Monday, April 21, 2014

Rye and Marmalade Pinwheel Cookies (aka: Joulutorttu)

A month or so ago, I was performing my biennial Organize ALL the Cupboards ritual when I discovered that I have managed to hoard enough jam and marmalade that all of it no longer fits on one shelf of my pantry. Um.... yes... My name is Stephanie, and I am a preservers hoarder.

Since realizing my er... problem...., every dessert that has been coming out of my kitchen recently has involved jam or marmalade in some form or another. It's been a lot of fun experimenting with the versatility that a really good jar of preserves affords you. So when it came time to develop a recipe for my monthly post over at Anthology, I was so excited to stumble upon a pinwheel cookie cutter at Sur La Table (don't worry--a cookie cutter, I later learned, is unnecessary for making these cookies. It just makes things faster). Finnish pinwheel cookies--known as joulutorttu--are these delightfully shaped pastry puffs filled in the centers with marmalade (or traditionally, prune jam). I found the precious shapes to be a super fun and playful change from the typical thumbprint cookies I usually turn to when looking for small, baked vessels with which to deliver jam from jar to mouth. :) I made these even more "Finnish" by making the base a rye puff pastry, and then sprinkling the tops with spicy caraway seeds. For filling, I used a variety of marmalades--any thick jam or marmalade will do.

For the recipe and more photos, click on over to the Anthology website!

Since this is a blog and all, I also feel compelled to include a small update about my life. I won't at all be offended if you skip to the cookies if this part is boring. :)

Teaching at Berkeley this semester has been utterly exhausting (I live in fear of a sudden onset heart attack or something, given the stress), but at the same time, it's been so, so rewarding that I wouldn't trade anything for this experience. If you'd asked me two, three years ago--or maybe even last year--whether I thought I'd be here, I would have laughed in your face, probably complete with some good slow-mo water-spitting action. Grad school really puts you through the ringer. It makes you military-crawl, on your belly, through morasses of sh*t. It tears you down and then sucker-kicks you when you're down for good measure. Or at least, large parts of my experience did. But on the other side now, I'm sort of grateful for all that sh*t I crawled through. Not that I would wish it on anyone else, but I feel as though I'm way stronger and far more capable now than I ever could have been without those life lessons. Everyone learns in their own way, and maybe I just needed the hard knock life route.

For the past few years, after I decided to just go full-steam ahead in chasing my goals, I've lived and breathed by this Barbara Kingsolver quote:

"The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it under its roof." -- Barbara Kingsolver

Every time I look at it, that quote has reminded me and continually encouraged me to just. keep. gonig. Keep grasping for those dreams. Of course, I'm definitely not there yet--I've just climbed the foothills, but there's still the entire mountain range yet to come.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across a new quote. It's one that I felt really resonated with the attitude I've been trying to take on in a new chapter of life. Since emerging from the cave that was grad school, I've felt like--okay, you've proved it to those four people on your committee; now it's time to convince the world. And to do that, requires more risk, more openness, more hard work, more vulnerability, and more bravery:

"In order to move others deeply, we must deliberately allow ourselves to be carried away beyond the bounds of our normal sensibility.... And surely this is no great sin." -- J. Conrad, A Familiar Preface

And the payoff could be beyond our wildest dreams.

More news soon. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter Sunday

Happy Easter Sunday! I'm waiting for Peeps to go on sale on Monday. I have big plans for Peep S'mores. :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Merced River Valley

Work has been eating up literally all of my time lately, but I did manage to take a hike along the Merced River near Yosemite a few weekends ago. I went with the intention of wild-flower-spotting, but given the current California drought crisis, it's not the best year for wild flowers at all. Instead, I just enjoyed the green upon green, before the foliage quickly turns back to gold once the rains subside. Sometimes I forget whether California is the "Golden State" because of the old gold rush or instead as a euphemism for its rolling hills of dry, crisp vegetation in the vast majority of the year.