Presenting: CEC, Playing for Preparation

When I was asked to join in on this presentation, I remained unaware, for quite some time, the justification for the invitation.  I had fallen into the assumption that my participation was a reward of sorts for being studious and for regularly, almost effortlessly expanding upon the information strung over our heads via long lectures and endless readings, which we were to sew into an already existing, yet underdeveloped schema entitled: “How to Teach. . .Well”.  Wrong.  As it turns out, it was never that I was being encouraged to accept an offer that might add bulk to my résumé, but to embark on a mission to expose, highlight, and immortalize my pre-service perspective.

Yes, I had a working perspective as a result of previous placements in congested classrooms, but my time at the museum had a uniquely profound impact on my developing teacher.  I saw things that gave me endless comfort: teachers costumed in roles that, first, inspires hesitant, shifting glances, followed by twinkling eyes and cheeks sore from smiling amongst the students.  I saw the resurrection of equality as adults and children questioned and discovered in seminars of play, and the truth that I had so long been in search of: that it is not mandatory to we settle for a traditional system—that we talk at in order to instruct—but that we may squeeze our jumper-clad bodies out from behind our big, metal desks, and play with, elevate, and remember with our students the joy of exploration in order to teach.

While I was here, my professors gave us an assignment that would last us through the semester.  We were to write reflective journal entries based on various, given topics—to connect classroom content to the reality of our discoveries in observing the reality of education within the museum.  I’d like to read a few excerpts from my entries, as they are weighty reviews of my experiences as they occurred—quite genuine and all the more introspective.

Entry #1: Thus far, Strong Museum has been a positive experience for me. It’s not that I have an aversion to the classroom setting. On the contrary, it’s ideal, but the experience of being in the museum and observing children in true, playful interaction with the educational process is, while different, definitely something I consider to be worthwhile and irreplaceable. I recently had my first field trip. We observed a lesson entitled “Healthy Beginnings” designed for pre-school students held in the Wegman’s play area.  Afterwards, directly following a serious effort on my behalf to return my jaw to a closed state as a result of having witnessed a most organized and educational free-for-all of young shoppers, I was able to stumble upon the following realization: I am truly excited to continue with my observations of these lessons as well as of the children at play. It truly amazes me the way that play helps to establish and reinforce ideas, understanding, and the willingness to learn, even without teacher intervention.

After assisting with a theme day at the museum entitled, “Math in Action”:  One can only guess the frequency of which cruel flashbacks of elementary school math sessions came to haunt me as I tiptoed past exhibits dripping with numbers and fortified with pencils.  Still, I was optimistic, as I had been made aware that the curriculum regarding mathematics had changed during our classroom exploration of the subject.  I simply wasn’t sure how.  The stations, however, were not designed to ensnare delicate minds in confusing webs of sticky equations and finite answers, but to “take the scariness” out of mathematical content.  I believe I’ve said this before, but the ways in which the lessons at Strong Museum are designed and taught take into consideration the values of freedom and creativity. If students are only provided with a limited set of responses, then, as teachers, we cannot expect them to respond with fervor or 100% accuracy, as various learning needs dictate a demand for differentiation.

On Independent Observation: Mostly, from what I have been able to witness, Strong Museum does incredibly well in its mission to enforce the idea that lessons be completed on behalf of the students as the main components, utilizing hands-on, imagination-centered activities as the primary gateway to learning.  There was one independent session in particular, that I saw one very young child experience a moment of true, secretly educational and developmentally supportive sublimity.   I noticed a very young girl seated at the rather large and ultimately enticing Light Bright station.  Given her age, her creation was nothing comparable to a work of pure genius, but she seemed, and pardon the pun, incredibly enlightened by the experience.  She spent the majority of her time carefully choosing the colors that she so delicately inserted into the easel, occasionally swapping the colors and their respective positions to suit the image that I am sure was looming at the forefront of her mind.  Unless she was a baby Einstein, I think I can safely state that she was too young to recognize the colors by name, but the simple fact that the insertion of a darkly colored peg into a large, seemingly magical board would produce a bright, glowing, and rather pleasing source of light and stimulating color was enough to satisfy her curiosity.  Even when encouraged to move on in her exploration of the plethora of exhibits the museum has to offer, the child remained entirely distracted by such a particularly interactive station- so much so, in fact, that by the time my observation had come to a close, she had yet to be swayed to move away from the Light Bright.  For her, the experience, as I must assume, was crucial.  It was, in a sense, an introduction to the world of technology and its ability to produce inexplicable results.  Judging from her passionate involvement with the exhibit, it was something that she had yet to receive exposure to, and, because of this, she was intent on mastering this piece of technology.  It could, perhaps, be inferred that her passion for the station, then, was not to create a work of art or emulate a picture she may have seen on an episode of Sesame Street or dreamed up in creative frenzy, but rather to develop an understanding of how, exactly, the station functioned- the best way for her to do so being devoted participation with the machine.  She was hoping, searching for an answer to the inquiries that formed with each peg that passed from her fingers to the board.  This, I think, is crucial when fueling the developing mind of any child.  Beginning at a young age, children ought to develop a sense of wonder and resonating curiosity for the world around them- a stimulant for the insatiable appetite of the inquiring mind; and, as we all know, the inquiring mind inherently becomes the successful intellect in the world of education.

Final Entry: In my first log, I made mention of the fact that my placement at Strong was atypical due to its lack of a traditional learning environment; meaning, I was no longer observing the same students in the same classroom being instructed by a singular teacher with one particular style.  Instead, I had the pleasure of being exposed to a rather extensive variety of students, ranging in age, personality, capability, learning profile- any differing characteristic one might be able to cognitively conjure up.  To be honest, I had moments expressive of feelings of contempt for this placement, especially when multiple field trips and the ever so valuable theme days were cancelled, but I realize now that those were the moments that taught me the importance of being able to adapt as an educator.  Sure, my peers whose placements were in conventional classrooms may have had an easier time obtaining observation hours, and I am sure that they were able to benefit just as much from their own experiences, but we were truly challenged at Strong.  For those who were here with me, I wish they had seen the same beauty as I.  Perhaps it was that their eyes were not yet open, perhaps the ability to establish a connection between Strong and the institutional classroom had been drawn out of them in the drying of their creativity as always seated, almost sedated learners.  Perhaps they were scared, but by being thrown into an atypical setting with an occasionally unreliable structure, we were taught to embrace what we could and let go of the rest, to be comfortable with what we knew, but also to familiarize ourselves with the unfamiliar, and, perhaps most importantly, to explore the professional realm of teaching, like the students we observed, by means of holistic, playful interaction.

After all of that, I say that now my mission has narrowed itself down to a more compact endeavor: simply to spread the word.  I remember listening to lesson after lesson regarding the concept of integration (content, classroom, any and all things that might hold the potential to be intertwined with another).  Now, I take pride in understanding the importance of that, but I’d love for it to be expanded upon—extended for the sake of change.  I’d like to share my experience here, to become an advocate for adventurous learning, to integrate school and sport, assimilate amusement to the environment of arithmetic—to play for preparation.

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Spots of Time: The Au®tistic Mind

I’ve started a project: a series of vignettes that illustrate the voices of Autism, told from their perspective in the voice of God.

Hi. My name is Sofia—Sofia Maria. I’m eleven years old and I like to red.

Everyone likes to yell at me for that, correct me because it’s an “improper use of a noun,” and they think I don’t know.

“You like to READ, Sof, read: R-E-A-D, not RED.”

Well of course I like to read, and if that’s what I was trying to say, I would, but it’s not, so I don’t.

I like to “red” because red is my favorite color and I feel better when I can say that I’ve finished a book.

That means I know more than I did before and I can start something new before I have to start over. 

So I put two and two together and found a word that spells like what I see when I shut my eyes in the sun light; that’s what color it is when you look at it from the inside.

It reminds me of what I’ve done when I crease cardboard spines and make book covers kiss.

That’s what God told me I was, too.

He said, “You’re well-versed, now read, be READ.”

And he said it behind my closed eyes at exactly 1:12p.m. on August 14th, 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

It was right after he took the clouds away . . .

. . . when I remembered to blink and I saw the color of my favorite crayon, like somehow I’d colored, pressing HARD like I always do, colored everything in front of me—my world, yours.

I was sleeping in Heaven and I didn’t want to wake up.

That’s when I decided that READ and RED could be the same thing, but nobody listens . . .

and I don’t like to talk.

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Latin Chickens and The Butterfinger Breakdown

I have to make things. I have to create and generate and speak and weep and wreak havoc like my insides tell me to.

I also have to tell you about these brownies, because, like, even chickens appreciate the offspring of my manic episodes . . .

Strung out on sugar like whoa . . .

They’re Butterfinger Cheesecake Brownies—part boxed, part product of an incessant compulsion to be constantly productive, even if it means lowering myself to Wal-Mart standards and hearing my brother ask if I really have nothing better to do in my spare time than bake.

They’re delicious by the way, if you hadn’t already pulled that assumption out of the fact that I honestly have nothing better to do in my spare time than bake:

A layer of brownie and a sheet of faux cheesecake mixture dotted with peanut butter and Butterfinger pieces followed by the final flagstone: a sticky slab of chocolate—fudge frosting and Nutella—slightly superposed by more candybars; if trees were made of Butterfingers, this is what they’d look like.

Oh my God . . . Butterfinger Bark

. . . Butterfingers and a college graduate

There’s undoubtedly something symbolic about these little kiddos of mine.

And something equally as frustrating about the fact that graduating from college is less of an accomplishment than it is a slap in the face by this  called fiscal accountability and his best friend, social responsibility.

And I just think:

Fuck you, Money. I have brownies.

And then they’re gone—

—the brownies, not my subjection to society.

Personally, and I suppose I’ve always felt this way, but it’s my opinion that the formal schooling of middle class white kids ought to be altered a bit; as in, I walked the stage in my Lion King-stickered cap, nabbed my diploma, and said, “Wait, what?”

What do you mean I no longer have a need for Number 2, non-mechanical pencils? Isn’t there a test I need to take that tells me which job I deserve, which of my professional skills are “satisfactory” and which ones “need improvement”?

I’m just supposed to, like, LIVE? Without a curriculum map to follow?

What IS this?

It’s an invitation to the world; and not just the part of the world with brownies, but the whole damn thing.

And it’s hard to tell the difference between time and now.

It’s strange to watch the sun without passion,

through fever and fervor—

fingertips.

It’s like blindness—sight as good as it gets,

clear as day like hearts on heads—

hearts got heads like fluorescent thinking,

See?

Minds that don’t give off heat,

only radiate light.

And it’s something about the light

That gets me spinning.

Of Our Father, Our Father,

who art not in Heaven,

but everywhere else,

we asked:

Is it better?

And he showed us how to dance.

Because I AM you and you are WE.

My name is yours and yours is mine.

And we’re here.

So have a brownie.

Enter:

Butterfinger Cheesecake Brownies (Click for a Printable Recipe)

Need

Brownies:

1 Box Brownie Mix (I recommend Betty Crocker’s Frosted Variety, but any will do)

1 8 oz. package Cream Cheese, room temperature

1 10oz. package Butterfinger Bites (or 12 fun size bars), roughly chopped

6-12 more Fun Size Butterfingers

½ cup Creamy Peanut Butter

½ cup plus 2 tbsp. Powdered Sugar

2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 Egg

Do:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare brownies according to package directions (1 egg, ¼ cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup water).  Pour batter into a lightly greased 9 x 13” pan and set aside.  In a medium sized bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Add egg, vanilla, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and beat until fully incorporated.  Fold in chopped 10 oz. package or 12 fun sized bars and spread over brownie batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out relatively clean.  Let brownies cool for approximately 30 minutes and then refrigerate for another 30.

Once fully cooled, do ‘em up with the frosting and/or chocolate topping remaining 6-12 Fun Size Butterfingers, roughly chopped.

From here, feel free to take an incredibly unlady like fistful of gooey love from the pan as a “taste test”, but I suggest placing the brownies back into the refrigerator until the chocolate topping has set, creating another layer (they’re easier to cut that way, too).

Frosting/Topping:

(Note: I found that the packet of fudge frosting that came with the brownies was not enough, so I whipped up a quick Nutella Frosting (because I had no chocolate chips). Either way, if you buy the frosted boxed brownies, use the fudge frosting in addition to the following recipe, spreading it over the brownies before the topping or the frosting you’ve prepared. Trust me.)

Chocolate Topping

12 oz. bag Chocolate Chips

3 tbsp. Heavy Whipping Cream

In a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and heavy cream, microwave on high for one minute, stirring at the 30 second interval.  While still warm, pour over brownies and sprinkle with remaining Butterfinger bits.

OR

Nutella Frosting

(If you’re feeling feisty; REMEMBER: Chocolate Topping OR Nutella Frosting so that assembly looks like this: Brownie, Fudge Frosting, Chocolate OR Nutella, Butterfinger Pieces)

¾ cup Powdered Sugar

2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter

½ cup Nutella

2-3 tbsp. Milk

In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter.  Add powdered sugar and whisk until fully incorporated, spoon in your Nutella and pop back into the microwave for another 15 seconds.  Add milk and whisk until smooth.  Pour over brownies and sprinkle with remaining Butterfinger bits.

Oh, and the chicken? That’s Chickira, like Beyonce, only Hispanic—like Shakira, only a chicken . . . and metal—a feisty metal cock, if you will.

And she loves these brownies; hips don’t lie.

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Browned Butter (BITCH) Nutella Filled Kettle Cookies

You know that kid in the dining hall—the one who puts peanut butter on cucumbers and BBQ sauce on broccoli; or that girl in the dorm kitchen who puts raisins on sweet potatoes and chili sauce on pouch-tuna?

Mmhhm, nice to meet you.

I’ve been fucking up concocting strange food combinations since I was old enough to squeeze the ketchup bottle . . . on white bread, mostly.  Mayonnaise sandwiches, CornPops cereal in salty little hammocks of Fritos Scoops, the cafeteria chicken patty ritual: ketchup, ketchup, mayonnaise, swirl, potato chips and salami on bagels smeared with yellow mustard and Italian dressing . . . all fairly, gross in a freakishly tempting sort of way, but I ate them.  I mean, I had some seriously sick solutions of stank, but, in my defense, some have been . . .

fucking delectable.

Enter: Canned tuna, white rice, and enough soy sauce to inflate my fingers for a week

Mustard on scrambled eggs (but only if they contain broccoli and/or parmesan cheese)

and . . .

Brace yourself now . . .

K E T T L E  C H I P S  D I P P E D  I N  N U T E L L A.

Slap me on the ass and call me cheeky, but Holy Jesus of Nazareth, you.don’t.even.KNOW.

And no, potato chips are not -insert whiny, mocking voice here- “essentially the same thing;” mostly because I almost died from one once.  I polished off a bowl of the sour cream and cheddar variety, got sick, and woke up to the lush feeling of super soft bathroom tile cushioning my head and a “What the hell are you doing on the floor?”

Chillin’, Dad—straight chillin’.

Yeup, ranch dressing on popcorn is gorgeous, albeit a bit soggy, but potato chips are fatal; not just strangely reminiscent of powdered cheese and greasy kid hands, but malefic little murphy morsels.

Want a chip? Prepare to die.

But kettle chips are different.  Their bags even look like something your mom would design if she was a snack-food bag designer, and they’re crunchy, which is very important.

Wait, though, because it gets better.  See, I’d decided to make these cookies quite some time ago.  I had this perfect image of some seriously BOSS baked goods in my head, which stayed true for the most part: I melted my mini-whisk while browning butter in my sweats—one leg up like a crack dealer turned confectionary—rolled dough balls, scooped nutella, crunched, chilled, spooned, sprinkled, and spazzed when Dad asked what I was making.

“RU-tella?”

“No, Dad, NU-tella.”

“Oh, okay. So what’s in them?”

And then I gave him a bit of dough to swoon over, but alas, no swooning, just straight rejection: “I don’t like cookie dough; it’s weird.”

That’s completely abnormal, but worse, because of that, it totally squanders my “I was adopted” theory.

*Backtracking: I parenthetically refer to these as BITCH cookies because I initially set out to make browned butter cookies, like, all butter involved would be brown, browned butter cookies, but then I realized my recipe calls for two sticks of butter.  I browned one and left the other all pale and original, because, you know, that one regular stick in the batter would totally save the entire batch in case the nutty flavor of the brown variety thoroughly sucked.

Thankfully, the above decision was a product of my manic genius.  I’m thinking of getting in contact with Usher. “ These are my confections . . .” and my efforts to write stories with sugar—to stir flour into fables—resulted in parboiled perfection.

Parboiled because my photography skills are severely limited, like, “I’ll never amount to anything and I might as well just die” limited.

But after a few final exams and a drive home with the Dave Matthews Band, I found myself trippin’ on a crazy girl high and took some more, fairly decent shots on the deck; well, the cookies were on the deck, I was on the ground, in the air, upside down—like my thought process, I was everywhere.

Then, then, after all that, I came inside to discover my mother eating a Choco Taco.

“They were on sale at Price Chopper . . . there’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Klondike Bars           in there too.”

You want to play like that, Ma?

Bakers is pimps too . . .

Nutella Filled Kettle Cookies

Need:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar (1/2 cup reserved)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup finely crushed sea salt kettle chips (or original flavor)
  • 1 jar Nutella, refrigerated (you’ll not be using the entire jar (maybe 1/2 cup) . . . unless your spoon demands)

Do:

Begin by melting ½ cup (one stick) of butter in a small sauce pan over low heat, stirring constantly.  The butter will foam, but be not afraid.  You’re aiming for small dark flecks in the butter; don’t stop there.  Continue stirring until those dark flecks have taken over and the butter has reached a dark brown color (be careful not to make burned butter).  Pour the loveliness into a small container and refrigerate until hardened again.

Once the butter has hardened back up, cream it together with the second stick and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer.  One at a time, beat in the eggs and toss in the vanilla (you know, just to make the baking process look snazzy).  Dissolve baking soda in hot water and add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour and FOLD in; meaning, turn mixer off and find spatula/spoonula/et cetera crushed kettle chips.

Preheat oven to 350F and nab yourself a couple of parchment lined cookie sheets (trust me, this part is crucial when it comes to cookies).

Word? Word.

Retrieve your jar of Nutella from the box that makes things cold and a teaspoon.  Take a bit of cookie dough, like a hearty spoonful (I use a uniform scooper because uneven cookies are unfair cookies), and flatten in the palm of your hand.  Take a teaspoon (or two) of Nutella, place in the center of the dough, fold the edges of the dough around the chocolaty blop to form a ball, and roll in reserved white sugar until coated.  From here, feel free to throw these bad boys in the oven for 12-15 minutes and call yourself dandy; if, however, you try to refrain from being a settler, follow the lead of Miss Smitten Kitchen and perform the following sacred baking ritual:

“Place on prepared baking sheet and using the bottom of a drinking glass . . . to slightly flatten the cookies. Cookies only need to be an inch apart; they only spread a little. Sprinkle with a few flakes of the [kettle] chip salt (1 tablespoon crushed kettle chips, 1 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt) and repeat with remaining dough [balls].

Now, unless you suck, you may bake: 350F, 12-15 minutes, just golden, inexplicably perfect.

Go and brush your shoulders off.

Posted in Manic Confections | Leave a comment

Lemon Blackberry Buckle Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Blackberry Buttercream(ish) Frosting

I’m notorious for my neuroticism—an emotional pain in the ass.

Mom likes to tell the story of my first Christmas; I cried for twelve hours.

I’ve seen pictures of flower-clad little girls from years past, holding fists to her eyes behind candlelit cakes because that damn song about happiness and birthdays, the one that apparently required my frosted Bugs Bunny to be set on fire, is just so darn sad.

And sometimes Easter at my house is actually at Dinosaur BBQ with gospel choirs and super awesome macaroni and cheese; but most of the time you can find us centered around the gas fireplace in our garage, the one on wheels next to boxes of beer cans.  It’s a conversation piece, really; especially when Dad, standing outside, behind the garage because he had to pee, awkwardly stumbles toward the window to yell at my mother and her “God damn clicking” in an attempt to light such a refined element of class.  Other times it’s in the kitchen and I’m crying over cupcakes while my brother is in the other room leading a one-man massacre via wireless controller . . . on a Holy day.

But that’s okay, because my buttercream didn’t dissolve; it only melted a little and I didn’t really want to pipe frosting flowers anyway.

Nope, I’m not bitter and neither are these bad bitches:

I love cupcakes; and if I could open a bakery, live on a farm, write a book and then marry myself, I would.  I have compulsions to create, like pretty much all the time.  When I was little-er, my mother made a point to keep Betty Crocker’s baked-goods-in-a-bag in the cupboards at all times.  Some people are stress-eaters, I am, and always have been, a stress-baker.

But, like I said, I’m also a nuisance—I threaten my togetherness like the omission of chocolate from my first, childhood attempt at scratch-baked brownies bullies those sad little bricks until I could no longer pretend that they were edible.

See, I wanted blueberry, lemon and blueberry, because it was everywhere, trusted, and looked exotic—divine.  But it was everywhere—done, unoriginal—so I couldn’t have lemon and blueberry, at least not by the labors of my own hands.

I know, I know.


So after settling on blackberry, combing the palates of college students for personal opinions, reverting back to blueberry, and confirming that the success of my dry-heat endeavor depended on whether or not my recipe was special, I crazy ladied myself over to the grocery store and bought three, yes, three, pints of blackberries before I had the chance to give into the Woman’s Prerogative yet again.

And I made buttercream, blackberry buttercream based on its blueberry counterpart.  I should have added milk, immersion blenders are not meant to be used in the context of plastic tupperware, and blackberry puree splatters don’t really compliment green kitchen walls, but it tasted like blackberries and that’s enough for me.

Imagine, like, tupperware buttcream, all plastic-y and gross.

Weird.

Manic Confections, part dos:

The cakes themselves were much easier.  You know, prep., sift, mix, mis en place, the whole deal, except for the part when my mother positioned her face over the mixing bowl, my mixing bowl, and asked, “What the hell is wrong with it?”.

Cute, Mother. Cute.

I cussed out the lemon curd, too.  Mostly because my coordination is, like my emotional intelligence, severely underdeveloped, and I poked myself in the face with a microplane zester.  I also poured an extra ½ cup of sugar into an infant-sized double-boiler, used a baby whisk, and ran out of lemons to juice half way through the cooking process.

Hello, Tops Market.  No, I’m not wearing a bra.

My double-boiler boiled over and half of the curd made its way to the stove top, sans pot, and the countertop because the container was about half the size of my strainer and I couldn’t see because my arm was in the way.

And then: the decorating. Oh, the decorating. Fuck you, pre-written images of finished cupcakes in my head. Fancy is for the pinky-up kinds of folk.  Mine is up my nose.

There wasn’t enough sugar in the buttercream.  It started to soften and lose its shape and my practice flowers looked like Tinky Winky after a trip to the electric chair—runny blobs of tacky, purple sweetness.  So I sat there, piping bag in one hand, tears falling into sticky palm of the other, violet fingertips scraping the tops of cupcakes and chucking frosting back into the plastic, yellow bowl that almost was the buttercream.

But it got better. After Mom’s kind words of calmthefuckdownandfrostthedamnthings encouragement, I took a few blops of what I affectionately refer to as Barney Blood and slapped them on the tops of my baby buckle cakes, brought out the camera, set them outside, and . . .

Yup, I cried.

Lemon Blackberry Buckle Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Blackberry Buttercream(ish) Frosting (Makes 12)

Lemon Blackberry Buckle Cake (Slightly adapted from Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts)

  • 2 cups and 1-2 Tbsp of sifted, all purpose flour separated
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • zest and juice of one lemon

Crumb Topping

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place liners in a muffin tin and lightly coat with cooking spray and set aside. Sift together the 2 cups of flour, the baking powder and the salt.  In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the egg.  Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk.  Then, toss the berries with the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour (to separate and scatter evenly throughout the batter) and fold in.  Pour batter into prepared wells, set aside.  Combine ingredients for topping with a fork to make crumbly mixture. Sprinkle this over the batter.  Bake for 20 minutes, and then test for doneness by gently inserting a toothpick.  If it does not come out clean, give the cake another 2 minutes to bake before re-checking.

Lemon Curd (Adapted from Dessert First)

Yields 2-3 cups (depending on how straining challenged you are)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest from 3 lemons (meyer lemons will also work, especially if you go looking for them at the store when they’re  actually in season)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces, softened

In a double boiler, combine the sugar and lemon zest.  Mix together with your fingers until fragrant. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice.  Whisking constantly, cook the mixture until it thickens (you should be able to make tracks in the mixture with your whisk).  Strain the mixture into a food processor or Blend on high speed until absolutely smooth.

Once blended, let the curd chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour before using.  Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 Blackberry Buttercream Frosting (Adapted from Baking with Basil)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pint of blackberries
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp blackberry puree
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 cups confectioner’s sugar (I used 2, but recommend 3 due to the water content of the berries)

Place blackberries in a blender, food processor, or use an immersion blender, and process until smooth.  With a mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth.  Add blackberry puree (you will have some left over), vanilla, and salt, and mix on medium-low until well-combined.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating on low speed until combined. Then beat for 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

Note: The finished product will have trace amounts of blackberry seeds, but the texture is quite lovely (I’m a firm believer in confectionary touches that let you know what you’re biting into) .

When cupcakes have cooled, place lemon curd into a piping bag.  Using a small paring knife, remove the centers of the cupcakes and fill with curd.  Cut the removed centers in half and replace the top portion, covering the curd.  Frost and garnish, if desired, with sugared blackberries and lemon zest.

Cupcakes and Zoloft are essentially the same thing, right?

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The Broken Hearted Virgin

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Hail Mary,

Mostly I’m free on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 4:30 till death do us part.  Mostly I try always to be free, but clenched teeth, wet socks, and that thing I do where I hold my breath keep me far too still to go anywhere.

full of grace

I like green-striped chairs that might suit a nineties Victoria.

the Lord is with thee

I try hard sometimes, and other times it comes without thought, but I like to stop in the middle of an exhale—just stop, completely, don’t blink, don’t breathe, don’t move, just think.

Blessed art thou amongst women

And it’s in those moments that I find love. That’s when I disappear, when I hear, “I don’t want to be real anymore,” so I melt into the quiet, behind the noise, into stillness, into curling, smoky bones—the silhouette of a skeleton who fell in love on a Tuesday and died the same night because it was Wednesday in America and Stella was there. Stellaluna, come home.

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

There’s solace in silence, comfort in the collapse of every.little.thing.

Holy Mary, Mother of G-d,

My favorite part is when everything goes white, you know, like it could be there but refuses to acknowledge the existence of color. There’s blackness behind eyelids, but wisdom in the wake of alabaster shades.

pray for us sinners,

That’s how I learned to meditate, to fall until my feet fell off.

now and at the hour of our death.

That’s how I learned to fly; because my neck hurt from looking up.

Never Again.

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Rated XXX

“Dude, if you could have any type of cake imaginable, based on your favorite candy bar, flavor combination, what have you, what would it be?”

Pause. Look up. Smile.  

“Snickers.”

Scrounge the inter-webs for a recipe; nothing. ‘Perfect,’ I thought, teeth bared in salivating provision, ready to cogitate, coagulate, exhume exhausted containers of cocoa powder from cupboard to counter to bless a baker’s floor, hardwood panels finished with an egg-wash and buttermilk; sugar like crack, like meth- method- crystallized on her forehead, the dog’s head- blessed. sacrament.

White flour anniversaries, memories on cooling racks.

Candy’s good.

Cake is better.

Timers and toothpicks . . . layers

poetry.

My photography? It’s not.

I poured over this cake- wrote papers between piping rosettes, read chapters in sets, stacked, cried over chocolate soup, and checked my teeth in the reflection of a thick, gorgeous ganache.

Words are worth a thousand pictures, anyway; and who needs framed imagery when you’ve got locution and a recipe?

Say hello to my manic confection.

Snickers Cake

Double-Chocolate Cake (Ina Garten):

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I grabbed a small, black coffee from Dunkin’ on my way home from school.  You can also use instant, but it’s not as strong; hence the trip to the drive thru).

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

Caramel Filling:

½ cup Butter

1 cup Sugar

1 tablespoon Corn Syrup

½ cup Whipping Cream

Melt butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and corn syrup, and cook, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until mixture turns a deep caramel color. Gradually add cream, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth. Remove from heat, and let cool. Chill 2 hours or until thickened and spreading consistency.

Chocolate Ganache:

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I swear by Ghirardelli)

2 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place chocolate chips in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour the cream into a saucepan, and bring to a boil. As soon as the cream boils up to the top of the pan, quickly remove it from the heat, and pour it over the chips. Let stand five minutes, then stir with a whisk, or use the paddle attachment for the mixer, to mix until smooth. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl occasionally. Stir in the vanilla until well blended. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, and allow to cool at room temperature, or in the refrigerator.


Place one of your cake layers, ideally the one that might be lopsided or decrepit, onto a parchment-lined plate.  Spread a thin layer of caramel on top.  Add a single layer of unsalted peanuts- you’ll want your nuts to touch (Yeah, I went there).  Spread remaining caramel filling over the top of the peanuts, reserving a tablespoon or so for drizzling purposes.  Place second cake layer on top and tuck in any lose ends-nothing like a mouthful of goobers as a birthday surprise.  Pour some of the ganache over top of the cake, spreading a thin, even layer (This is your crumb coat, so don’t become defeated by the sight of spongy, chocolate morsels in your icing and feel compelled to just eat it throw the cake at the wall).  Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to let the crumb coat set.  Now, without positioning your tongue beneath the bowl.pot.pitcher, pour on the remaining ganache, taking care to cover the edges and hide the cake’s caramel seam.  Return the cake to the refrigerator for another 30-40 minutes, at least (you can easily let it sit overnight).  In the meantime, if you’re not cheating, prepare a chocolate buttercream (aesthetically mandatory), or stealthily extract your easy-squeeze can of Pilsbury chocolate buttercream from the cupboard.  Then, take an ENTIRE bag of fun sized snickers, give them a rough chop, and suddenly remember that paper that’s due tomorrow.  Once the ganache is set, pipe the buttercream around the edges, arranged chopped snickers bars in the center, and drizzle remaining caramel over the top.  If you’re forced to settle with licking ganache-coated parchment paper for the time being, store the (covered) cake in the fridge, but be sure to leave it sit for 30 minutes prior to studding the crowning layer with candles that refuse to light, dog snot, because he sneezes when he’s excited, and  a dysfunctional rendition of “Happy Birthday,” which looks a little something like this:

      

Veni, vidi, vici.

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