Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Arrivals and Departures


The challenge of working in a creative field is finding the time and energy for your own interests. For many years, I've helped others pursue their artistic goals, or I've channeled my own creativity toward an institution's mission. I gave at the office and when I arrived home, there wasn't much time for me.

This blog, for instance. I started it in 2011 when I found myself living in a new state. I wanted to take some time to cook and write and photograph food while I looked for work.

About one year later, I landed a highly creative position and quickly found that there wasn't time for blogging. It was a fast-paced office and by the end of the day, I was tired and didn't want to spend more time in front of a computer. Instead, I wanted/needed to exercise and cook dinner and spend time with my husband.

Not only that, but the good daylight I'd relied on for shooting my pictures was now hard to come by.

I continued blogging at night and on weekends, but after a year, I found myself now leading a department of creatives in an organization with some pretty ambitious goals and expectations. The blog went on standby.

And three years later, here we are.

The corporate world being what it is, I've come out on the other side of a merger and downsizing. While it's not something you expect to happen, I'm truly OK with it. I worked with some great people, built an amazing team and we produced excellent work.

But the last four weeks have been pretty good, too. I've caught up on sleep, given attention to housework long ignored and reconnected with relaxation. It's springtime. This pause could not have happened at a more lovely time of year.

In this season of new beginnings, I'm thinking about what I want to do next, and that's exciting.

I'm also cooking more. There's a calmness that sets in when I'm in front of the stove.

But many of us know it's not enough to cook and eat. There's the conversation. Friends have asked hopefully if this new pause in my career means I'll return to the blog. Yes. Yes, it does. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies for Tuesdays with Dorie

Mocha Chip Cookies
A friend and I recently discussed whether she needed a big standing mixer. It’s eye candy for sure, and manages to launch all manner of baking daydreams.

For a long time, I had only a hand mixer, which I hesitated to use because it was stuck in a box in the corner on a very high shelf in the kitchen. A lot of work to take down and put away. So I mixed a lot of cakes by hand, which I rather enjoyed, because I could get in touch with the pioneer within and I could feel smart that I wasn’t using any electricity.

You can make cookies by hand, too, but sometimes a stiff cookie dough can benefit from a little horsepower. Especially the kind that operates on your kitchen counter while you stand back and watch. Take these Mocha Chocolate Chip cookies, for instance. The all-butter dough stayed thick in my chilly kitchen and would have been a beast to mix by hand. I was glad to let the mixer do the heavy lifting.

These cookies feature a coffee-flavored dough absolutely laden with bittersweet chocolate chips. Laden as in a full one pound of chocolate for 2 cups of flour. (Not complaining.) The coffee is not prominent for those who think they don’t like coffee. Rather, it serves as a layer to enhance the chocolate.

The recipe calls for dried apricots, which are optional and which I forgot anyway. I had an issue with the first batch because they turned out too thin for my liking. This is because the large organic eggs I used should have been marked as jumbo. I added about 1/3 cup more flour to the remaining dough and the rest turned out just right.

If you would like to try these cookies, the recipe is being hosted at Galettista. Stroll over to the Tuesdays with Dorie website where you’ll find links to all the participating bloggers.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Croissants for Tuesdays with Dorie

Croissants made from a recipe in Baking with Julia.

The first time I ever baked croissants created a bit of giddy delight, not unlike when you meet someone famous and you realize this famous person looks in real life just as he or she does on TV or in photographs. And even though the encounter is very real, you still can’t believe the two of you are standing there.

To think I’d made a pastry that seemed so elusive and unattainable was immensely satisfying. I had the same feeling this time round as I baked croissants for Tuesdays with Dorie.

I used two rolling pins for this project.

I wouldn’t call the recipe particularly complicated. It just involves some time and planning — the repeated rolling and folding over several installments. I prepared the dough on Friday afternoon, resumed Saturday night and finished on Sunday. If you’ve ever made puff pastry from scratch, the process of turning and folding and rolling will be familiar. There’s no other way to create those butter laden layers of goodness.

Croissants also require elbow grease and I have great admiration for professional bakers who make them by hand every single day. Rolling the dough took effort, and I was a bit sore in my trapezius muscles. But that’s OK, because any calories burned in preparing croissants will quickly be erased when eating them.

A little word on rolling pins: I love my wooden French style pin because it’s lightweight and simple. It was perfect for whacking the dough in stage one, when the slab of butter is first enclosed with dough and you need to flatten the package. For rolling, however, German engineering wins every time. My stainless steel pin is heavy and, because it’s stainless steel, remains a bit on the cool side. The heft is what you need for extending an 8 x 14 piece of dough into 14 x 24 dimensions. And you need some patience to realize that if you keep working at it, the dough will indeed submit.

Croissants ready for baking.

If you have always wanted to bake something as ambitious as croissants, do give it a try. Whatever it is, don’t be intimidated. Grab your rolling pin, follow the directions and you’ll be rewarded.

I’m one of many bloggers who are cooking their way through Baking with Julia as part of Tuesdays with Dorie. Get today’s croissant recipe at Amanda’s blog, Girl+Food=Love. Visit the TWD site to see links to the other participating bloggers.





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