|chocolate bread pudding with pears and maple whipped cream|
Life's been a bit nuts lately, which explains the month-long absence from the blog. I recently read this funny article by one of my favorite writers, Tracy Moore, in which she argued that it's a myth that you lose your identity when you become a parent. What you lose is precisely your time. That's it. The time just goes out the window when you are the parents of a young child. Somehow, the things you used to do in your free time, things you loved and that formed your identity and made you who you are become the very things you no longer have time for. For me, those things are riding my road bike, listening to and discovering new music, reading, traveling and entertaining.
To say that it's been hard keeping up a blog is an understatement. I don't have time to cook much of anything lately, and I don't have time to write about it even if I did. But let's stop complaining, shall we? And move on to what I have been doing: work and June.
On the June front, things have been great, if trying at times. My girl certainly has a strong and independent personality (wonder where she got that?) and has no problems letting us know what she wants and doesn't want. Her verbal abilities and ease with expressing herself never cease to amaze us. The other day she asked me "what's a sacrifice?" because she'd heard me use the word in conversation. Then on Sunday she told me quite clearly: "Mom, I'm so happy you're home. I love the weekends." My heart melted.
At work I've made some discoveries, some mistakes and some bread pudding. A lot of bread pudding. If there's one thing I've learned it's that people love them some custardy, baked bread in this town. They also love anything fried and not that healthy. Which is why my two favorite desserts on the menu right now have been under-selling (the apple crostata and the zucchini cake) in favor of the two more decadent desserts: the chocolate pot de creme and the ricotta doughnuts.
I knew that trying to do things like seasonal fruit-filled, rustic pastry (the crostata) and unusual flavors that combine savory and sweet, citrus and spice (like the cake) might be a challenge. But I will persevere. I am planning to replace the zucchini cake (which people love when they go out on a limb and try it) with something pumpkin for fall. And I am hanging on to the crostata for now (I've switched from peaches to apples), hoping I can still make people love it. I am getting tired of the old pot of chocolate, but people seem to like it and I've gotten pretty good at making it now.
So I decided to try my first attempt at bread pudding. It was already halfway there: melted chocolate, heavy cream and eggs. I poured it over stale bread that I'd cut up and let it sit for 30 minutes. I poured that into ramekins and baked them for an hour. Then I made a peacan-bourbon-caramel sauce and served it warm with the sauce spooned over the top.
I hope I can continue to be somewhat of a perfectionist with my product. I may drive the guy crazy whose job it is to plate my desserts. He may tune me out every time I tell him something that seems unimportant or obvious. I'm not trying to make his life harder. I'm just trying to ensure that the work I do each day to make a quality product is followed through with some care and attention at the back end just before the dessert makes it out to the table.
If the whipped cream is two days old it won't taste right. If the cake has not been sprinkled with powdered sugar before going out, it will look unfinished. And if the bread pudding is too hot you won't taste the different flavors. I have been struggling a bit with trying not to be too much of a control freak. But then I also think that perfectionism produces a great product and it's better to be a little bit of a freak when it comes to making things great. Someone has to care about dessert. After all, it's the last impression a diner has of the whole experience that preceded it. It shouldn't be treated as just an afterthought.