Spiced Coffee Cake (V)

IMG_1652Three weeks of quarantine, and I’d say it’s about time for another blog about my daily disasters. Most of you know that I am quite open about the clumsiness, frequent slip-ups, and comical misfortunes that so often seem to characterize my life. And believe it or not, this shelter-in-place has done absolutely nothing to slow the rate of my “incidents.” So, forget about the worries plaguing your brain for five minutes, and sit back and enjoy the latest laughable moments of my week.

I have to provide some background for this in the form of a shout out to my incredible physical therapist. To say she is my physical therapist is to short-change her importance to me: she has, over the past few years, become a mentor, friend, and mom away from home. Anyway, I had emailed her with an update about how I was doing since I’d had to stop seeing her for appointments–she always reaches out when she hasn’t been able to see me in a while. I apparently mentioned in my email that I was baking as much as possible but that flour was frustratingly hard to come by given the recent grocery stockpiling trends. I say apparently because I forgot that I’d even said that until last Sunday, when I received a text and accompanying picture from her informing me that she’d bought me a 25 lb. bag of flour because she “could not resist” when she’d heard about my struggle. She’s just amazing.IMG_1633

She let me know she’d put the flour in the trunk of her car at work so that I could safely retrieve it without violating any social distancing orders. Yesterday afternoon, I donned my recycled t-shirt mask and headed out on probably the third car ride I’ve taken in the last month. After a pleasant drive accompanied by the lively tunes of my recent 1940s/1950s jazz kick, I pulled into the parking lot, eager to retrieve the precious cargo. Not seeing her usual car–and deciding it wasn’t the best idea to go peeking into random car trunks with a mask on–I texted her from my car and discovered she’d taken their other one that day. I excitedly spotted the car and the flour in the window, opened the door, placed a plate of “thank you” coffee cake on the seat, and grabbed the 25 pounds of what may as well have been gold, for me.

I hobbled over to the back of my own car, fueled by visions of the endless hours of baking that awaited me. The bag made a pleasing thud as I dropped it into the trunk, but it was accompanied by a slightly less pleasing cloud of flour that tickled my face. My excitement had blinded me to the little hole I’d poked in the process of transferring it across the parking lot. I pulled back and blinked away the white puffs, noticing the rip on the surface of the bag.IMG_1578

Naturally, in a situation that had no further consequence (the bag was already in the car; I was outside, so no worry about a mess; the hole was on top, risking no further leakage), I panicked. Naturally, my brain was overwhelmed by the sudden interruption to its celebratory state and found the most reasonable reflexive bodily reaction to be for me to give the torn bag a nice, hearty, slightly spastic slap. And, naturally, I was wearing black leggings and a black sweater and black socks and black shoes that day. The bag wheezed with the impact and shot out a wide spray of its contents–I’ve come to understand that, when it comes to flour, the size of a hole is in no way proportionate to the amount of carnage. Giant tear= nuclear flour explosion. Little bitty tear= equally nuclear flour explosion.

Suddenly becoming fully present in the current moment, I took a step away from the car to evaluate my mistake. My entire front was, indeed, dusted in a layer of white–from my mask all the way down to my sneakers. Now, you have to understand just how accustomed I’ve become to miniature disasters: this didn’t even come close to phasing me. Without thinking, I simply engaged in the practical deescalation steps that one develops when they possess the clumsy inclinations that I do. We’ll call it the triple A:

  1. Address the immediate damage (I thoroughly patted myself down)
  2. Assess and minimize the level of spectators, applying a sarcasm diversion as needed (I scanned the parking lot for any familiar faces and found none)
  3. Act like nothing happened (I calmly got in my car and left the scene, lightly coated in flour but safely undetected)IMG_1624

And that, my friends, is how I cope with my chronic common sense deficiency.

In true character, I returned home, washed my hands, carefully transferred the flour to a safe storage bin, threw away the ripped bag inside a plastic bag to avoid a mess, and…locked my car key in my trunk. By that point, all I could do was laugh. I somehow manage to jeopardize even my most well-engineered moments of caution. Thankfully, I won’t be needing my car for the foreseeable future, so I can write this to you with relatively no qualms. I’ll get around to solving that problem another day (breaking into my own car–oh, I’m certain that will result in a story to tell). For now, I’ll rest in the joy of laughing at myself, of having so many generous people in my life, and of all the baking I can do with 25–ok, maybe 24–pounds of flour.

Hoping you find a reason to laugh today 🙂

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

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Spiced Coffee Cake (V)

Ingredients

CAKE

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 flax egg (1 1/2 tsp flax mixed with 4 1/2 tsp water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water

FILLING/TOPPING

  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (vegan, if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/4 tsp maple syrup

Instructions

CAKE

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8″ cake pan.
  2. Make filling/topping: in a bowl, whisk together oats, cardamom, ginger, and salt. Mix in shortening and maple syrup, and set aside.
  3. In a separate large bowl, mix together shortening, sugars, and vinegar. Use a spatula to fold and mix until well combined.
  4. Mix in flax egg.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, and salt.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture and the water to the shortening mixture in small additions, alternating between each and whisking well after each addition. Continue until all ingredients are incorporated. The batter will be very thick
  7. Spread half of the batter onto the bottom of the prepared cake pan.
  8. Sprinkle half of the filling mixture evenly across the first layer of cake batter.
  9. Spoon the remaining cake batter on top of the filling, and spread to cover the pan with a spatula.
  10. Top with the remaining filling, and bake until knife/toothpick comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes.
  11. Enjoy! Store extras in sealed container on the counter.

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Lemon Candied-Ginger Muffins (V)

IMG_9716Exciting things are happening this week for Waltz of the Flours! The first is a much needed website facelift, which you hopefully already noticed (cheers to a URL you can actually memorize!) The next is something you’ll see if you just scroll down a little…yes, I made my first recipe video! Of course, with this being a new endeavour, I have a lot to learn and improve upon–but it’s certainly a start. I’m looking forward to creating more in the future and bringing you along for the learning process!

It’ll come as no surprise, then, that this week has led me to contemplate change–its role in practically every aspect of our lives, who it’s affecting around me currently, why it scares us so darn easily. While it’s arguably impossible to experience a time that’s purely static, I think you’ll agree that sometimes it just feels as though more things are shifting than are staying the same. I’ll waste no time and inform you that BOY am I in a place like that–so many of the things I’ve come to accept as givens, as the metaphorical controls from middle school science class, have decided to suddenly become variables. Naturally, this has resulted in plenty of emotional meltdowns. However, sprinkled between the moments of anxiety that I’ve experienced has been another, undoubtedly God-given sensation–an unexplainable peace, of sorts. Though I’m far from holding on firmly to this strange and fickle sense of calm, I had an epiphany of sorts last night, and I’d like to think it helped me get just a little better of a grip. IMG_9759

Some of you might know that I used to work at a Chinese Restaurant in Bloomfield–while still a student at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, I waited tables sometimes five nights a week there. By the time three years had passed, it had become one of my many Pittsburgh homes, and the people there one of my many Pittsburgh families. Of all the 364 days per year that Wai Wai Chinese Cuisine was open, though (yes, we only closed on Thanksgiving), my absolute favorite was always Chinese New Year. My boss, Leo, would plan for weeks in advance; then when the holiday finally arrived, he’d disappear, laboring in the kitchen for the entire day. The restaurant closed early, and everyone would pull together six of our dining tables to create one massive family-style setup.

Then, the shining moment: with the swing of the kitchen door and a puff of hot steam, the dishes would begin to emerge from the kitchen. Trays of lobster, crab legs, fish, noodle dishes, soup, whole pineapples spilling with meat and fruit, vegetables, things that I’d never seen but couldn’t wait to try, all in a grand procession deserving of royal fanfare. Each year, I was certain he couldn’t possibly expand on the quantity of food from the last dinner, and each year I was wrong. Then, after we’d had a moment to regain our grasp on reality and survey the delicious myriad before us, Leo would finally make his entrance, greeting everyone happily and handing out decorative envelopes with fresh $20 bills to everyone at the table. Then, he’d enthusiastically toast the evening, and the celebration would commence.

Last night, I had the privilege of being invited back to this occasion as a former employee and forever friend. Around 9pm I walked up the very familiar rampway with my friend Nicole and a tray of these Lemon Candied-Ginger Muffins (V), eager to be back and participate in the beloved Chinese New Year Dinner. We talked, ate, watched the delivery drivers belt ballads on the karaoke machine across the dining room, and reminisced. At one point, I found myself especially adrift in memories I’d made in that very building. I looked around the restaurant between bites and started spewing a stream of old stories to Nicole as they came to me: I used to learn entire ballets from the video right on this floor while I worked the closing shift; my friend and I would watch Dr. Pimple Popper videos back there to pass the time on slow days; Monique is the one who trained me when I first started working here, and then she became my closest friend; that’s Leo’s daughter, Joyce–I can’t believe she remembers me! I became lost in the excitement of sharing the experiences I’d had when I worked there. IMG_9730 (1)

There’s a key detail in those sentences, though. They’re all past tense. I don’t work at Wai Wai’s Chinese Cuisine now. I’m not still doing all those things I explained to Nicole yesterday. The only reason that I’m able to look back on them fondly and reminisce is because, eventually, I stopped doing them. You can’t look back on experiences that you’re doing right now. I realized, as juvenile a revelation as it might seem, that the only things in our lives that become cherished memories are the things that change. Change is what transforms something from being standard into being something worth remembering; it’s what wraps up the letters of your life and allows you to fold them away safely until something sparks your heart to pull them out and ask your friend “Remember when…?”

Consistency and predictability and routine and all those wonderfully stagnant things sure can be comforting in the present. But who ever looks back and thanks God for keeping things the way they were? I don’t often encourage people to spend time contemplating the future or dwelling in the past, but thanks to the two of them I gotta say I sure am feeling better about my relationship with the unexpected.

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

 

Lemon Candied-Ginger Muffins (V)

Ingredients

STREUSEL TOPPING

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP melted vegan butter

MUFFIN BATTER

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSP cold water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup candied ginger, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 12 cups of a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

STREUSEL

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt.
  2. Add melted butter, and mix in–first with the whisk, and then with your hands until mixture forms small crumbles. Set aside.

MUFFINS

  1. In a small bowl, mix together canola oil, sugar, lemon juice, and flax egg. Set aside.
  2. In a larger bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
  3. Mix candied ginger into flour mixture.
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour the wet ingredients into it.
  5. Whisk just until combined–don’t worry about the batter being a bit lumpy.
  6. Distribute batter evenly between muffin cups, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top of each one.
  7. Sprinkle streusel on top of each cup of batter.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool in the trays for five minutes; then transfer to a cooling rack if desired.
  10. Enjoy!

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