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Posts Tagged ‘baking’

I’ve mostly been revising my syllabus recently, but I still have two things to show you today.

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Handmade present:

Denim clutch (upcycled from the leg of an old pair of jeans I'd cut into shorts).

Details. Hand-stitched because I am horrible with a sewing machine.

Doubles as its own gift envelope!

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And something edible:

Caramel Apple Galette

The recipe is sort of a mix of the pastry technique from Chez Pim’s rustic fruit tart, and the way my French (now former) roommate M does the filling for her delicious caramel apple tart. I used a thinly sliced pink lady apple and drizzled hot caramel sauce all over the top once the galette had finished baking.  The caramel doesn’t make it taste extremely caramel-y, but it adds moisture and shine and a nice note of flavor. M usually uses store-bought pastry, but I decided to make my own this time; it turned out pretty good — nice and flaky — and was easy enough to make that I was encouraged to try making my own crust again a few days later when I made quiche for a lunch date. I think I’ve finally begun to conquer my fear of ruining delicate pastry doughs!  Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the quiche (I used a variation of this recipe from Tartine Gourmande, with ham, spinach, scallions, and swiss cheese for filling instead of her kale, zucchini, & spices), or of the chocolate mousse I made (which was also inspired by M, though the recipe I found online was a little too rich; I’ll have to ask M for her recipe, which is much lighter).  Whatever was left over was consumed very quickly by my family in the ensuing 24 hours.  Which I’m not complaining about — it’s always a good sign when a new dish you’ve tried out disappears really fast!

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New Books.

Can't wait to sew and cook my way through these.

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New Recipes
(Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls recipe from Land O’Lakes)

Delish! (And I've finally conquered my fear of yeast doughs).

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Cleaning out my childhood room.  Digging up old treasures.

Pretty Origami Papers.

Old toys, new life. (I loved that Happy Meal toy once - it's a mini-transformer!)

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A couple of bento.
(I finally convinced my parents to let me pack meals for them. The pear-ginger muffin is from Nigella Express).

Dad's lunch, Mom's snack.

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A new craft.
(From Megan Nicolay, via Threadbanger.  I’m SO sad that the hosts are all leaving that channel!)

Infinity t-shirt scarf (DIY'ed), vintage brooch (from my grandparents).

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LOTS of syllabus prep for my new job this Fall
(teaching Freshman Comp at Notre Dame).

I didn't end up using most of these.

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I’ve gone shopping a lot, too. Trying to update my wardrobe to be more teacher-appropriate. (My official hiring letter says that I’m an “Adjunct Assistant Professor” during the term of my appointment.  0.o  It’s just for the fall term, but the thought still kind of boggles my mind!)

Issue 1, and then the syllabus have taken up most of my time (and mental space) so far.  They’re done (finally!) but still, there’s SO much left to do (as always, the holiday seems way too short). I haven’t had much time for writing, hanging out with friends, re-learning to drive, or finishing the cleaning/repainting/redecorating of my room (it’s currently a complete disaster zone — not that it isn’t usually, but trust me, it’s much worse than usual at the moment).  Still, I’ve been so glad for the time to complete my own stuff (it’s the first summer I’ve had since junior high in which I haven’t had to report to some combination of work or class!).  I’ve been working my butt off morning to night, but the freedom to wake up at leisure, spend the whole day working on my projects, and take time off at a moment’s notice to fulfill family obligations or socialize without the constant fear of major ramifications is so precious. Who knows when I’ll have another summer like this?

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First, a birthday cake for my roommate M.

Nigella’s Honey Bee Cake, to be exact.

With Marzipan Bees and Roses.

Closeup of the bees.

(They’re staring at you).

I did not have a springform so I baked it in two tins and layered it with raspberry jam. Would’ve tasted better if I hadn’t let it dry out and burn a little (I baked it for the suggested time, and with foil for part of it, too!). :-/ Oh, well. People said it was good, anyway.

Second, a birthday gift.  A detachable bracelet set. (Also for M).

Tied together.

Bracelet #1.

Crystal, pearlescent beads, metal filigree, toggle clasp.

Bracelet #2.

Metallic ball beads, filigree bead caps, purple and clear iridescent glass, pearlescent beads.

Both bracelets are strung on clear elastic thread to make them stretchy and easy to put on and take off (the toggle on the one provides another option for closure, but is more for show).

Modeled after the general idea of this Forever 21 bracelet set. I may not like all of their clothes, but Forever 21 does have some lovely vintage-inspired jewelry this season (I don’t trust the quality or make of it, though; I generally don’t buy costume jewelry anyway, because I usually end up wondering whether I can make it myself . . ..) I was thinking about texture for this set.  The mixture of smooth, milky pearl colors with the sharp sparkle of crystal and the slightly more liquid gleam of intricate metallic filigree, the hardness of beads and metal juxtaposed against the soft white of the satin tie.  Texture is a lovely thing.  I’m glad it’s “in” at the moment.

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I don’t understand the whole cupcake craze. Cute, yes, individually portioned, yes. But they are difficult to eat, and tend to fall apart when you bite into them. By contrast, a nice, slender slice of cake (whether a layer cake or a quickbread-type loaf) that you eat with a fork is more delicately portioned, and allows you to really taste what you’re eating with each bite. (Muffins/cupcakes, in my opinion, are more conducive to wolfing).

Nevertheless, I continue to make muffins and cupcakes for potlucks and large parties, simply because they are easier on me as the baker. No leveling layers or smoothing icing, and no serving to do at the party itself. Also — no paper plates and plastic forks to contend with later. I’m all for avoiding unnecessary cleanup whenever possible.

A couple of weekends ago, my bible study had a breakfast-for-dinner potluck type affair, and I volunteered to bring refreshments to a friend’s birthday party. I found myself doing back-to-back relays of muffin/cupcake baking for two days straight. Fortunately, I hadn’t baked in a while. So I enjoyed the exertion. Here’s what I made:

Two kinds of muffins, savory and sweet:

Foreground: Apple Cider Muffin with sugar-and-cinnamon topping (applied à la Bread & Honey’s donut muffins); Background: Parmesan, pine nut, and onion muffins (based on a recipe from this book; they came out kind of dry and a little bland, as have all the recipes I’ve tried from that book so far — I still haven’t found the secret to tweaking them to my satisfaction).

For the party:

Pistachio cupcake with chocolate buttercream icing. Pistachio muffins recipe from Vanilla & Garlic (sans rice pudding and sub’ing cinnamon for cardamom); icing recipe from Chockylit. These came out DIVINE. Moist, and distinctly nutty with a fine crumb, but not too sweet. The icing was nice and chocolaty and added just the right amount of richness. I will most definitely make these again.

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Recent Eats

Tonight I decided I wanted tuna salad, since it seemed an appropriate dish to make with the celery I had in the fridge. But I didn’t feel like eating normal tuna salad with mayo and apples and such. So I had a weird brain wave and decided to use Chinese seasonings instead. My beloved soy sauce made an appearance. As did sesame oil, ginger, scallions, and a little corn starch for consistency (I stir-fried it a bit because I wanted the celery soft instead of crunchy). And then I topped it all off with a healthy drizzle of (American) brown mustard sauce.

I felt very haute cuisine-y and fusion-y, à la Ming Tsai. Except without the cheesy “East meets West” slogan.

Here’s my Grown-Up Tuna Salad:

Grown-up Tuna Salad

Served with some prosciutto, olives, and sharp cheese on the side. With extra mustard for dipping the cold cuts.

Bet it would be even more delicious if you made it with chunks of lightly seared sashimi-grade tuna. Mmmmm . . .

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And in baking news, I made a plum upside-down cake (from the August issue of Real Simple Magazine) for my dad when I went home this weekend, because he turned 58 last week. I used yogurt instead of sour cream, because I had it on hand, and it’s healthier.

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Mine didn’t turn out as pretty as the one in the magazine. I think they used red-flesh plums (mine had yellow flesh), and the recipe calls for an 8″ cake pan. I thought mine was 8″ but now I’m thinking I was wrong. The plums all sank into the batter, and the cake came out a little flatter than in the picture. I’m pretty sure I used a 9″ pan by mistake. Oh well. It tasted good, anyway. Very buttery on the bottom layer, with a nice tang from the plums on top. Next time I’d like to try making it with kiwifruit.

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I’m currently sitting in the San Jose airport waiting for my plane to Philly. After moving out of South Bend on Wednesday, I flew out here to CA and spent the weekend attending a wedding, doing research in Monterey, and spending lots of quality time with my boyfriend. Summer has been coming on way too fast – and by that I don’t just mean the weather (it was 95 degrees here yesterday). This year, I’ll be spending a few weeks at home for vacation, and then working in New York City for 10 weeks. It’s hard to believe that my first year of graduate school is already finished. My papers are turned in, my apartment packed up into boxes, and I’m all moved out. It seems downright surreal that I only have one more year left in my program. About a year ago, when I started this blog, I was just applying to MFA programs, and now I’m already starting to plan out options for post-graduation.

I haven’t blogged very much in the last few months, but I have been doing a lot of cooking, crafting, and photographing. So here’s a few poladroids from the end of last semester, as a retrospective of sorts (there’s a lot of them I’ve been saving up, so I’ll do a second post later, with more):


Homemade cheese crackers.


Spring tulips from the Farmer’s Market


Research for my nerdy, nerdy poetry manuscript.


New watch. (The old one died so I upgraded to something more grown up).


Discarded shoes and toys at a bridal shower.


It’s wedding season, full force, around here!

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Last week was ridiculously busy, and this week doesn’t look to be any better.  I’ve been preparing for my big department-sponsored reading (which takes place this upcoming Wednesday), taking care of household and financial logistics post-Spring Break (among other things, it appears that my tetanus immunization has expired, so I need to go have it renewed this week), doing regular classwork (I have a big project for one of my classes due this Thursday, the day after my reading), doing church (I got to read one of my poems during the offertory today) and volunteer related stuff (Riley readings are supposed to start again soon, and I’m taking over for next year) and running on an insane sleep schedule – my body having refused, point-blank, to readjust to EST after returning from the West Coast.  (I think I’m still a little  jet lagged, even now).

In the midst of all this, getting to hear last week’s guest poet read was a welcome respite. Fabulous Filipina American poet Luisa Igloria (the winner of this year’s Sandeen Prize) came to campus to read from her book Juan Luna’s Revolver last week, and I was privileged to have the chance to converse with her afterwards, and to eat breakfast with her the next day.  Prof. Igloria was very encouraging to me about my work, and really lovely to speak with.  She also proved to be quite gracious, even though there were several logistical snafoo’s among us MFA students that resulted in our being 20+ minutes late to pick her up for breakfast the morning after her reading.   I always love a good, long conversation about craft and vision, and it was great to hear some of Prof. Igloria’s thoughts about teaching and writing, which she punctuated with colorful anecdotes.  Her stories about home and family reminded me of the importance of story and narrative to my vision for my own work.  All through these projects – both Cannery Row and the Women Scientists (which might tentatively be called “Physics at the Dinner Table” – I’m hesitant to slap a title on it yet, though, before I finish the work as a whole and see how it all fits together), it’s been the stories I’ve been looking for.  Voices, and ghosts, and ghosts of voices that tell stories with ghosts of other stories hiding beneath them.  I’ve just recently started to add the layer of my own personal and family stories to my work with the Women Scientists, and it’s been really interesting to me to see how everything  kind of bleeds together at the edges and piles up in unexpected layers.  Prof. Igloria also does a lot of historical work in Juan Luna’s Revolver, and had a lot of good advice to give to me about process and resources.  I’ve started reading a little of the book, and it’s been very interesting to contemplate how some of what she’s doing there can serve as a model for what I’ve been trying to do.  Her visit actually came at a really appropriate time for me, as I’m just now beginning to see the faint outline of a shape emerge for both of these works, and now it’s about continuing to collect information along the way as I follow those thin chalkmarks, and doing the work of sitting and writing, to try out different ways to flesh out what will eventually appear inside the outlines.

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Last Sunday night, the experimental dinner I concocted from the very random leftovers in our fridge (we do our grocery shopping on Mondays) kind of bombed.  So in order to make myself feel better, and to try out the new mini food cutters I bought at Daiso when I was in California for Spring Break, I made Linzer Cookies using King Arthur Flour’s recipe.  I halved the recipe, except for the egg (because the dough seemed too dry without it).  Unfortunately, I think the other half of the egg ended up being a little too much, because the resulting dough was slightly more sticky than it ought to have been, even after flouring and refrigeration.  I filled the cookies with half raspberry preserves (heart cutouts) and half apricot jam (star cutouts).  I ended up being pretty happy with the results.  They were more work than I had expected, but they were tasty, and anyway I love rolling out and cutting dough (I find it relaxing).  And for once, our house actually finished them all within the week.

Linzer Cookies (heavily based on King Arthur Flour’s Linzer Cookies)
Makes about 16 cookies, depending on the size of your cutters.

1/1 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners’ or glazing sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup Trader Joe’s almond meal
1 1/8 all-purpose flour
1/2 of a beaten egg
raspberry jam and apricot jam
confectioners’ or glazing sugar, for dusting

Beat together the butter, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and flavor. Mix in the almond meal, flour, and egg. Divide dough in half and wrap well. Refrigerate for 60 minutes, for easiest rolling.

Roll the dough 1/8-inch thick. Cut the dough into rounds with a large (2 inch) daisy cutter. Transfer the cookies to a foil-lined baking sheet. Cut windows into the centers of half of the daisy rounds using a mini-cutter and remove the inside shapes (you can either roll them back into the rest of the dough for recutting, or bake them as little mini cookies). Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned on the edges. Cool on a rack. Dust the cookies with cutout tops lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

Spread the solid cookies with jam. Place a cutout cookie on top. Let stand for several hours, until the filling is set.

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It’s late now; actually past midnight already (I waited till the last minute to start writing this blog entry – not the greatest of ideas when you’re trying not to stretch the limits of your Lenten disciplines), so I’ll stop here.

Wish me luck on Wednesday.  ::Crosses fingers for a good reading::

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