Saturday, May 26, 2007

Chocolate. A Girl's Best Friend

Even more her best friend when she realizes she hasn't posted to her dear blog for, well, ages, AND her exam is just a little less than a month away. When she then on top of that realizes she's had just a bit too much fun with chocolate (and other food items) during the past four months for her to have really prepared for any of that - I guess you know how it goes, don't you?

It's That Time Of Year where I try to cram, cram and cram some more and try to get ready for my exam. If I'm lucky, I'll even have some chocolatey friends to help me. Except maybe not the one in the top right corner. We weren't friends, and really, it was all his fault, 'cause he could just have come out of that Bundt pan already, yes he could!

They are, from top to bottom, Classic Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake - Heirloom Devil's Food Layer Cake (My Birthday Cake this year) - and Milk Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, all from Lisa Yockelson's ChocolateChocolate. (Btw., Luisa, you're right - most of it is just a matter of "chocolate chipping" a cake and then miracously it becomes a chocolate cake - good cakes, though:-)) Oh yes, and then there's the block and a half of Valrhona that I'm counting on will last me through the rest of the month. Maybe, if I'm stingy enough.

So forgive me if there's a bit quiet or short-posted around these parts for a while. You know why, now. Oh, and if you have a couple fingers to spare, keep them crossed for me - you might earn some chocolate cake in the process, heh!:-)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lucky People with Loaded Fridges

And yesterday, I was one of them. Guess I should be - or at least I should know I am - seeing I'm the one doing most of our grocery shopping. But you know how it is: sometimes, the fridge and vegetable basket is just one big, blank, empty nothing. Either that, or my brain is one big: but how on earth can I put these things together and make them into something good?

Last night, my brain was my friend (maybe it's all the studying I've been doing lately that's making it try harder?) and the fridge was well stocked with jewels of spring. So I had this for dinner: freshly shelled peas, avocado, finely sliced radishes, baby salad leaves, cucumber, croutons and crumbled bacon. A spritz of lemon, a glug of good olive oil, salt, pepper - and a spoonful of homemade mayo for the croutons. Welcome back in my kitchen, spring!:-)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

[DANSK] Krydderboller galore

I wrote this post a while ago - to be exact, on the 12th. of February 2007. It's taken me a while to make the bread and take the pictures to go along with it, but it is no less real or emotionel for me for it. I still think about J almost every night, when I go to bed and lie there and am a little thankful for all the things I got. This one's for him.

My Mom lost her best friend this past Sunday.

I lost my ex-stepdad. He died of cancer, having been sick for a little longer than a year. He was just short of 60.

And I don't know why, because for the last couple of years, he was nowhere near a part of my life - but I'm sad. So, so sad. I'm sad, because its too damn early for anyone to die. I'm sad because I know, this coming Thursday (my birthday) there wont be a handwritten card with a little erantis in it, carefully plucked from his garden, wishing me Happy Birthday, from him. There'll be no more of me calling my Mom, and her telling me how she's having breakfast in bed, made by him. And I'm sad because I know my Mom is crying. Because I know she's hurting.

My Mom and J met back when they were in high school, but they never went out until a 25-year reunion brought them back in contact with each other. They got married and moved in together, Mom with me in tow. I remember how he used to tell stories of how much I looked like my Mom did when she was my age.

I was about 12 or 13 when they moved in together. I never really understood that whole getting married again - I probably didn't want to understand it, 'cause heck, why would I want to share the Mom that I, apart from sharing with my sister, had had all by myself untill now? What I didn't understand right then and there was that I didn't loose a Mom - I gained a stepdad. A Bonus-dad, to speak in the right tone.

J was the kind of guy that had travelled the world, seen it all, and liked to tell stories about it. He was the kind of guy that would surprise me and my girlfriends with unexpected trips to McDonalds on a boring Friday night. The kind of man that would drive me and the friends to the school dance in his shiny silver BMW. He took my Mom travelling the world, and took me, my sister and my Mom to a fantasy-trip to Thailand and Malaysia. He wore a gold chain around his neck, he was a big, chunky guy, he was a happy man. He loved my Mom to pieces.

I remember once, when I broke up with one of my first boyfriends, I was sitting in my room, listening to soppy music and getting on and off the phone with the soon-to-be has-been boyfriend, crying my eyes out like only a teenager can do, and he came into my room, gave me a hug, and just sat there with me. Letting me cry, not asking questions, just being there. Not intruding. Just being present. And it was nice, 'cause never have I felt more alone than when I was a teenager with a broken heart. We probably never had the kind of heart-to-hearts I've had with C, but there was never a doubt in my mind that J stood by my side. That he was proud of me as if I'd been his own daughter and that he'd protect me from the world, should I need it.

He made the meanest pork chops in the world - big slabs of meat, bought from his friend the butcher. Pan sauces, maybe a little steamed cauliflower, potatoes. In the summer, he would roll out his pride, the gas grill, and grill from the first day the temperature allowed him, and he would be hard pressed if he stopped before after daylight savings time had kicked in. Red, red meat, grilled onions and corn, BBQ sauce, ribs.

Life was just never easy on him. When he was young, he had a disease that had stiffened his leg, so he had some problems wearing regular shoes and walking long distances. A couple of years after he married my Mom, he had to close his firm - being a one-person firm in a business as big as chemicals wasn't easy. Life threw him a curve ball, and he never really got back on his feet. I'm not sure I'll ever understand why, and I'm not sure I'm supposed to, either. And that's wrong too, 'cause of course I understand. Again, it's probably more a matter of not wanting to. It's probably more a matter of not wanting to see a world that is unjust and unfair towards the people you love and care for.

In the end, my Mom couldn't live with it anymore. And even though there was a little girl inside me saying: but back when you got married you told me you did so because you didn't want to grow old alone, and now, now you're going to leave him again and end up alone anyways?? my 19-year old brain understood. That there's only so much you can put up with. And that you're only willing to see the man you love the most ruin himself for so long. She left him, we moved out. And I was proud of her. Because I knew that if there was a thing she ever wanted when she got into it, it was to make this work.

After a while, they started seeing each other again, but on my Mom's conditions. Every other weekend, and for vacations every now and again. And while some might say - and I even for a while thought so, too - that that was a weird kind of loving, that limiting yourself to whenever it's fitting, that he would put up with it - I think this was the kind of love that worked for them. Afterall, that is what mattered. J loved my Mom unconditionally. It takes a strong person to dare love like that. And he was, in spite of all the things life presented him with, a strong man.

Last year, he got diagnosed with lymphoma. We thought he'd battled it out, but turned out the chemo didn't have the effect we thought. Neither did it the second time. He was told there was no more the doctors could do for him. So he went out and got the car he'd always wanted, and he drove it, a total of three times. He got a big, fancy flatscreen tv. He got an elevation bed so that he could sleep well.

He died this Sunday, at his Mom's. The last two weeks, he deteriorated fast, but I don't think anyone expected it to happen so soon.

So these are for him. When I first got to know him, one of his favorite things to do on weekend mornings was to go to Baker Bomund and buy Krydderboller for all of us. They're a sort of cardamom-flavored white roll that you toast in the oven, making them crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. He served them with butter and cheese or marmalade, and tea on the side. At the dining room table, if I was at home. And in bed, for my Mom, if I wasn't. The three of us could spend entire mornings at that table, chatting and telling stories.

He had this silly story he used to tell me. I can't remember the wording of it at all, and now he isn't here to tell it anymore. But I remember the ending. It is:

"The truth? The truth, my friend, is be-bop-a-loo-la."

And maybe that is just the most important part of it, anyways.

Luv Galore, J.

Krydderboller - from Et Ordentlig Brød by Camilla Plum

400 ml. milk
25 g fresh yeast
50 g butter
1 T salt
1 T sugar
3 eggs
roughly 1 kg flour
1 t ground cardamom

Heat the milk and leave to cool for a bit, so as not to kill the yeast. Dissolve the yeast in the milk.

Cut the butter into the flour (hold back a bit), add to this the milk/yeast, sugar, salt, cardamom and the eggs. Knead the lot together, 10 minutes upper-body work-out. Leave to rise until doubled in size (about 2 hours - I left mine in the fridge over night)

Push back the dough and divide it in 18. Shape into rolls, put them on a baking sheet and give them a gentle squeeze so they stay somewhat flat (I forgot to do that to mine, as you can tell by the top photo) Cover loosely with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight to prove.

If you think the rolls have proven enough, put them straight into a 200 degree celsius preheated oven from the fridge. If you think they need a little extra ooomph, put the baking sheet on top of a large pot of boiling water, letting them steam rise for a little while, before you bake them off. They need about 20 minutes in the oven.

Leave to cool, then cut them horizontally and give a nice toast. Depending on the amount you're toasting, use the oven or a toaster. Eat, smeared thickly with butter and your choice of marmalade or cheese - tea on the side optional.