Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jumping Off the High Dive

Remember when you were a kid, and during miserably hot summers you went to your local junior high swimming pool and paddled amongst the mothers, their floating toddlers, screaming kids, and sometimes, you got up the gumption to climb up to the diving boards?


There was the “regular” diving board which was bouncy and intimidating enough for any normal person. And then, there was the high dive. It towered. It mocked from on high. It waited. It absolutely, positively, created huge pits of fear that were lodged somewhere between my throat and my intestines, and that fear pounded. In my ears, in my neck, in my heart. Regardless, I’d climb that high-dive every so often. Then I’d dawdle, toeing the edge. I’d look down at all the impatient kids waiting for me. Finally I’d jump off, cannon ball-propelled, and emerge from the diving pool dripping, smarting from the great slap of water on my butt, and bouncing around from the adrenaline rush.

There’s nothing like grabbing that high dive for all its menacing worth and emerge triumphant.

I think there are high-dives in everything. In your career. In your family. In your relationship to your body, your health, your mind, your emotions, your relationships. And, of course, in food. I’ve since overcome my first major high-dive fear of food (Yeast Beasties! Here and Here and Here.) But it was time to take on a new challenge. One I’d been gearing up for all summer. Of course, now that it’s not summer anymore, and I’d toed the edge long enough, I leapt. And, well, making ice cream just isn’t as hard as I thought. Go fig.

From The Vagabond Table

I was lucky enough to steal, er…gift myself…with my mom’s Cuisinart ice cream maker from the garage this past July. Let me tell you, carrying an ice cream maker through airport security in a banana-shaped bag raises a lot of eyebrows and questions, but mostly I got a lot of smiles when I told them what I was hauling around. I mean...everyone loves ice cream.

After searching the internet for the perfect ice cream recipe for some dear friends who came to visit, Annie and Liz (fellow volunteers when we were in Chile about 5 years ago), we found David Lebovitz’s recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream. Uh. You might have just zoned out for a hot second after I wrote that. Totally understandable. I did too. Salted? Butter? Caramel? Swoon.

From The Vagabond Table

This was definitely a task that required an extra hand or two to help scrape down bowls and whisk and the like, but it was a fun group project. Also, it turns out my ice cream maker isn’t hard to use at all, so Pumpkin Ice Cream…I’m lookin’ at you this Fall. Also, this caramel ice cream was a dream. That perfect balance of rich, caramel sweetness with the tang of some salt thrown in here and there. It doesn’t hurt that this recipe calls for milk, egg yolks AND heavy cream. Yeah. When I finally approach the high dive, I don’t half-ass anything. I cannonball it for full effect, and this ice cream was the mother of rich, velvety awesomeness.

If you have an ice cream maker gathering dust in your garage… make this ice cream. If you have a friend who has an ice cream maker…do a group thing and make this ice cream. Whatever you do, please: make this ice cream.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Say Hello To Your New Breakfast

Ya’ll. I hate to break it to you summer-lovers out there, but Fall, indeed, is nearly upon us.

There’s a chilly breeze (7 nights in a row!) and sunny-cloudy days. I dream about drinking coffee, wrapped in a scarf, sitting on a park bench somewhere reading Jane Eyre. Yep. Definitely Fall. Or, at least, the whispers of the beginning of it.

I’ve also discovered, with no small amount of surprise, that while I really really like cooking (and I do!) I looove baking. There’s just something so satisfying about putting some kind of concoction in the oven and having something entirely different come out. Usually something delicious and warm and toasty. It’s kind of like a chemistry experiment, except that you get to eat the results, usually with a coffee in hand, instead of wearing dorky plastic glasses and stupid rubber gloves. I like Baking Science...I just wish they offered that class in high school.

My friends, I have discovered possibly the best bread you could ever bake by yourself. Just to make sure my yeast-prowess wasn’t a fluke the first time around, this past week I baked it for a second time, but this go-round I threw in some wheat flour for good measure. And boy, was it a good measure.

From The Vagabond Table

Originally the recipe was called “Maple White Bread” but since I added wheat, I guess I’ll just be calling it Maple Bread from now on. But don’t be fooled. It isn’t sweet so much as a memory of sweet. It has the essence of maple, the warmth of maple, but not the nearly-over-sweetness of syrup. Does any of this even make sense? All I know, is that for two weeks in a row, I have baked my own loaf of bread. I might even have the recipe memorized at this point. I've shared this toasty goodness with the roomie and with colleagues, and, all around, it was a number one prize winner of a solid loaf of bread.

From The Vagabond Table

The thing is… it’s a GREAT slicing bread. Nice, thick, gorgeous slices of bread, toasted up for breakfast with a slather of butter is perfection. Jam is nice too, but I must say, even after trying this bread with homemade jam and apple butter, I'd take regular ole' butter with this bread any day. Ohhhh good heavens.

From The Vagabond Table

As I contemplate my baker-tendencies, I’ll comfort myself with awesome toasty breakfasts as I watch autumn start to creep in and surprise me with yellow leaves and chilly nights. I hope by now you've conquered your yeast-based fears (like I have!) and can do the same.