11/4/12: Today I volunteered for the AIDS Care Chocolate Buffet and Silent Auction! I've done some volunteering in my time, and this was a really great experience. I began the day by writhing in pain (my body does not accept menstruation without a fight) but when 12:45 rolled around, I downed some pain meds and suited up. The email I received said to dress in "nice-casual clothes," but I've had some experience with words like that, and whenever I dressed as casually as I was told, I regretted it. I wore dark skinny jeans that look really nice as long as I sit like a lady, a taupe shirt, a black blazer, my gold cross, and red Converse. That black blazer makes me feel like I could conquer the world, and I left the house feeling chipper in a way that was unrelated to the caffeine I had just ingested.
At the event, my job was to man one of the silent auction tables. I jumped on the food & dining table and proceeded to gently harass everyone that stopped by. Some of the stuff was definitely better than others (artisan chocolate next to Starbucks gift basket. Not so much), but all of it looked good. As soon as the doors opened, one guy came to my table and bought a whole bunch of really great stuff, like a Trader Joe's bag full of organic food and a gift certificate to a steakhouse. This struck me as kind of unsportsmanlike, although he certainly got some bang for his buck. I enjoy selling things but subtlety isn't my forte, so I frequently come on too strong. Despite this, I managed to gently persuade people into bidding on a lot of things, like
12/21/12: I know, I know, it's been a long time, but tech week + Chem finals = no time to blog. I'm home at last, and it feels wonderful, even without much snow. (I believe!) I'm finally getting the opportunity to feel Christmasy: I started reading Little Women on the train home and I finished Christmas shopping today. And speaking of Christmas shopping, I'm going to share my own personal list of things I'm sure nobody will give me but I would love to get for Christmas. For birth of Christ and true meaning of Christmas, tune in next time.
TOP FIVE CHRISTMAS LIST ITEMS
1. This majestic turntable. Even the color is perfect; it looks like it's from a Wes Anderson movie and if I owned it, I would pack it in a messenger bag with a Wanda Jackson side and play music in the park while on a picnic. It's way too expensive, but I can dream.
2. A really nice tailored suit. I dream of being dapper (especially now that all my pants have holes in them) and on the day when I have enough money to buy a decent, well-tailored suit, I will look outrageously attractive.
3. While we're on the subject of menswear, a gray silk tie (solid color). That is my favorite kind of tie, which in my mind is sophistication itself.
4. This is really impractical but I would love the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Deb Perelman is one of my favorite bloggers and the photos look incredible.
12/30/12: I must have done something really, really good, because a few weeks ago my parents sent me a box of my favorite Dutch-process cocoa. We've been working our way through a 5 lb bag of Hershey's natural cocoa that I thought would last for the next three years, but we've made a significant dent in less than one semester. I'm a huge fan of cocoa powder and think it's a really underrated baking ingredient, so today I'm going to share some information and a recipe that gives credit where credit is due.
If, like me, you look through recipes when you get bored, you've probably noticed that most recipes that call for cocoa specify either "Dutch-process" or "natural." Here's why. Dutch-process cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. It is neutral and does not react with baking soda, so it must be used in recipes that call for baking powder. It also has a more mild flavor. Natural unsweetened cocoa powder is not treated with an alkali, so it's more acidic and stronger tasting. When natural cocoa is used in recipes that call for baking soda, the acidic cocoa reacts with the basic baking soda to create leavening, so the batter rises when placed in the oven. There you go, you've learned something new! Before learning all about the chemistry of cocoa powder (did I mention that I'm a huge nerd?), I just thought of Dutch-process of being the nicer cocoa, and if prices are any indication, that is correct. But now you know why it's nicer, and to be honest, I've swapped Dutch-process for natural many times this semester and it's worked out just fine.
Many bakers like to diss cocoa powder because they claim its chocolate flavor isn't intense enough or blah bloo blee blah. These people are missing out on a great thing. I'll let you in on a secret: I hate gooey brownies. I like brownies with gumption, with structure and stability. I like cocoa brownies. They're also easier to make because you don't have to stress out if you're melting chocolate and it goes wonky on you. No muss, no fuss.
I've already shared with you my recipe for browned butter brownies, also known as the greatest stuff on this Earth. I've made them with natural and Dutch process, and while they are definitely better with Dutch process, they're terrific every time. Today I'll share another cocoa brownie recipe, because I like fulfilling stereotypes about women.