There is so much volatility this time of year :: school is winding down, summer field work is ramping up, the garden needs tending, the woods need exploring, the house needs a good spring cleaning, and all the new growth outside is inspiring all sorts of new ideas for projects and blog posts and designs…
I wish I were an octopus!
Spring weather can make me feel like a ping-pong ball — a week of sunny mornings, warm sunshine, blustery afternoons, and green springing up everywhere gets me excited for outdoor adventures. And then 6 inches of snow overnight, brings me back to curl up in front of the fire.
After a grey day of restless angst and semi-productiveness on Tuesday, I realized what I needed was to celebrate this transition time between the seasons rather than let myself get knocked around by it.
When I feel frenetic and overwhelmed I am drawn to the kitchen.
The regular, measured steps of baking calms and focuses my mind. The smells transport me away from where my thoughts are getting stuck, and it is impossible to rush the alchemy that occurs within pots and pans.
I made vanilla pudding, and as I stood stirring at the stove, watching the milk and starch and egg thicken into a creamy mass, I found myself slowing and focusing and I left the kitchen calmer and more organized (and with a yummy treat).
When I was in cooking school we were taught that a great dessert contains four elements: crunchy, creamy, meaty (like fruit or nuts or chocolate), and saucy.
I had the creamy going in my pot of custard, fragrant with vanilla sugar and vanilla extract. Out from the freezer came strawberries from last summer’s garden to gently simmer into a sauce, barely sweetened with a touch more vanilla sugar. And to add the crunch, chocolate-orange buckwheat sables.
Tuesday night the temperature fell into the teens and a fire roared in the living room. A bite of fragrant vanilla and bright strawberry and earthy buckwheat was exactly what I needed to be totally content.
I used THIS pudding recipe, but any basic vanilla pudding recipe would work. I happened to have a jar of vanilla sugar (a split vanilla bean stuck into a jar of white sugar), so I used that, but regular sugar would work just fine.
The strawberry sauce is simply:
1 cup frozen strawberries + 1 T sugar or honey
Put berries and sugar into a small sauce pan or saute pan, turn heat to low. Let simmer until saucy and filling the house with an unbelievably delicious aroma that transports you immediately to warm summer mornings, eating strawberries right out of the garden.
And I used this recipe as the starting point for the cookies.
1 1/4 cup AP flour (I used 3/4 cup sorghum flour, 1/4 cup brown rice flour and 1/4 cup corn starch to make these gluten free)
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 # butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
zest of one orange
1/4 tsp Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz finely chopped dark chocolate (I used a Dagoba eclipse bar (87% cocoa))
Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer or wooden spoon until creamy but not fluffy. Stir in the salt, vanilla extract, orange zest and chocolate. Quickly stir in the flours until just mixed. Form dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and wrap in plastic. Let chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or overnight).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment. Slice dough into 1/4 inch-thick disks and place on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 12-15 minutes, until just starting to brown around the edges. Let cool slightly on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Store in an air-tight container.