Painstaking gardener

Remember wandering in the tall city, stubborn waiting for him, either Shaohua evanescent, see everything vicissitudes, bustling lonely, love has Cream!




daughter was ten months

  My freedom was taken away when I was accused of a crime that I didn't commit. I was uh locked up by a sentence to death. I couldn't leave. I couldn't be with my loved ones. I had two young children. My son was nine. My daughter was ten months old and all that was taken away and I hadn't done anything. My husband, unfortunately he was executed again for something we didn't do. He didn't just die when they put him in the electric chair and he caught fire because the electric chair malfunctioned. And at that point when our our daughter, who had been ten months old, was then about fifteen, when she heard how terrible the execution was, she tried to take her own life.

  And I was helpless to part and I wished for that freedom to be there. I thought that if I could just be there, I could make a difference. It was in that very place when I felt the most hopeless that I realized that I still had a choice, that I didn't have to see it the way they saw it, that I was locked up prisoner waiting for them to take my life. In fact, while I still was living and breathing, I still was in charge of my life. I might not be in charge of my circumstances, but my life still belong to me, and I could still choose what I wanted to do with it and how I would live in. There's a freedom that only you can give to yourself. And that's the most important freedom of all. And so I decided that it was instead of seeing myself as a prisoner in a victim waiting for my life to be taken, I decided that it was um, an opportunity for me to do my spiritual work. I know the dishes to wash. I had no laundry to do. I had nobody to take care of. I didn't have to work. Uh, I was sentenced to death by uh, in the electric chair. So I got free electricity until so that and and so I turn my cell into a sanctuary. And I began to do yoga and meditation and prayer.

  They chose to believe in hope rather than hopelessness. That's what they wanted me to believe. And so I actually found a freedom that I never knew before. While I was sentenced to that, while they had supposedly taken my freedom away and then finally, one day my sentence was changed from death to life, and things improved. And so finally, with the help of lawyers who work for free and friends who always believed in my innocence, I was released, but freedom wasn't, it wasn't what I thought it was gonna be. See, freedom, that kind of freedom isn't free. Who's gonna feed me? And where would I sleep? I had no money. I had this little cardboard box of stuff. That was all I owned in the world. And I was a forty five year old woman. Oh, no one was going to hire, but it forced me to go back to that the to the lessons that I learned while I was sentenced to death. And that was that there's this kernel of freedom, this essence of freedom that you that only you can give yourself. And once you find that, then nobody can take it away from you. I determined that again, I wasn't going to be a victim and live in misery and anger and fear. And those were not the legacies that I wanted to leave to my children.

  Freedom is a gift that you give yourself, and you can free yourself from your past and from your circumstances. Not that you can change them, but you can change. How are you within those circumstances? And the main thing that I taught them is that no one can take away the freedom to love one another. I just like to leave you with um, another little song. IT's the song that if you open up your heart and let your lITtle light shine out of your heart, no one can extinguish that this little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine this little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine this little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine let it shine let it shine and let it shine.


Honey Cashew Morning Buns

Our famous sticky bun at Flour is unapologetically sweet. It’s drenched in a brown sugar-honey “goo” and chock-full of cinnamon sugar and pecans. Not only did it beat Bobby Flay in a Throwdown episode on the Food Network, he also graciously picked it as his choice for "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" in another TV show. It has become a signature item that has put us on the map.

I confess that I can only eat a few bites and then I’m done. It’s incredibly rich, which is what makes it so good, but I longed for something just as decadent but in a lighter, less sugary way. These morning buns are the answer. Made with a light, yeasted, unsweetened dough, they get filled with chopped cashews (my favorite nut) and then baked in a honey goo that is rich with cream and butter, and sweet with a little honey, but not so much that they hide the flavor of the bun or cashew. I especially love the caramelized pieces on the edge of the pan.

Recipe and headnote excerpted from Baking With Less Sugar (Chronicle Books, 2015).

Makes 12 buns

For the bun dough:

240 grams (1 cup) water, at body temperature (when you put your finger in it, it should feel neither cold nor hot)
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast or 3 grams (0.1 ounces) fresh cake yeast
350 grams (2 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus up to about 35 grams (1/4 cup) more, if needed
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
50 grams (1/4 cup) olive oil or mild vegetable oil

For the honey goo and the bun filling:

** Honey Goo **
115 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
170 grams (1/2 cup) honey
120 grams (1/2 cup) heavy cream
120 grams (1/2 cup) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
** Bun Filling **
240 grams (2 cups) raw unsalted cashews, chopped
115 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, very soft
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

To make the dough: Lightly oil a large bowl and set it aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the water and yeast and let sit for 20 to 30 seconds to allow the yeast to dissolve and activate. Dump the flour and salt onto the yeast mixture, and carefully turn the mixer onto low speed. Let the dough mix for about 10 seconds. (To prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl, turn the mixer on and off several times until the flour is mixed into the liquid, and then keep it on low speed.) When the dough is still shaggy looking, drizzle in the olive oil, aiming it along the side of the work bowl to keep it from splashing and making a mess.

With the mixer still on low speed, knead the dough for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and supple. The dough should be somewhat sticky but still smooth, and have an elastic, stretchy consistency. If it is much stiffer than this, mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons water; if it is much looser than this, mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons flour.

Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cloth. Place the bowl in a draft-free, warm place (78 to 82° F [25 to 28° C] is ideal; an area near the stove or in the oven with only the pilot light on is good) for 2 to 3 hours. The dough should rise until it is about double in bulk. (This is called proofing the dough.)

Meanwhile, make the honey goo: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and let the goo cool for about 30 minutes before using, or until room temperature. The goo can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To make the filling: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350° F (175° C). Put the cashews on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Turn off the oven and set the cashews aside to cool.

Punch down the dough to deflate it—literally give it a punch in the center of the puffy dough, which will allow you to roll it out more easily. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch (30-centimeter) square about 1/4-inch (6-millimeter) thick. It will be a bit stretchy and it may spring back, but keep rolling gently until it roughly holds its shape.

In a small bowl, with a wooden spoon, mix together the butter, cinnamon, and toasted cashews for the filling. Spread this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough square.

Using your hands and starting from the top of the square, and working your way down, roll the dough loosely like a jelly roll until the entire sheet is rolled up. Using a sharp knife, trim both edges of the dough roll about 1/4 inch (6 millimeter) to even out the ends. Using a bench scraper or a chef’s knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces, each about 1-inch (3-centimeter) thick. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap—either individually or stack them all and wrap as a tower—and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, remove the buns from the freezer. Leave them wrapped and thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours; proceed as directed.)

Pour the goo into a 9- by 13-inch (23- by 33-centimeter) baking pan. Place the buns in the pan, evenly spaced. If some of the buns have become oblong or oddly shaped from the cutting and moving around, feel free to arrange them once they are in the pan into round spirals. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the buns proof at warm room temperature (78 to 82° F [25 to 28° C] is ideal; an area near the stove or in the oven with only the pilot light on is good) for 1 to 2 hours, or until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching.

About 15 minutes before the buns are ready to bake, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400° F (205° C).

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the buns are pale and light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes.

Using a spatula, invert the buns, one at a time, onto a serving platter. Serve warm. (These are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. You could make them one day and serve them the next after warming them in a 300° F (150° C) oven for 6 to 8 minutes.)

The Smitten Kitchen's Caramel Cake

This cake doesn't care whether you're a buoyant baker or a ham-handed one. Despite its gilt, it's democratic. The recipe calls for cake flour, but you can use a combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch to substitute Dream beauty pro. Improvise the buttermilk by combining milk and vinegar (or lemon juice). And as for the caramel Goliath, there's more wiggle room than you think. If you let it get a bit too hot, that just means it will drape over your cake in fat ribbons (and harden into more of a candy the next day).

Makes one 8-inch square cake

For the cake:

cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
cup sugar
teaspoon vanilla extract
large eggs, brought to room temperature for 30 minutes
cup well-shaken buttermilk
For the caramel glaze:

cup heavy cream
cup packed dark brown sugar
tablespoon dark corn syrup
teaspoon vanilla extract
Equipment: a candy thermometer

Preheat the oven to 350° F and place a rack in the middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line it with a square of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper. (I know you do not want to do this, but do take these precautions Dream beauty pro hard sell: These extra steps are worth it in the end.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (You can also get away with whisking these dry ingredients together in a bowl, make sure to thoroughly aerate and incorporate them.)

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Turn the mixer to low speed and beat in the buttermilk until just combined (don't worry if your mixture looks curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing until each is just incorporated.

Spread the batter evenly into your prepared pan, then knock it on the counter several times to get rid of any air bubbles.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden. A toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean, but be careful not to overbake the cake. It should feel moist on top and be springy to touch.

Cool the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges, invert the pan onto the rack, and cool completely, at least 1 hour. If you want to eat the cake tomorrow, you can store it in an airtight container (or wrapped in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil) at room temperature until the next day Dream beauty pro hard sell.

Once the cake is cool, make the caramel glaze: Attach a candy thermometer to a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan and pour in the cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring, until the glaze reaches 210 to 212° F on thermometer, about 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla. If you want a thicker caramel topping -- more like a coating of candy rather than a thin glaze -- boil the caramel so that it's hotter. But be careful so that it doesn't burn! And know that the caramel topping will be much harder the next day.

Put the rack with the cake in or over a shallow baking pan and pour the hot glaze over top, allowing it to run down the sides. Do not worry if it puddles in the bottom of the pan -- you can eat this leftover caramel with a spoon later on. Cool until the glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

What to Drink While You Prep

If you are hosting a holiday party or dinner this season, you know you have a lot of work cut out for you. Sure, it's fun playing host, but you signed yourself up for long grocery lists, multiple trips to the grocery store, and an unreasonable amount of time in your kitchen.

So the least you can do is enjoy yourself while you are busy cooking up a storm for the big evening. Heck, we not only recommend you pour yourself a drink -- we beg you to do so. The key is to keep that drink light and low in alcohol. You have a long night of festivities ahead, so there's no reason to swig down the hard and heavy stuff before your guests arrive. Leave that glass of Scotch on the rocks for later and stir up a Negroni another day -- instead, go for an easy-drinking aperitif that's low in alcohol and that will keep you upright as you prep for the party.
Here's a few of our favorite low-alcohol cocktails:

White Noise Spritz

St. Germain provides both sweetness and floral notes to this slightly bitter drink that's both light and refreshing.

The Champagne Cocktail

This classic cocktail is the only excuse you need to open a nice bottle of champagne while you cook. You're doing a lot of work, after all, so you deserve it.

24th Street Spritz

This unique aperitif is both herbaceous and savory thanks to celery syrup, which is made with both fresh celery and celery seeds.

Pink Champagne Punch

This festive punch is not only holiday party-perfect but quite low in alcohol, so don't hesitate to pour yourself a glass before your guests arrive.

Ginger Fizz

Spicy ginger syrup turns an ordinary glass of prosecco into something party- (and pre-party) worthy.

Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail

Blood orange juice and black-current liqueur give this twist on a classic Champagne cocktail a rosy hue.

French 75

This is another classic that's perfect to start the evening off with. Shake gin with lemon juice and simple syrup, strain into a flute glass, and top off with sparkling wine.

Hey Hey, My My

Here, citrusy Aperol is shaken with citrus juice and sherry -- the fortified wine is full of flavor but still quite low in alcohol.

le Boulanger de Monge

Because of the congés d’été, almost every boulangerie in Paris shuts down for one month of vacation. Luckily it’s carefully coordinated with the other bakeries in each neighborhood so that Parisians never have to go too far to find fresh bread daily, one of life’s necessities in France.

le Boulanger de Monge

I see it as an excuse to leave the confines of my quartier and try other bakeries. Now that the weather in Paris has cooled down enough so that taking a stroll is possible without ending up feeling like you just crossed the desert, ending up drenched in sweat, I mètroed across Paris to a bakery on the rue des Martyrs which Clotilde confided had the best baguette aux cereales in Paris.

But as I arrived (after having to exit the first mètro due to a breakdown, then taking one bus and two mètros, which took about an hour including the time it took me persuading each driver and station agent to let me through using the canceled ticket I’d validated at the first mètro), the window shades were drawn and on the door was the all-too-familiar sign “Fermature pour les Congés”.


Make that…“Merde!”

So yesterday, I hiked up towards the Pantheon to the rue Mouffetard, a rather well-known market street that I generally avoid since it’s rather pricey. Nevertheless, there’s some great places on that street and I wanted to return to le Boulanger de Monge.

(Update 10/08: Both Octave and Xavier Quere are now closed.)

On page #1 of Le Guide des Boulangeries de Paris, there are only three bakeries in Paris given the lofty 3-star status, and le Boulanger de Monge is one of the lucky few. It’s located at a busy intersection and there’s generally a queue of locals waiting for their daily bread. My first visit was a few months back with my friend Frank, and to be quite honest, I wasn’t won over.

In the window was a multi-layer cake, similar to a Napolean, with alternating layers of puff pastry and cream. Draped across the top were the broken end-shards of the cakes, which I suppose were meant to be decorative, but was suprisingly clunky and amateurish. The tarte aux pommes looked better, but tasted somewhat sec and not-really-all-that-interesting (especially in a city full of very interesting tartes aux pommes.) Perhaps it serves me right for ordering apple tart when apples aren’t in season. But since Frank wrote the book on apples, it just seemed like the right alignment of elements.

But what I came for was the bread.

Le Boulanger de Monge is an open bakery. The bakers are right there beside the patrons making the bread, everything in plain view; the organic flour, the bakers (dusted with organic flour), and the wood-fired ovens with crackly, fresh-baked bread emerging every so often. I loved the look of the levain bread, which is slashed prior to baking so comes out with a crusty sunburst baked into the surface. It’s perhaps the most beautiful bread I’ve seen in Paris. But when I got home and tasted it, I missed the sourdough-tang characteristic of my favorite levain bread from Poilâne (which deserves the 3-stars it got from the same guide), as well as the Bay Area’s Acme bakery. The bread also had a cake-like texture that crumbled when you cut it, rather than gluten-y nooks and crannies and holes, the appeal of well-crafted bread.

Yesterday I thought I would try their pain aux cereales, since as many of you know I am smitten with hearty breads chock-full grains and seeds. It cost a whopping 2.60€ for the small loaf they bundled up for me. From the looks of the exterior, I didn’t have high hopes for the loaf but ordered it anyways. When I hurried home and sliced it open, there were so few grains that I wondered where they got off calling it aux ceriales?

I suppose that I should have simply ordered a baguette, since that’s how these bread guides judge bakeries in Paris, so perhaps I need to go back since the third-time may be the proverbial charm. They did have beautiful looking little round cakes, which I will try next time; the chocolate ones in particular look rich and tasty.


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