Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chocolate Bailey's Date Cake

I have this thing for guys’ clothes. I love warm, cozy hoodies for after workouts; big, baggy t-shirts for sleeping; and large, oversized cardigans for wearing. Sometimes, it’s just comforting to be wrapped up in a big pile of cloth.

I’d steal clothes from my brothers, but unfortunately, we tend to have different styles. Theoretically, I could just buy guys’ clothes, but it’s a little bit awkward when you’re five-foot-six and skinny and you try to buy an XL men’s tee. The cashiers would probably assume that the purchase is a gift, but it’s awkward for me because I know that I’m the one wearing it. Comfort clothing, after all, should come no strings attached.

So the most suitable way to acquire guys’ clothes? Steal them from male friends. A couple weeks ago, I borrowed a hoodie from my friend Brian because I was cold. After wearing the cozy blue-gray salt and pepper hoodie for the whole day, I didn’t want to give it back. Brian and I struck up a deal: I could keep the hoodie if I baked him Peanut Butter, Banana, Date, Oat Bran Muffins, a New York Style Crumb Cake, and a Chocolate Bailey’s Date Cake.

I figured that the easiest way of payment would be to stagger the baked goods by a week. The first week, I brought the muffins to English class, where they were promptly consumed by the people who sat near us. The second week, I brought the whole square pan of Crumb Cake and gave it to Brian, pan and all. (Which reminds me that I really need to get the pan back from him...) The third week, I asked Brian is he happened to have any whiskey so that I could make the Chocolate Whiskey Date Cake that I had been dying to try. He didn’t have any, so I used Bailey’s instead.

This is one of those no nonsense uber gooey, dense cakes which weighs about a thousand pounds. It tastes of chocolate and Bailey’s Irish Cream, one of my favourite combinations.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

In my opinion, its hair, not shoes, that makes the woman. Shoes you can take off at the end of each day and replace periodically, which you can’t exactly do with hair. I’ve been growing my hair out since the seventh grade and it’s finally, finally how I want it to be: waist-length and slightly wavy. But as much as I love having long hair to tie into high, swinging ponytails and to twist into large, artfully messy buns, it’s time to cut it. By next year this time, my hair will be down to my butt and past the length of attractiveness.

During third period on a seasonally warm Tuesday afternoon, I ambled over to the booth set-up in the main hall to get my hair cut for Angel Hair, an organization which fashions wigs out for cancer patients. On a table was a box filled with braided ponytails, hair which people had already donated. As I sat down, I felt a slow dread fostering in the pit of my stomach and enveloping my chest with a vice-like grip. This one hair cut was worth five years of shampooing and blow-drying and braiding. I took in a deep breath of air as the hair stylist tied my hair up and violently hacked it off.  

My friends, who had gathered around me to witness the deed, gasped as the hair stylist took away the first braid of hair. I smiled back weakly, praying to gawd that I didn’t look as bad with short hair as my kindergarten school picture shows I did. After school, I went to my usual hair stylist to get my hair properly cut and permed. Four hours later, I emerged with a straight-permed chin-length bob, a hair cut I hadn’t had since, well, kindergarten.

I’m still not used to it, not having my hair get caught in my backpack straps, having no hair to tie back, not accidentally whipping people when I turn around. I feel so free and able to perm, dye, highlight, straighten or curl (what little hair I have left, anyways). I feel so light, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s a good change.

To celebrate my new haircut, I made a Strawberry Shortcake. A total classic: luscious whipped cream, fresh berries, and a buttery cake. Light, fresh, and smart-looking, like my new do'.

Who knows, in five more years, maybe I’ll donate my hair again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New York Style Crumb Cake

So this New York Style Crumb Cake is for three of my friends, Brian, David, and Carmel, who are some of the sweetest people I know. It’s kind of a long story, involving blood, needles, awkward questions, a frappacino from Starbucks, a stolen sweater, a boat, a group of immature teenage boys, karaoke-ing, and a fly.

*          *          *

It is entirely likely that I will never become a doctor. Aside from the miniscule possibility that I might decide to write the MCATs in a couple years after a sudden change of heart, my current career path tends to veer away from bones, needles, and blood. I’m that girl who can’t stand pain or the sight of any of my fellow human beings (or fellow animals) in pain. Donating blood for fifteen minutes? Scarier than a three-hour university-level music history exam.

But I also like to think that I’m confident enough to be brave, to try new things, to open myself up to new experiences. That’s why I decided to conquer (or at least confront) my fear of needles and blood when a blood clinic stopped by our school last week. After three years of not being old enough (or heavy enough, for that matter), I’m finally seventeen (and 115 pounds) and can donate blood with parental permission.

The highlights of donating blood:
  • all those awkward questions that the nurses ask you about sex and drugs
  • finding out from an overenthusiastic nurse that apparently I have a good iron levels in my blood
  • having to take blood from my right arm because apparently none of the veins on my left arm were visible
  • my friend Grace telling me that it didn’t hurt, not in the least bit, and finding out that she lied, that the initial puncture hurts like hell
  • imagining what it would be like to lie on a hospital bed (similar to the cot I laid on while donating blood), squeezing my husband’s hand (similar to how I nearly cut-off circulation in David’s hand), and deciding that I would probably end up adopting. 

At the end of the experience, I concluded that donating blood was akin to strategically bleeding to death through a needle. But to hell with all my petty complaints; just half a litre of my blood could save up to three lives (or so they tell me). I think that’s pretty darn amazing.

That Friday I donated blood also happened to be the dragonboat team’s second lake practice. Since I had skipped the first lake practice, I felt compelled to go to the second one. I know exercising after donating blood isn’t recommended, but I figured I would be fine after a rich, sugary frappacino from Starbucks.

 I skipped out of last period early to make it to Starbucks before Happy Hour started and ended up meeting a couple of friends. (It turns out that great minds think alike and that I’m not the only person on the dragonboat team who craves sugar before a workout.) While I sat outside, enjoying the cool spring breeze and my math homework, my friend Brian and a couple other guys stood in line to buy the drinks.

After dragonboat practice, a group of friends and I went out to eat. While sitting in the restaurant, a couple of other friends walked by and invited us to join them in a karaoke lounge and somehow I got roped into it. I won’t lie—I had an awesome time—but I was pretty much dead tired by the time I got home. All I wanted to do was take a shower and hit the hay. The fly in my room had a different idea. Literally just as I was about to get into the shower, it emerged from the depths of darkness and began buzzing around in my bathroom and bedroom. After trying to kill it with no avail, I gave up and decided to take a shower in my brothers’ bathroom.

David, ever the gentleman, offered to hold my dragonboat bag for pretty much the whole night since I had donated blood and felt pretty weak. During the excessively long walk from the beach back to the streetcar station, during which a group of friends and I were arguing (intensely) about where to eat, during which all I really wanted to do was sit down, David carried my bag.

Brian ended up paying for my drink, so in reciprocation for the frap (and a sweater which I’d borrowed from him a couple weeks ago and never intend on giving back because it’s just so darn comfy), I baked him a New York Style Crumb Cake. This recipe makes enough cake to feed an army (or a small group of teenage boys), so I split the batter into three pans and gave one of the cakes to David. And because my other friend Carmel recently lent me a pair of pants when I needed them most, she got a share of cake too.

What better way to say "thank you" than with a New York Style Crumb Cake.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day: Raspberry Passion Fruit Cake

In our house, there are no secrets from Mom. Every year, we attempt breakfast in bed, but no matter how sneaky we are, she’s never surprised. In the younger years, before we knew how to go to the supermarket and buy food, it was the grocery requests to Mom that gave us away. The fact that our parents’ bedroom is located right above the kitchen doesn’t help either. Mom always wakes up and walks into the kitchen before we can finish the crepes or omelettes or whatever else we decided to make.

So I don’t even try keeping things a secret anymore. After all, it’s not like it’s the first time we’ve ever made her a Zucchini Omelet  or Crepes with Fresh Berries for breakfast. Sooner or later, she’s bound to find out. This year, we children split up responsibilities. On top of cleaning the house (which we should all be doing whether it’s Mother’s Day or not...), my younger brother Kyle was in charge of breakfast (as he naively thinks that breakfast is still a surprise); my older brother designed the card; my cousin Alex took care of weeding the dandelions in the yard; and I ordered and picked up a cake from our favourite bakery.

The cake was going to be a secret, a delicious secret, until Mom and Dad announced that we would be having a family gathering with twenty other people at our house that Sunday night. I imagined the eight-serving cake being divided into twenty messy portions and decided to fess up about the cake and request that we eat it earlier. Like I said, we can`t keep things from our parents.

On Sunday morning, my friend Shannon and I made our way to the bakery to pick up the cakes. (I had convinced Shannon to get a cake for her mother as well.)Transportation took the better part of two hours (oh how I resent infrequent buses and subway delays), but I finally made it home, cake intact. We immediately cut into the cake and experienced the rich, yet light passionfruit mousse balanced with a tart raspberry coulis combining and swirling and melting in our mouths. It was heavenly.

Happy (Belated) Mother’s Day, Mom.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Butter Avenue

In my seventeen years, I have lived a relatively stress-free life. When I say “relatively”, what I really mean to say is that I’m a worrier, an over-thinker, a imaginer of the worst possibilities(er) and that I think—think being the key word—that I probably imagined those first sixteen years and a couple months to be more stressful than they really were.

I’ve been kind of MIA lately, but I have a good reason. Or rather, reasons. The very abridged version of the highlights of my last month: 

And then there’s that one week...
  • when student council elections took place;
  • when the Ontario Technological Skills Competition occurred;
  • when our Grade Eleven English exam was scheduled;
  • when the first lake practice for dragonboat happened;
  • when my friend’s prom took place;
  • when I was supposed to write the SATs. 

What to do in intense situations like this? As a compulsive list-maker, I listed off all my commitments for the week and prioritized like no other. I ended up rescheduling my English exam, and opting out of prom and dragonboat practice.

Not going to lie; that was probably one of the most intense weeks of my life. After I wrote the SATs, I was exhausted beyond belief. All I wanted to do was take a nap (which would last into the next day), but I ended up venturing into a faraway land to shoot a photography assignment with a friend in the afternoon. And then going to Burger Priest for the greasiest but also most delicious burger I have ever eaten and then to Butter Avenue for the most delectable macarons that I have ever nibbled on.

Yes, Butter Avenue is that good. Each macaron is a perfectly textured and filled with just the right amount of buttercream. Tammy and I bought two boxes, one to split between the two of us and one to give away to one of our friends as a birthday gift. After we finished the first box, we eyed the second one hungrily. Macarons are hard to resist. My favourites: the Caramel Sea Salt, which tastes like heaven; and the Earl Grey, reminiscent of a Fruit Loop until the tea flavour hits your taste buds.  

These macarons are so good, that we ended up going back to Butter Avenue (which is totally out of our way) with another friend the following Tuesday, just because. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Apple Butter and Almond Cake

A couple weeks ago, my phone drowned. When I say “drowned”, people always assume that I dropped it into the toilet. A more accurate term would be my phone died from an earthquake which caused a tsunami.

What I really mean is that my leaky water bottle spilled its contents on top of my phone and my textbooks when my brother placed my backpack on a ledge and it fell.

It was so strange to be without a phone after growing up with one. I lost all my contacts, besides the six phone numbers I’d memorized after all these years. I couldn’t text, I couldn’t use the internet or play games or take pictures. It was strange to be so disconnected from the world.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Compared to the majority of my friends, my phone usage is trivial. I’m not really a big fan of texting someone when I could see him or her in person, and the iPhone screen is much too small for comfortable computing. But I miss the convenience.

One of the things I used my phone for most often was baking. I’d convert whatever online recipe I was using to a Word document, sync my phone with Documents to Go on my computer, and then open the file on my phone. This was a lot easier, quicker, and more environmentally friendly than copying the recipe out onto a piece of paper or printing it out. Again, it’s just convenient.

The last thing I baked with my phone was this Apple Butter and Almond Cake. A simple white cake layer dressed up with a smear of thick and sweet apple butter and topped with a handful of roughly chopped almonds. Simple and elegant.

Click below for the recipe.
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