Baking School

Baking School

C3 and I took four days of baking classes at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont.  The class focused on pastries including principles and tons of practice with hands-on preparation of 10 different desserts including blintz pastry dough, tender white cake with swiss meringue buttercream, almond dacquoise, pate a choux, pastry cream, turnovers, blueberry and peach pie, Florentine bars, lemon bundt cake, linzer torte, and chocolate ganache.

In addition to us attending from the Lone Star State, we were joined by fourteen other bakers from Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, and Illinois. Each day our two instructors, most of them trained in a culinary institute with years of experience at King Arthur, guided us through a demonstration of preparing the dessert, followed by each of us trying to replicate it with their assistance and technical expertise.

We learned several baker’s secrets.  One of our teachers was originally from Newton, Kansas, my dad’s home town, and she learned to bake the Mennonite way before training in the kitchens of King Arthur.   Always a small world when we travel.

The facility at King Arthur is top-notch and each of us had a metal table space equipped with scale, Kitchen Aid mixer, bowls, scraper, bench knife, spoons, and more.  We were trained the first day to measure in grams instead of ounces or cups using a scale and a beaker for accuracy and the best results.  One of the assistants kept our dishes and pans clean for us which was such a treat not to have to do dishes while we were baking.  Not a reality when we came back home!

The amount of butter used in these recipes is arresting but with advice from the instructors we learned ways to modify the recipes to accommodate dietary restrictions like those who may be lactose intolerant or just wanting to reduce the calorie content. It was challenging to figure out how to modify the recipe, substitute alternative ingredients and still make a proper dessert.

Between baking classes, C3 and I explored southern Vermont hiking trails, the quaint little villages, we were especially fond of Woodstock, dined at a great restaurant in Rutland called Roots, please try their appetizer called Vt Cider Braised Pork Belly with grilled watermelon, jalepeno-honey vinaigrette and pickles. We soothed in the cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels. We drove by dairy farms, corn fields, mountain streams, well-tended gardens, berry crops, wild flowers and so many beautiful perennials just blooming for us to admire. Writers and story tellers like Howard Frank Mosher refer to Vermont as God’s Kingdom.  C3 and I learned why.

Get a little closer to nature and try your hand at baking.  Here is one of the recipes I especially enjoyed and want to share with you.

Florentine Bars

Ingredients

  • 113 grams of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 57 grams sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (cold or room temperature)

Topping

  • 43 grams honey
  • 43 grams unsalted butter
  • 128 grams sugar
  • 113 grams heavy cream (cold or room temperature)
  • 113 grams sliced almonds
  • 57 grams dried cranberries
  • 7 grams all purpose flour

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9×13 inch pan with pan spray.
  • In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter, sugar and salt until it looks like sand.
  • Add the egg and vanilla (it will look a little gloppy)
  • Add the flour and stir until combined (turn up your mixer to 5 speed)
  • Press mixture into the prepared pan.
  • Prick bottom with a fork – the steam will escape from the butter.
  • Chill 30 minutes before baking.  Don’t skip this step!
  • Bake for 10 minutes until just set but not taking color.
  • Remove from oven, set aside, and reduce oven to 325.

For the topping

  1. In a sauce pan, boil the honey, butter, sugar and cream over medium heat until lightly golden brown, about 240 degrees. Use a candy thermometer for best results.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in almonds, cranberries and flour (mix together before adding to sugar mixture)
  3. Spread the cooked mixture on top of the par-baked crust
  4. Bake until the almonds are well browned and the topping is bubbling (about 12 minutes).

Allow to cool, invert the pan releasing the bars and cut into diamond pattern.  So pretty and yummy good.

 

 

 

 

Urban Walks in NYC

Urban Walks in NYC

When RM and I visit a city, we like to walk the streets, feel the pavement under our feet, and begin to understand what makes this unique urban space tick.  When we walk, there is time to appreciate the architecture, to observe the river, to revel in the nooks and crannies and hidden sight lines. A peek-a-boo into the city soul.

hello chelsea
Our tour guide, C1

The traffic stops and starts, sidewalk cafes beckon us over as we look for the past in the shuttered windows and trellised ledges.  The smell of spices and exhaust fumes mix along with the potent piles of rubbish oozing the remains of the day. We wince and turn away but continue our journey across Midtown streets in the light rain.  51st to 49th to catch a risqué Broadway musical or down to lower Manhattan to pose with the Fearless Girl facing down the Wall Street Bull, stepping carefully around and over obstacles, avoiding the flagpole banner-bearing pied pipers.

trash
City trash, everywhere

A good wander unveils many truths and unexpected gems of discovery some painful to observe like the crack zombies stumbling beside us on our way to Red Rooster brunch or the morning after remnants from a night too hard on Times Square. Getting lost is part and parcel to the urban walking experience.  Getting found again with someone you love is like renewing your vows all over again.

Nowhere is walking more surreally varied and trance-inducing than in New York City. We boomerang from Harlem to Greenpoint to Lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side and back down again to the Brooklyn Bridge. We cross the East River by ferry to Smorgasburg, an open-air food mecca held every Saturday in an empty lot on the Williamsburg waterfront.  It is like a summer rock festival for foodies both alluring and sweaty.  We balance small plates on a rock ledge abandoned from a Domino sugar refinery while sipping fresh coconut water directly out of it’s cracked, greenish hull.  The whole place smells like Marrakesh, I imagine. We trek on through the heat to the cool insides of the Artists and Fleas to find a treasure or two.

bridge
RM & I on the Brooklyn Bridge

We shuffle slowly through the Guggenheim, spiraling down beside masterpieces by Klee and Pollack inspired to try a sketch or two.  We look up at the Freedom Tower and down into the reflecting pools and worry when will it happen again, and where, and how many. We rest in Central Park until the algal bloom drives us up and out for gasps of fresher air and back to our pod for the night.

Reinvigorated in the morning after a good night’s sleep, clean socks, and a NY bagel, we complete one of the most popular walks in NYC.  We cross over the Brooklyn Bridge on foot, feed our pizza pie-hole at the popular Juliana’s, located next to the more famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, and then journey back over in the moonlight with a throng of tourists snapping selfies from every angle while strolling the crowded boardwalk straddling this proud American architectural feat. Back to the pod by Metro this time, too tired for another trek uptown by foot.

C1 joins us on our walking itinerary as she is living in the Big Apple this summer and is excited to see all that NYC offers in two short months.  We took the Metro when prudent but enjoyed strolls along High Line Park one late afternoon before the summer heat wave necessitated a call for Uber. Too hot to walk even to the nearest Metro station.

Whether seeing the city on foot, by subway, taxi or ferry, the important part is to experience travel with the ones you love, even if it is only you. So, find yourself a path to follow and learn to walk again. You’ve waited too long. Happy Independence Day, sweet travelers.

red rooster
My niece joins us for bruch at the Red Rooster
Curiosity

Curiosity

scan0003

When it comes to women in science and engineering, there is a shortage.  Little girls are just as curious about the world around them as little boys, but somewhere between examining snails on the sidewalk and taking AP Calculus, they don’t seem to show up in representative numbers.  Educators and researchers continue to try to pinpoint the source.

Many of you may have already seen the video link below that went viral several years ago. In the ad, three girls are bored watching princesses in pink on TV. So they grab a tool kit, goggles and hard hats and set to work building a machine that sends pink teacups and baby dolls flying through the house, using umbrellas, ladders and, of course, GoldieBlox toys.  I often tell my engineer husband that more young women would go into engineering if the hard hats were another color than white and that everyone didn’t have to drive a truck  and more importantly that their teachers were challenging them with engineering problems that appeal more to their interests.

Preparation for engineering professions is more than the single message many girls hear – take more math and science classes.Women want to be creative and collaborative. They want to design systems that make people healthier and safer and preserve the environment and make the world a better place. What they don’t hear is that scientists and engineers do all of these things. Engineers design everything – absolutely everything – in our built environment. Engineers are much more than a single story.  So encourage a girl to be curious today and every day.  Boys too.

Less Doll, More Awl

What would Mom say?

What would Mom say?

scan0001

Mom worked full-time while raising four children and she wanted it to be easier for me than it was for her. When I was in high school, she bought me a t-shirt that said, “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate” and I recall both positive and negative remarks from teachers and classmates when I proudly wore it to school. Mom was a proud feminist, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and referred to herself as a member of the “women’s libber movement“.

I remember conversations with my Mom about discriminatory work practices that were so common in her generation and still in mine.  I was sexually harassed when I was younger.  I was french kissed by one boss while still in high school and in another, whistled at and catcalled every time I walked out on a factory floor. Female co-workers would warn me about certain male bosses not to accept lunch invitations from.  When I had a joint banking account with my husband at a local credit union in the 80’s, I wasn’t allowed to conduct certain financial transactions because he was listed as the “primary” on the account.

Mom shared a ridiculous story about when she smoked in her early twenties, which was in the 1950’s, that she had to do so in the basement of her own home because good wives of teachers didn’t smoke in public or were even seen smoking through their own home windows.

Mom was my role model.  She showed me how to  juggle career and family on a daily basis, how to get organized, how to manage my time, how to carve out small moments for self-care, how to stand up for myself and how to ask for help and get it. She helped many women and children in her career in social services trying to reduce barriers, provide support, and improve the human condition.

I know Mom would be surprised by today’s attacks on human rights and would support a renewed wave of support for all to include policies to:

  • pay the same as men do for the same job
  • recognize and value doing so much of the hard work required or expected of raising children
  • become much better at supporting working women, and mothers
  • support choices
  • control our own destiny in this world, without regard to our gender, race and physical appearance

Mom died a long time ago when I was in my 30’s. What would Mom say if she was alive today?

I know she would be shocked at current events especially the hate talk, backtracking on human rights and loss of decorum in our government leaders.  She would say – you can do and be better.

Woman in White

Woman in White

colliins

Reading again, Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins.  After reading recently that books saved President Obama’s soul while serving us as President, I reflect on books that I treasure. Woman in White is one you won’t be able to put down.

This book was written in 1859, a long time ago but don’t let that put you off, and is considered by many as the first detective or mystery novel.  It was released in serial format at the time.  Remember how The Green Mile was released in 1996 by Stephen King?  Readers couldn’t wait for each installment to come out and the waiting just built on the suspense of the classic mystery.  Woman in White explores the unfair legal rights for married women to own property.  Sensational topic in its own right for the times, I am sure.

A close friend of Charles Dickens, William “Wilkie” Collins was one of the best known, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. He was born in London in 1824.  Collins studied law but never practiced and you can see his legal training influencing his writing. He wrote four major novels, The Woman in White (1860), No Name (1862), Armadale (1866) and The Moonstone (1868). With character names like Sir Percival Glyde, Count Fosco and Beautiful Laura, what’s not to like.  And the writing is fine too.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do reading it (again).  Happy reading and to saving souls with good books…

1987

1987

In honor of Throwback Thursday I write this blog post.

I am on a planning committee for a party to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Women’s Policy Forum of Tarrant County.   We decided on a throw-back theme to the founding year, 1987. The party is open to the public on March 2nd at the Fort Worth Public Library as we wpfcelebrate Women’s History Month. Attendees are encouraged to wear 1980’s attire — you know, the big hair, puffy shoulder pads, and bangles in honor of the Bangles.  Here is the link to the schedule of events for the month:  Women’s History Month Schedule of Events

 

On the planning committee, I volunteered to prepare a song playlist for the party so over the holiday break I have been compiling a list.   This also happens to be the year that C1 was born.  Wow — 30 years ago in 2017.  Debbie Gibson made the list (double wow).  Love me some Heart and Bruce Hornsby. 

Here are the top hits with the Bangles Walk Like an Egyptian as No. #1!

Position  ▾ Artist Song Title
credit:  bobborst.com
1 Bangles Walk Like An Egyptian
2 Heart Alone
3 Gregory Abbott Shake You Down
4 Whitney Houston I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)
5 Starship Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
6 Robbie Nevil C’est La Vie
7 Whitesnake Here I Go Again
8 Bruce Hornsby and The Range The Way It Is
9 Bob Seger Shakedown
10 Bon Jovi Livin’ On A Prayer
11 Los Lobos La Bamba
12 Wang Chung Everybody Have Fun Tonight
13 Crowded House Don’t Dream It’s Over
14 Atlantic Starr Always
15 U2 With Or Without You
16 Jody Watley Looking For A New Love
17 Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam Head To Toe
18 Tiffany I Think We’re Alone Now
19 Billy Idol Mony Mony
20 Billy Vera and The Beaters At This Moment
21 Chris De Burgh The Lady In Red
22 Whitney Houston Didn’t We Almost Have It All
23 U2 I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
24 George Michael I Want Your Sex
25 Duran Duran Notorious
26 Debbie Gibson Only In My Dreams
27 Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life
28 Peter Cetera and Amy Grant The Next Time I Fall
29 Club Nouveau Lean On Me
30 Madonna Open Your Heart
31 Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam Lost In Emotion
32 Cutting Crew (I Just) Died In Your Arms
33 T’pau Heart And Soul
34 Kim Wilde You Keep Me Hangin’ On
35 Georgia Satellites Keep Your Hands To Yourself
36 Aretha Franklin and George Michael I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
37 Janet Jackson Control
38 Prince U Got The Look
39 Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram Somewhere Out There
40 Genesis Land Of Confusion
41 Huey Lewis and The News Jacob’s Ladder
42 Madonna Who’s That Girl
43 Jets You Got It All
44 Samantha Fox Touch Me (I Want Your Body)
45 Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett I Just Can’t Stop Loving You
46 Madonna Causing A Commotion
47 Genesis In Too Deep
48 Janet Jackson Let’s Wait Awhile
49 Huey Lewis and The News Hip To Be Square
50 Chicago Will You Still Love Me?