little sarah Big World

Tag: adventures in baking

A Labor of Love


I Bake Because I Care


I Bake Because You Are 70-Years-Old and Deserve Something Delicious

My Granny Mary turned 70 on Thursday. 70, Friends! Isn’t that amazing? Maybe you can’t tell from my low-lighting, high-motion picture, but she is a fox. She can pull off that sweater-with-leggings-and-boots look better than anyone I know. This is a woman who grew up on a rural farm in Idaho, became a mother in her teens, a grandmother in her 30s and a great grandmother (several times over) before most people have entered retirement. A woman who loves butter, wine, travel, gossip, sewing, saving, and a good story.

A woman who deserves a loaf of sweet, cinnamon pull-apart bread, even if it does take the better part of an already busy day to make. Because baking bread is a labor of love, it is something so personal and involved and messy, requiring patience and faith and a whole lot of sugar and spice and everything nice. But Granny Mary is worth all that.

I used this recipe from Joy the Baker, whom I adore (though not as much as my grandma, just sayin). It’s not a difficult recipe, just time consuming, as there is a lot of waiting involved. I used the waiting parts to run errands and go for a run. I’m nothing if not productive.

Anyways, you start out by making some dough, with yeast and everything, which stills feels like exciting, uncharted baking territory for me. You let it rise in a warm spot for an hour, while you mix up some cinnamon sugar (with nutmeg) and go to the grocery store. You know, errands stuff.

Then you roll the dough out and admire the beautiful winter sunlight that shines through your kitchen window, for about the hundredth time. Have I mentioned that I love my apartment?

You slather the dough with melted butter (I used vegan, and I also used almond milk in the recipe, mostly just because that’s what I already have at home), sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mix, and then cut it into little squares. Then you stack the squares together into a pan. Like this:

Joy’s recipe calls for a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, but I was using the tin-foil, give-away-style pans and those only came in 8 x 3.5 inches at the Freddy-Smith’s, which means that I miraculously had enough for two loaves! One for Granny, and one for the party.

Although, looking at Joy’s post again, I think maybe I could’ve crammed my squares in tighter. Ah, well. I’m just giving you guys options. I’m nothing if not fond of keeping my options open.

Anyways, so then you wait another 30 to 45 minutes for the dough-squares to rise in the pan(s), maybe go for a run or do some laundry, before baking. Which is another 35 minutes or so. Again, totally worth it. Because the end result goes a little something like…this!

70-year-old bad-ass grannies deserve beautiful baskets lined with brand-new kitchen towels and filled with home-made sweet bread, fancy butter, expensive honey, and gourmet chocolates, from their grandchildren. They deserve a day’s worth of baking. They deserve to be surrounded by four generations and to drink wine and laugh and eat as much cheese as they like.

They deserve to have their cake and eat it, too.

Or at least mine does. And don’t go thinking that we got her a store-bought cake with that crappy plastic frosting, because we special ordered it with WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING, which is amazing. And yes, she deserved it.

Happy birthday, Granny.

Snow Day


No Work and All Play Makes Sarah Want to Stay

Woke up to soft flakes gently falling. Ran outside in my long johns and rain boots to bring in the ol’ mountain bike, lest he catch cold. Blackberry-buckwheat pancakes for breakfast and a long snowy walk to the grocery store and back.

Toasty toasty in my little apartment, with a new down comforter and new bedding. The place is cleaner than ever, from right before I left for Spain. I’ve been baking nearly every day, reading in bed, listening to music, dancing around.

It’s hard to leave a place where I feel so comfortable. But not every day is a snow day; I can’t just stay in my cozy little apartment. There’s work, and friends, family, obligations, people I’d rather not see and situations that I’m ready to get out of.

It’s hard to leave, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right.

Wait, Sarah, What Are You Doing in Spain?

– Eating about a tin of olives per day

– Drinking claras and picando things in little bars and cafés

– Forcing Kevin to reorganize his room/buy basic home furnishings

– Suffering tremendous, sharp, stabbing stomach pains (unrelated to olive consumption)

– Getting my sleep cycle all messed up up so that my most awake/alert time is right now, bedtime

– Making facebook pages for Santa, Rudolph, and the rest of the gang with my chicos in Illescas

– Watching YouTube videos

– Getting tear-inducing, almost painful giggles with Kevin every night when we’re supposed to be going to bed

– (Bedtime is not our forte)

– Eating tortilla and hanging out with my compis, just like the old days

– Baking Cookies and drinking wine, just like the old days

– Missing Laura

– Searching for a way to stay

Thanksgiving in Brooklyn

Cousin Emily and I have spent many Thanksgivings together, since childhood. We’ve forcibly performed our home-spun rendition of Chantilly Lace on our much-annoyed family members countless times–a Thanksgiving tradition.

But this year we gave them a break and let them celebrate Turkey Day on the West Coast while we were living it up in the Big Apple. Cousins together in New York! YES! And we went to the parade, Friends! That very Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from Miracle on 24th Street fame. We did that.

Later, we went to Em’s friend Talia’s house, where Talia and her brother had prepared an amazing spread (including 2 different types of stuffing), defying their 20-something status and delighting our unassuming palates. For our part, Em and I baked pies–one apple, one blackberry–from scratch. We drank whiskey, wine, and beer, feasted, and played Apples to Apples. A perfectly fine way to celebrate.

It’s nice to know that you can have such a homey feeling among old relatives and new friends in a place you’ve never been before. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Good Day Sunshine

Recently I decided to stop partying so hard, move forward, untether myself from a sinking ship. If you will. Turns out that doing such things cost me many friends and showered me with judgment and insult. And it does sting, Friends. It burns, a little.

But the thing is…I’m okay. Doing quite well, actually. Still without internet at home, and I’ve been reading in bed (zines, fiction, graphic novels, periodicals…), having Dance Party of One (Jenny Lewis, Rilo Kiley, Dr. Dog and Arcade Fire), cleaning house and enjoying the alone time. Watching Woody Allen films.

And eating well. Salad, even! If a delicious Winter salad is not a mark of inner peace and health, then I just don’t know what is. Plus the baking, again, my old comfort habit. I’m feeling like myself again, is I guess what I’m trying to say.

Not that I’m perfect. I’m not. I’ve done some cowardly, misguided things of late. Slipped back into old, bad habits. But I pulled myself out again, and if that means Permanent Alone Time, then that’s fine. In fact, I’m glad of it. Because…because there was a time when that wouldn’t  have been okay. In fact, my trip for most of last year was “Nobody likes me I have no friends what’s wrong with me?!”

Whereas now I wonder, “What’s wrong with them? I’m having the time of my life.”


Peach Days

Yesterday I ran a 10k, for the second time in my life. I finished in 59:07, which is about 9 1/2 minutes per mile. That’s 1/2 a minute faster per mile than I ran it last year. I call that a success.

I ran the Peach Days 10k in Brigham City, UT. It’s a small town, and I think we all know how I feel about Small Town America. With so many smaller cities and towns going to way of Wal-Mart and Starbucks, it’s satisfying to bathe oneself in nostalgia in a place where there’s still a main street with old buildings and little shops.

But I have no pictures of this. Not of Brigham City. Not from yesterday, at least. None of the race, or the parade, or the diner that’s been open since 1929, where we ate home-made sausage and eggs. I call that a fail.

Not the end of the world, though. Because I have pictures. Peachy pictures. End of Summery pictures. Americana pictures.

Pettingill's Fruit Stand in Willard, UT

And what better way to celebrate Peaches/End of Summer/America than by baking a cobbler. I used the Peach-Raspberry Cobbler recipe from the Joy of Cooking. If you don’t have the recipe, then it means you don’t own your own J.O.C. And you should remedy that.

We start with fresh peaches and raspberries. Sliced, then splayed, in a pie dish.

Sprinkle them with sugar, then plop on some buttermilk biscuit dough. I even made the buttermilk myself, by adding lemon juice to almond milk and waiting 10 minutes.

Then bake it on up, Friends! It will be delicious and not too heavy, promise.

Sweet, fresh, homey, quaint, imperfect…just like small towns, like Brigham City. But I guess you’ll have to take my word for it on that one.


New Friends, Part III

The third and final part, because from here on out they can probably just be considered Friends. No qualifying adjective required.

Sometimes life goes by too fast to be documented. Sometimes you are too busy actually living the damned thing to take pictures or notes. So from a jam-packed weekend of car borrowing, backyard gin and tonics, square dancing in an emptied-out woodworker’s shop, pizza and beer and talk of violin-making, and a crowded work picnic with a surprise, 10-minute rainstorm…you come away with little glimpses, random moments of laughter or light. Like lanterns hanging in a friend’s backyard…

…or the savaged remains of a much-anticipated Root Beer Float Cake. And there is so much more that I could tell you about, so many more images that I’d love to show you–new memories made with new friends–but it all whizzed by too fast to capture, a blur of friends and laughter and booze and food and talk.

And I’m okay with that, really, because I know that there is more to come. Much, much more.

New Friends, Part II

Last weekend we got invited to a dance party.

There was face-painting.

And drinking.

Probably too much of that, actually, on my part.

Remember also Melissa’s party? And last night I went to new friend/old acquaintance Stephanie’s house to watch My Girl and drink pink wine. Amazing.

But also exhausting. New friends are exhausting. I have been sick from too much new friendship and too much running, but still, tonight we are going to a farewell party for Paul friend, who is about to do the Camino de Santiago. I baked him my best chocolate chip cookies. Because Friendship is important.

To me, at least.

Cabin Eats

I went to an epic librarian party…

…and all I have to show for it is this picture:

It’s a balloon, if you couldn’t tell. In a bar. I maybe was a little bit too sauced at this point for documentation, BUT I did realize my giant rums and coke dream at long last. Several times over.

And before all this was a baby shower for Sister Natalie, with pie.

Blueberry pie, specifically, with the crust and filling recipes taken straight from The Joy of Cooking. BUT with one awesome improvement–Kevin found in Cooks Illustrated a trick where you grate a Granny Smith apple into the pie to thicken it up, instead of using cornstarch. Amazing! Check that out here.

Also this was tag-team baking, where I made the crust in the AM before heading off to work, and then Kevin made the filling and baked it all up in the PM, after returning from work. Aren’t we just the coolest kids on the block?