It’s the last day of July and cicadas are beginning their afternoon buzz outside my window. All I can think is, where has my summer gone? It seems like just a week ago I was lamenting the cold and fickle weather that is New England Spring. Now we’ve all retreated to air conditioned interiors and fantasies of cooler days. Fall – I can taste it in the air and see it in the light; there’s a golden glow to the afternoons now – one that means school’s starting soon and cooler days are coming. It’s the lighting and sound of blueberry season – Maine Wilds are coming in and kids are trooping out to fields at 5am. Fog covered fields and the hope that you won’t rake into a bee’s nest, the scent of a squashed spice bug, and the slowing days.
It’s this time of year that I always want to head home – I want to pick blueberries and walk on the beach. I won’t go back this year – I just don’t have the time but I will sure as hell get my hands on some fresh blueberries and eat fresh berry pie. It’s my favorite, with it’s loosy-goosy set up and spicy perfect summer flavor. I don’t have a recipe for you today – if I had some of my favorite berries I’d probably grace you with a redux of my blueberry pie. It’s the best. No question.
Instead I’m going to share these pictures of a family filled Fourth of July weekend. I know, I’m lapsed in sharing them but, oh well. We grilled! We went to George’s Island! We were photo bombed (by BF’s dad, but still). And we hung out, because that’s what you do when family is around. You visit.
Also, this cake. Remember in my last post where I said I was making a crazy train cake? Here it is. Isn’t it remarkable? I worked really hard on it, and I can see the flaws but it makes me insanely happy. More satisfying was seeing the birthday boy glow when he saw it, and then proceed to tell everyone which piece of the train they were going to eat. Me? I wanted the ground the train was on – vegan chocolate cake coated in Walker’s Shortbread and Anna’s Ginger Thins. So.So.Good.
I do plan on cooking again – and I have at least two salads I need to recreate for you, I just haven’t gotten there yet. I will. I promise.
Some days are just bad. You wake up feeling blue and it continues until you finally stop moping and DO SOMETHING about it. I feel that way a lot recently – looking for work is a challenging and depressing venture with a lot of grasping straws and missed opportunities, or worse just not being good enough. That’s how I feel most of the time, not good enough. I keep hoping that something will change with every job application I submit but with every rejection (and there are a lot) I just feel overwhelmed. I feel like finding full time work that I find meaningful isn’t going to happen. So I retire to my kitchen and I bake. I listen to music and empty my mind a bit. The repetition of measuring, mixing, kneading, frosting – whatever is soothing and comforting. Like cuddling up to a good book, I know that kitchen time can make me feel better. So I try to force myself into the kitchen to bake, or cook, or just… be.
This cake is one of those I need to bake cakes. It got me into the kitchen and out of my head – singing along to some good music and methodically measuring out ingredients. I was soothed by the repetition – also the leftover grapefruit syrup, which made a delicious cocktail. I was calmed by the familiarity. Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of grad school, but, honestly, I was not such a great student in college – my grades will hinder my grad school chances. How do I resolve that? I’ve been thinking going back to school for another BA, this was met by vehement and loud nos from all my grad school graduate friends. But I’m at a loss. I just feel not good enough for anything. Maybe I’ve lost perspective. Or maybe I should just eat more cake.
I should eat more of this cake. It’s not too sweet so you can eat a lot of it without falling into a sugar coma and with the grapefruit comes a subtle tang of bitterness that makes it a standout in really decadent ways. But – there’s no butter, it’s an olive oil cake and the citrus in it is only enhanced by the fruity oil. It fits exactly what I’m looking for in a cake right now – it’s unassuming and it delivers a lovely punch. It is a cake for tea time or dessert or breakfast or elevensies (the dictionary for WordPress tells me this is not a word. WordPress you are WRONG). Make it. Eat it. Indulge in it. But make extra of the grapefruit syrup and make a gin cocktail with it. I’ll come help you drink it.
I actually didn’t change a thing from Joanne’s recipe over on her blog, Eats Well With Others (she waited for her cake to cool completely before glazing, I didn’t – my time was tight). So just follow that. Then send me some of the cake. I could use a touch of sweet in my life.
My birthday lands right at the beginning of April – it’s a time when the temperatures can jump from 75 to 45 in a single afternoon and there’s more likely than not going to be a blizzard. Every year I keep my fingers crossed for a nice warm birthday – where I can wear a sleeveless dress and flip flops. I wish for a birthday that will see me sipping a cocktail on some patio in the warm rays of an afternoon. This is all entirely unrealistic. So, instead I settle for giving myself a day of baking – the kitchen is always warm with the oven on and it is quite sunny.
Each year I see my birthday as a baking challenge – a chance to try something I haven’t tried before that I’m daunted by. My birthday is an opportunity to try those recipes that could be potential flops – that way if I mess up someone’s birthday cake it’s MY birthday cake. No harm no foul, right? This year was no different. EXCEPT instead of going out for dinner with BF and my sister I chose to conquer Momofuku Milk Bar.
I threw a dinner party. I made a ton of pasta and asiago cheese riddled focaccia. I invited BF’s and my favorite people over, we drank wine and ate good food. Dan and Mandi made a great sauce that went perfect with the I-drank-too-much-wine-last-night day that followed. Megan made a lovely spinach salad and there was liberal pouring of wine and beer. It was, truly, the best birthday I could ask for. But, in my brilliance, I decided that making two cakes that both required at least three separate pre-made ingredients and a whole bunch of love was the best way to top off this grand evening of debauchery.
I made both of these cakes pretty much exactly according to the recipes – my variation was that I used liquid cheesecake in the chocolate chip cake instead of passion fruit curd. The cheesecake was WAY more accessible. I’m not sharing these recipes today – they are too complex and my pictures are MIA as my hands were typically too much of a mess to photo-document this process. SO all we have left of this cake is a remnant and these pictures. There were twelve of us at the party. We ate most of both of these cakes. I loved them.
And I will assuredly be baking from Momofuku Milk Bar again soon.
Sometimes you need something to aspire to. Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and just have a book that you can look at and know, with certainty, that it’s a hair out of your range. That is why I own the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook. I find this book incredibly daunting – like a giant sundae when I’ve already had too much to eat. But I can’t stop myself from picking it up every few months and thinking I should give it a try.
For the record – I’m usually a show no fear kind of cook. I’ll try anything at least once – I’ve made my own bacon and babysat my own sourdough starter so I always think I can handle this cookbook. Which means I pull it out and look up a cake – now a cake in this book has at least four separate ingredients that must be cooked/mixed/pureed/blended before I even consider the possibility of putting it together. I did mention I found the book daunting, ya?
Most people look at this book for the pictures I think – okay the crack pie is fantastic and the compost cookies are extraordinary but the rest of the book is meticulous. Everything is weighed and soothed into the rest of the ingredients. But maybe that’s why I love it, it’s a book of challenges and dares me to break my boundaries a little bit.
I do plan on actually tackling a few of these recipes in the next couple weeks – I’ll share my results. Don’t you worry. Though I’m still a tad intimidated, at least I’m building my own birthday cake so I won’t wreck someone else’s birthday, right?
My love of ginger is well documented here, here, and here. I constantly refer to my love of it – the sharp flavor, the spicy finish, the texture, ginger is just a flavor I can’t get enough of. So, of course, when an invite came through my email for A Spoonful of Ginger, the annual benefit for Joslin Diabetes Center to raise money for their Asian American Diabetes Initiative, I said yes.
Spoonful of Ginger is a wonderful event – held at the MFA, this event is gorgeously laid out and endears itself to me even more just by it’s location. The MFA is a lovely spot and so many wonderful chefs and people came out in their finest. It was a remarkable evening and I can’t recommend attendance highly enough. Pictured in this post are just few of the outstanding nibbles I tried at the event – everything was wonderfully prepared and had that perfect ginger bite.
I was invited to attend Spoonful of Ginger free of charge, but all opinions listed here are my own.