Thursday, June 30, 2011

One week away...

My child stumbled out of the bedroom this morning, crawled onto the mat I was working out on, and said, "buh-na-nuh milk, peez?"


Did you just say, "BUH-na-nuh milk?"  BUH-na-nuh?

"Na-nuh" was one of Langston's very first words.  As most children, Langston has an affinity for bananas unlike any other food (although grapes, or "baps," are a close second).  I still remember the first time I fed him mashed up bananas.  I stuck the tiny dessert-filled spoon in his unsuspecting mouth, and expecting the usual pureed peas or sweet potato, his astounded eyes sparkled as if he had just bitten through the crusted  sugar in a creme brulee.  He fell in love, and he has rarely missed a banana or two in a day since.

But this morning, it was "banana," and this extra syllable made me tear up.  The reality is that a week from yesterday, Langston turns 3, and of course, it is bittersweet.

I love this kid.

And although I have been told I don't seem like the mothering type, I am elated that heaven looked past my selfish nature and gave me this kid.  And I am even happier that I have a husband who partners with me to make the right decisions for him.  At times we have sucked, but most often we exceed, and I am so proud of what our little boy is becoming.


Yesterday was his last day of summer camp, and as he has a summer birthday, I went ahead and brought some cupcakes to school with him.

OK.  They are quite feminine.  I know.  But they are strawberry!  Strawberries are delicious, but they tend to make things pink.  Maybe next time I will remember.  I think I brought pink cupcakes to school at Christmas for Jesus' birthday party.  I know.  I have issues with pink.

Regardless, I am quite sure that the kids who ate them were not bothered.  And I am sure that Langston is still unaware that they were for his birthday.  I am sure Langston doesn't know what a birthday is.


I know I still owe you a recipe for Monday's cupcakes, and I will get them both to you tomorrow.  I hurt my back on Tuesday doing a rock star jump, and I am pretty heavily medicated.  I would hate to try to put together numbers and ingredients for you this morning.  Who knows what you would end up with!

And although there is so much more to say, for now I wish you a wonderful Thursday!

Rachel Bee

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Writer's block and the way my brain works...

I am sorry.  I am having a little writer's block.

Perhaps P90X is having a hard time finding muscle-power, and has crept into my brain.  Sorry to disappoint you, Tony, but there is not much there, either.

No, there is a lot in my brain.  The problem is that it is full of useless information, like old telephone numbers, television theme music, and the price of clothing I sold over a decade ago (with and without tax). The names of every breed of dog, the pricing of Mini Cooper packages from 2006, and large excerpts of childhood movies junk up my brain so generously, that it is hard at times to make room for anything else.

Where are my keys?

Where are my flip flops?

"Hi!  I'll be with you in just a minute," gasping as I realize I did not (once again) write an appointment down.

As you may imagine, my brain is a scary and yet fascinating place.  As I picture it, my thoughts have a hard time getting from one locale to another, as something like the lyrics from a children's Christmas play solo from 1989 is laying in the middle of the normal path, like a large tree that fell in a storm.  In order for synapses to meet, they have to move around the "tree," charting a new course; and inevitably causing me to say or do something others consider creative (or strange).

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Blackberry Curd= Creative
This whole rant about synapses and trees in the road= Strange

Regardless, look-y-here.  I wrote something!  I blogged.

ANYWAY, about two months ago, I got rid of my personal website for a number of reasons.  I was using a template-based site that really did not look like me, so I sold it off to someone else.  Yesterday I finally built a new one, and I really do think you should check it out. 

I have to admit, I am really happy with it.

I will finish this post with some pictures of cupcakes, as that is why you are here, anyway.

This is a Chocolate Mint Cupcake with Peppermint White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (breathe!).

I made a dozen of these plus a cake last week, and they are (were) simply divine!

I will type out the recipe tomorrow, as some little one is desperate to watch "Little Einsteins," or "Steins" as he calls it.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Rachel Bee

Friday, June 24, 2011

Seven-up Cake, Chess Cake, and recipes involving Jello.

I am a bit sleepy this morning, as yesterday was a heck of a day.  Baking, baking, baking, and alas: more baking.  As soon as I am finished here, I get to fire up the oven again to do, well- you get it.  I enjoy it all, but as I listen to my nearly three year-old having a blast in the next room- I wish I could cozy up and watch him like a television.  It is really that exciting to be his mom right now.  

Yesterday I delivered two dozen cupcakes and a very tall cake to a client.  The evidence of 8 hours of baking was on my skirt, face, and in my disheveled hair; and as my weary arms plopped the carefully wrought creation onto my client's desk, an older gentleman asked this visibly frazzled and worn girl where the cake came from.

"From my kitchen," I replied.

"Not from a bakery?" he asked.

"No.  Believe it or not, I do hair, but I bake cakes for fun at home."

He seemed pleased (and probably mortified that I claimed responsibility for others' personal appearance), but I started to wonder: how did I get to this point?

When I was quite young, I remember pulling out cookbooks to see if we had all of the ingredients in the house to make- well, anything.  I remember baking a chocolate pound cake that my father said was "the best thing he had ever put in his mouth."  Thanks, dad.  I also remember circling recipes in the same cookbook later that evening to make for when I started my own bakery (in a addition to becoming a famous singer, Duke cheerleader, and Hallmark ornament designer).

Seven-up Cake.  Chess Cake.  Recipes involving Jello.  And a microwave.

Then I went into a cooking hiatus, when I reduced my involvement in the kitchen to defrosting the meat for the Hamburger Helper.  In college I went on an entirely "fat-free" diet, and I did a lot of experimenting with fat-free cream cheese.  When I moved to Australia, my roommate and I tried countless times to create simple chocolate chip cookies without proper measuring cups.

They never turned out.  Never.  Not once.

C- why didn't we splurge on some measuring cups, for goodness sake?

And finally, when I got married, I started watching the Food Network.  I watched Barefoot Contessa for Ina's sultry-voiced basics.  I watched Giada de Laurentiis for her creativity (how can I make this dish Italian?).  Michael Chiarello brings high-brow sophistication in a backdrop of unparalleled beauty.  Paula Dean I watched for her gall (you are seriously covering that whole ham in puff pastry?).  All of these shows brought some token of knowledge that helped my develop kitchen skills, but none deserves credit above... Alton Brown.

Now, I have a very close friend who really, would rather watch a Rachael Ray marathon than a half an hour of Good Eats.  No one person (sorry, Momma, not even you) has taught me more about food, and especially baking than Alton.  I love his mad-scientist demeanor, and it is no surprise to my husband that I regard him as... cute.  If there is ever a recipe I have in mind- some wild concoction of delicacies, I always look in his catalogue to see if he has done it first.

Alton, I am never disappointed, and to me, your word is law. Amen.

Above is Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownie and his Premium Vanilla Ice Cream.  The brownies are thick, rich, and somewhere between chewy and fudgey.  The ice cream is made from a combination of half and half and heavy whipping cream, so needless to say- eat it in small amounts.  Or don't.  But let me warn you, it is decadent!

I am not sure where I am going with the baking, or if I am indeed going anywhere at all.  All I know is that I enjoy it.  I love flour on my countertops, and a silly giggle from my hubs when he finds it on my nose.  I love smoothing out frosting, dusting a cake in freshly crushed cookie crumbs, and choosing which piping tip to use for the finishing touches.  The hum of my Kitchen Aid is music as it whips egg whites into the miracle of meringue, and the smell of a zested lemon is pure heaven.  Baking is simply... lovely!

And for now, it works.  Thank you, Alton Brown.  Thank you, hungry tummies and occasions to celebrate!

Have a great weekend!

Rachel Bee

Monday, June 20, 2011

Behind the Cake-Pop.

The experts say that after three or four bites of a particular food, a person's taste buds technically become "bored."  I can't say that I experienced this with home-made french fries last night, but perhaps that notion is why I love eating things in miniature.  I love mini cupcakes, brownie bites, sausage balls, and other standard party fare.  But I just- I simply cannot get behind the Cake-Pop.

They are cute- even adorable at times.

But can a recipe which calls for boxed cake mix, can of frosting, and candy melts (sugar + hydrogenated palm kernel oil + color + artificial flavoring) really be that delicious?

Salon professionals (as we like to call ourselves) get to shop in a few places the public does not, and my store of choice is called "Cosmoprof."  We have one in the area, and the staff there is simply... wonderful.  I bring them all sorts of goodies- usually kitchen trials which don't make it onto the blog- and they gladly oblige.  Over a year ago, I saw the Cake-Pop for the first time, and mesmerized by their cuteness, I sprung into action.  I brought them some samples, and they LOVED them.

As I mentioned, I made them once, as in addition to their lack-lustre flavor and chemical components, they left a colossal mess in my kitchen.  It wasn't worth the effort, in my opinion, so I gave up on the notion of a local cake-pop empire (cake-pops are sooo Augusta).

All of this to say, I received a phone call from Cosmoprof, and one of the staff members wanted 30 Red Velvet Cake-Pops.  Since I a) like her and b) will do just about anything for money, I agreed.

The process went a lot more smoothly this time, and although I did indeed use a box, I used home-made cream cheese frosting as the binder.  I also combined the Candy Melts with real chocolate, and the taste was phenomenally better.

As I have had a few inquiries about Cake-Pops and balls, you will be seeing more of them from me.  I have some pumpkin and chocolate cake scraps in the freezer that will be a great experiment.

Would you like to make some yourself?

Cake-Pops a la Bakerella

one cake
frosting (about 2/3 to 3/4 of a "can")
lollipop sticks
1 bag Candy Melts or Almond Bark

Bake your cake.  When it is cool, crumble it into er... uh... crumbs.  Mix in frosting, 1/4 cup at a time, until it is a workable, moldable solid.  Chill in the fridge for a few hours.

Roll substance into 1" to 1 1/2" balls.

Melt candy in a double boiler.  Dip the end of a stick in the candy, and insert into the cake balls.  Put in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Take out 10 at a time, dip and twirl the pops into the candy, and insert into a styrofoam block to dry.  Immediately sprinkle something on top, if desired.  They solidify very quickly!

Repeat until finished, and then store in the fridge.  Makes around 45 Cake-Pops.

Get your husband to clean up the kitchen.

Love mine.  Thanks for the photos, sweetness.  And the kitchen-cleaning.

Looks as if I am behind the Cake-Pop after all.

I know.  Nerd.

Have a great Monday!

Rachel Bee

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making my steps sure.

I have had a lot of baking opportunities this week, in addition to an exceptional amount of hair-doing.  Oh- and in addition to starting P90X.  If anyone has seen me out and about town, yes, that is the reason for my slow, methodical waddle.  I can't really say more than I am worn out, and I am looking forward to tomorrow's "day off."

I have to say that (like most people) I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, but in the last few weeks it has brought more god than bad.  Through my husband's photography page, a delightful person saw pictures of some of my baking, and contacted me to do some work for her and her business.  This week I made my first two dozen cupcakes for her, with a deficit of 3 more as well as a cake (to which I have dedicated a pinterest board).  The first two dozen I made were my "Lime in the Coconut," and "Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup."

I used the recipe shown here (which is also an exceptionally gorgeous post about my kid), and topped them with those cute little Reeces Mini Cups that come in a bag.  Very delicious, very addictive.

I did not take a picture of my Coconut Lime cupcakes as when I finished them, they looked way too beige to me.  That night I went to four different grocery stores looking for key limes to plop on the top, but perhaps they are out of season.  Finally at Walmart I found miniature fruit slices (the gummy ones that are completely covered in sugar), and wedged them into the Cream Cheese Frosting.  They were adorable!

I also took the plunge and purchased new cake boxes, complete with cupcake inserts!  They are very cute, but a bit pricey.  Here are the cupcakes, all boxed up...

I love it.  You know, I am well aware of the sovereignty of God, but I feel like I am in the exact and proper pinpoint of the place He has planned for me.  I mess up often, but as the Bible states all through the Psalms (18:36, 37:31, 119:133 per example), God makes my steps very sure.  When my path seems precarious and narrow, as I follow after Him, my next move becomes very obvious.

Sorry.  Just a side-thought.

I love Him.

I love You.  Have a great weekend.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, June 16, 2011

With absolute fondness...

I have been thinking a lot about the hair industry recently, and especially how I see it in my little corner of Georgia.

When we moved from Charleston, SC, it didn't occur to me to land a job before I arrived here, as in Charleston there was an upscale salon on every corner desperate for talent and a warm smile.  I was charging $55 per haircut, $100 for a half-head highlight.  Bridal hair was a focus in that city, and it was nothing to ask $115 for a bridal updo, and then require a trial run at $70.  I was paid $11 an hour when I started, just to sit and wait for clientele!  Little did I know what a blessing that was. 

My first interview here (set up by my real estate agent) was with a salon owner who had 17 years of experience under her belt.  We met at Starbucks, and she brought her (what appeared to be) 8 year-old son.  We talked about my experience, and she asked me what I would charge for a haircut. 

"Well, I have been charging $55, but I think I am comfortable with $40."
She looked at me, bewildered. 
"I have been doing hair for 17 years, and I charge $27."

Holy-cursewords.  What have we done?

I searched for MONTHS for a salon similar to the one I had left, but the three that existed in the area at the time were not hiring.  Realistically, I can think of six.  

Augusta was littered with (what I like to call) "beauty boxes"- small, 4-chair salons donning either the name of the owner, or some little not-so-clever locution to do with hair.  

"Hair for You."  "Shear Elegance." "I Can't Beweave It!"

I found refuge in one of these boxes, and my spoiled-rotten, newly pregnant and miserable self received weekly checks in the range of $15-$60.  I sat for 35 hours a week, unpaid unless I was holding shears, and was glared at if I dared leave early.  

Is this even... legal?

In November I received a phone call from one of the "Big Six," asking me if I would like to sit down for an interview.  That night I bleached all of the blue out of my hair, spent the remainder of my available credit on a new dress, and boldly walked in to meet Joy.  She was engaging and confident.  I would make money.  I told her I was pregnant.  She didn't mind.  And with that, I cried.  

I worked there, busy as I could possibly be during the remainder of that pregnancy.  I was able to pay bills, go on vacation, and save enough for my full 6-week maternity leave.  For the most part, everyone in that very large salon got along as well as they could, and I think we really enjoyed each other.  Obviously, I am no longer at that salon, and most everyone whom I worked with aren't either.  My restlessness + the negative economy got the best of me, and regrettably I left.  Regardless of the decision I made, I view my last days as a non-mother there with absolute fondness.  

And when I think of the pleasure of those times, I remember us often crouching around a bowl-full of this...

This is "Sabrina's Black Bean and Corn Salsa," and even at 6:00 AM it makes my mouth water.  

When I was at the farmers' market this weekend, I stopped at a table full of organic produce, and this recipe came to mind.  My co-worker at the time brought this to all of us one day, and we begged for the recipe so much that she wrote it out and made copies.  

Only confident people share recipes. 

I still have my copy- crumpled, ripped, and doodled on, and it is with pleasure (and permission) that I share it with all of you.  It calls for cans of corn and beans, but in my efforts to be fancy, I blanched some corn and soaked some beans.  It was delicious, but do yourself a favor: buy the cans. 


Sabrina's Black Bean and Corn Salsa
2 cans black beans, drained
1 can yellow shoepeg corn, drained
1 large red onion, chopped
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, chopped (seeds and veins removed for less heat)
juice of one lime
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t garlic salt
1/2 t black pepper

Mix it all together, and enjoy.  I let mine sit overnight to let the flavors meld together.  

Thank you, Sabrina, for your sweetness (and spiciness in this case).  Thanks to all of the girls who made that time of my life so special.  And thanks to those salon-owners.  Know that my spoiled rotten-butt did not know how easy I had it!

Love to all, 
Rachel Bee

Monday, June 13, 2011

Recipe for Blackberry Curd!

I posted pictures of these gorgeous cupcakes on Saturday, and I promised a recipe.

Here it is!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Blackberry Curd and Dump Frosting
(One recipe Pumpkin Spice Cake*)

Blackberry Curd
1/3 C blackberry puree, seeds removed
juice of 1 lemon (or lime)
1/3 C + 2 T white sugar (if your puree is extremely tart, go ahead and make it 2/3 C sugar
3 eggs
4 T butter, in cubes

Place all of the ingredients in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, and stir constantly until the temperature reaches @165 degrees.  Remove from heat.  Your mixture should be moderately thick.  Add the butter a piece at a time, and set aside to cool.  After 30 minutes, cover surface with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator at least 4 hours.

Bake your cupcakes. *I baked 12 cupcakes and poured the remaining batter into a 6" cake pan.  I would hesitate to halve this recipe, as it is hard to properly cream a half a stick of butter with a stand mixer.  When cooled, I put the cake layer in the freezer, maybe for some cake pops down the road.

When your cupcakes are cool, core the center.  I use a 1" round cookie cutter and press it into the center, that way they are all uniform.  Make sure you leave an ample amount of cake in the cupcake, as no one wants a mouthful of custard (and that pumpkin cupcake is too, too good!).

Drop a few tablespoons of the curd in the cavities of the cupcakes, and then frost as desired.  Like I mentioned in my previous post, I used a combination of leftover Swiss Meringue Buttercream, cream cheese, and butter.  There was no rhyme, no reason.  I knew I wanted it to be fluffy, almost the consistency of whipped cream, but with more staying power.  Perhaps a Seven-Minute Frosting?  I do love Seven-Minute Frosting, but I was out of corn syrup.  Besides, why not use what you have laying around?

Please do try this blackberry curd.  It is simple, refreshing, and purple- for heaven's sake!  It is not too often we get to indulge in purple food.

Have a great Monday!

Rachel Bee

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An exceptional sort of hot.

It is summertime, and although the living isn't exactly "easy," I couldn't be happier with the warm weather. I am sure I am not special in that I prefer summer to winter; but here in our little corner of Georgia, summer is an exceptional sort of hot.  The high 90's begin in June, and seem to stay until November (Thanksgiving is always in shorts).  The air is muggy and stale, with no cool breeze or (heck) even warm breeze to provide momentary relief.  When I made plans to move here, a man I knew (who had lived here before) cautioned, "Take whatever temperature it is here, add 10 degrees, remove the breeze, and that is the summer there." Since he had a reputation for being a jerk, I believed that comment to be typical from his jerky "Old White Man Says" soul.  However, when we pulled up to our new house in August that year, the thermometer outside read 110 degrees, and we proceeded to unload our trucks.


Four years later, I am somewhat used to my 94 degree run, my car seats seething with the summer sizzle, and spending most afternoons indoors with a very active 3 year-old.  We turn our thermostat up to 80 (78 if we get too hot), sit in our underpants, and try not to use the oven past 10AM.

One of the pleasures of summer is all of the ripe and juicy berries, and this week blackberries were the theme.  The texture of blackberries are a little off for me, with every little juicy capsule bursting it's innards in a noisy succession, "pop, pop, pop, pop."  I can eat one or two, but the third one always weirds me out.  I do not mind them in cobbler, tarts, bars, coffee cake (when the oven does the exploding for me), or curd, as I learned this week.

I had a good cup of blackberries left over from last week's bounty, and as I hate to throw things out, I pureed them with the intention of putting the resulting goo in the freezer.  After sieving out all of the seeds, I tasted it, and was surprised at how tart it was. Immediately I pulled out some eggs and a lemon, and started making Blackberry Curd.

The result is so thick and creamy, and the perfect shade of violet.  As I had some pumpkin left over from winter, I decided to fill Pumpkin Cupcakes with it.

I pulled the remaining frosting from my Rose Cake out of the freezer, whipped it up to high-heaven, added 2 tablespoons of the curd (for color), half a slab of cream cheese and half a stick of butter.  I also threw in two cups of confectioners sugar, and then whipped and whipped until it almost had the consistency of whipped cream.

I was out of piping bags, so I slopped that frosting right on there, all willy-nilly.

I topped them with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a cinnamon stick, and a little blackberry.  So sweet!

Finally, a cross-section.  See that gorgeous purple deliciousness?  See the orangeyness (a word) of the pumpkin?  What a delightful pair!

If you have any pumpkin laying around, do make this recipe- which I will post later today (I hope) as I need to get ready for my run.

Love you all, and hope you have a great weekend!

Rachel Bee

Friday, June 3, 2011

Macarons and self-deprecation...

I have issues.  Or have had.

We know this.  We all know this.

And for whatever reason I don't mind throwing myself under the bus, so that maybe you will take something from it.  Maybe you will gather some sort of encouragement from my self-deprecation:

"Well, at least I am not that bad.  Rachel needs to get her stuff together."

That notion is fine with me, really, because I do need to get my stuff together.  I am very aware of said notion.  My days are full of little triumphs and failures, and for whatever reason I have a hard time focusing on the triumphs.

-or perhaps they are not as funny-

Know that I think of things in terms of cake and hair (a frightful word-pairing), but more often hair- and this morning I got to surmising.  You see, my hair is the longest it has been in some time.  There were a few isolated occasions in high school when somehow it crept down my shoulders, but in 1996 I calculated an act of rebellion when I cut it off into a pixy.  That act- that one insolent act- spawned a decade of hair "don'ts," and it was only exacerbated when I entered the industry.

I can forgive my first five years of coiffure snafus as I really didn't know how to be anything but self-destructive, but the next five years of being "behind the chair" harbored some my worst hair decisions ever.  And why?  I believe there is some sort of initiation- some branding of newness that makes you the target of everyone's experimentation when you are fresh from school.  At first, you are nervous to ask the exceptionally busy stylists for hair help (busy=good), so you ask the girl who is newer and inexperienced to do your color.  Of course this stylist has months and months of creative envy bottled up, and she has a new color or technique that she is just dying to try.

"Can I please, please try this on you? You have that face that can wear anything!"

From the back, "Oh-my-God, Rachel, you would look SO HOT with that color!"

"Really?  Do you think I should do it?"

And before I know it, I am draped, clamped, and anxious; flinging myself on the sacrificial altar of her creativity.  Four hours and 3 processes later, I am a poor reflection of the original goal, with an explanation from the stylist that sounds something like, "Well, I think if we try again in two weeks (when your hair has somewhat recovered), it will be perfect."


Two years ago in March, I had one such experience that changed my perspective forever.  Very long story short, while wet I was able to mush my hair off about an inch away from my scalp in chunks.  We had just completed my fourth bleaching process in a month, and my hair decided to quit on me.  I became angry and tearful, and I bravely received my very last pixy that day.

Along with that pixy came an epiphany: I deserve pretty hair.  My desire to express my "funkiness" through a haircut was gone.  I passed the baton of experimentation to another stylist, and went away happy and fulfilled.

Now, to the original thought:  I have issues that I publicly share.  All of my short-comings, downfalls, bitterness, and horrifying childhood experiences- I actually choose to expose?  With my honesty I make a mess of other's opinions of me?  Perhaps writing this blog is akin to getting a lavender asymmetrical and disconnected bob with baby-bangs, while everyone else sits and lives vicariously through the experience.  One day, I will walk away from expressing short-comings and downfalls, passing the baton of humiliation to another poor soul.

But for now, it works.  Someone has to embrace honesty, and I am happy to oblige.  Here are some (pictures of) cookies for your trouble.

I am really figuring out this macaron-thing.

But the statement above will surely earn me a flopped batch.

Call it kharma.

Or something more Christiany- Like Proverbs 16:18.

This is a vanilla macaron with Nutella in the middle (I am that evil).  You can find the recipe I use for macarons here.

Have a great and gorgeous day, my friends.  Thanks for reading.

Rachel Bee

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Buttery resi-goo...

As I may have mentioned before (or maybe not), I worked for Starbucks Coffee for nearly five years.  Much has changed in the years since I bore the green apron heavy with "bling," but the company's newly-updated logo still makes my heart smile.

I was so grateful for the job when I got it.  I was living in Sydney as a student, and despite having gone to get my work visa the day after I moved into town, I had a very hard time finding a job.

Hmm... maybe keeping the job was my issue.  My first bit of employment was at Darrel Lea, Australia's Godiva (but more cutesy and much less overtly decadent).  After Easter they quickly let me go as a "casual" employee.  Australia hires most people as "casual" employees, as one week you could receive 30 hours and the next, 5.  Or you can receive none, 3 weeks in a row, when I guess you are meant to get the hint.

My next job was at a sandwich shop, the next selling t-shirts to tourists, two nights as a waitress (where I was fired because my hair looked bad- true story), not a single hour at an ice cream parlor, and finally: a job fair at Starbucks.

I wore my best outfit, which is just frightful when I think of it, and I actually made the interviewer cry with my story of misfortune and despair.  She told me I would know my fate "by the end of the week," and my phone was in my ready hand for days.  Finally, the call came (in the middle of class), and I was one very, very happy girl.  I had a job, and boy- was that store a blast.  We sat on the corner of Alfred and Pitt, right in the heart of Circular Quay.  Our staff was completely international, and we all respected and adored each other (in my memory).  I worked at other locations in the USA, but despite picking up my husband at a store in Charleston, none can compare with that first Starbucks experience.  Hmm.  OK.   In retrospect, meeting one's husband is definitely better than working with the motley crew that was Starbucks Circular Quay, but it was still pretty awesome.

Now: to the point (if I must).  It is no secret that I have a certain enthusiasm for pastry, and Starbucks holds no exception.  Sydney stores were mainly true to local culture, selling sausage rolls, caramel slices, and jaffa squares.  Although these were unfamiliar to me, I managed to deal with the adjustment (said my very large rear-end).  When I moved to the states (my taste-buds in need of American refreshing), I introduced myself to a whole new sampling of desserts.  Coffee cake often met its demise on my plate (pre-trans fat mania), and although I traditionally stuck to the "Reduced-fat Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake," occasionally a corner of "Crumbleberry Coffee Cake" ended up in my mouth and... heaven.  For those of you who don't remember it, it looked- well, a lot like this:

Now.  I was in no way trying to create "Crumbleberry Coffee Cake."  I started with a recipe from Joy the Baker for blackberry pie bars, and while following the recipe completely, I ended up with coffee cake.

And no one is really complaining.  Moist, cakey, weighing in at 3 hefty pounds apiece, this crumbly wonder made Memorial Day morning very, very special.  I know, Joy, that you call them "bars," but "bar" is a far reach for this nostalgic treat.  Maybe (if cut as such) I could see them as "squares," but "bars?"

Eh.  Whatever they are or are not, I am making a few changes, and calling them "Crumbleberry Coffee Cake Taste-Alikes."

Because they do.

Crumbleberry Coffee Cake Taste-Alikes
For the crust and topping
1.5 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1.5 sticks of unsalted butter (I'd like to have done half salted and half unsalted), cold and cut into pieces
For the filling
2 eggs
3/4 cup + 2 T sugar
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 cup +2 T flour
pinch of salt
3 cups fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture, using 2 knives, a pastry blender, or even your hands. When the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, remove a cup of it and set it to the side.  Press the remaining into the bottom of a buttered square pan, and put in an oven preheated to 350 for 15 minutes, or until golden brown (for whatever reason, it actually took me nearly 20).  Pull out and cool for about 10 minutes while you make the filling.

Beat the eggs into sour cream, sugar, flour, and salt.  Fold in the berries, and pour over the prepared crust.  Sprinkle the remaining crust onto the top of the mixture, and place it back into the oven for @55 minutes to an hour (or until golden brown).

Cut when cool(ish), and serve with a bright African coffee to your most favorite friends and family.

Despite my amour for my current industry, my nose misses the smell of a vat of freshly-made mocha, my tongue- coffee cake scrapings in the morning (when you put the coffee cake on the display and then scrape your finger down the empty cardboard to release the buttery resi-goo); my heart- the inward giggle when someone orders an extra cup of "whoop cream" on the side; all of this and more made my life so colorful in those younger years.  Although I prefer to make it all at home these days-

Cheers, old friend.

Rachel Bee