Wednesday, July 28

On - {Chocolate Cherry Swirl Cupcakes with Cherry Italian Meringue Buttercream}

"No! Not like that! Stop!"

Petite, talkative and girly in every way, Ms. L holds a pristine spiral bound notebook over her crossed legs while passively overseeing my session. We've been talking for some time now, but our conversation has nothing to do with the road before us. In fact, to be completely honest, I can remember discussing little more than the difficulty we were having remembering the artist of a then-popular song. Driving just didn't seem that important in comparison to the list she was penning. Who can concentrate while someone is audibly composing a mix CD in the passenger seat?

Not me, that's for sure.

So, she yells. Completely controlling, laced with fear and fluffed with a certain level of disappointment, her voice is suddenly more commanding than I'd ever expected it to be. She lowers her ornately scribed notebook, unfolds her legs and adjusts her glasses in one movement; transforming instantly into the driving instructor I had originally thought I would meet.

I didn't have my turn signal on long enough before I attempted to switch lanes.

Oops.


After correcting my mistake, Ms. L returns to her list, allowing the air conditioning to blow her strengthened personality into the back seat. My attention falters and I struggle to maintain interest in the boring two-lane freeway we travel.

Memories are more interesting.

Did anyone else drive a go-kart as a kid? While Ms. L was loosely orchestrating my driving lessons that day, I had a hard time ignoring the familiar feel of the wheel in my hands. After spending so many days racing around the yard in our beat-up kart, I found the lane dividers to be so constricting. Sure, I could drive in a straight line, but did I want to? No way. There were no trees on this road. No chicken or dogs. No brothers on bikes. I was alert, but there was just nothing going on.

Driving was boring.

But I did know that it was more serious. For instance, rolling a go-kart makes you sound seriously cool, but a car... Not so much. I understood that, and also the responsibility that came with operating a vehicle at 70 miles per hour. However, despite the fact that I knew my full attention should be devoted to the road, I had a hard time granting it. There are, admittedly, nerves and jitters to overcome as you learn rules and regulations, but after that initial step, driving takes only a small amount of thought.

My conclusion was becoming more and more concrete as I studied my environment. Ms. L's unconcerned behavior, the dull stares of other drivers, the fearlessness of those racing up on ramps - driving is just something to get used to, and after that, it's just something you do.


It's bizarre how things can become so mindless. After road trips - long ones and short ones - it's a little more than disorienting to step from my car, ask myself, "how did I get here?" and be unable to recall much about the trip. It kind of bothers me that I place such little value in the hours I spend in the car and that I treat them as if they can't be full and enjoyable like the rest of life.

So, starting today, I'm going to be more observant. I am going to look around more, think more, and be more alive while I am strapped into the driver's seat.

We're only permitted so much time here, and I aim to make the best of every second I have.

Chocolate Cherry Swirl Cupcakes with Cherry Buttercream
These cupcakes involve making a quick jam, but feel free to use purchased jam or preserves in lieu of making it yourself.
Printable Recipe

Quick Cherry Jam
2 c whole, pitted sweet cherries
1/2 c water
2 Tbls cornstarch
2 Tbls sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat. As the cherries cook, mash them with a fork and stir often with a rubber spatula. Cook until slightly reduced and thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Strain into another bowl, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature.


Chocolate Cherry Swirl Cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart
This makes 1 dozen cupcakes.

1/4 + 1/8 c (33 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 c (95 g) flour
3/4 c (150 g) sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
1 eggs
1/4 + 1/8 c (90 ml) warm water
1/4 + 1/8 c (90 ml) buttermilk
2 Tbls safflower oil (I used canola)
1/2 tsp vanilla
Quick Cherry Jam

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Line 1 cupcake tin with liners and set aside.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add egg, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Drop 1/2 tsp Quick Cherry Jam into each cupcake and swirl with a toothpick. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Makes 1 dozen.

Cherry Italian Meringue Buttercream For step-by-step directions for making Italian Meringue Buttercream, please click here!

1/8 c (35 ml) water
1/2 c (105 g) sugar
3 egg whites
1/8 c (25 g) sugar
1/2 c (120 g) butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla, more if desired
8-10 tsps juice from a jar of maraschino cherries

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer.

Heat the 1/2 c sugar and water on the stove to 245F stirring occasionally only after the sugar has been dissolved. When it is within the range of 230F to 235F, begin whipping the egg whites. When they get to soft peaks, begin adding the remaining 1/8 c sugar and continue whipping to medium peaks, being careful not to overbeat. When the syrup is the correct temperature, slowly pour it into the eggs with the mixer on high. After fully incorporated, beat the frosting 7-10 minutes until the outside of the bowl is room temp (I usually go a little longer than this; often times the bowl is not room temp when I begin adding butter. If the mix seems to soupy, put it in the fridge for a few moments or try briefly chilling some of the butter in the freezer before adding). Begin adding the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until fully incorporated. The frosting will deflate a little, but it's ok. Keep whipping until the frosting comes together and add the vanilla. Begin adding the juice from the jar of maraschino cherries in 2 tsp increments, whipping to combine. Stop when the frosting has achieved a nice pink hue and the flavor is noticeable. Be careful not to add too much or the frosting will break.

Assembly

Fill cooled cupcakes with remaining (cooled) jam. This can be done in two ways: The first method requires no special tools and is done by slicing a cone out of the top of each cupcake. Drop in some of the jam and replace the cap. The second method uses a pastry bag filled with the jam and a piping tip (you can use one for specifically for filling or even a plain round one, such as a #3). Simply poke the tip into the cupcake and squeeze in filling.

After the cupcakes are filled, frost generously with buttercream.

If desired, use a potato peeler to shave curls off a block of chocolate onto the tops of the cupcakes. Top with a fresh cherry.

Tuesday, July 27

Turn - {Corn Salad}

As the summer nears its end (Oh yeah, I'm going there), my thoughts turn back to school.

E-mail reminders and bills berate not only the mailbox, but also my skull. Within my mind resonates a high-pitched "KA-CHING," personifying their proverbial call and the deft answer of funds as they leave the collective hands of my family. I can't wait to get back to East Lansing, but I can't help but cringe over the thought of the money going into that transition.

I hate money.

Can we just go back to using rocks and shiny things?


What bugs me most about tuition payments is that they don't go toward paying only the best teachers and funding rewarding research projects, but instead to a corporation. McMSU. I love the place, but it's no secret that they really don't care about the students because no college does. I know this isn't the case at all schools, but the fact that there's no attendance policy says a lot. Sure, they pass it off as granting you freedom and teaching you responsibility, but if the teachers (yes, I realize that there are exceptions) don't even expect you to be in class, how can we be expected to think that they care at all about our education?

Spoiler alert! They don't.

I don't blame them, of course, because that's just how business works. They are being compensated for providing a service, and that's the end of it. On the surface, colleges exist to make money. But at the heart of it, colleges exist to make money off of you.

So, am I mad about this?

I don't know.

I'm certainly not as bitter and pessimistic as I sound; I'm simply taking note of the phenomenon. Perhaps this is just another part of the college experience? To have our eyes opened to the truth of the world and know that it is not love, but money that makes the world go 'round? To be stripped of innocence and freed of any thoughts of kindness within the business world? To be shown that hopes, dreams and luck play no part in success and to become completely obsessed with money?

Nice try, MSU, but that's not happening.

Money isn't everything.


Duh.

So... Who wants to help me sue for mental anguish damages?!?!

That ought to fix things, right? ;)

Corn Salad
Some people call this a salsa, but I eat it by the bowlful. Canned or frozen corn can be substituted for fresh.
Printable Recipe

Kernels from 2 ears corn, cooked and cooled
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 large vidalia onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. You can serve it immediately if you like, but I think it tastes best after it chills for a few hours. Sprinkle with salt just before serving so the tomatoes don't get soggy.

Saturday, July 24

Swim - {Cranberry and Orange Bread}

It's four in the morning and I'm floating on my back, surrounded, and unable to hear a thing.

Water can do that to you.

Some hours before, shivering under the unwelcome caress of a cool night on my exposed shoulders, I have a smile on my face. Bobbing in the water with my friends, I entwine my arms across my chest and fight the uncontrollable chatter of my teeth, watching canon balls and jumps from the shallow side of the pool.


Before college, that's where I always was. The shallow side, I mean. Watching everyone else have fun but feeling too awkward to partake in it, trying my hardest to soak it up and standing just on the cusp of a good time but never allowing myself to dive in. But why? Looking back on it, I can't decide now if it was some strange form of punishment, ignorant stupidity or just plain social awkwardness. I've never been particularly good in social settings, and even now I am not 'cured' of my fear of drowning in small talk, but I am glad that I'm getting over it.

I've grown accustomed to the chill at this point. Gotten used to it, I guess. The chattering has subsided and I'm more comfortable visibly, but deep down I know something is off.

But is it? Really?

Of course not. The mercury's near 80 degrees - even as we edge closer to four AM - and the water's close behind, if not the same. I'm just strangely sensitive to cold, which is entirely unfortunate, if you ask me. I'm strangely sensitive to many things, really. Awkwardness is a big one and touch another, but I got over the supposed chill, so I'm confident that I can get over those things too.

I dive below the surface and aim for the far side of the pool with a single deep breath resonating in my lungs. It's not enough, but that's fine. Everything should be done in steps.

Submerging yourself too deeply in too many issues at once won't get you anywhere.

So I'm here. Surrounded by my friends, and having an awesome time. My eyes are red from chlorinated water, and I'm insanely tired from a lack of sleep, but I'm floating just on the surface of the pool and am more comfortable than I've been in a long time.


Until, of course, K grabs my shoulders from behind and the splash war starts again.

But I am perfectly fine with that!

Cranberry and Orange Bread adapted from Oh, My Babycakes
Not completely seasonal, but completely delicious, for sure!
Printable Recipe

2 c (285 g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Orange zest, from one orange
Orange juice, from one orange
3/4 c (150 g) sugar
1/4 c (60 g) butter, room temp
1 egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 c (235 ml) chopped dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350F 175C and grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

Zest the orange and place the zest in a large bowl. Juice the orange into a small separate bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar into the bowl with the orange zest and rub between your fingers until aromatic and well combined. Add the butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until lightened, being sure to scrape the bowl.

Add half of the flour mixture, mix until just combined, then add half of the orange juice and mix just until incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and orange juice. Check that the dried cranberries are not in clumps, then fold them in.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes on a wire rack then remove from pan and allow to cool to room temperature.

Thursday, July 22

Year One - {Blueberry Boy Bait}

Whisk Kid turns one today!


It's been a fun year for me, and I certainly hope that you've enjoyed it, too! I know my blog isn't hugely popular, but I still can't believe the great opportunities it's brought me or the readership I have. I'm stunned, really. Thank you so much!

You would think that after a year I'd have everything all set here on the blog, but I don't. To be completely honest, I'm still ironing things out! Living in a kitchenless dorm definitely affected my posting frequency this first year, but I really hope to be able to update more often in the future. I'm aiming for at least twice a week, but who knows? Maybe I'll be able to do more. Also, because I'll be cooking for myself in the very near future (or maybe not. I could probably live off of cake and cookies. Probably), it's likely that I'll be posting more savory stuff in this space. I'll definitely maintain a focus on sweets (gotta make friends somehow, right?), but it's a safe bet that you'll be seeing some pasta dishes and Mexican food all up in here pretty soon.

Speaking of which, I have an addiction to enchiladas. Really bad for you and completely inauthentic but still delicious enchiladas.

Did I say they were delicious?

They're soooooooo good.

Wow.


Which brings me to another point: maybe you'll get to know my personality a little more in these upcoming years. I've certainly had a lot to say about my past and my [occasionally-angsty-wannabe-deep] thoughts on life, but I haven't done many posts like this one. The kind where I just ramble and yarn and talk and talk until there's really no more point to it.

Yeah.

This kind.

It's kind of fun, really.

But would that bug you? I'm curious - what would you like to see more (or less) of on Whisk Kid? Certain writing styles, certain kinds of recipes, tips... Anything! If you have thoughts on that, I would love to hear them!

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it's been a great year and I am truly thankful for all of the support that you have given me! I'm so lucky to be able to share what I love with so many people.


You guys rock!

Blueberry Boy Bait adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I like boys, so, naturally, I think "boy bait" concept is a wonderful thing. If you haven't already seen this recipe featured on Mrs. Deb's fabulous blog, I'm happy to have the pleasure of introducing you to it because it's fantastic! Buttery, sweet and completely addictive, you don't need to be a boy to fall for this stuff!
Printable Recipe

2 c (285 g) + 1 tsp flour, divided
1 Tbls baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c (235 g) butter, room temp
1 1/4 c (250 g) sugar
3 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c (120 ml) milk
1/2 c (120 ml) yogurt
1 c (240 ml) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter), divided
1/4 c (50 g) sanding sugar (or granulated sugar)

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Grease and flour 9" x 13" baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine two cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then yogurt, and finally remaining flour mixture.

In a small bowl, toss 1/2 c (120 ml) blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold blueberries into the batter. Spread into prepared pan.

Scatter remaining 1/2 c (120 ml) blueberries over top of batter and sprinkle with 1/4 c sanding sugar. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, July 18

Ride - {Heaven and Hell Cake}

Exhausted and nauseous, I wobble on weak ankles as D, C and I walk along the stables to D's car. The paved surface below my feet is a refreshing change from that of the rest of the fairgrounds. The smoothness is, admittedly, a little disorienting; after being thrown and flipped for the better part of the day, I can't help but anticipate some hazard looming on the horizon. So, I'm anxious. Each foot is placed with heightened uncertainty as I feel increasingly more sure that the ground will suddenly fall from beneath my feet. I'm scared because I don't know what to expect next - I just can't be positive - and even more frightening is the thought of slipping into the passenger seat of D's blue sedan. He's already a scary driver, so who knows how watching the figure-8 race will affect his tendencies?

If I even make it the parking lot, anyway.


Ah, the 4-H fair. What strange wonders it holds... Such a curiosity it is... Simple newspaper ads shout reminders and inspire promises as parents begrudgingly set dates on their calendars and pray that their children forget. But alas, mid-July, small rectangular signs are erected along road sides to announce the fair's advancement.

There will be no forgetting now.

I remember those days well. Those days when I would reduce myself to tears just to try to make my parents give in to my desires. Surely just one more ride would be acceptable. Or perhaps one more game?

But now, as I stand in line for another ridiculous ride with a once-coveted wristband adorning my arm, I question and chide my childhood self. Why would one subject themselves to such pain for such a high price? After flipping and spinning on my so-called favorite rides for a just matter of minutes, I'm ready to be done. Wandering down the fairway, a harsh mix of gravel and dirty sand bubbling up into my sandals, I swallow my stomach and escape the crowd to seek salvation within the horse barn with my cousin, N.


I appreciate the animals on show here now more than anything, and unlike the rides, there's no fee to see them (well, except the $10 parking pass). Sure, sometimes they stink, but each animal at the fair was raised by someone under the age of 20. And we're talking some pretty substantial animals; pigs, cows, goats, chickens, horses... Animals that took a lot of time and hard work to bring up. To me, that's way more interesting than a line of whining kids at the Zipper.

Which is another thing I like; the kids in the barns are often too young to ride the rides, and it's incredibly cute to see them react to how big cows, pigs and horses really are. They're amazed and completely in awe.

Better than sickened and completely green, right?

It's just funny to me. I know it's a common theme to my posts, but things are changing. I don't have children of my own (and I'm certainly not in a rush to have any!), but I'm starting to see what my parents went through while they were raising me and it makes me really, really, really appreciate them. Yeah, they denied me tickets and cash at the fair. Yeah, I was disappointed and pouted the whole way home. But you know what? That was good for me. I needed that. It's got to be difficult to say no to your kid (and I'm sure that my parents lost lots of sleep over it. Haha), but I understand why it needs to be done. Sometimes "no" hurts, but it's the right answer in the long run. Some things just have to be denied so all things are not expected.

That said, we all need limitations and restraints if we are expected to become civilized adults.


They keep us back in our seats, face-to-face with reality, and safe at all times.

Heaven and Hell Cake originally from Stephan Pyles, adapted recipe via Food o' del Mundo
This cake is very rich, but sooooooo good. I know it's swimsuit season. Please forgive me!
Printable Recipe

Ganache
1 3/4 lbs (795 g) milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 1/3 c (315 ml) heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan and when it begins to bubble up, pour over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Gently stir, starting in the middle and working your way outward, until the cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Angel Food Cake
1 1/2 c (235 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 c minus 2 Tbls (120 g) flour
2 Tbls cornstarch
1 1/2 c (355 ml) egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 c (200 g) sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325F (160C) and line the bottom of a 10″ round cake pan with ungreased parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together confectioners’ sugar, flour and cornstarch. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually sprinkle in sugar, then extracts, beating until stiff peaks form.

Sift half of the flour mixture over egg whites and fold until just combined. Sift over the remaining half of the flour mixture and gently fold until no streaks remain.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until top of cake springs back when touched, 45–50 minutes. Transfer cake to a rack and let cool.

Devil's Food Cake
3/4 c (155 g) shortening
1 1/2 c minus 3 Tbls (185 g) flour
3 Tbls cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c (355 ml) coffee
3/4 c (70 g) cocoa powder, sifted
2 c (400 g) sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs, room temp

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Grease a 10″ round cake pan with shortening and dust with flour to coat. Shake out excess flour and set pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, whisk the coffee and cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, vanilla, and eggs with a handheld mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 minutes. Alternately add the flour mixture and the coffee mixture to the bowl in 3 stages, beating to combine after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean, 30–35 minutes; transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Peanut Butter Mousse
1 lb (455 g) (2 8oz packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3 c (710 ml) smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
2 c (315 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 c (235 ml) heavy cream

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Put cream into a large bowl and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining 2/3rds. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Assembly

Using a serrated-blade knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place 1 layer of the devil’s food cake on a cake stand and spread 1/3 of the peanut butter mousse over the top. Top mousse with a layer of the angel food cake and spread with half of the remaining mousse. Repeat with the remaining devil’s food cake, mousse, and angel food cake. Wrap cake in plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours.

Stir ganache (heat it in the microwave, if necessary, at 10 second intervals. Be sure to stir well) until smooth and pour over the top and sides of the cake, smoothing with a palette spreader if necessary. Refrigerate the cake for 2 hours before slicing.

Thursday, July 15

Twinkle - {Croissants}

I'm surrounded by lights. Flickering, twinkling and buzzing dots, free in the air and making their way through the night sky. As they move, their calculated paths confound me; dancing to an elusive tune, their beautiful waltz plays out before blind eyes. I'm helpless at the threat of invasion, but appreciative of the performance.


The fireflies have claimed their territory over the cattails and shrubs on this stretch of the Shiawassee. Fair, I think, for I have no trouble remaining comfortably within the confines of my silenced and undetectable car. The mechanical hum of the engine doesn't match the melody, so why engage it? And there is no need for my obtrusive headlights now, for to compete with the dancers would be a terrible thing. So I observe - unmoving - within their halo.

To them, I am not here.

Perfect.


Lined on either side with a mix of shrubs, cattails, wildflowers and trees of all sizes, the road I'm watching from is topped with gravel and unburdened by towering streetlights. The perfect stage for such a show, don't you think? Quiet and unassuming, you would never know in the daylight the different kind of beauty that it holds at night. The special kind of extraordinary reserved for the mundane.

All to often it is these moments that go unnoticed. Just a few seconds of devotion to a single thing can add such meaning to its existence, but your eyes have to be open to grant it.


What beautiful things have you seen lately?

Croissants via Gourmet
This will make 24 delicious, buttery and addictive croissants.
Printable Recipe

1/2 c (120 ml) whole milk, 105F to 110F
1/4 c (35 g) packed light brown sugar
1 Tbls + 1/4 tsp (15 g) active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
3 3/4 to 4 1/2 c (530 g to 640 g) flour
1 Tbls salt
1 1/2 c (355 g) unsalted butter, cold

Stir together warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t foam, discard and start over.) Add 3 3/4 cups flour (in 1/2 increments) and salt and mix with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7 minutes.

Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a roughly 1 1/2-inch-thick rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until cold, about 1 hour.

After dough has chilled, arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a work surface. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold). Scrape butter into a block and put on a kitchen towel, then cover with other towel. Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in towels, while rolling out dough.

Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching dough (especially in corners), into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Put butter in center of dough so that long sides of butter are parallel to short sides of dough. Fold as you would a letter: bottom third of dough over butter, then top third down over dough. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush.

Turn dough so a short side is nearest you, then flatten dough slightly by pressing down horizontally with rolling pin across dough at regular intervals, making uniform impressions. Roll out dough into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over ends.

Brush off any excess flour. Fold in thirds like a letter, as above, stretching corners to square off dough, forming a 10- by 5-inch rectangle. (You have completed the first "fold.") Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 hour.

Make 3 more folds in same manner, chilling dough 1 hour after each fold, for a total of 4 folds. (If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.) Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours but no more than 18 (after 18 hours, dough may not rise sufficiently when baked).

To Bake

Cut dough in half and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out other half on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and stretching corners to maintain shape, into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush and trim edges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.

Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Cut in half horizontally and chill 1 half. Cut remaining half vertically into thirds, forming 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half to make 2 triangles, for a total of 6 triangles.

Holding short side (side opposite tip) of 1 triangle in one hand, stretch dough, tugging and sliding with other hand toward tip to elongate by about 50 percent.

Return to work surface with short side of triangle nearest you. Beginning with short side, roll up triangle toward tip. (Croissant should overlap 3 times, with tip sticking out from underneath; you may need to stretch dough while rolling.)

Put croissant, tip side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. (Curve ends inward to make a crescent shape if desired.)

Make more croissants with remaining 5 triangles, then with remaining rolled-out dough, arranging them 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Repeat rolling, cutting, and shaping procedures with chilled piece of dough.

Cover each baking sheet with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise until slightly puffy and spongy to the touch, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425F (220C).

Remove baking sheets from bags. Spritz inside oven generously with spray bottle and close door. Put croissants in oven, then spritz again before closing door. Reduce temperature to 400F (205C) and bake 10 minutes without opening door.

Switch position of sheets in oven and rotate sheets 180ยบ, then reduce temperature to 375F (190C) and bake until croissants are deep golden, about 10 minutes more.

Cool on a rack.

Wednesday, July 14

Twist - {Mixed Berry Swiss Roll}

Laying like this does a job on my back, but this is still the most comfortable that I've felt in awhile. Work's done. The week's done. It's Saturday morning and I don't have any plans. Nothing to do but lay here.

Sweet.


Having an open schedule is so liberating. I love being able to look at a clock and find nothing more than meaningless in the numbers on the display. Those days where you sit down for your first cup of coffee, only to realize that it's 3 in the afternoon and you didn't need it to start your morning... Those are what I live for. When the careful flow of time ceases to be interrupted by upcoming concerns and engagements and the hours of the day are full of peace; that is when I am at my best. Of course, I love having things to do, but counting down hours and days to fulfill plans makes me antsy. Is that weird?

Sprawling out is freeing. I have all the space in the world here, and although the boards beneath my back are far from soft, I'm comfortable. My stress drains away between the cracks, my muddled mind is reawakened by the rays caressing my forehead and behind closed eyelids I am completely aware of the light filling the world around me.

Amidst the bugs and the birds, the occasional sniff of Dad's overbearing-sometimes-lovable-dumb-as-a-rock-dopey-reject-pit-bull-type-dog, Bruno, is audible and mixed with the sound of engines being tuned and things being fixed.

And guess what?

That's it.


Sure, some days we spin records or listen to the radio, but those are along the lines of the above mentioned sounds. The TV here is almost never on and the sound of passing cars is so rare and so far off that it's easy to miss. There are no police sirens or car alarms and only if you concentrate is it possible to hear dogs barking in the distance. It's quiet here. Slow here. Relaxing here. Real here.

Weeds have grown up alongside the barn; a painfully beautiful collection of wild ivies, thistles and burdocks that continually fail to restrain a strong wild blackberry bush. I think it's all very pretty; I am not one to wander about plucking plants needlessly from the Earth. I do manicure the rows in the garden from time to time, but I don't mind a patch of weeds now and again. Sometimes it just looks right, you know? It's real, and you can get away with "real" when you're out of the city. The way I see it, the disorder and chaos are to be expected in life. Winding vines like thoughts in a busy head intermingled with Black-Eyed Susans and daisies like inspiration in the midst of it all.

There is goodness there. You just have to learn to decipher the disorder.

Mixed Berry Swiss Roll
Printable Recipe
Quick Jam
You will only need 1/4 c of this jam. It doesn't make much extra, but it's good in yogurt.

1 1/2 c (355 ml) mixed berries (I used wild blackberries, blueberries and raspberries)
2 Tbls cornstarch
1/4 c (50 g) sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl, press clingfilm to the surface and place in the refrigerator until cooled, about 2 hours.

Mixed Berry Bavarian Cream adapted from Michael Symon

1 Tbls + 1 tsp milk
2 tsp powdered gelatin
5/8 c (150 ml) milk
1/4 c (50g) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
5/8 c (150 ml) half and half
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c (60 ml) quick jam (recipe above), or jam of choice

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the lesser amount of milk.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the sugar, salt and egg yolks together. Heat the milk to a boil and slowly whisk into eggs to temper. Return to pan and stir constantly, cooking until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add milk and gelatin mixture, along with remaining ingredients. Press clingfilm to the surface and chill until set, about 3 hours.

Jelly Roll adapted from Fannie Farmer

3/4 c (105 g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
1 c (200 g) sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs whites
powdered sugar

Oil and line a 10 X 15 inch pan and oil over the liner. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Have a tea towel and a cooling rack ready.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whip yolks and 1/2 c sugar until lightened in color and at the ribbon stage. Whisk in vanilla then sift in the dry ingredients, mixing only until no lumps remain.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining 1/2 c sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whipped whites into the yolks, to lighten, then fold in the remaining 2/3. When no streaks remain, spread into pan and bake 12-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Quickly sift a fair amount of powdered sugar (so the roll will not stick to the towel) over the roll in the pan and cover with the tea towel and the inverted cooling rack. Flip over, remove pan, and carefully roll the 15" side across the 10" side. Cool for thirty minutes before filling.

Assembly

Remove the set bavarian cream from the fridge and whisk vigorously until smooth.

Carefully unroll the cooled cake and evenly spread with filling. Re-roll, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Serve 1" slices with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Wednesday, July 7

Comfort - {Grilled Pizza}

Earlier this week, I packed a cooler, donned my favorite shades and stepped out of the chilly house and into the sun. I momentarily doubted the box's integrity and its ability to properly protect the goodies I had systematically stashed within, but we braved the heat together; assured that we would arrive safely, on time and without trouble.


A, B and I set up in a familiar park near A's house, claiming an empty pavilion and a clean grill as we unpacked the van B's parents let us borrow. I've been here before, but the park has changed recently. Although I'm nearly positive that the pavilions are a constant, the nearby play structure, maze and soak park were certainly not there when my parents brought my brother and I here in the past. Back in the day (can I even say that?), the trails were our entertainment. Add them to some time spent rolling down hills, flying kites and attacking over-sized jawbreakers and, well, D and I were set. I loved that place.

Life was good.

So now, in the same park, a decade older and with shifted interests, it's awesome to discover that I'm still so fond of the place. But really, how could I not be with a bottle of lighter fluid in one hand and a pizza peel in the other? The future's always bright when freshly grilled thin crust pizza rests on the horizon. I have fresh cheeses, an assortment of toppings, a cooler stuffed with side dishes and a pitcher full of lemonade (thanks B!). But, most importantly, I had two awesome and amazing people with me. Two of my best friends.


And that's always good!

Grilled Pizza
Printable Recipe
Pantry-Friendly Pizza Sauce via Alton Brown
This sauce is incredible. I won't use any other!

2 (28-ounce or 795 g) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
1/4 c (60 ml) sherry vinegar
1/4 c (50 g) sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 onion
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
4 Tbls olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbls capers, rinsed and drained (I never use capers because we never have any)
1/2 c (120 ml) white wine
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

In a sieve over a medium non-reactive saucepot, strain the tomatoes of their juice into the sauce pot. Add the sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil to the tomato juice. Stir and cook over high heat. Once bubbles begin to form on the surface, reduce to a simmer. Allow liquid to reduce by 1/2 or until liquid has thickened to a loose syrup consistency.

Squeeze each tomato thoroughly to ensure most seeds are removed. Set the tomatoes aside.

Cut carrot, onion, and celery into uniform sizes and combine with olive oil and garlic in a non-reactive roasting pan over low heat. Sweat the mirepoix until the carrots are tender and the onion becomes translucent, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and capers to the roasting pan.

Place roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and broil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Tomatoes should start to brown slightly on edges with light caramelization. Remove the pan from the broiler. Place the pan over 2 burners on the stove. Add the white wine to the tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes over medium heat.

Put the tomatoes into a deep pot or bowl and add the reduced tomato liquid to the tomatoes. Blend to desired consistency and adjust seasoning.

Thin Crust Pizza adapted from Alton Brown
I didn't think I liked thin crust pizza until I tried this recipe. The crunchy texture is perfect when mixed with melting cheese and fresh vegetables. Try it with mozzarella, parmesan, fresh basil, onions and peppers for an unforgettable meal.

16 oz (455 g) flour, plus extra for peel and rolling
1 envelope (or 2 1/2 tsp) instant or rapid rise yeast
1 Tbls kosher salt
10 oz (285 ml) water, 105F
2 Tbls olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons for bowl
1 Tbls sugar
cornmeal, for rolling

Combine the flour and yeast in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Add the salt, water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sugar. Start the mixer on low, using the hook attachment, and mix until the dough just comes together, approximately 1 1/2 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead for 15 minutes. Check that the dough passes the windowpane test. If it does not stretch properly knead a few minutes longer. Otherwise, continue.

Fold the dough onto itself and form it into a smooth ball. Oil the bowl of the stand mixer or other large canister with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to double in size, approximately 1 hour.

Split the dough into 3 equal parts using a knife or dough scraper. Flatten each piece into a disk on the countertop. Form each piece into a ball. Roll each ball on the counter until they tighten into rounds. Cover the balls with a tea towel and rest for 45 minutes.

Heat a gas grill to high and make sure the grill grates are clean and free of debris.

Lightly flour the countertop and dust with cornmeal. Flatten 1 of the dough balls and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 16-inch round, rotating and stretching the dough as you go. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured pizza peel and stretch to re-shape if necessary.

Oil the grill grates and decrease the heat to medium. Brush the dough with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil and flip onto the hot grill. Close the lid and cook until the bottom of the crust is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Brush the raw side of the dough with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil, then immediately flip using the peel. Top with desired toppings, then. Close the lid and cook until the bottom of crust is golden brown and the cheese has melted, another 1 to 2 minutes. Using the peel, remove the pizza to a cooling rack and let rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

Monday, July 5

Heat - {Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches}

Some people complain about the heat. They crank up the air conditioning, hide inside and brood in the dark about the overbearing sun. They grimace at the thought of venturing out in the afternoon and do little but sip chilled drinks and shudder as they religiously check the weather report for signs of relief.

But then there are people like me; the strange few that embrace the warmth. The ones that grin when the thermometer reads into the 80s and above, and the ones that anxiously await the sun beating down hard on their backs. The ones that quietly turn off the air conditioning because although they do tire of the heat on occasion, they're absolutely freezing when they go inside and simply can't stand the winter-like chill on their unsuspecting skin (are you listening, Mom and J? Just kidding!).


But, perhaps most importantly, the ones who have waited all year for this heat wave and intend to do everything in their power to soak it up.

Written in red, the hours I've spent under the sun are artistically chronicled on my skin. I'm addicted to the embrace and weak for the lightness I feel as I find myself surrounded, greedily hungry for just one more hour as I see the star falling in the west.

It's possible, surely, to be sad in such conditions, but it takes a lot. Generally, if the sun is shining, my smile can be found in the same state for I feel that it's an absolute miracle to see the world in such beauty. Although the spring brings awakening, the summer sun brings out kindness within people and saturation within nature, which makes me feel completely alive. There's no question in my mind as to why it is that I love this season so much.

And the heat, I think, is a wonderful excuse to free hibernating ice cream makers from the confines of kitchen cabinets. To churn together rich creams and luxurious yolks with sugar and flavorings for sweet relief from the bright sun.


Then to indulge in such things a little more heavily than usual.

I mean, come on.

It's hot out!

Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches
Printable Recipe
Chocolate Cookies adapted from Tartelette
1/2 c (45 g) cocoa powder
2 c (285 g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbls (110 g) butter, room temp
1 c (140 g) brown sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the speed and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. On low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just until the dough comes together. Gather the dough into a bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C) and line a pan with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface,, roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick. Use a round 3" cookie cutter to cut out as many pieces as you are able. Gather and re-roll the scraps if necessary. Make patters on cookie with a fork or other tool if desired. Place on lined baking sheet and bake 8 - 10 minutes. Cool completely before sandwiching them with ice cream.

Strawberry Ice Cream via The Craft of Baking
1 1/4 c + 2 Tbls (271 g) sugar, divided
1 pint or 2 c (475 ml) strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved
9 egg yolks
2 c (475 ml) whole milk
2 c (475 ml) heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

In a bowl, combine 1/2 c + 2 Tbls (125 g) sugar and strawberries, stirring well to moisten the sugar. Cover the bowl and let set at room temp for one hour, or refrigerate overnight.

Place the macerated berries in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the strawberries are tender, about 5 minutes. Strain into a bowl and reserve both the berries and juice in separate containers. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with 6 Tbls (73 g) of sugar until the mixture is lightened and pale yellow in color.

In a large saucepan, bring to a boil the milk, cream, remaining 6 Tbls (73 g) of sugar and salt.

Once boiling, pour 1 c (235 ml) of the hot cream into the yolks and whisk continually to temper the eggs. Pour back into the pan and cook until thickened. Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and pour into a bowl to chill. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Before churning, whisk in the strawberry juice. Churn according to your manufacturer's directions, then fold in the strawberries.

Pour into a lined (so you are able to remove the ice cream from the pan after being completely frozen) 9x12 pan with straight sides. If you do not have a pan with straight sides, it's not the end of the world. Some of your slices will just be a little rounded on the edges. No big deal!

Assembly

Remove frozen ice cream from the 9x12 pan and allow to soften for a few moments on the counter. Cut out 12 rounds with the same cutter you used before and quickly sandwich between two cookies. Cover finished sandwiches and freeze until ready to serve.

Thursday, July 1

Fuel - {Ciabatta}

Hey! I want to preface this entry by saying that it's a little... Depressing. I don't know that anyone would be super concerned or anything, but I am doing just fine. I consider myself lucky to have as many amazing people in my life as I do.

This post is just something that I think about, from time to time, you know? Maybe it's just my age, but relationships and human nature fascinate me. No matter what you believe, based on where we began, where our race originated - be it primates or the hands of a higher being - it's truly amazing the way that we've come to interact with one another. Our truths, our lies and our secrets.

To me, anyway.

So please don't leave this page feeling down or pessimistic. It's not my intention. I'm not trying to change the world; I'm just observing it.

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It's beautiful to watch, really.

To watch it all fall.

Everything, I mean.

I feel small here, in front of the flames. I don't understand the way they burn and flicker. The way they slowly devour the world around them. Their beautiful and effortless dance as they grow in size.

The visible heat.

Here one second and gone the next in an amazing and wondrous fusion of highly advanced physics and simple nature.

Gorgeous.


I used to think I was a very trusting person, but I've come to realize that I'm not. Is that selfish? I really can't remember when it started or when I changed.

I find myself involved in so many distasteful conversations lately. Casual conversations in which the words that fall from wagging tongues - including my own - disgust me. I blame myself for this, of course, for I am responsible for determining who becomes a part of my life. I consider myself fortunate to have the ability to select the people that I keep in my life.

But now I find that I question some of those decisions.

The fire grows; engulfing twigs and branches as it reaches higher for the sky. It's greedy and without purpose, erasing and belittling the years invested in the lives of the downed trees. Trunks of solidified energy, now nothing but fuel for an unnecessary flame under the hot, falling summer sun.

I find that, in general, people are fickle, erratic and frightened. Myself included, of course. We all want to be liked, but on so many occasions we're too afraid of appearing inadequate in comparison to others that we become subconsciously unpleasant to speak with. I want to have friends and I want others to enjoy my company, but I don't want to feel required to resort to trash-talking or bragging as a means to maintain interest. Why is it that we feel so compelled to put down others? Nice people, I mean. Good people. Are we wired this way? Is it in our nature? Or are we raised into insecurity and fear - instability and self-born inadequacy - that prevents us from being true to ourselves in the presence of others? Do you understand what I mean?

I hear the voices around me, agitated through the flames and distorted by the heat. Fed into the fire and regurgitated as ashes. Released into the air to be shared with everyone.

So I listen. I lay quietly, legs crossed and arms behind my head.

And then the ashes fall.

And it all comes down.

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I used this recipe for the ciabatta, and, quite frankly, it's amazing. I am, however, hesitant to re-post it here because the directions (and videos!) on Susan's blog, Wild Yeast, are so perfectly detailed that it wouldn't be fair to her or you for me to truncate them as I often do. So please, head on over and make yourself some ciabatta. Your friends will surely appreciate the generous yield of this recipe!

I toasted mine then slathered it with homemade peanut butter and topped it sliced bananas. This is one of my favorite foods!