The power of action

February 22, 2012 at 10:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The other day I went to a yoga workshop with the great yogi Patrick Creelman.

As I was sitting in the class, something he said really recenated with me. He talked about how we back off from things we don’t like or can’t do. It is such an obvious statement that often gets forgotten when on your on or off the mat.

And it is that statement that seems to be one of the threads that is conitinuosly stitched in the patchwork of my life.

On the mat, I have a fairly solid practice. Some days are more tiring than others but when my feet touch the mat I am present–except when it comes to headstand (shirshasana).

I don’t like trying headstand in the middle of the room (I like it against the security of the wall) because a kind of unknowingness creeps up. The big question: what if I fall?

But, it’s ok to fall. I know how to roll out of a headstand if need be. That doesn’t matter though. I back away and don’t try.

Off the mat, any type of difficulty I face makes me yield and turn away from it. Growing up, things generally came easy to me and if they didn’t, I wouldn’t do it and I would simply convince myself I wasn’t good at it. Maybe though, if I put in some effort I would have been good at it. I’ll never know. What I do know, however, is that I’m not going to turn away from difficulty anymore.

If I have trouble with something then I will trudge through it regardless of how long it takes me. If I fail I’ll try again. Failure won’t be something to be afraid of it will be something to be embraced and tackled.

The goals I set will be accomplished. The challenges I have will be mere speed bumps and I will do shirshasana without needing the wall.

I will.

Now, scones can sometimes be difficult. They can turn out hard and dry but this recipe is a great one if you’re tentative to try making them.

America’s Test Kitchen is great for beginner bakers because, although time consuming, it usually yields scrumptious food

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America’s Test Kitchen Scones

Ingredients:

  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), frozen whole
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (about 7 1/2 ounces), picked over (see note)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces), plus additional for work surface
  • 1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces), plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Method:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Score and remove half of wrapper from each stick of frozen butter. Grate unwrapped ends on large holes of box grater (you should grate total of 8 tablespoons). Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tablespoons of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. Save remaining 6 tablespoons butter for another
use. Place blueberries in freezer until needed.

Whisk together milk and greek yogurt in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to flour
mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.

Add milk mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using
bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted
with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.
Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough.

Using a bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before
serving.

TECHNIQUE
GRATING BUTTER
Use the wrapper to hold the frozen butter while grating it on the
large holes of a box grater. Grate 4 tablespoons from each stick of
butter.

TECHNIQUE
FOLDING AND SHAPING THE SCONES
1. Fold dough into thirds (like a business letter).

2. Fold in ends of dough to form 4-inch square. Chill dough.

3. Reroll dough into 12-inch square. Press berries into dough.

4. Roll dough into jellyroll-like log to incorporate blueberries.

5. Lay log seam-side down and press into even 12 by 4-inch rectangle.

6. Cut dough into 8 triangular pieces.

Busy Me

November 7, 2010 at 9:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I bake a lot. I clean a lot. I generally do a lot–at least that is what most people tell me. I often hear “How are you able to do all this stuff?” Honestly, I just don’t like doing nothing (paradoxical I know) or what my husband likes to refer to as relaxing.

As far as I can remember, I have always been keen on doing something as opposed to just sitting around. When I was in secondary school I would finish assignments 2 weeks in advance. At university I felt like I wasn’t busy enough so I took a full load of summer courses and once, during the normal school year, I took 14 courses.

When I became a stay-at-home mom I had a huge void of activity in my life. During nap times and bed times I was at a loss. My husband would constantly tell me that I should just go to bed to get some rest. The problem with that, however, is if I go to bed early I will generally wake up 5 to 6 hours later. I, unlike my husband, do not like my sleep.

So when my husband and children are sleeping and the house is clean and the laundry is folded there is only one more option: baking! Generally, I have no one to bake for but this Sunday I was invited to a baby shower. The items I decided to bring were macarons filled with chocolate cream cheese frosting, buckeyes and a cake.

America’s Test Kitchen is turning out to be my favourite source of recipes. Every recipe I have made from there has proven to be a winner and their yellow cake recipe is no exception. I loved that it didn’t dome in the centre so that it provided a nice even cake and the crumb was nice and tender. I iced the cake with one of my favourite frosting recipes from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. I filled the middle with chopped up mini hershey cookies and cream and milk chocolate bars (what can I say, I had a bunch of left over hallowe’en candy).

Rich and Tender Yellow Cake
from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs , room temperature
  • 1/2cup whole milk , room temperature
  • 2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2cups granulated sugar
  • 2teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • each stick cut into 8 pieces

Method

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350
degrees. Generously grease two 9-by-1 1/2-inch cake pans with
vegetable shortening and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment
paper or wax paper. Grease parchment rounds, dust cake pans with
flour, and tap out excess.

Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla with fork in small bowl; measure out 1
cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking
powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle
attachment; mix on lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds. With mixer
still running at lowest speed, add butter one piece at a time; mix
until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and
pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all
butter is added. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at lowest
speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase speed to
medium-high (setting 6 on KitchenAid) and beat until light and fluffy,
about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in slow
steady stream, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape
sides and bottom of bowl. Beat on medium-high until thoroughly
combined and batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds longer.
(To mix using hand mixer, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt
in large bowl. Add butter pieces and cut into the flour mixture with a
pastry blender. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture; beat with hand
mixer at lowest speed until incorporated, 20 to 30 seconds. Increase
speed to high, add remaining egg mixture, and beat until light and
fluffy, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and
bottom of bowl. Beat at high speed 15 seconds longer.)

Divide batter equally between prepared cake pans; spread to sides
of pan and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake until cake tops are light
golden and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25
minutes. (Cakes may mound slightly but will level when cooled.) Cool
on rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around pan perimeter to loosen. Invert
cake onto large plate, peel off parchment, and re-invert onto lightly
greased rack. Cool completely before icing.

Boiled Frosting
adapted from Baked

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1 1/2 cups butter, softer but cool. cut into small pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method
In a medium heavy bottom saucepan whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the cream and milk to the sugar-flour mixture and cook over medium heat. Whisk often and cook until mixture comes to a boil and thickens (approx. 20 minutes).

Pour mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer that is fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce speed to low and add butter. Mix until butter is thoroughly incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy and add vanilla extract.

If frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl to the fridge and chill slightly, then beat again until the proper consistency. If it’s too firm, place bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it’s the proper consistency.

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Pink Cake with chocolate writing

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Green Macarons

Blueberry Muffins

October 6, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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As a young mom I often feel intimidated around older moms. I don’t know if all young mothers feel like this but I do. Now after having two children, I am starting to gain confidence. However, that confidence suddenly becomes fleeting and I am broken down within two minutes over certain instances.

The times when I can’t control my children and they run around or the moments where I have older women telling me how I should dress or parent my children is when the belief in myself as a mother crumbles into a pile of self-doubt.

When my oldest daughter was born I was constantly busy trying to balance the life of a university student with motherhood. Some days I would go out of the house with my daughter dressed in a sleeper onsie, which for those who don’t know is basically a one-piece pajama with long arms and legs.

At the mommy groups, older mothers would constantly comment on the dreaded sleeper. “Oh, your daughter is so adorable but she’s wearing a sleeper?” “Is that a sleeper your daughter is wearing?” were questions I often heard.

Time passed and I, of course, became more resilient. However, sometimes the comments from complete strangers still sting. I don’t know if I am a good mother, but I do know that I am constantly striving to be one. I love my kids and my biggest fear is failing them. So, I try to spend as much time with them by interaction.

One activity my eldest daughter likes to do is help me bake. I usually give her a bowl of flour and water and let her “bake” daddy something. Because I love my daughter and feel an utter amount of regret for leaving the house with her while she was wearing sleepers I decided she could bake today.

Here is a recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins. It is an America’s Test Kitchen recipe and I really liked the way they made the blueberry flavour intense. I might not be the best mom but I know a darn good recipe for blueberry muffins so I guess that is a step in the right direction.

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Best Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

From Season 10: Best Weekend Breakfast

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (about 10 ounces) (I used frozen wild blueberries as blueberries aren’t in season)
  • 1 1/8cups sugar (8 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 1/2cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 1/2teaspoons baking powder
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 2large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/4cup vegetable oil (I used Almond oil)
  • 1cup buttermilk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 1/2teaspoons vanilla extract

Method
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.

Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 11/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil
until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)

Following photos below, use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time.

Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

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