Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

Do you ever find yourself running and spinning with a "to-do" list that is a few feet long and a feeling that you are constantly letting people down? I was just in the place, in the space in my head. It was Sunday morning and I had a million things to do...
plan a menu for the week, make a grocery list, and get to the store first thing in the morning
make a dish to share for at the club meeting later that day
print out sign up sheets and prepare for my part of the meeting
pick up, put away and in general restore order to the house
start planning decorations for the fundraiser
email a million people about a million things that I am suppose to be in charge of
pick up bird seed so the birds will stop sitting on the empty bird feeder while giving me the stink eye
figure out a way to clone myself so that I can do the things I need to do and be home every night at my son's bedtime
and the list stretched on a few more feet before finally petering out

I was swirling and whirling...spinning like a child's toy. And so I baked.

After opening my cookbook and laying it open I went to the fridge and pulled out 4 eggs out and some butter and placed them on the counter. I then went out on to my back deck, turned my face to the sun and breathed. I breathed in and and out....filling my lungs with sunshine drenched air. I stood there, with my face turned up, my arms pulled back and my palms turned out until the ingredients were ready. And then I baked.

I scraped the seeds out of a vanilla bean and used my fingers to mix them into sugar. Pure white sugar becoming dotted with little specks of black sticky seeds. I browned butter, swirling and swirling as it went from solid to foamy until finally it became a golden toasty brown. I wished I could bottle the smell in the kitchen, full of burnt sugar and sticky vanilla, and wear it as a perfume.

Weekend cakes are easy to make. Nothing fussy or complicated should ever be made on a weekend. No mixers to pull out, no food processors to assemble and dissemble. Just a bowl and whisk.

Flour and sugar, and burnt butter and cream, and more all get gently mixed together. Slowly and uncomplicated. Like the sunshine air that filled up my lungs. Like the warmth on my face slowing me down. Like a weekend should be.

Baking can do a lot of things. It bring families together to sit around the table. It can open doors of friendship when "welcome to the 'hood" cookies are exchanged. And if you let it then baking can untwirl your mind and still your soul one cracked egg, one scoop of flour, one dash of salt at a time.

Toasted with butter for breakfast. 
The small print:
Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake, pg 6 of Baking Chez Moi

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Granola Energy Bars

We are lucky enough to have a fantastic person who helps me keep our cottage clean and organized. It is a true luxury and I adore having it. She comes twice a month on in general I do not bake anything on Tuesday (and I only cook dinner out of a sense of duty) because I do not want to get the kitchen dirty. For 24 hours I just want a clean kitchen. However this week when my son asked if we could hang out at home on Tuesday afternoon so he could build Legos I said sure and since my son looks like this for entire time he has a set of Legos in front of him:

I decided to take advantage of the powerful hold Legos has over him and to make granola bars.

Oats, little slivers of almonds, pretty green pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds all get toasted.

Then plump dried cranberries, raisins and snipped pieces of apricots get added to the mix.

Brown rice syrup and butter that have been melted together are used to bind the other yumminess together. A sprinkle of salt, a splash of vanilla and then into a pan it all goes so it can bake.

When the bars come out I smash them down into the pan like I mean business. It is a take no prisoner smash-fest.

Then onto the counter to cool. While cooling I break off a tiny piece of the corner in order to taste it. And then another corner. Soon I am back for the third corner. And then I am left with cornerless granola bars cooling on my counter until they are ready to be cut in to.

I have used brown rice syrup in the past to make marshmellow style rice krispie treats (minus the actual marshmallow) so the granola bars remind me marshmellows...but that is not necessarily bad.