• the night bakery •

There's my day job, and then there's The Night Bakery.

Brown Butter Skillet Corn Bread

 
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This is the only corn bread recipe you will ever need. Period. I know, kind of a bold statement. Relatively speaking, of course. But seriously. Corn bread can be dry, boring, weird, forgettable. This is none of those. This is “holy shit this is good” corn bread. This is “I can’t believe how easy this is” corn bread. Whatever. Do as you will. You won’t know until you make it. It comes to us from Melissa Clark at the New York Times.

Ingredients
12 T unsalted butter (170 g)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 1/4 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup fine or medium grind cornmeal (180 g)
1/2 cup whole wheat floor (65 g)
1/2 cups all-purpose flour (60 g)
1 1/2 T baking powder (18 g)
1/2 t baking soda (5 g)
1 1/2 t salt (9 g)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375•F degrees. 

Brown the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Swirl to coat sides of pan and pour into a bowl. Whisk maple syrup, then buttermilk into the butter. When cool, whisk in the eggs.

Mix together dry ingredients and combine with butter mixture.

Reheat the skillet if it has cooled. Pour batter into the skillet. Bake until the top starts to brown and a toothpick comes out clean - 30-40 minutes. Cool in the skillet for 10 minutes before slicing.

Download a PDF of this recipe here.

 

Notes

Very easy.

The butter is browned when it smells nutty. Which is not long after all the foam subsides. Keep an eye on it as to not let it burn. It’s harder to go by color in a cast iron pan.

I like to use medium-grind cornmeal. The downside of this is that if you eat it right after baking, you’ll still have some hard bits that some people might not like. A few hours after baking, the hard bits become softer, with the loaf retaining a great grainy texture. I haven’t yet tried pre-soaking the meal (in the wet ingredients before adding the buttermilk and baking powder), but that may help if you want to eat it right away and don’t like crunchy hard bits. Let me know if you try that!

Road Work Ahead: A Mobile Studio

 
After a lot of research I settled on this setup for my mobile studio. A pop-up camper is dry, secure, heated, powered, very comfortable and puts no limits on where a pick-up truck can go. 

After a lot of research I settled on this setup for my mobile studio. A pop-up camper is dry, secure, heated, powered, very comfortable and puts no limits on where a pick-up truck can go. 

 

As a freelancer, I find that being "available" in the traditional sense is an inefficient way to structure my time. My desk can become an anchor that keeps me from going out and getting the inspiration and energy I need to be good at what I do. Everything I do informs my work, and I can pretty much work anywhere. So why not work anywhere?

Hence the mobile studio experiment. This past summer I drove all over North America (about 9800 miles), played some music, explored some wilderness, took some photos and kept a few paying gigs going at the same time. Have a look at my trip stats in this previous post. Work did not feel at all like "work", and I am as happy, inspired and motivated as I have ever been.

I didn't do this on a whim. I made sure my commitments were manageable, the projects appropriate for less-than-continuous connectivity, my clients amenable (excited, actually) and I thought really carefully ahead of time about how I was going to make it happen. I also owe this flexibility of lifestyle in no small part to my partner — who prefers the structure of a full-time job for himself while encouraging me to do what I need to do, joining me on the parts of the adventure he can.

The ultimate goal is to make this how I work most of the time, not just to get inspired. Sometimes a location is relevant to a project. Like a book — where the actual people or a place are important, or an identity for a restaurant or retail — where representing an experience is desired. 

I know a lot of folks with Sprinter vans, Sportsmobiles, Westies, trailers and traditional RV's — all have their advantages. What led me to this setup: the desire to be low-profile, the need for generous desk space and an unwillingness to replace a truck to which I have a significant emotional attachment. 

 

Resources - Gear:

Four Wheel Popup Campers
Goal Zero Portable Solar Power
Luci Lux Inflatable Solar Lights
weBoost Cell Signal Amplifier
USGS Topo Maps (printed)
DeLorme Gazetteer
Maps (printed)

Resources - Info:

A great 4WC Camping Life Blog
I love the NPS
Tips on Cell Signal Strength 

 
Inside the rig. I like a big desk for pencil sketching and my massive Apple Cinema Display for when it's time to go digital. The desk is homemade from 1-inch plywood and steel pipe legs.
The bed is shown here set up for one. It pulls out along the track you can see on the wall to a legit queen size. Having nice bedding and a down comforter is decadence I can live with.
 

Some notes on the gear choices and reference info:

The Rig. There are several brands of popup campers, Four Wheel Campers are beautifully made, well-designed and hold their value. I chose the "shell" model — no built-in kitchen or water — so that I could fit a big enough desk inside. I prefer to cook outside on a camp stove, which keeps the inside of the camper less cluttered, cleaner and smelling nicer. 4WC's come in many configurations, from a shell like mine to an apartment: sink/stove/microwave/fridge/shower/toilet(!). The Two Happy Campers blog is a great resource by a couple with a 4WC who have cut all ties to the stationary lifestyle. Worth a mention, I really like the 270° wrap-around awning, even though it's not so great in the rain (pooling) and not useable in windy conditions.

Suspension enhancements. There was mixed info on line about how the weight of the camper would effect the handling of my truck and if any enhancements were necessary. The camper weighs 972 pounds empty. That's just over half my max payload so I had airbag suspension helpers installed to keep it from bottoming out and fatiguing the springs. The day after I had the camper installed, I drove from Portland, Oregon to Salt Lake City and it became clear very quickly that I needed truck tires as well. I went from 4-ply sidewalls to 10-ply and it made all the difference.

Power. I went with Goal Zero for portable solar power instead of solar panels mounted on the camper. I try to avoid parking or camping in the sun, so being able to move the panels around is key. That GZ battery, however, weighs 35 pounds — so maybe "portable" won't be true for everyone. The GZ battery powers my laptop, display and backup hard drive; and charges my portable drill and SLR camera batteries. Additionally, the camper came with a single 6-volt RV battery that charges while you're driving. With my setup — no fridge or microwave — this amount of RV battery power works well, charging phones and powering the LED lights that are integrated into the camper even when parked for two weeks.

Lighting. I hate camping lights, I find them painfully harsh and blinding. Luci Lux lights produce a perfect soft warm glow. Solar-powered and inflatable, they smash down flat for easy storage or charging on your dashboard when you're driving. For activities like reading and cooking, I don't mind a tiny headlamp like the Black Diamond Ion.

Connectivity. Cell coverage seems to be a problem for everyone everywhere, but get off the interstate and you're really hosed. I did pretty well this summer, but I'm going to need better connectivity for a truly mobile studio. Used by truckers and law enforcement, a weBoost amplifier is my next purchase unless I find something better. This post on how to monitor and improve your signal at Wilson Amplifiers is where I started my research.

Maps. I will always use analog maps. I love them, and the GPS has it's limits. USGS topo and DeLorme Gazetteer maps are the best.


And finally, here's a little of that inspiration I was talking about:

 
 
 

Malama Honua, a new book from patagonia books

 
My latest book design project is just days away from being available to order. Here's a quick shot of my advance copy. I have to say, the production is breathtakingly gorgeous - all the better to honor the content.

My latest book design project is just days away from being available to order. Here's a quick shot of my advance copy. I have to say, the production is breathtakingly gorgeous - all the better to honor the content.

 

I got to be part of a very inspiring project. Malama Honua, Hokule'a - A Voyage of Hope

It's the amazing story of the voyaging canoe Hokule'a and it's 3-year journey around the planet – using only traditional wayfinding (no instruments) – for navigation. Photographed by John Bilderback and written by Jennifer Allen, the canoe connects people, culture, history and the earth in a way that is timeless, epic and meaningful. 

Published by Patagonia Books and shipping October 3rd, it's available on Patagonia's website and at Amazon. Have a peek at the trailer below.

 
 

From the launch in Hawai'i in May 2014, around the world through Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, and North and Central America, this beautiful hardcover book chronicles Hōkūleʻa's epic mission to raise awareness of and nurture worldwide sustainability.

 

Pilgrimage 2017 stats

 
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Details and some blog posts forthcoming, this summer's road trip clocks in at almost 10,000 miles. By the numbers:

  • I installed a new pop-up camper on my truck and spent 31 nights in it.
  • Visited four State Parks, two National Forests, three National Monuments, one National Recreation Area and one National Park, driving through a few more.
  • Attended the Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop - again this year.
  • Revisited the original pilgrimage, the Great Gallery in Canyonlands NP, Utah.
  • Experienced the total solar eclipse with friends in Oregon.
  • Attended Nimblefingers Music Festival and week-long workshop in Sorrento, British Columbia.
  • Saw the effects of forest fires in British Columbia, Oregon and Washington.

Stay tuned for details on my mobile design studio/camper build-out, notes on Clifftop and Nimblefingers, some legit history on the Great Gallery and anything else I remember that's worth documenting.

 

 

Intro to Philip Glass

 

The other night I got asked a really hard question. "What's your favorite song?"

Coming up with the short list wasn't that hard. But number one? The criteria for number one is "What makes me weep every time I hear it?" I have to go with "Knee 5" from the opera "Einstein on the Beach" by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson.

It seems a lot of people have heard of Philip Glass, but aren't that familiar with his music - I often find myself making recommendations of where to start with him. Some of his stuff is not super-accessible, some is downright challenging. Some is the most transportive and moving thing I've ever experienced. Here's a toe-dip. I chose a few pieces I think will show anyone what all the fuss is about. Turns out the easiest way to share it is a blog post, so now I'll always have a place I can send people who ask.

 
 

 
The Horse in Motion, Edweard Muybridge 1878, Public Domain

The Horse in Motion, Edweard Muybridge 1878, Public Domain

 

A Gentleman’s Honor
from The Photographer

3:22

The Photographer is an opera inspired by the life of Edweard Muybridge. Muybridge is best known for proving that there's a moment in a horses gallup where all four hooves are off the ground - inadvertently inventing the basis for motion film photography. But his life was even more interesting than that. A bad head injury had made him a bit nuts. Upon discovering the father of his wife’s child was not him, he walked into a bar and introduced himself to the man who was. Then shot him dead.

 

 
We are in need of a soothing story. Artwork: © Christina Speed

We are in need of a soothing story. Artwork: © Christina Speed

 

Knee 5
from Einstein on the Beach

8:01

Einstein on the Beach put Philip Glass on the map. It’s a 5 hour opera without a break, completely abstract and surreal from start to finish.

This is the last 8 minutes.

We just dropped the bomb, and it’s dawning on us that we really really fucked up.

Some find the first few minutes challenging. Hang in there.

 

 
The Holy Ghost Panel, Horseshoe Canyon Unit, Canyonlands National Park. Photo: © Christina Speed

The Holy Ghost Panel, Horseshoe Canyon Unit, Canyonlands National Park. Photo: © Christina Speed

 

Koyaanisqatsi (film)

~ 1:30:00

This film changed my life.

It's the fall of 1981. Sheltered, suburban 17-year-old me just got dropped off at art school. Me and a few girls from my dorm went to see our first "art film". I sat stunned at its conclusion, having spontaneously become an artist, an environmentalist and a devoted fan of Philip Glass. It remains my favorite film of all time.

It's pretty much a 90-minute music video.

Side note: the opening of the film features footage of the rock art shown at left. I decided when I first saw the film that I would go see it. That didn't happen until my 50th birthday - in 2013. If you want to go, or see more photos, I blogged about that trip here.

Turns out the film is on the YouTubes in 9 separate 10-minute videos. Watch the first one below. Or turn off the lights, light up a fatty and watch the whole thing.