Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CHOCOLATE CHIP PECAN BUTTER HORNS

RUNNING ON EMPTY


I used to be funny, and perhaps I’m not anymore. It may be that I have become rather grumpy because I’ve seen so many things that have offended me that I cannot deal with in terms of laughter.
- 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.


An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.
- 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?


I am not at all in a humor for writing; I must write on till I am.
- 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

Dough:

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

Filling:

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.

First batch, less filling.

Second book more filling.

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.

45 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I am also suffering from a writer's block at the moment... I feel empty and my thoughts are darker than usual. Hopefully spring will bring me loads of bright ideas. ;-)

Those butter horns are wonderful! I love this chocolaty version.

Chers,

Rosa

Jessica Anne said...

I'm hungry all of a sudden...wonder why? Ha. Ha. These made me think of the pecan scones I made the other week that were drizzled with chocolate. These look yummy. I think the icing made it two thumbs up for my tummy. :)

Jamie said...

@Rosa's Yummy Yums: Rosa, you are such a wonderful and prolific writer, it is comforting to know that you, too, go through this. Yes, hopefully spring will bring newfound energy and ideas. x

Aidan said...

Jamie, the butter horns are gorgeous. I wish omeone would make me some.
That aside, I only just started reading you. Late to the party, I know. But if you ask me, you should tell all your stories. You are more than a food blog and that was clear to me from the start. Sure, you're great at it but that's not what makes you popular. It's your words, energy and joie de vivre that interest me. Life's a feast because it's so much more tthan food. 'life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death, live, live, live!' auntie Mame
I think you do that in spades!
Bon courage, Aidan

Jamie said...

@Aidan: Tears don't come easily to me, but your comment has actually brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much!

zorra said...

Whatever you decide, as long as it makes you happy it is good!

Love your "horns"!

Nuts about food said...

Ooooh, so pretty! I think you should go ahead and write what your heart feels the need to express. You are certainly more than a food writer. Go ahead and jump!

WiseMóna said...

Jamie,
Empty of thoughts and void of ideas you are not. Not ever. I think, and I know a lot of them, that great communicators like yourself cannot be restrained to just talking about one thing or another. I am shifting gears with my blog too and the closer I come to release the book the more 'lifestyle' I will blog - not eliminating the food blogging just weaving the food stories into the larger part of our life. You already do that with such beautiful prose .. and something gorgeous to share at the end by way of a cake or something you baked, with love, for your family.

Living the life of a writer, where all you do is write, is a constant battle with yourself. A battle to keep reminding ourselves that we can, we will and we do.

Keep moving those fingers - even if it is just for fun!
Hugs from Ireland xx

Jamie said...

@WiseMona: Do you know that thoughts of you kept flashing through my head as I wrote this and I kept thinking of how you transformed your blog. You have inspired me, Mona! xo

Fabulicious Food said...

Oh no! I think we need another trip to Chateloup to get those creative juices flowing! There's nothing worse than feeling boxed in, but you needen't be. I think Life's a Feast can encapsulate a whole lot of themes so it's up to you what you write about! I'm a firm believer that all creative processes evolve. Go with the flow, don't swim against the current! I'm sure those horns were absolutely scummy. You are a talent Jamie, shine!

Jamie said...

@Fabulicious Food: Chanteloup, for sure, would get everything flowing (especially the Cognac!). Yes, I need to travel more, don't I? We? Where do we sign up? And thanks, your words actually make me think that maybe I am in some sort of renewal stage where I must hibernate in order to rejuvenate and begin anew and fresh. Thanks much, Ren xo

Lisa said...

I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilled I am that you've made these for my hosting gig, and how utterly blown away I am by how gorgeous and delicious they look! I cannot wait to show them off in the round-up!

On another note - food blogger is the least of what you are. You are a melange of stories waiting to be told - effervescent and sometimes sad memories, phenomenally detailed imagery and observations, not to mention your research..etc. - a beautiful, talented Mother, wife and WRITER.

educatedpalate said...

You are evolving! No need to loose the food, you have it in you to add so much of the world around you. I can't wait to read your insights.

Adore the idea of butter horns. Perhaps I can get eldest daughter off her cake trip to try and make these. She has another regatta soon and I'm sure everyone would be happy! I do love the how to photos.

Grazie,

Lael

Jamie said...

@Lisa Parsleynsage: I was always afraid to bake something like this (yeast) out of one of these old cookbooks; the lack of detail in the method (the long explanation is my own) made me wonder if the recipe was precise and workable. But it was! Easy and so delicious! Really perfect brioches! So happy to bake with/for you, baby! You are the best! And the best of me is due to my amazing friends.... who encourage, support and inspire me :-)

Jamie said...

@educated palate: Lael, I cannot wait for you to get back to blogging and writing because doing all this alongside of you is so inspiring and I miss it! And please have Gabriella try these and let me know how they turn out! xo

thelittleloaf said...

These look utterly incredible! I love reading your posts and even if they relate only very tenuously to food they are a complete joy :-)

Helene Dsouza said...

Jamie, when dark days prevail in my life, I try to do things which I love to do the most, things which inspire me. Maybe you need a little change? changes can be good, right?

Winter can be sometimes long and dark, but remember there is always spring after the cold.

Your chocochip pecan butter hrns look so yumm, absolutly gorgeous. I cant imagine that u werent inspired baking them, they look perfect!

Aparna B. @ Not A Leaf said...

Yuuuummy!! Gotta love Lisa and her awesome challenges! I wish I knew how to make any kind of bread recipe. But thanks to you gals, now I have some! These look and sound delicious. And as always, they look beautiful! <3

Love at first bite! said...

these look absolutely delicious! i am definitely going to try them! by they way! nice meeting you! love your nlog! x

Sara{OneTribeGourmet} said...

Jamie, we all have our dark days, partially I have winter to blame. I think spring will be better! Loved the chocolate chip& pecan butter horns! Yum!

Jamie said...

@Sara (One Tribe Gourmet): Ah, winter! That drags my husband down... but I do feel nicer now that spring is in the air :-)

@Love at first bite: Thank you! And welcome!

tasteofbeirut said...

Well if you can feel that way and still bake these little beauties, I say ma chère, c'est pas grave! :)

Southern Elle said...

Oh these look so so yummy and fresh! I need to make these. AWESOME!

Javelin Warrior said...

I love the look of these butter horns - and brioche is a new favorite bread of mine so adding a stuffing and drizzling with glaze can only improve it =)

As for inspiration, for me it all comes down to the topic and the day. Some days I am inspired to write, some days to design my blog, some days to bake, other days to cook, other days to read blogs, and sometimes just to take a break =)

I find that if I attempt to force productivity for specific topics on days where I don't feel inspired by those topics, I end up spinning my wheels and my work suffers. I make serious mistakes in baking. My characters think nothing but drivel. The HTML refuses to cooperate. I feel trapped, listless, uninspired, and frankly pathetic.

So I don't force it, I move on. And invariably, the inspiration for the day is the very thing I thought I didn't have time for...

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Jamie you express your feelings so perfectly. My heart ached for you as I know what it's like when you are separated from writing which you come to realise is what sustains you as it does me. I hope that everything rights itself for you Jamie xxx

Carolyn Jung said...

Just the name, "butter horns,'' makes me smile. My late-Dad used to love those. I remember going to the bakery with him to buy a box. Always such a treat!

Christy said...

Don't we all hate that time when we have the writer's block syndrome and nothing seems to inspire or motivate us at all. Well, hopefully they will just pass us by and then we are all back in the mode to write;)
These butter horns look cute and whether writer's block or not, posting the photos should be sufficient to send the message across :D

MyFudo™ said...

Butterhorns is next on my to do baking list...and I think I have just stumbled upon a really nice recipe. Look at the gorgeous pictures. I am excited to try this...

Barbara Bakes said...

I blame the weather. Hopefully with the Spring we'll all be feeling renewed. Although a book would be exciting. These horns would be gobbled up quickly at my house!

Terra said...

The name alone has me excited, BUTTER Horns...Oh, why yes please:-)And seriously, look at that glaze:-) Gorgeous, Hugs, Terra

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

How can you say that you've lost your words when they are right here so eloquent and revealing. No I think the words are still there they may just be taking the long winding road.

Jamie said...

@Javelin Warrior: I think you are right and maybe I just spend too much time trying to force myself instead of waiting for nature to take its course. I end up only beating my head against the desk. Good advice.

Jamie said...

@Lorraine @Not Quite Nigella: Yes, that's it, isn't it? Writing sustains us. It is the breath in our bodies. Ah, my writer friends do understand how it hurts. Thank you, darling xo

Katie said...

FOBS (Fear Of Blank Screens) is to bloggers what FOWP (Fear Of White Paper) is to painters. I have both. When you get it sorted, please share ;-))

shaz said...

Whatever you decide to do, in whichever direction you roam, we will be here, waiting patiently for your beautiful butterflies to dazzle us :) And while we wait, we will eat these amazing looking butter horns. mmmm...

Asmita said...

Wow, this looks super yummy!!! Love the clicks too.

Eggs on the Roof said...

I don't think you should allow anything to trap you or box you in. You're far too inventive and creative for that. Life is after all a work in progress, so just write what you feel and express what you mean. If it involves a shared meal or a recipe or a cake, then that's perfect. If it doesn't, that's also perfect. Your readers will go with you, whatever you write about. x

Jill Colonna said...

Jamie, it's inspiring reading you as ever. Are you taking the Jane Austen approach or getting out into that new spring-like air just now to clear away the writing cobwebs? I'm feeling a bit like this just now but couldn't say it like you. I'm sure these horns make everything better, though. Absolutely fantastic - like your fun photos throughout and giggled at that tattered recipe book. If writing be the food of love, don't clean the slate!

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

I can almost smell these lovely little rolls baking in the own. But that is just wishful thinking. Tell all your stories, Jamie. We are so much more than just one thing. How those things weave together is what makes us unique.

Cake Duchess said...

Love this post Jamie and I know bigger things are right around the corner for you so don't lose faith. You inspire others with your words:)Lovely horns and I am going to give this recipe a try this weekend.xx

carpet cleaning Fargo ND said...

My kids will love these, thanks for sharing

Lana said...

I don't know what to say, but "Me, too!" I feel your trepidation, impatience, and desire to burst out with the ideas languishing deep in your soul. One of these days you'll branch out and move away from the "niche", because you are a writer first, and food writer second (a damn good one, too). You are drawn to food, just like me, because it is comforting, it brings forth the images of happiness, full bellies, smiling children, and good times with friends. But don't limit yourself with food writing - you can find comfort and warmth in so many areas:)
I love your horns, as they remind me of the "crescents" my Njanja and mama made while we were growing up. And that is some gorgeous photography!

The Food Hunter said...

I want one of these right now.

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Like I said at Plate to Page - the scariest thing in the world is a blank screen, and it never get easier, does it??

Love these butter horns - chocolate, nuts and buttery pastry, what could be better?!

wAJiNg said...

yummy looking butter horns~ it cheers up my day ^^

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