Where creativity grows

Category: Cooking & Baking

An Artist’s Date with Claire Saffitz

Last summer I finally ordered and started reading Julia Cameron’s iconic book Artist’s Way. While much of the book did not resonate with me (I am 100% in the minority here and totally ok with that), one aspect that did stick with me was her emphasis on the importance of artist dates. I have a long list of ideas in my inspiration journal and one area that I had not yet explored was diving into cooking as a creative exercise. 

Like so many others, Tom and I became master binge watchers during COVID 2020. Tom is the YouTube Maestro and he discovered the one and only Claire Saffitz. On her Bon Appetit show, she tried to recreate favorite snack items like everything from Gourmet Cheetos to Pop Tarts. While we did not necessarily have any desire to make any of these tasty treats, her show was witty and entertaining. She had a way of making everything lighthearted and look easy. Fast forward to December 2021 when I fell in love with the Netflix show School of Chocolate. It got me thinking about the conversation Tom and I had earlier in the year about wanting to try our hand at some fancy desserts. Afterall, I had pinned gobs of recipes, but I had yet to try any of them. Fast forward again to our stocking stuffer exchange on Christmas Eve. Tom bought me a beautiful copy of Claire Saffitz’s book Dessert Person. Let me start by saying I am a cookbook fanatic. I love reading them almost as much as I do making recipes from them. However, never have I devoured a cookbook the way I did this one. I was so inspired by the beautiful images, detailed directions and the incredible variety of recipes that I could not wait to dive in and try something. These recipes were different from anything I had ever tried before. Sure I had made cinnamon rolls before, but these were some serious next level stuff. Yes, I had made sous vide lemon curd, but I had never made a tart. Of course, I had made chocolate cakes, but nothing like Claire’s wave cake. Every night I would thumb through the pages and read another recipe. I would ooh and ahh about whatever recipe I was reading.

That is when I decided that I was going to take myself on a date with Claire and dedicate a whole weekend to diving into her book. Wednesday night, Tom and I mixed up the Meyer Lemon Curd for the Lemon Tart. I was apprehensive because I have heard so many nightmares about how hard it is to make homemade lemon curd. I had always let the sous vide do the hard work. Here I was signing up to stand and whisk the eggs and lemon juice and butter for ten straight minutes. The curd it yielded was OUT OF THIS WORLD! And it was no problem whatsoever to make. Tom whisked for me, but it really was easy to make. Friday night I mixed up the sweet yeast dough for the Walnut Maple Sticky Buns. Saturday morning, the buns went in the oven as soon as I got home from running. I commented on Claire’s youtube page that these sticky buns changed our lives forever. They are not the type you get at the mall covered in ooey gooey sugary sauce. These are sophisticated and brilliant sticky buns that will make you rethink everything you thought to be true in the world. And then Sunday morning, I made the Chocolate Wave Cake and finished the Lemon Tart. The chocolate cake and lemon tart were on the docket for a girls’ afternoon I was hosting. While my running tribe had had loads of my Christmas cookies, I had never baked anything like this for them (or anyone else for that matter). I was more than a little nervous. Tom reminded me that if anything went wrong, we could run to the store and pick something up. This was NOT an option in my head.

The awesome thing about Claire’s book is that she is in the process of making YouTube videos to accompany all the recipes. So I was able to see her talk her way through all the recipes I was making. These are not “throw together quickly” recipes. They all involved multiple steps and multiple recipes to make one final product. Claire’s videos humanized the recipes. They were no longer these elite fancy must graduate from pastry school to make recipes, but rather something even I could accomplish. Spoiler alert! Everything turned out marvelous. The girls loved all the desserts and we enjoyed the leftovers for the better part of a week.

Diving into this book was certainly an interesting creative endeavor for me. I love cooking and baking and trying new recipes. But this was all on a new level and it opened up creative circuits in my brain that had been dormant for a bit. I’m glad that I remembered that not all creative adventures have to happen in the Oodlearium. 

Side note- no idea how I did not get a picture of the lemon tart…it was heavenly!

Until next time,

Oodle On

This Week in The Oodlearium

I am so grateful to be on Spring Break this week and to have dedicated time to spend in The Oodlearium. 

The Gazing Ball

I got back from running on Saturday and my husband asked me if I wanted to finish up the gazing ball. A quick trip to Home Depot to find something to use as a stake and we were ready to assemble everything. A few years ago our neighbor’s huge pine tree was struck by lightning. When they finally had the tree cut down, they offered us the trunk to use in our fire pit. One night during a late night fire, we threw one of the chunks in the fire— which of course was not a good idea! However, the charring on the trunk is gorgeous. It was the perfect compliment for the metal of the washers. I am SO excited how it turned out!

A lot of people have asked me how I did this. I bought about $10 worth of washers from Blaine’s Farm & Fleet along with a tube of E6000 from Home Depot. It took me a few days, but it was super easy and very meditative. 

Pour Painting on Acrylic

A few days ago my husband mentioned that he was curious what it would look like if I did a pour painting on a piece of acrylic. He thought it might be cool to see what the back of the painting looked like under the acrylic. Over the weekend he cut me an 8×10 piece of acrylic and I had to give it a try. He had never seen me go through the process of pouring— layering the paints in a recycled yogurt container. For a few months I have only been doing pours with strainers. However, this coming week I am going to teach a friend how to pour, so I have been working on basic techniques like circles and flips. On this particular pour, I did circles and I 100% love how it turned out. In reality, I ended up with two different paintings— the front that looks much more vibrant than on a traditional canvas and then the underside, which shows more of how I actually poured. He has a bunch of acrylic scrap, so I know I will be doing much more of these pours in the future.

Front side

Underside

Teaching pour painting

I am so excited to have the opportunity to teach pour painting to a good friend this week. I mentioned the idea the last time we had a virtual chat and I was over the moon when they said they would love to learn. It will be an awesome opportunity to practice for my pop-up art classes that I want to host this summer. 

I’m intrigued by this class

A quick Google Search for pop-up art classes yielded this class. It sounds super interesting and gets amazing reviews. Check it out!

Index Card Art

A week or so I finally started with my index card art and I cannot overstate how much I love this project. I have a stack of notecards and a drawing pen in a ziplock bag. Each morning I sit down at my desk at school and I take ten minutes to fill a notecard. It is so incredibly calming and centering. On Friday we had a super stressful meeting and I was extremely anxious about the meeting. I sat down and created a card with the word calm on it. I incorporated everyone’s initials into it as well and then I kept it in front of me during the entire meeting. 

Cricut

Earlier this week I was ready to return the Cricut Maker we bought a few weeks ago. I was so frustrated and confused by what to do with this incredibly powerful and useful tool. I decided to dedicate some time over my spring break to learn some of the features. I found a super cute Easter SVG file on Pinterest and was so excited to create some bling bunnies for my Easter cards.

52 Frames

I had so many different ideas for this week’s slow shutter speed challenge, but I opted to revisit a technique I learned a few years ago. I wanted to play around with one of my blinky lights from my running shoes. I try really hard not to repeat subjects from previous challenges,  but I had a specific goal with this image. I wanted to create a unique pattern with the swinging of the light. One of the comments I received said the final product looks like a sci-fi slinky— mission accomplished! 

Breakfast sausage

One of the best purchases we made during the COVID19 Shelter in Place was the meat grinder attachment for our Kitchenaide. I initially started with just grinding beef to make patties for burgers. Then I started making bulk Italian sausage. I haven’t branched out from those two items since we started last summer…until this weekend! I was so excited to try out a recipe for breakfast sausage. I can’t wait to see what we try next. This pin from Pinterest has a great starter’s guide for making sausage. 

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Creativity in the kitchen

My husband calls me fearless when I am in the kitchen. A few days ago we were talking about a recipe I made over the summer. Despite not having a good half the ingredients, I decided to make the recipe anyhow. I swapped out a lot of the ingredients.  And it turned out good…whatever it was. 

That story is not an intention to brag about my savvy in the kitchen. I love cooking and I love baking. I love trying new recipes— even more so when we are having friends over for a dinner party. Really early on when my husband and I started cooking together we had the agreement that if something didn’t turn out we would simply order a pizza. There was NO pressure for something to be amazing, but there WAS space to experiment and practice. Over the years that has developed into a true passion for cooking and baking. While I love cooking for Tom and me, I truly love sharing our kitchen with friends and family. 

I have always told people that I am just following the directions when I make something. Someone else did all the hard work of figuring out what to put together in what order and for how long. But lately I have started experimenting and it has been a whole new layer of fun for me in the kitchen. Does it always work out? Of course not, but we haven’t ordered pizza yet either! 

This past weekend I decided to do something I have never done before with baking— make up my own recipe. Chocolate cherry cookies are a family favorite during the holidays. I am pretty anti-cooked fruit, so I have never really been a fan of them (and until Tom started helping me with the ganache they were a pain to make, too!). In a moment of weakness, I decided to try one again and I was shocked that I really liked the flavor. My husband commented that they reminded him of his mom’s chocolate cherry cheesecake. YES! And with that I was inspired to to create a cookie that was truly a cookie version of her famous cheesecake.

I started with the chocolate cherry cookie recipe and combined it with the filling that my husband puts in his magic cupcakes (1 package of softened cream cheese, ¼ c sugar, 1 egg and ¼-½ c dark chocolate chips). I decided to use a mini-muffin pan with liners just in case the batter melted all over the place. I rolled the dough into a small ball and pressed it into the bottom of the liner and pressed my thumb into it to make an indent. Then I scooped a small bit of (maybe a tbsp) of the cream cheese filling. Top it with a cherry and then pipe the ganache over it. These were baked for 10-12 minutes at 350. When they came out, I was sure they were a failure. There was no structure to them. They were tasty, but they just fell apart. I left them on the counter and went about my day. Later in the day, I tried one again and was shocked that they had solidified into a delicious bit of joy that tasted just like mom’s cheesecake! 

I am not so naive to believe that all my experimentation will result in beautiful success stories like this one, but I am emboldened to continue with my experimenting. No idea what form that will take, but I am sure it will be fun and if it fails…well there is always pizza! 

In the meantime, oodle on! 

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