I came here with just dessert and/or breakfast to bring you today, but it turns out, I also have a lot unsolicited thoughts about blogging.
– For starters, I’m grateful and in awe that people read my site. In terms of readership numbers, it’s small, but anything larger than my immediate circle of friends feels like a pat on the back. Maybe a fist bump, or a belly rub after a burrito lunch. You get what I’m saying — time and attention in this age of media are precious resources, and someone choosing to spend theirs on something I created feels, for lack of better words, real nice. That’s what I mean every time I thank you. (Thank you.)
– I never anticipated the full experience of documenting life, and not just recipes, over a period of several years. When I started this blog, only my immediate circle read it — I still remember when my first Tastespotting submission was accepted and I got a whopping 80something visitors in a day. I never thought I’d end up with an online catalog of everything I cooked and, to some extent, thought and felt for 4+ years. Not to mention that, as much as I admire openness online, I can’t walk that walk. On the scale of being vulnerable in this space, I have only been about a 4.5 out of 10. And it still feels jarring. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I’d documented breakups, dating experiences, family illness, the sometimes-bummer truth about moving to a new city without a job or a real plan, life-purpose ennui and other problems privileged people have… Et cetera.
– I don’t post as often as before, and I’m finally getting rid of the nagging guilt I used to feel when the days since the last post climbed into the double digits. The thing is: I want to keep doing this for a long, long while. Creating recipes, styling them, and photographing them in a way I’m proud of takes a lot of time and resources. Considering that my standards have gotten a bit higher and I go through at least a couple iterations of something, posting even twice a week would get extremely time-consuming, expensive, and wasteful. So, I’m going to take it slow and refuse to feel weird that it’s already October and I haven’t posted anything with pumpkin or whatever. This space is for sharing; we don’t owe each other anything. You’re here because you want to be, and I am too. I don’t know why that took me so long to understand.
-I’ve developed skills I use professionally now, both in my day job and freelance work. When I step back and think about it, that is crazy, and it amazes me. Not that it was ever the intention, but I’m never going to pay the bills with this site, and the ads are gone. It’s a labor of love, pure and simple. I use it to get better at what I love, and share something delicious and hopefully inspiring with you.
– All of this only applies to my own experience. I’ve been a fan, reader, and sometimes a friend of food blogs and the talented people behind them. No two of their careers look the same. Some collaborate brilliantly with brands, some have published cookbooks, some work for major publications, some do consulting. All of it is top-notch work created by hardworking lovelies who have honed their talents and applied them in a way that makes sense for them, carving out entire careers from what started as a simple project of making things, photographing them, then writing about them. The community is vibrant, full of creative energy, and I’m constantly inspired by it.
I hope that that explains the change of pace around here, at least somewhat. A little real talk was overdue, and it took me a while to feel like I can start to articulate it without sounding like a douchebag who takes these things too seriously. (New Twitter bio: Daughter, sister, friend, hopefully not a douchebag.)
Now, onto the lede I buried. Let’s talk about the tea ring!
I had myself a full-on, glued-to-the-couch sick day a couple of weeks ago and blasted through an entire season of the Great British Bake Off on Netflix. So much sponge cake, so much talent, so much witty, sharp humor. Reality TV contestants actually being polite and supportive to one another. What is this exotic magic?
Richard’s tea ring was one of many pastries that caught my eye immediately. My first attempt at an adaptation of a classic recipe actually ended up having a bit of a cosmetic disaster, but I felt determined enough to make it again. Revisiting the recipe a second time most definitely improved things. Adding a bit of lemon zest and upping the sage took the filling from a solid, nutty flavor with just a hint of herbs to something that really shone: fragrant with sweet, savory, earthy and fall-appropriate vibes, brightened up with citrus. In this season of festive brunches, warm beverages, and loving up on some carbs, it’s a great alternative to the usual (and wonderful, I might add) suspects of pumpkin, cranberries, and gingerbread.
Happy fall, everyone. I hope your cup runneth over with comfort, joy, and good cheer. And as always, thank you!
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs (1 for dough, 1 for egg wash, which is optional)
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon natural maple extract (optional)
- Whisk together 3 cups flour and the yeast in a large bowl and set aside.
- Warm up the milk to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit (it should be warm to touch, but not hot). Whisk one egg with the sugar and salt in a medium bowl and slowly whisk in warmed milk. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon, then your hands, to knead into an elastic, smooth dough. Add the additional flour, one tablespoon at a time, if necessary to keep dough from being too sticky.
- Form dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled large bowl. Turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise until doubled in size, 2 hours or so.
- Punch down dough and roll out into a 12x18-inch rectangle on a large piece of parchment paper. Combine the light brown sugar, melted butter, sage, and lemon zest and spread evenly over the dough. Sprinkle walnuts over the sugar filling.
- Roll dough into a roll, starting on one of the long sides. Form into a ring and pinch the ends to secure. The ring will probably be thicker toward the middle; use your hands to stretch and even it out. It doesn't have to be perfect.
- If using an egg wash, whisk together the other egg with a couple tablespoons of water and brush all over the surface of the ring.
- Use scissors to cut 2/3 of the way into the ring 16 times. It helps to think of it as a clock; start with four cuts at 12, 3, 6, and 9, then make cuts halfway in between those, then once more halfway in between the last round of cuts. Turn each of these sections onto its cut side (it won't lay perfectly flat; again, this doesn't have to be perfect).
- Use the parchment paper to transfer ring to large baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, until puffy. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake for 21-24 or so minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Cool completely before icing.
- To make icing, combine powdered sugar with maple syrup and maple extract, if using. Add milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over the tea ring.