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So I graduated from my university this past Sunday.
I spent a large part of my time at college thinking that “it wasn’t for me.” It’s been a little strange to kind of have this growing realization that I’ll never again be in a community that has so much support, warmth, encouragement, and opportunities as the one I’ve just left. I know it all had to come to an end, but it’s hard to get a grasp on the fine line where one part of my life ends and another begins.
And I don’t think that difficulty comes so much from not having my whole life (or even the “next step”) figured out, but rather from having a feeling of wanting to belong somewhere, or to something or someone, but being too scared to figure out which where or thing or one to choose.
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My school produces a literary journal every year, and there’s a student-written poem from last year’s edition that has been going around in my head the last couple months. This is going to be pretty damn awkward if that student ever sees this post, but I figure I should give credit where credit is due, so here goes: her name is Astra Lincoln, and she’s a very, very good writer. This is an excerpt from her poem “Peter Pan Syndrome.”
“& you were nine when the last of your baby-teeth fell out, and
this frightened you. you found a piece of loose thread hanging off
your baby blanket, and ripped it off. this was then tied around the
third tooth on the left, which proceeded to be pulled out and hid
beneath your pillow with a letter: ‘dear tooth fairey. i am scared
and i will miss your visits. i can not be without you. i heard you
won’t pick up teeth that were pulled, and did not fall on their own.
i hope that every night you come and see this tooth. i hope you
do not take it, but leave it here and check every night to see if it
is a keeper. it does not want to be kept, but it does not want to be
Lest you think the lack of posts around here is representative of the amount of baking/eating I’ve been doing in “real life,” I thought I’d stop in and interrupt my futile attempt at working on my finals to give you a quick update about the holiday season so far. When it comes to baking lately, instead of venturing into the always-uncertain unknown, I’ve kind of been relying on tried-and-true treats that I’ve already made and/or posted about on here. For that I apologize, but only slightly. Because when I have a meeting with a professor and I want to make him like me, and thus need to bribe him with holiday sweets, I have no time to fumble around with a cookie recipe that I’ve never made before. (And yes, these are the kind of elementary things I preoccupy my time with. Maybe if I spent as much time worrying about how to impress my professors through the treats I’ll make for them as I do actually putting time into the essays they assign to me, they’d actually really like me.)
But, I digress. So, cookies. These are the ones I’ve made in the past couple weeks. In my opinion, these all qualify as holiday cookies—because really, what cookie isn’t appropriate this time of year?
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. Need I say anything about these? They may be my favorite (holiday) cookie. All I can say is that while they are indeed edible straight from the oven in their gooey-chocolaty-wonderful state, they are perhaps ten times better once they’re fully cooled. They turn into my favorite type of cookie: soft, chewy cookies with little pockets of chocolate.
Snickerdoodles. This is an awesome recipe, so it makes sense that it comes from Smitten Kitchen. (By the way, did you guys see her on the cover of the online edition of the New York Times the other day? Wow!) Similar to the chocolate crinkle cookies, these are soft, chewy and irresistible. However, they are also similar in that they are their very best once you’ve allowed them to fully cool to room temperature. It’s a sad life, I know, but some things are just better after waiting.
Homemade Thin Mints. These are the specific cookies I made to impress one of my professors. They are definite winners, the kind of thing you certainly can impress people with. Of course, as is always in this sad life, when I went to campus to go meet that certain professor, I forgot them. This happened much to my own dismay, yet much to the happiness of my friends who I had to pawn them off to. Speaking of which, these are the type of cookie you most definitely have to share. They are like the “real” thin mints, only about ten times better in that they are intense, with real, strong flavors.
Oh—and if you do happen to give those thin mints a try, I’d recommend letting them set on wax paper rather than a wire rack. As you can tell obviously from the photo above, I chose the latter option this last time I made them. And while it was kinda fun pricking off the chocolate-mint icicles and eating them, it was mostly scary trying to clean it all up. So yes, wax paper.
And that is what I’ve been up to. What have you already made this season? What are you planning to still make? There is still so much more I want to bake before Christmas comes, including Kim Boyce’s gingersnaps, Talley’s snowball cookies, this stout gingerbread, peppermint cookie bark (yes, it is awesome, and I hope I get the chance to make and share it with you this season), classic cut-out & decorated sugar cookies, and some classic French macarons. And friends, that is only the sweet stuff! It’ll be interesting to see what I actually get the time to make. As of now, all I’m wishing for is that these finals be done already so I can hurry home and get into the (real, aka parent’s) kitchen.
Happy Holidays, and I hope to be back here soon with something delicious. xx bisous!
PS! I took this photo of myself a couple days ago on an unusually sunny day, when sun was peeping through in strange spots in my bedroom. I like it, though I understand if you think it is weird/hippie/typical-college-student-stuff, etc.
I haven’t posted something around here in awhile, and I wish I could blame it on being busy. Even though some of my time has been taken up by this little summer job at a small cafe-restaurant in town, the truth of the matter is that I just haven’t felt too much in what we’ll call a “cook-y” mood.
I thought I would come home for the summer and really get into the blog, where I would work up a storm making and photographing things all the time and then posting about them. I have been cooking somewhat, making these soft pretzels with some braised red cabbage, or a big batch of vegetable curry over rice with a mint-cilantro chutney to top it all. But more often than not I haven’t been motivated enough to try anything new and exciting around here, let alone get myself into the kitchen to actually make something (instead of just assembling sandwiches for lunch or eating a salad for dinner, for example).
On top of that, a short little trip through Washington’s Northern Cascades with my mom the past couple of days and a seemingly constant stream of eating out has resulted in a kind of fooded-out feeling. Do you ever get that? The feeling that there is too much food, too much of the time, up to the point where the only thing I’m craving is to actually feel hungry for a meal for once. By the time the sun actually arrives here in the Northwest next week, I’d like to get back to that lovely rhythm of eating food familiar to the summer—light, fresh, that whole deal.
And while I think my interest in cooking and baking new things (and then actually photographing and blogging about them) will come back soon once I settle out of this feeling, I still have no recipe or any real food to share with you today. I did however attempt to take a few pictures on my trip with my mom, and so I think I’ll share those instead. We drove through the Northern Cascades, stayed a night in Sun Mountain near Winthrop, then circled down to spend a second night in Leavenworth, a small tourist-driven town modeled after Germany.
The trip reminded me that although I pretty much despise the weather here (it’s overcast outside right now, with sprinklings of rain and a temperature of about 60 degrees), Washington will always have my heart when it comes to snow-peaked mountains, big and crystal-clear, turquoise lakes that are attached to giant dams, and big hills covered with too many evergreens for the eye to see. It’s a beautiful place.
(The drive through the North Cascades was beautiful. My mom was disappointed that the sky was overcast and rainy so she couldn’t see the sights of the winding mountains clearly. I liked the clouds though; the way they wrap around the mountain peaks and sides looks so mysterious, as if they mountains hold secrets that we can’t reach.)
(Despite the fact that I had never ridden a horse in my life up until the slow hour-long ride at Sun Mountain, I have recently decided that my missed life opportunity is not ballet as I previously thought, but is horseback riding. I’m a little into Native Americans, the Wild West, and the whole idea of having a ranch with horses and chickens and cattle at the moment. Just so you know.)
(Our view from breakfast at Sun Mountain.)
(A cheesy sign in Leavenworth. Fitting for a very cheesy town. You still have to love it, though—it’s just one of those things.)
I’m in the process of finding that brownie recipe—you know, the one that is perfect in every way. I know everybody has different preferences, so I realize that this certain brownie I’m searching for might not be the one for you. But still, I was kind of hoping that maybe some of you might have brownie preferences that overlap with mine. Because the thing is, I still haven’t found (what I consider to be) the best brownie recipe.
I tried this recipe a couple months ago because it not only because it comes from Cook’s Illustrated via Smitten Kitchen, two sources I always trust and turn to, but also frankly because it had the word “classic” in its name. But in the end the brownies didn’t feel chocolaty enough while being overly sweet, and they felt too soft and cake-like.
About a week ago I tried out the brownie recipe you see in the photos here. Not willing to give up my faith in Cook’s Illustrated, I picked out another one of their recipes that promised to specifically deliver on the chocolate and chewy factors. These ended up being really chocolaty, due to the big chunks of chopped bittersweet chocolate added to the brownie batter before baking, which I liked. But even with that richness, they just seemed a little bit oily and they still didn’t seem to entirely deliver on the promise of chewiness.
I think as it stands at the moment, my favorite brownie recipe are these cheesecake-swirled brownies. Obviously the cheesecake part is pretty awesome, but I happen to think that the brownie part of that recipe is my favorite type of brownie I’ve tried. (Especially when chilled—does anyone else like their brownies cold?) Maybe I’ll try working with that recipe, without the cheesecake part, to see if I can get closer to the type of brownie I want. I’ve also been eyeing David Lebovitz’s brownies (both Robert’s Absolute Best version and the dulce de leche version) and Alice Medrich’s recipes (classic and all-cocoa versions).
But! I was hoping this is where you could come in. Before I go testing more recipes, I was wondering of you could give me guidance. Do you have a favorite brownie recipe that you’re satisfied with, and if you do, what is it? As I mentioned at the start, I realize everyone has a different “favorite.” But I figured some of you might happen to like a chocolate-packed, fudgy and not cakey, chewy brownie, just like I do. Even if that type of brownie isn’t your favorite, please let me know what is! After all, maybe the still-non-existent brownie that I’m searching for is different than what I’ve been convincing myself it is.
In case you do like the looks of these brownies here, and you’re into chewy brownies that still have a soft-texture even with the bite, try them out for yourself. In the meantime, I’ll still be on the search.