Disclaimer: This is another long post, and actually a pretty high-dosed estrogen-driven post, so if you cannot stand my ramblings, skip ahead to the pictures and recipes. I got pretty excited over the weekend, and just started writing and photographing almost endlessly, and before I knew it, this long monster was developed (in between the post I already wrote yesterday for Hungry Amoo).
I am a hopeless romantic. I am that girl that cries every time I attend a wedding, especially when the vows and speeches are especially sweet and nostalgic. I am one of those cheesy girls who dies a bit inside at the ending of every romantic movie – Pretty In Pink and Love Actually being among my favourites. I am so cheesy to the point that I have pretty much watched every season of the epitome of trash tv – Bachelor / Bachelorette (which is not actually romantic at all), and cried every time during the proposal even though everyone knows the couples never stay together (except Trista and Ryan – they were the best couple ever).
Yes, I am sadly one of “those girls”, or maybe, I just have serious emotional issues, but we knew that already. I can admit though that I am pretty cliche sometimes. In a way, I grew up wanting all sorts of grand gestures because that was all I ever knew and day dreamed about from books and movies – i.e. The 10 Things I Hate About You marching band scene; Gilbert Blythe giving up Avonlea School so Anne could stay in Green Gables. Counter to this, I grew up in a household with Chinese parents. Chinese parents are not romantic to each other at all; instead they are formally polite. That however did not stop me from becoming an ever-tween – I am the generic type that would typically love, and be overly conditioned to love Vday.
Note: I caveat the next few paragraphs with the fact that I am not intentionally picking on JH, but I am anxiety-ridden and talking around in circles to make a point in some many paragraphs to come. I heart him – he knows. He knows that writing about nothing and all this crap is just a cathartic release for me.
Yet, I ended up marrying probably one of the most unromantic guys in the world, and before him, consistently dated unromantic types who were never idealists, but were instead overly logical and realistic. I mean, I dated one person who gave me a science book for Christmas one year. Believe me, it was not a joke. He got really excited about it.
Suffices to say, I have always been unconsciously drawn to types who run the hell away from the wooing stage after it is clear that the wooing stage is coming to an end. I have been knowingly-unknowingly attracted to unromantic types my entire life – case in point, the left side of my brain beating the right side of my brain with a spiked-baseball bat. JH is a prime example:
- He made me amazing banana chocolate muffins during the wooing stage, only to be never seen or tasted again;
- He often makes obnoxious comments (like “oooohhh”) when for ex. the main character in the movie chases the girl (with only minutes left) to the airport to declare his love;
- He makes even more obnoxious comments whenever I watch an episode of said Bachelor / Bachelorette (deservedly so), and;
- For the purpose of what I am conversing on today, he does not believe in Vday or any other day where a grand gesture is typically required.
In logical truth and reason, he makes a good argument. Every day should technically be Vday or days of normal-sized considerate gestures if you love a person. That’s why for almost every week of the year, I buy myself flowers, and on special occasions, make myself cakes on his behalf. When it comes to cakes, I bake – why would I not make my own cakes? When it comes to flowers, it also definitely makes more sense, since he consistently forgets that I love flowers obsessively; that my favourite flowers are hydrangeas and peonies; and he aches at the price tag on some bouquets, so he will choose the $5 or less bunch from No Frills which is almost always comprised of flowers I dislike (ugh Chrysanthemums, and flowers that look like ugly sunflowers but are not actually sunflowers). The smart man has even talked us out of doing birthday and Christmas gift exchanges.
We treat every day really as if it were a regular day with bits of normal couple affection as I guess most conventional couples do. If I want romance or grand gestures, I have to pick up a good book or find a girl-movie to watch on my own time (thank you Netflix). He often states he is not the romantic type, and I should have never married him if I wanted him to be; but sometimes once in a blue moon he will give me a good surprise (and I simultaneously yearn for it). I mean, there was the one year he tried to plan me a surprise birthday party, except none of my friends could for one day be punctual (even though they know I am exaggeratedly punctual) so I ended up arriving to an empty dinner table for ten…at a decently fancy restaurant (fancy for that time in my life anyhow)…with serving staff and a front-of-house who stared at me with overzealous pity. It was a sweet gesture on his behalf, but needless to say, it was an embarrassing cry-worthy big-joke-on-me-experience (since in what world does any one EVER show up to their own surprise birthday party with not ONE person there), so surprise birthday parties never came back (or no one ever really bothered to try again anyhow). I just became naturally afraid of surprises like some people are afraid of clowns. Even so, gradually over the years, we just decided we never wanted to really celebrate anything anymore anyhow because I would rather be watching Netflix on weekends in my mermaid blanket half tucked away into our sofa cushion.
So, after all this droning, the point I am trying to make is that I can never really complain about JH even if he is not the slightest bit romantic, nor does he plan grand gestures or elaborate treasure hunts (my guy friends have ruined JH’s life sometimes for planning things like grand treasure hunts for their s/o’s) on what are quintessentially the most cliche days of the year. I would trade every wrong choice he would end up buying or planning in a heartbeat for all the things he does / did do, and all the things that make me feel somewhat like a human being again, like:
- Holding my hands, hugging me and understanding in half-silence whenever I have a manic cry – a cry that more than three-quarters of the people in my life do not understand. A cry where the tears just willingly rush from my eyes for hours and every part of me just completely hurts without reason;
- Making me laugh uncontrollably when I tell him I feel numb and a bit dead inside;
- Making up a bit of a mini pep-rally every time I feel like giving up because I do not want to take any more drugs;
- Forcing himself to learn about and adjust to what is wrong with me so he can help me in every way possible;
- Protecting me as best as possible from everything and everyone who gets into my overexerted mind;
- Walking behind me to protect me if I fall when we are hiking (one day, I will tell you the story about how he walked across Himalyan mountain trails blindly to find people to save me because I fell victim to altitude sickness);
- Watching “The Accountant” with me, and tolerantly sitting through me giggling every time Ben Affleck would do a reconciliation (which really was just one scene);
- Always walking on the side of the road facing the cars so I do not accidentally get run over – and the list just goes on and on and on.
And really, that is all any one person can ask from her significant other – a person who puts the other on a pedestal with reason, protects her with all his being, and loves and adores her endlessly in his own, sometimes bumbling, clueless way. I am really lucky. And I mean,
every most girls say they are lucky and think the world of their significant others, but I am REALLY lucky. And I just cried again writing that sentence. I know JH reads my blogs because he is so supportive like that (of everything serious that I do, and even not-so-serious – i.e. this); so in a billion words, this is me saying that no cliche V-day is A-okay. I do not need the romance. I just need him to ‘be him’. And really, I would not want him to be of those clueless guys I see waiting in the chocolate line (or worse, diamond line) at the last hour. I laugh at those guys.
And so for days like this, I make my own un-Vday traditions and experiences, and I am okay with it. These traditions may or may not involve me baking a lot of desserts for no one in particular (seriously I need that idea of a home baker’s e-commerce market to somehow work). I love Vday especially because I love any cliche reason to bake with a lot of pink. Pastel pink is one of my favourite colours; not to wear, but to style with, in decor, flowers, and especially in baking. People who have experienced my parties in what feels like lifetimes ago would know. Even though social media is in overabundance with pink desserts this week of the year, I actually do not mind being part of the norm. Maybe one of these years, I’ll be really off and decide I want to make something black or otherwise somber, but for the time being, pink desserts will just have to do. I made a couple of pink sweets this year, which you can find below: these pavlovas (which are not even really that pink), and some more entremets (that are the exact shade of pink I love most).
And for those couples who do celebrate Vday, have a lovely un-un-Vday experience. I honestly do not think negatively or anything really of any couples’ prerogative. I truthfully just wanted to babble on until I could start sharing photos and recipes.
- Mood – A little fancy.
- Focus – Pretty in Pink.
- Craving – Copious amounts of sugar.
- Feedback from the husband – These were best the day they were baked and assembled. After a night in the fridge, and exposure to the pastry cream, the meringues lost their vibrant crunch. JH had luckily tried one when they were still crispy, and had thought they were great at that point. I had made pavlovas many times before and forgot I should always assemble them fresh on the spot, and serve them right away. Anyhow, the next day, he complained I had made too many, and also complained that they had lost their crunch. I ate one, and at this point, it tasted like marshmallow. Oops, at least the pastry cream was really good, and they were not burnt. You live, you learn, you remember not to forget.
The Not-So-Secret Secrets:
UN-VDAY DESSERT #1
Chocolate Pavlovas with Raspberry Pastry Cream
Chocolate Pavlovas – Adapted from Donna Hay
4 egg whites (weighed to 240 grams)
|Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.|
1 cup sugar
|Add sugar and vinegar very slowly, beating on high until the mixture is glossy, and forms stiff peaks.|
2 teaspoons cocoa
|Fold in the cornstarch and cocoa.|
2 teaspoons cornstarch
|Using a star tip, pipe small circles on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.|
1 teaspoon white vinegar
|Bake for approximately an hour; shut off power at this point, and allow the meringue shells to cool in the oven.|
Raspberry Pastry Cream
- I used the standard pastry cream that I love using in any recipe involving pastry cream, found here.
- I added a 1/2 cup of fresh raspberry puree.
- The pastry cream is not exactly ‘pink’; the puree develops a beautiful almost-fuchsia colour.
- If I wanted pastel pink, I would replace the puree with just a drop or two of pink food colouring, but then it would just be straight vanilla pastry cream.
- Assembly is relatively straight forward.
- Using a round tip (or star tip), pipe a bit of pastry cream into each of the pavlovas.
- Garnish with fresh raspberries, edible flowers (or gold), and in my case, macarons. I used some raspberry and salted caramel macarons I had previously made (macaron recipe to be posted for another story, another time).
UN-VDAY DESSERT #2
Pretty in Pink Entremets
- These precious little things consist of three components:
- White chocolate mousse, found here. Yes, I make large batches of dessert components and freeze them so I do not always have to start from scratch. Making entremets is a time consuming-want-to-blow-up-the-kitchen process.
- Mirror glaze – recipe here. The recipe is adapted to include 1 to 2 drops of Ateco Deep Pink food colouring gel. This creates that light pink colour on the glaze.
- Pistacho, Almond, Walnut & Granola base – recipe below.
- Assembly is also straight-forward.
- Gently release the frozen white chocolate mousses onto a cookie rack sitting over a cookie sheet.
- Pour the mirror glaze over each of the mousses. Let it sit so the residual glaze continues to drip onto the cookie sheet. Note: I had to glaze twice because my glaze was melted a bit thin. Pouring glaze needs to be that right mix of viscous and flowing.
- Using an offset spatula, gently lift the glazed mousse onto the cookie base.
- Freeze for a few minutes so the entremet sets a little.
- Garnish with gold / edible flowers.
- Keep refrigerated until ready to be served.
- JH loved the cookie base. I have yet to try everything together, but have tried all the components seperately.
Nut Bases – Adapted from Joon
|1 cup each of – roughly chopped pistachios, granola chunks, almond slivers, diced walnuts
|Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie pan with parchment paper.|
2 egg whites
|Mix all the ingredients gently using a rubber spatula.|
2 pinches of salt
|Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture onto the sheet, allowing for space between each spoonful. Note: I used a circular cookie cutter to create a mould for the dough. Once I created the circle, I flattened the dough inside the mould.|
1 teaspoon cinnamon
|Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes. With my oven, it needed the full 15 minutes to give the cookies a crispy texture.|
2 teaspoons cardamom
|Cool on a cooling rack. These do not have to be entremet bases; they are also a good cookie on their own.|