Breathing and Baking

At the beginning of February, I started the second half of my 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training at YogaWorks. The timing was perfect, having been teaching in studios for about 6 months, I was excited to return to learning so I could learn and execute simultaneously. 

I learn best by doing. Having spent 10 years in a corporate environment (I do use the term corporate very loosely and yes I realize 10 years is not that long) I was never one to be shown how to do something. I need to have a tactile experience, doing, touching feeling while someone guides me. It's the only way I'll (hopefully) remember anything five seconds later. 

The 300 hour is just that. Three hundred hours of doing, touching, feeling, executing, and I'm extremely tired. And questioning ... everything. It's been a long time since I've made a life changing choice. And deciding to choose this path of a teacher is just that. Everything is changing and with the constant learning, the constant trial and error my confidence is wavering. 

But that's what the yoga practice is for no? There are times where it's necessary to return to the practice, on and off of our mats. Return to the breath. Turn in. Tune out. Listen only to the breath. And then we can see what kind of song is being sung. It's only when we are truly quiet can we hear the truth. And for me, I'm happy that  when all the dirt and debris of my thoughts are wiped clear, the truth that I hear is one without judgement and without question... Letting me know that the only person getting in my way is myself. 

And for a prime example of getting into ones way please check out the time consuming choice I made last Friday night below.

I would not recommend this cake for a quick and easy cake for a forgotten birthday. While not wholly complicated, the steps, from blanching, peeling and then toasting the almonds to making a jammy caramel to baking 6 individual cookies can be utterly time consuming. While I was in denial about the amount of free time I actually had last week, I’m glad I tackled this beast on Friday night. It was freaking delicious. An almond-y tart, flakey and sweet hit every craving I had this weekend. And the leftover scraps I had after trimming my cookies? Got rolled into a tiny 4 layered cookie slathered with nutella. Yum Yum. 

I selected this recipe for a local cookbook club I just joined. This month they chose Smitten Kitchen to tackle and as always her recipes didn’t disappoint. I’m a fan of her older posts where she highlights more classic recipes. This recipe was originally from “Lost Desserts” by Gail Monaghan. You can see the recipe here or in this great article from the New York Times

Neapolitan Cake

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 ½ cups jam, raspberry, apricot, strawberry or peach

Half of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped (I used 1 tsp of vanilla extract)


½ tablespoon lemon juice (I accidentally used 1 full tablespoon - totally fine.)

1 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted (I missed the toasting step. Although totally fine, next time I will toast just to see.)

3 cups flour, sifted (Didn't sift, also, totally fine.)

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

4 large egg yolks, at room temperature

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon orange-flower water (optional but would add a nice nuance.)

¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted.

1. Place 1/4 cup of the sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until all the sugar turns caramel. Tilt pan to distribute caramel. Lower the heat and carefully whisk in the jam, the scraped vanilla bean and seeds, 1 tablespoon of water, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. (The caramel will bubble violently.) Simmer, stirring, until the caramel dissolves into the jam. Remove from heat.

2. In a food processor, pulverize the whole almonds with 2 tablespoons of the flour.

3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, remaining sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the zests until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix in the pulverized almonds until combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then add the almond extract and orange-flower water. Mix in the remaining flour.

4. Divide the dough into six equal balls. Place each ball between two sheets of plastic wrap and press into an 8-inch circle, using the inside of a pie pan as a guide. Chill the dough rounds in the refrigerator for 2 hours or freeze for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap, place a dough round on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining rounds.

6. Lay a round in the center of a serving plate. Spread with 3 to 4 tablespoons of jam to just before the edge. Continue to layer the rounds, spreading jam between each. Spread a thin layer of jam over the top and cover with sliced almonds. The cake can be served immediately, but tastes even better, and is easier to cut, if tightly wrapped and served 1 or 2 days later. 




This week has been …. fitful. Busy. And a bit overbooked. A last minute job took away what free time I had in-between the 8 classes I had scheduled. BUT alas, it’s nearing it’s end and I’m taking some much needed moments to look forward to the weekend by reminiscing about last week’s waffles. While I generally don’t like to look back, sometimes we must to gain the strength to move forward. And sometimes…it just takes waffles. 

On a side note, super happy about how my Warrior 3 is progressing. I hyperextend my knees something serious so this pose is extremely hard to keep stable while keeping my leg from locking back. Here's to progress!  

And now for the waffles...

J’s cousins gave us the Two in the Kitchen (Williams Sonoma): A Cookbook for Newlyweds as an engagement gift along with a nice gift card that allowed us to purchase a much needed breadbox. It’s a really lovely book where there are actual recipes for just two people which never happens. Waffles were great. There is yeast in them so they have a barely noticeable yeasty flavor that melds nicely with our bourbon maple syrup from Trader Joe's. They would have been even better if we had a decent waffle maker and could learn to fill it up instead of constantly being worried that it would overflow. Next time…. otherwise it’s perfect as is.

The original recipe comes with a warm strawberry rhubarb compote. We never really get that far...Enjoy!!

For the waffles:

1 package (2 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) warm water (105-115 degrees F/40-46 degrees C)

1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml.) whole milk

2 Tbs. butter

1 cup (5 oz./155 g.) all-purpose flour

2 Tbs. firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

Canola oil for brushing

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 tsp. baking soda

To make the waffles, in a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a saucepan over low heat, combine the milk and butter and heat to warm (about 115 degrees F/46 degrees C).

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Stir the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the dissolved yeast. Add the flour mixture and stir until blended. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. The batter will thicken slightly.

To cook the waffles, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C). Preheat a waffle iron for 5 minutes, then brush with oil. Add the egg and baking soda to the chilled batter and stir until blended. Ladle enough batter for 1 waffle into the center of the waffle iron (usually about 1/2 cup/4 fl. oz./125 ml.), and spread with a small spatula. Close the waffle iron and cook until the waffle is browned and crisp, according to the manufacturer’s directions (usually 4-5 minutes). Transfer the waffle to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining batter. 


If at first you don’t succeed…..


If at first you don’t succeed…..

A Story of Baking Bread...

I have been addicted to the Jim Lahey no knead method of bread baking for several years now. It’s an excellent method that consistently produces a great, tasty loaf. Food52 has an excellent version with a shorter rise that gets made into a sandwich loaf. I make it every two weeks without fail. With that being said, I crave to have a better loaf in my repertoire to whip out that is just... EXTRA.  Most of all I want to prove to myself that I can make BREAD. Not to overdo it with the yoga metaphors but as I pulled my rested (flat) dough out the fridge this morning, I realized how similar this is to me attempting to get into handstand.

Handstand is my white whale, my nemesis, my (what seems to be) always out of reach pose. At the beginning of the year I made a vow that over the next twelve months I would work at it consistently with the goal to be freestanding by December. But instead of just working to fling myself upside down, giving myself whip lash in the end, I’ve been taking time to strength my arms. To actually work my core. And LO AND BEHOLD IT’S WORKING. Now I can get there BUT often, when in a room with teachers, I still try too hard and end up never even making it to the wall. Every day is different. Our body varies with what we put into it and the environment we surround it with. Sometimes we just fall. And sometimes, as was my case on Friday, we just try to hard. Expectations abound, they end up being the one thing that get in our way. 

My attempt at this three day bread process from Bon Appetite turned out to be a flat, raw dud. A flat, raw dud of trying so hard and cartwheeling over flat on my face. I thought I took my time with each step and tuned into the needs of this beast. But alas, it didn't matter. Ignorance, expectations and lack of know-how took over. No matter how much I tried to trust the process, the environment was against me and my knowledge wasn't enough. Maybe it was too cold. Maybe I was wrong and it wasn't ready. Reading the instructions when bread baking is often not enough. 

Either way, I was hopefully that this pita look-a-like would at least be tasty but after cutting in, it proved to be half cooked. Cest la vie. 

Ahhhh.... but throughout it, I got to spend some much needed time with myself, play with dough and try something new. I’ll wait for the weather to get warmer before trying again…. You can see the full recipe here at Bon Appetite. There’s a much longer version that is naturally fermented by Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Enjoy! And for those of us who need a good standing pose after arm balancing, give the no-knead method a try.