I've decided that I like this whole wrap-around vacation thing that I did this time. I was off starting on the 4th, and went back to work yesterday. It was long enough for a good rest, and I got to have two short work weeks! I can definitely see myself doing this again, especially since we don't usually go anywhere when I'm off--I'm just making sure that I use my vacation time so I don't lose it.
It's amazing how getting somewhat caught up on sleep can improve your whole outlook on life. As I mentioned in my last post, I was totally stressed out by everything that was going on in my life. I was having a great Twitter conversation with my friends Rebecca & Abby on Tuesday (before I went back to work) about the fact that I was mostly in need of an attitude adjustment. Work is what it is, and I need to pay the bills. Heck, I actually mostly like what I do, and I'm darn good at it. But I need to learn to leave work at work. I don't mean that I actually bring stuff home, since my job isn't the sort where I can really do that. I mean that I need to do a better job of shifting gears mentally so that I don't bring the stress home with me. Easier said than done, I'm sure, but I have to start somewhere.
One of the things that I've been doing this summer is participating in an online course that focuses on bringing more play, rest and kindness into our lives on a daily basis. I realized that my worrying about work so much was interfering with my rest for sure, and meant that I was seldom in the mood for any play. And I need to be kinder to myself. One of the messages from earlier this week was, "You are enough. (it's true)" Too often, I feel like I'm not at all close to being enough. But if I keep telling myself that I am, maybe I'll start to believe it.
So what does the dessert pictured here have to do with all this? Well, it was part of my attempt to "play" more. I bake for a couple of reasons. For one, I really enjoy making things for others--I like seeing them happy, and enjoy the compliments I receive, too. =) But I also bake because I like to "play around," as Dorie Greenspan says. I like to see what will happen if I change things up a bit with a recipe, or take components from different places and put them together in new ways.
I have to admit, the mini parfait idea was inspired by a show on (I think) Cooking Channel. They profiled a bakery called Vanilla Bakeshop that does these in a variety of flavors. My first thought was that it was a cool idea. My second was, "I can do that!" I treated myself to a visit to Crate & Barrel while I was on vacation, and among other things, I came home with several 3-oz shot glasses. So then I just had to figure out what to put in them. I could have used crumbled cookies or bits of cake, but then I remembered these Cocoa Crumbs that Dorie posted about recently. Naturally, I had to experiment--I did two half-batches, one with Valrhona dutch-processed cocoa, and one with Scharffen Berger natural cocoa. For the pudding-y part, I turned to Dorie again, this time pulling out my copy of Baking, which has a recipe for creamy chocolate pastry cream in the back of the book. I whipped up some cream, and started layering. (A pastry bag & piping tip make it much easier to get the pastry cream and whipped cream neatly into the tall, skinny containers.) At the last minute, I also drizzled in some raspberry sauce, since I love the combination of raspberry with chocolate.
The verdict? Mmm, we really enjoyed these delightful desserts. The small size is just enough to get a good taste of everything without feeling like you're overindulging. The crumbs made with the Dutch-processed cocoa are very reminiscent of Oreos, which isn't a bad thing, but I really enjoyed the ones with natural cocoa, too. They had a more interesting character. I hope you'll experiment for yourself to see which you like better. I'll be making more of these soon--I can't wait to try different flavor combinations.