The Shared Bakealong by Cynthia Raub

I have always been intimidated by baking. I find that I have the hardest time with measuring and weighing exact amounts, as I'm more of a heaping-scant-dash kind of cook. I also have severe time and personal management skills, which means I start things at the most inopportune time and/or completely forget that I was in the middle of something. And ya know what, I also am a "little more time shouldn't hurt" kind of person, too. I have left cakes in the oven for a few extra minutes to make sure they are baked through. They are definitely baked through. And very dry. Take it from me, these are all poor qualities to possess if you want to bake yummy things.

Making pizza dough for the first time was a revelation. The transformation of water and flour, (with a dash of patience,) was remarkable, and I felt like a magician. Ever since then, I have successfully baked rich profiteroles and golden, airy gougères. Somehow, baking a multitude of batches of pâte à choux dough has awoken the baker inside of me. I bought a two-pound package of yeast from Costco and a Pullman Loaf pan, and I am baking more than my family of four can consume. King Arthur's flours, customer service, and recipes are all infallible. (This is not a sponsored post). When they began their Bakealong social media campaign in August, I was immediately hooked. August's recipe was for Pane Bianco, (Italian for "white bread",) featuring the enduring and eternally perfect combination of cheese, garlic, tomato and basil. While this bread may look fancy or complicated, it was truly easy and FUN to make.

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Pane Bianco

The Shared Cheese Puffs by Cynthia Raub

I am a low-key Francophile. I chose French to learn in high school because I loved croissants. Don't get me wrong, I also looooove burritos, but I was feeling angsty and emotional and croissants just seemed more complex and romantic than burritos. (Side note: I've grown since then and now I can get very romantic and emotional about burritos.) But high school French class was the genesis of my love for everything French - from the language, history of art, food, culture and even SPORTS?!?! (Tour de France). I met my husband when we both worked in a French bistro, and it was love at first cornichon!

Gougeres, (also known as cheese puffs,) are SO French: sophisticated, technical but simple, and delicious with champagne. These have been in heavy rotation in my kitchen for the past two months since I first made gougere's sister, the profiterole, (which is a sweet version filled with pastry cream or split open with a scoop of ice cream). They are a breeze to make. They are impressive and are perfect for any occasion. I originally made the profiteroles for a bake sale. Since then, I have made savory and addictive gougeres with a friend for a pot luck, to accompany dinner in our bread basket, and even for a casual afternoon wine tasting with friends. See? Versatile, delicious, and addictive. I'm convinced that once anyone has this in their cooking repertoire, it will become an instant classic that will never fail you.

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Gougeres (Cheese Puffs)

The Shared Craving by Cynthia Raub

My family has been on a homemade Pizza Night kick for the past few weeks. This entails my husband making the dough, then prepping the toppings with our daughters, all while I impatiently sit on the couch on my phone waiting for dinner to just be DONE. I know they would appreciate my hovering, unrelaxed presence in the kitchen, but most of the time I let the three of them enjoy the relaxing and fun project together. Anyway, there's really only room for three people to crouch in front of the oven, to watch the pizza crust expand and brown while the cheese melts.

Amy has made Pizza Two Ways before and I wanted to try my hand at making a homemade dough. I wanted to make the dough without the watchful eye of my chef husband, and I didn't feel like getting the kids involved because I'm just not a very fun parent. I was craving Chicken Shawarma and after telling Amy I needed the chicken in my life, she admitted to craving eggplant and then all we could talk about was how we REALLY wanted to eat our ideas. (This is why we are friends!) I'm not sure how it happened, but I think I bamboozled her into developing the unctuous and delicious recipe for Eggplant Dip with Caramelized Onions and Tahini to marry the pizza/flatbread and chicken together. I don't think she's put out though, since it turned out to be a tasty and fun afternoon that satisfied both of our cravings.

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Flatbread with Chicken Shawarma, Eggplant, and Caramelized Onions

Chicken Shawarma

Eggplant Dip with Caramelized Onions and Tahini

In the Kitchen Now - Salmon Cakes by Cynthia Raub

For Easter dinner, my husband Michael cooked a delicious and ginormous (11+ pounds) salt-crusted Atlantic salmon for our extended family. Needless to say, everyone was sent home with leftovers and we were eating salmon for days. The past week we have enjoyed: salmon with Israeli cous cous and roasted vegetables, salmon flaked on top of a bagel with whipped cream cheese, salmon on grilled toast with a fried egg... you get the picture. Once we whittled the container down to the last 1/2 pound, I checked in with my girl and (unbeknownst to her) mentor Ina Garten and she (and Google) recommended I make her Salmon Cakes. These beautifully browned, tender and flavorful cakes can be enjoyed as an appetizer, for brunch (with poached eggs, duh), or served with a salad for a meal. 

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Salmon Cakes