Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let's Bake: Alfajores Edition

One of my favorite memories is when I would go to the library with my mom, head straight for the "new arrivals" and grab a huge stack of books to try and read by the due date. Remember when the daily charge for an overdue library book was a nickel? Now it's like a $1 and it's insane.

What do overdue library books have to do with baking? Well, basically, what I'm trying to say is that....this post is long overdue.

There are a lot of different Peruvian recipes that I lust after and I constantly convince myself that one day I will be able to recreate them and not have to travel down the South American coast to curb my cravings. Well, finally, around Valentine's day (I told you this was WAY overdue!) I decided to take a stab at making alfajores. I was extra inspired when my roommate's mom took the time to surprise us with fresh dulce de leche and shortbread cookies when we went down to Nashville for a quick visit.

If you remember, the first step was preparing the dulce de leche. I took the "easy" way out and boiled three cans of condensed milk for about 3 hours. Constantly checking that the water level never went below the height of the can (on its side). I made 3 cans, because it's always good to just get a few out of the way so you don't have to waste time/gas next time around. Anyway, the condensed milk goes in all gooey, sweet, and creamy and comes out golden brown and ready to be spread on cookies, cakes, etc.

Condensed milk + boiling for 3 hours = Delicious Dulce de Leche 

Normally, when I take on a task like this I give my nanny a call and ask for her advice. Along with her positive reinforcement she usually likes to slip in an easy-to-use option just in case I'm feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of failure. She told me that I could use any recipe I found online or Pillsbury Ready-To-Use Pie Crusts.

When in doubt, use an empty wine bottle as a rolling pin!

I ended up trying both options. I had to give these out as V-day gifts, so I needed a back-up plan just in case my cookie dough did not come out as desired. I used this recipe from www.piscotrail.com:

1 1/4 cup corn starch
3/4 cup flour
4 oz butter at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of the dough. But it was crumbly and not user very friendly. At first I tried flattening the dough with the "rolling pin". Wasn't happening. Then I tried to roll balls of dough, but when I baked them they did not flatten and were too dense. So, I ended up having to push the rest of the dough together into a make-shift log and cutting slivers and praying that they didn't crumble before hitting the cookie sheet.

Once the cookies are baked, the rest is easy. Spread dulce de leche in between two cookies - like a sandwich. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top (with a sifter). And voila!

These are the thicker cookies
Round Two: Thinner cookies
I didn't end up using the pie crust cookies, even though they were cute and heart-shaped. The dulce de leche is so sweet that it has to be paired with a cookie that has barely any sugar in it or else you'll be on a major sugar overload!

I got these cute heart-shaped cookie cutters from Party City!
It's all about presentation, right? :)
Even though there were a few bumps along the way, I was happy that I got over my fear and just tried my best. They may have been a little weird looking, but everyone loved them and that's the most important part!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Technology is hard

A lot of times the reason I don't post in a reliable way is because the pictures I take are always on my phone. I could probably figure out how to have a cloud thingy or just email myself the photos but for some reason I get major anxiety about the pictures being too large and not going through which then means I have to break up the photos into multiple emails, etc, etc. Aka ridiculous reasons that I should be embarrassed to share. So, instead I'm writing this on my phone just so I can share last weekend's fun-filled adventures.
Last weekend I had a fun, spring-y weekend and even had a nice little sunburn on Monday morning - a badge of honor from my brief but enjoyable time outside. I went to a fundraiser at my high school on Saturday night, and had fun in Brooklyn on Sunday visiting with my friend and her new baby, eating yummy donuts and pork buns at Smorgasburg and celebrating my friend's belated bday on her rooftop.

Johnston Jubilee, fundraiser, with my sister
View at Brooklyn Bridge Park
I can see up the Brooklyn Bridge's nose!
Glamour shot!
Doughnut Plant  - yum!
Hot and Steamy!
Red Coconut Curry Chicken and Braised Pork Belly
Brooklyn Roasting Company
Street art
View from my friend's rooftop! 
I love this city.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

G-chat Witticisms

Conversation between my ex and I on g-chat:

Me: Are we playing with fire? Talking about kissing?
Ex: We are ALWAYS playing with fire.
Ex: You and I are pyros
Me: Pyros for love.

Stitch that on a pillow.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Circus Freaks & Geeks

In all my teenage angst I forgot to tell you about my super awesome date with bachelor #2 last weekend!

So, let's start at the very beginning. A while back when I was confused as to whether or not he was interested in being more than just friends, he excitedly told me about a Groupon for Cirque du Soliel's Totem. Me, being the modern woman I think I am thought, sure, why not? Let's go "as friends" while rubbing my hands together maniacally thinking, he. will. love. me.

Okay, okay, not SO crazy, but I did think it would be fun to try and be friends with him. I mean, if anything, he's a hot foreigner, and he probably has hot foreign friends, so win-win situation here, amirite ladies????

Well, as you all know from my vague declaration last week, he does like me and I wasn't totally off base when I was catching those vibes from him. (AKA we went out dancing one night and let the rhythm take us over and totally made out and have been seeing each other for the past four weeks - except for that sabbatical when I tried having something real with bach #1 - what a mess)

Where was I? Oh right, so we bought these tickets to Cirque du Soliel when we were just friends, a month in advance (yikes!), and were lucky enough that things didn't crash and burn before then and I'm happy to say that we had a GREAT time!

Waiting to go into the tent!
We weren't allowed to take photos inside so I have no proof, but the show was pretty spectacular. It was supposed to be a "fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind". So there were a lot of natural elements and ethereal music. They had unicyclists, aerialists, and high-brow clowns, but my favorite parts were those with the couple performers. The amount of trust and synchronicity that is involved when hanging a billion feet in the air was mind-blowing!

After the show we went out to dinner and ate very delicious ceviche (a typical Peruvian seafood dish made with fresh raw fish, citrus, hot peppers, etc) at some hole-in-the-wall restaurant out in Queenz. Talked about music, art, and all in all had a wonderful time.

Things I do when I'm waiting for someone: Read a book, catch up on emails, and, obviously, stage a mini photo-shoot
That's the thing with this guy. There may be some things that are not ideal, but it's not serious. It's totally carefree. And most importantly, fun. Why can't all dates be like this one?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Love Games

You know when you are younger and you watch all those rom-coms and read all those books and you think you have love figured out? Then you realize that isn't real life and you move onto reading every magazine, blog, internet article, and you think those are legit and that you finally have love figured out? And then you realize that isn't real life either and you just sit down and think, "Shit."

Yea, well, shit guys. Dating is hard. Everyone comes in with their own baggage and it is hard to gauge whether the good outweighs the bad. And then in the end hurtful things are said and you're left moping about thinking about all the terrible things that just happened and thinking that you're going to die alone.

I know what you're thinking. "Hey, Marie? Stop throwing yourself a pity party and get over it. You were dating two guys at the same time, "living the dream" of a 20-something-year-old while you still could and then it didn't work out. Boo-hoo."

Fine, internet friends! You are so mean and expect so much from me! I'm just bummed because the "front-runner" (god I'm such a terrible person - maybe he is right and I am selfish?) didn't work out. I really thought something real could happen with him, so I told the other guy that I wanted to just be friends because I wanted to try the real deal with this other dude. And then reality slapped me right in the face, really hard, and left a huge red mark...on my heart....

Too much?
Ugh, fine. Nothing gets past you.

But really, I thought that I was ready to start something with him. I've known him forever, we've danced around the dating issue for a long time, he doesn't take my bullshit, he is reeeeeally sexy, and we always had incredible chemistry, but instead of creating something amazing like penicillin or oxygen, we created SARS. Are any of those things made using chemistry? Errrrr....aaaaanyway...

Sure, there were red flags, but there always are and I have a tendency to give up before even trying because I overthink everything and for once I thought, "Stop thinking of the cookie cutter life you think you want and just be." Well, that did not work. We had two great dates and then moved on to fighting and miscommunicating about, um, EVERYTHING. I think that chemistry that was so appealing in the beginning was just full-on rage bubbling under the surface, which - newsflash - does not make a great foundation for any relationship. He thinks I'm immature and childish and I think he's stubborn and mean. Terrible, terrible, terrible.

When I was in high-school, and I broke up with a boyfriend I would torture myself and go through all my old shoeboxes filled with memorabilia, bake a cake, eat said cake, cry myself to sleep, and replay every awful interaction over and over again in my head. I'm an adult now, so I had to wake up and go to work, but in between checking things off on my to-do list, I'm sitting here, replaying every awful interaction, being sad, and thinking about the huge bottle glass of wine I will be drinking later tonight while I celebrate my friends' birthdays.

Have you ever tried to fit a heart-shaped peg into a square-shaped hole? Tell me I'm not alone!