mixture until very well mixed.  Gently fold in 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 3/4 cup blueberries (frozen is fine, just dust them with flour first to keep them from turning the batter blue). 

Blueberries and dried cranberries...

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full (I use a standard ice cream scoop).

RW& B batter!

Bake for 20-22 minutes until tops are dry and muffins spring back. Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove from tins and cool completely.

The finished product!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tale of Two Cakes

This morning I put the finishing touches on the last cake of the weekend.  This cake is for my friend Beth.  Her husband Pat called me Thursday to ask me if there was any way I could bake a cake for the next night, and also one for today (Sunday).  Beth deserves a double helping of birthday wishes, so I was happy to say yes to Pat's request.  Pat said the cakes could be the same, that he would be fine with whatever I came up with.  So, I baked two black-and-white marble cakes.  The first became a buttercream frosted layer cake with fondant calla lilies, since I am enjoying learning how to make flowers.  I thought, though, that I could do something very different with cake #2.  I decided to go whimsical and make a very traditional and festive cake that screams "Happy Birthday!" in appearance. 

Cake One

Today, I made fudge frosting (recipe on the back of the Hershey cocoa tin) and decorated it very simply, with fudge florets and sprinkles (jimmies to some of you, depending on where you live). 

Cake Two

Pat sent me an email message after they enjoyed Friday's cake, stating, simpy, "AWESOME!"  I love hearing that my cake contributed to a happy celebration.  Let the partying continue, and the happiest of extended birthday wishes to you, my friend BBK!!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cake for Health and Happiness

It's been a busy cake week for me.  Wednesday night I brought a "healthy" carrot cake to a party celebrating the formal end of our 16-week exercise study experience at Skidmore College (though we just found out there is funding to continue for another 16 weeks!).  Under the guidance of Dr. Paul Arciero, Chair of the Exercise Science Department, we have improved our health in remarkable measure.  We all lost weight, some alot, some less, but more impressive (to me) is that all other health markers improved dramatically - HDL, LDL, triglycerides, blood pressure, fat/muscle ratio, strength, endurance...everything.  It feels good to know that I am doing everything I can to become a healthier person heading toward my 60s, and I am grateful for the study because I have trouble motivating myself just for me.  I like the accountability that Paul's research and students' theses are dependent upon a high level of compliance of the participants.  That's not to say I don't cave and have a burger now and then - I do - but we try to follow the 15% rule - we can have anything we want 15% of the time as long as we keep the other 85% really healthy!  Getting up at 5:30 a.m. four days a week is hard (I hate it, actually), but once I'm out of bed and on my way, it's not so bad...  Besides, now I can jump rope like a 3rd-grader, and do a plank for a minute.  That was NOT the case 16 weeks ago!

Dr. Paul Arciero and our student trainers!

At that dinner, a friend Doris asked if I could make a cake for her family to take on their trip to Cape Cod this weekend.  I said sure.  Then yesterday, another friend, Pat, called and asked if I could make a cake for his wife's birthday - today! - and I did it.  There's another cake on order for Sunday.  (I could almost stop working my day job and bake all the time, but there are those things like benefits and a regular paycheck that keep me tied to the nine-to-five!) I was up late last night and up again very early this morning before I went to work, and still hadn't finished.  I had to rush home from work to finish Beth's birthday cake, but I don't think it shows any signs of rushing.  I played with fondant and tried my hand at calla lilies again.  I think they came out nice.  Henry came up later and I gave him some remnants of fondant and he played for a long time.  It's just like play-dough and it kept him creatively engaged for quite a while, so much so that he never asked for a popsicle and the TV stayed off. 

Beth's birthday cake

My apprentice?

It sounds strange, but I have to clean up my kitchen so I can start baking again.  I can't just dig in after a project.  I have to start with everything in order and start the process all over again, which is what I am about to do right now.  I was ready to start making a coffee cake and realized I had NO sugar!  My son-in-law Bill was heading to Stewart's and offered to bring back sugar.  He has, and here I go again!

Monday, May 23, 2011


This past weekend was one of celebration.  I spent the weekend with the Ebbets family at Keegan's graduation from Ithaca College.  Keegan is my boyfriend Russ's nephew, and I've known him since he was 7 years old.  He's a great guy and it was so much fun to spend time with his family and friends.  Here are a few photos of from graduation weekend:

Me, Keegan, and my handsome b'friend Russ!

Jan Ebbets and her son Keegan, the graduate!

L-R: Jan, Logan, Jeannie, Russ,
John, Patty, Keegan, and Al
Dinner at The Antlers in Ithaca

Before I left for Ithaca, I baked a special bridal shower cake for Erin Stevens, daughter of my good friend Nancy Hinckley Stevens and her husband Tim.  Nancy and Tim were highschool classmates of mine.  Nancy asked for a cake with calla lilies, and told me the shower colors were pink and white.  She chose a half-vanilla/half-dark chocolate cake, and I was on my own from there.  I'd never made calla lilies before, but I went on-line and found a number of how-to videos that made the challenge much less intimidating.  I actually had a good time playing with fondant and creating these pretty (if not amateur) flowers, and look forward to the next time I can attempt to create something that reflects the beauty of a real flower.  Here are some photos of the cake, as it came together:

Hope you enjoy this little photo journal of the creation of Erin's cake.  I had a good time making it, and I hear it was very happily received.  I wish Erin and Zach all the happiness in the world!

Best wishes and happy new beginnings to Erin and Zach, and to my buddy Keegan!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


There's a lot that's fresh today.  We've been inundated with a stalled cycle of rain that keeps spinning over the northeast.  Our trees are vibrant with the new green of just-unfolding leaves that even the dampest, darkest day can't hide.  After the longest winter in memory, baby grass is growing, and birds are chirping. 

View from my kitchen window

Also fresh are the last of the original episodes of my favorite shows, with a few season finales tonight.  My favorite show, The Good Wife, is on tonight, and my daughter Katie and I are looking forward to watching it together.  She's a lawyer by trade and loves to watch the drama unfold, providing informative side-bars of her own on the legal proceedings.

I'm also baking tonight. Just out of my oven are two dozen lemon blueberry muffins. One dozen are claimed, the other dozen are a bonus for whomever is lucky enough to be on the receiving end. Today my co-workers were the lucky recipients of lemon cranberry muffins, and I had a lot of grateful nods coming my way!

Tonight's Blueberry Muffins

Maybe just one...

For my baking, I use FRESH eggs (pictured above) from the resident chickens that my daughter Katie and her husband maintain.  They have Guinea Hens, Bard Rocks, and Silver Wine Dots.  Their eggs are all different colors, shapes, and sizes.  The eggs are great - I make Russ great breakfasts with these eggs whenever he's here.  The whites are clearer and the yolks are brighter, and stand higher, than the eggs found in a supermarket.

And fresh, in a negative connotation, is the news about the unfortunate behavior of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Not such a model for spousal loyalty.  Here I am looking forward to watching The Good Wife, and hearing all about The Bad Husband.  Hmmm.  Anyway...

The cutest definition of FRESH

I hope you have a lovely evening, and look forward to the most positive, vital, and reFRESHing spring in a long time!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award!

My fellow-blogger friend Carolyn Pressgrove Bradford has graciously presented me with The Versatile Blogger Award.  Part of the responsibility of receiving this award is to list 7 things about myself, and list 15 blogs that I follow and would present the award to as well.  I'm pretty flat-out with working full-time, baking all the time, and blogging, so I must confess I don't have 15, but I do have a number that I follow regularly and will share those with you. 

First, 7 things:

1.  Mother of five grown kids -- two sons, Jeff and Joe; three daughters, Katie, Meghan, and Tricia.
2.  Late bloomer - earned my undergraduate degree at age 49, my masters at 55!
3.  Grandma to Henry and Peter (not news to anyone who reads my blog regularly!)
4.  In  year 14 of a long-term, long-distance relationship with Russ Ebbets, someone I've known since I was 7 years old, and who still makes me laugh every day.
5.  I'm the middle of seven siblings -- three sisters and three brothers.  We still have dinner together for each others' birthdays. 
6.  Friends are friends for life, even if we are all too busy, and see each other not enough.
7.  Though we are divorced, my ex-husband and I have a good relationship, and, along with his wife and "my" Russ, enjoy sharing holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions together with our expanded family.

My favorite blogs, all earning my vote for The Versatile Blogger Award!:

It Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree
What's Baking in the Barbershop
King Arthur Flour
Smitten Kitchen
Sixtysomething or Other
The Splendid Table Job Searches and Careers
Nienie Dialogues
Tim and Nancy's 2011 Kayaking Adventures
Interesting Pile

Thank you, Carolyn, for choosing Adirondack Baker as one of your favorite blogs. 

I encourage my readers to click on the eclectic collection of links above and see where they take you.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cream Puffs

Photo from
I first made cream puffs when I was a young girl.  I don't remember the occasion, but I do remember making the real thing, with the choux pastry, pastry cream, and a chocolate glaze on top.  Making the simple pastry requires few ingredients but a bit of upper arm strength.  Butter and flour are combined in a sauce pan and eggs are beaten in, one at a time, until the dough becomes shiny and elastic and pulls away from the pan. Tablespoons of the dough are dropped on a cookie sheet (or can be piped from a pastry bag) and bake up light and airy, with hollow centers.  Once cooled, delicious pastry cream is loaded into the shells and a chocolate ganache is added as the elegant and perfect topper.  I love these sooooo much.  The dough can be shaped into rounds for cream puffs or into oblongs for eclairs.  Mini-cream puffs are profiteroles, and can also be served at luncheons as part of a meal, often stuffed with chicken- or tuna-salad.  These are lovely, but in my sweet-loving opinion cannot hold a candle to the creamy original!

I don't know anyone who doesn't love a cream puff.  It's a happy little dessert, an elegant indulgence that one doesn't come across too often.   If you see a cream puff, I say:  eat it!


Choux pastry:
Choux Pastry Recipe, from

1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
4 medium eggs

Preheat oven to 425°F (210°C). In a saucepan mix the butter, salt and sugar with the water, and heat just until the water boils and the butter melts. Remove from heat and immediately add all of the flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball and detaches from the sides of the pan.

Add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next one. (This is a workout by the way!)

To make cream puffs, work with two tablespoons, one to scoop and one to scrape. Place mounds of dough on a nonstick cookie tray, spacing them somewhat apart. You can also use a pastry tube to form the mounds.

Bake at 425°F (210°C) for 20 minutes for smaller puffs. For larger puffs, bake for 20 minutes at 425°F (210°C), then reduce oven temperature to 375°F (190°C) and bake another 10 to 15 minutes. Puffs should be baked until they are an even medium brown color all over.

Remove from oven and immediately make a small cut in the side of each with a sharp knife. This allows the steam to escape as the puffs cool and keeps them from getting soggy. You can then return the puffs to the turned off oven with the door ajar for 10 minutes.

To fill the puffs, after they have completely cooled, cut off their tops and spoon in filling. Replace top and sprinkle with powdered sugar or perhaps drizzle with chocolate or caramel if you wish.

If you want to get really fancy, you can use a cake decorating tube to pipe the filling in through a hole in the side.

Makes 12 good sized cream puffs, or 24 smaller ones.

Pastry Cream Recipe - stuff into completely cooled cream puff shells

2 cups milk
1/4 cup white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg 1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg. Stir together the remaining sugar and cornstarch; then stir them into the egg until smooth. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the bowl in a thin stream while mixing so that you do not cook the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the eggs don' t curdle or scorch on the bottom.

3. When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in. Pour into a heat-proof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled before using

Chocolate Ganache

12 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or morsels
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Place chocolate in heat-proof bowl.

Bring heavy cream just to a boil over medium heat.  Pour over chopped chocolate in bowl.  Let sit to begin to melt.  a?fter a few minutes, whisk choclate and cream until it is completely smooth.  Allow to cool to a point where it will nicely glaze the top of a cream puff.  Put a generous tablespoon over the top of each cream-filled cream puff.  Chill until ready to serve.

Photo image: borrowed, with gratitude, from

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For Mother's Day: Ladyfingers Cheesecake

Mother's Day is bittersweet for those of us who have lost our mothers.  It's been over nine years since I was able to wish my mom a "Happy Mother's Day" and I feel her loss every day, as do my siblings and her grandchildren.  There are still those moments when I want to pick up the phone to say "Guess what happened today...," or "I'm going to stop over later."  Then reality hits and I know, I just can't.  It still catches me.  It's a void that can never be filled.

My heart goes out to friends and relatives who've lost their moms as well, especially my Cella cousins.  But we have lovely memories to comfort us, and we carry on our mothers' legacies in the ways we live and relate to each other every day.  And they are still with us, in many ways. How many times have we heard their "momisms" ring in our ears, when we hear ourselves saying things that seem to come straight from our mothers' mouths! 

My Mom, Virginia McGeehan O'Farrell

So this Mother's Day, I celebrate mothers past and present.  I love watching my daughter Katie as she, so lovingly and tenderly, raises her two little boys.  She carries on the traditions of a long line of strong Irish women who loved family more than anything, and I am proud to witness it. From before my grandmother Loretta (Oma) Sheils McGeehan, to my mother Virginia McGeehan O'Farrell, to me and my siblings, to our children and grandchildren, the legacy continues.

Mother's Day is tomorrow.  And as a baker, I have been thinking of special desserts for special mothers.  My own mother loved ladyfingers.  I can't even remember what she used them for, or if they were just a sweet indulgence on their own once in a while.  But she loved them for reasons I don't know -- perhaps her mother used to make them, or had them in their home for special occasions.  Most people think of Tiramisu or Charlotte Russe when considering recipes in which ladyfingers play a starring role.  In researching desserts for Mother's Day, I came upon this one from Taste of Home for Ladyfingers Cheesecake.  It's not baked.  A springform pan is lined with split ladyfingers, then filled with a combination of a cream cheese/whipped cream mixture layered with ladyfingers and strawberries.  It chills overnight in the fridge. Perfectly elegant for Mother's Day.

Happy Mother's Day, my friends!


4-1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons plus 2 cups sugar, divided
3 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers, split
4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
2 cups heavy whipping cream

•In a large bowl, combine strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover;
refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile, arrange 25 split
ladyfingers around the edges of a lightly greased 10-in. springform
pan. Place 25 more on the bottom; set aside.

•In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining sugar until smooth.
In another large bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Gradually
fold into cream cheese mixture.

•Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture into prepared pan. Spread with
half of strawberry mixture to within 1 in. of edges. Cover; refrigerate remaining strawberry mixture.

•Arrange remaining ladyfingers over top. Spoon remaining cream cheese
mixture over ladyfingers. Cover; refrigerate overnight. Serve with
reserved strawberry mixture. Yield: 14 servings.

Photo and recipe from:

Thursday, May 5, 2011