I mentioned a while back that I was heading up a weekly office bake sale to raise funds for SOS (Share Our Strength).
Not surprisingly, summertime makes for some tough recruiting. From an operations standpoint, I can't really think of a worse time to run a bake sale. It's hot. It's humid. People are on vacation. People are seeing themselves in swimwear and reconsidering the wisdom of noshing on cookies... even if said cookies happen to be for charity.
Despite all that, it went pretty well. We made over $1020. (Not including a very generous online donation from my mom... thanks, mom!)
But truthfully, I have a shameful secret... for most of the summer, my own oven didn't work. The landlord kept putting off getting it fixed, and I kept forgetting to call that repair guy I saw on Craigslist, so I found myself heading up a charity bake sale without an operational oven.
Thus, as you might imagine, I've come up with a few great strategies for not actually baking for the bake sale:
1. Let someone else do the cooking. I don't mean purchasing premade cookies and bars and passing them off as your own stuff (though I've seen this done). There are actually a lot of recipes in which store-bought graham crackers, pound cake or cereal provide texture without requiring oven time on your part. Consider, for example, the graham crust in no-bake cheesecake bars or the ladyfingers in tiramisu. Still tasty... just not oven-dependent.
2. Cool desserts! One caveat: Do you have on-site refrigeration? Icebox Cakes and the like tend to get melty if they're not kept cool.
3. Think modern appliances. My waffle iron, untouched at home, became the belle of the bake sale ball. I used the "My Mother's Waffles" recipe from Everybody Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek (see below). The beguiling yeasty scent of sizzling DIY waffles drifted throughout the office and the accompanying bowls of sliced berries and fresh-whipped cream made for easy advertising.
4. Rice Krispy Treats. The classic. They take 12 minutes to make, they use three ingredients and the nostalgia factor dives widespread love (not to mention cravings). Dress 'em up with a handful of chocolate chips, a dollop of peanut butter or a sprinkling of dried cranberries for color and zip.
5. Buckeye balls, peanut brittle, taffy and other stovetop candies also make good no-bake candidates. Now that it's fall, I'd throw caramel apples in the mix. Mmm... caramel apples...
And now: The afore-mentioned awesome waffle recipe:
My Mother's Waffles
by Ruth Van Waerebeek
(Makes about 40)
4 packages active dry yeast
6 cups milk, warmed to 100°F
6 large egg yolks
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) margarine, melted and cooled to lukewarm
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
8 cups all-purpose flour
6 large egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the lukewarm milk.
2. In a large, deep mixing bowl (the dough will double or triple in volume), whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the remaining milk and the melted butter and margarine. Add the yeast mixture, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
3. Gradually add the flour to the batter by sifting it in. Alternate additions of flour with the remaining 4 1/2 cups milk. Stir with a wooden spoon after each addition.
4. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
5. Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place. Let rise for 1 hour. The batter should double or even triple in volume. (While you wait, you have time to brew the coffee, set the table, and heat up your waffle iron.) Check the batter from time to time to make sure it isn't about to erupt like an impatient volcano. Stir it down once or twice.
6. Bake the waffles in a hot waffle iron. The easiest way to get the batter onto the waffle iron is to do what my mother does. Transfer the batter (by batches) into a water pitcher and pour the batter from the pitcher.
7. Serve the baked waffles with confectioners' sugar and butter, or whipped cream and fresh fruit. Allow any leftover waffles to cool on a rack before storing.
(PS: If you happen to be anywhere near Cooperstown, NY this weekend, Brewery Ommegang is doing their annual Waffles & Puppets fest. Belgian waffles, fantastic Belgian-style beers and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow interpreted with puppets. Crazy fun. Really wish I could be there. Cheers!)