The Ugly Cry Is Nature's Netipot...And Other Things You Learn While You're NOT Baking

GROSS! But also totally true. I learned this nastalicious lesson on a particularly difficult night. I don't remember what I was bawling about, but I do remember being really stuffed up with an awful warm-weather cold and then suddenly... not being stuffed up. Life's lessons. I just thought I'd drop some knowledge, in case you want to save money. So...I really miss baking. I swear I haven't lazed out on all of you. I've just been insanely busy. With what, you ask. I could not tell you, I answer. Why are you being so shady, you ask. I'm not, I just have no idea of what's kept me from my precious sticks o' butter, powdered sugar and various pans, I reply. Every time I wander into the kitchen to whip something up, I get distracted and eventually end up wandering right back out carrying a spoonful of Cookie Butter. I know, tsk tsk, Shibow. But don't scold me until you've tried it. (I swear I'm not being paid at all by Trader Joe's. They're just too damn good.)

Anyway, I'm sure there's a direct correlation between my nasal passage-clearing wail sessions (Sorry, totally inappropriate for a blog about cakes and stuff) and my failure to bake/blog. Though I can't really blog if I haven't baked anything. I mean, I can, but who cares about what I think of Gotye (Seriously WHO IS THAT?!) or growing basil on your windowsill?

Full disclosure: I have been baking things here and there...and everywhere (if "everywhere" is my teeny-tiny kitchen). I've just simply not had the time/energy/oomph to post about the sweets I've made. Do you care? Are you curious? Oh...what the hell! Here are a few pictures from the past month or so:

If anyone expresses interest in learning how the black forest cake is made and put together, probably don't ask me. I still have not mastered the art of properly decorating a cake, but I seem to have figured out the taste aspect. It was a delicious hot mess. Actually it was a cold mess, as most birthday cakes are. So I guess I'd call it a success. Moving on...

So I decided it was finally time to put my big girl pants on and bake something and then blog about it. Want to know why I chose what I chose? Well, this next dessert struck me as a mash-up of a cake, a muffin and a doughnut. Are you still wondering? Really? No? Ok, let's do this then.

Cinnamon Sugar Puffs (makes 12 large puffs or 24 mini puffs)

1/3 cup of unsalted butter

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 large egg*

1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of allspice

Pinch of ginger

Pinch of ground cloves (I left these out)

1 teaspoon of orange zest (I also left this out...don't judge, I forgot to go grocery shopping)

1/2 cup of milk  (I used skim)

*Since, as you now know, I forgot to pick up essentials before making this, I had to find a substitute for the one egg. Turns out 2 tablespoons of cornstarch plus 2 tablespoons of room-temperature water works pretty well.

Preheat your oven to 350°F, and grease either a 12-cup muffin tin or a 24-cup mini muffin tin. I made minis, because in my mind 24 is more than 12, regardless of size. I make no sense, I know :(

In a small saucepan, heat the 1/3 cup of butter over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the butter has melted and browned and taken on a nutty scent. This is known as browned butter. If you love regular butter, you will fall at browned butter's feet. As butter does not have feet, you will likely have been immensely confused by that sentence. Once the butter's done browning, pour it into a large mixing bowl and let it come to room temperature.

Once the butter's cooled, pour in the sugar and egg and whisk together, by hand or using a hand mixer, until fully creamed together.  Now, in a separate smaller bowl, sift together your flour, salt and spices.

Next, we're going to mix the dry ingredients and the milk into our butter/sugar/egg mixture. Start by pouring about a third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, then add a little of the milk to this, then alternate until all of the ingredients are happily joined in one large bowl, like so:

Scoop the batter into the cups of your muffin tin, and send into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden and the puffs have...puffed.

While these are baking, prepare the cinnamon sugar coating:

Cinnamon Sugar Coating

6 tablespoons of butter, melted

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/2 cup of sugar

Keep butter in mixing bowl. Sift cinnamon and sugar together in a separate bowl, and try to patiently wait for your puffs to be done. You will regret spoiling your appetite by reaching for that Oreo.

Once the puffs are done, carefully pop them out of the tin and dip each one in melted butter--making sure to pretty much bathe each puff in it-- and then cover each in cinnamon sugar.

My boyfriend heard the phrase "cinnamon sugar" and promptly strolled into the kitchen, presumably to help. When I was done dipping the first one, he popped it into his mouth. I didn't get a reaction, so I assumed he hated them. Then he started dipping and sugaring these and immediately eating them. I was relieved. Then I ate one.

Wow. These are spectacular. Remember how I described what I thought they'd be like? Well, I was wrong. These are more like a mash-up of a cake, a muffin, a doughnut and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Which is to say, THEY'RE EVEN BETTER THAN I IMAGINED THEY'D BE.

Also, there's an added bonus: we had a lot of cinnamon sugar left over, which we quickly threw into an empty salt shaker for toast/pancakes/directly onto our tongues (don't hate). It's the gift that keeps on giving, people. It just keeps on giving.