Chocolate babka


I am coming up with a common theme in my life right now, moving is hard.  So I am baking…again.  I have been a baking whirlwind since moving.  My latest creation (not counting the cookies I made tonight) was a chocolate babka.  I am posting a picture because it was exquisite in taste and appearance and I am so damn proud of it.  But more on that later.

Back to moving.
I am currently reading Eat, Pray, Love -yes I am behind the curve on this- and as I read it, one passage sticks with me.  Elizabeth Gilbert recounts, “My Guru always says that only one thing will happen when you come to the Ashram – that you will discover who you really are.”  Well, I don’t think you have to go to an ashram to discover that – just move…across town, across the country, to a new continent, by yourself, with kids. Just move – and then you will discover who you really are.  Making new friends, helping your kids make new friends, starting a new way of life – even if it is exciting and what you wanted, isn’t easy and forces you to dig deep within yourself.  I have moved 9 times in the past 20 years, and I know people who have moved more.  For me, it doesn’t get easier.  It may even get harder as kids get older and you get a bit set in your ways.  It is especially hard if you have to leave a place you feel is really home,a place you love, have wonderful friends, and feel most yourself.  Someplace your kids feel is home. For all of those who have moved, are moving, be gentle with yourself and give it time.  Other than that, I don’t have any particular words of wisdom. And for me, while I am waiting to feel settled (i.e I have no friends to hang out at cafes with) I have been baking.  It is something comforting, something I know I can do. And that brings me to babka – my fear of yeast and pushing out of my baking comfort zone.

I bake, but I don’t like to use yeast.  It is a tricky little living organism.  If the water is too cold, it won’t proof, and if the water is too hot, you’ll kill it.  In my spare time I decided, what the heck, I’ll give it a try.  As I was searching for a recipe to combine two of my favorite flavors , chocolate and cinnamon, I found the babka recipe on Smitten Kitchen.  I couldn’t resist.  So, I gave yeast a chance.  And it worked, not only was the babka lovely – it was delicious.  So, on to my small aha moment.  We are like yeast, especially during a move,  sometime you have to experiment with getting settled, test the waters a bit, not too much not to little, give it some time, but finally you will rise!

Home is warm chocolate chip cookies

The best chocolate chip cookie.
The best chocolate chip cookie.

I have been slowly, slowly saying goodbye to Paris and warming to life in Stockholm.  (Note I can’t bring myself to write a goodbye to Paris post yet…)  And even though our household goods have arrived and are mostly unpacked, our place still feels a bit new and unfamiliar. So how do you make a house a home?  I am not quite sure there is a quick answer to that, but as soon as I started baking, something clicked.  And I baked with a vengeance.  When the first batch of chocolate chip cookies were in the oven and the aroma started wafting through the house – I knew everything was going to be okay.  I did get a little sad one son isn’t in Stockholm with us to enjoy the cookies, but I also realized this is home, new memories will be made, new friends will come over, and we will build a life here!  Deep breath – moving is hard, but it will be okay.  And when it isn’t, eat chocolate chip cookies to get you through the rough patches.

Let me just say – these chocolate chip cookies are so good that I prefer to eat them alone in perfect peace so that I can savor every bite without interruption.  I am not sure I can even give away the recipe, you’ll just have to come to Stockholm and I promise to make them for you.  (By the way, I have gone through 3 pounds of chocolate chips in two weeks  – they are that good.)

Macaroons the American way, comfort and coconut

Coconut dark chocolate macaroons



I get the macaroons on a plate to take a picture and some teen was already grabbing one.



And one for me. I need it.


Today I am making macaroons, of the American coconut variety, for my older son who graduates high school in two months.  I have been telling everyone around me I won’t be one of those parents crying at the graduation ceremony; instead you may find me doing cartwheels across the football field.  But the closer we get, the more weepy I feel.   I see a Facebook post about Senior year coming to a close or a reminder about caps and gowns and the tears start flowing.   I might not be able to wear mascara for the next two months.

Yesterday, I saw a video someone posted on Facebook of seals being released into the sea.  And I cried.  Those little guys awkwardly flopping/hopping across the sand to somehow miraculously dive smoothly into the ocean.   They were hit by a few waves but kept going until they hit their stride.  Isn’t that just how our young adults are?  Awkwardly flopping towards adulthood and as much as we want to help them and push them along their way, they will find their stride all on their own.  Setbacks will come, waves will hit them, but they will swim merrily into adulthood whether we are ready or not.

If this batch of macaroons is a bit salty today, sorry.  I think I shed an extra tear or two making them.


* recipe from David Lebovitz

Chocolate cake cure-all


     It is Saturday as I write this and I just realized that on Tuesday I have book group and I have not even started the book.  We are reading Still Alice (about an accomplished professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s)- so on the bright side, I can say I read it, but can’t remember anything, and hopefully garner some sympathy.
     Speaking of forgetting – it is a very very good thing to sometimes have a bad (or selective) memory.  It can make life a bit easier.  It works great when you need to forget about the moped driver who almost ran you over or the diet you are supposed to be on – not so great when you have to go to the store to pick up the cocoa powder you forgot, twice.  Which brings me to chocolate cake, that also makes life easier.
     Today is baking therapy and everything seems right in the world if you have a homemade chocolate cake in front of you and some appreciative teenagers to share it with.  My recipe is from the “Add A Pinch’ website, and I have to agree, if it is not the best, it sure is up there.
     P.S.  I ate that whole piece of cake right after I took the picture.  What diet??  I don’t remember any diet?!