Monday, June 29, 2009

On books, and cupcakes.

I have a horrible memory. I can remember birthdays, appointments, anniversaries, even specific outfits without any problem, but conversations (even important ones), jokes, assignments, and books? Nope. It just doesn't happen. It almost makes me wonder why I even read books if I'm just going to forget them once I've read the next one. Sure, I remember the basic gist of a story, but any little detail just floats right out of my head. I wonder why it is that I can remember exactly what I wore on my first day of 10th grade, but I have no idea who the main character is in the book I read 6 months ago.

So I've decided to cure myself of my selective amnesia. I'm self-medicating, but without the medications. I'll be an experiment of sorts. Nothing too scientific, just some little tricks I've got up my sleeve. I've always heard that the best way to remember your dreams is to write them down right when you wake up. I tried it for a while (a long time ago) and it seemed to work. Week by week, I'd remember a little more about my dreams, without needing to write it down. So that's where I'm starting with reading. For as much as I read, you'd think I'd know more about literature, or at least be able to finish a Thursday crossword puzzle, but alas, they stump me every time.

I'm hoping my experiment, or whatever it turns into, will also help me cure the ridiculous guilt trips I give myself over books. Yes, I have major, anxiety ridden guilt trips over books. I spent the first part of 2009 reading the first three books of a six book series, and loved it. I dreamt nightly about the stories and sometimes talk about the characters as if they're my friends (and they live in 1700's Scotland!), but after the third book, I cut myself off. I just couldn't take the guilt anymore. I have all these other books just waiting, begging to be read, so why am I spending so much time on one series? I realize that I have my whole life to read all the books I want to read, but I still can't shake the guilt I feel when I pick up a book that wasn't already sitting on my shelf just waiting to fulfill it's life's purpose. Isn't it unfair to Denny and Enzo that while they're speeding down the racetrack in the rain, I'm thinking about Claire and Jamie out running Pirates on their way to Jamaica? I certainly wouldn't appreciate it.

So I bought myself a Moleskin notebook. And I've been making a list of books. Books I've read. Books I started but didn't finish (another guilt inducing habit of mine). Books I completely hated but read anyway. Books I want to read. Books I think my family and friends would like. Anything to do with books, I've got a list for it.

But really, it's just a place for me to remember why it is that I love reading so much in the first place. To remind me that when everything else in my world seems out of whack, a book is always there to take me somewhere else.

So what does all this have to do with cupcakes? Absolutely nothing. Except that I got a new Cupcake book. And there's one thing I've found out about cook books; they don't come with a guilty conscience.

Applesauce-Spice Cupcakes, with Brown-Sugar Cream-Cheese Icing
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temp.
1 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 c. pecans, toasted and chopped. (optional, but totally worth it)

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cupcake pans with liners.
~To toast pecans: Spread pecans in an even layer on rimmed cookie/baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until slightly toasted and very fragrant. If they look burned, they are.
. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
. Cream butter and both sugars on medium-high speed of electric mixer, until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, and scraping down the sides with spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low, and add applesauce then flour mixture. Beat until just combined, do not over beat. Stir in pecans by hand.
. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans* filling each cupcake well about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, rotating once half-way through.

*If you don't have enough batter for all 24 cupcakes, remove liners from unused wells and fill about 1/3 way up with water to ensure even cooking.

Brown-Sugar Cream-Cheese Frosting:
1 stick butter, softened
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 c. packed light-brown sugar

Beat with electric mixer on medium-high speed until combined. Use immediately or store in refrigerator. Bring to room temp before icing.

*NOTE* These cupcakes are aahhhhmazing. You might be tempted to eat more than one in a sitting, but don't. The icing is sweet and carmely and will make you sick if you eat too much. Consider yourself warned.

1. Moleskin notebooks.
2. Offset spatulas
3. 96 degree weather. It's been a nice break from the two weeks of 100+
4. Ginger peach tea
5. Ricotta cheese.

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