We spent a few days in San Diego last weekend for Sam to do some art demos at Comic-Con. It was more of a business trip than I'd hoped (long hours inside the windowless, airless convention center, pushing a baby around in the stroller and trying to get her to fall asleep, or at least stop screaming)---but still really fun, and lots of interesting things to see.
We made it out to the beach a couple times. The weather wasn't super warm but the waves were really big, and pretty. Daisy was really nervous because they were so loud, but she cheered up once she was able to eat some sand.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
I spent most of last week at Camp with twenty-one adorable young women. It was SO beautiful. Ever since I was a young woman myself, I have loved to go out running early so I can watch the sun come up (and enjoy the sweet, sweet quiet before the girls awaken). When I came up over the top of a rise to see the valley just beginning to lighten below me, I'm afraid I may have started to sound like this guy. (Luckily there was no one around to hear.)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
SnoofingOne of my aunts doesn't have a sense of smell. I can't remember if she lost it in some sickness or if she was born that way. It doesn't seem like one of those things that would come up in everyday conversation a lot, but whenever she was at our house when I was young, I found myself repeatedly and irresistably drawn to the delicate subject: "Mmmm, look at those beautiful lilacs; don't you just love the . . . smell . . . of . . . sorry." (I was infected with a similar conversational magnetism, regarding sounds, whenever my deaf cousin visited. What an awkward child I must have been.)
Anyway, smell. It's not the worst sense to lose, perhaps. Perhaps you think in a household of three little boys it's no serious loss at all. But Sam has lost his, and it definitely has its drawbacks. For one thing I can't have him smell things in the fridge for me to see if they've gone bad (one of his former Household Duties). His mom suggested that Sam should hereafter have to change all messy diapers, which is a good idea, but since he doesn't smell them he also doesn't feel any URGENCY about them. Likewise about taking out smelly garbage bags. He says he sometimes senses "a change in the air" if some smell is particularly strong, but that's not a real catalyst for action, if you know what I mean.
And I also feel bad for him, not being able to smell the GOOD smells---and there are LOTS of good smells around here, mostly of things baking, yum.
And in only slightly related news, Daisy likes to wrinkle up her nose and snoof at us. Whereupon we all snoof energetically back. It's quite a sight. You ought to see it. (If you can see, that is. If not, please forgive my indelicacy.)
Monday, July 5, 2010
Sam loves Twix. So for Father's Day, the boys and I decided to make him these homemade Twix bars I'd seen recipes for. (It was my brother Philip's birthday too, who is also a Twix-lover, so it seemed extra good to celebrate with Twix. We're quite conscientious about celebrating other peoples' birthdays, actually. "It's your sister's birthday today," I say. "We really ought to have a cake or something," Sam says. "We really ought," I agree. And we do. Selflessly. I'm sure they would appreciate it, if they knew.)
So, these are really good. Just look at them. But they are a bit of effort, because of the layers. They not only break my mom's "no-desserts-that-are-actually-two-desserts" rule, they flaunt it. On the other hand, Homemade! Twix! We considered it our duty to do a side-by-side test with actual (or should I say, commercial) Twix, and the homemade ones are so much better. Chocolately, caramelly, cookily so. I would save them for special occasions simply because they take more time. But if you want to celebrate with someone you love (or eat a cake in their honor, in their absence), won't you consider Saying It With Twix?
A few notes:
I actually made two batches of these because I needed some for my lesson on Sunday (yes, those lucky young women) (and it tied in quite wonderfully, but I'm not going to elaborate at this juncture) so I had a chance to try a couple different variations. Basically, as you can see, it's a cookie layer, and a caramel layer, and a chocolate layer. I considered making the bottom layer more of a shortbread crust (like you'd use in lemon bars) but in the end I thought my fruit pizza crust (basically a snickerdoodle cookie) might work better. That's what I did the first time. Next, I did more of a basic sugar cookie. Verdict: the fruit pizza crust won out for being softer/slightly more tangy?---for lack of a better word---anyway, the sugar cookie was a little bland. I thought the fruit pizza crust had more character. I think shortbread would be good, but really probably a better mix with a tart lemon bar or a cheesecake bar than with this sweet caramel.
For the caramel layer, I tried a recipe which used sweetened condensed milk. That's supposed to speed up the process a little. And it was good; very creamy and sweet. But in the end I went back to my tried-and-true caramel recipe, cooked until the flavor deepens and the tender, buttery caramel gives just the right amount of resistance when bitten, and we all preferred it. It had more complexity, and less sugary-sweetness, so it was a good contrast to the cookie underneath.
The chocolate is simply a ganache---melted chocolate mixed with cream. You could add a tablespoon of butter to make it extra smooth and spreadable.
But maybe the most important detail is the sea-salt sprinkled on top. I know that salted caramel flavor is all the rage these days, but it's not trendiness that makes it good----it's just that it's RIGHT. You taste one of these bars without it, and it's fine, but honestly, do you want to go to all this trouble just for FINE? You do not. Trust me---the salt elevates this dessert to spectacular. Ask my young women (even the one who just got her wisdom teeth out).
1 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. flour
½ t. cream of tartar
½ t. soda
1/4 t salt
1 t. vanilla
Mix ingredients as usual and press into 9x13 pan. Bake at 350. I wish I had a time for you. Probably about 20 minutes. It should be pale brown on top, and slightly puffy (it will settle).
2 c. light karo syrup
2 c. sugar
½ t. salt
Stir well with wooden spoon and place on medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil and add alternately but do not stop the boiling:
½ pt. (1 c.) whipping cream (unwhipped)
1 cube butter (cut in 5ths and dropped in separately)
½ c. + 1/3 c. evaporated milk
Add the above three things a little at a time. Put in a thermometer and cook to 233 degrees---this will take about half an hour, or more. (Provo=234 degrees). Remove from heat and add 1 t. vanilla. Mix well and pour over cookie crust. Chill several hours or overnight, until caramel is set.
2 c. chopped chocolate (I used semisweet, but milk would be good too)
Evaporated milk, or cream, as needed
Pour about 1/4 c. of the milk with the chocolate into a glass bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir till smooth. Add more milk as needed until consistency is smooth and spreadable. Spread ganache over caramel layer. Chill again until smooth.
Before serving, top Twix bars with sea salt.
The salt isn't on this one yet. But it will be. Oh, it will be.