ATK’s Oatmeal Raisin Bread + 5 Delicious Bread Links

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It has been a month since my grandmother passed.  I continue to walk around in a fog, seeing and hearing her everywhere I go.  Maybe at some point, I will continue my story of Ann and Tess based on my relationship with her.  Maybe I’ll share her final days with you.  Maybe not.  For now, I’ll continue to bake and cook.  I feel closer to her when I do as she was an excellent cook and baker.

I made bread for the first time.  This recipe hails from America’s Test Kitchen Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook.  This bread is a project.  It’s a commitment but like most things that take time, it is worth it.  Rustic, earthy, slightly sweet, toasts well and especially satisfying with a generous slab of butter are all great descriptions but really you should just make it and find out for yourself.

Oatmeal Raisin Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Cook it in Your Dutch Oven Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup (3 ounces) old-fashion rolled oats

¾ cup (6 ounces) water, at room temperature

2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour

½ cup (2 ¾ ounces) whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast or rapid-rise yeast

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup raisins

Directions:

Microwave ¾ cup oats and water in a large bowl. Be sure bowl is covered. Stir occasionally until oats are soft and water is completely absorbed, 5 minutes or so. Cool completely and set aside.

Using the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk bread flour, whole-wheat flour, yeast, and salt. Whisk melted butter and milk together in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Attach the dough hook and begin mixing on low speed.  Very slowly, add milk/butter mixture to flour mixture. Mix until a dough forms and no dry flour is visible about 2 minutes.  You may need to scrape down the bowl as you mix.

Increase the speed to medium/low kneading the dough until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add raisins.  Next, slowly add oatmeal two tablespoons at a time.  Mix until well combined, about 3 minutes. Lightly grease a large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl and cover tightly with plastic.  Allow rising for 30 minutes.

Using your fingertips gently fold the dough over itself by folding the edge of the dough toward the middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees and fold again.  Turn bowl and fold 6 more times, 8 folds total. Cover tightly with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes.  Repeat the process of folding and rising every 30 minutes, 2 more times. After the 3rd fold and rise process, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes to 1 ¼ hours.

Place a large piece of parchment paper, about 18x12inches, on the counter and spray with vegetable oil spray. Transfer dough to parchment paper. Stretch dough to 10-inch round. Be sure to deflate any gas pockets bigger than 1-inch. Working around the perimeter of the dough, fold the edges towards the center until ball forms. Flip dough so the seam of the dough ball is now on the bottom. Cup your hands and drag tiny circles on the counter until dough is stiff and round.  Mist the dough lightly with water on all sides.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of oats and press gently so the oats adhere to the dough.

Place loaf, seam side down, on the parchment paper. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap.  Let dough rise until loaf increases in size to about half and the dough slightly bounces back when gently pushed with your knuckle, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Thirty minutes prior to baking place your Dutch oven with the lid on in the oven on the lowest rack.  Pre-heat the oven to 500F.

Slash the bread with a sharp paring knife, making two 5-inch long and a ½ inch deep slashes to form a cross in the center of the bread.  Remove any exposed raisins.

Remove Dutch oven from oven and place on wire rack. Remove the lid. Using the parchment as a sling, lower the dough into the Dutch oven.  Tuck in any excess parchment paper and place the lid back on the Dutch oven. Place in oven and reduce the temperature to 425F. Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the loaf is a deep golden brown and the temperature of the bread is 200 to 210 degrees, about 20 minutes.

Using the parchment paper sling, remove the bread and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely for 3 hours, before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

5 Delicious Bread Links

Alexandra’s Kitchen is my favorite blog.  I have yet to try a recipe that isn’t completely satisfying and delicious.  Check out her recipes for the easiest focaccia bread and the best no-knead brioche buns.  They will not disappoint!

Food 52 claims their milk bread recipe will produce the most addictive bread you will ever eat.  Curious?  Here is the recipe.

Looking for a breakfast bread to serve at your next brunch?  Check out What Should I Eat For Breakfast’s cinnamon raisin walnut bread and The Surban Soapbox everything bagel brioche bread.

 

 

Creamy Leek & Potato Soup + America’s Test Kitchen’s Vegetables Illustrated Cookbook Review

Cook’s Illustrated new cookbook Vegetables Illustrated is a beautifully compiled cookbook of delicious, easy to make, and crowd-pleasing recipes featuring vegetables as the star.  The cookbook reads like a reference guide with vegetables separated into individual chapters accompanied by tips, tricks, and innovative recipes that any meat lover will enjoy.

I chose the creamy leek and potato soup because I was craving something warm and comforting with the taste and colors of spring.  April in New England is a bit like Jekyll and Hyde, sunny and warm one day then raw and raining the next!  This soup did not disappoint in flavor or comfort.  The flavor of the leeks shines through while the thyme compliments its earthy flavor.  The addition of the russet potato and bread make this soup hearty without the addition of cream.  Seasoning to taste with salt and pepper is important as both bring out the flavor of the leeks.  I added a bit of Maldon sea salt flakes which is a must buy for any salt lover.  Just a sprinkle is all you need.  Serve this soup with fresh, crusty bread and you have comfort in a bowl.

Next on my list of must makes from this cookbook is the southwestern radish and apple salad, quickly followed by a carrot cake recipe that makes my mouth water every time I look at the photograph.  With four hundred and eighty-five pages of recipes, I have a lot to explore and just in time with fresh produce from farmer’s markets arriving soon.  You can purchase this cookbook here.  I highly recommend it.  Happy Spring!

I reached out to America’s Test Kitchen who sent me this cookbook for free.  All opinions are my own.

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Vegetables Illustrated

 Ingredients:

2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise and sliced thin, dark green parts halved and cut into 2-inch pieces, (be sure to wash all of it thoroughly)

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)

2 cups of water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

Kosher salt and pepper

1 small russet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼ inch slices

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh thyme or tarragon (I used thyme.)

1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, toasted a bit and torn into ¼ inch pieces

Directions:

Add broth, water, and dark green leek pieces to a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover.  Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.  Using a fine mesh sieve strain broth over an empty bowl while pushing on the solids to release as much liquid and flavor as possible.  Set aside.

Add butter to a now-empty saucepan and melt over medium-low heat.  Add sliced white bread, green leeks, onion, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Reduce heat to low and cook stirring often until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Next, increase the heat to high and add broth, potato, bay leaf, and herb sprig.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until potato is soft and bread breaks down about 10 minutes.

Remove bay leaf and herb sprig.  Process soup in batches in a blender or use a handheld immersion blender to save you time.  Process until smooth.  Bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with Maldon Sea Salt flakes and thyme leaves.  Serve with crusty bread if desired.  Enjoy!

 

 

America’s Test Kitchen’s Bucatini with Peas, Kale and Pancetta

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America’s Test Kitchen just recently came out with a new cookbook called Cook It in Your Dutch Oven.  I flipped through three hundred pages of beautiful images of food with easy, mouth-watering recipes before settling on bucatini with peas, kale, and pancetta as a new weeknight meal to try.   Pasta is such a comfort food, especially during a cold New England winter.  Why not add one more in our weekly rotation of comfort food?

This recipe is light but heavy on flavor thanks to the addition of bacon crumbles and lemon infused panko bread crumbs.  Five cups of kale add a healthy green and a bit of a bitter flavor which offsets the rich bacon undertones.  The crunchy, bright breadcrumbs and crisp bacon add excellent texture and depth.  Easy, kid-friendly and all of it made in your Dutch oven, what’s not to like?

Cook It In Your Dutch Oven includes recipes for one-pot dinners, classic soups, hearty stews and chilis, roasts and braises, fried foods, simple sides, bakery style breads, and dessert.  Lamb meatballs with orzo, tomatoes and feta, spicy Thai-style shrimp soup, classic beef stew, roast chicken with cranberry-walnut stuffing, and California-style fried fish tacos are just a few of the recipes that are now on my must make list.  My desire for sweets takes precedence over my desire for savory so I may need to start with chocolate lava cake for a crowd.

Interested in buying a copy?  Head to America’s Test Kitchen or Amazon.  Enjoy!

 

*I reached out to America’s Test Kitchen.  In exchange for testing a recipe and posting it on my blog, I received a free copy of Cook It In Your Dutch Oven. *

 

Bucatini with Peas, Kale and Pancetta

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Cookbook Cook It In Your Dutch Oven

Ingredients:

½ cup panko bread crumbs, toasted

1 ½ ounce of Parmesan cheese, about ¾ cup

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Salt and pepper ( I used Kosher salt.)

2 ounces of pancetta, cut into ½ inch pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup dry white wine

2 ½ cups water, + more as needed

2 cups chicken broth

1-pound bucatini

5 ounces of baby kale, about 5 cups

1 cup of frozen peas

Directions:

Toast breadcrumbs in a small skillet with a bit of olive oil until golden brown.  Next, mix together toasted breadcrumbs, ¼ cup of Parmesan, olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Cook pancetta in your Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Set aside until ready to serve pasta.

Add garlic and remaining lemon zest to Dutch oven and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so.  Add wine, scraping any browned bits and cook until the wine is almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add water and broth and bring to a boil.  Stir in pasta and return to a strong simmer.  Cook pasta, stirring often until the pasta is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add kale and peas.  Stir and continue to cook until the peas and kale are tender about 4 minutes.  Add remaining Parmesan and stir until pasta is creamy and completely coated about 30 seconds.  Add extra hot water if pasta seems too dry.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve and sprinkle each serving with crispy pancetta and lemon panko breadcrumbs.  Enjoy!

St. John Banana Bread + 5 Must-Try Banana Bread Links

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“Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

Tess arrived two days after Ann’s daughter was born with warm banana bread in one hand and a dozen red roses in the other.  Tess wasn’t much for hugs or kisses and I love you showed far too much weakness.  Tess was many things but never vulnerable.  She was never brought to her knees in love or heartache, grief or anguish.  And if Tess had, no one was witness to it.  Food meant love.  And flowers? I’m thinking of you. Happy Birthday. Congratulations.  I’m proud of you.  I love you but I’ll never tell you.  Ann understood this about her mother.  She didn’t mind Tess’ peculiarities about love.

Ann hugged Tess harder than usual feeling her breasts now engorged with milk and nipples raw and tender press against her mother’s own aging breasts.

[Breasts that eleven years later would turn against her, forming cancer that Tess ignored, eating her body, mind, and soul a bit each day.  Days turned into weeks into months, months into years, an act of war leaving open wounds that could not heal for those that loved her.}

Mae, still pink from birth with bits of patchy Neanderthal hair on one shoulder and perfect rose-colored lips, cooed from the other room summoning the women to attend to her.  Tess picked her up and held her with such tenderness Ann felt like crying.   Ann blamed postpartum hormones on the tears forming but never coming to fruition. And yet she knew the tears were more than hormones.  Watching her mother become so accessible to this child made her heart hurt.  Ann could not bare to watch them interact any longer and then Tess asked Mae: “I wonder what your purpose will be?”

Ann thinks of this now as she sits with Tess who is covered in afghans because she can’t get warm enough. Tissues fill the basket next to the tattered chair she cannot leave and half of a banana sits on the side table next to Tess which Tess promises to eat…later.  Ann watches her mother’s swollen belly move with each breath, bandages from Tess’ now concave breast peak outside from the top of her shirt.  She notices Tess’ hair, the perm she always had now faded.  She listens to Tess repeat herself over and over while trying to draw out the woman she once knew.  Ann manages to find Tess again simply by asking: where is your banana bread recipe?

St. John Banana Bread

Makes 1 9x5x3 inch loaf

Recipe handed down by my grandmother and slightly adapted by me

Ingredients:

½ or 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups of sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 large very ripe bananas, mashed

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ raw sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) I did not use them.

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Grease and lightly flour the loaf pan and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer cream the butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping the bowl once or twice with a spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup of raw sugar.  Bake until golden brown or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean 50-60 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Once cool remove the bread from the loaf pan.  Slice and serve.  Enjoy!

**Once cool wrap bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.  You can also freeze this bread until ready to use.  Be sure to defrost overnight. **

5 Must Try Banana Bread Links

If you are looking for a few interesting twists to banana bread head to the Wall St. Journal for recipes like coffee-hazelnut banana bread or black sesame coconut banana cake with white sesame cream.

Nutella lovers everywhere must check out Zoe Bakes Nutella swirled banana bread.

This banana bread recipe is one of King Arthur Flour’s recipe of 2018.

Chocolate and banana are one of my favorite combinations.  Head to Pastry Affair for chocolate cacao nib banana bread recipe that is sure not to disappoint.

SuperHero Muffins + 5 Healthy Muffin Links

 

Happy New Year!  Here is a simple and healthy muffin recipe adapted from Run Fast. Cook Fast Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky.  I highly recommend this cookbook!

A 2019 goal of mine is to spend more time in this space because I know it is good for me and it’s time to focus on a little more on self-care.  More recipes and stories to come soon. Thank you for reading!

Superhero Apple-Carrot Muffins

Recipe Adapted from Run Fast. Cook Fast Eat Slow.

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup old fashion oats

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

½ cup golden raisins

3 eggs

1 cup grated Granny Smith apple (about 1 apple)

1 cup grated carrots (about 2 carrots, peeled)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Position rack in the center of the oven.  Line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with liners.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave.  Set aside.

Grab a large bowl and combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, kosher salt, chocolate chips, and raisins.  Set aside.

Grab a separate medium-sized bowl and whisk together the eggs, apple, carrots, melted butter, syrup, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Add the batter to the prepared muffin cup, filling it to the top.  Bake until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  Allow muffins to cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an air-tight container.  These muffins taste great warm with a healthy slab of butter on top.  Enjoy!

5 Healthy Muffins Links

Cookie and Kate is one of my favorite food blogs.  Check out Kate’s recipes for healthy apple and blueberry muffins.  They will not disappoint!

If you love banana chocolate chip muffins head to Sprouted Kitchen for a healthy take on a delicious classic.

This muffin recipe from WholeHearted Eats is next on my must make list.  Check it out!

Everyone needs a good tried and true bran muffin recipe.  Head to Food 52 for a blueberry-bran muffin recipe that looks delicious!

 

 

Favorite Chocolate Cake with Rich Chocolate Frosting + 5 Must Make Chocolate Cake Recipes

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While everyone else was grieving Tess, Ann made a chocolate cake, after all, it was her mother’s birthday.  Birthdays were celebrated in her family, Tess made sure of it, before cancer began a tug of war, taking much of Tess and leaving some.

[Crumbs left to feed those who loved her: an occasional kiss, a smile, a half-hearted laugh, maybe, on a good day, a story that made sense;  stories where time and place were accurate, not distorted by eighty-nine years of living. But, now, memories, people, places in time met as if in a bizarre dream, making sense only to Tess.  And when her children said no Mom that doesn’t sound right, no I don’t remember it that way and I think you mean…, Tess became agitated and angry as if her children were trying to rewrite her stories.  So they stopped correcting Tess, allowing her to hold onto the bits and pieces of her life as she saw them, painful, but a necessary mercy.]

Ann poured the chocolate batter into the prepared pans, moving the bowl slightly back and forth, watching the batter make ribbons and fold into itself.  Tess was still alive, god damn it.  A medical mystery! Some asshole somewhere would say, as if it were a good thing.  [Why is defying odds when the end is known and hope is absent a good thing? Breath entering and exiting Tess’ lungs, a strong heart still beating despite her mind saying I want to die.  Plastic rosary beads and a beat up bible offering nothing to her weary soul and failing mind…and yet she continues.]  Ann couldn’t understand why her mother never sought treatment, allowing cancer to eat her breast while her family watched, and cried, and grieved.  How selfish, Ann thought.

While the cakes rose in the oven, Ann cleaned the dishes.  The breeze coming through the kitchen window was warm and humid.  A drop of sweat slid down her breast dissolving into her t-shirt.  A night swim would feel so good.

Tess set two towels on the kitchen table letting Ann know it was time to put on her bathing suit.  Ann loved swimming at night with her mother, watching her float around the shallow end of the pool, making sure not to get her freshly permed hair wet.  Tess’ huge smile made Ann’s heart weak.  She loved her so it felt unbearable.  Ann knew someday the weight of their love for would crush her. Ann swam around her mother, porpoising through the dark water while Tess watched.  She turned onto her back and floated with her ears submerged, the sounds of the crickets and the bullfrogs muffled.  Ann stared at the black sky and the overcast moon.  And when Ann floated too far away from Tess, she could feel it without being told: “Don’t go so far away, old girl.” 

The memory of swimming with her mother made Ann feel sick.  If only she could do it all over again and be cared for by Tess, swallowed by her mother’s fierce love, and relinquish her newfound role as her mother’s caregiver.  But there is no starting over, one more time or do overs.

The dish soap left tiny bubble mountains on Ann’s hands.  She rinsed the soap off.  The oven timer blasted its horrible beep.  The cakes were ready, waiting for Ann to carry on.

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Birthday Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Recipe barely adapted from Food and Wine’s Mom’s Chocolate Cake

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients for cake:

 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups sugar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

6 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions for cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Butter and flour two 8 by 1 ½ inch cake pans and line bottom of the pans with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger.  Set aside.

Grab a medium saucepan and combine the sugar with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves.  Pour into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the chocolate and butter and let sit.  Stir once in a while until the butter and chocolate are melted and slightly cool.  Add the vanilla and stir.

Using a paddle attachment beat the eggs on medium speed into the chocolate mixture until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until well combined and smooth.  Pour the batter evenly into each cake pan.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool in their pans on a wire rack for about 25 minutes.  Next, invert the cakes onto the wire rack and cool completely.

While the cakes cool, make your frosting.

Ingredients for Chocolate Frosting:

1 + 1/3 cups heavy cream

1 + ½ cups sugar

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

1 stick + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Direction for frosting:

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat.  After it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Pour the liquid into a medium bowl.  Add the chocolate, butter, vanilla, and salt.  Let sit until the chocolate and butter are melted.

Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice.  Using a handheld electric mixer beat the frosting on medium speed, scraping the sides and the bottom a few times, until the frosting is very thick and glossy, about 10 minutes.  (You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment.  Be sure to surround the mixer with ice packs or a bowl of ice.)  Use immediately.

Assembly Time!

Place one cake layer on a cake stand.  Using a metal spatula spread 1/3 of the frosting over the cake.  Place the second cake layer on top and frost the entire cake with the remaining frosting.  Add fresh flowers to decorate, if desired.   Store cake, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

The cake will last stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Enjoy!

5 Must Make Chocolate Cake Links

The classic chocolate cake roll was on heavy rotation in my house growing up and I loved it.  Check out Smitten Kitchen’s version of the classic recipe here.

A go-to flourless chocolate cake recipe is a must for any baker.  Head to the Tartlette blog for a flourless chocolate cake served with a butter caramel sauce.  Yes!

Overrun with zucchini?  Make Zoe Bakes chocolate zucchini bundt cake.

Need a vegan option?  Check out Food 52’s vegan chocolate cake.

My new favorite cake blog is Cake by Courtney.  Her cakes are absolutely beautiful and look delicious.  Check out her chocolate dulce de leche cake recipe when you need a special treat.

Key Lime Ginger Doodles + 5 Can’t Miss Cookie Links

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A change in perspective was all Ann needed.   As the plane hurdled down the runway, ascending through a layer of gauzy clouds reaching an abyss of pale blue nothingness Ann took a deep breath then expelled the air from her lungs bit by bit.  It hurt to breathe so slowly, it hurt to be quiet, to silence her breath so no evidence of relief was obvious to the couple seated next to her.  She did it anyway.

Four hours later she was in a different time zone, breathing thinner air while standing on an empty train platform.  Waiting.  Ann could feel the strength of the mountain sun on her pale Northeast skin.  She thought for sure the tan, athletic woman sitting on the bench could hear her skin sizzle, as if announcing I’m not from here.  This feeling unsettled Ann.  She liked to blend in.

The train pulled into the station making no sound as it came to a stop.  The doors opened with ease.  No one rushed out or pushed her aside, swatting at her like a fly.  Inside the train smelled fresh with no hint of old urine or forgotten food containers, a welcome change to the trains she knew at home.  Ann chose the window seat.

[Always choose the window seat.  His simple instructions resonated with Ann.  Most of the advice she received from well-meaning friends and lovers caused her belly to burn, her jaw to tighten as if Ann’s body knew before her mind she would never take their advice anyway.]

She plopped down in seat, rearranged her shirt, pulled on her too tight jeans until satisfied and somewhat comfortable.  Across the isle three women from Minnesota, friends, chatted about margaritas, Mexican food they couldn’t wait to devour and the Zach Brown concert they would attend with full bellies and foggy brains.  Ann listened to them chat for a while, a little jealous of their intimacy, yet relieved to be alone. Unrecognizable in a city she barely knew.  Free.  And when one of the women turned and smiled at Ann, a gesture of kindness to most, Ann turned and faced the window.  The stranger’s smile seemed to say I see you, Ann.  The last thing she wanted today, and yet the only thing she wanted most days.  Careful what you wish for her mother said.  You just might get it.  Ann picked at her nail bed until it bled.

The train picked up speed and the station disappeared.  The land lay this way and that appearing painted and untouched.  Ann found the flat earth, dry and scorched from the sun, the sapphire sky, the still snow-covered Rockies in the distance disorienting.  It hurt to look at the mountains, to see something new and beautiful, after so many years of the same.  The mountains have a funny way of drawing you back to yourself when you have strayed too far. 

Ann put on her sunglasses, hoping her eyes would stop aching.  Soon her stop would be announced.  She would exit the train, breathe in the mountain air.  Across the tracks her sister, Gracie, would be waiting for her, eager and beautiful in the world she created thousands of miles away from Ann.  They would hug.  Gracie’s hair would smell like the baked snickerdoodles they ate as kids, weed, and sweat from her morning run.  Ann relieved to be in her arms again would hug longer than expected.

All of this would happen or none of it.  Ann hadn’t decided yet.

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Key Lime Ginger Doodles

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Recipe adapted from BraveTart

Ingredients:

2 + 1/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 + ½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 ¼ cups sugar

2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons of key lime juice

1 large egg

¼ cup raw sugar

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

1-2 tablespoons key lime juice or to taste

Pinch of salt

Directions for cookies:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and ginger in a medium bowl.   Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat on medium speed the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice.  Reduce speed and add the egg.  Mix on medium speed until combined.  Next add the key lime juice.  The mixture may curdle but don’t worry it will come back together!  Reduce the speed and add the dry ingredients.  Mix on low-speed until just combined.

Use a cookie scoop (I used a medium scoop or 1+1/2 tablespoon scoop) to form round balls.  Roll the balls in the raw sugar.  Divide the dough between the two cookie sheets, twelve cookies per baking sheet.   Bake the cookies until puffy and lightly golden brown, about 8 minutes.  (Be sure not to over bake so check at 6 minutes!)  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies cool, make the key lime icing.  In a small bowl mix together the confectioners’ sugar, key lime juice and salt until completely smooth.  Add more juice if needed.  Add more sugar for desired consistency, if needed.   Set aside.

Once the cookies are completely cool, decorate with key lime icing as desired.  Enjoy!

***Cookies taste best the day they are made but will last in air-tight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.***

 

5 Can’t Miss Cookie Links

Looking for a unique spin on a shortbread cookie? Check out Food 52s honey-butter chip shortbread cookie recipe. Honey, butter and potato chips? How can you go wrong!

Vegan shortbread cookies do exist.  Head to Love & Lemons for their vegan almond shortbread cookie recipe.

I love chocolate and ginger together especially in cookie form.  Head to i am baker and check out Amanda’s chocolate caramel ginger cookie recipe.  Don’t wait until the holidays to make them!

Celebrate summer with mojito cookie bars! Go Bold with Butter has the recipe for you.  Check it out!

S’mores cookies by Sweet Paul magazine claims to be better than sex.  Curious?  Head here for the recipe.