Friday, June 24

Chat - {Pineapple and Rhubarb Danish Braid}

After dumping half the contents of a sugar packet into my coffee, I neatly roll the torn edge and set it aside while stirring my cream-spiked fix with a cheap spoon.

Poured from a well-loved carafe just moments before, the weak coffee is just the right temperature; cool enough to refrain from punishing me for greed and haste with a burned tongue, but warm enough to combat the effects of an overactive air conditioner. Perfect, if you will. As such, I warrant myself a few seconds – time spent relishing the smoothness on my palette – before glancing up at my companion with a smile seated deeply in my eyes.

My behavior, I’m sure, is confusing the poor guy. C, after asking me out to dinner earlier in the afternoon, surely did not expect me to get home from work after 10pm. I’m also quite certain that he had not anticipated that I would choose to order buttermilk pancakes and coffee when we were seated at 11:30. But he’s a good sport; after discussing a few menu items with me and jokingly questioning my sanity, he ordered “the same” after our waitress arrived, and set about fixing his coffee.

A handful of empty sugar packets and creamer cups lie wounded on the table; victims of big hands now loosely clasped about his mug. He’s smiling too, and I wonder – fleetingly – if it’s a smile for me or simply a sugar-induced stupor.

But I know.

The pile of emptied creamer cups and sugar packets climbs higher. Plates of pancakes arrive. Mugs are refilled. Plates are cleared. With an understanding smile, our waitress delivers our check some time later, topping off our mugs and inviting us to stay as long as we like.

In the blink of an eye, it’s three in the morning.

I’m tired, but the words don’t stop.

I could get used to this.

Rhubarb and Pineapple Danish Braid inspired by King Arthur Flour
When a friend suggested the King Arthur Flour recipe to me, I was intrigued. Pineapple and rhubarb was a combination I was unfamiliar with, but eager to try. Now that I have, I wholly recommend that you step away from the strawberries and give this a go. It's wonderful!

Printable Recipe

Laminated Dough via Food Beam
I LOVE this dough. It's super simple to make and tastes so amazingly rich. Be sure to use the best butter you can get your hands on!

About 3/4 c (112 g) flour
3/4 tsp instant yeast
5 tsp (20 g) sugar
1/4 tsp fleur de sel
4 Tbsp (40 g) milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
1/2 c (112 g) butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp flour

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Combine the milk, egg and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and knead on a flour-dusted surface until the dough becomes smooth and satiny, about 5-7 minutes. Add more flour if the dough is sticky. Form into a small rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, cream together the butter and remaining flour. Cover and let set on counter.

While you are waiting for the dough to chill, make the fillings (recipes follow).

After the dough has chilled for the required 30 minutes, remove it from the fridge and take it out of the plastic wrap. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the dough into approximately an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Spread the butter/flour mixture evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. You will now begin the first "turn:" Fold the left edge to the right, covering half of the butter, then fold the right third over the center third. Think of it like folding a paper to fit in an envelope. This completes the first turn. Wrap the dough in cling film, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes has passed, place the dough on a floured work surface with the spine (picture a book spine) facing left. Roll the dough into another 8 x 12 inch rectangle, then fold each side into the center, and fold in half (this is called a tour double and Fanny has a wonderful photo to help with the process!). You've just finished the second and third turns. Re-wrap the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, do a final turn. Place the dough on a dusted counter with the spine on the left. Roll it into another 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Brush the excess flour away and fold in three like the first turn - like a letter.

Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.

For a final time, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Transfer rolled dough to a sheet of parchment paper. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 4" long cuts with a knife, each about 1" wide. Repeat on the opposite side, lining up the cuts.

First spread the prepared cream cheese filling over the 4" strip in the center, then top with the rhubarb pineapple filling. Then fold the top and bottom flaps over the filling. After that, begin folding the cut strips of dough over the filling, alternating from left to right, like a braid, until finished. Tuck the ends in.

At this point you can place the braid into an oiled loaf pan or leave it to rest on a baking sheet. Either way, let the braid double in size at room temperature, about 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Bake the braid for 10 minutes, rotate the pan, then lower the temperature to 350F(180C) and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Pineapple Rhubarb Filling

3/8 c (89 ml)chopped rhubarb
1/8 c (25 g) sugar
3/8 c (89 ml) crushed pineapple
1 tsp vanilla

Put the rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan an let set for two hours. Add the pineapple and remaining sugar and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened to the consistency of apple sauce, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the vanilla. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Cream Cheese Filling

2 oz (56 g) cream cheese, room temp
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Beat all ingredients together until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Set aside.

Saturday, June 18

Pick - {Silky Smooth Strawberry Ice Cream}

The sky today is deeply blue, keeping the company of a few clouds and generously allowing the sun full range of the Earth. Over the farm, the air is smooth and sweet; a pleasant and rare treat for my lungs. Refreshingly infused with the scent of ripe strawberries, shredded hay and freshly-cut grass, it feels as if I'm breathing in a million dollar perfume; the perfect rendition of summertime.

The farm is a humble place, marked simply by a small sign on a thin and roughly-paved road. It's off the beaten path, away from Cedar Point and its associated tourist traps, which - although probably bad for business - is something I certainly appreciate.

I'm convinced that my best friend, T, would have missed the entrance if it weren't for my mini freak-out in the passenger seat of his red sedan. Turning the wheel, a smile wraps itself around his teasing words as he gently pressures the brake.

I've never known anyone quite like T before. When we first met, five years ago in our high school yearbook class, we quickly became friends. But he, being older, graduated 2 years before me and left for college in what seemed like the blink of an eye. We kept in touch over the four years he was away, but not extensively. Occasional texts, letters and care packages were exchanged, but neither pressured the other for constant contact. It was relaxed.

But now, four years later, T's graduated from college and on a leave of sorts before he begins training for his job.

And me?

Well, you know where I am.

Initially, I was a little worried for T to come visit. I hadn't really seen him in quite some time and I just knew that things wouldn't be the same.

I was right.

But things are actually better now. Somehow, after four years of not really talking, T and I got closer to one another. In the time we've been apart, we've both matured and changed to the point where neither of us can believe the other is the same person we knew in high school. Our friendship may have changed completely, but it's stronger.

Which was something that made that day even better. Sure, just having the opportunity to be in the strawberry patch was wonderful in itself, but being able to teasingly criticize T's method of berry-picking and jokingly chide him for dropping them into the basket made it so much more fun.

The second that it resonated in me - the fact that we've both matured and grown separately and still, somehow, maintained our bond - was the second that my day went from being amazing to being perfect.

It's incredible how things change.

How people can surprise you.

How happy one can be.

Silky Smooth Strawberry Ice Cream via Stella, of BraveTart
It's been a long time since I made ice cream without egg yolks, but if anyone could convince me to go without, it'd be Stella! This ice cream is perfect to make at this time of year when berries are at their peak because, obviously, it showcases their flavor. That said, be sure to use nice, ripe berries to ensure the best tasting ice cream possible! The rosewater was added to highlight the flavor of the berries, as per Stella' recommendation. She's completely right and I love the addition, but feel free to leave it out if you don't have any. Makes about 1/2 quart of silky, luscious, perfectly-strawberry-y ice cream.

Printable Recipe

2 c (310 g) sliced strawberries
3/4 c (155 g) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 c (237 ml) heavy whipping cream, or more depending on how much you reduce the berries
1/4 tsp rosewater
1 tsp vanilla

Place the sliced berries in a saucepan and pour the sugar and salt on top. Mix to combine then cover and let set one hour, off the heat, to macerate. After the juices have been pulled from the berries, set the pan on medium-low heat. Reduce, stirring frequently, by half. You should end up with about a cup of reduced, syrupy and deeply red berries.

Measure the cooked berries and add an equal amount of cream (I needed 1 cup), the rosewater and the vanilla. Blend in your food processor or blender to pulverizing the remaining solids, and strain, if you like, to remove the seeds. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

After sufficiently chilling the berries and cream mixture, pour it into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your manufacturer's directions. Pour into your desired container, press with plastic wrap and freeze until solid, 5-6 hours, before serving.

Updates and a TV Appearance

Good morning, guys! I apologize that I'm behind on posting for this week. I'm hoping to get a new post up after work today, so keep your fingers crossed for me, please!

Also, I have something exciting to share! I was recently asked to film a segment for a local news channel, which was a complete honor. They asked me to make one of my favorite recipes, so I went with my Grandma's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. If you're interested, you can check out the video on the Channel 7 WXYZ website, or view it here:

Thank you for being so patient with me, thank you to the kind people at CH 7 WXYZ for having me on the show, and, as always, thanks for reading!

Have a lovely, sweet-filled day,

Friday, June 10

Pass - {Wildcat Crunch Ice Cream}

Being the stubborn person that I am, I refuse to drop twenty dollars on a watch that I’m convinced I don’t need. My phone, which is almost always within reach, requires only a simple tap of the media button to display the time. Because of this, I see no reason to waste my hard-earned cash on something as frivolous as a watch.

But at work, where cell phone usage is forbidden, I have to be creative, so I’ve taken to estimating the time by the position of the sun. And in some particularly desperate times, I’ve even hawk-eyed the displays adorning guests’ arms from afar.

Don’t judge me.

It gets the job done.

Usually I can handle not knowing the exact time because, quite honestly, it’s not that important. It’s just that sometimes… Well, sometimes I really just want to know. Sometimes I just get that itch and time is all I can think about, even when I have no legitimate reason to know besides satisfying the aforementioned inexplicable desire.

Amid all this, you’d think it would make sense to simply ask what time it is. But not here – I’m tired of being told that it’s “time to get a watch” when it’s quite clearly closer to 6PM than it is to “never o’clock.” Besides, during the day I’ve become fairly accurate in regard to calling time in relation to the sun’s position. Knowing when it sets and taking clues from the comings and goings of employees makes it relatively easy. Oh, and knowing the closing times of the water park (7!) and actual park (10!) are helpful, too.

But after the park closes, I’ve nothing left to go by. Puffs of small, slow, brown bugs arrive in swarms when the darkness sets in at nine, flooding the sky and clouding my senses with muffled irritation. It’s always this time of night that not knowing the time really gets to me, because only an hour remains and it passes slowly thanks to the invasion. Although my newly-arrived foes can be downed with a single swat, because there are hundreds more to replace each that falls, it’s done to little satisfaction. Frustrated and blinded by the bugs, I wish feverishly for closing time to arrive – and fast.

This is when I ask for the time.

This is when I feel it slowing.

This is when I feel I’m losing it.

This is when I realize that it really is time to buy a watch.

Wild Cat Crunch Ice Cream inspired by the MSU Dairy Store

Printable Recipe
When I saw Wildcat Crunch at the Dairy Store, I knew I was going to love it. Yogurt, granola and lightly sweetened berries swirled into a thick vanilla ice cream make for a very refreshing dessert! Definitely a new favorite.

1 1/2 c (298 g) sugar, divided
2 c (473 ml) milk (whole is recommended, but I used 1/2%)
2 c (473 ml) heavy cream
7 egg yolks
3/4 tsp vanilla

1/2 c (118 ml) chopped strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination of all three
4 Tbsp (48 g) sugar
1/2 c (118 ml) granola clusters (hoping to update soon with a recipe for homemade!)
1/2 c (118 ml) Greek yogurt

Put 1 cup (199 grams) of sugar, the milk and the cream into a medium saucepan. Begin cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, place the remaining 1/2 cup (99 grams) of sugar in a large bowl with the egg yolks. Whisk until ribbons form, keeping an eye on the cream. Just before the cream mixture begins to boil, use a ladle to add about 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of the hot cream to the egg yolks and whisk immediately to combine. Pour the egg yolk and cream mixture back into the saucepan and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened. A good test to see if it has thickened enough is to dip a spoon into the custard, remove it and run your finger from the top of the spoon to the bottom. If the line from your finger floods over, keep cooking. If not, it's done!

When the custard has thickened sufficiently, remove it from the heat and pour into another container. Allow to cool slightly, then press plastic wrap over the surface and refrigerate overnight.

In the meantime, sprinkle the 4 Tbsp of sugar over the berries and stir to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

After your custard has cooled completely, stir in the vanilla. Pour the custard into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. After the ice cream has been churned, quickly stir in the granola clusters. Briefly fold in the macerated berries and Greek yogurt, the freeze about 8 hours before serving.

Thursday, June 2

Swim - {Crispy Salted White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies}

"I try to be as helpful as I can in the beginning," he explained casually, his voice flat as he flipped through papers haphazardly attached to his clipboard. "But now it's sink or swim. If someone didn't get it before and they can't figure it out now... Well..." He trailed off suddenly, his refined curtness clearly delivering what he tactfully left unsaid.

I understand. Being in a leadership position, it's important to test the new team members to figure out who can be relied on and who can't. That's how the working world functions. I get it.

Thankfully, I'm one of the swimmers, but I still find myself asking a lot of questions. Sometimes they're obvious, but it's only because I want to be sure I'm getting things right. And in those instances of my own "dumb questioning," I'm often told to just trust my gut. But you know what? Sometimes my gut just doesn't know - especially when I'm 7 hours into my shift and all the darn thing really cares about is what I'm going to eat for dinner. Sometimes all my gut wants is a sandwich with a hot side of "yes," or, "exactly - you're right."

Is that so much to ask?

But, like I said before, I get it. With their distance and pseudo-disregard for questioning, my TLs are smartly fostering a confident and competent crew.

I'll get over my uncertainty eventually.

Just let me ask you one more thing...

Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies via Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Cook's Illustrated
Having these cookies around the apartment has been a real test of my willpower. With their shattering texture and contrasting salty-sweetness, they've proved quite addictive! Makes about 2 dozen.

Printable Recipe

1 c (142 g) flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
14 Tbsp (199 g) butter, softened
1 c (199 g) sugar
1/4 c (40 g) packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c (225 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
6 oz (170 g) good-quality white chocolate bar, chopped (Deb of Smitten Kitchen recommends not using chips, but they're all I had and I happen to like how they taste!)
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt (like Maldon or fleur de sel), for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again and add half of the flour mixture. Mix to combine, scrape down bowl, and add remaining half. Mix until just incorporated, then add the oats and chocolate and mix until evenly distributed.

Using a 2 Tbsp scoop, portion the dough into as many balls as you can. Roll into a sphere shape between your palms and place on lined sheets about 2 1/2" apart. Gently press each ball into a 3/4" thickness and sprinkle with a few flakes of salt. Bake until cookies are golden brown, 13 to 16 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Transfer sheet to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.