Sunday, July 29

Always - {Strawberry Lime Rolls with Poppy Seeds}

I remember the rush and thrill of that particular county fair when I was very young, but in a different way than I remember most. I don't remember riding rides or eating fair food, nor do I remember wandering the barns or playing games. The prizes, rides, and treats that form the back bone of so many other fair memories are entirely absent in this instance, replaced with sensory and emotional meat.

To me, that's more valuable.

I realize now that it's what my parents so desperately wished to argue all along. No, my parents didn't deny my brother and I the fair in our youth. That said, we weren't always the kids with the unlimited ride armbands either - though we did have nights of exceptional whining success. My parents were generous enough for us to have an awesome night, but stern and wise to let us know when enough was truly enough. We complained and whined. I probably cried. But you know? I'm old enough to applaud them for it now. And apologize, too. I know how kids can be, and I recognize now the degree of the stupidity of our incessant want for just one more ride or try. I don't remember being specifically angry at my parents in any of my memories of the fair, just that I had a great time and always anticipated the next year's festivities. To me, that says my parents did it right.

Those stuffed animals prizes are really quite a burden anyway. Wouldn't you agree?

At any rate, all I remember of that night is the dark fairgrounds - bustling and filled with happy fair-goers - twinkling lights, the far-off rumbling of the demo derby, and seeing my grandparents.

If memory serves correctly, the only reason we were even there that night was to say goodnight and goodbye to my grandmother who was on a bingo date with some friends. I believe my mom, dad, brother and I had spent the evening with Grandpa, and none of us wanted to leave for home without a proper goodbye from both.

Hugs and kisses sought and received, we loaded back into the car and got on the road.

It's a simple memory, but the sensory and emotional content make it substantial. I may not remember all of the day's events, but I do remember how happy I was to be able to hug and kiss them goodbye, which is enough for me.

I've been thinking a lot about family lately. I think I've said it before, but I keep largely to myself in most situations. I like people, but I often find that I have a difficult time letting them in. I have friends, a few very close ones, but I rely on family for many things. Like my friends, both sides of my family give wonderful advice, are always willing to listen, encourage one another in hard times, and cheer for successes.

I've been criticized heavily for it in the past, but I'm happy I was raised to be so close to my family. I can only hope that I'll be able to raise my own kids (no, I'm not pregnant) with the same kind of mindset in a similar environment.

I spent yesterday evening at that same fair with my grandparents. We were playing bingo, so we couldn't talk too much, but it was nice just to be with them for awhile.

It truly is unconditional, you know? I'm lucky that I can always count on my family to be there for me.


Strawberry Lime Rolls with Poppy Seeds
I was inspired to make these back in strawberry season while I was inundated with baskets and baskets of berries. Hopefully you were smart and stashed some in the freezer! These were a big hit at the office (I always feel old saying that) and smell just as amazing as cinnamon rolls while baking - only different. Poppy seeds are definitely optional, I just like them a lot.

You might find that you'd like more frosting on your rolls than pictured. Just spread accordingly. I tend to serve with just a little frosting and set some out for friends to add as desired.

Printable Recipe

Quick Strawberry Lime Jam

2 c sliced strawberries
1/4 - 1/2 c (50-100g) sugar
1 lime, juice and zest of

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low to medium low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and thickened, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool.

Sweet Dough via All Recipes

1 c (237 ml) milk at 110F-115F (43-46C)
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 c (100 g) sugar
4 1/2 c (563 g) bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 c (78 g) butter, melted and cooled to room temp
2 eggs, room temp
3 Tbsp poppy seeds

Pour the milk over the sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Let set ten minutes. If bubbles form, you can continue. If not, toss and try again!

Meanwhile, in another bowl, combine the bread flour and salt.

After yeast has been activated, add eggs and melted butter. Begin adding the flour in 1/2 to 1 c increments until it is firm enough to roll by hand. Pour onto a lightly floured counter and knead, working in remaining flour, until gluten is fully developed. About 15 minutes.

Place dough into a well oiled bowl, oil the top and cover with plastic wrap. Place in fridge overnight or at least 8 hours.

In the morning, oil a 9"x13" baking dish. After dough has at least doubled, roll out to about 1/4" thick rectangle on a lightly floured surface. The ideal dimensions are 16x21. With the long side parallel with the edge of the counter in front of you, spread strawberry lime jam over the dough, leaving 1" clear on the side farthest from you. Sprinkle poppy seeds over filling and brush the 1" boarder with water. Roll tightly toward the wetted edge, pinching to seal. Cut into 12-15 pieces with floss and set each individual piece into prepared baking dish. Be sure there is at least an inch between each roll or the rise will be affected. Let set, covered, in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F (204C).

Bake risen rolls until just golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, prepare the cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3 oz (85 g) cream cheese, room temp
1/4 c (50 g) butter, room temp
1 1/2 c (234 g) confectioners' sugar (may need more or less depending on desired consistency)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
Lime juice, to taste.

Beat together cream cheese and butter until well combined. Sift in confectioners' sugar, bit by bit and add salt. Beat about 5 minutes until light and fluffy, then briefly beat in vanilla and lime juice. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

Sunday, July 22

Excuse - {Cherry Chunk Ice Cream}

"You're young," they tell me.

Half consolation and half subject change, it's a granted and simple excuse that I, frankly, don't like.

I mean, maybe it's true. I admit that being 21 contributes to a lot of stupid choices and confusion - sober and otherwise. The details are largely unimportant, but, you know, the combination of late nights and early mornings can really take a mental and physical toll on a person.

However, as I've said before, it's worth it to me. I try to stuff every second of my free time with fodder for good memories, even at the expense of sleep and proper nutrition (cue 2AM burgers). I've made a habit of staying up/out later than I should on weeknights with friends and pulling all-nighters between the end of my Friday night shift and the start of my morning shift on the following day. I'm frequently exhausted, often running on endorphins, and - on one or two memorable occasions - maybe sort of a teensy bit hungover. Maybe.

At any rate, I am beginning to think that this cognitive cocktail of functional statuses is partially to blame for this early-20's-crisis that I'm having.

You see, I've always taken everything seriously. I was that kid who reveled in her parents telling her she was 13-going-on-30 and got a serious thrill out of being told I was mature. I had fun, but within boundaries. I always asked to leave the house, stuck to my curfew, played it safe, and kept mostly to myself.

Except, suddenly, I'm not doing all of those things. I'm not necessarily acting immature, but I've really accepted independence and am doing things that, any other year, would have seemed out of my comfort zone. As much as I'm sure it will kill my mother and grandparents to read this (hi guys! Love ya!), I leave the apartment without consulting anyone, go for late night walks, and cross streets without holding anyone's hand.

Sometimes I even j-walk. I don't always wait for the "walking man," either.

On a more "serious" note: as I struggle with the fact that I have no idea what my life will be like a year from now [when I graduate], I begin to understand the desire of my peers to party. I understand the want for a boyfriend and the "security" that comes with it, but also the thirst for anonymity and singleness - to better suit my dream of just experiencing life as just myself. And food. As much as it pains me, I am cultivating a palette for things I could never bring myself to eat or enjoy before, as late night trips to Rally's and Menna's and Conrad's become the norm. With all of this in mind, I feel as though I've finally descended (ascended?) into the college lifestyle and I'm just not sure how I feel about it.

I don't want to be immature, but the 21-year-old me sure as hell doesn't want to be a completely responsible adult as much as my 13-year-old self did. I'm finding comfort in things I never liked and questioning the things I love. I feel like the tables are turning and maybe I'm losing control, if only a little.

Overall, I'm happy, but I'm also kind of lost. I'm optimistic, but I'm more confused than anything. I've realized how hard it is to know what you want when you have no idea where you're headed, and that some choices, regardless of contingency, are significantly more important than others.

But I'm having fun, so there's that at least. And hey, I'm young.

Maybe that really does sum it up in the cleanest way possible.

Cherry Chunk Ice Cream adapted from BraveTart (who was recently named one of America's best new pastry chefs by Food and Wine!)
I'm providing this recipe only in weight measurements as Stella posted it herself. It's best to keep the ratios accurate and scales make baking/cooking WAY faster anyway. She suggested reserving the vanilla seeds in her recipe, but I like to leave them in.

This ice cream is silky, soft and scoopable right out of the fridge. I'm terrified I'm going to eat it all myself! Makes about 1/2 quart.

Printable Recipe

5 oz cream
5 oz whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean (substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract if you don't have beans)
3 oz egg yolks (from between 3-5 eggs, depending on size)
3 oz sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 c water
1 1/2 c halved and pitted sweet cherries
1/4 c crunchy granola

Combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a medium pot (but not vanilla extract if that's what you're using - we'll add that later!). Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow to steep for one hour or up to 24 hours, storing the pot in the fridge if you plan to store for more than 4 hours.

After steeping, return the dairy to a simmer. When it is warmed, squeeze the juice out from the bean into the pot and set the bean aside to dry (I like to put them in my sugar).

While you wait for the dairy to come to a simmer, whisk together the yolks, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually add the simmering dairy to the yolk mixture, a ladle at a time, whisking constantly so that the eggs don't cook. After adding about half of the cream and when the egg mixture is warm, return it to the pot and drop the heat to medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture has thickened, being sure to scrape the edges and the bottom to prevent curdling.

After it has thickened, shut off the heat and strain the custard through a sieve into a larger bowl. Press plastic wrap to the surface and refrigerate overnight.

After preparing the custard (or concurrently, if you like), combine the water and cornstarch in a small pot. When no lumps remain, add the cherries, cover the pot and cook on medium heat until the cherries are quite soft, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the top and reduce the liquid until quite thick. Cool and whisk into the chilled custard base, along with the vanilla extract.

When you are ready, process your custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Fold in the granola at the very end and freeze until solid.

Tuesday, July 17

Surprise - {Berry Pie}

In response to an earlier post, I still haven't decided what I want to do with my life.

I've still got my marketing internship (currently playing around with some fun social media stuff that I'm hoping I've got time to integrate in this space sometime soon), but I've added a position as a baker at The Purple Carrot Truck to my schedule recently as well.

They're a cool crew - a small one - dedicated to producing fresh, local, downright delicious food that you just won't see anywhere else. I had been a big fan prior to May, which was when I started working for them, but I never imagined that I would be fortunate enough to be part of the team. I just showed up on as close to a weekly basis as I could manage, partook in one or two of their weekly specials, and went on my merry way.

Occasionally doing so instead of going to class.

But I don't think any of you will find that particularly surprising at this point.

Still, our interactions were mostly transactions. Little more than cash one way and food the other.

Every week held something new, so going to the truck for lunch was inspiring, exciting and educational. And I, of course, showed my excitement in the most timid way possible: by keeping quiet.

I sorta knew the girl at the window, but only because I tweeted at her from the cab of my car. She was always friendly and definitely recognized me, but it took forever for me to introduce myself. With a take out box on my lap, I ritually expressed my love for their food and business in 140 characters or less, too shy to give my name and nowhere near confident enough to even think of discussing food with them. It went on like this for a number of months, until one of my bosses, B, connected us at a community event. He told them I should start baking for them and, to my complete and utter surprise, they wanted me on board.

So, like I said, I started working for them in May. I've learned a lot, eaten a bunch and had the good fortune to meet a lot of passionate and friendly people since I started. I've felt the satisfaction of being able to sell something I made, been able to play to the tune of the seasons and am thoroughly enjoying being around people who actually care about their food again.

I'm trying to keep the blog updated. Trust me, I have no intention of putting off updates, it's just been difficult between work and socializing lately. When I'm not at work, I'm hanging out with my friends and family. And when I'm not doing that, I'm baking. Taking the step from experiences and recipes to photos and stories has just been a bit beyond my capabilities lately.

But I'm ok with it. I mean, I hate not updating, but I'm happy with how things are going otherwise. So as long as you don't mind waiting, I've got lots of good stuff coming!

Berry Pie inspired by Woman's Day
The cherries for this pie were a gift from my boss. They were picked at her parents' cherry farm in northern Michigan. Though the weather was hard on this year's crop, these are definitely some of the best I've had! I took it to a 4th of July/graduation/birthday party at my friend's place and it disappeared rather quickly.

Anyway, you guys are going to hate me for this, but I don't have a strict recipe for you. Here's a guideline:

Make enough pastry for 1 1/2 crusts, line the tin with most of it and set aside the leftovers for lattice. Mixed enough blueberries to fill 1/4 of pie with some sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg and lemon zest and set aside. Mixed enough cherries (sour, preferably. I used sweet and the color suffered) for 3/4s of the pie with cornstarch, cinnamon and sugar, and set aside. Cut a strip of cardboard and bend it into a 90 degree angle. Use it to pour the blueberries into the smaller portion and the cherries into the other. Dot with butter, top with lattice, brush with cream, sprinkle with sugar, and bake until lovely and bubbly!