Easter is a day of emergence and resurrection. While quarantine is keeping us from physically emerging, I think we can find both of these freedoms inside the kitchen, if only we let ourselves wander away from fixed recipes and follow the limitless intelligence of our intuition.
Baking, for me, is a medium where I can satisfy my cravings for exploration, inside the safe space of home. The product doesn't always turn out perfectly, but the process returns me to a perfect state of self-nourishment and multilayered enjoyment.
. . .
When I bake, I gradually drift from the recipe shimmering on my screen to an inner sense of direction; I drop the measurements and feel around in the familiar dark of my intuition for the right combinations and proportions.
It’s like going on a walk, and envisioning your destination, but not knowing by what roads you'll get there.
Yesterday I took what I thought would be a straight loop around my neighborhood back to my street, but which ended up feeding me down a maze of courts, avenues and lanes I'd never seen. The gardens were gorgeous, each road dappled by shade. Families were out biking, walking, pushing strollers, being pulled by golden retrievers.
No matter how new things seemed, I knew I would eventually turn and see a familiar tree or gate. It was a comfortable lostness, a playful straying—a straying that wasn’t actually straying from a center (I was, in fact, heading in the right direction), nor from protocol (yards of space stretched in front and behind me).
Especially now, the feeling of lostness comes more quickly and intensely than usual, with a heavy fear in tow. Even when we’re home--which is most of the time now---we can feel adrift, floating away from the certainties that once furnished our sense of self, grounded us in our okay-ness.
Perhaps this is because the danger lurks invisibly like a poisonous gas, obeying no obvious boundaries or orders.
These bars are a product of my desire to walk without the anxiety of lostness during this uncertain time; to find myself at home in my home, even when the scenery is unknown, the future without a map. They were inspired by a deliberate "blindness" that, when I let it guide me into the right places, at the right times, is more open-eyed than anything else, and not dangerous at all.
Of course, sometimes you really do get lost. Sometimes you should've listened to that person or recipe. Baking, in particular--some say--is a science, unforgiving to those who abandon instruction and feel their way to "success." Yet, I think this depends on what you're making, on the territory you're wandering.
What’s great about these bars, like my neighborhood, is that, you can't go wrong. When I walk out my door, whatever "wrong turn" I take, eventually brings me back to the main Butterfield road. Likewise, in these seven layer bars, all ingredients coalesce and connect. You can add white, dark or milk chocolate; you can sprinkle with any and all nuts; you can make a paleo crust or a classic Graham cracker. You can forget the crust in the oven for an extra five minutes and it'll still melt in your mouth.
Mistakes and mis-steps eventually melt and are enfolded in a thick, caramel goo. Hastiness and forgetfulness sink and surrender into that sweet base.
. . .
Why all this meta reflection, you ask? As usual, what I do with my hands and my body, when it's done baking in my mind, emerges as a metaphor. If I don't plate and serve it while it's hot, it goes stale.
Choose safe spaces to wander right now. Seize the ingredients in your own kitchen cabinet and create something off-script; walk the labyrinth of your own neighborhood lanes and drift into a blissful lostness.
Find the "faraway nearbys" (Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby) where you can taste adventure, freedom, and movement, without stepping beyond the physical boundaries of personal safety and social responsibility.
The below recipe is just a starting point. Find your own way out and back home. (P.S. these bars are grain free & thus Passover Kosher!)
Feliz Pesach & Pascua to all!
- 1 1/2 cup almond flour
- 6 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla.
1. Combine all crust ingredients with your hands, it’s fun, and press dough into pyrex dish.
2. Bake for 10, until crust sets, just slightly brown on edges (it will need to bake later again with the filling)
3. While dough bakes, get out your ingredients for the vegan caramel:
- 1 can of full fat coconut milk
- 1.5 cup of coconut sugar
- 1stp salt
- 1/2 cup of cashew or almond butter
4. Combine milk and sugar in a saucepan: stir and bring to a boil then simmer for 20, whisking in salt and 1/2 cup of cashew butter at the end to thicken.
5. Pour caramel onto partially baked crust.
6. Sprinkle caramel base with:
- 1 cup of combined chocolate & white chocolate chips
- 1 cup of coconut flakes and
- 1 cup of chopped pecans and walnuts (or any nuts).
7. Press these toppings into caramel with a spatula.
8. Bake bars for another 20 min, or until nuts are toasted and coconut is golden!
Finally, beware of counter surfers while they cool ;) . . .