I didn't think pregnancy would keep me away for so long. I wrote a few posts in the beginning, but then the nausea really kicked in.
For the first time in my life, I wasn't into food. At all. Some of my favorite foods made me sick to my stomach, and for about a month or so, I felt queasy and unsure of what I wanted to eat. I still ate plenty (read: pizza, grilled cheese, pasta and more pizza). The nausea subsided almost 2 months ago (I'm now 4 1/2 months along) and my appetite is back and bigger than ever!
Without sounding too cliche, I have to say that pregnancy is an amazing thing and I already feel forever changed by it. You might not remember, but the beginning of this year was incredibly hard for me and my family. My cousin, aunt and great uncle all died unexpectedly and quite tragically. For months, I felt hopeless about life and could only focus on my fear of death. This baby has helped pull me away from such melancholy thoughts. I'm not the most religious person, but now I believe there must be someone or something that's making this world go round. I have no other explanation for what is going on inside my body. It really is a miracle. How does it just know how to create a human being? The best part is that I don't even have to do a thing. I can sit on the couch and watch Dancing with the Stars (my new guilty pleasure), while a living, breathing human being is growing inside me.
In the beginning, I made myself crazy with daily internet searches about all the possible ways I could harm my unborn child. Then at some point, I decided to just let go. I vowed to listen to my doctor and to make choices that felt right to me. Instead of worrying and obsessing over what could go wrong, I'm trying to let nature take its course. Easy no, but liberating, yes. Good preparation for parenthood too, I'm sure.
I've had many memorable meals while I've been gone: this soup, for example, beignets with a quince sauce and three other delicious desserts during a girl's night out at The Harrison, a selection of Tibetan specialities and the butteriest paratha bread at Cafe Himalaya, my new favorite hole in the wall place (that sadly, according to Judith, did not pass health code regulations), pumpkin tortellini at A Voce, and these unbelieveable chocolate and almond breakfast buns.
Thanks to Nigella Lawson for creating the recipe and Luisa for posting it, I've now had the best baking experience of my entire life. I kid you not. These things are TO DIE FOR. They'll make you, and whomever you bake them for, happy to be alive. I found them very therapeutic to make, but nothing beats eating one, fresh from the oven. The dough is sweet and soft and slathered with semi-sweet chocolate chips and slivered almonds.
The recipe makes about 30, so be sure to stash your leftovers in the freezer. They taste almost as good after about 15 seconds in the microwave, although you should really test your patience and reheat them in the oven for a few minutes. Daniel and I did that to the last two this weekend (about a month after I first made them), and I swear to God, they were just as good.
I'm planning to bring a baking sheet to California in December so I can make them again. We'll be visiting my brother, his girlfriend, and their first child, who should be born in just a few weeks. I can't think of a better way to spoil everyone on Christmas morning and to celebrate what's become a wonderful year.
It feels good to love food again and to share that love with all of you.
Come back in a few days when I'll post a few more recipes I've been meaning to blog about. Because come April, who knows when I'll have time to write.
Chocolate-Almond Whirligig Buns
Makes 20-30 buns
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 packets instant yeast (6 3/4 teaspoons)
7 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 2/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
8 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
3/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg, beaten
1. To prepare the dough, combine 5 cups of flour, sugar, salt and yeast. In a small saucepan, combine butter and milk and heat to lukewarm. Beat the eggs lightly, then whisk them into the milk mixture. Sitr the liquid ingredients into the dry ones.
2. Using a mixer with a dough hook, or by hand, knead dough until smooth and springy, adding more flour if necessary. Form into a ball and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 30 minutes.
3. Punch down dough. Line a 13 x 10-inch baking pan with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out one-third of the dough and place in pan (I skipped this step and think you should, too). Roll out remaining dough to a rectangle about 20 to 10 inches.
4. For the filling, mix together the butter and sugar to a paste. Spread the paste over large rectangle of dough. Sprinkle almonds evenly over the dough, then top with chocolate chips. Starting from longest side, carefully roll up dough so it looks like a long sausage. Cut dough into 20 slices, about 3/4 inch thick, and arrange with a cut side up on top of the dough in the pan.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (original recipe says 450). Brush buns with beaten egg and let them sit in a warm place until puffed up and snugly fitting pan, about 15-20 minutes. Bake until buns have risen and are golden-brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from baking pan to cool on a rack. Serve warm.