Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Croissants for Sunday tea

Despite the stereotypical associations of the Ivory Tower replete with cardigans and leatherbound books, the life of a modern, early-career academic is not really the most civilized. I've eaten my share of questionable, unidentified leftovers from communal department refrigerators. As the school year progresses, the definition of "clean" laundry often degrades from "I wore this once already, it's dirty" to "I don't smell too bad, plus everyone has a stuffy nose and a cold, so no one will care." One professor I know refuses to wash her mug so that no one else will use it, and she'll always have something available to drink from (though even I question the health risk of drinking out of said mug). Another professor I know thanks her husband in her dissertation acknowledgements for making sure she showers from time to time. As for those cardigans, mine are often riddled with holes, but as long as the sleeves are still ~80% attached, I dare say they are still wearable. Plus, thumb holes (even if unintentional) are so hip, right?

Luckily, however, we do somehow manage to make up for day-to-day unrefinement every now and then. Like at Sunday tea. We academics know how to do tea.

My good friend and colleague, Andréa (who is also a recipe developer for sated), invited me over last weekend as part of a Lab Ladies' Sunday Tea. In a somewhat unusual circumstance, Andréa is part of a lab that is predominantly female, which is quite awesome given the usual gender imbalance (read: male dominance) in the more theoretical and STEM-oriented subfields of linguistics. It was so much fun to be a member-by-courtesy and to get together and talk about linguistics, debate how to properly drink tea (milk before tea or tea before milk), and vent about dissertating. We even had a bit of a more formal dress code for Sunday tea, to be proper--I think it's the first time I've worn actually girly amounts of make-up in ages (and brushed my hair). And, these girls are all talented bakers, as demonstrated by the impressive homemade spread they turned out:

[Top: Cinnamon challah; bottom-left to right: sweet potato-pecan cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, apple and cheddar salad]

My contributions were teacups (naturally, and also some plateware and wood boards--after all, what is a food photographer's prop closet good for if you can't break out pretty props from time to time for use?) and an array of jams: seville orange marmalade (a must for tea), a homemade strawberry gifted from Annelies, and Blue Chair tomato-nectarine jam. (We also had some delicious Blenheim apricot jam leftover from a previous study group.) One of our friends even brought a type of Northern European caramel goat cheese, which was fascinating. Yay, learning about new foods!

[another lesson I learned: apparently, the tradition is to not cut challah, but break off chunks instead. We learned this after making the first cut. :)]

In perhaps the most impressive stroke, Andréa made her own croissants. They were so delicious and flakey fresh out of the oven--the entire kitchen smelled perfectly divine while they were baking. Having freshly made croissants is such a rare treat that moments like these (which are thankfully shared with awesome friends) definitely make up for the unglamour-ousness of daily academic life. I asked Andréa if she would share her croissant recipe here on the blog, and she agreed, so it is below!

Read on for recipe....