Alternatively titled, Working the Kinks Out Before the Holidays.
I more or less lived in my kitchen during this fall break. When I wasn’t doing homework or keeping ahead on thesis research, I was baking. This will probably be the most time I have for baking until…I’m not sure when. If I’m lucky I’ll eke out two pies the day before Thanksgiving (the kitchen belongs entirely to my dad on Thanksgiving Day). And this year, I don’t get home for Christmas until December 22nd. Three days before Christmas. Last year, I arrived home from Chile on December 12th and started baking probably the next day, affording me 12 whole days to bake. Ideally, I don’t bake on Christmas Eve Day. That means that this year, I get two days to bake, including the day I come home from school. TWO DAYS. This will require advance planning, likely including baking at school once my exams are finished, as well as a limited menu and no new recipes. Just the classics. (My family is probably happy about this. Less time to bake = less cookies to eat, less ingredients to buy, less mess in the kitchen.)
Anyways. Given all of that, I took advantage of plenty of uninterrupted kitchen time.
There were chocolate chocolate chocolate chip muffins, from the Joy the Baker cookbook. Yes, three times the chocolate.
Joy does it again, throwing in buttermilk and extra chocolate and calling them muffins and not cupcakes. I made a second batch today and they turned out just as great the second time around.
Then I gave Joy’s recipe for cream cheese pound cake a shot.
All was going well. The batter was gorgeous. Silky and fluffy and creamy, just like it should be. It went into the pan. I thought, hm, the pan looks a little full. Well, maybe it won’t rise that much.
I was wrong.
One side of the cake- just one side, not both, thank goodness- overflowed and oozed through most of the bake time. So once the rest of the cake was done cooking, we took it out, let it cool, and then I cut out the ugly part and salvaged the rest of it. It really is a delicious cake. It’s tangy and dense and moist (such a horrible word but so right for desserts). It just has a chunk missing.
The sad part is, I had meant to send that cake to friends away at other schools. So I had to figure out something else to do. Snickerdoodles worked out as planned.
Last dessert of the week: oatmeal raisin cookies, because we had leftover raisins from another recipe. I’ve made these before. I’m pretty sure I’ve made them from the same recipe before. And here is what happened.
To be fair, they’re edible. They are chewy and soft. But they were so spread out and some of them were rather dark. I think it was either that the butter was too warm when I incorporated it, or there just wasn’t enough flour. It was probably a mix of both.
So, two fun baking fails this week. Let’s hope that that means smooth sailing for holiday baking.
But I haven’t even gotten to the best part of my baking/cooking this week! Guys! I made empanadas! ¡Empanadas chilenas caseras!
I did the filling according to the cookbook my host parents gave me: chopped top round, browned and cooked with caramelized onions, green chile pepper, and a bunch of spices. Since I couldn’t find merkén, I made a substitute with chili powder (I used guajillo), paprika, cumin, and coriander, with salt and pepper to taste. It got pretty darn close! And of course, each empanada had a whole black olive, half a hardboiled egg, and raisins.
You can take the girl out of Chile, but you can’t take Chile out of the girl. I will absolutely be making these again, hopefully with merkén and with better folding.
So besides all of that, I took some walks.
Tomorrow is the last day of calm before the big push begins. The last eight weeks of this semester, and I think especially the next four weeks until Thanksgiving, are busy with a capital B. There will be papers and RA duty and other deadlines and continued job searching and a million other things that will come up. The first eight weeks of the semester were a gift, considering how manageable and evenly paced it all was. But it’s probably going to be a hurricane, not a tornado. Which means that I can see it coming and get ready before it hits!
So I’ve got a plan. I’m making an awesome playlist, because if there’s going to be a lot to do, I’m going to dance my way through it. I’m going to keep exercising because everything they say about exercise giving you more energy is absolutely true. I feel better and I work better mentally when my body works hard. I’m going to keep journaling and incorporate more prayer time, which is a far more constructive way to clear my mind than say, Facebook. I’m going to schedule the heck out of every day and push to get everything on every to-do list done, whenever possible. There is nothing like going to bed at the end of the day knowing that you are keeping pace and aren’t behind in the morning.
It takes focus. It takes discipline. It takes a recognition of my own mental and physical limits, and also a willingness to push and ask more of myself. More than that, it takes confidence, and the belief that I can do it all, and that I won’t break under pressure.
So let’s get to it then!