The world is a phoenix and it burns brightest at the break in the seasons. The liminal fall, the weeks that follow Labor Day. The interim to pumpkin patches. When the mornings are shaggy in dew and the day burns it all off. The hand grips for warm mugs and you find you just have Lipton in the drawer. It's a world I miss, one that doesn't offer much of a greeting when it visits Southern California.
I grew up in the autumn months. I was born on a Wednesday in October. My mom said it rained that day; my dad says it was sunny. That sums up the Midwest for you, how temperamental those days can be. It could have been both within the span of an hour, it could have been neither. Most days the wind ruffles wheat fields and you move on. You drink your coffee from a drive-through and you move on. There's stillness when the air gets that quiet, when it hasn't made up its mind yet. People remember the day differently. Someone wears a sweater, and someone wears shorts.
The world burns brightest at the break in the seasons and it confuses our senses. It confuses us when it's dewey in the morning and by noon it's all burned away.
I feel that sensation now. I had to go away to create it. I have been leaving San Diego more and more lately. I am on the search for a home and not the rented one I have created here. California has no autumn, no beginning or end to its highways, its coastline, its promise of the American dream. It is perennial and stifling. The change can drive you crazy, so I leave it when I can. I packed my bag and met friends in Seattle. And when I left, I felt like I missed the chance to change my life, that the sand from La Jolla are finite minutes in a mother-of-pearl hourglass. That I can feel its grittiness between my teeth when all I want to do is continue on driving in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
We slept in tents that faced a river and used an outhouse next to a totem pole. We walked on bridges and shouted into tunnels. We ate at three bakeries and smiled when the camera wasn't looking. We rode ferris wheels and small cruise ships. We tasted wine from Oregon and clam chowder from a mall food court. I bought nothing but a pack of gum but left with a hundred memories. I share them with you below, as well as a recipe that's my eulogy to summer, the phoenix spark that's ignited into red and orange leaves is in these beet-lemon bars. I welcome fall with open arms.
rom the top, left to right: Our first night in Washington, we stopped at a little bar with broken stools, loaded fries, and neon signs; our cute airbnb kitchen with perfect morning light; picked up a li'l cappuccino at Porchlight Coffee and Records; You could just feel autumn everywhere in Seattle; The Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, WA where scenes from Twin Peaks were shot; A little bakery in North Bend while we were looking at Twin Peaks filming locations; tents and mountains surrounded our campsite; And we woke up to the river whispering in the morning; Our tents' set-ups; Le Panier Bakery; my Josephine puff and a broccoli pastry; a quick-and-dirty bakery, Piroshky Piroshky made the best meat bun I have ever tasted; and finally....Seattle in all her glory.
Beet Lemon Bars
Ingredients for the thyme shortbread crust:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
- 2 +2 TB flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 sprigs of thyme, chopped
Directions for the thyme shortbread crust:
- Preheat oven to 350*F and lightly butter or grease a 13x9 inch pan
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and white sugar until light. Gradually add flour, salt, and lastly confectioner's sugar. Add thyme last.
- Press dough into prepared pan with fingers, making sure to go up the edges a bit to help with sticking later on
- Chill for 15 minutes
- Poke gently with a fork and bake for 15-18 minutes or until dried, crisp, and golden.
- Allow to cool while you work on the beet-lemon filling
Ingredients for the filling:
- 1 medium-sized beet, roasted (see directions)
- 3 large lemons or 4 medium-sized ones, juice and zest
- 1 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 3 whole eggs + 2 yolks
Directions for the filling:
- To roast the beet: wash beet and cut top off. Cover with olive oil (and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper for added taste in your bars). Wrap in foil and roast on a high-heat grill for 18-25 minutes, or tender enough to pierce with a fork
- In a food processor, add beet and blend until smooth. Continue to add all ingredients, eggs one at a time, until it is all incorporated
- Use a mesh strainer and a large bowl and strain the filling to make smoothen it out
- Pour on top of crust and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Begin checking at the 17 minute mark for doneness, where it will be solidified but slightly jiggly in the center
- Allow to cool, sift confectioner's sugar over top
A special thanks to Bob's Red Mill for sending me a huge goodie box, which I will be taking inspiration from for many upcoming posts. In this recipe, I started with the most simple ingredient, unbleached all-purpose white flour as my basis for these lemon bars. But, BRM is anything but basic. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing recipes using rye flour, graham flour, and silky almond flour that will add an extra level to my baking. I can't wait!