Cookies for a Cause: Bakesale for Japan

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The first time I attempted to bake cookies from scratch was when I was 10 years old. My two girlfriends (pictured above on the header) were my guinea pigs. They were really nice to me, but honestly the cookies were more like bricks. Since then, Rajita and Nafisah have endured many of my failed cookie attempts until I got it just right. Though, by the time I got it just right, I didn’t care about baking anymore. I found more satisfaction and restraint in just buying one serving size at a cafe and not worrying about over indulging.

Then, during this past holiday season, I got the baking itch. That may be because I have been hanging out (online and offline) with more food bloggers and bakers. Social influence. So at the 18 Reason’s DIY Desserts: Holiday Cookie Swap I baked cookies for the first time in over a decade. I was nervous and intimidated. I also didn’t have any of the fancy baking equipment, like a Kitchen Aid mixer. There were a ton of cookie recipes out there, too, which was overwhelming. I also wanted to make something healthy-ish and couldn’t find anything uncomplicated. So after anxiously debating if I really wanted to bake (the strong Vata in me), I remembered baking a cake using only almond flour years ago and it turned out fantastic. So I applied the same methodology and attempted to make cookies out of the pistachio flour I already had on hand. I was  pleasantly surprised that the cookies turned out pretty good. I took them to the cookie swap, and everyone seemed to really like them too. Also, my husband, who thinks he is an Iron Chef judge, told me he really liked them. So, I did the natural thing, and baked these cookies for every holiday party we had to go to for rest of the season.

Last Saturday I participated in Bakesale for Japan, which meant I spent Friday night baking. I had overambitious plans to make a multitude of desserts, but then when it came down to the wire, I only had the bandwidth and courage to make two types of cookies. My baked goods were going to be placed right next to professionals and pro-bakers like Tartine Bakery, Eat The Love, and Desserts First. So I baked my now infamous pistachio cookies and adapted a recipe from 101 Cookbooks. I accidentally came across the recipe and it looked so simple to make. Plus, I love and trust everything on 101 Cookbooks. I hope to post my adaptation of the recipe here soon enough.

It was really fun spending the evening baking. I opened a bottle of wine, that I randomly picked up from Whole Foods for $10, which turned out to be excellent. So with a glass of vino rojo in one hand and whisk in the other, I was baking away. Also, I would intermittently go on Twitter and follow the hashtag #bakesale4japan to chat with other bloggers who were doing the same thing I was (but probably without the bottle of wine). I  felt like I was apart of something really BIG. A few weeks ago, I felt so small and helpless when I was following the Twitter stream during the earthquakes and Fukushima meltdown.  Though, after seven dozen cookies had cooled and seeing a tweet about someone’s cute packaging, I went into panic mode. I hadn’t even thought about the packaging! Normally, I am on top of these things and have been coined the name Martha Stewart amongst my friends, but with all that has been going on, I just forgot about cute labels and packaging. And, I hate a missing an opportunity for DIY creative packaging. Then, the creative side kicked in, and managed to come up with something really unique and chic. I used leftover silk favor bags from my wedding to put the cookies in and used my adorable Moo business cards for the labeling. I didn’t even make the connection until I saw a few Japanese people really enamored by my cookies (err packaging). The silk bags were red and had gold flowers on them that looked like cherry blossoms. In the end, it always works out.

The turnout at the bakesale was incredible! I got to the Bi-Rite  Market location right at starting time, and managed to squeeze in my cookies on the very crowded table. That table was a sweet-lovers dream come true. I was tempted to buy everything. There were so many baked goods, graciously made by the blogging community, home-bakers, and professionals, that boxes had to be dispersed to a multitude of locations. At last count, together, we raised $120,254.38. The money will benefit Peace Winds Japan.

Since the community really came through at the Bi-Rite location of the bakesale, a lot of the baked goods had to be dispersed to other locations in San Francisco, Oakland, Marin, and San Jose.

Around the corner, 18 Reasons hosted an art sale where people made origami cranes.

Irvin (Eat the Love) and Anita (Desserts First) at 18 Reasons.

Someone bought my cookies!

I also stopped by the SPQR location in Pacific Heights to say hello to a few friends.

SPQR closed down the restaurant to host the bake sale. They also made paninis and crostini for the bakesale. Blue Bottle and Blue Bottle Sweets were also on site, serving their delicious coffee drinks and pastries. Nearby restaurants, Citizen Cake, Jane, and Out the Door, also pitched in with delicious desserts.

The clever ladies, Annelies and Laiko, dished out deals throughout the bakesale. I got there just in time for the 2-for-1 deal, and snatched up cupcakes to share with friends that afternoon. Let’s just say, I didn’t pay attention to my sugar intake that day.

I promise to post the recipe for the cardamon-rose pistachio cookies soon!

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Bakesale For Japan, April 2, 2011

I’ve mentioned in my tweets, Facebook, and here that I am participating in a Bakesale for Japan organized by Samin Nosrat. What was going to be a bakesale held at a few locations in the Bay Area  blew up into a national event!  Bakesale for Japan is happening this Saturday, April 2nd from 10am to 2pm in nearly 45 cities nationwide!

Go to the location nearest to you and buy a few goodies (hey, it’s for a good cause). I will be at the Bi Rite Market location for sometime. I am also making gluten-free pistachio cookies, chocolate-puddle cookies, and maybe gulab jamun.

Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events. Be sure to sign-up to receive posts and updates straight into your inbox!

Let’s Take a Moment to Help Japan

In wake of the tragedies affecting Japan right now, I am having a difficult time thinking about writing about food or thinking about anything else other than how to help Japan and increase people’s awareness.

Sabrina Modelle of Tomato Tart is organizing a virtual bakesale, Samin Nosrat of Cia0 Samin is organizing bakesales across the Bay Area, and various restaurants in San Francisco are also donating sales. Marcia Gagliardi of Tablehopper has compiled a good list of food-related ways you can help out.

Other ways to help:
Doctors Without Borders
Red Cross Japan
UNICEF

“So eat a good breakfast. Be grateful for what you’ve got. Enjoy the sunshine while you’ve got it. Then go out & save the world” -Ruth Reichl
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