books

A Bakery and a Book

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Yesterday afternoon, bent on doing as little as possible in our preferred calorie-and-caffeine-laden style, Paul and I walked down Connecticut Avenue to Bread Furst for coffee and a treat. Would you look at that case of cakes? I’m particularly entranced by the glossy puddles of caramel over on stage right. I can’t believe we’ve been so slow to catch on to this place. We’ve lived within walking distance of it for a while now, though before this past week it was maybe a 20- or 25-minute walk, and now it’s probably a 6- or 7-minute walk. Be still my heart.

We ordered coffees and a triple-chocolate cookie to share, and sat down to do our usual things. I read a book, Paul drew. He actually drew one of the bakers, and you can see it here on his Instagram.

I meanwhile came close to finishing The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, which I actually just wrapped up this morning. It was a lovely novel. One of those books where you feel as if every word was considered and assembled with care, and yet the overall effect is of writing that flows effortlessly, like water. For example:

Sometimes she spends a few hours with her sketchpad, looking down toward the North Sea. It’s been years since a subject seized her by the nape of the neck. After the funeral procession there were other works of ambition, a handful of grapplings, but then the hunger died off in the easy contentment of daily life. She wonders about it sometimes while she sketches, feathering a gossamer cloud or blurring the amorphous lines of the dunes against the blanched sky. She’s surprised that it doesn’t weigh on her more, this carefree quality of her days. But she sleeps easily and deeply, the sleep of a farm hound who’s spent all day outside. She looks forward to the darkness, when everything is hushed and Tomas tells stories of boyhood escapades and seafaring uncles and cruel spinsters. A little flourish in the design of the zomerhuis is that there’s a removable panel in the slanted roof. Tomas likes to make a show of opening up the room to the night sky above their makeshift bed, to present his wife with this rectangle of stars and planets. Here, he seems to be saying, I have assembled all this for you. But she suspects that he never quite finished shingling the roof. She lets him exaggerate his stories and talk her through the five constellations that he knows before they drift toward sleep. This seems like the truest kind of love to her.

 

Cooking & Baking · Uncategorized

Cake for Breakfast

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Finally, Sunday morning. It’s always such a relief to be able to sleep in, if a certain cat will let me, and wake up to a leisurely morning of making breakfast with Paul. We have a weekly ritual of making a big, decadent breakfast on Sunday mornings. I always make a pot of coffee in the French press. He always cooks the bacon. I do the eggs. If we’re having pancakes, he’s in charge of those. But today, in the mood to do some real baking for the first time in a while, I made us a coffeecake, studded with blueberries and infused with lemon. I easily rationalize eating cake for breakfast if it is chock-full of fruit, and this one is–there is nearly as much blueberry to this cake as there is batter (2 cups of blueberries, 2 cups of flour). Later today I think we’ll go and see The Post and then have coffee with a second round of cake.

The apartment is coming along nicely, thanks largely to Paul’s efforts. He leaves work an hour earlier than I do, and has a bit more energy in the evenings for home projects. A couple of nights this week, I have been in bed by 9:30 while he’s been up still unpacking or working on sketches for his next assignment. Something about winter makes me want to go to bed at 9 p.m. I curl up in my new flannel kittycat print sheets and read my new book The Last Painting of Sara De Vos, which has me enthralled. Every now and then I unpack a box myself, but Paul is doing most of it. I love having our books in the bookshelves now, our clothes hanging neatly in the closets, our dishes stacked in the kitchen cabinets. After six months of living in Paul’s aunt’s home, with nearly all of our belongings packed away in boxes in her garage, it is nice being surrounded by our own things again, cozy old friends.

Blueberry-Lemon Coffeecake

Adapted from Merrill Stubbs’ recipe at Food52

  • 6 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temp.
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice (I only used the juice from 1/2 of my lemon, as it was a large one, and I’m not overly fond of lemon generally)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries (I used frozen, this being January)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Heat the oven to 350F and butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in a stand mixer for 3-5 mins, until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine in another small bowl the milk, heavy cream, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add half the flour to the mixing bowl, then half the milk mixture. Then add almost all of the rest of the flour (all but a tablespoon or two) followed by the rest of the liquid. Do not overmix.
  3. In the bowl that has the flour remnants, toss 2 cups of blueberries. Gently fold them into the cake batter. It’s okay if your batter turns purple but don’t overmix. Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the cake.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, till a cake tester comes out almost clean. Mine took 36 minutes and was perfect. The cake should be very moist from all those blueberries with an almost pudding-like texture. Let it cool in the pan and cut into squares.