Monday, October 8, 2012

Giving Thanks

Sometimes it feels hard to believe that I've already been in Toronto for more than a year, yet here I am passing milestones for the second time: labour day, the first day of school, Nuit Blanche, and now Canadian Thanksgiving.  I still find that this latter event (celebrated this weekend, with the official holiday falling today) comes at an odd time in the calendar year, being used to American Thanksgiving, but after the past week it seemed like the stars had aligned to remind me to be grateful for my many blessings.

It's not that the past few days have really been horrible; in fact, many wonderful things happened to counterbalance the bad.  And even the negatives, when viewed contextually, have a bright side.  Two family members took ill, but thankfully--though the mishaps or diseases are serious--they seem like they will recover fully.  Some of the other misadventures seem perplexing, but even these frustrations have been assuaged by opportunities which may turn out to be more beneficial in the end, both in terms of career and also in terms of my personal growth, than what I had originally hoped might transpire.  Funny how our desires may indeed be less salubrious than our response when we feel they are thwarted...  Finally, it's just good to remember how blessed I am to have such friends and family and music in my life, and that even when some of these things seem to have gone awry, the reason I notice is because I am lucky to have them there in the first place.  It's hard to complain about that.

The festive dining room.
Comrade M cooked and baked an excellent Thanksgiving dinner, per usual.  The turkey was divine, the stuffing scrumptious, the kale salad refreshing, the sweet potatoes creamy, the vegetarian option ironically to-die-for, and the mashed potatoes fluffed to a T.  And the desserts... all I can say is that the pumpkin pie should become a standard.  It's amazing!  And the apple and cherry rustic tart, baked in a cast iron pan and with a ginger cookie topping, was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Boiling potatoes
Kale for the salad 
Pumpkin pie
Apple and cherry tart
With fewer people this year (i.e. just one extra) there was less to prepare and thus less for me to do--except, of course, borrow Comrade M's nice work camera and take pictures of everything!  Comrade M used some of my homemade bread for the stuffing, something I baked last weekend with spent grain from Ryan's brewing, but I hadn't even been planning to cook anything myself until I found an email from Smitten Kitchen in my inbox with a recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  Now with something like a recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls, you'd think there would be little to improve upon--and of course since I only made the recipe once, it's hard to tell if I improved anything.  So instead we will say that I did some characteristic fiddling and made the following adjustments:

  • Rather than using active dry yeast, I substituted my very own wild yeast sourdough starter.  (I've been growing it for the past week and this was my first experiment.)  I wound up using 1/2 cup of sourdough starter to replace the yeast called for in the recipe.  Consequently (and also due to the oven being occupied by the bird) I also allowed the buns to rise for several hours rather than the time she calls for.  I can't really tell if the sourdough starter influenced the flavor, especially due to the following point...
  • ... which is that rather than using brown sugar (since I had run out) I replaced the 1/4 c brown sugar in the dough with 1/4 c molasses.  This yields a strong molasses flavor, which I like but which perhaps overpowers the pumpkin and other flavors.  Ryan likes it, though.  I might stick to brown sugar next time to see how it compares.
  • Rather than just brushing the rolled-out dough with the butter (these are by no means healthy), I also added a layer of pumpkin puree.  Ryan and I roasted our own pumpkin (he had an extra one lying around after making a pumpkin beer a few weeks ago) and we had/have a lot left over.
  • I also added a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree to the cream cheese frosting rather than adding milk to change the consistency (and ultimately used two times the amount of cream cheese because I found it too sweet with two cups of powdered sugar).  In retrospect I would have just halved the amount of sugar since the recipe yields a ton of frosting no matter how much cream cheese you include.  I guess I'll have to freeze the leftovers for the next several time I make these cinnamon buns...
  • I also sprinkled the buns with pepitas before baking, though if/when I make these again I'd also include the seeds inside of the rolls.  I just didn't think of it until I had finished.
Rising rolls
Finished rolls with some glaze
And some without
Now it's Monday and Comrade M and I are embarking on a painting project.  First up?  The dining room, in "semolina" yellow.  It already looks beautifully bright and sunny!  I'm so excited.  

In the works...
Meanwhile, Ryan was concentrating on his latest batch of beer (this time with a holiday twist).

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