recently i received this comment:
Dear Bullpen Baker,
Is there any truth to the rumor that the signing of Mr. Crisp was heavily encouraged by the bullpen to see if they could get cocoa crispies every game?
well, anon, i doubt it. the end of last season petered out for me; the bullpen just wasn’t doing it for me, baking wise, and if i don’t feel supported, well, why keep doing it? i think the acquisition of coco was made for other, far more elusive reasons.
the baker’s future here is bleak; i’m planning to watch some games, but so far, i haven’t bought any tickets yet (and i refuse to go to snuggie night, partly of principle that snuggies, slankets, sluggies, etc. are the worst of the worst of late night evening wear). in fact, the guys are just 1/2 mile south of me (i can see the stadium from my office window), probably starting to warm up in the constant drizzle that is our early april weather. my writing may be slim to none, and about it and the a’s upcoming season, well, we’ll just have to wait and see.
this past weekend, while prepping for monday’s game i drew a blank. ugh, i had no idea what to bake. chocolate bark, fruit bars, coconut date rolls? with tickets in the first row, i knew that whatever i delivered, it had to be good because if i gave the bullpen something awful, well, the pitchers would know exactly where to find me. in fact, i had visions of the gatorade tub being dumped over my head during the seventh inning stretch, which would make for a cold, sticky, and artificially flavored ride home. so sunday night, i trashed the kitchen and made everybody’s favorite, the chocolate chip cookie. mine featured massive pecan halves, chocolate chunks, and chocolate chips.
naming these cookies proved harder than it would seem, and with 20 minutes left at work, i printed out a sign with one of the worst titles ever: show me your pecan-off move chocolate chunk cookies. you’ve got to say it out loud, and even then, you’ll hear groans from every which way. sorry about that…
sitting at the end of the first row in sec. 129 made me more cautious; i couldn’t throw the cookies, and the foot traffic at that end of the bullpen was minimal, especially with the gas heater on the fritz and 3/4 of the bullpen flocking to the clubhouse to warm up their highly sensitive fingers and palms. thankfully, by the fifth, i was able to loudly whisper to mike wuertz, who leaned back as i leaned forward for a successful hand-off.
the view from our seats was great, and what was even better was watching the game on the dvr later and being able to catch our fuzzy selves in the background over and over again. too bad that the coliseum was spartan at best; the advertised attendance hovered around 10K, which seemed about 8,000 too many for the seats filled (and for the concessions that were barricaded–again, no veggie burgers).
yesterday marked my last day game of the season (unless someone throws free or deeply discounted tickets my way). i’m more of a night game kind of girl; i like whipping out my beanie, gloves, and blanket, and huddling with my hot chai in one hand and the other clapping my knee in time with the fans’ rowdy “let’s go oakland” chant. so cheers to my last sweltering game under the sun, but boo to the season coming to a close soon.
yesterday’s game celebrated the philadelphia athletics, and the game, with the a’s taking on the visiting white sox, focused on all things 1929. as the coliseum became shibe park (for a few hours), we turned back the clock with cheap tickets (for those who didn’t buy theirs earlier in the season,unlike me), a classic car parade, 50 cent peanuts, a dance performance featuring the charleston, cream and royal blue uniforms, player nicknames, and warm-ups to songs of old like “singing in the rain.”
playing on our theme, i brushed tons of phyllo dough, crushed almonds, and took my first swipe at baklava. or in this case, turn bak-the-clock-lava. the recipe, from this month’s vegetarian times, was pretty easy, and i subbed a mix of yogurt butter and earth balance for butter, mainly because 2 1/2 sticks of butter is a lot!
wrapping each slice in plastic wrap (to protect the pitchers’ fingers from ensuing stickiness), i carefully boxed about ten triangle pieces. i had hoped that sitting in the 3rd row would make delivery (warning: baking pun alert!) a piece of cake, but with a family of four to my right, and the heat keeping the pitchers in the shade or near the dugout, i resorted to gently tossing the box to everyone’s favorite yaley, craig breslow, somewhere around the 5th.
for the past month, i’ve taken a mental DL visit (no, not like britney or mischa. just a non-blogging, non-baking, mostly non-baseball mental vacay). after making chocolate yogurt snack cakes/muffins for family, i spent three and a half weeks away from a whisk, baking soda, and a kitchenaid mixer. during this time, i admit that i only watched two baseball games and not in their entirety. but my flour-free refresher reenergized me, and last thursday baseball and i converged again at everyone’s favorite sugar-filled game: root beer float day (RBFD)!
i’ll be honest: i don’t do root beer floats. don’t get me wrong; i love root beer. but i’m fairly lactose intolerant, so the float aspect gets lost on me. if only they’d do cashew ice cream floats… hint, hint. but seeing all of the families who line up to get a glimpse of the players, while the players probably envision an ever-growing swarm of fans, young and old, looming about with dripping ice cream mustaches, well, it’s all part of the game, right?
wednesday evening, i went to work, mixing, creaming, scooping, and baking mini cupcakes, just the right size to pop in your mouth before going out to stretch. the base features henry weinhard’s root beer and root beer extract from san francisco brewcraft. without eggs, i was afraid the cupcakes would be hard, but these turned out light and fluffy (hint: to keep them airy instead of hardening overnight, place your cupcakes on a plate and cover it with plastic wrap). to transform the regular cupcake recipe into a more compact version, i filled each mini mold 3/4 of the way (i wish i had filled them larger, as the cupcakes don’t rise too much) and baked them for 12 minutes at 350 degrees F.
i tried to make the cream soda frosting, but my cream soda had too much extract flavor and not enough creamyness, so i went with a vanilla bourbon extract instead. i substituted brummel and brown’s yogurt spread for regular butter, and used 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, way less than the 4 cups recommended in the recipe.
but now, back to RBFD. i guarded the cupcake box as we traversed the east side club, and made the delivery to andrew bailey after warmups on the field. he continued to sign autographs for the throngs of kids and adults who lined up, waving mugs, tickets, and hats (including one fan who somehow convinced AB to sign his boston red sox cap… i refuse to comment on that, other than to say that bailey took it in stride), all while taking care not to squish or flip my box between the bullpen and the dugout.
other fun things from thursday’s game:
- having a four-year-old scoop ice cream just as well as the firefighters
- realizing that the wives/SOs used to be hotter (and more natural looking)
- almost stepping on a really cool pin (ok, that’s not fun) AND returning it to the 70-year-old who lost it (she was the only one with a pin collection on her hat in the section)
- watching three people who snuck alcohol in past security get carted away by the oakland police (no tasers required)
- telling my coworkers i was taking a vacation day to go to a baseball game
it may be a round of kitchen confessions. i got in a little over my head with this last round of baking. i had the kitchen to myself, and hocked up on sugar and corn syrup, i worked myself into quite a late-night frenzy saturday evening. with a liquid concoction bubbling on the stove and me reading the recipe under a dim light 15 feet above me, i see the sekret recipe calls to boil said ingredients until they reach 270 degrees F. ok. i can do that. except my thermometer only reaches 220 degrees F. thankfully, in my sugar-induced, semi-sleep deprived state, i marched along positively, pulling the cooled substance until, around midnight, i had thirty pieces of lime oil-infused taffy (awesome kudos to the exploratorium, the san francisco children’s science museum, for this recipe)! this version comes out more like laffy taffy, and boyajian’s lime oil from sur la table added a citrusy punch to the stretchy and sweet pieces of pure caloric joy.
monday evening, the a’s battled it out with the giants over in oakland. during the second inning, i nabbed russ springer and handed him a box of taffy. no one left the game with a missing tooth or cracked crown, and the entire team, highlighted by the swift pitching staff, played a great and exciting game. the fans cheered, some spilled their beer (like the guy behind me who doused my purse and brand new j.crew work pants with his budweiser), and most everyone wore a’s or giants gear. the most enjoyable part was the amount of positive energy surging throughout the coliseum all evening, something that rarely surfaces these days. maybe it’s because a certain owner is pulling a major league, what with paltry and boring advertising, no attempts to increase attendance, and a lack of bay area fandom. he may want to think about ways to harness and sell this rare yet amazing electricity back to the grid because there’s nothing better than renewable energy, and it’s something this team and its devoted fans need and deserve.
last week, we took the cat in for his weekly cast change. katrina, one of the awesome vet techs, asked if i had any cast color preferences, and i piped up and said no purple, pink, red, etc. but blue, green, yellow, or even a combination would be great. fifteen minutes went by, happily spent petting a 200 lbs. chocolate brown newfoundland puppy (how can a dog this big be just 10 months old?), and out comes katrina, with a one-of-a-kind kitty cast attached to the furball. big thanks to her and cesar, the nurse assistant, for their oakland a’s-centric creativity! and now i have an entry for this year’s “dress your pet” contest…
last wednesday’s game against the twins may have been a slight bummer on some counts (my bullpen’s era ballooned; current era to be calculated at a later date), but the delivery left me (introvertedly) elated. with a handoff to brad ziegler, i delivered homemade twinkies with a little note to (b)eat those twinkies. witty, probably not. but totally appropriate, especially when brad said, “hey, twinkies! ah-right!” it made my heart quiver oh so slightly…
twinkies (the edible kind, not the joe mauer version. although he might be tasty in a figurative sense…) are something i’ve been wanting to try for quite some time, but i had to align my stars just right. first, i had to plan in advance. none of this picking-a-recipe-out-of-the-air-three-days-before-a-game stuff. it’s really hard to find the old hostess twinkie-authorized pan, but i thankfully found norpro’s cream canoe set on amazon. second, i had a knock-it-out-of-the-park recipe from jennifer over at shmooed food (and did i mention the recipe is vegan?). third, after calling every semi-to-fully natural grocery store north of daly city, i found the ever-important barley malt powder at rainbow, one of my all-time favorite groceries. coincidentally, my pantry is now stocked to the brim with oat milk, black quinoa, and five different kinds of seitan. i’ll be back at thanksgiving, rainbow, be prepared. and lastly, i had to put these suckers to the most important taste test, and they passed. yummunchyummunchyummunch.
a few notes about the twinkies themselves:
- i used hazelnut milk in place of soy.
- my oven must be off, because i had to bake these 8 minutes longer than the recipe calls for.
- in the filling, i used earth balance in place of margarine.
- the filling is incredibly tasting and could be used in sandwich cookies, cupcakes, and over ice cream.
- the recipe says to chuck the filling plunger, but this norpro one rocks. keep it, use it, and bow down to it’s plasticky presence.
- last, these twinkies will dry out if left open in the fridge or on the counter. keep them in an air-tight container and ideally leave them in a cool place, either the fridge or counter. but they’re just so darn good that i doubt they’ll make it to the tupperware stage.
last night, a little boy and his dad sat a few seats to our right. during the seventh, the 4-year-old turned to his dad and said, “dad, if the second fielder moves over that way, does he become the first fielder?” with the way this game was going, this was just the perfect thing to liven my mood. dad then proceeded to explain the difference between the words “center” and “second.”
also, the fantastic ladies over at oakland a’s days posted about their recent dot race sighting, and for those of you who haven’t seen this massively adorable red, white, and blue face race, well, here ya’ go (select hq for the young mc overlay ). baker delivery details to follow later today or tomorrow!
over the past year, i’ve gotten hooked on etsy, a website that features crafty, homemade items. last year, i found my mom a cute houseplans purse (she’s a realtor), and i’ve purchased a few other smaller items for gifts and such. but i’ve found that etsy isn’t just about exposing your inner martha stewart; there’s baseball-related merchandise, too! here are a few of many…
with the bullpen in constant flux and a lack of solid play-on-name puns, last friday’s delivery was A’s-centric. and by that, i mean chocolate covered A’s-pricots. i started making these a year or so ago, when i found the base recipe in a magazine (at my physical therapy place, no less). since then, i’ve tweaked it, adding hawaiian black sea salt and using guittard dark chocolate chips, which have an unbelievable consistancy compared with other chips, and this time i even switched out the pistachio pieces for glazed pecans (i prefer the pistachios, though, so that’s what i’ve included in the simple, even-a-guy-could-make-them-while-watching-the-NBA-finals recipe). the handoff to brad ziegler came quickly; his response, “hey, chocolate covered apricots! yeah!” and while the A’s added another L to the column, my bullpen still has a 0.00 ERA. hip hip, hoor-A’s!
chocolate-covered apricots with pistachios and sea salt
1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (Guittard is preferred; whole foods sells them in the bulk section and by the 12 oz. package)
24 dried large apricots (not the Turkish ones; use the very orange, squishy ones)
sea salt (black, pink, red, lavender, whatever floats your boat)
1. line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
2. put pistachios and salt into separate shallow bowls.
3. melt chocolate via double-boiler (preferred method) or microwave. remove from heat.
4. holding apricots from one end, dip them 1 at a time into the chocolate, turning to coat about 3/4 of the apricot. place apricot on baking sheet and repeat with remaining apricots.
5. sprinkle nuts and salt over the chocolate.
6. chill in refrigerator until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. store in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks..