The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell: Review

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Netflix’s recent spooky additions during October this year included a baking show called The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell.

Christine McConnell, the show’s main character and real-life baker, gained recognition as a self-taught baker who’s Instagram baking posts showcase her creepy (and delicious) desserts. Her show on Netflix is an interesting mix of baking how-to and spooky, puppet-filled plot.

I enjoyed the quirky, dark humor of the show and the subtle world-building. In fact, the two things this show does best are world-building and baking.

Watching this show will definitely make you hungry as you watch McConnell make her spooky (and delicious) creations. She makes everything from chocolate-peanut butter “bones” in the first episode to a cake replica of her house. Seriously. McConnell's house

10/10 for edible spooky houses.

She also makes some other craft projects throughout the course of the show, including items like this creepy candle with a face, and a stunning, hand-made red dress for a date. There’s no denying that McConnell is incredibly talented at making lovely, spooky-themed creations, both in real life and on this show. By taking the time to show how she makes these items, the mood tends to stay pretty light-hearted and relaxed.

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The other thing Curious Creations does well is world-building. From set design to spooky characters, the world (and, specifically, the house) McConnell lives in is fascinating. The subtle layers of world building keep you guessing at the mysteries of this universe. How did McConnell come to live in this house? What is the rest of her family like? (To this question, we do see some answers in later episodes). How did all of these creatures come to be here? What or who is Christine McConnell exactly? And what kind of world does she live in? So many questions.

In one episode we see Christine in her bedroom, just waking up for the morning. It seems that she is “sleeping” with her eyes open, looking almost dead. This small detail gives interesting hints about the world of Curious Creations. I genuinely loved the idea of this creepy house and the kind-hearted, though dark and mysterious, woman who lives in it. I also love how she treats the creatures who live in her house like family, bring in the trope of the gathered-family and true warmth to their relationships and interactions.

McConell

From details like the spider-web cupboards to the reappearing skull (of a previous mailman, apparently) and all the creatures living around the house, world-building gets a 10/10 here. Quirky, spooky, and mysterious, Curious Creations aces this test.

On the other hand, while I enjoyed watching The Curious Creations, I did feel like it took its genre-breaking a little too far. In some ways, breaking the genre molds of typical baking shows and typical spooky shows is what makes Curious Creations so unique and fun. But breaking the genres like this comes with a price.

Curious Creations doesn’t fit very well in any genre. Is it a baking show? Yes, but it doesn’t give quite enough detail to become actually useful as a baking show. I felt that a few too many steps were jumped over in the recipes for anyone to actually try to follow along with unless they are a professional baker with professional tools. In an attempt to showcase McConnell’s creations to the fullest, the show jumps over a few too many minor steps to be a really good baking show.

Is this show a children’s show? The rating is PG, but some of the content seems a little bit too raunchy or scary to make it a really good children’s show.  I mean, serial killers welding axes does seem a little scarier than PG, and let’s not even talk about the time they tortured a neighbor in the basement. (I’m also not going to talk about my feelings on Rose (an undead raccoon) as a character. I understand that she was written to be obnoxious, but she crosses the line into highly annoying a few too many times for me to like her very much. I’m not sure she helps to make this a “kids show” either, although they might find her the funniest of all audiences.)

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Is it a fictional, spooky show with a plot? Technically yes, but the plot is left underdeveloped so the show can focus on the baking. I wish they would have given more screen time to some of the other quirky characters living in McConnell’s house and addressed more some of the other intriguing plot points. By always cutting back to the kitchen so McConnell can talk about baking, the plot felt like it was cut a little bit short.

Breaking these barriers leaves Curious Creations in a strange, new territory for a spooky show. Who is the intended audience for this show? Children? Parents and children together? Young adults looking for something slightly spooky? I can’t help but feel that all audiences will be left a little confused and disappointed by how this show has divided itself between baking and fiction.

Final Thoughts:

If you love baking and spooky shows you will enjoy this one! It has a lot of super interesting concepts surrounding it that add to the mood of the show and help make it truly unique and fun. I really enjoyed both Christine’s baking and the idea of her house, but I didn’t fall in love with the show itself.

It is still a really good show to watch to get in the spooky mood!

Happy watching!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes (Vegan!)

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‘Tis the season for all things pumpkin spice! Last week, in celebration of fall, I made vegan pumpkin spice cupcakes to take with me to share at work and eat after going to a local haunted house. (You can’t go wrong with something sweet after something scary!)

I followed this recipe from lovingitvegan. It was easy to make and has a great vegan buttercream frosting to go with it.

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Unfortunately, I realized only after I began baking that I didn’t have any pre-mixed pumpkin spice. So I combined the spices together myself- which gave it a more personalized flavor. Just use cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. You may also use allspice to add extra spice to your mix. Add these spices together until you get your desired taste. (Mine was a little heavier on the ‘spice’ part of the pumpkin spice, and in the future, I would definitely be more careful with the cloves!) This recipe called for 3 1/2 tsp in the cupcakes themselves and a bit extra for the frosting, so keep that in mind if you are thinking of making your own.

I also made a flax egg for the first time as an egg replacement. It works incredibly well to bind the batter together, just like an egg would. To make a flax egg, mix 1 tbsp ground flax meal with 3 tbsp water and let it sit for a minute or so until it starts to thicken.

I had some extra batter after I made a batch of twelve regular-sized cupcakes, so I made an additional eight mini-cupcakes as well. I actually loved the mini-cupcakes even more than the regular cupcakes. Cupcakes usually have too much sugar for me to handle, so a mini-cupcake makes it easier to eat (especially if you are watching your sugar, but still want dessert).

Here is the recipe:

Making Homemade Einkorn Bread

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Einkorn, an ancient strain of wheat similar to spelt and emmer, appeared on a documentary I recently watched about the sustainability of current farm practices, including the growing of wheat. (This one! Right here! Its called Sustainable.)

Why is einkorn important?

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Einkorn is a grain that promotes genetic diversity in the grain crop, which helps nearly every element of the farm from the land and animals, to the crop itself. Regular wheat is one single strain of grain that is constantly mass produced, draining the soil, forcing the use of pesticides, and losing nutrition from the wheat itself.

On the other hand, a grain like einkorn helps restore the soil, and because it is genetically diverse, limits the need for the protection from bugs or disease that pesticides provide. It also hasn’t lost its nutrient value like regular wheat has. Eating einkorn provides more protein and potassium (along with other nutrients) than regular wheat.

The documentary discussed how this kind of wheat grows so well and interviewed a baker who uses einkorn in his bakery every day. I was very curious to try some einkorn bread of my own, so yesterday I made my first loaf. (In the future I’d also like to make more bread using other kinds of ancient grains! The taste is similar to whole-wheat bread, rather than regular white bread flour, which is exactly what I love from my bread).

How to make einkorn bread:

I followed this recipe from Live Simply.

The ingredients are very simple:

Water, yeast, olive oil, honey, and salt along with all-purpose einkorn flour. (You may use whole wheat, but the author of the recipe, Kristin Marr, suggests using the all-purpose for this particular recipe.)

After the yeast has been activated, the ingredients combine quickly into a sticky dough. It is important to not overwork the einkorn dough because it won’t rise correctly if you do.

The bread then proves for an hour before another 30-minute prove in the loaf container. Finally, it goes into the over at 375 for about 35 minutes. When I pulled my loaf from the oven, I was initially worried it was burnt. Actually, it really wasn’t burnt (well, maybe just a tiny bit on the very top), since the einkorn flour turns a darker color after it has been baked.

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Overall, this first try at making einkorn bread was a success! I definitely want to make another loaf, since this one is mostly gone already and I plan to eat the rest with some homemade soup tonight. This particular recipe doesn’t make an overly sweet or salty bread, so it goes well with nearly any dish.

Here is some more information about einkorn!

 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

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On Friday last week I made my first batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies to take with me to a dinner party. They were so easy and fast to make, and they tasted delicious! I also brought the extras in to work the next day—my coworkers loved them too! It’s a nice feeling to know that more people might be able to eat your dessert if they have lactose issues or adhere to a vegan diet.

I followed this recipe.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup refined coconut oil, melted

2/3 cup vegan granulated sugar

2/3 cup packed vegan brown sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

teaspoons vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

bag (10 oz) vegan semisweet chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups)

 

However, I’d like to make another batch soon with some chopped walnuts added for a bit of extra crunch and nuttiness.

The steps, posted below, only took a few minutes to follow. (And you can safely eat the dough because there aren’t any eggs! Not that the presence of eggs stopped me before…)

 

  • Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, mix coconut oil, granulated sugar and brown sugar until well mixed. Stir in almond milk and vanilla.
  • Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake 11 to 14 minutes or until edges are light brown and tops look set. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets. Remove to cooling rack; cool completely. Store in tightly covered container.

 

Recently, I’ve been trying to learn how to bake more vegan desserts and have had a lot of success with both banana bread and apple cake. It turns out that great dessert doesn’t need milk and eggs, it just needs a lot of sugar.

Cheers to baking!

-Sarah

“Easy” French Macarons, Or: Tips on Making Fancy Cookies from an Amateur

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Inspired by watching The Great British Bake Off on Netflix, I attempted to make my own French macarons at home. Using the help of this YouTube video by Entertaining with Beth and this recipe, I set out one Monday afternoon to make my own French macaron cookies.

My expectations were set extremely low, especially after watching some of the contestants’ macaron fails. I could envision Paul Hollywood’s disappointed headshake at my terrible macarons.

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After hearing many times (and being warned by Beth) that macarons are finicky, tricky, and otherwise very difficult to make, I fully imagined creating a ‘macaron’ that looked less like a macaron and more like a pastel-colored disaster.

My experience in making these cookies happened in three stages:

  1. The Eggs

To make a macaron your eggs have to be whipped into a meringue. To make a meringue the eggs must be at room temperature. So, I got my two eggs out of the refrigerator at about 11 and began making the meringue at 2:30.

Immediately, several things went wrong. I got egg yolk into the egg whites and tried (unsuccessfully) to scoop it out with a spoon. Second, I used a hand mixer on high to attempt to whip up the eggs. After standing there for about five minutes with absolutely nothing happening, I gave up. And found myself completely out of eggs, and certainly out of any that were ‘room temperature’.

After a quick trip to Dollar General, I tried for attempt number two. This time I made a few changes: I put the eggs in warm water for about 4-5 minutes (thanks, Beth!), I used a stand mixer, and I was very careful to not get any egg yolks into the whites.

Finally! A perfectly fluffy, pure white meringue! It tasted like a cloud of sugary, marshmallowy goodness.

  1. The Batter

Beth points out that the batter (“This is where it could all go wrong.”) is a key, critical step to making the perfect macaron. She recommends getting the batter to a “molten lava” consistency. Overmixing could lead to flat macarons, while under mixing could lead to cracks on the top of your macarons.

This step wasn’t actually too difficult except that I was left questioning the specifics of what a “molten lava” texture actually looks like. A better (more dessert specific) comparison might be the texture of whipped mousse: liquid enough to almost pour out of the bowl, but firm enough that it holds its shape.

I didn’t have a piping bag to pipe my macarons onto my parchment paper, but using a plastic bag with one corner cut off worked pretty well (it was probably just a little messier than a piping bag).

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Then after leaving them to sit out and form a skin on top for thirty minutes, I was ready to put them into the oven.

So far so good.

  1. The Filling

The recipe I followed for easy macarons called for just a vanilla cookie and a vanilla buttercream filling. These cookies tend to be very rich and extremely sweet so using a filing with a tart flavor helps to balance everything out.

So, at the last minute, I added some cherry concentrate to my buttercream for a cherry vanilla flavor to the cookies.

Here are the final results!

 

It actually worked as a macaron, which was more than I expected. I did end up with some lumps on top (due to a mistake in mixing?) and I’m sure this wouldn’t get me the Hollywood handshake. (Maybe next time, Paul!) But it was a pretty great first attempt!

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Here’s to crunchy-on-top, melt-in-your-mouth macarons and more baking adventures to come!

🙂 Sarah