Sunday, March 28, 2010

T'was a Dark and Stormy Night

The bounds of our small universe never cease to frustrate me. It seems like everything has been done before; that everything is boring and repetitive.

My mom doesn't think so. She's convinced that I'm somehow able to create these new, exciting combinations. I'm skeptical, like usual.

I marvel at my happiness, but somehow I know that something is missing. Well, who am I kidding. There's always something missing, no matter who you are. Everyone has regrets, fears, reservations. Who am I to claim these unique and special; specific to ourselves. No one seems to understand that everyone goes through these same fears.

Yet I wonder if everyone sees what I see, if everyone sees the beauty, the color that I do. Is the sky really blue? Is my blue someone else's green? Do we all see the same shade, but really it is different? We can't define color with words, it's color, purely visual.

I'm feeling strange tonight. I don't feel like writing about food, or even about life. I feel like doing something stupid, reckless by any standard. I think that everyone struggles with feeing purposeless, roaming around in this world with no direction.

This seems especially prominent with kids my age. High school is supposed to be a time for discovering your passion but it really ends up being a high-drama, high-tension world where the standards are a little troublesome. You're supposed to know your passion and direction as soon as you begin. I'm struggling.

Floundering is more like it. Every night I lay awake and think, picture myself in a pencil skirt and pumps running around as a businesswoman, in the noble uniform of a paramedic, the uniform of a chef, the white coat of a physician, the fatigues of a soldier, the frazzled-yet-together ensemble of a teacher or even the simplicity of an artist. Each of these possibilities flash through my mind as I stare up at the ceiling, longing for stars rather than drywall. We're told from birth "you can be anything, honey!" That's simply not true. If everyone was a doctor or a lawyer we'd have a serious crisis on our hands.

I don't know whether my passions should be my career. For me the choices I make now are going to affect the rest of my life. I hate the humiliation of beginning again, and I love being good at things; the best. The natural option for me is to stick with one thing, no matter what that is, for the rest of my life. If only I could find out what that thing is.

Looking at this post you could swear that four different people with four very different trains of though wrote it. I'm all over the place tonight, just trying to find some sort of equilibrium. Maybe my rash musings are just grasping at strings trying to find my even. I seriously have never been more confused.

That was almost a week ago. I've been pondering this post ever since, wondering if i should post it, or whether it's too personal. In case you didn't notice, I decided on the latter.

Paris Puffins (aka french breakfast muffins, almost-donuts)
Adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook

1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix shortening, sugar and egg. Mix dry ingredients then mix alternately with milk into egg mixture.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full after they have been sprayed with oil. (Do not use muffin papers) Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Mix 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup butter melted and brush muffin tops with this mixture as soon as they are out of the oven.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome Mat(t)

Today was a beautiful day to be alive in Portland.

Truly gorgeous. Yes, I'm talking about normally-rainy, chronically-overcast Portland, Oregon. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping. It was idillic, I'd even venture to say perfect.

But, but, but. There's always a but. Mom had a root canal and was knocked out for most of the afternoon, Dad cancelled dinner at just the wrong time and I kind of flipped out. At least I spoke my mind. No regrets.

Anyways, after our lovely trip to the beach yesterday I was ready to bake. We had stopped at Bruce's Candy in Cannon Beach for seafoam and chocolate-covered gummy bears for my sister, seafoam for my mom, and english toffee and mini gummy bears for me. It was bliss running with my darling sister in the waves and hitting the ball for Rosie. By the time I got home that night I was totally exhausted.

Food has always been my own personal, customizable, portable door mat. Hand anyone a still-warm batch of brownies or a soaring chiffon cake and you might as well have an instant welcome. They're also good for first impressions. That's what I'm after tomorrow.

Meeting M---'s mom for the first time. Terrifying, although I know she can't be too bad if she teaches elementary school. Thinking back, though, my elementary school teachers had some pretty terrifying moments. I just hope she doesn't unleash her fury on me. This is assuming it exists! Goodness gracious, I need to relax.

These brownies are just the ticket. Next time I'd lose the cardamom.

Chocolate Cherry Cardamom Cheesecake Brownies
Brownies adapted from Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Book

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 c. butter
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. flour

2 pkg. cream cheese
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cardamom

1/3 c. cherry jam

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan.


Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Set aside and allow to cool.

Beat eggs and salt in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment until pale yellow and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and vanilla.

Fold in chocolate and flour, then transfer to prepared pan.


Beat cream cheese in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until smooth. Scrape sides.

Add sugar and eggs and beat until smooth. Add cardamom and beat until combined.

Pour over brownie batter in prepared pan.

Add jam by the spoonful on top of cheesecake. Take skewer and marble all three layers together.

Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly brown at the edges and toothpick inserted in the center comes out with small crumbs on it.

Let cool completely before cutting.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Product of a Black Mood

Tonight I really didn't want to bake, which is weird for me. All I wanted to do was sit down and rest my hips (the latest in a string of Joint Casualties) and curl up with a cup of tea and a certain someone.

And yet, here I am writing again. They say where there's smoke there's fire; but with me it's where there's an entry there's a recipe.

But stall on that for just a couple more minutes... If I could take some of your valuable time to describe the events leading up to my time-will-tell Cornmeal Pound Cake.

I woke up this morning way too late. 10:00 to be exact. As I stared at the ceiling, the light streamed in. Somehow my bed was the perfect temperature. It was bliss.

After my darling sister and Mom left for dance, I got up and talked to M--- for an hour or so. I miss him a lot, but there's not much point considering he doesn't get back until Thursday.

Have you ever marveled how one day someone can be completely absent in your life, then the next day you can hardly stand to be without them? That's my current point of contention, this emotional attachment thing. It's killing me! Love is this monster, it eats away your brain and your heart; your faith and your courage. It's like combining the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow with frivolous Dorthy and replacing their lack of organs with my competent ones.

That's enough, though. Me lecturing about love is like Paris Hilton lecturing about nuclear physics. Neither of us know enough to even have an opinion, let around boring you to tears with my stories of so-called love.

Anyways, I digress. Just needed to get that out of my system.

After breakfast, mom and I headed over to Artichoke Music to try and exchange her gigantic maracas for some smaller ones. No luck there, so we went to Rhythm Traders and found just what she was looking for. I also got to jam out on their amazing drum set that made literally no sound. All of the drums and cymbals were hooked up to sensors that measured how hard you hit them then created a sound into headphones that matched the how hard you hit. It was like playing real set! Amazing.

After that we went to La Fonda Rosa, an authentic Mexican place in Northeast right off of Burnside by the Laurelhurst Theater. Although restaurant reviewing is more of Lana's thing, I recommend the Quesadillas de Pollo and the Coconut Creme Brulee. Their whole menu is delicious, though.

Finally, we went to an incredible boutique on Mississippi called Flutter. It is an incredible mix of random junk, incredible perfumes (No. 2 for me please :)) beautiful dresses, and vintage candy (remakes of course). My mom and I spent at least half an hour in there, me snapping pictures and her reading a book about Cuba.

As we headed for home, my mom called my aunt to talk about her Un-Boyfriend (See the Un-birthday Cake Part 2). It would really be incredible if my entire family of bachelors and bachelorettes had finally found someone incredible (me included).

I went to horses, but I just couldn't seem to relax. Usually horses is the thing that calms me down consistently but I was seriously wound up today.

After we went home I tried baking to relax. It worked, although I'm still a little jumpy. No caffeine needed.

Thanks for your time. Now to the cake.

Today I decided to make cornmeal poundcake. I'd had it as a kid in an Italian restaurant in Bellingham, Washington. It was the best dessert I had ever had, and is still one of my highlights. It was a slice of yellow, slightly crunchy cornmeal poundcake topped with tart raspberry sauce and sweet whipped cream. It was like bliss all in one bite. I still remember it to this day.

Cornmeal Poundcake with Raspberry Sauce and Whipped Cream
Adapted from and my brain

Cornmeal Poundcake
1 c. flour
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan and set aside

Spread cornmeal on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Toast for 3 minutes or until slightly colored and fragrant. Combine with flour in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar, then add the salt. Drizzle in eggs a tablespoonful at a time, beating completely after each addition. Add vanilla.

Beat in dry ingredients in three parts, beating thoroughly after each addition. Transfer batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the top is golden-brown.

Raspberry Sauce
1 pkg. Raspberries, frozen
1 c. water
1/2 c. Sugar, or to taste
2 tbsp. corn starch
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. lemon juice, optional

Combine raspberries, 1 c. water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

When the raspberries break down and the sauce is liquid, combine cornstarch and 1/4 c. water and add to raspberry mixture. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until slightly thickened. Pour into bowl and refrigerate.

Whipped Cream

1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine ingredients and beat in electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks.

Cut pound cake into 1 inch slices. Pour a little raspberry sauce on top, then dollop whipped cream.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Un-Birthday Cake Part 2

The Beauty
Today was judgment day, not just for my cake, deemed The Beauty, but for many relationships in a sense. I woke up early this morning to make a simple glaze (recipe follows) and to get dressed for the Un-Birthday Party.

The flowers and the cake
Ok, so maybe the pink scarf I wore and the pink flowers were disobeying the grey theme of the party, but it's not the end of the world. They were just so pretty! When we arrived my aunt had adorned the house with various bouquets. Pics follow:

Anyways, I had a lovely time taking these after breakfast of my mom, our dog Rosie, and my darling sister.

Anyways, Auntie's Un-Boyfriend was lovely. He has a thick accent, which makes him a bit tricky to understand, but either way everyone thinks they're perfect for each other. If they end up together I will believe in love.

The Whole Family: Oma, R----, M---, A-----, Darling Sister, Mom, W----- the Un-Boyfriend, and Auntie. Not pictured: Me, G--- (A-----'s Husband)

Lemon Glaze

2 c. powdered sugar
2 lemons, juiced

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice and enough milk to make the consistency thin. Poke holes in the finished, cooled cake and pour the glaze over.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Un-Birthday Cake Part 1

Target fixation.

It's this thing that causes you to take a million photos without a memory card in, and create beautiful, detailed garments and delicious cakes. It's a blessing and a curse, a double-edged sword.

Anyways, in my Mom's words: "Chiffon cakes are tricky."

I disagree. This recipe for Lemon Chiffon cake seemed straightforward, and with an eye to my back I began to measure flour, and whip egg whites.

As usual my mind wandered, of course, but this time I made myself stay on topic; to truly focus on what I was doing.

Why this unusual change in outlook? Well, for one, I'm on my best behavior. My aunt's new un-boyfriend is coming tomorrow for our un-birthday breakfast for my Uncle M---. He's turning some anciently old number, and didn't want an actual birthday party, but he wanted a cake. I wanted to make my best for his birthday, and I wanted to sweeten the shock of our crazy family for poor W-----, my aunt's un-boyfriend.

But I'd be lying if I said this was the only reason for my extra tunnel-vision. A quarter of this cake is going to M---'s family after the movie tomorrow and I want to make a good pre-impression on them. Just think of it as rolling out the welcome mat before I jump off a cliff.

Goodness, am I that cynical? I'm sure meeting his family won't be like jumping off a cliff, for god's sake. I'm sure they're nice, normal people who brush their teeth and take showers! They can't be heathens. They can't live in a cave, right?

Back to the cynicism. Gosh I'm feeling dark today! They've obviously done a great job raising Ma-- and his fraternal twin brother Mi---. The name thing is confusing enough, plus they both have identical curly red hair and freckles all over their faces. They're both about the same height, just Ma-- has terrible posture, while Mi--- sits up straight; making Ma-- appear much shorter than his twin.

And I digress. Back to the cake.

This recipe was another great find on, so check out her version. I doubled it to fit a standard 14'' tube pan, but hers was originally adapted for a 7'' pan.

Also, props to my darling sister and her sensitive nose (mine's stuffed to heck right now) for detecting my cake's doneness.

Without further ado...

Un-Birthday Lemon Chiffon Cake
Adapted from 17 and Baking, which was adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar, divided
6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1/2 cup. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup water
1/2 tsp. cream of tarter

Preheat oven to 325.

In a medium bowl sift together cake flour, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 c. sugar. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk the 6 egg yolks, vegetable oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and water. Whisk in the dry ingredients.

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tarter and continue to beat at high speed until soft peaks form, approximately 1 minute. Add the 2 tbsp. sugar and beat approximately another 3 minutes until stiff peaks form.

Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter, and whisk to combine. Add the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites and fold with a rubber spatula until combined. Pour into an un-greased 14'' tube pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown on the top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Hail-y Day Nutella Cookies

Today it hailed. This may sound normal for those of you back East, as us Portlanders say, but in good old Rose City this is an unusual event. As I measured flour, sugar, and of course Nutella, I watched the lamb-grey clouds take a bite out of the cheery blue sky.

The clouds quickly covered the sky and the wind started to blow, and small ice balls the size of bee bees fell to the ground. Unlike most people, when I saw the clouds my mood soared. I had the urge to bake, to create something delicious for the simple reason to cause other people joy, however fleeting.

After I bake, I do my dishes and take more photos. Photography is one of my many passions, along with rugby (although I'm out for the season), writing, volunteering and traveling. Once the dishes were done, I went upstairs to begin this post.
Writing is my happy place, my zen zone. I crank up the music and just let my thoughts flow. I think about my day, the music I played on my sax in band class (another passion of mine), how much I missed M--- as I walked out to the Annex for graphic design, which is an odd sensation for me. I haven't missed anyone like that in a long time.
Sure, I miss my coach C-----, but saying that missing C----- and M--- are the same thing is like calling apples and oranges by the same name. C----- inspired me to trust myself, to become a better person, and, possibly most importantly, to trust. More on him later, though. Anyways, what's the point of wishing for someone who's 3,000 miles away?
My mind wanders to the music, just a different type than this morning. I love all of it, though. The dramatic, sweeping violins and low, steady cello of classical music; the sheer emotion of rap music; the carefreeness and hope of country; and truth of modern rock. All of it seems to wash away the dirt of the day, and in this way baking and music are similar.
Then I'm back to M--- again, even though I know y'all are probably sick of him already. He's one of those people who you have the feeling is going to change you, like the calm before the storm. Just thinking about his laugh always makes me smile.
Now my thoughts go to the 200 pages of Malcolm X I have left to read before Thursday. I'm having problems expressing my thoughts about this book in a politically correct way. It frustrates me that someone could justify virtually abandoning his family for a religion, and although I admire his dedication to the Nation of Islam, his inability to see people as individuals or original thinkers frustrated me. I understand that the world was very different then, but there had to have been white people who were sympathetic to the African Americans in this country.
Anyways, that was my rant on Malcolm X. I hope this blog becomes a sensation like 17 and Baking. I admire Elissa of talented writing and beautiful photography, and I aspire to be able to craft words as well as she can. I also hope she reads this! I would be honored.
Now, a couple tips about the cookies.
Watch these very carefully! The first batch burned in less than a minute, so as soon as the edges are brown and the centers are still slightly gooey take them out!
Also, if i make these again I would add an extra 1/2 cup flour and and extra 1/4 cup Nutella, although if you like flat, crispy-chewy cookies leave it out. Another addition would possibly be hazelnut flour to boost the hazelnut flavor. I'd experiment with cinnamon or even chili powder for some extra depth.

Nutella Cookies
Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup shorting (part butter)
1/2 cup hazelnut spread (I used Nutella)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix shorting, hazelnut spread, sugars, and egg thoroughly in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment.
2. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined.
3. Roll dough into 3/4 inch balls. Place 3" apart on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 minutes (this is approximate. Depending on your oven this may take shorter or longer, but start checking around 5 minutes). Place warm cookies on cooking rack.