Category Archives: General

A Brief Intermission

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves wherever you happen to find yourself in this wonderful universe. As you know, I normally post new recipes on Sundays, but unfortunately I don’t have one for you right now. In fact, I’m going to have to step away from the blog for a little bit.

Life is as life does. And there are some things going on in my life that will preclude me from baking or blogging for the next stretch of time. Hopefully, it will only be a short stretch, and I can get back to delighting you with delicious recipes. At that point, I should also have a chance to fill you in on what’s going on.

Hope all is well with you, and I’ll see you soon!

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Two Years

Two years is a long time. Not in comparison to the age of our planet or the age of our universe, of course. But it would be a really long time to wait in line for a movie. Or, to put it in another perspective, to the millions of people who are less than two years old, it’s longer than they’ve been alive.

This little blog turns two years old today. Why today? I didn’t pick this date for any particular reason. It doesn’t have any special significance otherwise. But I had been preparing the blog for a while and wanting to get it started. This date just happened to be the date I officially opened its doors.

Two years certainly seems like a long time. Time is a weird thing. While I could certainly point to a lot of things that have changed over the last two years, my work situation for instance, at this moment I can’t think of anything in particular that is all that different. Not concretely at least.

Have I learned anything over the last two years? Maybe. It’s not as easy as it looked. One post a week didn’t seem like too ambitious a goal at the time. And thankfully it wasn’t, but it’s a lot of work. Researching, deciding, ingredient shopping, prepping, baking, cleaning, photographing, writing. It’s one thing I’ve kept doing in the face of other things going on.

I think two years is also a good point to think about making some changes. They’ve started to seep in a bit. I’ve stopped taking ingredient shots, or as I like to call them “ingredient parade” pictures. They’re informative, but they’re not necessarily interesting. At least not until I can figure out how to spice them up some more. (Pun slightly intended.) I’ve also started getting away from writing recipe procedurals. Again, they’re informative, but I don’t know if they’re interesting. Tell me if you disagree, but for me, I think it’s more interesting to tell the stories of the food, than to tell the stories of making the food. I think there are some interesting stories in making the food as well, and as I find those, I’ll tell them, but otherwise, maybe not so much.

Two years is a good time to take stock. (Okay, pun definitely intended.) I’d like to do some other things differently. I’d like to learn how to take better photographs. I’d like to do more of my own recipes. I’d like to experiment more. I’d like to bake more efficiently. I’d like to dedicate more time to writing, so I can write more leisurely. I’d like to have more baking community, so it’s not just me alone staring down the business end of a 9 x 13 dish.

I definitely wasn’t thinking two years out when I started this. I know I had a lot of ideas and a lot of things I wanted to try. But I don’t know that I thought this far ahead. What will the next two years bring? Will I get a chance to follow-up on any of the things I want to do? Will I have a chance to learn and grow and change and create and evolve and experiment and eat and enjoy and smile and taste and wonder? I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Thanks for coming along on the ride for the last two years. Here’s hoping the next two will be as much fun.

PS – In case you’re wondering what the picture is, it’s an old picture I found while searching through my photo archives. In fact, it’s the second oldest baking related picture of mine that I could find. (The oldest one was pretty bad, so I’ll spare you that one.) It predates the blog by almost 5 years. It reminds me of where I started and where I have yet to go.

Stay Tuned

I know you’re waiting for a new recipe with bated breath. I hate to disappoint you, but you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer.

I’ve been under the weather a little bit, and while I’ve got lots of new recipes to share with you, none of them are ready to share with you yet.

There’s more to come, so stay tuned!

Doing Something

It’s hard for me to believe it, but this post marks post #100 for this blog. That’s not an insignificant milestone, so I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some things I’ve been thinking about.

As a baker, I sometimes feel like it’s not a big deal what I do. I’m not even talking in the scheme of the universe, I’m just talking in the world of baking. It might be different if I were making my own recipes more of the time, but my father-in-law’s lovely perspective notwithstanding, I still sometimes feel like anyone can follow someone else’s instructions. Do you ever feel that way?

Some people tell me they’re terrible bakers, which I always find a little hard to understand. It seems to me that all you have to do is follow the instructions and that’s it. Someone has already laid out the path in front of you, you just have to follow it. But some people are better at it than others. There’s nothing wrong with that, different people have different skills.

If you look at it from another perspective, not everyone has chosen to be a baker. Even if they could have, they have not chosen to. There are countless worthwhile endeavors out there, so you can’t fault anyone for that. But I think that’s part of the difference. I have chosen to. I decided to bake, and I do. That’s not insignificant.

My wife and I have this lovely habit of thanking each other for mundane things. I can’t remember exactly how it started, but I’m pretty sure I was following her example. Thank you for taking out the trash. Thank you for putting away the laundry. Thank you for getting stamps. These actions may seem insignificant and not worthy of notice, but it’s our way of acknowledging all the little things that we constantly do. It helps us not take each other for granted.

And of course, I’ll always thank my wife for making dinner when she does so. Sometimes it’s wonderfully elaborate, and sometimes it’s wonderfully simple. If it’s the latter, she’ll often say that she didn’t do much. To which I’ll reply various things. “You did something, and I didn’t do anything.” “Raise your hands everyone here who made dinner.” “Just because it wasn’t much doesn’t mean you didn’t do it.”

The decision to do something is often the difference. Lots of times we could do something and we don’t. And lots of times we just decide to do it. No matter how big or small the action, it’s the action that matters.

To put it another way, and to go linguistic nerd on you for a sec, German has a group of prepositions that can make the words after them be in either the accusative or dative case, depending on the circumstances. It depends on whether or not there’s motion towards the object of the prepositional phrase. If there is, it’s accusative, if there’s not, it’s dative. My high school German teacher, one of my favorite teachers of all time, had a mnemonic device she shared with us for this situation which was “accusative – alive, dative – dead”. (One of her other favorite ones was singing “You’re So Vain” to remind us of the accusative form of the word which means “who”. It’s funny if you know it.)

In any case, my point is that taking action towards something makes a difference. Deciding to do something makes a difference. Doing something, no matter how big or how small makes a difference. If you ever look at yourself and wonder what you’re doing and whether it makes a difference or not, baking or otherwise, this can be a good thing to remember.

What have you done that has made a difference? Big or small. To you or anyone else. Today or in the past. I’d love to hear your stories!

Eat Lots of Cookies (Including Mine) at the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown

You might remember from last year that I competed in the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown. It’s a massively fun and mellow cookie competition. While I didn’t win anything, I met a lot of fantastic people, learned a bunch, and had a really great time.

So great in fact, that I decided to enter it again this year. Last year I made my world-famous well-loved millionaire’s shortbread. This year I decided I would make something different. I won’t mention what it is yet, as I don’t want to ruin the surprise. But suffice it to say, it should be pretty awesome.

If you’re going to be in Brooklyn this coming weekend, you should come check it out. If you’re not going to be in Brooklyn this coming weekend, you should change your plans so you can check it out. Why?

Well, it’s an awesome cookie competition. Dozens of bakers, including yours truly, will be offering up wonderful cookies. You get to sample them all. Every. Single. Cookie. Then, you vote for your favorite. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a lot of cookies. If on the off-chance you don’t like cookies, I would not suggest coming because you will likely be very bored. But if you like cookies at all, you will not be sorry. Although if you really like cookies, you may have to restrain yourself. (I’m looking at you, Cookie Monster.)

So come out for the cookies and to support yours truly. It’s a seriously good time and a delicious way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It’s on Sunday, December 13th from 12-2 at Royal Palms. If you want more info, go here. Or to get tickets, go here. Hope to see you there!

One Year!

I normally post things on Sundays, but this felt like it couldn’t really wait. It’s kinda hard to believe it, but it’s been a year since this blog launched. I started working on it earlier than that, but my first post was September 14th, 2014. Happy blogaversary to me!

The year flew by, but when I think about everything that’s happened, it’s been a lot. I’ve learned a lot. About blogging, about baking, and about life in general. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to always use a bigger bowl than you think you’re going to need. And the second biggest lesson I’ve learned is to never try to cut up enough apples for an apple pie by hand, unless you start very, very early in the day. I’ve also learned about substituting applesauce for eggs, how big of a hole to cut for frosting, and how to test a thermometer.

I’ve learned some things about photography, too. Like taking way more shots than you think you’ll need to make sure you get the ones you want. And how to make the pictures not look so dark, even while being photographed in my woefully underlit kitchen. I know I’ve got a lot to learn, but hopefully at least some of that is showing in the photos I take.

And I’ve also learned what a great community of food bloggers there are. I’ve learned so much from your camaraderie, your writing, your photos, and of course your amazing recipes. Thank you also for your comments, feedback, and support. It’s an honor to get to be a part of this group.

While this is ostensibly a baking blog, I’ve realized that as much as I enjoy food and writing about food, I enjoy equally as much writing stories about people. People and the food they love. Or food made for people that I love. Or the love that I have for people that is shown in the food I make for them. What I’m saying is it’s about love. It’s about food, yes, but it’s also about love.

Some might argue that if you eat a chocolate cake by yourself, there’s more for you to enjoy. I would argue that if you share that chocolate cake with others, you’ll enjoy it even more so. Chocolate cake tastes better with friends. This works for cookies, too. And pie. And, well, you get the picture.

It’s also a fitting time for this blogaversary. (I don’t care if it’s not a word, I’ve already used it twice.) As this first year of blogging comes to an end, and a second one begins, it’s also a new year of another sort. It was just Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. L’shana tova. Happy 5776!

So happy new year to this blog. Happy new year to everyone. Here’s hoping that this next year is also full of learning. And love. And dessert, too.

 

The Brooklyn Cookie Takedown Was A Blast

I got back a little while ago from participating in the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown. I’ll have a more detailed post about it later, but I wanted to share a few thoughts while they were still fresh.

It was my first cookie competition, and I have to say it was a blast. The competition was tough, but the cookies were not. 😉 I didn’t get to taste all of my competitors’ cookies, but the ones I tried were delicious.

And while I didn’t win, I’m really pleased with how it went. I got to learn a lot about baking in large volumes. I had a lot of fun working with my wife all day. I got to share cookies with lots of people. And I got to meet a lot of amazing bakers. Everyone was friendly, complimentary, and very supportive. I’m proud to be part of the baking community, especially this one.

If you like cookies, and you happen to be in Brooklyn tomorrow, you should go for day two. Just remember to pace yourself. It’s a lot of cookies.

Try My Cookies At The Brooklyn Cookie Takedown!

If you’re like most people in the US, you’re probably just starting to think about eating again after the massive amounts of food at Thanksgiving. If your thinking includes thinking about cookies, you’ve come to the right place.

Maybe you’ve been reading my posts and wondering how you could get your hands on some yummy cookies that I made? Well wonder no further. I’ll be bringing cookies to the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown. It’s next Saturday & Sunday (December 6 & 7) at the Bell House in Brooklyn, NY.

In case you’re not familiar with the Cookie Takedown, it’s a massive cookie competition. Whole bunches of cookie makers (like me) bring their cookies. Then whole bunches of cookie eaters (like you) come in and sample all the cookies. People vote. Winners win stuff.

I’ve never been to it before (although I’ve heard about their various Takedowns), but it sounds like a blast. I’ve never been to a cookie competition before, actually. I’ll have to bake huge multitudes of cookies before going. I’ll have the assistance of my lovely wife, but it’s still a big undertaking. I’m excited and up for the challenge!

I’m going to make my Millionaire’s Shortbread. It’s a cookie I’m very familiar with, it’s delicious, and it’s always a crowd pleaser.

If you’re in or near Brooklyn, you should come check it out. I’d be honored if you thought my cookies were the best, but I wouldn’t be offended if you liked someone else’s better. I’m sure there’s bound to be some intense competition.

It’s happening next Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be there Saturday. See you there?

Welcome.

Welcome to my new blog, Needs Baked. Why are we here? What are we in for? Read on!

Like so many of us, I grew up cooking and baking with my mom. Especially around holidays and birthdays, there would be a lot to do. But all year round I remember being in the kitchen helping out, and learning as I went. I know she did the same with her mother as well, and I also got to share in that same joy with my grandmother.

My wife compliments me for being fearless in the kitchen, unafraid to try new things or experiment with difficult recipes. I think I’m just comfortable in the kitchen. I remember experimenting in the kitchen with my friends when I was growing up. We made some truly terrible things, but it was a lot of fun.

These days I often cook with my mom when I visit, but in the meantime I bake here at home. My wife does most of the cooking, as I get home from work later than she does, and waiting till I get home to start on making dinner would push dinnertime super late.

But the baking is all mine. I can start and finish when I please. I can choose recipes or experiment with ideas on a whim with no repercussions. I get to play, to create, to share. It’s fun. It’s creative. It pushes my mind. And it’s usually delicious.

So this blog is about this process. What I’m thinking about, what I’m trying, what I come up with, what works, what doesn’t.

I also wanted to add a special note about gluten-free baking. Some of the items I make are gluten-free. There is a separate category just for gluten-free recipes, so you can use that if that’s what you’re looking for. And even if you’re not looking for that, I wouldn’t skip those recipes. Many of them are delicious, and you wouldn’t know they were gluten-free unless someone told you. (You can read more details here about how and why I sometimes bake gluten-free.)

Oh, and the name of the blog? I didn’t grow up there, but my family has roots in Pittsburgh. I didn’t realize it growing up, but I picked up some Pittsburghese. I was sitting in a linguistics class in college (one of my other interests), and it hit me that a common grammatical construction I use comes from the Pittsburgh dialect. Instead of saying, “The car needs to be washed.”, I’ll say, “The car needs washed.” (You can read more about it here.) So, it’s named in honor of my mom and my grandmother, with whom I found a joy in baking. You can think of it as, “This recipe needs baked.”

I hope you enjoy what you see. I hope you try out the recipes you read. I hope you enjoy them. And I hope that you let me know what you think regardless. (I know, that’s a lot of hoping.) And now, on with the show!