Season of Sugar

[Some of this week, February 2013.]

The thing is that I don’t really even like sugar. I err on the side of ‘healthy(ish)’ for the most part and if I want to indulge in something it’s most likely to be cheese, cheese, and more cheese with a side of salty potato chips. And yet, I am a baker. I make grand cakes and little ones, too, and go to sleep dreaming of the different combinations of things I might put together. I also find myself by a stroke of luck writing a cookbook that is specifically about desserts. It’s so fun. I love it. But at the same time I’m drowning under a wave of buttercream and raw sugar and this week in particular I’ve been shuttling all the fruits of my labors out the door as quickly as I possibly can. Halp.

[Flourless opera cake – a bit disheveled, but still good, February 2013.]

Two months in (give or take a few weeks for the holidays and assorted other deadlines), I have started a cookbook journal. I want to record these busy days — the days where I churn out 2-4 recipe tests by mid-afternoon and then throw myself, spent, on the couch for 20 minutes with a cup of tea before tackling the sink full of dishes. So many dishes! So, so many. I wash the same bowls at least 3 x a day it seems. So on Monday I picked up a new notebook and scrawled out three pages in my very terrible handwriting and have promised myself to write a little something every day, regardless of how many recipes I test. It is all going by so fast, and I don’t want to forget a bit of it. Who knows if I will have the opportunity to do this again? I hope so, but you never know. So. A writing-down so I remember and can look back.

My typical day now looks like this: wake up around 6:45, tea with DW, check various forms of social media (yes … I can’t deny I do this), have oatmeal with almond milk and salt ([almost] every. morning. I am a creature of habit.), do a bit of editing, fire up Pandora (bluegrass mostly), turn on the oven and get to baking. If it’s a running day sometimes I go first thing and get a coffee after before starting the day, or I’ll in the afternoon if it’s sunny and warmish to take full advantage. But I’m pretty much making sweets all day with a break for a veg-laden lunch and the occasional trip to the market, a walk with a friend, or yoga class. Then I make dinner and think about the next day’s kitchen activities. It’s a very exciting life, I tell you (but I like it).

[Sponge cake w. lemon curd, strawberries, and vanilla buttercream, February 2013.]

I’m going along at a fairly good clip and am somehow ahead of the wee ‘schedule’ I set for myself. The cakes section is completely done (unless I get a wild hair and decide to try out some new things/adjust some others/throw in something unexpected which yes indeed does happen. In fact, I tried out a pistachio-based layer cake yesterday that was nearly perfect except that the buttercream was too sweet; I think just plain whipped cream and strawberries would be best. But that’s not on my list per se. I might have to make it again and decide if I should include it in the final draft.) and a slew of recipes have been sent out to my very patient and willing testers. The cookies section, which was next up, is almost fully tested; I’d given myself ’til the end of the month to finish that so I’m well-pleased with how far along I’ve come. Of course, I have a mountain of editing staring me in the face but I try to do that in dribs and drabs when I am waiting for something to bake in the oven so I don’t get overwhelmed.

[Vanilla custard w. white wine-poached peaches, February 2013.]

While I’m on that subject – the subject of the oven – it continues to be the bane of my existence. I am going to do a post on the size of my kitchen (with pictures! Just as soon as I wipe off all the crumbs) because though I’ve never had a kitchen in any apartment that’s been bigger than this one … it is pretty tiny for the amount of stuff I churn out of it. The oven particularly drives me crazy; I now have an oven thermometer procured for me by DW which is the only reliable teller of what its actual temperature is. Forget the dial, it’s worthless. Plus it seems to depend on the day: some days it’s quite hot and gets to 350 in minutes while on others, like today, it took a good 15 minutes to creep up to the right temperature and then has dipped below it inexplicably before climbing back up. Why? Who knows. I wrote a story for the Chronicle about this years ago and it seems nothing much has changed. Still — I guess I should be grateful it works as well as it does despite all my cursing.

[Crustless marscarpone cheesecake w. lemon curd, February 2013.]

So: there’s been a lot of sugar around these parts (also a lot of chard for dinner, just to counterbalance, though I don’t have any pretty photos of that) but I couldn’t be happier. (I also don’t have a recipe today because, well, to be honest my brain is a bit obsessed with all things ‘flourless cookie’ right now. Sometimes it happens). Tonight we go to Inverness to see the dog and tomorrow I hope to chase the sun through the Seashore all the way to Arch Rock and back and then have a coffee at Toby’s (NO scones, though) after. I’m also going to see about wrangling a Little Star dinner for Saturday night. It’s the little things.

… and how are you?

Join the Conversation

  1. Loved the insight into a day-in-the-life-of-a-cookbook! Thankyou! All those pics have me salivating here. At 6am! (Yes I, too, do a little social media looksee first up :)) good luck with it all!

  2. It all looks so wonderful! I wish I could have a little tiny forkful of everything.

  3. I can’t even pretend – I LOVE sweets. I also love to bake, but I don’t do it very often, because then I’d have to eat what I baked. Which I want to do, but we know what happens then.

    I’ve started using coconut palm sugar instead of regular sugar, but that doesn’t mean I’m increasing what I’m eating. I also try to use honey or maple syrup, or even agave syrup. But it all comes down to quantity, and that will never increase. I’m too old to get away with it, anymore.

    I’m curious: what do you do with all that wonderful food you’re preparing? You have recipe testers – do you have recipe eaters, too?

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