Thursday, March 6, 2014
I don't know what sort of assumptions you harbor about food bloggers. Hopefully good ones. Curiously finding myself in the "food blogger" category, I was thinking about assumptions today.
According to my own standards, I should probably be...
- Shopping at specialty grocers for uniquely delicious fair-trade happy items
- Always eating something delectable, in-season, and beautifully plated
- Using a carefully selected collection of linens, bowls, and knickknacks for staging
- A CSS wizard, and
- The owner of a huge cookbook library
Realizing that I do none of these things is a little sad. (Cue impostor syndrome...)
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Rise and shine? Yeah, right.
Around here, "creep and grumble" is more realistic.
Anyone who greets the morning with open arms, brimming with energy and cheerfully anticipating another beautiful day is a little crazy, in my book. Sleep is the best, and anything that forces you out of it is the worst. Thus, chirpiness before 10am will only get you skeptical, groggy stares and inarticulate mumbling in this house.
Caffeine, please. We are not real yet.
And please, do not tell me that if I only ate better or exercised more or got into yoga...that I'd somehow see the light and start running 10ks before sunrise and eating hearty, protein-intensive breakfasts. Ain't gonna happen. Two in the morning is always going to feel like a more appropriate time to go jogging or eat eggs.
What I'm getting at is that breakfast and I don't really jive.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Every so often it occurs to me that cooking isn't exactly intuitive to a lot of people. Especially baking. There are moments where I need to step back and imagine that "other" for whom sugar and eggs and leavenings aren't second nature.
Take brownies, for example. I have been making brownies from scratch (is there any other way?) since the second grade. Our recipe of choice came from the Klutz Kids Cooking book ("A Very Slightly Messy Manual"). They were cakey and dusted with powdered sugar, and my sister and I got to lick the bowl while they baked. Heaven.
Over time, these brownies became my calling card, and I started selling them at bake sales, lemonade stands, yard sales, swim meets, you name it. My first economics lesson was in brownies: A double recipe cost us $13 to make; we could then cut the resulting 10" x 15" pan into 35 brownies and sell them for $0.50 apiece. It was made clear to me early on that no one gets rich through baking.
So forgive me for not posting my brownie recipe sooner. I've been running on the assumption that everyone already has a flour-dusted, chocolate-smeared recipe on hand, but that may not be the case.
Now admittedly, I had to switch brownie recipes when I went gluten-free. My original recipe used cocoa instead of melted chocolate, which didn't pair well with the dryness we gluten-free bakers are always trying to overcome. The old recipe also made a 9" x 13" pan, which is not ideal if you'll probably eat the whole pan yourself. (Let the record state that it usually takes me three or four days.)
Fortunately, finding a new recipe wasn't too hard, even in the very early days of my gluten-free endeavors. Gluten-free brownies rely on an equilibrium of eggs, sugar, and fat for their structure, with only a tiny bit of flour, and therefore don't need gums to bind. I knew that buckwheat flour was divine paired with chocolate, especially a fruity, high-quality 70% dark chocolate, and opted for that over rice flour.
Within two attempts, I'd cracked the code. These are a bit fudgier than the brownies of my youth, but I prefer smaller, richer brownies these days anyways. The internet is full of similar recipes, but I keep coming back to this one. If you haven't found "your" brownie recipe yet, this is it.
Usually I'm all for substituting to your heart's content, but seriously, don't mess with this recipe. I've saved you the trouble; it doesn't work. You have to use real eggs, real butter, good chocolate, and white sugar.
Egg replacer will yield a gluey mess that never sets. Coconut oil makes them greasy and flavorless. I've never even bothered trying to use stevia or date paste in place of sugar--these are brownies, after all, not health food.
4 oz. (1/2 c.) butter
4 oz. 70% dark chocolate
6 oz. (3/4 c.) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1.5 oz. (1/3 c.) tapioca starch
2 oz. (1/3 c.) buckwheat flour
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line an 8" x 8" tin with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Melt butter and chocolate over low heat on the stove, or in the microwave on 50% power, stirring frequently. (I prefer the latter option.) Once it's melted, set aside for a minute while you put the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour in the chocolate mixture and stir until combined.
3. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top with a spatula, and bake 25 minutes until they feel firm in the center. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack before cutting.
Yield: 16 brownies.
Monday, February 3, 2014
In cooking and in life, things don't always work out. Certainly not as often as you'd like.
I've been thinking a lot this week about failure. When it happens, should we bloggers talk about it?
The temptation is strong to post only "blog-worthy" things. You have to present beautiful food, artfully staged and stunningly photographed on your best dishes. The recipe has to work for every person who tries it, no matter what substitutions they make. There's no room for things that aren't The Best Ever. (Also, it's not just your food that needs to be flawless. Start Photoshopping your profile picture now.)
Blogging culture aims to create a picturesque escape where there are no chipped dishes or dirty countertops. Writers showcase their wit, brilliance, and no-fail recipes in hopes of making it big. Our sights are set on pageviews, followers, sponsors, and cookbook deals. Outright failure, or even mediocrity, isn't going to drive traffic or increase your credibility. Readers flee imperfection.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Last night my sweet tooth struck hard, leaving no option but emergency baking. I know, I know. It's resolution season and sugar is apparently the new tobacco. Someday I'll quit, I promise. Maybe when life is less stressful. Or if we have kids.
But seriously, does anyone else hit 9pm and realize that if they don't eat a cookie, they'll go insane?
Like cravings for a cigarette, I'd imagine, my needs-sugar-now panic had a trigger: the sight of a coconut layer cake.