Closing shift

It’s been cloudy again. The days of sun really spoiled me. I finally got back to my secret little beach (not really a secret, but certainly less crowded than the local state park) and got my feet wet. But now, looking outside, it’s just gray. When I left work last night, it was dark. It’s so easy to take the summer days for granted, when it stays light out until almost 10pm.

I close again tonight, so I had all morning and have a nice chunk of the afternoon before I have to be in to work. For the past few weeks, days like these saw me staring at a computer screen, watching Netflix or glued to Pinterest. Last week I mostly had my nose in a book.

Today I’ve combined the two, got a little cleaning done, and, oh yeah, at the request of a coworker, I made this:

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Well, they didn’t request QUITE this…

In speaking to my counterpart yesterday, I mentioned my recent obsession with single-serve baking. He was quite intrigued, being a bachelor himself, and he asked me to share some of the recipes.

I guess printing them seemed too easy, so instead, I wrote the recipes on note cards, hole-punched those suckers in the corner, made a little cover, and strung them together with a ring.

I guess in all of this trying to figure out who I am this seemed a fitting answer. I’m the kind of person that can’t just write down recipes. I need to make it something else entirely because sharing recipes is like sharing food, and sharing food is special. Another piece of the puzzle that is I.

Time to get creative

In reading my blog lately, you may have noticed I talk a lot about changes and changing and things going downhill and all that. Without going into details, I’ll just say that, after buying the house, I moved into an apartment. I think that sentence is enough to express the heaviness and sadness and confusion and everything else in my life right now without the need to expand at all. Let’s just say that life lately has not been exactly ideal.

If I thought I didn’t feel like creating before, that was a joke. Daily life is at times a struggle. My kitchen wallows in a state of half-cleaned and half-used. I’m living primarily on frozen dinners and uninspired leftovers, and my craft room (one of the three rooms in my apartment…total) is in a state of disarray that makes a hurricane-stricken town look put-together.

But today I made a brownie.

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Brownie in a cup

I got the recipe here.

I made a brownie because what I wanted was a chocolate chip cookie, but all of my chocolate chips are at the house. So I got creative.

Yes, things are changing, and yes, things are hard right now, but I feel confident that there will come a day in the future when I’m able to brush the dust off the sewing machine and get back to making things.

Paczki Day 2013

Last year, while living in the dark place that is Arkansas, I had to make my own paczki for Mardi Gras. My Polish man deserved to celebrate in a style befitting his heritage, but Arkansas has never heard of a paczki, and they were nowhere to be found. So I made a lemon curd filled pastry that we called a paczki.

Although we are now in a Dutch area and paczki are available at every local supermarket, the ingredient list on these boxed delicacies make me blush.

So, tomorrow being Mardi Gras, and I having a day off, I thought some baking was in order. Here is the first batch:

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Like last year, these are baked, so they are slightly healthier. However this year, to appease my coworkers who will be enjoying the fruits of my labor, I opted for a custard filling instead of fruit. I guess what I left out with the oil, we gained in the egg-milk-sugar filling.

I also went a step beyond this year by glazing the paczki to help the powdered sugar stick better.

Did I mention that I actually have an icing gun of sorts now, so I can bake and then insert the delicious filling, instead of having to make two thin pieces of dough wrap around the filling? I scare myself sometimes.

In case you are interested, here’s how I made them this year:

I mixed 2 cups of flour (1 cup of all purpose and 1 cup of quasi-pastry flour) with two packets of yeast, a quarter cup of a sugar, and a pinch of salt.

I melted a half stick of butter on the stove top with a cup of milk and two tablespoons of honey, cooked them together for about five minutes.

I added a tablespoon of rum, one egg, and two egg yolks to flour mixture, then the melted milky butter goodness.

These mixed together into a very very doughy substance, to which I added about another cup and a quarter of flour to make more solid. This I let sit for ten minutes.

After ten minutes, I rolled out the dough and cut out circles with my half cup measuring cup (about 2 inch diameter), and let those sit for an hour.

At the end of the hour, I started my first batch in the oven while I made the glaze to go on the paczki – quarter cup melted butter and a quarter cup honey.

Ten minutes into baking, I glazed the paczki, then let them cook another four minutes.

While the paczki baked, I also made the custard filling: 2 cups of milk (scalded), half cup of flour, two thirds cup of sugar, one egg and the egg whites leftover from those yolks. I cooked these for about 5 minutes until thick, then added a teaspoon of vanilla.

Once the paczki cooled a bit, I dragged them through powdered sugar, and a few minutes after that, I filled those suckers with some custard.

I haven’t tasted one yet because Eric’s not home, but considering the nearly 5 hours this has taken me, they’d better be the best damn paczki ever.

🙂

In other news, I got my letter from GVSU, so I am another step closer to collecting another degree or two. Woohoo!

An Update

It is snowing again. We’ve gotten 2 feet (approximately) in the past week. I am typing on my new Samsung laptop; my Toshiba’s motherboard crapped out during a diagnostic I had one of my fellow Agents run it through. Alas. 4 years with that computer; I bought it when I lived in Seattle, when I had first started working finally and had my studio apartment (that was more expensive than the house we’re renting here). I needed a way to apply for better jobs, despite not having internet in the place. I couldn’t afford it.

I’ve been afraid of using this computer because it’s really nice. It was my Christmas present from Eric, and it is the kind of computer for gaming or Auto CAD for engineering students.

About that. I am still waiting for a letter. I am getting angry and frustrated because this has become an unnecessarily long process. Delta State got the transcripts up here finally – almost two weeks ago – and I called today, but they just told me that I would get something in the mail. I applied in December. I realize that another week or so should seem minor, but it’s just grating on me.

During my offline time (great time, given the computer crash), I read the first three books in the Malazan series and started the fourth, did some great cooking, and learned how to drive on snowy Michigan roads. My crafting has taken a back seat, but I think that comes with the winter territory. I made red velvet cupcakes last night with homemade cream cheese icing…I’ve amazed myself. I always said that I hated baking; I don’t, as it turns out.

We’ve been looking at some houses, and we’re going out again on Saturday. I’m anxious to get out there and find something.

I’ve been working a great deal. I have today off. I have been researching other school possibilities, since I am mad at GVSU. I haven’t picked up my book yet, but I should.

I’ve seen some great crafts on display in the blogs I follow. I love it. I am off to read or write or bake (I need to make a real batch of cupcakes for my coworker’s birthday tomorrow). Keep it crafty!

I don’t mean to brag, but…

I decided to make my coworkers a ginormous batch of cookies for the day after Christmas. All but one of us in the precinct is working the day after (aka “the Show”), and I think we’ll need some extra cheer during our busiest – and likely lowest attitude – day. And JT had us close a little early this evening, so that we could get home to our families, and I to my oven.

And I baked, dear reader; I baked.

I made a double batch of my favorite oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, and a regular batch of my Christmas tradition cookies (this time with actual sprinkles!).

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

This is but a taste of the baking that ensued when I got home.

That’s great, but that does not explain my title. Oh, no. Feeling particularly bold, I decided to try something new. A month ago or so, Eric and I bought a donut pan. I have since made a batch, but as I said…bold. So tonight I thought “I know what’s Christmasy! Booze!”

I switched up the recipe that came with the pan and made chocolate donuts. And then I dipped those suckers in a Bailey’s glaze. BAM!

The pouring got a little messy...
The pouring got a little messy…

The batter for these is always a little thin, and after two batches of cookies, it was strange to work with. And also, I am messy, so there are little bits of batter all over the pan. Mmmmm!

Making the glaze. I had to add more sugar than I had intended...couldn't get it quite thick enough at first.
Making the glaze. I had to add more sugar than I had intended…couldn’t get it quite thick enough at first.

It’s amazing what I can do with only about 4 combined feet of counter space.

Dippin' donuts, Batman!
Dippin’ donuts, Batman!
There they are!
There they are!

And then, because I was feeling so very fancy, I decided to sprinkle a little sea salt on these bad boys to offset the sweetness.

These are not for my coworkers. These are for my hubby.
These are not for my coworkers. These are for my hubby.

So, yeah. I don’t mean to brag, but I made some chocolate-bailey’s-glazed-donuts tonight. Merry Christmas to all!

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort in trivial things

I had my project for this post done yesterday, but I felt…silly, I guess, for wanting to post about it. But working in the kitchen, doing something with my hands in general, always makes me feel a little bit better about the world. The universe seems so much simpler when I view it through a measuring cup.

When we face the horrific parts of life, it is natural to seek the comfort of normalcy. Mine are the anise cookies that my grandma made every year for Christmas. It’s been years since I had them, but they always mean Christmas to me. So last night, trying to find some comfort and sense in the world, I decided to make them for the first time.

 

Dough that will become comfort
Dough that will become comfort

I used three recipes kind of rolled into one.

Smaller balls of dough that baked into comfort
Smaller balls of dough that baked into comfort

It’s a simple recipe, really, and a simple kind of joy.

Sugar glaze. I didn't have sprinkles, so I put food coloring in it, instead
Sugar glaze. I didn’t have sprinkles, so I put food coloring in it, instead

I guess it’s fitting. No one can go back in time (yet), so I made the cookies with my own twist.

Almond pieces instead of sprinkles
Almond pieces instead of sprinkles

 

I still feel silly for posting – who the hell cares about my cookies?

But if you are looking for some meaning, or reason, or little tiny piece of joy in an otherwise dark time, then all I can suggest is that you find a recipe that you remember with comfort, and you go bake.

 

 

Operation Chocolate and Peanut-Butter

I woke up this morning with a craving for that almighty Dynamic Duo: chocolate and peanut-butter. Knowing that Eric and I are both trying not to become as wide as we are tall, I felt the best way to get my fix without overdoing it was to make something that he could take to his coworkers! I decided on peanut-butter and chocolate cookies.

It was, ah, an experience.

So the recipe I decided on seemed pretty simple. Here are the ingredients:

  • One and one quarter cup all-purpose flour Three quarters all-purpose flour and 2 quarters wheat flour
  • Half cup cocoa powder
  • Teaspoon baking powder
  • Half teaspoon baking soda
  • Half teaspoon salt
  • Half cup butter Half cup applesauce
  • Two-thirds cup brown sugar
  • One third cup granulated sugar
  • Two eggs
  • Two teaspoons vanilla extract
  • One cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Half cup peanuts
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling

From there, it reads like a normal cookie baking recipe. Mix stuff together, then bake.

Here is how it actually happened:

  1. I gathered my ingredients, along with my delicious Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale.
    Mmmm! Cookies-to-be!

    Not an ingredient, but it helps.
  • I whisked together my dry ingredients, less the sugar. I combined my two types of flour, the cocoa powder, the baking soda, and the baking powder. This was easy!

    This is a familiar shot, no?
  • Following the directions on the recipe, I used my $5(?) hand mixer from the ole Dollar General in Redfield to mix together the peanut butter, applesauce, and sugar. I drained the applesauce first because that is the latest baking trick I’ve learned when substituting it for butter, and I took out the granulated sugar because, come on, how sweet does it need to be?
    Applesauce…minus the juice.

    These will soon be a congealed goop.