Monday, April 12, 2021

Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

Book Review: Recursion by Blake CrouchRecursion by Blake Crouch

Published: June 11, 2019

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 336

Synopsis: Memory makes reality.

That's what NYC cop Barry Sutton is learning, as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

That's what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It's why she's dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face to face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds, but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

At once a relentless pageturner and an intricate science-fiction puzzlebox about time, identity, and memory, Recursion is a thriller as only Blake Crouch could imagine it—and his most ambitious, mind-boggling, irresistible work to date.

Thoughts: One thing you can always say about Blake Crouch's books (well, the two I have read anyway) -- they don't sit around and move at a languid pace. The plot kicks into gear quickly, in this case drawing you into a mystery of memory and time. The action jumps between two main characters  -- Barry and Helena -- who are involved in the story in different ways at first, but eventually come together. 

Like many science fiction novels, someone creates something they shouldn't have, it ends up wrecking havoc upon the world, and our heroes must work to try to stop it. It's actually kind of hard to write a review of this book because I don't want to give anything away about the plot. I knew very little about it going into reading it, and I think that really let me become engrossed in the story in a different way. I didn't have preconceived ideas about where it might be going, but, as with any good story, was able to anticipate where it might be heading while still being surprised by some twists and turns along the way.

When I was a kid, I was really into Michael Crichton's novels, and in some ways Crouch's books remind me of Crichton's -- thrillers set around a scifi core. So, if you like Crichton or Crouch, but haven't read the other, I'd certainly recommend giving it a try. And if you are a fan of the scifi thriller in general, Crouch is certainly a modern author to pay attention to. His books will keep you turning the pages while also making you think. 

Rating: 4/5

Buy on Amazon 

What I'm Reading Next: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Alabama Orange Rolls

Alabama Orange Rolls by freshfromthe.com
When you want a delicious, ooey gooey sweet roll for breakfast, the first type of roll you probably think of is the classic cinnamon roll. And while cinnamon rolls are definitely amazing, might I suggest you try something a little different and go with these orange rolls instead? They're still ooey and gooey and sweet, but also offer a little extra tang and don't veer into the too sweet territory.
Alabama Orange Rolls by freshfromthe.comNow, like any yeasted dough, you're gonna have to plan ahead for when you want to eat these. These aren't a roll you can just bust out in a half hour, there are multiple rises and waiting for them to cool before glazing... all of that good stuff. If you want to start making them in the morning, they're more of a brunch situation than breakfast, if we're being honest with ourselves.
Alabama Orange Rolls by freshfromthe.comThe original recipe for these rolls calls for using a dark 9-inch cake pan, and you can see I most certainly did not do that here. A dark pan will cook them faster than a light pan, and will also give you crisper edges. Now, personally, I prefer the roll to be soft all around rather than hard on the outside and gooey on the middle, so I was perfectly happy with the light pan results. But if you enjoy the hard outside and soft middle type of thing, you might want to try a dark pan. Either way, they'll turn out delicious, though. So if you love rolls and you love orange, get to it!
Alabama Orange Rolls by freshfromthe.com

Write recipe photo description here

Amazing brunch rolls that have just the right amount of sweet and tangy orange flavor.

Ingredients:
    Dough:
  • 3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, warm (110 degrees F)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
  • Filling:
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Glaze:
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Instructions:
  1. For the Dough: In a stand mixer bowl, whisk flour, sugar, yeast, and salt together. Add orange juice, cream, butter, and egg and yolk. Using the dough hook, knead on medium speed until dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes longer. Dough will be nice and soft.
  2. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead until smooth ball forms, about 30 seconds. Place dough in a greased large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  3. For the Filling: Combine sugar and zest in a small bowl. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter. Roll dough into 16 by 8-inch rectangle with long side parallel to counter’s edge. Spread butter over surface of dough using small offset spatula, then sprinkle evenly with sugar mixture. Roll dough away from you into tight, even log and pinch seam to seal.
  4. Grease 9-inch cake pan, line bottom with parchment paper, then grease parchment. Roll log seam side down and cut into eight 2-inch-thick slices using a serrated knife. Place 1 roll in center of prepared pan and others around perimeter of pan, seam sides facing center. Cover with plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
  5. Discard plastic and bake rolls until golden brown on top and interior of center roll registers 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes. Let rolls cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
  6. For the Glaze: Once rolls have cooled for 30 minutes, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until large, slow bubbles appear and mixture is syrupy, about 4 minutes.
  7. Using spatula, loosen rolls from sides of pan and slide onto platter; discard parchment. Brush glaze over tops of rolls and serve warm.
Recipe from Cook's Country
Alabama Orange Rolls by freshfromthe.com

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Book Review: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Book Review: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Published: September 15, 2020

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 878

Synopsis: Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she's awakened a nightmare. During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she's delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn't at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity's greatest and final hope...

Thoughts: Wow. So, it's been some time since I've read such an epically long book. Many years, in fact. It's a commitment to read such a long book, you know? And this book took me awhile to read -- almost two and a half months. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, because I did, just that my reading has mostly been limited to before bed, which inherently leads me to fall asleep.

Anyway, enough of that. Let's get on to the book! Paolini is known for having previously written the Eragon book series, which I thought was good for a time, and then kind of ended not as great as I had been hoping. His writing, to me, just wasn't that amazing and was amateurish at times. But that is definitely not the case here! It's very clear that Paolini has matured as a writer. If you asked me whether I thought this book was written by the same person, I'd probably say no. I went into it wondering if his writing style would have changed, and I was pleasantly surprised. 

Now, as I said, this book is long. But it's a complete story! This isn't the first book in a planned series (at least not for now), so you're not committing yourself to multiple huge tomes. In reading the afterword, he wrote it with the intention that each part of the book (three) were meant to sort of represent a trilogy, which totally makes sense. 

So I've been pretty effusive so far, so why does this book get a 4/5 and not a 5/5? I think for me, personally, I just have a hard time caring about a lot of straight action. While I understand that battles are often necessary to stories, that's where I get super bored and just wish those battles would be over. There are a few different battle-type sequences in this book, and those just lost my interest a bit. It also felt like a very technical book at times. It was very much embedded in the science part of science fiction. It definitely showed that he did a lot of homework to make this book feel realistic. But, at the same time, I felt like it could've used a little more emotion. While I liked Kira as a character, I also felt a little removed from her at times, if that makes sense. 

In any event, if you're a science fiction fan, you'll likely enjoy this. If you aren't, you might not, as again it is very much science fiction and not fantasy.

Rating: 4/5

Buy on Amazon 

What I'm Reading Next: Recursion by Blake Crouch

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from Amazon links in my posts.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Toffee Oat Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Recipe for Toffee Oat Cookie Dough Ice Cream by freshfromthe.com.
I don't know about you, but my favorite ice cream since childhood has been cookie dough. While normally a cookie dough ice cream will be your basic sweet cream or vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookie dough as the dough, who says that chocolate chip cookie dough has to be the cookie dough of choice? No one! That's just what's expected. So, after making some delicious Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies recently, I was like wait a minute. This dough is awesome, why not use it as the cookie dough in a homemade ice cream?!
Recipe for Toffee Oat Cookie Dough Ice Cream by freshfromthe.com.
So, here's the truth about this particular cookie dough -- it's very time consuming to make. You've got to make a pecan brittle, and then blitz part of it in with some of the flour, and then also brown some butter. But the result is so good! If you're ever planning on making the cookies, definitely save some of the dough to mix in to a homemade ice cream. You won't regret it. That being said, you can totally swap in any cookie dough here. The ice cream is just a sweet cream base without any special specific flavorings, so it's extremely versatile.
Recipe for Toffee Oat Cookie Dough Ice Cream by freshfromthe.com.
I just used Salt and Straw's Ice Cream Base in this particular combination, mostly because I didn't want to use up a bunch of egg yolks, and their recipe uses xanthan gum to thicken the ice cream and hold it all together instead of said egg yolks. But say you have some cookie dough and you'd rather use a custard-based ice cream as the base. That's totally fine! As I said, this recipe is very versatile, you can swap the ice cream or the dough and you'll probably still end up with a result that you love. 

What's nice about this ice cream is that it is a bit lighter, almost like what you'd find in an ice cream sandwich, and it works quite well with the toffee oat cookie dough. Honestly, I could probably eat the whole container in one go, but let's not get crazy here.

Write recipe photo description here

A take on homemade cookie dough ice cream, highly customizable to your own cookie dough preferences.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup Oat and Pecan Brittle cookie dough
Instructions:
  1. Combine the sugar, dry milk, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and stir well.
  2. Pour the corn syrup into a medium pot and stir in the whole milk. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
  3. Add the cream and whisk until fully combined. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours, or for even better texture and flavor, 24 hours. Stir the base back together if it separates during the resting time. The base can be further stored in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freeze for up to 3 months. (Just be sure to fully thaw the frozen base before using it.)
  4. Once chilled, churn according to your ice cream maker's specifications. Place your storage container in the freezer while the base churns. Break up your cup of cookie dough into pieces about 1/2 inch big. Once the ice cream is ready, transfer the it to your storage container, and gently fold in your prepared cookie dough with a rubber spatula.
Ice Cream recipe from Salt and Straw Ice Cream Cookbook by Tyler Malek and JJ Goode
Cookie Dough recipe from Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz
Recipe for Toffee Oat Cookie Dough Ice Cream by freshfromthe.com.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies

Claire Saffitz's Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies, by freshfromthe.com.
Are you a Dessert Person? If so, then you've come to the right place, because today's recipe is straight out of Claire Saffitz's cookbook called, fittingly, Dessert Person. If you're like wait, that name sounds familiar, where do I know that from -- Claire used to work for Bon Appetit, and hosted several YouTube series for them. Now, she's got her own series, where she makes recipes from her cookbook. One of the first episodes she did was actually for these cookies. And I can report that, after having made them twice now -- these cookies are legit.
Claire Saffitz's Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies, by freshfromthe.com.These cookies are chewy, sweet, with a bit of crunch from the pecan brittle that's not only in the flour mixture, but also in bits throughout the cookies as well. They are definitely a labor of love -- these aren't cookies you can just decide you want to make and be eating in 30 minutes. Indeed, if you want to make these cookies the best they can be, then you're going to have to let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Again, labor of love, but honestly? Worth it.

Also? They have brown butter, and if you know me, you know I love brown butter. What's not to love? Any time I brown some butter, and that lovely, nutty aroma starts wafting up, it's amazing. Claire has said she struggles not to put brown butter in every recipe and, girl, I totally get it. It almost always makes things better. 
Claire Saffitz's Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies, by freshfromthe.com.
One thing I do want to mention is that you should not overcook these. If the very center of your cookies look a little underdone, but the edges are nice and brown after the first amount of baking time, take 'em out. The centers will continue cooking on the pan for the five more minutes you leave them on there, and if you overcooked them at all, they will turn out much crunchier in the end. Of course, if you prefer a crunchier cookie, then more power to you, go ahead, but I personally love it when you get a nice, soft center.

Another tip -- if you don't want to bake all of these cookies are once, then you can totally freeze the portioned dough to bake up some fresh cookies on another night when you're having a craving. Same oven temperature, close to the same amount of time. Frozen portioned cookie dough is something your future self with be grateful for, and I highly recommend it.


Write recipe photo description here

Amazing sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy, delicious toffee-y oat and pecan cookies worth the effort.

Ingredients:
    For the Brittle
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans (5 oz / 142g)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (5.3 oz / 150g)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 oz / 57g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand)
  • For the Cookies
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz / 227g), cut into tablespoons
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (6.1 oz / 173g)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (0.22 oz / 6g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (0.21 oz / 6g)
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (7 oz / 200g)
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (5.3 oz / 150g)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3.5 oz / 100g)
  • 2 large eggs (3.5 oz / 100g), cold from the fridge
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Instructions:
    For the Brittle:
  1. Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350F. Scatter the pecans on a small rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing halfway through, until they're golden and nutty smelling, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside to allow the pecans to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside (I only have one small baking sheet, so I just put the pecans from above into a bowl and then used the same one). In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, butter, and 2 tablespoons of water (1 oz / 28g) and cook over medium-low heat, stirring gently with a heatproof spatula to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to medium and bring the syrup to a rapid simmer. Cook without stirring, swirling the pan often, until the syrup turns a deep amber color, 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the pecans. Once the pecans are well coated, add the baking soda and salt and stir quickly to incorporate -- the mixture will rapidly foam and sputter as the baking soda aerates the caramel. Quickly scrape the brittle out onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread into a thin layer, os possible, before it starts to harden (which happens very quickly). Set the baking sheet aside until the brittle is completely cooked, 5 to 10 minutes. Chop the brittle into pea-sized bits and set aside.
  3. For the Cookies:
  4. Measure out 4 ounces (113g) of the butter, place in the bowl of a stand mixer, and set aside. Place the other 4 ounces (113g) butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the butter comes to a boil. Continue to cook, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the butter sputters, foams, and eventually you see browned bits floating about, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the browned butter to the stand mixer bowl, making sure you scrape in all the browned bits. Set the bowl aside to cool until the butter begins to resolidify, about 30 minutes.
  5. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda, then add half of the pecan brittle bits, and 1 cup (3.5 oz, 100g) of the oats. Blitz the mixture in long pulses until the oats and brittle are broken down and finely ground. Set side.
  6. Set the bowl of cooled butter on the mixer and attach the paddle. Add the dark brown and granulated sugars and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and smooth but not fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and continue to beat until you have a very light and satiny mixture, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour/oat/brittle mixture and beat on low until no dry spots remain and you have a soft, evenly mixed dough. Add the remaining pecan brittle bits and 1 cup (3.5 oz / 100g) oats and mix on low again just until dispersed. Fold the batter several times with a flexible spatula to ensure everything is evenly mixed.
  7. Using a 2-ounce scoop or 1/4 cup measure, scoop level portions of dough and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet as close together as possible (you'll space them out before baking). Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 12 hours and up to 48. (If you're pressed for time, a couple of hours in the fridge will do. Just note the baked cookies won't be as chewy).
  8. When you're ready to bake, arrange two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, or silicon sheets.
  9. Place 6 pieces of chilled cookie dough on each of the prepared baking sheets, spacing so they're at least 3 inches apart. Bake the cookies on the upper and lower racks until they are dark golden brown around the edges, 16 to 20 minutes, switching racks and rotating the sheets front to back after 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to rest for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
  10. Carefully move one of the oven racks to the center position, place the remaining dough on one of the baking sheets (it's okay if it's still warm), and bake on the center rack (this last sheet might bake a bit faster than the first two).
Recipe from Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz
Claire Saffitz's Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies, by freshfromthe.com.