Challenge Day Twelve

It’s like I don’t learn.

When a recipe says it will take 2 hours, I should triple that and immediately assume it’s going to take 6, then pad in an extra couple of hours for distractions, confusions, intrusions, and potty breaks. Basically I should plan to do nothing else but make that thing, and be glad if I squeeze in anything else. That being said, choux buns (the base for cream puffs) are a lot easier than croissants, though somewhat trickier than hot water crust pastry. And crème patissiere is similar to making custard-based ice cream, which I have done before. It was only tricky because I started too late in the day.

Daily Challenges

Intimate Time
CookingToday’s Menu: we went out for an actual brunch today, for the first time since our regular place closed, and my breakfast burrito was highly mediocre; for lunch, I had some cottage cheese and fruit; for dinner, we ate leftovers: more chicken and veggies for Guy, pizza for me (I just couldn’t do the same meal again.)
Reading (Poetry)The poem of the day today was “Monody to the Sound of Zithers” by Kay Boyle. I had to look up monody (a tragic ode or poem) and zithers (a class of stringed instruments) both. It’s a lament about surrendering your desires and hopes for excitement and adventure to the expectations of marriage. It speaks to a time when women couldn’t make large purchases without a husband or father’s consent, when being single was one of the saddest things you could do or be. It’s a reminder that there have always been ambitious and spirited women, and even they have been shoved into a mold.
Reading (Fiction)I lost track of time while reading The Poisonwood Bible this afternoon, which is partly why choux buns got pushed later than intended. As I read, I find my attention divided by the story being told, and the perspective and experience of the author, both in the act of writing, and in the life events which inspired her to write. Why did she choose this narrator for this piece of the story? Are these opinions of kikongo her own, developed as the child of international aid workers? How did Kingsolver approach the plotting process? I feel like a college student again.
Reading (Nonfiction)I read a bit about Kay Boyle, who was an activist as well as a poet. She lived in a bunch of different parts of the world, got blackballed during the McCarthy era, and was a writer-in-residence at both Eastern Washington University (which is basically in Idaho) and the University of Oregon. I really needed to hear about another badass writer woman today, to keep the momentum going from yesterday.
MusicWell, thanks to four hours of pastry, I didn’t play as much music as I wanted. I practiced my strumming pattern for “Little Plastic Castle” on the uke, and worked on getting smoother chord changes. In actually exciting music-related news, Guy bought a fancy electric piano (with weighted keys) from a friend of his, and as soon as we get a stand for it, and make some space, we’ll have a piano of sorts in the house! I haven’t practiced that since we moved away from Kentucky in 1997.
Postcard Poem
This postcard made me think of what it was like living in my first apartment in the city, where I could hear everything happening on the street below my window, and also the ocean-steady hum of freeway traffic a few blocks away:

I pull the curtain against the
Flash and glitter of the city,
Shut my eyes to eggshell white and
Threadbare grey from wall to wall.
I listen: sticky tires on asphalt,
Violent syllables flung from a corner,
The thirsty call and response of horns,
Screeching of unpadded brakes;
Behind it all, the changeless charge
Of 60-mile-an-hour breakers
Crashing, receding, surging again,
Through and past and beyond.
– Sarah Reebs, 10/12/2019
Trash PickupAfter we dropped Howie at the groomer for a bath, Guy helped me pick up trash on our walk home. The bag was at capacity, and we unfortunately had to leave some trash where it was (for now! I’ll get it tomorrow!):

Today’s Challenges

Choux buns! For the third Great British Baking Show/Bake-Off challenge, I tackled choux pastry and crème patissiere, two components that seem to come up on every season of the show. I followed Mary Berry’s religieuses recipe from season 4, episode 7’s technical bake, and was so grateful to get more instructions than the contestants do. Even so, it was nerve-wracking. I was so nervous about burning the butter or scalding the milk that I went low and slow, and everything took a billion years. The result, however, is good-looking and fairly tasty:

The crème has to cool completely before I can fill the puffs, and I still need to make chocolate ganache for a finish, but ganache is not that difficult (chocolate melts in a child’s pocket, after all) and if filling them goes poorly, I know from very fresh experience that dipping the choux bun is equally delicious. I’ll tackle all that tomorrow, after we make a breakfast using the 12 egg whites I didn’t need for the crème patissiere.

To end the day, I did my abs (Day 8/7). I have accepted the burning discomfort that goes with my core exercises, but I don’t like it. I probably won’t keep doing them after the 14 (15) days are over. Still, I have pipe dreams of a 4-pack, even though I know that’s a long shot (especially since I keep baking pastries), so I’ll keep doing them for now.