Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obstacles

The homework, the studying, the reading, the writing. The cycle never ends. The relief that flows through my body at the conclusion of each exam is extremely short-lived, and long hours of poring over notes and short hours in bed are inevitable. My eyes are bloodshot every morning, and my contact lenses are dry. In a few days, the effects of coffee will no longer hold.

But I am happy. These are all aids to my own success. I am grateful to have books to read, research to conduct, and plays to write, as they are all segments of who I am and who I will be, examples of what I love to do. They are the tools that God wields to shape me into the being He wishes to see before Him.

Tomorrow is my roommate's 21st birthday. And as it happens, the four of us who live together all have exams on this special day, which I'll admit dampens the celebratory mood, but still,

Happy birthday Connie, my optimistic, encouraging, fun-loving roommate!
Tomorrow night will be packed with great memories.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Small Blessings


I was blessed with the discovery of a collection of pictures on my camera tonight, ones that I had not deleted after the last time I uploaded them. Pictures of the last month of my summer vacation, one of the most exhausting and painfully memorable times of my life, when I lay in a hospital bed every day. Pictures of my parents, who babied and encouraged me every step of the way. Pictures of my brother, who over the past few weeks has become a closer friend, mentor, and guide. Pictures of my boyfriend, who reminded me to follow the words of God and trust that He will provide.

And of course, pictures of the petite sweets I made when I was able to move about.

Just for the record, I take pictures of the goods I bake for the mere sake of capturing my progress, not to showcase my photography "skills" (meaning, I have none); hence, the lack of sophistication and quality.

Almond tarts. My dad loves all kinds of nuts and nut-flavored foods, so I include peanuts, pecans, walnuts, and almonds in nearly everything I make for him. The filling (made of almond meal) is similar to that of a pecan pie without the crunchiness of the nuts, and easily melts in the mouth; the crust is light, crispy, and not as sweet, which makes for a great balance to the almond filling.

Cornmeal cookies. My mom adores cornbread and almost always snags a piece whenever she sees it in a restaurant. I frequently make her cornbread at home, but for a change and a slight twist, these cookies sounded adequate. They were piped through a small star tip, and half were dipped in melted white chocolate. I used medium grind cornmeal, which has a somewhat gritty texture, but I'm certain that this is what gives the cookies their uniqueness.

Marbled green tea sugar cookies. On my mom's birthday two months ago, my family ventured to Old Town Pasadena, where there happened to be a specialty tea store. I spied a 2-ounce canister of matcha powder that seemed cheaper than those I had seen elsewhere, complete with bamboo whisk, so I immediately bought it. My parents informed me that the first bite didn't contain much of the green tea essence, but the slightly sweet, grassy flavor increased gradually as the cookie was consumed.

Yes, my family members are the main guinea pigs for my baking experiments, which is pretty convenient!

I only wish I could remember the recipes I used.

I am constantly reminded that I will be graduating in approximately eight months, that I will officially become an adult in the world outside of college in less than a year. A part of me trembles in timidness and nervous anticipation, but the rest of me is already preparing to dash forward and see the next chapter of life. But in order to actually progress to the next step, I must complete the pile of homework and reading assignments sitting patiently near my laptop. And so...until next time!

God bless.



Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cheesecakes, Cupcakes, and Rice Cakes


This past Wednesday, my Macbook suddenly broke down without warning or reason. The screen remained a eerie pale blue in spite of the keys I pressed, the phone calls I made, the list of solutions I found on the computers at the school library. On Saturday, I turned my suffering computer over to the care of a computer technician, who warned me that my hard drive might be damaged and losing all my files was a distinct possibility. However, I had enough faith in him to believe that he had healing hands and could revive my trusty friend.

He couldn't.

The downside: I lost years' worth of photographs and stories and poems that I had written when time allowed. I lost the hundreds of recipes that I had bookmarked. All because of one malfunction.

The upside: The technician upgraded the entire system so I am now the proud owner of a 3-year-old Macbook with brand new software.

My reaction: Time to write more stories and take more pictures and make more memories! I will admit that I neglected backing up my files, which makes the loss entirely my fault. So no more complaining here.

As for my recent experiences in the kitchen:

My brother works at a nonprofit organization that hosted a fundraising dinner party last Friday; he asked me to make desserts, and I willingly accepted, though I wasn't entirely sure my baking skills would be satisfactory. After much consideration, I decided to make cupcakes and cheesecake for seventy of the attendees, which proved challenging yet enjoyable.


Because of the time constraint, I drove an hour and a half back home after my classes the night before the party and spent a couple of hours making these mini mocha cheesecakes with chocolate crust. The coffee flavor was not especially pronounced, so in the morning, I topped each with a dark chocolate espresso bean to bring out the taste.

The next morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn (not really, maybe a little after 8am) to make 24 dark chocolate cupcakes with matcha green tea cream cheese frosting (whew, what a mouthful). The tops looked fairly bare, so I took the liberty of gently pushing pieces of Hershey's Cookies n' Creme chocolate into the frosting.

The next batch of cupcakes I made consisted of plain vanilla batter mixed with black sesame seeds. The cakes were filled with adzuki red bean paste, topped with honey cream cheese frosting, and garnished with black and white sesame seeds. Unfortunately, no time remained to photograph these cupcakes, as my brother had to leave around noon with the desserts.

All in all, this was a rather harried experience, but gave me insight as to how to bake quickly when pressed for time. I can't imagine how professional pastry artists manage their time so wisely every minute of every day, when I had such trouble baking 48 cupcakes! That's one of the skills I greatly admire and hope to imitate.

Sadly, I have no recipes to post because these desserts were made from a combination of several recipes, with my own ideas introduced here and there. As I mentioned before, my bookmarked pages have all disappeared, and I've no idea where to begin looking for the exact recipes I used.

Yesterday, in honor of Korean Thanksgiving Day (Chu seok), I purchased a box of rice flour and made rice cakes. These cakes, known as "song pyeon," are traditionally a major part of the holiday and are consumed every year at this time.

The recipe I followed asked for such a small amount of water to stir into the dough that I tripled the amount required. Still, the dough remained stiff and difficult to maneuver, and after steaming them, they immediately hardened! I was confused, as rice cakes are supposed to be supple and chewy, until my dad informed me that I had bought the wrong kind of rice flour. Next time...

The dough was divided into three parts, and into one, I stirred in a teaspoon of matcha powder. Into the second went a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and the third was left alone. I know traditional song pyeon are made with mugwort powder to acquire the deep green hue, but as I had none, I had to improvise in some way. The dough was formed into inch-wide balls, flattened, and then filled with a sesame seed-brown sugar mixture.

I'm in the process of making espresso macarons and must take them out of the oven, so more updates will come in the future!