Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bake Break Over

Today was the first day back that I was "allowed" to bake. It was also my day off. I wanted to make sure that I didn't do what I'd usually be so inclined to do: set my alarm for exactly 8 hours after I went to bed and start baking as soon as I was up. Aside from waking up before my alarm, I made time for a peaceful morning: a morning filled with a walk, solo breakfast at my favorite place, accompanied by a quiet time and some reading for book club. And you know what? It was lovely. So lovely, in fact, that by the time I finished picking up everything I needed to make cookies, I was still okay with the fact that I hadn't yet baked.

After a bit more time, of course, I got to baking--not because I felt like I needed to make it for someone, not because I needed a distraction, and not because I felt bad about not being productive enough today; I baked because I was in the mood for some cookies with figs (I'm obsessed with figs right now). It was quite the relaxing experience.

I'm sure that in a short time, I will show love to others with baked goods again. And I'm sure there will be days when I run around the kitchen like a crazy person, trying to get baked goods done for 3 different events. But for today, I baked for myself. And rested a lot. I will go ahead and call that progress.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bake Break, Days 9+10: Showing Myself Some Grace

The last two days have been the most difficult of my Bake Break for the following reasons:

1. Yesterday was the first "no baking" day I had off so
 I couldn't even get my baking fix at work.
It is rare (very VERY rare) that I go one day without working with my hands in some way.

2. I've had too much free time
I didn't make any plans after work today. I puttered around the house for a bit before taking a long nap and then watching an entire movie without interruptions (yay!)

3. It has been way too long I haven't baked and the oven is just sitting there, looking at me like a sad puppy that hasn't been walked all week (which reminds me, I should probably walk my dog . . .) Yes, I give feelings to inanimate objects. I often say that my KitchenAid Mixer is tired as I pat it sympathetically.

4.  I am over capacity with having to show up places with out bringing baked goods. 
I keep planning things where I show up to see people, and can't use baked goods as an ice breaker or excuse for showing up somewhere (see days 7+8). I knew this one would be the least comfortable and most challenging.

All of that being said, I am having trouble feeling like I'm doing enough with my free time. I think this is one of those things that feels like an assignment, something at which you aren't necessarily enjoying but you know will be good for you--a discipline, of sorts. And, if you are disciplined long enough, the daily assignment can become your natural posture, and perhaps something that you actually enjoy (I would compare this to training for a run but I really hate running so you guys can just make up your own example).

Most importantly, in the midst of all of this discipline (yes, I realize it sounds completely ridiculous to be disciplined in not baking and instead watching movies or just sitting or something), it is also important to show yourself some grace--grace both in not getting everything on your "to-do" list done, and grace when it is your goal to rest more and you decide to work instead. Now, I realize these examples are applicable specifically to me, but whatever it is that you have trouble letting go of, remember to show yourself some grace. We'll both be better off.

I plan to get back to baking on my day off tomorrow, while also getting some other stuff done and trying to relax. And as much as I have the perfect plan for how to spend my day, I will try to show myself grace as my day is bound not to happen as perfectly as I had planned it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bake Break, Days 7+8: Showing Up Empty-Handed

Days 7 and 8 have included a lot of events . . . events to which I normally would have brought dessert. It's become a habit of mine, you see, to show up to dinners, meetings, etc. baring some sort of baked confection. This little habit of mine is one that I developed when I moved to Utah.

When a new church starts, there are a lot of potlucks and small gatherings. And when you tell people you bake all day long, it is kind of expected that the thing you'll bring is dessert. When the potlucks stopped, the baking increased. As my love and passion for creating recipes grew, so did this idea I'd created that people expected dessert whenever I showed up some place, even if it was just to someone's house for a chat or to have dinner.

This habit of mine developed into an obsession to never show up anywhere that I'd be getting something out of my interaction without holding some sort of baked good. But, as I have learned, people are probably willing to talk through something with you or have you over for dinner simply because they enjoy spending time with you, and not because they expect you to have brought them cookies. I'm not saying that you can't ever bring cookies to your neighbors again, just that there is a balance between serving others and allowing them to serve you . . . a balance I am myself just working out.

Not being able to bake for the past week has not stopped the dinners, parties, and get-togethers. So, in that time, I have had to try to be okay with allowing others to serve me by inviting me into their homes, with out the presence of a cake box in hand. And, even though the Bake Break will be over in a couple of days, I have a feeling that the discipline of showing up empty-handed will be one that extends far further than the confines of these 10 days.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bake Break, Days 5+6 : Rest With Your Mind

It's the end of day 6 and today was the first day I felt an overwhelming need to bake something. I feel like baking almost every day, but after 5 o'clock today I hadn't made any plans. I don't do well when I don't have plans. I am one of the worst people at resting that I know. I stay up later than I should, I can't sit still for long periods of time (I don't remember the last time I watched an entire movie without doing something else), I run errands constantly, and I bake after I get home from work.

In a recent talk with my pastor/friend, after asking if I rested well (to which I laughed), he shared some sage advice: If you work with your hands, you need to rest with your mind, and if you work with your mind, you need to rest with your hands. My daily activities and iron-man-sized hand muscles tell me that I'm the former, meaning that I should be resting with my mind more. This is something I attempt about 10 minutes before bed and maybe for a few hours one night a month. This bake break should be my perfect opportunity to take more time for resting with my mind. But I had plans throughout the first half of the week and when I had free time today . . . I totally blew it by running errands. 

So, over the next four days, I plan to be more disciplined--to make less time for distractions and more time for quiet time, journaling, reading the ginormous stack of books through which I'm about 1/4 of the way through, and watching at least one movie in its entirety without doing anything productive. And at the end of it, I hope to lose the nervous-shaky-restless-thing that my leg does when I'm forced to sit and do nothing. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bake Break, Day 4: Bake Break Break

Today, I took a break from my bake break. Before you all freak out, you should know that this was not a moment of weakness or boredom, but it was something I have had on the schedule for weeks--sticking to commitments is important, people!

There is a big difference to me between baking by myself and baking with a friend. Baking alone can be "me" time, a distraction, an obligation, a form of therapy, a chore, and so many other things. Baking with a friend is all about the relationship--the time that is shared over a bowl of cake batter.

"Food is, of course, a social thing, one of the most positive,
 primal ways of spending time with people . . . " 
-A Homemade Life

On days when I am so tired after working for 10 hours and I think I'll scream if I even have to look at another sugar cookie, I remember a baking date that I have scheduled later in the week with a new friend and I become thankful. I become thankful for a way much more interesting than sitting across from a person holding a coffee mug to get to know someone better. I'm Thankful that I can teach that person a bit more about baking and they can teach me a bit more about themselves.

So, even if I didn't abide by my "no baking" rule today, I got to spend 4 hours making petit fours for the birthday party of a sweet little girl with a friend who is always good to catch up with. And it was totally worth it.

 The next time you bake, consider inviting a friend, because the community aspect of preparing food together is bound to be more rewarding than the delicious treat you made.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bake Break, Days 2+3: Leaving the KitchenAid Behind

Here we are, at the end of the third day of my "bake break" and I'm realizing that the constant presence of my boysenberry KitchenAid mixer makes my task all the more difficult.

Saturday afternoon I went up into the mountains with a big group from church for our third annual camping trip. Being far away from the city and sleeping on the ground doesn't allow for items as excessive as KitchenAid mixers. Thankfully, the expectation of baked goods could be met by the homemade graham crackers my friend, Joy, and I made before I unplugged the KitchenAid. And, unlike my family, who rarely gets to experience the fruits of my labor and insisted upon a real dessert made while camping, I was blown away by the support, and even excitement that met me as I explained to my community that I wouldn't be baking for the next 10 days. But, I knew that the lack of electricity and forced relaxation could only last until Sunday, and so I had to take more extreme measures.

Anyone who has known me for any small piece of time knows that I have a minor obsession with my purple KitchenAid mixer. I went the first 23 years of my life without one and, let me tell you, those were the dark days. Since finally receiving one for my 23rd birthday, the poor thing has not had a break and now looks, um, well-loved. So, as I prepare to housesit for the next 10 days or so, I have also decided to leave my KitchenAid at home. I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but for someone who has such an emotional attachment to an appliance, leaving it behind feels significant. I think the time apart will be good for the both of us (yes, me and the mixer).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bake Break: Day 1

I realize that this is an odd title for a baking blog. A bake break connotes that I will be taking a break from baking (obviously), which is exactly what I'll be doing . . . for the next 10 days. So, if you're only in this for the recipes (which is totally understandable), check back in 10 days. In the meantime, I'll be blogging through the process of not baking for the next week and a half. Let me explain . . .

A few weeks back, I had a realization--the realization that almost my entire identity is wrapped up in baking. I'm constantly referred to as "the girl who bakes" and answer the question of "what do you like to do after work?" (my work being at a bakery) with "bake." I bake constantly. And if I was asked to give it up, my identity as a baker I mean, I honestly don't know if I could. And though I am so thankful for the passion I have for baking, and for the way it has allowed me to connect with and serve others, the passion has turned to obsession and all of my thoughts are wrapped up in baking, and cookbooks, ingredient shopping and blog reading, and such.

So, after consulting with possibly my wisest friend, I have decided to take a 10-day-long break from baking. A time for reflection, rest (ugh), and not allowing myself to be distracted from the things I should be thinking about and doing by baking. And hopefully I will come out on the other side, with my sanity intact and some other ideas about how to fill my free time. In the meantime, I'll be updating the blog every so often in order to keep me accountable to not baking and to log my thoughts throughout the process. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vanilla Coconut Syrup and How to Cold-Brew Iced Coffee

There is something very therapeutic about preparing coffee in the morning. For the most part, I wake up close to right before I absolutely have to be out the door, clinging to the last few minutes of shut eye I can manage before greeting the dark hours of early morning. I do just about everything I can the night before so that I have very little to do in the morning. But there's something about that quiet time when you're up before everyone else, something that makes you want to slow down a bit and take in the quiet. In these moments, between putting on about 2.5 minutes worth of makeup and driving 30 minutes to work, I take the time for coffee. 

Now, in a Salt Lake City summer I think about 2 percent of people can manage drinking something so hot. I had a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago about cold brewing coffee. I hadn't ever thought of trying it, and then my wonderful Bon Appetit Magazine had instructions on how to make it. Now I'm in love and I have a new morning routine of mixing the coffee concentrate with some lovely homemade vanilla coconut syrup and almond milk. It makes for a happy little accompaniment to a morning devotional. 

So, whatever your morning routine looks like, subbing out your usual french press or coffee-maker coffee for this cold-brewed iced coffee will be a great addition :)

Vanilla Coconut Syrup
makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut
1 vanilla bean

In a small saucepan, stir together sugar and water and bring to a boil. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and place in a bowl with the coconut. Pour sugar water over the mixture. Cover and let sit 6-8 hours. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into mixture. Strain. Return to saucepan and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and pour into a jar or container.

Cold-Brew Iced Coffee Concentrate
adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine July 2012
Makes 3 cups concentrate

8 oz ground coffee beans

Place ground coffee in a large jar. Slowly add 4 cup of cold water, making sure all of the grounds are moistened. Cover with a layer of cheesecloth. Let stand at room temperature 15-20 hours.

Remove cheesecloth and use it to line a fine mesh sieve. Hold it over a pitcher and slowly pour coffee concentrate through. Discard cheesecloth with solids and rinse jar.

Line same sieve with a new piece of cheesecloth and set over the clean jar. Strain coffee through sieve into the jar. Cover and chill up to 2 weeks.

To serve, fill a glass with ice, pour in equal parts coffee concentrate and either water or milk (I like a combination of almond milk and water). If desired, serve with a few tablespoons of vanilla coconut syrup.

About Me

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Salt Lake City, Utah
As a pastry chef by trade and by hobby, being diagnosed with Celiac Disease has not been easy. But through some experimental baking and a whole lot of faith, I'm living a full(er) life.