Groups, Things That Grow, and Hazelnut Quince Financiers

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Phase two of massive planning meetings. This week has been spent in daily “ateliers,” sessions of group brainstorm and systematic formulation of ideas related to themes of importance for the center, so far: axes of development, organizational infrastructure, and human resources.

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These are good things. Things that are massively important to reflect on as Dhagpo enters a new stage of development ushered in by the completion of the Institute. And it’s absolutely incredibly to take part and to find myself in a community where all voices have space to be heard.

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Also, it’s really exhausting. Focusing intensely on issues of importance at the same time as navigating group communication, listening to others, and then distilling frequently dissident—respectful but irreversibly opposite—voices into an organized and comprehensible vision of said issue…erm, need I say more? I’m in starfish-on-a-rock mode, if you know what I mean. Relatively dried-out, flailing one arm in a weak attempt to work my way back to water.

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I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we all are. And I can only imagine how the members of the planning committee feel; they’ve been doing this for weeks and are spending twice as many hours a day doing it as the rest of us. And yet, no one’s really complaining. This is what it takes to move forward, to let things grow. Hard work, patience, and a commitment to staying reasonable, focused, and confident of the goal in the face of whatever obstacles may arise.

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I don’t know how others are handling it, but for my part, I’m taking time to cultivate softness around all of the agitation and exhaustion that can come up in this process. I spent yesterday evening by myself in the kitchen, chopping quinces and cracking hazelnuts, focusing on the resistance of batter against wooden spoon as I stirred, feeling grateful that even in moments when I don’t want to talk to anyone anymore, there are still ways to connect with those around me. To share sweetness and offer comfort, to lighten the mood and acknowledge togetherness, to raise an eyebrow to being mutually grateful and a little over it, all without saying a word.

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I am too tired to explain in detail what makes these little cakes so amazing. Basically they are great. Really, really. I almost never make a recipe twice, but ever so occasionally I find something so good that’s its crave-worthy and becomes a staple of my repertoire. This is that. The depth of the hazelnuts plus the tanginess of the quince. The moist, but slightly hefty crumb. Not too sweet, but enough that you’re satisfied that you’ve eaten dessert. Basically, I’m sold. Now I just have to stay at Dhagpo for the rest of my life so I can always have fresh hazelnuts and quinces right off the tree.

Hazelnut Quince Financiers

Adapted from Naturally Ella

1 cup chopped quince, ¼” chunks (about two medium fruits; also, if you can’t find quinces where you are, tart green apples with a squeeze of lemon will do the trick)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup water

¾ cup (90 grams) raw hazelnuts

¾ cup (95 grams) whole-wheat flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 egg

¼ cup turbinado sugar

6 tablespoons milk

4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

350˚ F (180˚ C)

1 dozen normal-sized cupcakes or sixteen adorable but random-sized French cupcakes

Place the quince, butter, and water in a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat until the fruit is tender, 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Toast the hazelnuts in a frying pan on low heat just until they start to brown, about five minutes. Transfer to a food processor and grind to meal. Take care not to over-process, or you will wind up with nut butter (also great but not the goal for this recipe).

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg. Add in salt and hazelnuts and stir until evenly distributed. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, sugar and milk. Add wet mix to dry mix and stir just until combined. Add butter and quinces and mix just until incorporated. Divide batter between twelve cupcake molds and bake 12-15 minutes, or until tops spring back when touched.

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