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Archive for October, 2010

Nutella Pound Cake

I never remember the month of November.  Other than the blips of Thanksgiving and my dear friend Julia’s birthday, I fail to recognize it as a legitimate month because it is so packed with exams and papers.  It feels more like a week than a month.

When I saw my calendar for the month of November, I decided I want to splurge.  I know those two items are totally related, but I am irrational when I am stressed out after all, first round of midterms have flowed right into the next round of midterms.

Some people go for the hot pink pedicure, but I go for the whole jar of Nutella.  Both are illogical, but who can see those cute toes when it is rainy out?  We all can better appreciate Nutella regardless of the weather whether that be by the spoonful or in this Nutella pound cake.

That brings me to this pound cake.  For those of you who get dreams thinking about Nutella, this is the cake especially for you.  Did I mention that a whole jar of dreams goes in?  Yup, that is definitely the stuff dreams should be made of.  None of these nightmares about revenue recognition criteria–just the dense, luscious goodness of a chocolate hazelnut spread :)

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Halfway through the semester, I have decided that I needed to broaden my understanding of the world, so I acquired this newly found interest in cheeses.  I am not sure the logic behind that because it is clearly unfair to a lactose-intolerant person to suddenly express fascination with cheeses.  There are limitations to my ability to experiment!

Still, I like the idea of bumbling around in a specialty shop and being guided around by an expert.  (Yes, please enlighten me!)  I like the idea of sampling cheeses and taking a small wedge to nibble on.  Okay, I am not sure how I am going to do that between exams or tax returns, but I will cough up time for this new hobby!

That brings me to this quick bread, which I first saw in the Food section of the New York Times.    It sounds like all of my favorite things in a panini in a more portable form, or as the New York Times article preceding it playfully entitled “The Hors d’Oeuvres that the French Call Cake.”

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Lately, I have regressed into the toddler-like fascination of classification.  I like the idea of the little Le Creuset pinch bowls, sorting out all of the autumnal spices of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  I also like the idea of colorful stacking prep bowls to sort out my wet and dry ingredients.  Sometimes, I think that is the sign of a truly dedicated baker–I have the equipment and bowls to show my seriousness to the craft!

In cooking, this is referred to mis en place, but I tend to think of this an exercise of mindfulness.  No matter how adorable, I do not need the bowls to get through the recipe.  In fact, I tend to keep only an annotated list of ingredients when I am baking because I am familiar with the various baking techniques.  However, the idea of putting everything in prep bowls is an act of visualization or progression–I can see the flow of ingredients right until I pop the cookies into the oven.

This brings me to these blondies from the guys of the Brooklyn bakery, Baked.  While not all of their retro-inspired recipes work out for me (*cough cough* Peanut Butter with Milk Chocolate chunks), I like thinking about all of my favorite childhood treats such as malt.  That’s right–I named that childhood staple Horlicks, which I had virtually every morning before heading off to school!  Plus, I can exercise my categorization skills because they get rusty after two weeks of not stepping into the kitchen :P

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After surprisingly long stretches of the clearest blue skies, the weight of the exasperated San Francisco fog begging to be let out paved way to the first rain.  My jeans are reeking of rain, my hair is matted flat, and my fingers are numbed rigid.  I am alone again under the defense of the umbrella, as I feel that shell of myself wash away.

I feel particularly vulnerable to this time of the year, as I huddle sometimes under the umbrella but definitely in the wool coat.  I am leaving, I am leaving. That is all I can think about at any given time.

I have to come love this place, this city in spite of the buses that run over bike racks (and consequently go out of service) and the strange men who holler at me for dates in Mandarin and Japanese.  When I finally got over the confusion over how to keep pace with the moving city traffic and learned to breathe in the polluted air and be, I am leaving all of this crazy city mess behind for something smaller and confined.  How do I say goodbye?

I lie here on this bed, pining for something more of this experience of being in San Francisco.  I think about how much the city has nurtured my sense of self–that curious person that dares to dream of working for the Big Four and chucks in foreign ingredients like muscovado sugar and almond paste (although obviously not at the same time) regularly now in baking.

Of course, since I ponder in food, I return to my first love in San Francisco, Tartine Bakery, in this kind of countdown to leaving the city.  Specifically, the smell of the cinnamon-orange wonderfulness of its morning buns.

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These days, my time feels shorter than normal.  Although I pulse through the school routine just fine, I realize that free time (as I know it) is nearly over.  Busy season is coming soon, and with that, comes my first set of horror stories and late work hours.  Haha, I can be doing the storytelling soon instead of listening to managers and partners shock young interns and first-year associates :)

Thus, I have been keeping myself busy, so I would stop worrying.  I am whittling down my bucket list of things to do.  I am getting out of the house (and books) more often.  Of course, that pulls away from time in the kitchen hence the dearth of posts.

I am here again after realizing how much I missed the serenity of mindfully rummaging through the drawers for measuring spoons; listening to the whirl of the standing mixer cream butter and sugar; and scooping neat balls of cookie dough out on a pan.  I am returning to the kitchen to whittle down the last of my list of things to make, starting with these Christina Tosi cookies.

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