Someone told me recently, “it’s not spring until the daffodils have been snowed on three times.” If folklore holds any merit, it seems the yellow beauties are finally in the clear, which is hopeful news for the poor forsythia.
It’s easy to see why religions paint this season as one of rebirth. My neighborhood walk feels like a stop motion, with colors inching from the ground to the sky. The droopy tree in the little parklette has begun to blossom, each day flowers creep higher and higher on its barren branches, until one day, it will resemble a glorious Cousin It. In our bedroom, the seedlings are soaking up the fluorescent lights, while dreaming of sinking their roots into the soil. Soon enough they will be combating summer’s weeds.
After hibernating under mounds of blankets, the first night with the windows open felt calendar worthy. I woke up with an excess of energy simply from sunlight, chirping birds and a gentle breeze despite putting myself to bed far too late.
Like spring’s rebirth, these recipes are all about second chances and celebrating floral notes. Yesterday’s stale bread, that rounded heel of a rustic loaf that didn’t fit sandwiches or the cheeseboard, becomes a dish worthy of a sunny spring brunch or a golden hour dessert. Bread pudding (or baked french toast depending on how you spin it) is a sustainable answer to your sweet tooth’s demands. Don’t let that bread go to waste!
Aside from using sustainability as an excuse to eat more sweets, I use it as a framework for many of my choices. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about being more intentional with my purchases, filling my life with only the objects and materials that really bring me joy (I’m trying Marie, I swear!), objects that I will use and will last. With a kitchen gadget for every single process, it can be difficult, but taking a detox vacation in a Tiny House Cabin can help put the essentials into perspective.
I’ve always been drawn to vintage items- the time-tested tools of my grandmother’s era, but lately, as I glean and curate, I’ve been drawn even more to the classic materials- copper and stone. I’ve gradually begun steering my own kitchen in that direction, which is why the soapstone and copper saute pan and soapstone whiskey stones from Uncommon Goods caught my eye. They’re beautiful, they’re meant to last, and each item comes with a story of its maker like Valquiria and Miltinho Lopes Silva, the makers of my new copper and soapstone pan.
Both Valquiria and Miltinho Lopes Silva came from families involved in soapstone mining in Brazil. The couple started their own company making soapstone cookware, and today they employ 20 artisans, all of whom grew up with soapstone and currently earn the same salaries as the founders.
Though similar in material, the inspiration for these whiskey stones emerged far from Brazil. Maker Andrew Hellman discovered a bag of loose stones in his Swedish grandfather’s liquor cabinet. The discovery spurred him to develop his own version using natural Vermont soapstone, and he fulfilled his dream of drinking undiluted single malt scotch.
There’s so much to learn from the past, so much to improve for the future, so finding companies that value those lessons and goals is noteworthy. To say that corporations are simply too big or need x and y dollars and can’t possibly value the little guy won’t cut it anymore. This is why I’m always on the hunt for a “B” next to a company’s name. B Corporations prove that gains are not earned through others’ losses. B Corporations pursue business that’s good for the triple bottom line- people, planet and profit. It’s no surprise that Uncommon Goods counts among the rank of B Corporations.
With spring coming, there are many gift giving occasions on the horizon. Whether celebrating another year with your main squeeze, thanking your best gals, or congratulating the niece or nephew you want to pretend is still in diapers, consider Uncommon Goods to feel better about the gifts you are giving.
While you’re at it, treat yourself to something, an update to your decor, or a new kitchen & bar piece to cherish.
At a time when nature is showcasing its beauty, it’s valuable to remember her vulnerability as well. Here’s to making a dessert in an effort to waste less, to celebrate the local honey bees, and to support companies that prioritize the splendor of the earth. After all, she’s the only one we got.
Happy Shopping, Sipping & Eating!
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods, but all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that share in and support With The Grains’ values.
Earl Grey Honey Simple Syrup for Blackberry Bread Pudding and Cocktails
About These Recipes: The core of this recipe trio is honey. Supporting beekeeping is good for the bees, and honey is better for you than sugar. The Earl Grey flavor is subtle, so play with the tea quantities if you want a stronger bergamot flavor. These are all loose guides, so follow your palate and instincts. The Earl Grey Honey Simple Syrup really shines when paired with Prosecco or Champagne.
Earl Grey Honey Simple Syrup
1 cup water
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1 cup local honey
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil, with the lid on to prevent evaporation. Once boiling, remove from heat, and add the teabags. Set aside to steep with the lid on, for at least 10 minutes.
Remove the teabags, stir in the honey and return to heat until boiling. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Earl Grey Bourbon Cocktail
About this Drink: Falling somewhere between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan (because I always confuse them, but I generally like them both anyway) with a fruit and tea twist.
Yield: makes 1 cocktail
2 oz bourbon or whiskey (I like Blanton’s)
1 oz Sweet vermouth
1 oz Earl Grey Simple Syrup* (recipe above)
5 drops Angostura Bitters
fresh blackberries, to taste
lemon peel for garnish
Combine all the ingredients except the lemon peel, in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until blackberry is muddled. Pour over ice (or a whiskey stone) and garnish with a lemon peel.
Alternately, you can muddle the blackberry on its own, then combine everything in the glass, and stir.
Earl Grey Infused Blackberry Bread Pudding
About this Recipe: There’s always that smaller rounded chunk of rustic bread that doesn’t quite fit sandwiches or make it to the cheeseboard. This is a scaled down bread pudding recipe for that last bit of stale bread. The use of a whole grain bread makes this bread pudding a bit heartier and healthier. The beauty of bread pudding is you can ad lib as you go, adjusting for the quantity of bread you have. Food52 has a helpful guide for making bread pudding without a recipe. For a baking dish, you could use a small cake pan or a loaf pan.
Yield: serves 3-4
spray coconut oil or organic butter for greasing
3-4 thick slices stale whole grain bread (such as my favorite Mediterra’s Mt. Athos Fire Bread)
4-6 ounces organic blackberries
zest of 1 organic lemon
1/2-1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 cup organic/local heavy cream
4 Earl grey tea bags
3 eggs (cage-free/organic)
a shot of Bourbon (or rum)
Earl Grey Honey simple syrup
Grease the bottom of your baking dish with spray coconut oil or butter. Cut the bread into cubes and add the bread and blackberries to the baking dish. The bread and berries should form an even layer. Add more bread if necessary. Set aside.
Pour the cream into a saucepan, and add the teabags. Over medium-low heat, bring the cream to a simmer, and steep the tea until the cream is a light brown color. Remove from heat, and continue to steep until ready to use.
Sprinkle the lemon zest and lavender over the bread and berries.
Combine the eggs and cream, whisking to combine, then pour over the baking dish mixture, making sure to saturate the top surfaces of the bread.
Pour the shot of bourbon and simple syrup over the surface of the mixture. Cover and refrigerate until the bread has soaked up the liquid, at least an hour, ideally overnight.
Once the bread has absorbed the liquid, preheat the oven to 350°F, then bake for 20-30 minutes. If the surface is browning too quickly, cover with foil. The bread pudding is done when you pull it apart slightly with a fork, no liquid comes out.
Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and more Earl Grey Simple Syrup (recipe above).