Strawberries & Cream Bomboloni
How sweet are these?
I made them for my best friend who held me while I cried and hyperventilated like a child before a needle-wielding nurse this morning. We have birthdays just a few days apart. Since I was out of town on the actual day and so was our third we celebrated (one of the many) with a fam dinner about a week later. Doughnuts are her favorite kind of cake and while it would’ve been easy to pick some up on the way, it wouldn't have been nearly as special. So I made some. Heart-shaped ones. And filled them with strawberry pastry cream.
We had a long holiday weekend a short while back. Friends hopped planes for Mexico, Sun Valley, even Hong Kong. For President’s Day. I remember feeling particularly square thinking either this is just not real life or I just need to start thinking bigger about my life. Maybe it’s a little of both. The food photography industry (or maybe just the freelance one) doesn’t recognize long holiday weekends so in turn they rarely register to me until I’m in them.
For better or worse and to equal parts delight and disappointment I spent most of that weekend taxed on my couch instead. Disappointment because I had plans to play with all things side hustle that had been pushed to the back burner after a long job in LA. Delight because the rain was coming down and when I wasn’t drifting in and out of sleep I passed the minutes staring mindlessly at a giant arrangement of budding quince blossom branches I picked up at the market. They’re still blooming and they look like Spring. Like new life. And hope. Hundreds of tiny white flowers on spindly branches breathing life into a space that didn’t know how much it needed a little cheering up. The room actually exudes wide-eyed optimism. I’ve resolved to never not have blossoming branches in here so long as they’re available. They’re also a sweet symbol of change. Those blossoms aren’t the only thing that seem to be on the verge of new life around here and that birthing process is a real test of patience.
I’ve been tired lately. Realllly tired. Like so tired I finally went and had some blood work done (enter needle-wielding nurse) to see if there might be something I’m missing. Granted it’s been a busy season with work spending disproportionate amounts of time in cities other than my own. But this exhaustion has been deeper in my bones and harder to shake than anything I can remember. And for the most part it’s just plain annoying. It’s part of why I haven’t been around here as much as I’ve wanted to be lately.
Relationally speaking some people go wide. San Francisco goes wide. I, on the other hand, go deep with a very small close knit circle of girlfriends. One of whom these sugar-coated hearts were made for and is experiencing a similar fatigue. All of whom are experiencing a season of restlessness. Depending on what you pair it with restlessness can be a healthy agent of change or a total identity-questioning disaster. At the end of last year, for all of us, it was paired with discouragement. Life. We were just sick of it. Sick of the pace. Sick of the lonely. Sick of the wide. And then, just as I was feeling particularly pessimistic about the potential of the New Year, something changed. Somehow discouragement was exchanged for possibility and in the past two months, a not-so-accidental string of events has been prompting me to dig deeper. To figure out a way to do what I love for a bigger purpose outside of my own glory because lately life in the city, work, hobbies, certain goals, all of this has seemed pretty…meaningless. Not bad. Just not very fulfilling and exciting like it was before.
Little bits and pieces in intentional conversations, books, sermons all surrounding this one topic have been calling out and naming ways that I’ve not really been living comfortably in my own skin (i.e. restlessness) and challenging my idea of calling (more restlessness.) Hinting that surely there must be more. On any given day there are so many people out there living my dream so much better and bigger, more ambitiously, and certainly more successfully than I am. Lest I forget all I need to do is open my Instagram. Maybe you feel the same. There will always be that. Finding good reason to push forward in light of it isn’t always the easiest. I’ve burnt out on the pursuit of my own praise and recognition which I think ultimately (and quietly) took something that started out with good intention, something that I had (and still have) a natural love for and made it this vehicle for something lesser. But if that’s been the motivation, right or wrong, acknowledged or not, and it’s being broken down, what do you replace it with? It has to come from somewhere.
At first glance I could maybe draw the conclusion that this simply just isn’t what I’m meant to be doing. I’ve lost interest. It wasn’t what I thought. I should pursue something different. But upon second look, I don’t think that’s the answer at all.
Upon second look I think it's exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. I’ve simply been doing it for the wrong reasons. Well, okay maybe not entirely the wrong reasons. But certainly not for the highest ones. And not intentionally. I just haven’t realized that I’ve been tearing into a TV dinner when there’s 5 course seasonal tasting menu being offered at the table next to me. I’ve taken God-given gifts and yolked them to worldly desires. It’s bound to break down. Without a deeper purpose and outside of the right motivation the thing, whatever the thing is, no matter how novel it was in the beginning will lose it’s luster. It can’t stand on it’s own and nothing external is designed to carry our souls to fulfillment. My deepest desire isn’t to be recognized, it’s to be known. You can’t be known if you can’t be real. You can’t be real if you don’t realize that you’re hiding.
I don’t talk a lot (or ever) about faith here. But I’d like to. It’s the lens through which I see the whole world an consciously not talking about it is kind of like living a double life. One person on one page, a different person on another. The error of omission. This blog was, at one point, a direct link from my professional work site. Being a Christian isn’t the first thing people in the Bay Area associate with being progressive or open-minded or educated. And if you aren’t all those things what exactly are you doing here? Well, honestly, sometimes I don’t know. I do know I’ve edited myself for the fear of not being hired should someone click through and be put off. I know instead of worrying about it I should just be myself (everyone else seems to be doing it without hesitation), let the work speak for itself, and trust that it will come regardless. It's an ironic fear in such an “open-minded” place and it’s easier than it should be for me to reason myself into silence for the sake of my paycheck and how I’m perceived. But the cost of that is the restlessness that comes with living less than. Less than known. Less than real. Less than whole.
I recently read this quote that for the whole of my life I think will stick with me. It goes, “True hell is when you reach the end of your life and the person you were meets the person you were meant to become.” If that doesn’t make you want to get off your existentially tired ass and figure out what you were really put here to do I don't know what will. It makes me want to. For those with a restless, unrelenting and unrealized sense of feeling like they were meant for more, it’s basically that hell in daily living form. The daily ache of feeling like we were made for bigger things. Not fame, or money, or recognition. Bigger things. Lasting things. It’s not about the work. The work is meaningless unto itself. It’s about who we’re working for and why that gives work it’s substance. There is a season for everything under the sun. And this season is, for me and my closest friends, I believe a time to allow the dismantling of old ways and to open our hands to each genuinely receive a truer understanding of our God-given gifts and purpose. This restlessness that has seemed like such a burden is actually a productive prompting to more. We’re on the cusp of something. And it’s going to be good.
Strawberries and Cream Bomboloni
The dough recipe is based off of one found in The New York Times, modified for the ingredients I had on hand which is often how "my" recipes are born. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? These might seem laborious at first glance but they move along quickly. If you don't have bread and pastry flour on hand you can replace them with an equal amount of all purpose.
For the pastry cream
Bring the milk to a bare simmer in a medium sauce pan. In a heatproof bowl stir together 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the cornstarch. Add the egg yolks and stir to combine. Slowly add 1/3 of the hot milk to the egg mixture, stirring as you pour. Add the remaining milk and then return all of it to the saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil stirring constantly until very thick, about one minute. Pour through a strainer onto a clean sheet tray and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled and stir in the strawberry jam.
For the doughnuts
Warm the milk to around 90 degrees. Stir in the yeast and let it bloom until foamy, about 5 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook combine the melted butter, eggs, sugar, and salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Whisk together the flours and add in two additions to the mixer. Knead on medium speed for 3-4 minutes. You may need to add a few handfuls of flour if it's too sticky. At the end of the mixing time the dough should be mostly pulling away from the sides. Add a few more sprinkles of flour if not. Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, 45 minutes to an hour.
Line 2 sheet trays with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to 1/2 inch thick. Punch out your shapes and transfer to the trays. Cover the trays with clean kitchen towels until puffed, about 45 minutes. Fifteen minutes before the rest time is up, heat the canola oil to 375 degrees. Set a cooling rack close by and cover with two layers of paper towels. Using an offset spatula, transfer the doughnuts to the oil. You can fry about 5 at a time. Cook for about 30-45 seconds, flipping halfway through. Transfer to paper towels and allow them to cool slightly before rolling in sugar.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a long piping tip with the strawberry cream. Using a skewer or a chopstick poke a hole in the side of each sugared doughnut and gently pipe in the filling. Serve immediately.
For the pastry cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch.
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons (half a stick) butter
1/4 cup strawberry jam
For the doughnuts
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups bread flour
2 cups pastry flour
2 quarts canola oil
1 cup sugar