Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sugar High Friday # 41: Sweet Gifts - Best Friends & Cookies

Back when I was 12, I met a girl. We met in dance class. She was a blond, skinny, aristocratic looking girl, all arms and legs, like we all were at the time. She was one of the few dancers that could compete with me in tap-dancing. She became my friend.

J and I have spent innumerable hours together. In the beginning, it was mostly during dance classes, but soon, we met up every morning, biking to school, having a chat on the latest boy/girl gossip. After school, we'd meet up again, going to dance classes, or hanging around at the sport complex, checking out the guys on the skateboard ramp. We shared stories of first kisses, and first break-ups. We laughed, we danced and we sang. We watched Clueless, and Dirty Dancing, and Pretty Woman a hundred thousand times. When the first guy I had a crush on failed to call me (and I'd been waiting by the phone all night long), J was the girl to hold me close and feed me leftover rice pudding. When I broke up with my first long-time boyfriend, she was the one who understood the choked-by-tears words that ran through the telephone lines. She was the one to take me out dancing, all through the night, and a little bit of the morning, too.

When we started in high school, we could be together all through the day. We formed a coalition with a girl from J's class and the three of us partied our way through the first six months, caring about nothing but boys, music, clothes and hair. Oh some of the pictures from those days! In the end, we all ended up with a boyfriend. And then something happened. We drifted apart.

But at the graduation party, the last party where we'd be sure to see each other, J grabbed my hand and dragged me off to one of the toilets, pointed her finger at me and said: "I will not have this. If we are supposed to be best friends, why do we never call each other? Why aren't we there for each other when we are sad, or happy? Why do we never do stuff together?" I had no answer. But somehow I knew that if I didn't make an effort, she was sure to slip out of my life.

Even though I know it was incredibly sad at the time, I still do sort of see it as a stroke of luck that shortly after that graduation party, J's boyfriend at the time "accidently" did a Monica Lewinsky on J, forcing her to break up with him. She called me first. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The both of us moving around the globe, time spent together and apart, countless bottles of champagne and nights on the dicoteque's dance floors, large wooden boards with cheese (we are cheese lovers), a lot of men (!) and a lot of fantastic nights and days. The joy never stops. She IS my favorite girl in the whole wide world. She's the kind of woman that even though we haven't sat in front of each other for months, she can have one look at me and know what's going on. She hears it in the tone of my voice and in the way my body twists in the chair, or in how I curl my hair. She's shared my life, my story. She's a part of me.

And now, she's a mom, too. Just a little over a month ago, she gave birth to a beautiful little girl. So now I have not just one amazing woman with her gene-pool in my life, but two. I wonder if little F will grow up to like oatmeal-chocolate cookies just as much as her Mom? 'Cause her Mom sure likes these...

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
The recipe here is, apart from me exchanging the ratios of sugar and translating the measurements to metric, a direct transcript of one from Moira's blog Who Want's Seconds? Shout-out to Moira for this recipe which, ever since I tried it the first time, have been somewhat of a staple around our home!

This of course isn't the recipe I used to make back in the days when J first got hooked on these cookies, but they're her favorite now. So what better gift to bring when Martin and I visited her, her husband and the little newborn girl a week ago - a couple logs of unbaked cookie-dough for the freezer, for those moments when you need them, be they moments of craving our unannounced guests. Giving cookie dough as a gift - any recipe that will freeze is good - is an idea I've only recently picked up, but I like it. It's all "it's homemade and I spend time (the most valuable gift of all these days) making it, so you better like it ;)". With a little cute ribbon and a card on how to bake 'em, you have a perfect sweet gift. And what do you know, that's exactly the theme for this months Sugar High Friday. The theme is Sweet Gifts, it's hosted by Habeas Brûlee, and if you hurry, you may just be able to join!

You need:

230 g. softened butter (I use unsalted)
240 g. sugar
205 g. soft brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
230 g. wheat flour
2 large eggs
270 g. rolled oats
300 g. milk chocolate chips

And then you:

Beat the butter with the sugars, until fluffy and white. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the butter/sugar/egg-mixture, gently folding it in. At this stage, I always think it will never, ever get incorporated, but trust me it will. The same thing happens at the next step: add the oats, fold 'em in. They WILL incorporate, oh yes. Lastly, fold in chocolate chips.

If you want, you can bake straight away (10-20 minutes, depending on your crunchy/chewy ratio preferences) in an oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius. Use parchment paper under the cookies.

Or, do as I do and bake a few (c'mon, you just made cookie dough, you need to taste test!), then divide the rest of the dough onto squares of clingfilm, roll them up tigthly and place in freezer. This way, you always have cookies ready for unannounced guests or hostess gifts. You don't need to defrost the dough completely before baking, but can slice and bake the cookies almost straight from the freezer. A 10 minute rest on the counter before slicing the frozen log with a serrated knife should do the trick. Bake as instructed for the unfrozen dough. I might add that I actually think the texture of the finished cookie is better after the dough has been frozen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

[DANSK] Will need Havregrynskugler

I love the wee little hours. The ones late, late in the night - some may call them early in the morning - where I feel like I might be the only one still awake. I like to putter around in my kitchen, maybe getting that bread dough ready, so I can bake fresh bread in the morning. Getting the dirty dishes over with. Checking the internet. Being.

When I worked as a waitress, I had lots of those hours. Coming home from work late, usually after midnight, I would be hard pressed to go to straight to sleep. There was always a book to be read, an old newspaper to page though, or an episode of Seinfeld to watch.

These days? The wee hours have become the ones in the morning. No, I don't get up early to knead bread - I get up early to go to work. You see, the reason for the the post-exam silence around here is this: I'm on leave from school. And I've gone and gotten myself a job where we start at around 6.30 am. Luckily, there is somehow also a certain something to those early, early morning hours too. When the light is a little grey-ish outside, and the whole world still has sleep in their eyes.

I've told you quite a number of times how I'm not quite sure being a doctor is what I really want to do. Maybe being a doctor, or finishing medical school, is not what will make my life the best it can be. Will being a doctor make me the kind of happy I believe I should be?

There are tons and tons of reasons why I don't think so. There are also a gazillion reasons why this could be a job I would love. But for the last couple of months, it's been hard to see past the "I don't think so!" reasons.

It's not the job itself. It's not the patients, the long hours, the sad stories or the stress. It's not "you've got LIFE in your hands", it's not the white clothes or the clogs. It's the way things are run and done, it's effing traditions and "that's how it's always been done so don't you come here thinking you can change it". It's the hierachy. It's the lack of space and ability to be yourself, and not being able to have an opinion and a say in how things are done. It's the lack of commitment. From everyone, including, unfortunately, oneself.

So what I am doing these days is working as an assistant to a doctor who's doing a Ph. D. project on intensive care. In time, I'll be doing my own project (a much smaller one, granted), but for now, I'm just trying to tag along and learn as much as possible about the intricate ways of research. Maybe figure out something, about me, and my future. And showing up unbearably early in the morning, without too frizzy hair. Seinfeld is still on, you know...;)

These are sweets we used to make when we were little, and yes, they aren't nothing but butter. I have no idea what got into me and M when we made a batch a couple weeks ago, but maybe we'd just both had a couple of those gruelling days and needed a little calorie-boost mixed with a good dose of nostalgia. They sure hit the spot. I'm not saying these should be eaten for breakfast, I'm just saying that if you happen to have a couple leftover in the fridge from the night before, they may be exactly what you need after an early rise and a couple hours of work. Just saying...

Ingredients, roughly:
125 g. butter, soft, but NOT melted
150-200 g. rolled oats
4-6 tablespoons sugar (if you've got vanilla infused around, use that)
3 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
Extra rolled oats, for topping

Beat the butter to make sure it's good and soft. Add the oats, sugar and cocoa, incorporating it well into the butter. With your hands, roll the mixture into little bite-sized balls, and roll in a
deep dish filled with rolled oats. Put in the fridge and leave for a couple hours to get nice and cold. Indulge and eat. And remind yourself that oats are full of fiber ;)