We hope you enjoy this berry special Wake & Bake adventure through the eyes (and tastebuds!) of guest writer, Denton-based poet and cellist Bess Whitby!
Hello, dear reader! I should begin by saying that I was so very #PLEASED to receive an invite to attend Spiderweb Salon's Wake & Bake several weeks ago, as Wake & Bake is the kind of gathering I dream about on a semi-regular basis. Baked goods? Spiderfriend hangs? Alcohol before noon? Those are three of my favorite things. I was prepared to indulge with gusto. What I wasn’t prepared for was the incredible amount of life-changing information I would receive from resident pâtissière Caitlin Childs.
In the months leading up to W&B, I’d been eyeing two items on my dessert Pinterest board with piqued interest: blueberry sweet rolls and raspberry goat cheese muffins. In my opinion, fruit is a food group best enjoyed atop (or inside) bread and pastry, and since those berries are currently in season, the choice was obvious. The W&B committee decided that those were the desserts that would be made (along with a chocolate cake for the #PLEASED flash party that was to take place later in the afternoon.) I stopped at Brookshire’s for eight ounces of goat cheese, and once courtney marie generously saved me from the parking lot (thanks, dead car battery), we headed to W&B HQ, where the champagne was popping and the ideas were flowing. Caitlin threw together sweet and savory waffle bites to keep everyone sated. courtney marie cross-stitched while brainstorming through various projects with Spider-web-administrator and tech genius Nina Chantanapumma. The Shiny Sound crew was there, prepared to record a song with the newest Songwriting Scholarship recipient, Taylor Teachout, and we were also joined by our documentation team Frank Darko and Leah Jones. It was a party!
Until this fateful Sunday, I fancied myself a novice-but-knowledgeable baker. I’ve baked a few scratch cakes in my day, not to mention loads of cookies and muffins, all of which elicited responses like “ooh, tasty” or “this is pretty good!” I figured this meant I had a pretty good handle on the delicate chemistry of baking. Spoiler alert—everything I thought I knew was a giant, ridiculous lie.
Baking Revelation #1: Measure by Weight, Not Volume, if Possible
Did you know that there is no national committee on the exact size of measuring cups? Maybe you did. Maybe I’m the last person alive to learn this. But it’s true—and it’s scandalous. Caitlin filled three different measuring cups with the same brand of flour, using the exact same method each time, and when she weighed them we realized that no two cups contained the same amount of flour. If you’ve ever followed a recipe to a T and wondered how you still ended up with a dry cake, your measuring cups might be the culprit. In any case, Caitlin taught me all kinds of measuring secrets as she put together the dough for the blueberry sweet rolls, which she then covered with saran wrap and left to rise atop a kitchen cabinet for an hour or two. The batter for the #PLEASED cake came shortly after. (You’d better believe we measured everything for that cake by weight.)
Speaking of flour…
Baking Revelation #2: Not All Flours are Created Equal
While buying the ingredients to bake something for a friend’s birthday, you may have noticed that grocery stores carry lots of different kinds of flours. If you’re like me, you probably noticed that and then thought exactly nothing of it ever again. But the type of flour you use is incredibly important when it comes to baking! Caitlin broke down the science behind three of the most widely used flours. The common denominator? Protein. Cake flour has the lowest protein content of the flours (5-8%), while everyone’s favorite all-purpose flour sits comfortably in the middle range (10-12%). Bread flour is the heavyweight, clocking in at 12-14%. The higher your protein content, the chewier your baked item will be—and there’s a reason breads are chewy and cakes aren’t. Caitlin’s favorite all-purpose flour, King Arthur, sits right at 11.8%, making it a versatile flour that works for both cakes and more bready recipes. She casually mentioned all of this to me while whipping up the muffin batter; I just tried to collect my jaw from the floor.
Baking Revelation #3: Jammy Bottoms are a Thing of Beauty
While the recipe for the raspberry goat cheese muffins proved to be a pretty straightforward set of instructions, the blueberry sweet rolls threw us a bit of a curveball. The recipe for the blueberry filling called for frozen blueberries, sugar, and cornstarch, mixed together and left to macerate at room temperature. However, the result seemed fairly watery and we didn’t want to risk soggy bottoms, we wanted jammy bottoms! After we giggled about the words “jammy bottoms” for ten minutes, we realized we would need to jam it up a bit by adding a little heat and a little time, so we dumped our blueberry mixture into a saucepan and turned it up to medium-high. Soon we had a beautiful,bubbling, drippy mess of berries on our hands (and on the counter.) Aftering letting it cool and thicken, we watched, mesmerized, as Caitlin rolled the stuff into the dough that had risen earlier. It was gorgeous! In that moment I became a true W&B convert.
By the end of the day, we had baked one chocolate #PLEASED cake with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles using W&B fave baker Bravetart's Devil's Food Cake recipe!, more than 20 raspberry goat cheese muffins, and more than a dozen blueberry sweet rolls (half with lemon glaze per the original recipe, and half with cream cheese glaze from this similar Jam Roll from King Arthur Flour ) All were simply delectable. The recipes for the rolls and muffins were pretty easy to follow and necessitated very little tweaking. We did, however, pick up a couple of hints along the way:
-One of the muffin pans took a little longer to bake than the other—so be prepared to add some bake time if necessary. Also, although you’ll want to eat those muffins straight out of their wrappers, use caution…the berries will be HOT even after the muffins have cooled a bit. We recommend enjoying after some cooling time.
-Depending on the pan size you use for the sweet rolls, you may also need to add extra bake time for them as well. Never fear; they will be delicious.
Written by Bess Whitby, edited by Caitlin Childs & courtney marie. Photos by Leah Jones (unless otherwise noted)!