- Kurt Vonnegut
My mind is a blank. Empty of thoughts, void of ideas. As he stomps around the house, pacing circles around my desk, ranting about his overload of work and too many projects sending his mind shooting in a thousand different directions at once, I sit and stare up at him, absolutely silent. Blank. Empty of thoughts, void of ideas. He raves about the impossibility of working correctly or efficiently, how his mind is pulled in too many directions at once, yet he then dashes back to work and I hear furious typing, occasionally interjected with mild cursing and the smack of an open palm brought down sharply upon the flat of the tabletop. Up and out he pops again, smile splashed across his face as he shouts Success! one more time; his dissatisfaction and anger leashed and channeled into positive energy. I stare at him and offer him a smile, truly happy for his accomplishments, yet I sit here quietly and feel woefully inadequate and lost.
A mind jumping with imagination and bright with creativity was my lot in life. Stories tumbled from my fingertips as they danced across the keyboard. A lifetime of reading, a childhood filled with little more than books, filled my head with bright words and colorful language, moving images, a jumble of characters. I possessed the capacity to travel through time and space, dazzling myself with my ingenuity, often spending hours sitting and chuckling at my own cleverness or sighing as I etched out some perfect romance. Frustration, I knew, was all part of the game; writing, as with any craft, was often laborious, taking more than a fair share of effort and energy to find the inspiration, massage and manipulate it, squeeze and stroke, pull it apart and push it back together again until one finds the perfect form and shape to express one’s desires, to tell the perfect story. Yet, this blankness spreads and fills my days; something has come and stopped it all cold and turned my light and colors dark.
- Charles Dickens
Ideas flit through my brain; I grab at them like so many butterflies yet they slip through my fingers and flutter away. My hands, holding little more than dust and air, fall dull and lifeless to my sides as my eyes search in vain for more pretty, ethereal beasts, waiting impatiently for them to cross, within easy reach, in front of me. Ever-elusive thoughts, fleeting fancies, musings hazy and without form dash and dance before closed eyes, laughing and mocking me. I stand here in my misfortune and attempt, alas, in vain, to find the words to play upon this predicament, my frustration. A writer writes, always, as the saying goes, and I begin to wonder how much faith I should put into these words. Do we simply set ourselves up for failure or is this in truth a sign that I am neither looking in the right direction nor reaching far enough. Just moving aimlessly around my own dilemma as if avoiding eye contact when in reality, if I had the gumption, I should turn and face it front on, grab it by the lapels and shake it silly.
Many friends who know me well have attempted to convince me that limiting myself to food, defining myself as a food blogger is too restraining, boxing me in and limiting my creativity and writing. I have long wondered if a total renovation isn’t called for. Life is, after all, a feast, and I may have to admit that it may just not all be about the food. Yet food defines me – us – in so many ways. We teach and inform, share and pass on our cultures, languages, religions, our heritage through what we cook, serve and eat. Food brings us together as few things can, giving us a reason and a topic around which we form a conversation. Boeuf à la Communication? I do find myself more and more wandering off into untraveled territory, roaming the countryside, so to speak, and chewing on topics that have little to do with food. Yet where would I fit in? Who would come and visit? And would anyone respond, sharing their own tales and tribulations? I’ve asked this of you before, and take comfort in your response, your encouragement.
I have so many stories hidden inside of me, ripe for the telling. Secrets dark and private yearning to be written about. I long to bust the myths and fantasies that others perpetuate about life in this land of romance and lights, the day to day realities where men are not all seductive, women not all chic and slim and children far from well behaved. I make light of our private, personal situation, yet is it all fun and games? How does one go about a transformation and begin writing the dark side? Maybe I have already begun this metamorphosis, writing about husband and sons, the decisions we face, our growing list of projects, obligations and choices. Am I already there?
- Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, October 26, 1813
Blasé. Grumpy. Cynical. I need to shake myself off, find my footing and begin moving forward. My men hover and revolve around me as if I am the sun, grab onto me as if I am their anchor. All four of us are now home together, each one of us starting new careers, new professions, new projects and new adventures, stepping on each other’s toes and demanding attention, and this certainly has the power to discombobulate and distract! Quite possibly, I spread my attention too willy-nilly, allow my commitments to wander wide and far, engrossed by two many projects and my family that my mind jumps back and forth at random. Yet shouldn’t this actually inspire and be a source of enthusiasm and stimulation? Maybe I need to throw myself wholeheartedly into what I have already begun, turn the short stories into a novel, bare my soul, share my secrets, unveil my desires. So where does this adventure start and how do I get there? Shall I clean the slate and begin anew?
My wonderful, talented, funny friend Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts & Line Drives is hosting this month’s Bread Baking Day, a challenge created by Zorra of 1x Umruhren Bitten, that I have long participated in and loved. I promised that no matter what was going on in my life I would bake for her this month. BBD #47 is all about Bread & Chocolate (there is nothing better!); this was the perfect opportunity to turn to the pages of my own mother’s old Sisterhood of Temple Beth Shalom (Satellite Beach, Florida) cookbook Our Favorite Recipes (c. early to mid-1960’s) that I purloined from her kitchen cabinet. The paper is stained and torn, the cover faded, the plastic rings binding the pages together disintegrates into tiny pieces each time I pick it up. My funny mother who hated to cook was actually the Cookbook Committee Chairman, which I find absolutely comical! I find her own recipes throughout; many I remember, some are foreign, eliciting no memories.
This recipe for Butter Horns is not hers, but a creation of Marlene Keilsohn, who I do not remember. Butter Horns, which are actually in the shape of crescents (although they have the tendency to blow up like the Michelin Man), are light, delicately sweet, butter and egg-rich brioche yeast dough although very quick and easy to make. Once the dough rises overnight in the refrigerator, it is divided and shaped into crescents, rolled around a filling of cinnamon sugar, chocolate chips and chopped nuts – or really any sweet filling you please. Baked, these babies puff up and offer you a stunning brioche roll, absolutely delicious. And I share these scrumptious treats, perfect for both breakfast and snacktime, with Lisa for BBD #47!
I would also like to send these to my friend Susan of Wild Yeast, for Yeastspotting, her weekly event highlighting all things yeast!
BUTTER HORNS WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS & PECANS
From Our Favorite Recipes of the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Shalom, Satellite Beach, Florida
1 package (8 g) dry yeast
¾ cup (150 g) granulated white sugar
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) milk (I used 2% lowfat)
½ lb (225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp salt
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
4 – 5 cups (560 – 700 g) flour + more for kneading
A couple of tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup (50 g) granulated white or light brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cups or more mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
½ cup or more chopped pecans, walnuts or blanched almonds
Prepare the dough the day before:
Place the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar in a small bowl. Gently heat the milk until it is lukewarm or body temperature. Pour the warm milk over the yeast and sugar and allow to activate, about 15 to 20 minutes for active dry yeast, 20 to 30 minutes for traditional dry yeast; there should be a thick head of foam about an inch thick on the top and no more or very few grains of yeast left.
Cream the butter and the remaining white sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just to combine after each addition. Beat in the salt and the lemon zest. Add the activated yeast water and beat on low just to combine. Beat in 4 cups of the flour 1 cup at a time. Then beat in the remaining cup of flour a little at a time, adding just enough to form a sticky dough (I added the entire cup). Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface – the dough will probably be sticky if not downright wet – and knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is homogeneous, very soft, smooth and supple yet no longer sticky.
Place the dough in a large, greased or buttered mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Prepare the Butter Horns:
The dough should have doubled in size overnight. Remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature (or mostly) – I took the bowl out when I finished breakfast and got to the Butter Horns once everyone had eaten, kitchen cleaned and I had washed and dressed! Perfect!
Scrape the dough out of the bowl and knead briefly. Cut the dough into 10 pieces (12 is fine and will simply make slightly small Horns). Roll each piece out on a lightly floured work surface to a round of about ¼-inch thick, about 7 inches in diameter. Lightly butter each round with the melted butter.
Stir the granulated light brown sugar together with the ground cinnamon. Sprinkle the buttered rounds of dough generously with cinnamon sugar then sprinkle with chocolate chips and chopped nuts. (Remember that the dough really puffs up, so add more chocolate chips than less or they may be lost in the dough once baked. I also left about a quarter-sized rough chip and nut free in the center and you will understand why once you begin rolling the crescents.)
Gently press the chocolate chips onto the surface of the dough with the side of your rolling pin using gentle pressure – this just keeps the chips and nuts in place when rolling them up. I also made the circle of dough a bit wider. Using a sharp knife, cut the rounds into quarters. Roll each quarter up tightly, starting with the wide towards the narrow end/point. Press the point onto the crescent to seal. Place each roll on a parchment-lined or greased baking tray, point side down, and shape into a crescent. Leave room between the crescents for rising and spreading.
Cover each baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap and let the crescents rise for 2 hours at room temperature until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Remove the plastic wrap and bake the Butter Horns for 15 to 20 minutes until evenly browned and nice, deep golden. Gently lift to make sure the underside has also browned.
Remove from the oven and brush with more melted or soft butter while still hot, if desired (this gives them a nicer color).
Once cooled (or just warm) you can drizzle the Butter Horns with Powdered Sugar Glaze (1/2 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar + about 2 teaspoons milk) if you like.