Bread Illustrated’s Oatmeal Raisin Bread

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After my disastrous Portuguese Sweet Bread experiment, I wanted to redeem myself with another recipe from the “Sweeter Side” chapter in the Bread Illustrated cookbook. The oatmeal raisin bread recipe seemed approachable and foolproof – plus, I happen to love oatmeal and raisins.

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Similar to the quinoa loaf I made awhile back (I actually make this one every few weeks – it’s really tasty), this recipes gets a little boost of moisture, only instead of quinoa, it uses oatmeal. You make the oatmeal ahead of time, then incorporate it into the dough as it comes together.

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Step one is to make the oatmeal. The recipes calls for old-fashioned rolled oats and cautions against using instant or quick oats, which evidently make the loaf “stodgy”. I’m not exactly sure what stodgy bread tastes like, but I certainly didn’t want to find out, so I bought the right kind of oats.

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I made the oatmeal and while I was waiting for it to cool, I melted the requisite three tablespoons of butter. I’ve found a little hack to get my milk to room temperature quickly: often, a recipe that calls for room temperature milk also includes melted butter. I pour the milk into a metal bowl and I place it on the turned off, but still-warm stove element that I used to melt the butter. Boom.

The wet (melted butter, milk, and a bit of brown sugar disintegrated into the mix) gets kneaded into the dry (bread flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt), then the oatmeal gets added in bit by bit. Then, it’s time to toss in the raisins.

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Ewwwwww

Of course, no bread making process can go perfectly – not under my watch, at least. As I prepared to measure out half a cup of raisins, I was horrified to discover I’d accidentally bought prunes. They must have been hidden among the raisins at Craig’s. I texted my sister to see if I might be able to substitute finely chopped prunes in place of raisins. She told me that it sounded disgusting, so I covered my partially mixed dough and ran to the store to acquire raisins.

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Much better.

Crisis averted. I mixed the raisins in, kneaded the loaf a little by hand, let it rise for an hour and a half, then rolled it into a log that looked kind of like a sad, cute animal.

 

The recipe calls for spraying the loaf with water then rolling it in oats. Check out this action shot: imagine the skills that were involved in taking the picture while simultaneously spraying the spritzer bottle. That is art.

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Sad little animal – am I right?

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I popped the oat-y log into a loaf pan, let it rise while the oven preheated, then baked it for 45 minutes.

 

The result? A lovely little oatmeal raisin loaf. No surprises here – in a good way.

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The loaf shed quite a few of the oats as I cut through it, but I have to admit they make the loaf look rather pretty. As for the taste, here’s are some of my notes:

  • This isn’t the most exciting loaf, but it’s good. The best way I can think of describing it is “Grandma-y”.
  • I love the raisins and would probably add more next time.
  • The oatmeal doesn’t come through in the taste (I mean, oatmeal doesn’t have a particularly strong taste), but it does add a lot of moisture.
  • I think spices would kick it up a notch – cinnamon, nutmeg, something like that – but the book already has a recipe for cinnamon raisin bread, so I won’t fault it.

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In short, I will have no problem eating my way through this tasty little loaf.


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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Thanksgiving Weekend Finale: Capra’s Turkey and Trails Run

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Despite what my previous two Thanksgiving weekend recap posts might suggest (pumpkin pie and butter rolls), I did more than just eat over the long weekend.

Capra, the local trail running store and the hub of Squamish’s trail running community, put on a fun, family-oriented trail run this past Saturday, October 7. The run is called Capra Turkey & Trails, and it was the second year in a row that they put on the event (not bad, considering they recently celebrated their first anniversary).

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As advertised: the weather looked exactly like their promo pic (above)

I haven’t been doing a ton of trail running lately, but recent runs have included running up 50 Shades and running down Credit Line. I was relieved when I found out that the 6k trail run consisted of running halfway around Alice Lake, out on Jack’s, up 50 Shades,  down Credit Line, and back to Alice Lake via Jack’s. These aren’t necessarily easy trails, but at least I was very familiar with them.

The race was right up my alley: small and informal, but well executed. I had signed up online (the $35 fee includes a donation to the food bank), so I just had to pick up my bib before the race and I was good to go. Though the forecast looked iffy, the weather ended up being prime for a fall run: cool and overcast.

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I watched the tail end of the kids races (a 1k – the Gobble Wobble – and a 3k youth trail race), then I set out alongside 38 other runners to take on the trails. I started towards the back-ish but ended up passing a few people on the 50 Shades ascent. I ran the majority of the trail – something I definitely don’t do when I’m running it on my own.

The technical descent down Credit Line made for tricky passing. Luckily, we were pretty well spaced out by then. One dude passed me, and I passed a couple more people (mostly because they had to pull over to take off an outer layer or re-tie shoelaces – but hey, I’ll take it).

Arguably the toughest part of the course is “gentle” ascent back to Alice Lake on Jack’s Trail. This darned trail doesn’t look very daunting, but the up is just enough to be annoying – especially after having conquered the ups on 50 Shades. I made it back to the finish line in 45:15, which put me in 23rd place out of 39 runners. (Technically the last runner was the sweep guy so I’m not sure he should count…)

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Although Turkey & Trails is one of the smaller races I’ve done, they seem to have had the largest prize table of any race I’ve attended – and the best part is that prizes were drawn, not earned. That’s always good news for a middle (er… back) of the packer like myself. I didn’t walk away with either of the grand prizes (Altra shoes or La Sportiva shoes – I wish!), but I did get a snazzy, squishy Capra cup.

Will I be back next year? Heck yes! Will I be running Credit Line anytime soon? Heck no – apparently, a cougar has made it his local hang out, and he’s not that keen on sharing it with the rest of us.

Turkey & Trails – make it part of your Thanksgiving weekend traditions!

The Sea to Summit Trail – Better than the Chief?

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I have a confession to make: I don’t love the Chief.

That’s not quite true – I love looking at it a lot, but I don’t love hiking it. I get the appeal: it’s a good workout, it’s relatively quick (especially if you’re only after one peak), and the views are highly rewarding. But I find the climb to be a bit of a mind-numbing slog and the exposed parts at the top always make me nervous – I get a feeling of vertigo looking down over Squamish and the Howe Sound. So, I do the Chief from time to time, but I don’t love it.

A hike that I do love is the Sea to Summit trail. And now that I have a Sea to Sky Gondola pass (rejoice!), I can do it whenever I want and catch a ride back down for free. Here’s what I love about it:

  • It’s just the right amount of hard. There’s lots of climbing, but there are plenty of flat bits (and even a few dips) to break it up.
  • Hiking it is like playing in a jungle gym. Swinging through trees, clambering up rocks, skipping through sections of roots – there’s lots of variety, and it’s all fun.
  • The timing is just right. I walk/ran it (walked up the steeps, ran through the flats) in about 2 hours. That’s long enough for me to feel like I got a solid dose of nature, but short enough that I can still put in a full day of work.
  • The reward factor is extreme. Your prize for getting to the top: awesome views, food and beverages if you please, and an easy (and scenic) ride back down the gondola.

If you haven’t done the hike yet, read on for a brief recap.

The first part of the hike consists of the first 15 or 20 minutes of the Chief climb (hence my comparison of the two trails). This is my least favourite part – it mainly consists of stepping up wood stairs, stone stairs, even stairs, and uneven stairs. It’s not unlike the Grouse Grind.

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After a little while, a little sign points you towards the gondola. This is where you leave the Chief trail behind – and, in my opinion, the trail becomes a lot more fun. Instead of going straight up, it starts to meander a little bit.

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Getting lost on the Sea to Summit trail is not an issue. I like to imagine the trail marking meeting: “How many trail markers do you think we’ll need, Bob? A hundred?” “Double it. And double it again. You can never have too many trail markers.” Seriously – there are so many trail markers on this trail that it’s alllllmost ridiculous. If you don’t see one within three seconds of seeing the last, you start to feel a little panicky. But I have to admit it makes it easy and very tourist friendly.

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Relatively early on in the hike, an ominous sign warns you that the trail is about to get really real – so steep you’ll need ropes to help you shimmy your way up. While it is true that there are a few rope assisted sections to contend with, I’d argue that the first 20 minutes is the hardest part. The rope sections are short and not exposed in the least (yay for me) – they’re more fun than anything else.

 

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There are a few noteworthy points of interest along the way. Passing under the gondola lines is novel (be sure to wave if you see anyone floating by). Getting to the falls is a treat, and there’s a nice slabby lookout as you get closer to the top. But really, if you take the time to look around, the whole thing is pretty gorgeous. The trees are tall and lush and green and it just smells so darn delicious – it’s the kind of sight that you can start to take for granted if you’ve lived in Squamish for awhile.

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In my opinion, the closer you get to the top, the easier the trail feels. At one point, it widens to an old logging road – there’s a longer, but easier option that continues along this road if you’re feeling it, or else you can go the shorter (and steeper) regular route. The trail picks up a bit and once again becomes steep right at the end, but that’s when you know you’re almost there.

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Suddenly, the trail opens up and you can see the gondola up ahead – shining like a sweet little beacon. You’ve made it! If you don’t have a pass, you can pick up a download ticket for $15. You can make it worth your while by taking your time to explore at the top.

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I imagine this trail can get a little crowded, but I got an early start on a weekday and I saw exactly two other people: a couple in the first 10 minutes of the hike (on the Chief portion). Otherwise, I had the place to myself – not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

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Squamish Staycation: Sea to Sky Gondola, Hiking, and a Stay at the Executive Suites Hotel

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Back in February, I entered a Valentine’s Day contest with the local paper (The Squamish Chief). I guess our compelling love story pulled a heart string or two, because we won THE most epic prize: two passes up the Sea to Sky gondola, a night at the Executive Suites Hotel, and a few bonuses like free breakfast, sparkling wine, and a snack pack.

(I was maybe most excited about the snack pack.)

Half a year later, we finally redeemed our package and enjoyed a bona fide staycation. Allow me walk you through it.

The Sea to Sky Gondola – Hiking

Cedric and I are two of the few Squamptonites who don’t have passes to the Sea to Sky Gondola. I’ve only been up three times, and I’ve never had the chance to do some proper exploring.

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We wanted to do a hike, so we chose Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail with the Neverland Loop addition. The trail is an out-and-back, with a relatively steady climb on the way up (and down on the way back, obviously). We picked a perfect day – a little on the cool side, barely any wind, and clear skies to make the most of the views. There are a few beautiful viewpoints along the way – but then again, the killer views start the moment you step onto the gondola. You don’t necessarily have to work to earn the views at the Sea to Sky Gondola, but it sure is fun to do it that way anyway.

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The best part was the bountiful blueberry bushes towards the end of the trail and on the Neverland Loop (which, frankly, aside from the blueberries wasn’t super enthralling – though it is a nice way to extend the hike a little). We spent a lot of time snacking.

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The Sea to Sky Gondola website estimates 3 – 6 hours for a round trip of Al’s Habrich trail and 1 – 2 hours of the Neverland Loop. We hiked at a steady pace and took a quick snack break (well, a few snack breaks if you count the blueberry picking) and it took us 3 hours total. I think the website errs on the conservative side, which is probably wise.

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The Sea to Sky Gondola – Dinner and a Show

I chose this particular day to redeem our prize because I wanted to check out the last of the Sea to Sky Gondola’s summer performance series. On Friday evenings throughout the summer, they keep the gondola open late and have musical acts perform up top. On this particular night, the Sea to Sky symphony performed. It was lovely.

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While we waited for the show to start, we grabbed some dinner: a cheeseburger with poutine for Cedric (because who can refuse poutine when it’s offered as a side?) and beef chili for me. The chili was on the small side, but it came with a heaping portion of homemade chips which were sooooo good. The total came to around $30 (no drinks or anything), which is a little on the high side but not unexpected for touristy food.

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Cedric customized the ketchup art.

On the way down, we paid the difference to upgrade our day passes to annual passes – woohoo!

The Executive Suites Hotel

Our prize landed us in a *~fancy~* one bedroom suite at the Executive Suites Hotel. It had a kitchen equipped with the basics, a living area with a fireplace, a separate bedroom, a full bathroom with washer/dryer, and a big balcony with stellar views. In Anna Kendrick’s book, she talks about the hotel they stayed at in Squamish while filming Twilight – and I’m pretty sure it was this hotel. There’s a fun fact for you.

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Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering about the snack pack. It was delivered to us in a festive yellow paper bag – very loot-bag-like, which made the whole thing even better. It came with one of those orange San Pellegrino sodas (which I looooove), Smarties, Turtles, Ferrero Rochers, and peanuts. We were also given a bottle of pink bubbly.

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Views from the balcony.

We loved lounging around the hotel room and had a great sleep, thanks to the blackout curtains. The bed sheets felt a little starchy, but the bed itself was good. I woke up before Cedric did, so I made myself a tea and sat outside on the balcony, listening to the girls next door swapping stories about a wedding the night prior. (The bridesmaid slayed her speech, in case you were wondering).

Norman Rudy’s

The Gibbons Group – mastermind behind Whistler hot spots include The Longhorn, Buffalo Bill’s, the Fire Rock, and Moe Joe’s – recently migrated its way to Squamish with Norman Rudy’s, the restaurant located in the hotel. We visited on two occasions: once for a late-night snack, then again for the free breakfast that came with our room.

The late-night snack was fine. We ordered a charcuterie board, which was good but nowhere near the level of, say, the customizable board at Basalt in Whistler, and a salad with seared tuna, which was good in an Earls/Cactus Club kind of way. Our server was nice and we left feeling full, so in all, it was a reasonable success.

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Oatmeal!

Breakfast was so-so. Whoever wrote the menu did a great job at making it sound very appetizing, but the meals themselves were just okay. I’m that person who likes to order oatmeal at restaurants (the best I’ve ever had: Enigma in Vancouver, which makes its oatmeal in apple juice – brilliant!). This oatmeal was tantalizingly described as follows: “Barley oats with seasonal fruit and chai yogurt”. CHAI YOGURT? I love yogurt and I love chai tea – this sounded amazing.

What I actually got was barley oatmeal (cooked perfectly, mind you), with a sliced strawberry and a very light swirl of the yogurt – not enough to taste any of the chai. Too bad.

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No bacon : (

Cedric ordered the classic two eggs and bacon. The only problem: when it arrived, there was no bacon! Cedric was not stoked.

When we mentioned it to the server, she told us she’d bring back extra bacon. I half expected a pile, but there were only 3 pieces. Cedric gave me one, so I was happy.

The “roasted campari tomatoes” described in the menu was, in fact, a lightly cooked single tomato (you can see it in the corner in the picture above). Though that was a little disappointing, the fingerling potatoes coated in parmesan were a hit.

Overall, my review of Norman Rudy’s is that it was fine and a convenient option if you’re staying at the hotel, but there are way better places to eat in Squamish.


All in all, it was a lot of fun playing tourist in our own town. We enjoyed every second of our little getaway. Shout out to the Squamish Chief for picking our entry and to the Sea to Sky Gondola and Executive Suites who sponsored the prize. Every person that we interacted with along the way was extremely nice. Oh, and get ready for a ton of Sea to Sky Gondola posts – I’m going to make the most of my new pass.


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Anadama Bread: Just Add Molasses!

Some people might think that cookbooks are going the way of the dinosaur.

The internet is full of a gazillion recipes, so why limit yourself to a cookbook?

I’ll tell you why: Anadama bread.

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I’ve never, ever heard of Anadama bread before. I can’t imagine stumbling across it online. But there it is in my Bread Illustrated cookbook, nestled tidily into the sandwich breads chapter.

I like trying variations on the regular American sandwich bread. I was going to make a quinoa whole wheat loaf, when I realized that I had leftover molasses from making bagels. I double checked that it was the right kind (robust, not blackstrap), and realized I had everything I need to whip up a fluffy russet coloured loaf of Anadama bread.

From what I gather, Anadama bread is the bees knees in New England. It uses molasses and cornmeal, two ingredients that evidently go way back in the ole northeast. It also has a little melted butter – but aside from these ingredients, the rest of the loaf is pretty standard for sandwich bread.

You can bust out a loaf of this in an afternoon from start to finish. I tried baking my loaf at the same time as I was making vanilla macarons, which resulted in some tricky timing with the oven. It’s moments like this that you realize why those fancy kitchens have two ovens – because what else can you do when you want to bake macarons and Anadama bread at the same time!

As a result, the loaf had a little extra rising time. By the time it was ready to be baked, it was bursting out of the pan. I worried that this would either result in a) a collapsed bread or b) a big air pocket, but in the end, neither happened. Instead, I got a thick, gorgeous loaf of molasses bread.

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You can definitely taste the molasses in this bread. I associate molasses with things like gingerbread loaf, gingerbread cookies, and gingerbread houses (seeing a theme?), so it was very odd to have this festive odour filling my kitchen in the heart of the summer.

Never in a million years would I think to add molasses to bread. Never could I have imagined that Anadama bread was a thing. But you know what?

It works. And I like it. Anadama bread just might become the hottest new thing in the PNW – and you heard it here first.

Back to Basics: Bobbette & Belle’s Madagascar Vanilla Macarons

I tried a couple of macarons variations from the Bobbette & Belle cookbook a little while back – and while they were scrumptious, I knew I could do a little better in terms of technique and look.

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You’ll read about this later, but the more golden one was cooked at a slightly higher temperature than the whiter one in the front.

When trying to decide on a treat to bake for my beloved book club meeting, I decided to give the macarons another whirl – but this time, to do it right. Madagascar Vanilla seemed like a good bet: simple, but delicious if done well – and nothing to hide behind if I failed spectacularly.

I googled a few macaron-making tips and came across this website, which I found helpful. Then I realized that many of the tips were actually written in the Bobbette & Belle cookbook. Towards the beginning of the book, there is a two-page spread with tips on baking French macarons. Where was this when I needed it a few months ago?!?

Here’s what I did differently this time around.

What Worked

Sifting

A note on sifting: I once bought a proper sifter, the kind that has a little handle that you squeeze to grind the contents. Then I stupidly washed it, and all the flour bits got hard and become stuck between the mesh. It no longer functioned properly.

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Sifted like a pro.

These days, I use a good old fashioned mesh strainer as a sifter. I tap it against the palm of my hand – low fi, but effective.

Evidently, sifting is a big deal in the world of macaron making. First, I sifted the almond meal (I measured it out post, not pre, sifting). Then, I combined the almond meal with the icing sugar – and I sifted it again. No lumpy macaron batter here, folks.

I also strained the egg whites, which was probably overkill – but go big or go home, right? (FYI – I will not do this again.)

Smaller Shells

My last macarons lacked the cute, dainty touch that the best macarons have. I used a template for a tinier cookie this time. I liked the outcome a lot better – and it made more cookies, so that’s a bonus.

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Patience, Patience, Patience

I relied on tactile cues over time-based cues. For instance, the book suggests letting the macarons rest for 30 minutes: “The shells should feel dry to the touch on top. The length of time they need to sit will vary depending on the time of year and the humidity.” Mine took longer than 30 minutes – more like 40-45.

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The “molten lava’ batter

I did the same with the buttercream frosting. I’ve had some bad luck with the Bobbette & Belle buttercream, but this time, I let the egg white/sugar mixture cool for almost twice as long as the book suggested. The icing seemed to hold together much better – although I didn’t have any additions like I’ve had in the past with raspberry puree or lemon juice.

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Whisk, whisk, and whisk some more

Lower Temps

I cooked my macarons in two batches. The white vanilla shells are very unforgiving, and the first batch was just a little golden. For the second batch, I dropped the temperature from 300 to 285. It was a minor adjustment, but it worked: the second batch was snow white.

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These golden nuggets are from the first batch


Okay, let’s not kid ourselves here. Though I’ve made progress, I’m not yet a macaron master. Here are a few things I have yet to figure out:

Still Struggling

Flat Shells

My shells are somewhat rounded. When placed on a counter, they wobble a little bit. I feel like traditional macarons have flatter tops and bottoms.

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Baked… but not perfectly smooth

Actually, I think my whole shell piping skills could use some work. Although they came out quite pretty and uniform (and I didn’t lose any to cracking, though a couple rose unevenly and sacrificed themselves to become taste testers), they have that Hershey kiss swirl that I can’t seem to avoid when piping. I fixed the swirls by dipping my finger in water and pressing them down, but you can tell my shells aren’t perfect.

The Damn Buttercream Icing Temperature

Bobbette & Belle, I love your recipes – but I hate your buttercream icing! I can’t figure out how to use my candy thermometer with shallow amounts of food. You’re supposed to whisk the egg whites and sugar over a bain marin until it hits 140, but mine never seemed to go much higher than 110. When I used a meat thermometer out of desperation, it skyrocketed well above 140. It seems to have worked itself out in the end, but that’s more due to luck than talent.

Icing Ratios

To make a batch of macarons, you only need half of the buttercream icing recipe. I think you’d be fine with only a quarter batch. I had so much icing and I feel like I may have overfilled the shells just to avoid wasting the icing – and I still ended up with tons of leftovers. It kills me a little bit to watch that expensive unsalted butter melt down the drain.

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This is what a little too much icing looks like

Final Verdict

I’m proud of my little vanilla macarons. They turned out very well. The shells have a crispy outer and chewy inner. My icing didn’t dribble. They are cute. They are delicate. I think I may – finally – be ready to graduate to fancier variations, like mint caramel or earl grey.

 

Race Report: The Squamish 50 23K Trail Race 2017

The Squamish 50 kicked my butt.

And I only ran the 23k course.

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Before I knew I was about to get my butt kicked.

I have mad respect for those who ran the 50k and 50 mile courses this weekend. I bow down to those who tackled the 50/50 (50 miles on Saturday, 50k on Sunday).

The Squamish 50 23k was my big race of the summer – the Loop the Lakes 21k and Comfortably Numb races earlier this summer were part of the build up to this run, which would be the longest and highest (1000m ascent, 1200m descent).

I think my summer fitness peaked around June. With vacations, camping, hiking, and out-of-town weddings, this summer has been fun but busy. I’ve been trail running consistently, but in a somewhat haphazard manner. Calling it training would be a bit of a stretch.

Boy, did I feel the effects of my non-training in today’s race.

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225 runners and I took off at 8AM from the start line at Quest University. The first couple of kilometers were part of the Legacy trail that I’ve been running semi-regularly this summer – this was the only part of the course that I was familiar with. I seeded myself towards the middle-back, which seemed about right. Most of the runners in my zone did the same run-walk thing I like to do up the switchbacks around this part of the race.

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I felt pretty good by the time I hit the first aid station 4k into the race. I brought my own food and drink, so I didn’t need to stop. I knew there was another uphill section after the aid station, and that was a bit of slog, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

Although I hadn’t run these trails before, they were similar to those I was used to running. The uphills were pretty steep and I walked all of them, but I cruised on the flats and the downhills, enjoying the technical bits when they showed up. When I hit the “11k to go!” sign, I was feeling pretty good – though I was definitely pacing myself. I wasn’t setting any course records here.

The group was pretty well spaced out. I passed some people, but others passed me. It didn’t feel overcrowded and I didn’t feel like I was hot on anyone’s heels (nor was anyone stepping on mine). Things were going fine.

I passed the second and final aid station shortly after the “11k to go!” sign – and this is where things went wrong. I hit a downhill section, which was wonderful. I booked it down the long, glorious hill and ended up at a bridge with a bunch of kayakers. I looked to see if there were signs indicating that I should cross the bridge – but I couldn’t see any signage or flagging tape. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen any markers in a little bit.

This is the point where the kayakers informed me I’d taken a wrong turn – and that the course continued ALL THE WAY UP THE HILL I’D JUST RUN.

This was, in a word, heartbreaking. I turned around and started power hiking back, and then I saw another girl barrelling down the hill. I informed her that we’d come off course. On our way back up, we came across another 9 runners who had done the same thing. It was brutal heading back on the long, steep hill. I knew we still had a lot of uphill sections and I was so annoyed at having to use my energy on this one. I didn’t understand how it had happened.

When I finally got back up to the top, I understood. The signs clearly pointed us to the left – they’d put two pylons on the right, which was down the hill I’d taken. My brain had seen the pylons and assumed I was meant to run between them. If I’d looked up, I would have seen that the tape and markers continued down the left.

This mistake cost me energy, but the worst part was that it really rattled my mental game. The detour had taken me about 15 minutes, which is pretty significant. I tried to get myself back on track, but I couldn’t help think about all the people who had passed ahead of me during that time. Ughhh.

I had lots of time to think about it, because the next stretch continued uphill. I kind of felt like I wasn’t “racing” anymore, so I occupied myself with trying to find trash on the trail. The Squamish 50 has a cool initiative where if you pick up garbage along the way, you can redeem it for a pair of new running socks at the end. This kept my mind busy for awhile.

Eventually, I felt like I’d found my stride again. There was a long downhill section that went on for awhile and felt pretty fun.

Then came the uphill.

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That final spike doesn’t look that bad on the elevation profile. It’s very deceiving.

There is a horrible, awful, dreadful uphill portion that starts around kilometer 16 and lasts about 2.5k. It basically sucked the soul out of me. I was in a pack of five or six girls, who became my heroes/guardian angels/soul sisters. We slogged through the seemingly endless uphill sections together. Seriously – it felt like it went on FOREVER. And it was very steep. Any energy that remained in my legs was zapped. I for sure said “I’m dying” out loud at some point.

One of the girls said, “Hopefully this will motivate you – we only have 6k to go!”

In fact, it did not motivate me at all. I had NO IDEA how I could possibly squeeze 6k out of my useless lower half.

What goes up must come down and blah blah blah – but while downhills seemed fun earlier on in the race, now they were just awful. I felt two big blisters forming on my big toes, and I did not trust my legs whatsoever. I had to dig really deep here to try to keep my mind sharp and to make sure my legs were listening to what my brain was saying. It wasn’t horribly technical, but as I learned earlier this season, it only takes one misstep to cause a nasty injury.

I hobbled down the trail – and “hobbled” is the perfect word to describe what I was doing. I recognized the voice of someone I knew and chatted with her for a bit. Eventually, we emerged into the road part of the race. A sign indicated we had 3k to go. I thought, “3k – I can do that. I hope.”

I felt borderline delirious for that last little bit. I ran the downhills okay, but the flats now seemed very difficult. I tried to dissociate from my body (or was it my mind?) and made it through the park. When I hit the underpass, there was a slightly uphill bit that broke my running spell. I now began a run-walk routine: run two lampposts, then walk one. Run two pylons, then walk one.

It’s funny – last year I was a course marshal towards the finish line of this very race. I remember seeing people walking and thinking, “You’re almost there! Pick up the pace – you’re almost at the finish line!” Oh, if I knew then what I know now!

I have to admit that the course marshals towards the end did give me a little extra pep to my step (and by that, I mean I’d run three pylons, walk one). As I got close to the park where the finish line is located, the enthusiastic cheerers gave me the boost I needed to make it to the finish line.

I did it!

My time was 3:37:11. To be honest, I don’t really care about the time. I stopped caring when I made that detour. I figured, hey – my time won’t be great, but at least I’ll be able to beat it next year. I placed 163/226, 53/68 in my division (… not so good…), and 99/141 for the ladies. So that puts me around the 25th percentile. Olympics, here I come!

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This result thingy makes it look like I ran 50k in 3:37:11. So going off that, then I TOTALLY CRUSHED IT.

The finish line was awesome – after I recovered, I partook in the BBQ and enjoyed an Alice & Brohm ice cream (I volunteered at package pick up on Friday and each volunteer was given a free ice cream token). I ran into two separate girlfriends – who happened to come 13th and 14th out of the women and finished nearly an hour faster than me. They are amazing (and unfortunately in my age group – ha ha).

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Lunch of champions.

This race was definitely type 2 fun. I very much hated the second half of it. But I’m already excited to run it again next year. However, it made me realize that there is NO WAY I’m remotely ready to run a 50k race. Especially not this one.

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See you next year, you fickle and wonderful beast of race.