Cookie Galette!

Oatmeal Cookie Galette

The chickens are still not laying and they're just a little over 6 months now. It's getting unbearable, anticipation of finding a tiny egg between the straw. Instead, all I have found is a small and timid mouse I tried to shoo away with the back of my glove. But, I'm waiting as patiently as I can, watching their combs grow a little darker, closing the barn door when the sun goes down.

I'm trying to keep busy while I wait. Finding new things to do with the time that autumn somehow offers me. I'm reading more, taking a bath in the evening. I'm cleaning the garage and painting the living room. We're visiting my sister, going out to dinner for my birthday. Spending more time together. Starting new TV shows. Falling asleep by ten, waking up at six to feel the morning fog that surrounds us in the mountains.

And with all this extra time I find, I'm practicing my piping skills. My unsteady hand and lack of artistic talent prevented me from trying it for too long. But, now I'm eager. Now I want to learn. Now I have the patience to sit down and sketch what's in my head. And now, with it slightly chilled by 6 o'clock, I don't mind spending time in the kitchen with the stove on and the dogs waiting patiently for samples.

So I made a cookie. I adapted a recipe I had for childhood desserts I wanted to reinvent. This one was originally an oatmeal cookie, the crisp and chewy iced ones you buy in a 30 pack at Wal-Mart. But so sharp and brittle, so thin and browned, it felt less like a cookie cake and more like something else. With its iced border and buttercream center, I got to calling it a galette. A cookie galette--which will henceforth be my stripper name and the new rebrand for cookie cakes. Join me in this, won't you?

Oatmeal Cookie Galette!

Oatmeal Cookie Galette

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup +2 TB AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1/2 TB molasses
  • 1/2 TB pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until light and pale
  4. Add your egg and beat to incorporate
  5. Add honey, molasses, and vanilla
  6. Now, using a wooden spoon (I found the stand mixer mixed the dough too much), slowly add in your flour while stirring
  7. Stir in oats until fully mixed
  8. Transfer dough to a floured work surface (I just did mine directly onto the parchment) and roll out to about a quarter inch
  9. Using a dinner plate, cut dough into a circle and tap the edges in a bit if they crumbled slightly
  10. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges are browned and center is firm, but not burnt
  11. Allow to cool before decorating (see notes below)

Decorating note: As always, feel free to decorate however you'd like. For me, I whipped together 1/2 cup shortening, 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon orange juice, and 1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar until light. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with

Oatmeal Cookie Galette
Oatmeal Cookie Galette
Oatmeal Cookie Galette
Oatmeal Cookie Galette

Thin in the Morning.

It's getting colder here.  To the point of buying fleece blankets, to the point of wearing socks to bed.  It gets dark earlier, I sleep in later.  I am preparing myself for hibernation, and I live ten minutes from the beach.  I have been frail for a week, maybe two.  Before kids knocked on our door, asking for candy we never had.  Before I got drunk enough to black out.  Before I ate sea urchin from its skeleton, cracked open before our eyes.  I was fragile in the morning, and dreamt of dreamless sleep. Instead, I remembered every punctuation of growing up in these 23 years of mine.  It happens before I fall asleep, when I'm trying to recollect my day.  It's been coming in waves, more frequently--more technicolor.  Saturated in all those moments of awkward growth and "coming into my own", as my mother used to put it.

It's July in Washington, DC and I'm 15.  I have my first kiss and lose my virginity all in one night.

It's a week later and I'm stoned at a concert in Baltimore.

It's six months after that and I'm reading Wuthering Heights in a makeshift bed, cold and reading in a spare room of my parent's house.

The next day my mom drives two hours north and she's not answering her phone.  She left a note reading, "I just need some space."

A year later I'm in college.

A year later I'm in Italy, hating everything but my freedom.

Three months, I'm dating Nolan.

We create dreams from dust motes in his two-story Victorian.  We take out some loans and move to California.

Get a dog.

Quit law school.

I learn from my mistakes, like how to cook and how to hold my tongue.  Nolan one time said I went 14 days without anything nice to say.  I threatened to make it 15 if he didn't shut the fuck up.  And I think about all of the times I should have been quiet, told my parents I loved them more, walked Charlie before he died, and how I should have taught myself to not find cooking to be a trade, but an art.  I would be happier with myself, calmer with myself, and in love with life the way I now understand I could still be.

I reflect on this before bed, so I can pray for it.  When the clock is at 11:10 and you're waiting until it switches.  When I let the dogs out and look up into the Milky Way.  Stars have always been opportunity, so I whisper the lilting pseudo-prayer of a light Star, a bright Star.

The lost time won't ever come, but I will come to terms with its ephemerality.  I will understand every atom in me shifts with a resounding confidence, where I can still greet days and whisper, "Yes."  I'll do it over coffee, in the shower, anywhere that the steam of dewey newness can open my pores and help me remember, every once in a while, that I'm still alive.  I didn't die when I had sex or smoked week in a penthouse loft overlooking the Harbor.  I didn't die when my mom left for a day or when I went to Italy.  I didn't die when I moved to California with Nolan, got a dog, or started to be who I am becoming.  Instead, each piece put me together more.  I'm everything I'm supposed to be, and I'm happy to sit at the kitchen table and take five minutes for myself to reflect on that.

It's cold in San Diego, and I hate waking up to let the dogs out. But if I ever see my breath when I step outside with them, it'll just mean I'm still alive.  And thank God for that.

It was one morning like that, when i was overwhelmed with this realization, that I made these biscuits.  Sweetness and heaviness are two of my least favorite ways to have breakfast, so I decided to tone down those elements with some goat cheese and pumpkin.  Paired with a super-simple fig preserve, and you have a perfect pair to your otherwise contemplative solitude before you're ready for a second cup.  Enjoy.

Pumpkin and Chèvre Biscuits with Fig Preserve

Pumpkin and Chèvre Biscuits with Fig Preserve

Ingredients:

For the biscuits:

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon quality salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed and COLD
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

For the fig preserve:

  • 16 oz fresh figs (a great way to use some bruised ones)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or half with brown sugar for a more earthy taste)
  • 3 TB clover honey
  • 1 TB orange juice
  • 1/3 cup water

Directions:

For biscuits:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  3. Using two knives, a food processor, or a pastry cutter, blend butter and goat cheese into the dry mixture.  Ensure ingredients stay cold and do not melt.  Reconstitute into fridge while preparing step 4.
  4. Whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin in measuring cup or small bowl
  5. With a wooden spoon, create a well in the dry ingredients, begin pouring in wet ingredients slowly and with big sweeping movements to ensure everything is moistened.  Do not over-mix.  Add a small amount of pumpkin puree or buttermilk if you notice your flour is not incorporating with the amount of liquid you have used.
  6. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 8-12 times
  7. Cut into rounds and place on baking sheet. (Feel free to glaze with butter, add some salt or allspice.  This is very customizable--just nothing that will melt or ruin the integrity of the dish itself at this stage)
  8. Bake for 18-22 minutes
  9. Let cool briefly, serve warm with pat of butter, salt, and some fig preserve

For preserve

  1. Put all ingredients in a saucepan
  2. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and juices are simmering for about 25-30 minutes
  3. Transfer to a blender or food processor, pulse to desired texture
  4. Transfer back to saucepan and heat gently
  5. Serve with biscuits or refrigerate*

Pumpkin and Chèvre Biscuits with Fig Preserve

*I did not include instructions on canning, but can be refrigerated, covered, for up to one week

Acoustics.

Fall has come in so acoustically, and it is all around me now.  I can see it most in the morning, when the rest of the world is asleep.  The dogs stretch their long limbs, widen their jaws into yawns.  They don't want to walk on the dew.  They want to sleep on the hand-stitched Navajo blanket in the morning.  The coffee comes in bursts of steam.  I wipe my glasses off with my sleeve.  I stand in my underwear at the new kitchen sink, head dipped over the last of the summer's peach. I tear it with my hands.  I feel most strong when it's quiet.  When the shower is scalding hot.  When the window is down but the heat is on.  When I can wear jeans around the house.  When our two bodies interlace at night, when I see the tan-lines faded.  When the birthmarks start to show.  When my palms and cheeks are red.  When it's late and you can only hear the occasional siren in the deep, deep distance of our new hometown.  And soon a quick inhale and his long, familiar snore drowns everything else out. I let the change happen, because it's been good to me.  I did not trust it at first, the change of adulthood.  I looked back on how many lives I have lived, and how many more I have ahead and realized that, for each, the impetus was a desire for difference.  I am lucky to feel the autumnal metamorphosis this year, because it is usually so stagnant in California.  I am lucky to live in this two-bedroom house. I am lucky to discover all the new things I'm learning to love these last few years.  I am lucky, I am lucky, I am very, very lucky.

This is not what I thought three weeks ago, buried in the bed.  Covered up, hidden from my own insecurities.  Afraid of my failures, not able to see my triumphs.  My father called me and I hung up mid-sentence.  Nolan kissed my hand and asked if I wanted to get ice cream.  I cried until I shuddered.  I was tired of owing any small amount of success to someone else, attributing each failure to my own misunderstanding of life and how it worked.   I did not feel powerful.  I did not wake up early and take a minute, recollect my thoughts, drink black coffee that fogged my lenses.

I locked the door and didn't let anyone in.  I incubated myself for three days.  I reminded myself to be happy, because sometimes you have to, because no one else will.

I turned 23 the next week.

I moved into a new house four days later.

And at each moment I discovered something new.  When the bruises began to turn purple, when I was most tender.  When I limped away, licked my wounds.  I found myself glad for the change.  Glad to be alive, to have my head above the water when it came to my debts.  Glad I recognized what I owed Nolan, happy to let myself be vulnerable so I could tell myself how stupid I was.  Happy to wake up before the sun, because the sun sleeps in late these days, to brew coffee and write a note to Nolan. "There's coffee waiting for you.  Have a good day."  I write it on paper I got in Belgium, a souvenir of who I was, written over as someone new.  I changed, I evolved.

I remind myself that my clothes aren't in trash bags anymore.  I remind myself that I never loved that drug dealer.  I remind myself that my father was right, that I was young and stupid and didn't appreciate a goddamn thing when I was 17.  All of those things are different now. I remind myself that I have lifetimes ahead of me, and that this one is just passing.  I remind myself that when I'm arthritic and can't hold anyone's hand, to be comforted in knowing that I let myself be vulnerable or a day or two.  I remind myself all of these things, because fall isn't a time for dying, it's a time for remembering.  That peacefulness of daybreak is all we have right now, and I couldn't lay in bed once I realized what a mistake I'd made.

I made this fudge to have in the moments when I felt strong, when the ripped up stone fruit couldn't satiate me.  I made it to feel comforted by the pecans, to savor the tang of the buttermilk.  It didn't feel like home, but it felt like nostalgia.

Pecan Buttermilk Fudge 

fudge1

from Bon Appétit

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  •  teaspoon kosher salt
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9x5” loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides; set aside.
  2. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
  3. Heat sugar, buttermilk, butter, honey, and kosher salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until butter and sugar are melted, about 3 minutes.
  4. Fit saucepan with thermometer, bring mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thermometer registers 238° (mixture will be pale golden and smell faintly of toffee), 6–8 minutes.
  5. Immediately pour mixture into a medium bowl and, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat until cool and thickened (it will be stiff and matte), 5–8 minutes.
  6. Fold in pecans. Scrape fudge into prepared pan; smooth top and sprinkle with sea salt.
  7. Let sit at least 1 hour before cutting into pieces.

Pecan Buttermilk Fudge

Equinox.

There are cold sweats at night and hot coffee by morning.  It's never enough to say "enough".  Disappointments, like weeds, grow tenfold when you cut then down to the nub.  Down to the quick, where it hurts in the white part.  Sometimes I bite my nails when I'm going 80 on the highway.  Sometimes I'm moody to the point of tempestuous.  Sometimes I think of the old farmhouse where I grew up and can't remember what my room looked like as a kid. My life is halved like an apple, quartered like a treasonous man.  Dragged on the back of horses, pieces of me left in all cardinal directions.  There was only pre-California and post-California.  And now there is only California.  And maybe that's all there has ever been, the confusing realization that time moves languid when you want it to speed up.  You close your eyes and you're 23 and not who you thought you'd be.  The bits of synchronistic twang to your voice when you call your mother fades when you order dinner.  The dog hair I found on a sweater last week was not from the fourteen-year-old lab I grew up with.  It's the realization that who you are now is who you'll be forever and these relics of age and memory somehow clashed.  A little more Big Sur, a little less Appalachia.

The two years I've lived in California haven't seemed that long at all.  It's due to the stagnation of perfect weather.  The dry summers, the fog-colored mornings when the light refracts on silky palm leaves.  It somehow mummified my senses.  I've lived in a sarcophagus of privilege.  The summers can trick you into thinking you're happy, you're at peace.  It makes you drowsy to the point of opiated calmness.  It's only here that I've experienced this effect.  Here, where the weather never changes.

In Pennsylvania, life is marked by natural disasters.  Things insurance doesn't cover.  Floods that come from mountaintops, drowning any cornfields near your schoolyard.  Snow storms that caused your mother to slip and break her tailbone.  "The Summer after that big storm..." was my graduation date.  "That one Spring when the tree broke in half..." was when my grandfather died.  Life is punctuated by nature, and nature is constant, dynamic shifting of lunar phases and cloud formations.

But in California, it's quiet at night.  It doesn't rain.  It just gets hotter and cooler, variations of the same eternal summer.  It can be a stifling feeling to never know when the storm comes and the clouds all look like shapes from your childhood.  Here, you never have any way to keep track of time.  Clocks lie.  What says an hour can feel like three in a fight.  A month can shed its skin and stretch to be sixty days instead of thirty.  Time is perspective in California.  Happiness is all perspective, too.  I can see why Eve ate the apple.

On our nightly dog walks, we find small pomegranates instead.

These are the reasons I miss the fall, the liminal seasons before and after the Persphonic bookends of the year--summer and winter.  When there's nothing but continuity, there's no way to reflect on two whole years of my life.  Fall means a time of transition, evidence of change.  It's up to me to decide if that means progress.  I lose sight of the small victories when there's nothing but sunshine.

So I made this apple tart.  A "rustic apple tart", as Leite's Culinaria called it.  I thought about every autumnal  mid-afternoon when I'd come home to a pumpkin pie or a lit candle.  My mother had made my bed and kept the window opened, just to keep it as crisp-smelling as possible.  I made this tart and blushed at how simple it was.  I made this tart and called my mom, because what else can you do when you're wondering if she remembers things the way you do.

Leite's Culinaria Rustic Apple tart