Friday, 17 April 2015

Lazy Bear: A Revelation for a Cranky Old SF Cynic

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I had the excellent luck last month to: A) meet a couple of awesome new friends at a shared table at brunch, B) become part of a dinner-going group with them and my friend A, with whom I went to Rome in December and who has brilliant connections and a serious take-charge attitude, leading to the four of us C) going to Lazy Bear for one of the most remarkable dining experiences I've ever had in my relatively charmed life.

I was extremely skeptical at first – Lazy Bear is a sort of private dinner club-turned restaurant that is super expensive and notoriously difficult to get tickets for, a combination that heightens my hype-dar immediately.  But I didn't want to be a party pooper and I had a little extra cash cushion so I agreed to go.  On the day of the dinner, a gorgeous sunny Saturday, I was loathe to get dressed up and go to what I was sure would be an overproduced and underdelivering San Francisco wankfest (pardon my French but I really was feeling very wary).  But almost from the minute I walked in the door, the first to arrive, my expectations were proven wrong.  

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Friday, 27 March 2015

Monkeying Around with Birthday Cakes

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When my sister told me that her daughter, who turned three last week, had requested three cakes for her birthday party, I immediately volunteered to bake one of them.  I adore my niece and nephew and have had a blast getting to know them better since moving back from London, but I still see them rarely enough that any opportunity to impress them is worth jumping on.  It only got better when my sister told me the only other request my niece had made: that the party be 'a monkey party'.

I remembered a cake I'd seen on Smitten Kitchen, years back, a monkey face that looked surprisingly easy to put together.  A quick google confirmed my suspicions that this was something I could definitely handle, and I spent the rest of the day at work printing recipes, doubling and tripling ingredient lists, and blocking off the day before the party in my phone calendar.  I was going to go all out this time.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Ruminations on Perfectionism and Lemon Cream Pie

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One of my favorite things anyone has ever said to me about writing was a Voltaire quote one of my wonderful teachers passed on to us in the early months of my MA: "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good".  After years of angsting about writing rather than doing it, my bookshelf littered with beautiful, empty journals too pretty to write mediocre things in, that sentiment resonated hard in my heart.  I determined to give myself credit simply for doing, even just for trying, or simply for remembering an idea – anything to encourage myself to build up momentum instead of stopping in despair.  And it worked, most of the time.  Okay, the beautiful journals still sit empty on the shelf, but now I buy myself unimpressive, blandly designed journals and write in them without concern for perfection.  And when I was in Italy, my amazing friend and writing coach Magda held me to a deadline of 5,000 words a week, and I gave myself the space to write about anything I felt inspired to write – of course, what this means is that I now have somewhere around 40,000 words to sift through and fill holes in, and the majority of what I have is off-plot-line or too heavily biased toward subject matter that was less excruciating to write about, but it's a start.  And that was good enough, at least for the moment.  

My attitude toward baking is similar: as long as people can eat it and enjoy it, I'm happy.  My baked goods rarely come out looking beautiful or professional, and they're almost never consistent in size/texture/bake, which is the main reason I never even considered doing GBBO.  Still, my laid back attitude sometimes leads to legitimate failure in the kitchen (two weeks ago I made some very dense 'muffins', 70% of which I threw out).  And it doesn't always hold up in the face of potential let-downs.  I have definitely had my baking meltdowns, as well as plenty of cases of simple 'that wasn't good enough' melancholy.  For example, the lemon cream pie I made last weekend hit a few too many snags and had me feeling pretty crappy for a while, and now that I want to post about it and I'm looking at these photos in the light of day, after spending all evening editing them with f.lux on, then turning it off and trying to undo the damage, all I can say is 'I'm sorry'.  I'd like to re-do all of it – the pies, the photo editing, even my hair in the photos – but I'd rather get this post up and keep the small amount of momentum I'm beginning to rebuild here in this, my little bakery corner of the internet.

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So in the spirit of doing rather than perfecting, let's get cracking on this post about lemon cream pie!  (Sorry I'm not sorry about that pun.)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Prosciutto and Pastries and Prosecco, Oh My! The Foodie Low-Down on My Italian Adventure

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#stuffmyface #ItalyAdventure #girltime by @ahputnam

Hello, strangers! I realize I haven’t seen you around here in MONTHS, and that’s entirely my fault. I had this idea (I’m always having these ideas…) that when I was in Italy I would cook and photograph it (badly, with my iPhone) for you, and post at least once or twice, but alas, like so many of my ideas this one lacked follow-through. I did very little of anything that could be called ‘cooking’, preferring to spend my time eating paprika-flavored Pringles and making Caprese salads and roasted chicken breast and veggies when I needed to eat a real meal inside my home. And of course much of my consumption happened outside the apartment, because: ITALY. That said, I did make a Thanksgiving dinner for my Italian friends (and a few Americans), including my famous pumpkin pie recipe and a whole roasted turkey that would have fed twice as many of us, so the trip wasn’t completely without kitchen activity.

For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram or Twitter, I offer here by way of apology for my absence some of my favorite foodie photos from the trip (for those of you who do follow me, I’m throwing in some new pics), and at the end of the post I’ll link to the recipes I used for Thanksgiving – I’m happy to report that the Italians were properly blown away, especially by the pumpkin pie and the stuffing, which was unlike anything they’d ever tried before. I also promise to work harder to get back to our regularly scheduled programming, and to share some of the exciting developments that have occurred in my life since last we met.

Pics and captions are after the jump!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Let's Just Hope My Language Skills Are a Little More Authentic... Americanized Tiramisu and an Announcement!

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Things have been reeeeaaaaally quiet over here on the baking blog – lest you think I hadn't noticed my neglect, rest assured that it's been bugging me for weeks.  I started working full time in April and since then my free time has been less plentiful and often takes place outside the hours of good natural light so essential to food photography.  I also lived in an apartment with a shared kitchen stocked with other people's things, so I never knew what supplies I had to make a recipe.

None of this is an excuse, though.  I should have prioritized this blog more.  Baking makes me happy, as does blogging about it, but for some reason I haven't done either for the past few months.  It's been a rough year, but I'm finally starting to feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, which should mean more energy and time and love to put into baked goods.  The only catch is that I'm moving again, this time to Italy – I'll be living off savings and spending my days writing and yoga-ing and writing and hiking and writing.  Hopefully a new book will form in those months of having nothing on my plate but writing and pasta.  In which case, you may not see me here for a little bit longer.  That said, should I find myself in need of a break from the computer screen, which is pretty likely, and hiking isn't doing the trick, you can bet I'll share whatever concoction I whip up over there on this blog here – fair warning, though, I'm not bringing my nice camera, so it'll be all-iPhone pics, all the time.

I knew I wanted to share this big change in my life with all of you (especially those of you who have been SO patient while I post so erratically!), so when a recipe for tiramisu landed in my inbox, it seemed like serendipity; I decided (despite this disturbing typo in the recipe) that I wanted to make it to celebrate my upcoming move and announce it here on the blog that has seen me through so many changes in location and circumstance.  There were, as is customary in my life, a few things that went differently from the plan, but I got there in the end and the result was delicious – I can only hope my non-food-related life winds up so successful!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Last Minute and Low Supply: Vanilla Bean (Apricot) Shortbread Cookies

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(This will be a shorty because I've been asked for the recipe enough times in the last 24 hours to get me to write the post the day after these cookies were baked and consumed.  I know – bonkers fast for me!)

I went to a friend's Summer Solstice barbecue yesterday, and when I woke up late, a bit hungover after a night out, I suddenly realized that while I had offered to bake cookies for the party I had a seriously limited stock in my cabinets.  I knew I had butter (in fact, despite being tipsy the night before when I got home, I had even remembered to take a stick out of the freezer and let it soften on the counter), and I knew I had flour and sugar, but I was eggless, and my roommate who moved out recently took her raising agents with her, so I was pretty much at a loss for ideas on what to make.  BUT THEN!  Inspiration struck.  Shortbread doesn't have eggs or raising agents!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

A Long Time Coming: Apple Slab Pie Worth Making Thrice

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I made SK's apple slab pie last fall to great acclaim – in fact, the reception was so positive that I wound up making it three times in the space of a week, and there was nary a slice left over that wasn't immediately gobbled up by my parents' neighbors and their nine year old twins.  So why haven't I written it up until now, you ask?  Or, more accurately, you demand, with a stamp of the foot and the missed opportunity of apple slab pie on your palate?

I have no excuse.  There is no amount of busy-ness or family drama or house-/job hunting that can explain why I didn't stay up all night editing photos and writing up the recipe.  I just...didn't.  And I'm truly sorry, because you've all been missing out.  But I plan to make amends now; better late than never!

But not for you, when it comes to making this pie.  Get on it.  Seriously, you guys, this thing is TASTY.  Not too sweet, with a flaky, buttery handmade double crust just bursting with appley goodness.  And yes, you read that right: I made the crust from scratch.  I almost never do that, especially here in the US, where frozen pie crust is so easy to come by and decently tasty, but this time I figured I might as well make use of my mom's Cuisinart and spare myself the math of trying to make a long rectangle out of two pre-made circles.

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