“Anyone can cook,” the optimistic slogan from the film Ratatouille, may not have applied to Sara Chatfield when she left home for college. After a particularly disappointing effort that resulted in spoiled instant pudding, she nearly called it quits in the kitchen. But the necessity of eating while living off campus and a deal with her roommates to make dinner once a week brought her the experience and ultimately the confidence she needed to start enjoying cooking and baking’s rewards.
It also introduced her to new dishes, delicacies and eventually a new hobby. Since October 2007, Sara has recorded recipes, as well as her cooking and baking adventures on her blog, Cupcake Muffin.
“I’ve kept my blog as a sort of personal food record for myself. I love being able to look back at the recipes I’ve made and remember the people I was with and the good times I had eating the various dishes,” Sara said. “It’s also a nice way to catalog these recipes so I can always find them. Finally, I love sharing these recipes and my reactions to them with friends, family, and anyone else who reads my blog. Since I get a lot of inspiration from other people’s food blogs, I hope I provide at least a little bit of that to other folks!”
Baking and blogging have yielded at least one additional perk. As a PhD student of political science at University of California Berkeley, Sara has plenty of stress in her life and both serve as creative outlets to relive the tension.
“My housemates always know when I’m stressed out or have a big deadline coming up because it means even more desserts than usual,” she said. “Baking allows me to tackle a clear project with a definite end goal and (hopefully) lots of happy stomachs when I’m finished. Sharing the results on my blog and participating in community events like the Daring Bakers and the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge allows me to interact with other folks who love to cook and bake, which also helps me de-stress after a day of studying or teaching.”
She tackles savory dishes as well, but as the title of her blog suggests, Sara loves desserts.
“I have a huge sweet tooth, and I love being able to make special desserts that taste even better than what you can get at the store,” she says. “I enjoy baking desserts so much simply because they’re the sort of thing that makes everyone smile!”
Despite her early personal difficulties in the kitchen, Sara comes from a lineage of successful bakers, all of whom made remarkable sweets.
“Two of my biggest inspirations are my grandma and great-grandma, both of whom were wonderful cooks,” she says. “My grandma’s specialties were blueberry buckle and Springerles, and my great-grandma was famous for her lemon meringue pie.”
Of course, her all-time favorite recipe is her mom’s sugar cookies.
“They’re thin and crunchy with a sweet layer of icing on top, and everything is right with the world when you eat one.”
With many more recipes to discover and plenty of deadlines left before she gets her doctorate, Sara will likely be cooking and blogging for hungry friends, family, and friends well into the future. During that that time, she hopes to demonstrate how everyone can bake, and indeed, even cook.
“I hope my blog will encourage folks to try a new recipe or technique that they’ve never tried before, or just generally be inspired to cook or bake!”
Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Pie
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 1/2 T sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 6-9 ounces fresh raspberries
- Sweet Tart Shell with Nuts, baked, from above
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Put the pie plate (or tart pan) on a baking sheet.
2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolates together; remove from heat and set aside. In another pan, bring the cream and butter to a boil, making sure the butter is completely melted. Pour the cream-butter mixture over the chocolate and let stand for 30 seconds. Using a whisk, gently stir the liquid into the chocolate, starting in the center and working out to the edges of the bowl. When smooth, stir in the sugar, then the eggs, and finally the yolk. Rap the bowl against the counter to break any bubbles.
3. Scatter the berries over the bottom of the crust, then pour the chocolate over them. Make sure all the berries are covered with chocolate.
4. Bake the pie until the filling is set in the center and a knife inserted at the center comes out a little streaky.
5. Cool the pie to room temperature or slightly warmer before serving.