Some Thoughts on Baking

This here, above, was my first attempt at making a French baguette.

What does a fashionista eat for breakfast? Two Fabergé eggs and a Fendi baguette.

Pardon the corniness. That was an old joke I made up while I was a student at Parsons School of Design. I thought about it the other day when I tried my hand at making a French baguette from scratch. We finally installed an oven so we've been experimenting with baking. My hope is that I'll soon advance to making croissants/pain au chocolats because there's nothing I miss more in the morning than having a croissant/pain au chocolat with my coffee, like the ones from Le Bergamot or Ceci-Cela or Patisserie Claude–not the fake ones that they sell at Costco. That might be a lofty ambition because I haven't baked a single thing from scratch for over a decade! I once tried to make a loaf of Irish soda bread that literally turned out to be a brick and hung up my apron in defeat shortly thereafter. Besides, eating baked goods was quickly going out of fashion amongst the New York set, where keeping a svelte figure reigns supreme. And the thing about baking is that you usually end up eating whatever it is that you bake. I love tearing into a yummy carb as much as the next person, but–oof–makes feel like have a tire around my waist! I guess I've sort of abandoned the idea of dieting since moving to the mountains. You know how you're either predominantly left-brained or right-brained? Well, I always thought of myself as predominantly a cook in the kitchen rather than a baker. I like to cook intuitively and never gave too much credence to the measurements in recipes. With baking, it's more of a science. You have to be accurate with measurements and rising times and baking times, and temperatures. It was beyond my left-brained self. I figured, there were so many fabulous bakeries in the city–why go through all the trouble when you can just point-and-pay? Now that I'm out here at the ranch, though, I've discovered the joys of baking. It's not as hard as I thought it was! Nothing ever is when you take the time to figure it out, I suppose. There's something so lovely about getting flour on your hands, kneading dough, and just going through that whole process. Makes you appreciate these sorts of simple pleasures a whole lot more. 

The Myth of the Eternal 24-Inch Waist

Once upon a time, I had a 24-inch waist. It remained that way for years throughout my twenties. A burger and a side of fries couldn't put a dent in my flat stomach. F you, carbs!!! Heh, heh, heh! "Just wait," my older girlfriends would say. I brushed off their warning and considered myself one of those blessed ones with high metabolism and good genes.

To seal the deal and ensure that I would never allow my waistline to grow beyond this most ideal measurement, I had all of my Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Chanel clothing specially tailored to my skinny-minnie figure. These beautiful clothes were practically sewn onto my body. I wanted to be able to wear them forever, thinking they'd seal in my figure for good. 

Then, I turned 29.

I guess your metabolism does slow down. Even I, who foolishly believed that I was invincible to this fact of life, could not escape it. After being lazy about working out for three months, I found myself with fifteen extra pounds on my hands, or, more accurately: on my cheeks, tummy, hips, and thighs. Disastrous reality. It was a new me, alright. So new that I needed an entirely new wardrobe to match. Nothing zipped up.

Those three months off the track equated to nearly a year of blood, sweat, and tears in the gym. I've lost ten pounds and, as I enter my thirties, I'm now between a 25- and 26-inch waist. Those last five pounds will be the death of me, I tell you!

I learned that nothing lasts forever. Whatever became of those clothes? I certainly didn't account for the fact that my sense of style has changed. As for the 24-inch waist? Who knows, maybe I'll get there again. 

 

 

 

On Potatoes

Awww... Look at how cute these little pee-wee potatoes are! Don't worry, they won't bite!

Somewhere between the Atkins Diet (circa 2002) and the Dukan Diet (circa 2011)—both of which shun the humble potato–I've developed a irrational fear of these starchy tubers. After delving into how the body metabolizes glucose, I had these fantastical images of my body ballooning out if I ate potatoes, each bite being punctuated with that cartoony boing! sound as my girth widened.

Boing! There goes my chin.

Boing! There goes my stomach.

Boing-boing! Right hip. Left hip.

Could something produced by Mother Nature herself be so bad for you? Only if it's deep fried or covered in sour cream, butter, and cheese. Or if eaten in gross amounts. On its own, however, the potato is actually low in calories and keeps you feeling satiated longer than other carbs. 

I haven't had a baked potato in a very, very long time. Like a real Idaho potato. I've had baked sweet potatoes, which are fine and good, but sometimes you just want a real potato. Thinking about making one this weekend.

Maybe instead of sour cream, I'll use Greek yogurt.

Yeonhee's Pumpkin Honey Muffins

My friend Yeonhee makes baking look so easy. She'll waltz into the kitchen, measure out the ingredients into a giant bowl, and, twenty minutes later, there'll be a batch of warm muffins sitting on the counter. These are absolutely delicious! They're fluffy and wheaty, with a nice pumpkin flavor. As someone who's not apt at baking, I was amazed. It's a guaranteed way to look like a domestic diva, with very little baking experience.


1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 cup of honey
2 eggs
3/4 cup of pumpkin purée
1/2 cup of olive oil

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1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl until everything is smoothly blended together.

2. Grease the muffin tin with olive or vegetable oil and dust it with a coat of flour. Carefully fill each muffin tin halfway. (She uses a 6-muffin tin.)

3. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 - 25 minutes. (She bakes them for 20 minutes and leaves them in the oven for an additional 3 minutes, with the heat turned off.) Remove from oven and let it cool.