cinnamon waffles

Dear Alison, Catherine, Charidy, Kathryn, Kathy, Liz, Liza, Lynne, Pamela, Peter, Samantha, Sue, Tara, and Vikki,

I cannot thank you enough for my waffle maker!

Some of you know that I used my bridal shower gift for it, but what you didn’t know was that it was actually a huge group effort (yo, waffle makers are pricey). It was only with the generosity from past and present colleagues that I was able to pick up this awesome makes-four-at-a-time waffle maker! I received a lot of great kitchen appliances from my wedding, but I probably use this one the most – almost on a weekly basis. Some of you have even seen me munching away on a waffle at my desk. They make for a great grab-and-go breakfast item.

This is the recipe I use that lasts me all week. It’s versatile and pairs well with maple syrup or fruits. AND, it’s technically a pancake recipe (waffles are pancakes with abs) from one of my favourite NYC brunch places, Clinton Street Baking Company.

Cinnamon Waffles
(Makes about 16 to 18 waffles)

6 large eggs, separated
3 cups whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder

  1. I know this looks fussy and complicated, but it’s not that bad! Ideally you’d have two mixing bowls to separate the egg yolks and egg white, but if you only have one, use the egg whites in the one for the stand mixer so you don’t have to do the whisking. Once separated, you can turn on your stand mixer with the whisk attachment on low for a bit and then medium to get the egg whites started.
  2. In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Whisk that together until combined.
  3. Next, add in the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until it comes together, but not smooth. You don’t want to over mix the batter – that will make your waffles really tough. Clumps are ok! You know why?
  4. Because the next step is to check on your egg whites. They should be fluffy clouds by now. You don’t want it shiny (like when you make meringue), but soft peaks. Add that into the batter and fold it in (see more mixing, so the earlier clumps will be smoothed out).
  5. Preheat your waffle maker while you’re folding in the soft peaks into the batter. When your waffle iron is ready, ladle the batter in, close the lid, and wait patiently for the the waffle maker to beep!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weekends are for waffles? Well . . . weekdays are for waffles too!

Oh if you’re what waffle maker I got, it’s the Breville Smart Waffle. I read a lot of reviews and it came down to the Breville and the All-Clad version. The sales person at the store told me that she owned the All-Clad one and recommended it highly. I wanted the waffle iron to make four at a time (to cut down on waiting time when I’m hungry in the morning), but it was the two slice All-Clad that mainly received the praise, not the four slice. Wait, are waffles called slices?

That was the deciding factor for the Breville Smart Waffle and I couldn’t be happier. It’s truly nonstick, I haven’t had to use any oil on the irons (in fact, the instruction manual says not to). The waffles release super easy when they’re done. The moat around helps catch any overflow (which has happened when I pour too much batter in). But I haven’t even had to fiddle with the settings because the machine just magically knows how long to cook the waffles for. And you can adjust the dials for something lighter or a bit more darker. I love how thick and fluffy the waffles turn out! The deeper the irons, the better. I knew I didn’t want one that creates thin ones that are akin to frozen waffles. This waffle maker is basically perfect for my sweet tooth and creates the right amount of thickness for savoury dishes too (chicken and waffles!).

Sincerely,
Syl

1 month-ish

Dear Oliver,

It may be years before you read this, but I want to get this down so that one day you can read this (assuming this still exists in the future). I want to welcome you into this world and into our family. You may think we’ve only known you for a month-ish, but the truth is, we were with you the moment your parents told us you were the size of a lime. We met you on a weekly basis and watched your mother’s belly grow. You started kicking her (pretty darn hard too) and we would watch as she gently nudged you back. Your mother even managed to get a video of you hiccuping for us to see.

We celebrated early in the days and I even dragged your uncle to your baby shower. We didn’t do so well on the baby food blind tasting. Nor guessing the circumference of you mommy’s belly. Or figuring out how much baby stuff cost. But you know what we’re good at? Estimating M&M chocolates in a baby bottle. So you know where you can count on us.

But now you’re out in our world. It wasn’t easy and you came out fighting. You and your mom stayed strong and I was lucky enough to hold you when you were 5 hours old. Your uncle and I felt you squirm, heard you cry, and watched as you made all these tiny facial expressions. Basically anything you did garnered a delightful exclamation from us. He pouted! He yawned! He sneezed!

Now . . . now we’ll grow old and lament how fast the years go by because in a blink of an eye, you’ll turn 1 years old, then 10, then 20. My only wish for you is that you remain healthy and happy through all of those times.

Sincerely,
(Auntie) Syl

PS: All you do is drink milk right now. So . . . I’m just going to share a milkshake recipe with you, I hope you’re a fan of these when you grow up! And I’m pretty sure your parents would not approve of me sneaking milkshakes into your bottle right now.

Milkshake
(Makes as many as you want)

Ice cream
Milk
Frozen fruit (optional)

  1. Scoop your favourite ice cream into a blender. Pick a simple base like vanilla or chocolate if you want to flavour it yourself. If you don’t, then go for a flavoured ice cream like strawberry or peach or whatever you like.
  2. Pour in some milk. If you have frozen fruits, you can add them in here.
  3. Cover (because it will splash up – speaking from experience here) and turn on blender. Mix until smooth.
  4. Pour into cup, pop in a straw, and enjoy!

Scoop some ice cream
Pour some milk
Blend away
Pour milkshake out
Ta-dah all done
Drink up
Just laughing at how easy that was!

New York, New York

Dear New York City,

So we meet again. It’s difficult to stay away, with your constant new bakeries and restaurants. And what? Another food hall? Well, then I must visit and see it for myself. Even though I just got back home, I’m itching to go back for some more exploring. How do you stay so alluring even during a time when the exchange rate is screaming at me to not travel into the USA?

This time, I went with my mom and lots of relatives – a very different trip compared to what Howard and I are used to. I was attempting to be the tour guide and basically making sure everyone got on the right subway. Even though I said that there is always something new to lure me back to NYC, a lot of things actually don’t change. All of the tourist spots I revisit were exactly as I remembered them. Sure, the trip was a bit repetitive, but it’s about the company you keep.

Places to see: This is a tough one, everyone asks what’s my favourite place to visit in New York City, but the truth is, each neighbourhood has it’s own charm. I love SoHo for the Belgian blocked streets and cast iron buildings. I love the High Line for the beautifully tended gardens above the roads (not to mention all the vendors selling yummy treats). I love walking the Brooklyn Bridge despite feeling weak in the knees when I see cars speeding by below me. I love Central Park for the lush greenery where buildings tower out from the sides. Not to mention, I’m a bit biased about Central Park because that’s where Howard popped the question. I love seeing the Flatiron Building, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library, and even Times Square. Sure, no one likes traffic and crowds, but I still like to immerse myself in it for five minutes just to get it out of my system. Oh and do see a Broadway musical (or play)! My fondest memory is going to watch Wicked and having the songs stuck in my head for the rest of the trip. This time around, we didn’t get the chance, but we saw Sean Hayes autographing for fans outside while waiting for food at Junior’s. What else? Just walk! There’s always something happening on the streets and interesting things in the works.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Places to eat: Oh boy, this is even harder to narrow down. There’s so many categories! Places for large groups, places for great food, or places for great desserts, I could go on and on. I think there are the popular picks like Katz’s Delicatessen, Joe’s Pizza, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Missions Chinese Food, Grimaldi’s, and many others that I’ve still yet to try. On my checklist is still Russ & Daughters, Nobu, Grand Central Oyster Bar, Balthazar Restaurant, Gramercy Tavern, and Roberta’s Pizza. Some of my current favourites include Mile End Deli, Santina, and abc cocina, and for desserts: Lady M, Spot Dessert BarBaked, Sprinkles, and Georgetown Cupcakes. What I did notice this time was how Shake Shack has blown up – it’s everywhere! We used to have to make a special trek just to eat there and now I can pop out of a subway or a store and there’s one waiting for me to walk in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Places to stay: I wish I could recommend places to stay, but I’ve stayed in exclusive places like my aunt’s house in Brooklyn or her flat in Queens. I don’t think she’ll be putting these places up on Airbnb anytime soon. Although this time, we did stay at Red Roof Inn near the subway line, but it’s not one of those places I can rave about – they do have a waffle maker for breakfast (yay), but the batter creates the most gummy waffles (boo).

If possible, get an unlimited rides subway pass while you’re there. Once you get the hang of it the subway system is pretty easy to use and stops at all the spots you’ll want to see. It goes without saying, but dress for the weather. Maybe pack some extra clothes to change into if you go during the sweaty summer. And of course, safety first. If you’re in a large crowd, be aware of your surroundings and your belongings! Luckily, there’s a lot of WiFi spots in the city if you need to pull up a map. You can also download a PDF of the subway map onto your phone, that way you don’t have to pull out the large paper map and look like a noob.

I didn’t share that many photos this time, but I’m sure that I’ll be returning in the near future. This was more of a tourist trip, so next time I go, I hope to share more food stuff with you!

Sincerely,
Syl

banana-fana fo-fegan

Dear Megan,

Happy birthday!

I know you don’t like celebrating this day with attention and festivities, but I feel like you should get some recognition for another year of awesomeness. You are an awesome friend, mother, wife, daughter, colleague, coach, and many other things to so many people. You should know that you actually gave me the push to start baking. You lent me all those equipment’s for my Wilton cake decorating classes at Michael’s. You gave me my first set of mixing bowls, measuring spoons, kitchen towels, and cupcake accessories. I still have all those things and often marvel at how many things in my kitchen are from you. Plus, you make these awesome caramel cookies, oh and those peanut butter cookies, and those scones that I still dream about from my bridal shower.

I love how talented you are in charades – it is truly a handy (maybe even lifesaving) skill to have. How is it that you know every song lyric? You are the best teammate to have in Cranium and Head’s Up because you have lines memorized from films and television shows. Or you know every actor and singer’s names. Oh and best of all, I admire your dance skillz (yeah, with a z). You’re also a whiz at crafting and party planning – it’s no wonder we’re friends!

And since you’re the first person to ever feed me homemade ice cream, I thought this would be a good way to celebrate your birthday. That delicious chocolate ice cream you made brought me back to childhood memories of chocolate milk in a carton. Then there was that creamy and rich peanut butter ice cream, in which you took the time to make even though you couldn’t have some.

I saw this cool video featuring ice cream using just bananas and different flavourings. It should be dairy, egg, and soy free as long as you ditch the cones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Neapolitan Banana Ice Cream
Recipe adapted from Food Network

Notes: The ripe bananas will require some freezing time, so plan for this a day ahead. After that, the ice cream itself will need some chill time in the freezer before serving as well, well you could also just eat it right away if you don’t mind it melting. You’ll also need a good strong food processor for this to work.

6 ripe bananas, frozen
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup berries, frozen
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 medium loaf pan (8½” x 4½” x 2½”)

  1. Remove the peels from the banana and chop them into even chunks. About 1-inches long and put them in a freezer bag. Freeze overnight.
  2. Using your food processor equipped with the knife blade, put 2 bananas in with the vanilla extract. Turn the machine on and watch the bananas go from gooey and mushy to creamy. When it looks like a delicious milkshake, it’s ready to be scooped out with a spatula and placed into one end of the loaf pan.
  3. Next, put in 2 bananas with some frozen berries. Go with strawberry, raspberries, red cherries, or even pomegranates. Same thing, turn the machine on and scoop it out when it becomes nice and creamy. Portion this into the middle section of your loaf pan.
  4. Put the final 2 bananas into the food processor along with the cocoa powder. Have the machine churn until it’s smooth and scoop it out to fill up the final spot in the loaf pan.
  5. Cover and place the loaf pan in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

Megan, Megan, bo-began,
Banana-fana fo-fegan
Fee-fy-mo-megan
Megan!

Wait, I’m singing the wrong song aren’t I?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Happy birthday, Megan!
Megan, it’s your birthday!

Sincerely,
Syl

PS: Megan, I can’t wait to bestow this ice cream garland on you. I made it while watching the Olympics, your favourite bi-annual event!

Paper Ice Cream Cones

Making an Ice Cream Cone Garland

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have a PDF of the ice cream graphics I made here. Just download it, print it, and cut it out. I attached the cutouts to some string with tape and squealed at how cute it looked hung up.

celebrate with cake

Dear Howard,

If you’re wondering why I made your favourite cake, it’s because I am so grateful that you’re supporting my new beginning – and a fresh start should always include cake.

I know that it’s difficult to try again. Occasionally, I ask myself unanswerable questions and I know that I am too comfortable where I am. I played it safe. You know that I rarely take big risks, I tend to keep things the way they are. But now, I am finally fixing something that’s been bugging me for years. Just a little something that’s been bubbling in my thoughts.

And it’s not actually a huge deal. Not if you really think about it. I am only starting a new blog. Lots of people start new blogs every day. Yes, I splurged a little with this reboot, but here’s why:

The Blogger platform, which has some great features, was no longer feeding my needs. I felt that the layout theme was dated, I couldn’t customize it (mainly because I’m no website designer), and I was getting a lot of spam. So much spam.

I wanted our photos to be larger. I wanted the blog to look good on the computer monitor, tablet, or phone. I wanted to talk about other things! The name, A Baked Creation, felt too restricting. When I first started, I thought I was going to make custom cupcake creations forever, but in the past eight years, I’ve grown past that. I’m out of the fondant game and I like sharing things that don’t require the oven. Plus there’s A Baked Creation & Supplies in Hesperia, California that probably doesn’t need the confusion with a blogger from Canada.

So here we are on a WordPress run platform and I changed my blog name. I got to choose from lots of great layout designs, this Karuna theme caught my eye (so did some premium themes, but maybe I’ll wait a bit until shelling out more of our hard earned money). I splurged on a premium account so I could customize things to my liking, secure a domain name, and not have pop up ads. I can share larger photos now and the website is compatible on various devices. Best of all, I can write about anything I want without having a blog name that says otherwise.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t simply transfer everything over (because I could), it’s because . . . well I’m a bit embarrassed of the small, grainy photos that I use to take on our point-and-shoot camera. All the photos were sized to a width of 550, which means they would look terrible – absolutely terrible – here. There was no way I was going to resize and replace every photo I ever posted.

Plus I like the idea of a lifestyle blog. I like letter writing. And I managed to get this new name on a few other social platforms – Instagram (yes, there’s a period in between. If only we could add commas), Twitter, and Facebook. Not sure how I want to rename Pinterest yet as SincerelySyl is already taken. I know you’re not happy about that and I’m actually touched that you worried about the username inconsistency. But I think it’ll be fine, it happens to a lot of people!

You see things my way, right? Just in case you’re still on the fence, here’s another slice of cake.

Sincerely,
Syl

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PS: In case you ever wanted to surprise me with cake (or try to convince me to see things your way), here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Mille Crêpe Cake
Crêpe recipe from the New York Times
Peanut butter pastry cream recipe from Sugar Rush
Strawberry jam from Smucker’s (No, this isn’t a sponsored post.)

Notes: Both the crêpe batter and pastry cream should be made a day ahead, so plan accordingly. Stock up on milk and eggs!

Crêpe Batter:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons granulated sugar
A pinch of salt

  1. In a small saucepan, cook the butter until brown. It’s going to smell SO GOOD in the kitchen. It will be difficult, but set it aside to cool.
  2. In another small saucepan, heat the milk until it starts to steam. Remove from the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the beater attachment, beat the eggs, flour, sugar, and salt on low.
  4. Slowly and carefully, pour in the hot milk and browned butter.
  5. Pour the batter into a container, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Peanut Butter Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
½ cup creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup honey
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks

  1. Take out your blender and pour the milk and peanut butter in it and blend until smooth. You might be tempted to drink it right then and there, but stay strong. Move on to step 2.
  2. Next, take out your medium-sized saucepan and pour in the milk and peanut butter mixture. Add in the honey and salt. Warm slowly over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Stir frequently until it’s steaming but not boiling.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks until combined. Add in the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and continue whisking until the mixture is light and fluffy. It should turn a nice pale yellow.
  4. While the stand mixer is whisking, pour in a third of the hot milk and whisk until combined. Add in another third and whisk in. Again, pour in the remaining third of hot milk and wait until combined before pouring everything back into the saucepan. Be careful! It’s best to use bowls and sauce pans that have spouts for this recipe.
  5. Return the saucepan to the stove over medium heat and whisk until the mixture begins to boil. Whisk for a full 2 minutes when it is bubbling. It’ll get tougher to whisk, but you need to work that arm! The more calories you burn off here, the more cake you can have later.
  6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pass the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any small cooked egg bits.
  7. Spread the pastry cream into a thin layer on a tray to help it cool. I use a small rimmed baking sheet and then cover it with plastic wrap. Press down so that there aren’t any air bubbles. Cool the pastry cream in the refrigerator overnight.

02_PBJcrepecake
Assemble:

  1. The next day, bring the batter and pastry cream to room temperature.
  2. Place a nonstick pan over medium heat, the flatter the pan, the better. Swab the surface with cooking oil, then add about 2-3 tablespoons of batter (I use a small soup ladle) and swirl to cover the surface of the pan.
  3. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5-10 seconds. Carefully transfer the crêpe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a clean kitchen towel. Repeat until you have 20-25 perfect crêpes.
  4. Transfer the pastry cream from the tray to a bowl. Give it a good stir.
  5. If you want a clean edge for your cake, trim the edges of the crêpe by tracing a 6-inch bowl or cake pan with a sharp knife. Or you can keep the ruffled edges for a more natural look. Place the first crêpe on a cake board or plate.
  6. Using a spoon, scoop some pastry cream to place on top of the crêpe. Use a spatula to smooth out a thin layer all over the crêpe. Cover with another layer of crêpe.
  7. Scoop out some strawberry jam and use a second spatula to create a thin even layer of the crêpe. Cover with another layer of crêpe. Be gentle, the jam makes everything slippery. You can also cover a piece of crêpe with jam/pastry cream first and then add it to the stack. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until there’s no more crêpes, making sure you end with a crêpe on top. Put in two skewers to help keep the crêpes in place. Don’t worry if it’s domed, this is natural as the jam’s fruit might increase the thickness and the middle usually gets filled with more pastry cream than the edges.
  8. Store in the refrigerate for at least an hour to firm everything up before serving.

03_PBJcrepecakeMake celebratory bunting:

  1. Just don’t mind my jammy and crumbly mess! Ok, so you stabbed two long bamboo skewers into the cake right? Unlike other crêpe cakes that are only filled with pastry cream, the jam is slippery! Long-distance travel with this cake is not recommended as the crêpes can easily slide off.
  2. Tie one of the skewers with either string or thread. Take the piece still attached to the spool over to the next skewer and tie another knot. Snip the ends off and trim to the length you prefer.
  3. For the bunting flags, I like to use stickers! I make them from blank label sheets (blank mailing labels or full sheets) by folding them in half and then cutting out the shape I want with a pair of scissors. Then I peel the paper backing off and drape it over the string and have the two sticky sides attach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA