Wednesday, September 29

Sheep - {Chai Ice Cream}

As they pull their backpack from underneath their seat, they will the poured cement floor to let it slide soundlessly forward. But without success, as the offensive drag is difficult to smother. Carefully pinching the zipper pull between their thumb and forefinger, they offer a gentle tug of encouragement, but it is followed by a grimace at the deafening ziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip the zipper exhales in response. A sheepish look is cast to the left, then to the right, but it's already too late.

The wave has started.

Without bells, there is no official end to classes, but us students are sure to keep good track of our time. It's hard not to peek at the clock during lectures, and harder still to ignore the approaching end of the period. As the minutes dwindle, glances become more fevered and frequent, and Profs become visibly agitated when they see that they're losing their pupils. I make it a point to listen as intently as I can at this point, but as they try to get out their last few sentences amid the shuffle, it's impossible to hear.

It's startling to see the effect such a phenomenon has on a large class. In a 605 person lecture hall, you can almost see to origin of the wave and those "ignoring" it mixed within. Stiff against the flow, the students who remain upright or propped on elbows defy the urge outwardly, but you can see in their eyes that they are dying to be freed.

I like to think that it's worth it to try to pay attention in those final moments (and I do so out of respect), but it's hard to ignore the urge to follow the shepherd and pack my bags in the same fashion. And even though I refuse to fill my backpack while my prof is speaking, I am still mentally packed well before they've wished us a good afternoon through gritted teeth.

But of what true use are those final moments? In comparison to the others, the ones in which the actual material is covered, the final moments contain so little. Half-hearted/expected/required pleasantries intertwined with brief summations of previously covered information spill out over the lecture hall as an indication of the lecture's completion. And so we respond.

And we're gone.

But there's no way to remedy this. The final minutes cannot be eradicated by any means, and in a 605 person lecture, that first zipper will always be drawn.

I'm just going to try to make sure that it's not mine.

And I'll try not to get trampled on my way out.

Chai Ice Cream
The amounts I've provided for the spices and tea are estimates. Use more or less as desired, but keep in mind that flavors will be more subtle when the ice cream is frozen.
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 c (355 ml) heavy cream
10 cardamom pods, crushed
2 tsp fennel
1 tsp cinnamon
1 inch fresh ginger, crushed
1/4 c (60 ml) loose tea
1 1/2 c (355 ml) whole milk
3/4 c (150 g) sugar, divided
7 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Place the cream, cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, ginger and tea in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and let cool to infuse. Strain the mixture and return the infused cream to the pan, adding the milk and 3/8 c (75 g) of the sugar. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, whip the egg yolks with the remaining 3/8 c (75 g) sugar and the salt. Beat them with a wire whisk until they are lightened and form ribbons.

When the cream mixture has come to a boil, begin pouring a slow, steady stream into the yolks, whisking constantly to temper. When about half of the cream has been added to the yolks, pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the cream. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until thickened.

Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, then pour into a container to cool. Press plastic wrap directly to the surface of the custard, then refrigerate overnight before freezing according to your manufacturer's directions for you ice cream maker.

Tuesday, September 21

Shop - {Filled Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes}

Selecting a cart is the first of my troubles.

It happens all too often that I grab the handle of one in a row, confidently tug it in my direction and consequently find myself reeling backward with neither my balance nor dignity.

Or the cart.

Then, if I am to victoriously retrieve a cart from its resting place, I always find it difficult to excuse myself from the surrounding environment. Amongst other cart-hungry folks and those innocently entering and leaving the store, that breezeway becomes a dark labyrinth; the cart an unfortunate extension of the limbs. Patience always prevails as the best option, but it is so tempting to simply disrupt the flow, expediting my escape and angering those around me. To go against traffic and to push upstream.

However, things such as this are not truly in my nature.

So I wait.

When I am finally permitted entrance into the hallowed halls of Meijer/VG's/Walmart/Kroger, I am presented with further trials.

There are sections of groceries stores that I will go as far as saying I am proficient at navigating:

The produce section and its constant display of beautiful but out-of-season fruits and vegetables (sorry, I've been finding myself a bit of a snob in that way as of late); to the dairy section containing all varieties of milks, yogurts and butters, ranging in price from reasonable to SEVEN-DOLLARS-FOR-HALF-A-GALLON-ARE-YOU-FREAKING-KIDDING-ME?; to the bakery with the bedecked, bedazzled and be-airbrushed cakes sought after in my youth and the towers of doughnuts my parents refused to buy; to the fish and meat counter, a spectacle in reds and pinks, and something I do often, admittedly, avoid; and finally, the baking aisle, with all of its wondrous flours, sugars, extracts, spices and chocolates.

But, however well I can navigate my way around the aisles (and down the baking one), I'm not healthy enough to live on the easily-accessed alone.

So I dive into the mess with all of the other college students, many of whom are also confused, lost and new to shopping for themselves.

But how silly is that? It's not like grocery stores are foreign to us. I've been in and out of grocery stores more times in my life than I can count. So how is it possible that I never know where to go when I want a loaf of bread or some jam to top it with? I remember thinking, as I penned my list, that the jam would be near the peanut butter and honey, but I knew that there couldn't be an isle devoted solely to these three items.

So I trudged up and down each aisle (twice through some) slowly re-discovering the simplest of things and running into traffic jams all the while. It was stressful, as it seems to be most days, but I managed to leave the store with my sanity and a cart full of everything I had come for.

I suppose it goes without saying that I did find the bread and jam - eventually, of course - and that I had been correct in many of my assumptions.

The bread was, indeed, near the other bread (I swear that every store puts the bread aisle in a different place) and the jam was with the peanut butter and honey (and the salad dressing and barbecue sauce).

But when I got home I realized that I never put consideration into one thing:

A toaster.

My guess is that they're probably between the live fish and the "Pimp my Ride" aisle.

But it's probably just easier to eat untoasted bread and jam than to put sincere thought into it.
Filled Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes
Printable Recipe

Lemon Curd via Alton Brown
2 egg yolks
1/3 c + 1 Tbls sugar
1 1/2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 Tbls butter

Add enough water to a medium saucepan (or a double boiler) to come about 1-inch up the side and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl (that will fit well over the simmering water without touching it) and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk until smooth.

Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. Whisk constantly until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt before adding the next.

Transfer to a clean container place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes adapted from Alton Brown
1 c (150 g) cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 c + 2 Tbls (170 g) sugar, divided
Zest of 1 lemon
5 eggs, separated
1/4 c (60 ml)water
1/4 c (60 ml) vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
5/8 tsp cream of tartar
4 Tbls poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 325F (160C).

Place paper liners into 2 cupcake tins and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Place the 1/3 c sugar and zest into the bowl of a stand mixer and rub between fingers to release the oils. Work the sugar and zest until the sugar is fragrant and visibly moistened. Add the egg yolks and whisk on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale yellow and 'ribbons' when lifted. Add the water, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just until it comes together. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl while you whisk the egg whites.

Place egg whites and cream of tartar into a clean bowl and whip on high speed until they become foamy. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the remaining sugar. Increase speed to high and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the yolk batter and whisk until well combined. Add the remaining egg whites and poppy seeds and fold in gently, being careful to keep the batter light. Transfer batter into prepared muffin tins, evenly dividing the batter between the cups. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting via All Recipes
1 (8oz/226 g pkg) cream cheese, at room temp
4 Tbls (55 g) butter, at room temp
1 c (110 g) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whip the cream cheese and butter until lightened, then sift in the powdered sugar and continue whipping until combined. Add the vanilla and whip to combine.

Using a paring knife, cut a small cone out of the top of each, cooled cupcake. Fill the cavity with the cooled lemon curd and replace the top, then frost.

Wednesday, September 15

Clear - {Double Chocolate Macarons}

As the shadows creep further across the uneven floor, I consider my level of productivity for the day and find myself completely unsatisfied.

I feel as if I haven't done much lately, and I don't like it.

This semesters classes start much later in the day than I would like, leaving me with a lot of dead time in the morning. The second my feet hit the ground, I feel a knot in my stomach, even though I know there are a number of hours before my daily obligations truly begin. But as the hours pass, I'm uncertain as to how they are best filled. I step in and out of the shower, travel back-and-forth between the bathroom and my bedroom then into the living area, intent on taking care of something before I head off to class.

But then the hours are gone. Every morning.

They're gone before I even realize how I've spent them. Did I do homework? Did I clean? Did I talk to S? Did I spend three hours eating cereal...?

When class is over, I'm not motivated to work on homework. I do it - eventually - but only with great difficulty, which has been a theme for the past week or so. The simplest things distract me from my studies, and I feel as if my abused "to do" list will never end. I am behind on e-mails, studying and errands. Phone calls and texts, invitations and obligations. When my head hits the pillow, I feel like I've accomplished nothing, and, worst of all, as if I am letting people down.

It's driving me crazy. I'm terribly sorry for slacking.

My inability to satisfy my unending thirst for completion is affecting my sleep. Sufficient hours between the sheets and cups of coffee do nothing for me, and I spend my awake hours yawning and painfully batting my eyelashes. My struggle for consciousness is fought in tandem with a battle for note-taking and comprehension as I suspiciously eye my lecturing professors. I often wonder if they see the unintentionally defiant repose in my blood-shot eyes. I wonder if they assume I've been out partying. I wonder if they're annoyed.

I wonder if they care.

And yet, with my daily "to do" list lying just three feet away, still unfinished as the clock spins around to nine, here I am writing for the blog. Writing because it makes me happy...

and maybe because I need a break from ACC 201 and IAH 211D studies.

I really need to get my priorities straight.

But in the meantime - I suppose that "write for the blog" is something else I can cross off the list. You know, the one I started a week ago?

Yeah. That one.

Chocolate Macarons via Cannelle et Vanille
I love chocolate macrons without the filling because they taste like brownies. Some might argue that I should just make brownies and quit being finicky with macarons, but those people don't know what they're talking about. Besides that - this recipe rocks!
Printable Recipe

100 g egg whites
225 g powdered sugar
125 g almond flour
15 g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
25 g sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Separate the egg whites at least 24 hours to making this recipe, leaving them covered in the fridge. This helps remove moisture and increase acidity which will help create a fuller and more stable meringue.

Preheat the oven to 300F and cut 2-3 pieces of parchment paper to fit on baking sheets. Prepare a piping bag with a small round tip (a 10 works well).

Combine the powdered sugar, almond flour, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whip the egg whites and the lemon juice until frothy, then begin slowly sprinkling in the sugar and whip to stiff peaks, or until the meringue doesn't slide in the bowl when tipped.

Sift the dry ingredients into the egg whites and fold until well combined and shiny. You want the mixture to spread slightly, but not be too runny.

Pour the macaronage into the prepared piping bag and pipe the macarons in small rounds onto the parchment. Bake them for about 8 minutes, rotate the sheetpan and bake for another 8 minutes or until the tops *just* slide over the feet.

Chocolate Filling
I used chocolate Italian meringue buttercream leftover from a cake I baked earlier in the week. Use your favorite recipe or one of the methods described here and here.

Tuesday, September 7

Babble - {Grapefruit Cupcakes with Honeyed Italian Meringue Buttercream}

One thing that I really like about college is that, for the most part and in the best way possible, no one knows anyone else. No one knows who you were in third grade, and no one cares. No one cares about the once infamous "popular kids" or all "popular things" they used to do. No one cares if you're "cool" or not because, as far as I can tell, that concept doesn't really exist in college. When it gets down to it, no one cares about anything but the fact that we are all, with a few exceptions, pretty gosh darn alone.

Which, although it may not sound like it, is a great thing. What I am want to highlight here is the fact that the imagined isolation stirs up the desire for conversation and companionship, which, oftentimes, makes it really really easy to make friends.

Well, that's my theory anyway, and I'm sticking to it. It's a good mindset, at the very least, to go into a room and just assume everyone could use a friend, right? It puts me in a good mood to think that everyone's willing to chat, and I've only been wrong once so far. Even then, it's not like it was a big deal. We just stopped talking after our initial introduction.

And I lived.

And I still keep talking.

And it still works.

Of course, my acquaintance and I don't necessarily become the best of friends, but I've met people in my classes with whom I've had solid relationships. And even if you do just talk while you're in class, that's better than sitting silently, right?

So, with this in mind, I have decided this:

I am not afraid.

And yet, with all of this positivity and optimism flitting about in my mind, I still have one class that I just could not meet anyone in.

Until today, anyway.

I know it sounds lame, but I was really psyching myself up for this class as I ventured across campus this afternoon. I was confident and determined; hell bent on introducing myself to at least one person before the prof began her lecture at 12:40. Even though we're just over a week into the semester, I was legitimately fearful that it was already too late to establish anything. The thought that everyone might complacent with their anonymity in the classroom was worrisome, and I really wasn't ok with it. I had a few classes last year that I never made friends in and - let me tell you - I hated them.

I wouldn't say I was stressed about all of this, but the pressure was certainly on as I maneuvered through the empty halls before class. The echo of my flip-flops supplied the backing of an imaginary army that would serve only to remind me of my loneliness as I paused to reach for the door. The momentum of the trailing silence crept up my spine in a heavy wave, making me doubtful - for the first time in a long time - of my intentions.

Maybe I wouldn't say anything.

I swung the door on its hinges, taking a small step inward as I tried to shake the insecurity from my shoulders.

But then the strangest thing happened.

A chorus from the middle of the room insisted upon my presence.

"Hey! Come sit with us! It's been too quiet in here."

From the unfamiliar faces came a string of names, introductions and greetings. I told them my name and slipped into a seat next to a smiling face, finally comfortable with my standing in the class.

Things are off to a good start.

I'd never seen a class be so involved with a lecture as this one was today. A, the guy who initially encouraged the comradery was, ironically, sleeping one seat away from me; but the rest of my peers were both answering and posing questions at a rate I'm simply not used to.

And it was so, so, SO nice to finally be able to turn to someone, a new friend, and tell them something I have been dying to say since the first day of class:

"Our prof sounds like Julia Child."

I really like where this year is going.

Grapefruit Cupcakes via Smitten Kitchen
This is a dense, nicely grapefruit-y cake recipe. I'm very tempted to try it out with orange. I love the crumb!
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 c (215 g) flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c (200 g) plus 1 Tbls sugar
3 tsp grated grapefruit zest (approximately one large grapefruit)
1 c (235 ml) plain whole-milk yogurt
4 eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 c (120 ml) vegetable oil
1/3 c (80 ml) freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

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

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. In another bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar and zest, rubbing between your fingers until moistened and fragrant. Whisk in the yogurt, the eggs, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup grapefruit juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cupcakes are done, allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, use a fork to poke holes in it and carefully, using a spoon, pour the grapefruit-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool completely before frosting.

Honeyed 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
Honey, to taste

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. Begin adding the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until fully incorporated. Keep whipping until the frosting comes together, then add the vanilla and honey.

Thursday, September 2

Goal - {Lime Curd Tart}

When you were in your early years of school, were you forced to come up with goals for yourself? To sit through lectures that focused on goals and their importance to your success?

I certainly was, and I remember hearing the preaching and being incredibly confused.

What kind of goal could I have? my younger self would think, baffled by the concept of setting lifetime objectives before recess. Without a thought in my head, I would look meekly around the room and listen to my teacher encourage other students.

Then I would worry, silently, in the depths of my mind.

The bright-faced students with the big dreams were so excited and determined that they were all I could hear, but their dreams of flying to the moon, becoming a spy and being famous (idolizing Brittany Spears or the Spice Girls) sounded so implausible to me that I thought they were crazy. But then, to hear the certainty in their voices and the reassurance of Mrs. S, I was frightened. I began to doubt myself and consider the fact that it sounded impossible simply because I wasn’t good enough to ever have one of those professions.

I eyed my empty page with great caution, attempting to hide the fact that I was having a difficult time. I connected the worn-down pink eraser to the paper and pretended to erase something that I had previously pretended to write.

This was hard.

So I decided to focus on the top of the page, putting my thoughts into “short term goals” instead of “long term goals.” Quickly scrawling, “get good grades,” “make new friends,” and “have a good year,” in succession was painless enough; they were little things – easy things – that weren’t stressful, took little effort and had great rewards.

But still, as the “long term goal” section leered at me, its emptiness made me fearful that my future would be nothing but the same. My teachers seemed so sure that the goals I would soon pen onto the single, insignificant, blaring white and unfriendly piece of paper before me would define and outline my life; setting me up for success or failure depending on the written words. And so I began to adopt the goals of my peers. As the teacher made the rounds to collect our assignments, the prospect of becoming a famous singer suddenly sounded much more appropriate. The deadline was creeping upon me, so I wrote it down. I didn’t want to be a singer, but if the paper said that I did, then I would grow to love it, right?


I know this is a well-known fact, but there are very few people who really and truly know exactly what they want to do with their lives in the future. I get that, and my teachers undoubtedly knew this fact themselves, but in the efforts of trying to “better” us – even though their intentions were good – they did nothing but freak me out. I began to dread the yearly and ritual writing of goals because I felt weird for not knowing what I wanted to do in the future. I realize now that I was not alone in my “weirdness,” but seriously - back then, I had no clue. I felt very alienated.

But now, over a decade down the line, I’ve a new understanding of this whole goal setting business.

Careful rewording of my short-term goals leaves me with a list of “longish” term goals that I can live with:

Keep good grades. They’ll look good when I apply for whichever job I end up applying for in the future.

Make lifetime friends. Find the people that I can’t live without

And, as corny as it is:

Have a great life. Because seriously – that’s all that matters in the end.

Lime Curd Tart very slightly adapted from Baked Bree
I have never had a traditional Key Lime Pie, but I absolutely loved this! It's a very refreshing dessert.
Printable Recipe

For the Crust:

1 1/2 c (355 ml) graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c (100 g) sugar
6 Tbls (85 g) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

Combine the crumbs and sugar in a bowl, then add the melted butter. Mix to combine, then press evenly into a 9" tart ring or springform pan using your hands or a glass with a flat bottom. Bake for about 9 minutes and cool on a rack.

For the curd:
2 Tbls water
1 tsp gelatin
1 c (200 g) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 lime, zest of
4 eggs
3/4 c (175 ml) key lime juice (I use regular limes)
1/2 c (120 g) butter, cubed
1 tsp vanilla

Fill a small pan with water and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, pour the two tablespoons of water into a small cup and sprinkle the gelatin over the top to soften. Set aside.

Place the sugar, salt and lime zest in a bowl that will fit well over the pan of simmering water (you will be using it as a double boiler) and rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until fragrant, about two minutes. Whisk in the eggs and lime juice.

Set bowl over the pot of simmering water and, whisking constantly, cook until thickened.

Begin adding butter, one pat at a time, until it has melted.

Add the softened gelatin, remove the bowl from the heat and add the vanilla. Pour into the cooled crust, cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. Serve with whipped cream and garnish with lime zest, if desired.