Chris and I went to Montauk for the long weekend, and when we arrived home, we found out that our Internet modem was “out of signal” and the earliest that Time Warner can send a repairman is Friday. FRIDAY. That translates to about 5,000 years by web standards.
The sad fact is, I am hopelessly reliant on the Internet. Without it within finger’s reach, a lot of my daily processes have come to a screeching halt. Like blogging. And emailing. Pinning. Uploading. Researching. Entertaining. I mean, what do we not do using the Internet these days?
No matter. Life must go on.
About my weekend, here’s my two cents: unless you’re prepared to eat at the same two restaurants for six meals in a row, don’t go to tourist spots during off season. Montauk was dead. And cold. And, we decided to take the Hampton Jitney, thinking it would be way more economical than renting a car, and ended up spending an exorbitant amount on taxi rides because apparently, everything’s not walkable like I’d previously thought.
Again, no matter. It was fun despite everything, and we got our fill of seafood (the seafood bruschetta at Harvest on Fort Pond is REALLY good—highly recommended). But once again, we were hit by the fact that, out here, the seasons are a serious force to contend with. In California, where the weather is about the same year round, there’s no reason not to take a break from reality and drive out to some middle-of-nowhere town at any time in the year. And that’s exactly what Chris and I would do, often.
I made this monkey bread in preparation for the trip. Chris perked up like a little boy when I took it out of the oven, although the smells emanating from the kitchen had already set off a Pavlovian response far earlier.
Come to think of it, who wouldn’t perk up at the sight of monkey bread? It’s part cinnamon roll, part donut hole, and baked in a Bundt pan so it looks pretty to boot. Chris ooh’d and aah’d when I tipped it out of the pan, and hovered nearby as I drizzled the glaze over the top. And when I pulled a piece off to demonstrate how fun it was to eat, he eagerly joined in. I think monkey bread brings the inner child out of all of us.
With the glaze, it’s quite decadent, but I liked it for that fact. I don’t give myself the opportunity to indulge in sugary breakfasts often, so I’ll take whatever excuses I can get.
We enjoyed it the last few mornings with coffee (luckily, we were able to find one cafe in town that was open. Don’t know how I would’ve coped without the precious liquid), plucking pieces off in their perfect bite-sized units.
And outside, the howling wind whipped our little finger of land, heaving snow dust everywhere and freezing the ocean surf.
The Year of the Snake, true to its nature, slithered in stealthily. Since I’ve been so busy lately, it almost caught me unaware, but I did manage to prepare a dinner on Sunday night comprised of four, that’s right, FOUR Chinese dishes to eat alongside rice. That’s a record for me. (I couldn’t have done it without help, of course.) (Thanks Chris.) (Afterwards, he and I reclined on the couch and watched Joy Luck Club, a fact I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, but I ended up being moved anyway. Sigh.)
Moving forward, Valentine’s Day is on Thursday! What?! When did mid-February creep up on us? The problem with the month is that it’s way too short, so that my birthday at the beginning of March always seems to strike suddenly and without notice. Yup. It’s official. Time speeds up the older you get.
Let’s not talk about this upcoming birthday anymore—I don’t want to be reminded that I’m careening through my late-20’s like a human cannonball. Instead, let’s shift the conversation over to cookies, chocolate cookies to be exact. (FYI: chocolate is an aphrodisiac, hint hint.)
Today’s recipe came to me courtesy of Carey, who blogged about these beauties not three weeks ago. She got the recipe from the Blue Bottle Coffee recipe book, which should be enough reason for you to make these, immediately.
If you do, however, use peanut butter chips like I did, the cookie’s name changes entirely. It can no longer technically be called Blue Bottle’s double chocolate cookie—maybe I’ll call it Blue Bottle’s Reese’s peanut butter cups cookies instead? But its nature remains very much the same—it’s a dense chocolatey cookie, crackly and chewy both at the same time. I love how the coarse salt punctuates the dough, like exclamation points in otherwise seductive prose. And did I mention that peanut butter is an aphrodisiac? Don’t quote me on that.
I will certainly have to make the official recipe soon, but for my Valentine, peanut butter chips are the way to go.
I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly everything in my life revolves around wedding. I find all the different parts hard to keep track of, especially that big looming figure known as the Budget, but as long as I keep hacking away at different parts, I know I’ll eventually cleave a path through this maze of dresses, flowers, tea lights, stationery, and so so so much more.
While I manage to compartmentalize the wedding talk, only indulging in it in short spurts (although my sister gets the brunt of it), I did think it would be fitting to begin a discussion on… the wedding cake. Because I plan on making my own! This explains the uncharacteristically bright photo above.
Any of you who have spent any time at all reading any wedding blogs will surely be familiar with that sensation of one’s brain becoming scrambled/brainwashed by the extreme girliness and frilliness of their content. Recurring themes: lace, pom poms, rose petals, long tables festooned with flowers, peach, blush and pink, macarons, lace, mason jars, headless shots of the bride holding the bouquet, more lace, and toppling multi-tiered cakes.
I, for one, am not a fan of fondant. What exactly is it anyway? And is it really edible? I’m only half joking.
While I’m not an extremely crafty person, I’m convinced that the day will be all the better if I involve myself in it in a tangible sense. This applies strongly to some areas, the wedding cake being one of them. I don’t think I’ve ever considered outsourcing the making of the wedding cake, partly because I’ve had way too many slices of cake-gone-wrong, and partly because I’ve got a secret weapon: my sister. (She’s a star.) While it would be lovely if every aspect of the wedding were made with love, I at least have control over the cake.
The problem is that I don’t have a whole lot of cake-baking experience. Nearly none, actually. I’ve made one other layer cake in my life, and it came out… homely-looking. This cake came out homely-looking as well, but I’d prefer to go with the euphemism “rustic.” It is a little prettier, but its surface gently undulates, like the ocean on a calm day. Nice imagery when describing the scenery, but not ideal when applied to a cake. Also, upon closer inspection, the observer will realize that the vanilla-bean-like flecks are actually stray crumbs that got mixed with the icing. Note to self: buy an icing spatula and stop using one’s bread knife to spread icing.
Anyway, as you can see, I have a lot to learn about the art of cake-making. But I also have seven months to master the art, and I’m not going to stress it. An unprepossessing self-made cake has its own merits.
In this case, its parts: a wonderfully moist devil’s food cake, the recipe I got from the Tartine Bakery cookbook, and a luscious Swiss meringue buttercream. I decided my first forays into cake-making had to begin with the likeliest cake combination we would end up choosing, and probably, quite simply, my favorite cake combination of all. For what could be more satisfying than a moist slice of chocolate cake swathed in Swiss meringue buttercream? To me, nothing. To Chris, a moist slice of chocolate cake swathed in ganache, but we’re not going to go there because our cake has to be white-colored, dangit!
I chose this particular cake recipe because in the description beforehand, Elisabeth Prueitt mentioned that one of her bakery managers used the recipe for her wedding cake. That means it passes the tests in both sturdiness and the ability to stay fresh-tasting after sitting out for awhile.
In addition, the frosting is my absolute favorite. Swiss meringue buttercream looks beautiful patted onto a cake, and it tastes phenomenal: soft, light, very delicately sweet. My only issue with it is that it turns sort of stale after awhile, and tastes more buttery than sweet. Also, it turned slightly yellow after sitting out, but I very well could’ve done something wrong. Does anyone have any ideas on why this happened and how to correct this?
So, cake number one turned out okay. But other flavors await, and I hope to get better at decorating!