Saturday, April 7, 2012

Clara's Day Off


What a ride!

The trip to Cleveland was fantastic. The Knitting Daily TV filming went really well. Which is to say I didn't say anything too stupid, I didn't choke on my own tongue, and my hair didn't spontaneously combust. It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. Put me in front of yarn and I can talk for days. Lucky for you, the segment only lasts five minutes at a time.

While I was in the Cleveland airport I happened to walk past a very tall, handsome man and think, "Hey wait a minute, he looks familiar." I suddenly realized it was Michael Ruhlman. Someone I happen to think is perfectly splendid. His 3-2-1 pie dough recipe from Ratio singlehandedly helped me achieve a lifelong goal of mastering pie dough. Sounds like a little thing, but when you live in Maine in a farmhouse overlooking 27 acres of blueberry fields, pies figure prominently.

I made a nodding, bobbing, blushing fool out of myself but did shake his hand, and he was most gracious about the whole thing. It felt like a good-luck omen for the days of shooting that followed.

So now I'm back home, working hard on the next book, tending my beloved Knitter's Review, juggling other writing and teaching and speaking projects. Yet in the midst of it all, something rather wonderful has just happened. Wonderful in a completely random and potentially crazy way.

By now you know I love to bake. I also love to make caramels, dark murky moody ones that shut people up and put faraway gazes on their faces. This is my therapy. When life gets tough, when I've run out of adjectives and need a break from my writing, I go into the kitchen, pre-heat the oven, and take out some butter to soften.

Until now, the biggest problem has been in simply finding enough people to consume all that I make. I give things to friends and neighbors, I fatten my family when they're visiting, I even haul bags of Claramels to conferences and festivals. Yet still, I produce more than I can consume.

I also love a good cappuccino. There's one place here in town, when I'm in Portland, that has been my home base all these years. I've written practically every Knitter's Review there, its tables have helped me write three and a half books. Somehow I think better when sitting at one of their tables, nursing a perfect cappuccino with a heart drawn in its foam. The buzz of people around me is just enough distraction to keep that annoying voice in my head (the "Thinking is hard!! Let's go get ice cream!! You can't do it!!" voice) at bay.

A few weeks ago they opened a second outpost called Crema. It's in an old brick building across the street from the Portland harbor. It's beautiful, wide open, all brand new. And it has a kitchen. Not a huge one, but a kitchen nonetheless. With a beautiful baker's oven.

I came to find out that they'd recently had a falling out with their longtime baker. They were struggling to keep up. They were stressed out, spread thin. They had breads and scones and such figured out, but what they really needed was...someone to make beautiful, delicious, special things. Well hello.

I love these people and I owe so much of my career to them. Which may explain why I found myself saying, "Can I help?" and why, starting next week, I'll be spending my day off in that little kitchen.

I'll be making pretty cakes and absurdly overdecorated cupcakes and stirring, cutting, and wrapping individual Claramels. Complete strangers will come up to a counter, point to something I've made, and pay money for it. This will be a first. They may love it, they may gobble it without tasting a thing, they may take one bite and spit the rest out. I'm hoping that having three books published has prepared me for the negative review. Like one complaining that, which one was it now, The Knitter's Book of Yarn, didn't have enough crochet in it.

This whole thing may not work out, or maybe it may only work out for a while. I don't know what the future holds, so for now I'll just hold onto the excitement.

But let's get back to the more important topics: What should I bake on my day off? Do you have any favorite recipes? I'm all ears.

38 comments:

cat@catbordhi.com Bordhi said...

I am sitting here smiling. You are going to your happy place. Can you please put a webcam on the wall so I can watch?

Sue in SC said...

Whoa! What great serendipity! I have no suggestions. I never bake. I just can't get it right, so have no favorite recipes. How about Claramels for the masses? Pie? Have fun. I'm so happy for you.

besshaile said...

Hmmm. Somehow I have never gotten a single claramel. Not one. Hmmmm. would you like my address?

But kidding aside - congratulations on the opportunity to play in someone else's kitchen.

Catherine said...

That sounds like a foodie's dream, and the local population will get to experience the gorgeous baked goods the rest of us only see and imagine. Sigh....

Chris said...

Wow!!! What a great fun experience for you! I have had one of your tasty sweet morsels........ I can tell you that almost no one has refused my "killer" chock late chip cookies. Maybe cookies!! Or ginormous sweet cinnamon rolls?
Can't wait for November.........

Jane Cochran said...

Magnificent!

Monica said...

Two heavens in on e life, yarn and dough! Sourdough, blueberry cobbler, chocolate cinnamon babka, fudge... I' m sure you will enjoy to the max!

Cindy T said...

I think you made a beautiful coconut cake that I once lusted after.

Melissa Morgan-Oakes said...

Most awesome thing ever.

Susie Collins said...

So touching, Clara, thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful time baking on your day off...

Anonymous said...

Tiny fruit tarts with creme anglaise, a short bread crust, and fresh fruit in season. And none of the gross glaze that goes on it. Also tiny key lime pies with the same crust and meringue. Single serving hand held fruit pies (using local fruit in season) real macarons... so many ideas.

Love, Wen

scifiknitter said...

How wonderful, to be able to indulge fully in one of your dreams of a possible future endeavor, but still have the time you need to do the work you are already doing.

I'm charmed by your story of meeting Michael Ruhlman. I also love his work. Once upon a time I was a gushing, nodding fool as you signed a lovely inscription in my brand new copy of "A Knitter's Book of Wool". It's very sweet to realize that we all have the capacity to be not as suave as we would wish when meeting someone we admire.

Adrienne Martini said...

W00T! I say, then W00T! again.

Anonymous said...

Hi Clara,
I love an excellently spicy carrot cake with a slightly tangy cream cheese frosting. The can be cake or cupcake. I am happy for you. When you mentioned in a tweet, the Help Wanted sign, I wondered if you'd pursued it. Best of luck. Lu

bluesbee said...

My husband bakes the most delicious carrot & beet cake, with a lemony cream cheese frosting. And Tres Leches cake is another favorite.

Enjoy every sweet moment of this adventure!

DawnC said...

Homemade cinnamon rolls would be good, people seem to always adore a nice fresh cinnamon roll.

Annie said...

I smell reality show...

Annie said...

[Oh, and I just realized my avatar is an animation of the squash pie I make - must be kismet!]

rosi-r said...

I hear the siren's call from here. Have fun, sweet Clara.
Rosi

sandi said...

How wonderful for you! And how wonderful for the good people of Portland, who can now get Claramels whenever they want. I know you'll enjoy it.

Amy McWeasel said...

How wonderful, Clara! I hope you have a fabulous time in this new adventure. As someone who'd pay for your Claramels & virtually drools over the pics you post of your other goodies, I'm confident you'll be a great success.

noallatin said...

Congratulations, Clara.

I hope it will be a fulfilling experience. I can almost smell the cupcakes from here. Don't forget to bring some samples to share in November. Most of all, have fun.

Noella

EmEm said...

How exciting, I hope you will have the best time!!! Another good tart recipe would be "Triple Coconut Cream Pie". The recipe was in the AAA Via Magazine (I think November) and is from Seattle chef Tom Douglas who makes it for his "Dahlia Lounge". I made it for my family at Christmas - everyone gave it a thumbs up. You can find it at www.viamagazine.com. I am not sure if it is only in west coast magazines, but you can use my zip code 94960 if you need to. Then just search coconut cream pie - it's still there. Even though you are going to be busier than ever, please post pictures. We can still enjoy your creations and we won't have to worry about the calories.

EmEm said...

P.S. I was so excited, I forgot - congrats on your Knitting Daily taping and meeting Michael Ruhlman. It sounds like you had a great week!!!

NanciKnits said...

I am so happy for you! As one who dreamt of working in the food industry and at 48 did just that, I know that you are in for the time of your life... You are going to LOVE your "day off".

You go girl!!

NutmegOwl said...

Just what you needed, you laggard, a second job! All kidding aside, create and enjoy.

robin said...

if only I lived in Portland... but alas I don't so I'll just have to continue knitting, baking, eating vicariously through your blog... you are so fortunate!! enjoy!!

Jennifer said...

How fabulous!! I am doing a Happy Dance for you; what a marvelous and perfect way to spend your day "off." Yay!

PghCathy said...

I have a layover in Portland in July...so close yet so far. I vote for gingersnaps. I could take a later flight for them!

Diane said...

You sound very happy!

Anonymous said...

a lemon cake with a double glaze...a hot clear glaze that gets spooned on when the cake is still hot then a creamy glaze when the cake is cool. Yes, i have my own deli...this is a big seller. If you want the recipe and any hints, I would be happy to give them to you. Mary in cincinnati

Amarula said...

Another reason to visit Portland!!

Laura said...

I love the way the things you love come to you - it all seems so divinely inspired! Have fun - I would love to try a Claramel:)

Minh said...

Like I needed another reason to come up to Maine!

Chouquettes make me happy, I am sure they would make other people happy too :)

Anonymous said...

Clara, it was great to see you Saturday after so many years.

Congratulations on your new gig - KD will be much the better for your presence.

Lissa

barbara guillette said...

my mother is from maine,bangor. I love Maine and the blueberry festival.I love to cook,as with you I cook more than I can eat,,I eat well. Another book I like is The french chef at home laura calder,so fun..I also bought two editions of your sock book,one for me , one as a gift,,love love love it..I have to think of a recipe to send you the old family tried and true are my favorites.. it sounds like heaven,good luck. barbara

25dancer said...

Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for The Versatile Blogger award. See my most recent post for the next steps. :-)

Renee said...

I wish you lots of baking fun with tasty end results. Carott cake with coconut!