Thursday, February 23

Calm - {Grapefruit Cake}

Over the past month, I've enjoyed waking up to quietness and going about my morning routine alone. I've become accustomed to the ease and speed of making breakfast for one and am strangely comforted by hours of wordless peace spent in an ambient living room. It's been calming after months of enjoyable but tiring trips to and from friends apartments to just... Be in my own place.

I've found a new routine for my Saturdays, and it involves folding myself up on the couch, burying my legs in my pullover and balancing a mug of enriched coffee on my kneecaps. My garage sale coffee maker, who's loyally followed me through three moves, fills the otherwise silent room with comforting sputtering and clicking. My only companion, that Mr. Coffee, is the in-house DJ all morning.

I eat folded eggs on toast, all Pollock'd up with Frank's Red Hot, while scanning my planner for the day's obligations and chores. Homework. Reading. A half-assed shopping list. Slowly distorted by a dusting of crumbs, the tasks below become easier to swallow as I file them away for the coming hours.

I take time each morning to admire the cool blue glow of the dawn on drawn shades; typically while folded up on the couch with that first mug of the day. It's a mundane thing that I, for whatever reason, look forward to after peeling away covers and a thin veil of sleep in my bedroom. I guess it's become the anchor of my morning, that silly illumination, reminding me that the day is just outside my window, patiently waiting for me to come out and play.

The weekends now, after quite some time, are mine.

Grapefruit Cake via A Thought for Food and Saveur
I asked for grapefruit ideas on Twitter a few days ago and was reminded of this recipe by Rosie of Sweetapolita. I was not disappointed! The cake comes out buttery and nicely dense. I'd like to try it with brown sugar in place of white and bananas instead of grapefruit - I'll get back to you when I do!

1 grapefruit
3/4 c + 1 Tbsp (115g) flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp (57g) butter, softened
2/3 c (131g) sugar
2/3 egg*, room temp
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c (60ml) milk
4 oz (113g) cream cheese
1 c (156g) powdered sugar, more or less to taste

*You could probably use one egg and it would be fine, but I beat the egg in one bowl and scooped out about one third before adding to the recipe

Preheat the oven to 350F. Oil and line a 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan.

Zest the grapefruit and set aside. Peel and segment the grapefruit, place the slices in a small bowl. Into another small bowl, squeeze the remaining pulp (all the bits that are not segments) and reserve the juice for the recipe.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until very light and fluffy, about five minutes. Beat in the egg and mix until well-combined, about two minutes. Add three tablespoons of grapefruit juice and the vanilla and beat to combine, about two additional minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Dump in half of the dry ingredients and mix briefly to incorporate. Add the milk and mix just until combined, then follow with the remaining dry ingredients.

Place half of the reserved grapefruit segments into the bottom of the prepared baking tin. Pour the batter over the top and smooth to cover. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack.

While the cake cools, prepare the frosting. Melt the cream cheese in the microwave and whisk in the powdered sugar, 1-2 tablespoons of remaining grapefruit juice and a few pinches reserved grapefruit zest. Spread over cooled cake and top with the second half of segmented grapefruit.

Wednesday, February 15

Late - {Coconut, Almond and Currant Macarons}

I'd feel like a complete disappointment if I didn't post something for Valentine's Day. So let's do something quick, shall we? A short post, with a single photo, just to let you guys know I'm acknowledging it.

I rang in the evening with finance homework, a bowl of slightly-burned popcorn, and a glass of mead (thanks a bunch, Dad). I've been texting my friends a little more than someone who's studying really should, but hell; it's a holiday.

It was a good, productive night, and I'm happy with how it was spent.

And now that midnight's passed, I'm both late for the festivities and too tired to impress. So... Sorry for that!

I hope you had a very happy Valentine's Day however you celebrated. There's plenty of stuff to love in this world, so do yourself a favor: find something and be happy!

Oh - you want a recipe? Um... This is what I've got today:

For starters, what dessert could possibly be more perfect for Valentine's Day? These temperamental buggers are sweet, tart, smooth, cute, and, well, temperamental. But you've got to love them, right?

The macaron shells were made following Stella's foolproof method and recipe, with one part coconut and two parts almond. They were then filled with a quick jelly based on Helene's and scraps of cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream from the freezer.

I hope you'll forgive me for working with something so horribly out of season this week. They were on sale and they were red. The fit was just too good.

Sunday, February 12

Candy - {Peanut Butter and Chocolate Hi-Hat Cupcakes}

"Hey, I think sat behind you in Marketing last semester."

I tugged the ear bud from my left ear, letting it fall neatly over my shoulder and turned to see the source of the voice. Sitting [ironically] behind me, was an innocent-looking guy. Blue-eyed, blonde-haired and messy-headed, he stared at me expectantly with a smile, waiting for a response.


Surely not what he'd hoped for.

I searched my brain for his face, desperately seeking a connection. It was true that he bore a rather striking resemblance to a former classmate, but one from high school - not college. I continued to try, but I just couldn't place him. And, unfortunately, the deeper I spun, the more his smile faded.

He allowed me relief; sharing his name. He was B. He smiled again. "Well, what's your name?"

It was a simple question, I guess. Part of the give-and-take of introductory pleasantries and the first step of truly getting to know someone. It's how it goes. I know it. I wasn't surprised.

But there's this battle in me that involves the answer, and it started years ago. What is my name?

Before college, I was painfully shy. Shy to the point that I couldn't breathe properly when talking to strangers. So shy that I could count on my fingers the amount of people I was comfortable looking in the eyes. And shy, not in an adorable and darling way, but in the most unfortunate way. The way that makes you weird and unsure and awkward and scared. The way that prevents you from being cool or popular or any number of things that young kids spend their childhoods so desperately trying to be.

I was, however, fortunate enough to have friends, most of which I met in elementary school. We were a scrappy bunch - none quite like the other - that enjoyed gushing over The Jewel Kingdom in the cafeteria, drawing in class and beating up boys on the playground. In a good, comforting way, we were united in our "oddness."

As such, I was good within my circle of friends. It expanded and shrunk a few times over the years, but always for the better. I could always talk to them - even look them in the eye - without fear of judgement. But if they weren't around, I was silent. I didn't try to make new friends, I didn't talk to or look at other students and I didn't make any effort to overcome my shyness because I didn't think I could. I sat in the back of the class with a book on my desk and hair in my eyes, calm and collected as long as I was left alone.

I knew, however, that that was no way to live. The summer after I graduated from high school and was getting ready to move into the dorms at MSU, I promised myself that I would be more open and less shy. I didn't really know how to go about it, but I was determined to try, so I went after it head-on.

For my first couple of days at MSU, I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with a new person. I filled my tray and picked a target, forced myself to make small talk and got some phone numbers. I didn't keep in touch with any of them, but I got over that initial fear of meeting new people, which was huge for me. In my dorm room, I left my door open and made a point to say, "hello," to anyone I passed in the hallway.

Which was how I met A.

A was a goofy guy who was always laughing and saw the best in everyone. He was easy to be around, which was a relief for me, and knew how to take and make a joke like nobody's business. So, naturally, when he forgot my name a few days after we met, I refused to tell him again. And he, naturally, decided to start calling me Candy.

It stuck.

Initially, it didn't occur to me that the name Candy had racy connotations. I thought it was cute and appropriate considering my love of all things sweet, so I didn't mind when the rest of the people on our floor started calling me Candy, too. To be honest, I still think it's an innocent nickname; regardless of what A meant when he dealt it to me.

He was my first friend at MSU, and the first person who made me believe that I have no reason to be so shy. His nickname was a daily reminder that I was succeeding in stepping out of my shell. Without making a big deal of it, A taught me that I am worth talking to. He convinced me to forget fear by teaching me to handle awkward silences with panache and that people aren't inherently mean. I didn't realize it until recently, but I'd been waiting my entire life to meet him just so I could learn how to function socially.

Since then, there are people in my life who have only known me as Candy. For a long time, if anyone asked, I was Candy because that's what all of my closest friends called me.

But today, I think, "I'm Kaitlin," will do.

B smiled again. "It's nice to meet you."

I may still be a little shy and awkward, but you know what? I embrace it. I'm not a social butterfly and I don't want to be. Everyone's got their off moments and I've learned - thankfully - that they're nothing to be ashamed of.

I've lost touch with A, but I'm thankful for everything he taught me whether he meant to or not. In his words, "life is full of awkward moments, but they're only awkward if you believe them to be. So don't. You'll be happier for it."

P.S. For those theatre geeks out there... I'm Shy.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Hi-Hat Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

Peanut Butter Cupcakes via Annie's Eats

I liked these cupcakes, but I found them to be a little dry and reminiscent of cornbread. Which wasn't necessarily bad, just not quite what I was going for. My only changes to this recipe were to add an additional tablespoon of sugar and use natural, chunky peanut butter. Do you have a good moist peanut butter cake recipe?

1 3/4 c (248g) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp (177 g) butter, room temp
1 1/3 c (264 g) sugar
2/3 c (156 ml) creamy peanut butter
3 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c (118 ml) sour cream
1/4 c (59 ml) buttermilk (or use regular milk and pour about 1/2 tsp vinegar into the measuring cup before you measure you milk)

Preheat the oven to 350F and line 2 muffin tins with 22 liners. Set aside.

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

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the peanut butter and mix to combine, scraping down the edge of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate each and scarping the sides before each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat until well-combined.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add half the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until just incorporated. Add the buttermilk and mix until combined, then add the second half of the dry ingredients and mix just until the batter is homogenous.

Divide the batter between the 22 cupcake liners and bake 18-20 minutes or until the top springs back when light pressed. Cool on racks in pans for 3 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
The buttercream I used for these cupcakes was a mix of scraps. I added some Whipped Caramel Ganache to Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but not in any specific quantities. The recipe below is a suitable substitute.

Please click for a step-by-step guide to making Swiss Meringue Buttercream and troubleshooting tips!

5 egg whites
1 1/4 c (250 g) sugar
1 1/2 c (340 g) butter, room temp and cut into cubes
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c chopped chocolate or chocolate chips, melted and cooled

In the base of a double boiler, bring water to a simmer. In the top bowl (or just a bowl to place over a pan of simmering water) combine the egg whites and sugar and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot to the touch (160F on a candy thermometer if you want to be completely accurate), about five minutes depending on the original temperature of the eggs. When the mixture has warmed sufficiently, pour it into the bowl of your stand mixer and whip on high speed until the bottom of the bowl is room temperature, ten to fifteen minutes. When the bowl is no longer warm, turn the mixer to medium-low and begin adding the butter piece by piece. Let each chunk incorporate completely before adding the next and don't rush the process!

After all of the butter has been added, add the vanilla and melted, cooled chocolate and turn the speed back to high. Whip for about 3 minutes or until the buttercream comes together.

Chocolate Dip via Martha Stewart
Don't make this until you're ready to dip (see assembly instructions below)!

2 c (12 oz/340g) chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
3 Tbsp peanut oil

Combine the chocolate and peanut oil in a microwave safe dish and microwave for 30 seconds. Mix to redistribute, then microwave for 30 more seconds. Mix again and microwave for 20 minute bursts, stirring and checking until the chocolate is smooth.


Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Chocolate Dip

Frost cooled cupcakes with buttercream. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until the frosting is cold and firm to the touch. When the cupcakes are ready, prepare the chocolate dip. Transfer to a deep container. Dip each cupcake and hold upside down over the dip for about five seconds to let excess drip away. Place back on baking sheet and top with a peanut. Once all of the cupcakes have been coated, store in the fridge to set. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, February 4

Brief - {The Killer Breakfast Sandwich}

Twenty minutes earlier, I had been comfortable.

Twenty minutes earlier, I was asleep, with his arm around my waist, oblivious and warm on the floor of his apartment.

Shortly afterward, he'd tiptoed to the bathroom, briefly stirring both myself and his dog with his careful steps.

So it was there and then, on the floor that placid 20 minutes later, that I fully awoke to his polished voice. Gently urging me to get up, he lifted a shaking hand from my hip and rose from his knees to leave the room.

I dressed quickly in his absence, desperately trying to find my bearings in the empty room. After retrieving my neatly folded clothes from his freshly-vacuumed carpet, the only trace of me that remained was my beaten sneakers by the door and the hoodie I'd shelved in the closet. And of him? Only footsteps. As I made the observation, he'd returned from the kitchen with a garbage bag to collect his bedding, and then, bag in hand, passed through the sliding doors like a ghost and left.

The room was silent.

A month prior, with this gloomy moment looming ominously on the horizon, he and I went to our favorite breakfast place for what we knew would be the last time. With no regard for nutrition or health, it's the kind of dive that piles everything with cheese, is supremely generous with bacon and chorizo sprinkles, and serves french toast with a healthy ladle of creme anglaise - occasionally spiked with booze - and a handful of fat berries. When you arrive at The Harvest, dignity and decency go out the window, because honestly, a small part of you is going to hate yourself later no matter how gloriously your meal unfolds and how fantastic a time you have while you're there.

So this, I realize, is basically where I am with S. Standing awkwardly in his empty apartment with tear-soaked cheeks, I reflect on our soon-to-be-over relationship and the fact that I've really no right to be so sad. I knew at the beginning that our time would be limited, and still I indulged, as painful as I knew things were going to be just a few months down the road.

That day at The Harvest, both of us consumed such a large amount of greasy goodness that we probably put ourselves at risk for some kind of bodily malfunction. But still - I think it was worth it.

After all, indulgence and recklessness make for wonderful and unforgettable experiences - both good and bad for the heart all at once.

It was worth it to be the girlfriend for that short period of time because it made me happy. S and I weren't perfect, which was why we decided that that hug goodbye at four in the morning would be the end, but we were good for each other and we had fun together.

Which is enough for me.

The Killer Breakfast Sandwich based on the one at The Golden Harvest in Lansing, which is an upgraded version of their Cereal Killer
This was a - if not the - favorite menu item of both S and H. I've never had it before, but I decided to make it in their honor this weekend. Also, as a note, I don't think the original sandwich has bacon on it. Looking back on texts from H, I seem to have just forced bacon into the equation without realizing it. That said, I think it's a pretty welcome addition ;)

Printable Recipe

Cheddar Jalapeño Bread slightly adapted from Epicurious
This bread will make your house smell so deliciously spicy while it bakes. Just be aware that it is an extremely wet dough - try not to add much more flour than absolutely necessary to it.

1 tsp active dry yeast
1 3/4 c plus 1 Tbsp warm water (105-115°F)
1 tsp honey
3 c AP flour, plus additional for dusting
1 c WW flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil
3 jalapeños, minced, including seeds and ribs
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten

Place the yeast, 1 tablespoon of warm water and honey in your mixing bowl. Set aside until foamy, about five minutes.

When the yeast is foamy, add the remaining water and the flour, salt and olive oil. Mix on low speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium high and beat 3 minutes. Add the jalapeños and cheese and mix until combined.

Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover tightly with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until double in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or overnight in the fridge.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and, using floured hands, gently form into an 8"x11" rectangle. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll and put, seam side down, in an oiled loaf pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise again until the dough fills the pan and starts to peak over the top, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the risen loaf with the egg and bake until golden and hollow-sounding when knocked from the bottom, 50 minutes to 1 hour*.

Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack before slicing.

*I used a thermometer to check the temperature of the bread so I do not know that this time is accurate. Go for 210F is using a thermometer.

Assembling the Killer Breakfast Sandwich

2 slices Cheddar Jalapeno Bread
3-4 strips bacon
3 eggs
Chedder cheese, shredded
Cap'n Crunch cereal, crushed coarsely - not to a powder! I overdid mine.
No shame

Take out your favorite cast iron pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels.

While the bacon is cooking, whisk together 2 eggs and a splash of milk until foamy. Pour most of the bacon grease out of the pan and set over medium heat. Add the beaten eggs all at once and cook without disturbing much, using your spatula to lift each side while swirling the pan to let uncooked egg settle underneath. Fold into itself before completely cooked, keeping the size of the sliced bread in mind.

Transfer the folded eggs to one slice of the bread and top with bacon, cheddar and the other slice of bread. Set aside and whisk together the remaining egg with about an equal amount of milk. Soak the sandwich in the egg mixture for about 30 seconds, then flip and soak the other side. Crust the soaked sandwich in Cap'n Crunch and pan fry until crisp.

Eat with reckless abandon.