when it rains it pours

Tuesday was one heck of a surreal day. With all the news from the Northeast and the feelings that come with that like helplessness/fortune/worry/care/apocalypticfearsfortheplanet, yesterday was a strange day for me to hit the jackpot. But I sort of did, in a non-financial, non-professional sort of way. 

I spent the morning in the Richmond district, scouring Asian markets to finally find a few overripe hachiya persimmons for a baking project. Hachiya persimmons are seriously the most fascinating fruit. The change in them from unripe to ripe and beyond is bizarre. It's the tannins I've read, so they are sort of like wine, moving and morphing with age. So weird. I spent midday baking with Oliver, who has just learned how to hit at a little over three years old. He swung at me the other night and I was shocked, that is just not like him. I spent the evening straightening Stella's super-curly hair for the first time, only to curl it again to see how close to Judy Garland's Dorothy pigtails we could get. Pretty darn close.

Throughout the day I kept receiving good news. First, a message from Bombshell Betty confirming my new act in the November show (and asking me to perform my flamenco act in that show, too). That made my day. I really want to develop a new act, one that is traditional, without a storyline. I'm done with storylines! I've got to get cracking on that, because the show is two weeks from tonight. Then I heard back from another burlesque group that accepted me to perform in their holiday show (I guess I'm branching out, I'm very interested in performing these days). I got the okay to bring some new eggs over to Rare Device, and I got a chuckle out of seeing our family dressed as carnival folk in The Huffington Post Parents section as part of their group Halloween costume ideas article. Poor David. He has gotten way more exposure from all of this than he would ever have asked for, but I love the photo.

It was sort of crazy, because a lot of those things have caused me to obsessively check my email over the past few days, and then BOOM, they were all there. 

And then opportunity knocked again! It offered me a chance at something that makes twirling tassels seem like a walk in the park. A chance to go out on a limb and challenge myself in a way that I am totally ready for but mortified of, and I WISH I COULD SAY WHAT IT IS! But I have to keep it hush for a few more days. I will tell you that I need a head shot for it, and that my crazy-talented friend and colleague Lauren Crow is coming by on Monday to take the photos for me.

I'm not into teasers, so sorry about that. Had to get it out of my system.

And now it's Halloween. Happy Halloween! STAY SAFE!


you are a winner!

It's as if the online randomizer I used to select the winner knew who had left the sweetest comment (not a requirement, of course)! Deb Polo, you are now the proud owner of two brand new donut pans, a few donut fire starters, some brittle, a secret donut project that I've done that may or may not ever end up here due to technical issues, some chalk and a crayon donut or two. I will get my end of it in the mail by the end of this week and let Wilton know to send you your set of pans. Email me your mailing address at sfcornerblogathotmaildotcom. Yay, Deb! You're so awesome, xoxoxo!

Here's the randomizer shot, the only one I ran:

Thank you EVERYONE who commented. It looks like the gumdrops were the favorite, with the marshmallows and eggs a close second, and I think I agree, although I will always think the madeleines were brilliant! If and when I see my donut-shaped beauties on the printed page, it will be because of your support. I really appreciate it!



donut pan idea no. 25: brittle rings

I definitely meant to make these in the coming months, but since the hachaya persimmons I bought last Tuesday for a donut project are STILL ripening in a paper bag in the dark with an apple and some rice, I thought I'd make the brittle now. By the way, if you've got any persimmon ripening tips, let me know, I'm very frustrated!

Brittle rings! Delicious, and really a nice size for a serving of brittle. I made two kinds. Both have pepitas, both are gift-worthy. Brittle is super easy to make, who knew?

I adapted two Martha Stewart recipes for the rings. The first was a pumpkin seed brittle which uses butter and honey, the second was a wonderful sweet-and-smoky brittle, with adobo sauce and cayenne pepper, and my addition of smoked sea salt. David got the smoked salt as part of a birthday gift to use with the sangrita he loves to make (and drink), which is also why we always have a can of chiles en adobo around.

Each recipe yielded eight brittle rings. For the pumpkin seed brittle you will need 1 c. pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pans, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 1/4 c. honey. For the sweet-and-smoky brittle, you will need another 1 c. pepitas, 1 c. sugar, 1/4 c. water, 1 tsp. coarse salt (smoked or not), 2 tbsp. adobo sauce, 1 c. nuts (I used unsalted, roasted cashews) and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, although next time I'll use a little more. 

You'll also need cooking spray for the smoky brittle pans, and a candy thermometer for both recipes.

I started by tossing the 2 c. of pumpkin seeds with just a drop of olive oil and roasting at 350º for ten minutes, watching and stirring every two minutes to avoid burning. While the pepitas are roasting, butter your pans.

Melt the 1/4 c. butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the 1/2 c. brown sugar and 1/4 c. honey. Cook at a low boil for about six minutes without stirring until the thermometer registers 280º (Martha Stewart recipes are really accurate with time/temperature directions)! Stir in the pumpkin seeds and cook another two minutes until your thermometer reaches 300º. Remove from heat and prepare to quickly fill pans.

I used a 1/3 c. measuring cup to scoop about 1/4 c. of the hot liquid sugar mixture into the pans. PLEASE be careful. Do not try to push the brittle around with your finger in any way. It is terribly hot and sticks to you and burns. Maybe I found this out the hard way. Use a spoon if needed, but this mixture is thin enough that if you pour carefully you shouldn't need to corral anything back into the pans.

Let those sit for at least an hour and a half before taking out of the pans. In the meantime, make some more brittle! The sweet-and smoky brittle recipe requires spraying pans with cooking spray or oiling with cooking oil, so do that.

Here's the Maldon sea salt I used. I am fascinated by these flaky crystals! You've got to crush them up a bit when you use it here, but leaving some of the crystals whole is fun, too.

If you follow the Martha Stewart recipe for this brittle, there is no thermometer required. I suggest using one and trying to hit the 280-300º point with the mixture without burning. I didn't hit the hard crack candy stage this time around, so this brittle was a little more grainy than I would've liked. Still delicious (and almost gone less than 24 hours after making)!

Cook 1 c. sugar, 1/4 c. water and 1/2 tsp. coarse salt over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook without stirring on low-medium boil for four (or maybe a few more) minutes until golden. Cook one more minute while swirling the pan on the flame. Carefully stir in the 2 tbsp. adobo and cook for 30 more seconds.

My photographs for much of this day came out horribly. I don't know if it is the changing fall light, or the sheen on my subject matter, but boy, was I surprised when I downloaded my camera. Boo.

Remove the pot from heat, and stir in roasted pepitas and nuts, and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper. Carefully and quickly spoon mixture into donut pans. Remember, do not touch with your fingers! Sprinkle with remaining salt (or more)! Let these sit for at least an hour to set up.

When the brittle is totally set up, remove the pumpkin seed rings from the pans using a lot of pressure. Using both thumbs, slowly but forcefully start pressing down and in one direction, trying to rotate the brittle in the pan to loosen it. Eventually it's going to start moving, just keep pressing. It is still hard to remove at that point, even though it is disconnected from the pan. I found if I started twirling it quickly and then applied lopsided pressure it would pop out and I could grab it.

The nut-clustery sweet-and-smoky brittle popped out easily and quickly with a gentle twist of a knife.

Aren't they pretty? I am sure any brittle recipe will do great in the pans. This was my first attempt to make brittle and it won't be my last. Easy!

The brittle rings should keep for a few weeks in an airtight container. I cut circles out of parchment paper and layered the rings with a paper circle between each one to keep from sticking to each other. I was thrilled to discover that my donut pan creations fit perfectly inside a Weck jar. Good to know! 

Speaking of my donut pan creations, have you entered the donut pan giveaway I've got going right now? Click HERE to enter. Along with the pans, I'm sending some brittle and other little goodies to the winner. The giveaway closes tonight (Monday) at midnight, and I'll announce the winner on Tuesday. I'd love it if you'd enter!


what i: seven black dresses

This whole topic is so utterly ridiculous when put into perspective, but it's been on my mind a lot this last week. I sat down to look at all of the photos we took at our dear friends' wedding this past weekend in Mendocino, but I just keep coming back to this shot. My suitcase being filled with two types of things: outrageously clowny accent pieces/garments and seven black dresses.

This is where I'm at now, over a year after writing about being inspired by my own closet to get into shape. Dragging a suitcase stuffed with "options" to a super fun weekend away with old friends (not a single pant to be found in that bag, by the way), but none of the options were fun. David officiated the wedding on a beach, and I so wanted to match the flossiness of my children and my husband, and all the super-talented and lovely friends at the wedding with us. But out of seven inappropriate-for-the-setting black dresses there was only one dress that actually fit. So that's what I wore.

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I can get to feeling really great about myself when I get dolled up. I can feel like I am the best looking lady in the room sometimes. This might be my massive ego's fault, but it happens. I forget about the numbers on our scale, remember the times I've been called pretty in the past, and head on out to strut my stuff. But then the photos. They SHOCK me. SHOCK ME.

Middle age has hit me like a brick. This is not news, you hear this sort of thing all the time. I have learned to love myself and others so much more than when I was younger, it feels so surreal to not have the appearance that corresponds with all of that. Having a baby at 40 years old was hard on my body (but does make me feel younger in my heart, that's for sure). Things are giving out here and there due to my massive sugar addiction, which now ebbs and flows but has been just terrible over the last five years. Sitting in front of the computer writing instead of taking an hour to work out has probably been a bad choice in the long run. I need a long run!

The real sign for me that I am not wearing this weight well is the photos. I haven't seen a candid shot of myself that didn't make me cringe in so, so long. This is the huge red flag for me. 

I'm influenced by two worlds. The burlesque world is so accepting of any body type (although I am not so sure it is immune to ageism, we shall see). It doesn't matter your size. In fact, it might actually WOW the crowd more to see a larger lady dance. Burlesque (and all the costumes and full makeup) has been a giant gift to me in that regard. Backstage at shows I actually find myself wishing I was bigger! I'm a little bit middle-of-the-road compared to the ladies I frequently perform with. Some of my burlesque friends are much larger than me, but they don't carry weight in their face like I do, the thing that bothers me the most.

Then there is the push-back from uber-gorgeous and fit San Francisco. Almost none of our friends are built like me. I have gotten really good at blocking out the thoughts that go through my head when I am "amongst the thin", but it is hard. Keeping my chin(s) up for Stella is always of utmost importance, although I have faltered on occasion. I try to always stress that I am trying to eat better for my health, not my weight, when it comes up.

I dunno. I am so tired of years and years of beating myself up. I have only two options. Full acceptance, or change. It feels so hypocritical to not get on the full acceptance wagon. I dance with ladies who are just SO DAMN BEAUTIFUL it doesn't matter what their size is. Really. REALLY I feel that way. But I'm not those ladies. Even all of this body-loving burlesque hasn't exorcized society's demons. I feel guilty about that. I don't have those sorts of feelings about anyone's body but my own, but I am definitely a hypocrite. 

If not acceptance, than change. What will be the silver bullet to get healthier again? Is it writing this essay? Is it the feeling I get when I remember trying on seven black dresses in a panic last weekend? I always thought my 40's would be better than my 30's, but in this area they are not. It literally feels like running out of time now. I am tired of chasing this. I need to step up or just let it go.

Vanity. I can't bring myself to share the photo that was the straw that broke this camel's back right now, which is sad, because it's me and Stella at the wedding, having a ball. Maybe someday it'll be a "before" photo. 

Enough about me. Hahahahahahahahahaha, this blog is all about me. Thank you for listening, and have a wonderful weekend. Oh, don't forget to enter the latest GIVEAWAY. It's not just donut pans direct from the manufacturer, I'll also be sending the winner a small assortment of the donut ideas we've made so far! xoxo


the second dozen + the second giveaway! (closed)

I'm a donut pan idea or two away from being a quarter way through my 101 Donut Pan Ideas project! I recently completed the second dozen ideas, and I'm loving them all. It's awesome that I get a memory out of each of these photos. The panna cotta was done the last weekend before the pool we love to swim at closed for the season, and we ate them when we got home from a day in the water. We burned a fire starter when Stella was home sick one day last week, and I texted the photo of the hard cooked egg to David one night telling him his deconstructed egg salad was waiting for him when he got home late from work. I don't know what's compelling me to keep going on these things, but I am a woman obsessed. I am The Donut Queen, as this lady likes to call me.

Links to the second dozen donut pan ideas:

In honor of being almost a quarter of the way to my goal, I'm hosting another giveaway today. Two donut pans will be sent to you directly from Wilton, the company who makes the pans and who has been quite generous since I contacted them a few months ago about this project. Additionally, I have a small collection of a few less-to-non-perishable donuts I've made that I'd love to send you!

To be entered in the giveaway, which will be chosen at random on Tuesday, October 30th, please leave me a quick note below in the comments letting me know which was your favorite of the second dozen donut pan ideas (shown in the photo and linked in the list above). You could leave a comment on the corner blog Facebook page if for some reason it is hard to do here. It will be really interesting for me to see which one folks like the most. I have a hard time choosing myself!

Thinking of ideas for this project is sort of like counting sheep for me. I do it many nights before bed, and get some great ideas from that ritual. Frequently David and Stella (and sometimes even Oliver) talk about them over dinner. I have a GIANT list of ideas ready to be brought to life, but I only can manage to do one or two donut projects a week. I'm going to ramp up my efforts in the next few months, because the holidays are just begging for donuts!

Let me know your favorite donut so far and you'll have a chance at winning. Good luck! I have more pans (and probably more donuts) to give away over the next few months, so there will be more chances to win. And if you already have a set, try for some more. I have eleven pans and they are always busy! 

Here's the fine print from Wilton:

Contest is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States of America, Washington, D.C. (excluding US territories and possessions) or Canada (excluding Quebec), who are are eighteen (18) years of age or older. Void where prohibited by law.

If you'd like to see the first dozen donut pan ideas and the first giveaway, click here.

Thank you so much for reading these posts and being so supportive of this silly-yet-compelling pursuit of mine. I am working in the kitchen with ingredients I've never used before and gaining a lot of confidence as a baker and beyond. It is a joy for me! xoxoxoxo


sweet loaf donuts with glaze

These donuts are meant to be made with any sweet loaf recipe. I've used a very unique recipe for Sesame Banana Bread from my all time favorite cooking and recipe blog, 101 Cookbooks, written by Heidi Swanson (who I think happens to live in my neighborhood!). You can use any sweet loaf and glaze recipe you'd like. Some other ones that come to mind are lemon poppy seed, cranberry orange and zucchini breads. Those would all be wonderful.

I doubled the recipe to yield 30 donuts. I froze them and then brought them with us to Mendocino this past weekend, for the glorious weekend wedding of our beloved friends Will and Alexa, to share with friends at hungover breakfasts. I glazed them right before serving and they went quickly with morning coffee. Great recipe, especially if you like sesame seeds.

To get started, preheat your oven per your recipe. Butter and flour your pans (or spray with baking spray). Do the dry mix/wet mix thing for your batter. I used a pastry bag to fill the pans, squeezing the batter directly down into the pan cavities as I worked around each donut shape. The pastry bag ended up a mess at the end, along with my hands, but it was really helpful.

You need to watch your donuts VERY carefully when you get them in the oven. This recipe took only FIFTEEN MINUTES to bake. After ten minutes I moved the pans on the lower oven rack up to the upper oven rack, and moved the top ones down, so no one got too much heat. Five minutes later they were done. If I were to ever do a light bread, like lemon poppyseed, I would check them every five minutes from the get go, to be sure the bottoms wouldn't burn.

The glaze from the recipe I used was simple and tart. Equal parts brown and powdered sugar, thinned by lemon juice. I used an orange instead of a lemon and it was delightful. After glazing, even more sesame seeds get piled on top!

This is a great way to serve sweet loaf breads without having to slice them. Donuts win, again!


class clown

Oliver came to Stella's classroom birthday party a few weeks ago. He was so well behaved and fit right in among the second graders. They all ate the birthday treats we baked, and then it was time for show and tell, or "Share", as Stella's teacher calls it. And then shit got really funny. REALLY funny. He was hamming it up big time while Stella was "sharing" him, and then when he turned and threw a big stuffed elephant up onto the podium after Stella was finished, all the kids lost it. They were laughing so hard at this strange long haired baby, who said with a total straight face, "This is an elephant. He has a tail. I'm outta here!", and then marched away. I was crying I was laughing so hard. I'm laughing to myself right here, alone in the middle of the night just looking at these photos. He did it again after another of Stella's classmates finished her share. This guy LOVES to get a laugh, he is such a clown. 

Have a great weekend!

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