Category Archives: chocolate

where she admits Spring is here

What a disappointing winter…
The height of DC’s snow: Shaw Recreation Center on Feb. 12th
I repeatedly humored the so-called winter weather, preferring to think that all the mild December and January temperatures presaged a violent dumping of snow to occur in mid-March or *gasp* end-of-April (birthday). But the climate appears not to have heard me. I think I can finally declare to myself that Spring (and temps in the 80s) are here to stay. Cue groaning about DC humidity here
Unfortunately this gives me a good excuse to gripe about my running schedule as well. Progress in training this week has been irregular, and I am comparing myself to the early-peaking cherry blossoms in reproach. It’s not ME! It’s the CLIMATE!
That’s okay, though. If I’ve learned one thing from my mature years, it is that one dip does not mean the end of the streak. No, we shall just go bumping along, like many other fearless creatives who are risking it all for their happiness.
Well, folks, it’s been a tough week, with the runs falling a bit short, and having to face several goals that are not being met (pages written, healing accomplished, enlightenment achieved). One morning, I woke up decidedly against running. Daylight savings had it completely dark outside during my usual run time, and I was tired from the time change. I didn’t want to run, so I decided…
To Bake.
That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Maybe not. Well, it’s like this: my body didn’t feel like running, but my mind craved the satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment, that come from putting in the effort toward a worthy goal. So I made these cookies, from the blog, Coconut & Lime. They were pretty good. And I got to conduct a science experiment.
Ingredients:
6 oz semisweet chips

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature*

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, the spices and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in chips. Place tablespoon-sized blobs of dough on the lined cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart and bake for 12-14 minutes or until they look “set” and the bottoms are just golden. Carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
The experiment was this: you know how some cooks recommend you squash down the tops of drop cookies before baking? What’s that about? Instead of Googling it, I did half spheres and half smooshed spheres of cookie dough and observed their behavior in their natural habitat.
Squished on the left, Round on the right

The smooshed spheres of cookie dough burned on the bottom faster than the regular spheres, which even got an extra minute in the oven. After combing the Googels extensively for 20 minutes, I found this article that stresses the amount of baking soda as key in how much a drop cookie will spread when baking (more soda, more spread). However, I’m having difficulty finding the cause of the tradition of flattening the drops of dough. Does anyone out there in Blog Land have an idea? Please let us know in the comments- your help would be much appreciated!

The cookies were gobbled up to general satisfaction, but it will be good to get back to running.

Osmotic Pressure and Metaphorical Me

Osmosis is the movement of solvent molecules through a selectively permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, aiming to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.”

Often I speak in metaphors which may seem out of place in the current conversation. My brain likes to dig up particularly esoteric or far-fetched descriptions for me to use when I am trying to better convey a certain feeling or state of affairs. This happens frequently at work, and while I register the lack of comprehension, I’m somewhat at a loss to replace my outlandish metaphors with more down-to-earth descriptions. Heave forbid I come off prosaic.

So here is my metaphor from today. I could feel the osmotic pressure of my Within and my Without this morning- the tug and swirl of the happiness experienced through self-discovery and creative effort over the weekend (Inside), contending with the lack of challenge and inability to focus on a long-term goal of the mundane Monday (Outside).

I just sort of floated along with it, letting myself be happy with the former rather than obsess over the latter, and you know what? About 2/3 of the way through the day, my brain started engaging and firing on different pistons, enabling some more cogent contributions to be made to work conversations. Good. Keeping the mind nimble and adaptable. Although- I am thinking maybe the forever-going-around-from-hobby-to-hobby to keep my interest in and mood up is disguising something deeper… but let that go for the moment.

What has been captivating me for the past week or two? All the old hobbies, come back in glorious technicolor: runs on Sundays and yoga on Tuesdays and writing for the novel and baking for friends and cooking for myself. Plus, a new dance course! A style called sean nos, which seems less glamorous but more accessible maybe than step dancing. We’ll see. Two classes and I’m already enjoying the improv parts!

Now as far as the more usual theme for this blog (FOOD), I’ll leave you readers with some encouragement. “If you make it, they will come” turned out to be true for me this week:

red wine chocolate cake — afternoon tea on Saturday with Jess
grilled corn salsa (salad) — Sunday luncheon with Kim and Juan
and tomato-shallot Tarte Tatin
lemon rosemary zucchini bread — brown bag lunch with coworkers (I hope- that’ll be tomorrow!)

So now I’m off to grate my zucchini with my only pertinent instrument- a microplane!- to make it easier to bake tomorrow morning! :-)

And let me know: do you want more Scotland or more food? I’ve got both at the ready…

Mini-Bundt Beauty

I love that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the Greek mother is trying to get her mouth around “Bundt cake.” And I suppose I share a feeling of Bundt cakes being foreign, since I don’t own a Bundt pan, and I have no idea where that Teutonic appellation originated. Oh, wait, I have the internet at my fingertips. Still, for a long time, my banana breads have been confined to loaf pans, those humble and useful servants.
But last summer I found a beautiful purveyor or ceramics. His name is Terence Tessem, of Tessem Stoneware. I can’t link to a page because he doesn’t have one! I imagine him holed up in a cold drafty barn of a studio in rural Pennsylvania, emerging only to follow the Renaissance Faires during the summer months. At any rate, I bought a mini-Bundt pan and a utensil-dryer. Fanciful, you say? Not practical, I hear? Not so!

I’ve used the utensil-dryer since last fall, and it’s a tidy way of drying silverware that leaves more counter space for other dishes drying. Excellent. And pretty too.
But the the bundt has been a little harder to sell. Sitting on the bookshelf, it looked pretty, but it also got dusty. FINALLY, today, I saw my chance. I had bananas to use up, searched my Google Reader for banana cake, and presto!- Banana Espresso Coffeecake with Chocolate Chips. I figured I could halve the recipe and use my dish and end in some deliciousness. Actually, half her batter yielded two of my-size cakes! Woo-hoo! And they are delicious, just like the normal banana bread recipe I use, but in a fun shape.
Alterations for my version:

  • didn’t have milk, used a dollop of greek yogurt and water
  • didn’t use the glaze
  • halving the recipe led to a time of 36 minutes for the first crop and 34 minutes for the second (slightly less batter)

Enjoy!