Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Pear Squares: A Story of Dealing With It


Some days, everything goes fine. Yesterday was not that day.

I set out to bake the caramelized pear & buckwheat cake from Amber Rose's Love Bake Nourish cookbook. I've enjoyed several of the recipes in the book - she bakes the way I've learned I need to bake - with fruits, whole grains, nuts, and no white sugar. And considering that I had a.) four crazy ripe pears and b.) women coming over for knitting group, yesterday became baking day.

Everything was going fine - I caramelized the pears in butter and maple syrup, and while the pears didn't brown the way the book though they might, the mixture smelled heavenly.


Also: I was feeling rather on top of things, planning to blog about this cake. Best laid plans, and all that.

Because after I beat the batter, it seemed...thick. Like borderline cookie dough thick. But I decided to roll with it, to trust the book, and carry one. I spread it across the bottom and laid the pears and melted butter over the top.

I got the cake into the oven, and walked away.

And then my brain clicked.

The maple syrup. The 2/3 cup of maple syrup to sweeten the cake batter. Yes, it was still there, sitting next to the stand mixer. Yeah.

Now, I've discovered a forgotten ingredient after putting things into an oven before. During a retreat with our church's high school girls, I realized I'd left the yogurt out of the chocolate cupcakes. We pulled them out and stirred about a tablespoon of yogurt into each cupcake - in the end they were moist and marbled.

But this felt trickier. The pears were super delicate, being both super ripe and having been cooked over the stove. So I dumped the entire contents of the cake pan into the mixing bowl and added the maple syrup, breaking down the pears.

I put it back into the oven, and waited.

After adjusting the bake time and temperature a couple times, the cake was finally cooked through. It was ugly - flat and brown with a suspicious looking texture from the almond flour. But the taste was amazing - full of fruit and butter, with the protein and heartiness from the buckwheat and almond flours. 

I decided to serve the cake on a cake plate with sifted powdered sugar over the top. Yes - I know that powdered sugar is white sugar, but powdered sugar is like glitter - it makes everything look prettier. It's as close to a magic wand as you'll get in a kitchen.

So I got it ready and went upstairs to powder my nose before the company arrived.

And came back downstairs to find this guy:


Yeah, him. He was on the table. On the table, EATING THE PEAR CAKE.

While he's loosely explored the idea of climbing the table before, this was the first time that he made the full journey and had a snack in the process. I'm still horrified.

Within that short period of time, he cleaned up about half of the cake. And I had guests coming.

So what did I do?

I cut off the nibbled edges and cut the remainder into squares, sifting fresh sugar over the top. And yes, I did explain the fiasco to my guests, explaining that there was no pressure to partake. I served it with some white wine, and we carried on.

(For those of you who may feel concerned about such things, Shiloh seems not to have suffered any ill effects from his cake binge.)

So the moral of the story is that sometimes things don't go as planned, and sometimes things really don't go as planned. But if you carry on, you can share pear squares with friends - and that's a good thing.

What about you? Have you ever had any moments in the kitchen where you've had to get inventive?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Writer's Corner: The Hands-On Approach to Beating Writer's Block

Let’s talk writer’s block today.

To really break down writer’s block, you’d need a book’s worth of space – because what we call writer’s block is kinda like Biblical references to leprosy – it’s a catch-all term for, rather than a skin disease, the problem of not being able to write effectively.

But the tricky thing is that writer’s block has all kinds of causes and variations - none of which, I'm sorry to say, involve putting down a book and watching an episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt. I've written out the processes that help me to work out problem spots and keep going; they're geared for fiction, and based around an understanding of three act structure, but even if you're writing non-fiction you'll find some crossover. Let's get started!

Step 1 – Admitting it is the first step
Sometimes when you’re thinking “I’m not feeling the book today” that’s actually code in your head for “I don’t like it because it’s hard,” which is also code for “I’m stuck.” You can “not feel it” for days – or weeks, or months. Once you see it for what it is – block – you can move forward.

Other times, if you're like me, you can wind up in a panic spiral. What started as "It's a problem" can turn into "I can't figure it out and I'll never have any ideas ever again." Which - no. Look at it this way - a block is your brain's way of telling you that your book is hitting a dead end. It's an alert system. So take a deep breath, trust your brain, and dig in.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Catchy is as Catchy Does

So I shared this on my Facebook wall the other day, and the delightful Rachel McMillan has been complaining ever since that she's had the song stuck in her head.



I mean...there are worse things, because it's a legitimately good song. But since she's suffering, you know, I'm offering up some likewise solid yet ear-worm-y songs -