Two years ago to the date marks the day I took my life into my own hands and changed the course. It feels strange to reflect on my decisions since then. So much in my world has changed that if someone had told me how the direction of my life would zig and zag through different paths, I certainly wouldn't have believed them.
After quitting grad school for physics and moving back home, I jumped headfirst into baking and spent the next year working as a baker in two very different bakeries. The first position was in a small cake shop. While it was a lovely opportunity, it didn't allow me as much freedom in the kitchen as I would have liked. I moved onto a second, more expansive bakery that made dozens of pastries each day from scratch. Even though I had the freedom to create whatever I wished (and I loved this freedom), there was a small, but irksome feeling in the back of my mind that wouldn't quite go away. Something just didn't feel right.
Another change began brewing within me.
Though I've alluded to it several times on the blog, I've never outright told you that I no longer bake full-time. In many ways, I was afraid of what you would think of me. I made such a big deal of quitting school to follow my dreams that it seemed like I would be letting you down to suddenly back out on those plans. I feared you'd start to view me as capricious or fickle. Truthfully, I may have been afraid to admit to myself that I had made such a huge decision that didn't work out.
There were many reasons becoming a full-time baker wasn't right for me. The pay was low, the early morning hours were a constant battle, and I was in a constant state of exhaustion from working two to three jobs just to support myself. When I look back on those experiences, I truly loved baking, but the memories are so blurred from fatigue that all I remember is this constant feeling of trying to do everything I could to keep my head above the rising water of responsibilities. It was a bittersweet moment when I realized that I just couldn't afford to be a baker anymore, physically, emotionally, or financially.
I honestly believed baking was where I was supposed to be and it was such a devastating blow to realize the experience wasn't what I thought it would be. I had romanticized the life of a baker and reality was an unwelcome visitor.
The next few months I floundered around, uncertain of myself, uncertain where I belonged, worried my feet would never find the right footing. I continued to bake, but this time it was in my own kitchen, for myself (and for you). Baking has become a passionate hobby and I love enjoying the fruits of my labor. Don't worry; I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.
The constant throughout all of these changes in my life was my job as a math and science tutor. It took a few nudges and not so subtle hints from a few people (thanks, Kari!) to help me realize it may have been my calling all along. Right now, I am right back in grad school, but this time for education. In a twist of irony, I plan to become a high school teacher in physics. I begin student teaching in January. Life is full of surprises, it seems.
My mother once shared a few words with her vulnerable daughter that I have never forgotten. She said that some people follow a linear path, the destination laid out in front of them, always in sight. Other people follow a curved path, twisting and turning, the unknown lurking around the next corner. Both of these paths, though very different, lead us to the place we are meant to be. My path may be riddled with curves, but I've learned to embrace the zigs and zags of my road.
Persimmon Cake is a cake to be enjoyed at the start of the winter season. Very ripe persimmons are pureed and mixed into a simple cake batter. The cake bakes up moist and fragrant from the persimmon puree. A splash of apple juice and a hint of spice bring together the flavors in this lightly spiced dessert. A simple sprinkling powdered sugar is all this cake needs to complete an afternoon tea.
Note: Persimmons are typically available in grocery stores from October to December and may take a couple weeks to fully ripen. Buy them now and enjoy them in the weeks to come!
Yields 10-inch cake (or 2 small bundt cakes)
1 cup (250 grams) persimmon puree** (about 3-4 persimmons)
1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) apple juice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease baking pan(s).
In a large mixing bowl, stir together persimmon puree, sugar, and vegetable oil until uniform. Mix in the eggs, vanilla extract, and apple juice. Gradually add the baking powder, spices, and salt. Fold in the flour until just incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar before serving.
** To make persimmon puree, make sure to use only very ripe persimmons (they are the texture of an overripe tomato you might throw out; dark spots are okay). Peel the skin off the persimmons, remove any seeds, and puree in a food processor or blender.