The baking conundrum & being bad

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It is 9:45 pm, and I am in my underwear surrounded by freshly baked cookies and seven layer bars. I just licked batter off a spoon, and, listening to the familiar lilt of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings, muttered under my breath, “Skinny bitch.”

I am a bad feminist.*

On nights like tonight when I lounge around and embrace my inner domestic goddess, baking and watching trash TV, I let myself be such a bad feminist. But, to let you in on my little secret, more than anything I feel like a bad 24-year-old.

Who else my age opted to stay in tonight to bake and watch a TV show that aired over 15 years ago? Youth is wasted on the young.

Staying in, and in particular staying in to bake, triggers a weird anxiety within me.

There’s a part of me that still feels like I was last dumped because somewhere in the last year the part of my brain that used to think “Friday night, let’s party!” switched over to “Friday night, let’s eat sushi and watch old movies over a nice glass of wine!” (Don’t even get me started on the parallel “I was dumped because my room was messy” track.) As my ex would remind me, if only I could have turned the go out, don’t stop part of my brain back on I might have been making more friends and living the life I claimed I wanted.

Beyond that though, I’m out here trying to make the most of my life. I want adventure and I want to change some tiny portion of the world and I want to fight for silenced voices to be heard and I want to do it all while dancing in a great pair of heels. A lot of the time, I’m pushing myself to do those things. But that gets exhausting. And some nights I just want to bake.

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I have no idea why, but that simple desire makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. Like every minute I spend in the kitchen is feeding into some outdated female stereotype that, to be quite honest, I’m not even sure is a stereotype anymore.

Somewhere I got this absolutely stupid idea that domesticity and badassery were mutually exclusive, because I’m a bad, bad feminist.

So tonight I decided, a couple of glasses of pinot grigio in, that I’m not going to let myself feel like a bad 24-year-old or a bad feminist or a bad world-changer. Instead, when I slip on my twee housewife apron, I’m going to channel some of the most badass women I know: my grandmother Bibby who whipped a farm house and all the people in it into shape like no one’s business, my aunt Mary who I swear to God could solve the world’s problems with her cobbler but instead spent her career teaching science in Auburn, my friend Amanda who is about to graduate Penn law school and could have you crying with her catfish and fried pickles.

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When I hang up my apron I’ll let myself feel badass about my perfect royal icing and the gooey center of my chocolate butter cookies and the perfect layer of toasted coconut on my bars. Because there’s always tomorrow to change the world, and I’ll feel that much better about it with a cookie in my stomach.

[The term “bad feminist,” for those who have been seriously out of the loop, was popularized by Roxane Gay’s 2014 book which details her own experiences grappling with issues of race, gender, sexuality and feminism, often as they appear in pop culture and her own life. It refers to our inabilities to live up to the standards set up by “good feminists” to always be on when it comes to feminism.]

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Sunday Reset

Day14_BlogQuoteLayout Homesick Sunday has struck again. It’s one of those days when I feel so far from everyone I love, and am worried this city will never cut it for me. Some days I can love being here, but today Nora nailed it: it’s just where I live.

I’m homesick, not just for Rhode Island, but for New York, and London, and cities I’ve never even called home.

So I’ve taken this weekend to do the things that make me feel whole and good—a reset, if you will. I drew cards and wrote letters. I binge-watched TV and folded laundry. I baked a cake, never mind that it was a failure. And I’m letting myself take today to tune out Twitter and Facebook and texts and emails to do more of the same.

Now I’m off to soak in a bath, bake another cake, do some work reading, and kick back for another Orphan Black binge. Enjoy your Sunday, hitting the reset button as needed.

(Image quotes pulled from Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck)

Summer Baking: Cherry Peach Galette

Perfect summer dessert

By now it should be pretty clear that I’m a stress baker, and the job search has got me just a wee bit stressed these days. This weekend I realized that even with the blackberry kick I’ve been on, I haven’t made any truly fruit-based desserts. So when I stumbled across this Cherry Peach Galette recipe on Eat Drink Love I couldn’t resist. It had everything you need for a summer dessert: easy, fruity, and damn tasty.

I haven’t dabbled in crust-making much, so I stuck with the Pillsbury refrigerated crusts. Honestly, I think the Pillsbury crusts are pretty good for a store bought crust and since easy was high on my list I’m pretty happy with that choice. Plus it makes this the perfect dessert for those who don’t consider themselves bakers.

…those pleats were too pretty not to take a picture

I will warn that the only part of this that takes a long time is pitting cherries. Your hands will be bright red and your table/cutting board will too. Not to mention you’ll have cherry under your nails for quite some time. Does anyone know of a better way to pit cherries than cutting them open and forcing the stupid pits out with your nails? ‘Cause I’m definitely making this again, cherry difficulties or not.

Yes, it was as good as it looks

Cherry Peach Galette (Recipe from Eat Drink Love)

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 2 peaches
  • 2 cups cherries
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 egg white (the original called for milk but I didn’t have any)
  • Turbinado sugar (natural brown sugar, or sugar in the raw)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel and slice peaches. Halve and pit cherries. Combine fruit in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt. Mix the sugar mixture into the fruit and then mix in lemon juice.

If the pie dough is not already in a 12 in. round then roll it out. Place the dough onto parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pour the fruit mixture into the middle of the dough, leaving a 2 inch border around the outside. Fold the sides up, pleating so that it forms a border around the fruit. Brush the crust with the egg white or milk. Sprinkle the crust with turbinado sugar.

Bake 25-30 minutes. Crust should be golden brown.

Blackberry Buttermilk Crumble Muffins

Over the weekend I decided it had been too long since I’d baked something, so naturally I set out to find the perfect recipe. Since last time I made a cake and it took quite a while for my small family to finish, I decided on something more manageable this time: muffins. I found this delicious looking recipe for Buttermilk Blackberry Crumble Muffins on Scarletta Bakes.

The tasty muffins fresh from the oven

I mostly followed the directions, although I’d recommend a few tweaks to the recipe which I’ve included below. They were just a little sweet for my taste, but the blackberries in them were fabulous. And they only got better as they cooled, which isn’t something I find to be the case with most baked treats.

I’m also slightly addicted to cooking with blackberries now since they give the batter the stellar purple color you don’t get from any other food.

Second time in a month I’ve had baked Barney-colored food

The crumble gave them a nice crunchy top..

Crunchy

…while the insides were gooey and moist from the fruit.

Baked goods are the only things that are better when described as gooey and moist

Buttermilk Blackberry Crumble Muffins (adapted slightly from Scarletta Bakes)

For the muffins:
3/4 c. white sugar, granulated
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened*
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 3/4c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2.5 c. blackberries, roughly chopped

For the crumble topping:
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. Nilla wafers or plain vanilla cookies
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

*I used 3 tbsp unsweetened butter and 3 tbsp butter to cut calories, and it can help to make this very dense recipe a little less dense

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tins (14-16) with liners.

Crush the vanilla cookies, leaving in some larger chunks to ensure some crunch to the topping. Combine the dark brown sugar, vanilla cookies and melted butter for the crumble toppings. Set aside.

For the batter, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Then add the flour and baking powder, alternating with the buttermilk (3 flour additions, 2 buttermilk additions). Mix until the ingredients are just integrated, being careful not to over-mix. Fold in the blackberries (this is where the batter turns that stellar purple!). Fill each muffin space (what on earth do you call the individual muffin openings on a tin??) 2/3 full and top with a generous amount of crumble. Bake 18-22 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Rainy Monday: Cookies, Nerdfests & the Outkast Discography

Today I woke up to thunderstorms and torrential rain and thought “wow, what a perfect excuse to do nothing.” Or, perhaps more accurately, a perfect excuse to not leave the house. I’ll do plenty: start my new book, start my coursera.org class, read some magazines, potentially bake something and catch up on episodes of Chopped. Who says you can’t be “productive” in pajamas? (Productive is in parentheses ’cause you’ll note that nowhere on that list is there job searching or GRE studying–the rain sapped me of all true productivity)

So, in honor of being unemployed and wearing pajamas all day, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things to do on lazy rainy days (the broad categories and the specifics of this particular rainy day).

1.) Read a book. Pretty much the list could stop there, since I’m of the opinion that finding a comfortable chair and reading all day is the best use of a rainy day. I’m just starting Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and have read good things about it. Before that I finished Cannery Row, part of my annual Escape into Great American Literature plan.

Summer reading

2.) Bake something. As anyone who’s ever lived with me knows, baking is my answer to both anxiety and boredom, and it’s a perfect gross weather activity. I’ve been eyeing this recipe from Ezra Pound Cake for Drunken Blondies. They’ve got coconut, pecans, chocolate chips and bourbon–I’m on board. For the more baking impaired there’s always the slice and bake approach.

“Skinny’s not worth as much as these delicious cookies” -not Kate Moss

3.) Learn something? Okay this is my inner nerd coming out again, but whenever I have a chunk of time where I’m not doing anything and I’m not hungover I like learn the stuff I’ve been meaning to learn, from tackling more coding or language learning to reading up on all the news issues that slipped by me in the previous week. Then, when I actually interact with other human beings I can say, “I know things.”(There I go with my liberal elitism, I like knowing things)

If you’re equally as nerdy but don’t like Wikipedia-fueled education like me, there’s a great website called Coursera where you can take 6-12 week classes on a topic. The assignments are totally optional and the classes are mostly just there for people who want to learn about something, so they’ve got lectures and readings you can do on a particular topic. I’m signed up for one on the Affordable Care Act (I don’t think I need to further drive home the point that I know how nerdy I am).

Don’t those glasses scream, “I know things”?

4.) Get lost in music. Along the same lines, I like to use rainy days for finding new music, listening to that music I downloaded a month ago and never got around to considering, or just going back and busting out some CD I haven’t listened to in a while. Currently I’m cycling through all the Outkast on my computer, and I don’t hate it. ATLiens is my one of my favorite rainy day CD’s, but I’m not quite sure why.

Also on my current rainy day rotation (not necessarily together): The Roots – You Got Me, Emeli Sandé – Daddy*, Bob Dylan – Buckets of Rain, Tiësto & Wolfgang Gartner – We Own the Night.

*There are some good mixes of this song I like too.

Just two dope boyz..

5.) Go to a movie by yourself. Before you tell me that I’m a huge loser, let me defend my love of going to movies alone. Yeah I like to go with friends too, but really if you’re gonna do anything alone, seeing a movie is the thing to do. It’s a silent activity, one with pretty much zero participation. The entire two hours is spent in the dark. Plus, you’re entertained (hopefully) even though you’re not with anyone. I’m planning a solo trip to see Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom either tonight or tomorrow night, and I’ve only heard good things about it. A wise man told me, “Do it. You won’t regret it.”

If you’re super not into that I suppose you could watch a good movie at home. Watch something off the AFI Top 100 that’s not The Godfather or Rocky, I dare you.

Can’t go wrong with Wes Anderson

6.) And the ultimate “I’m Bored” game: playing with magazines. Go through Rolling Stone and circle every overly-glowing or pandering-to-the-hip review. Go through any fashion magazine and make a collage of all the side-boob. The options are endless if you leave yourself open to snark and banality. If we’re talking rainy night (or you’re tryna drunk weather the storm? to each his own) these can of course be made into drinking games, although if you’re going there I recommend thisWicker Mandrinking game–delight in the wonder that is Nic Cage.

Justin Bieber on Rolling Stone

“Super Boy” indeed

Things not included on my rainy day list: exercise (too active), naps (obvious and inevitable), cooking (one word: delivery), zoning out and doodling (too specific to my life), watching TV (oh don’t you worry, that’s coming).

(Image Sources: 1 Beautiful Ruins, 2 Cookies, 3 JT, 4 Outkast, 5 Moonrise Kingdom, 6 JB)