The most difficult part of any creative process is often the very beginning. Taking that first, tentative, unsure step towards making something from what was previously nothing. As a choreographer, how to start is something it seems that I have to relearn with every new project. Beginning this performance that I am currently in the middle of rehearsing has been no exception.
If you subscribe to my newsletter, you will have read already that the piece I am working on now is a duet, co-conceptualized, created and danced by myself and M. Partners embarking on this challenging, creative adventure. M has danced before, but this is his first time really making a dance performance from scratch, starting with nothing but the tiniest seed of an idea and some flashes of images and music. During those first rehearsals, we honestly weren’t sure what we were doing. Each day was filled with what felt like aimless and unconnected improvs and exercises, but I kept telling him, “trust the process, trust the process.” The truth is, however, I was actually reminding myself. Trust the process, Ruby, because it’s easy to forget that in the beginning you cannot even imagine where you will end up.
It can be quite nerve-wracking to start something without knowing what the result will look like. Building a base with no blueprint or plan. It is a task of total trial and error, as much as a middle school science experiment and in the same way, sometimes (in the realm of dance especially), you feel a bit like a kid, flailing around, seeing if something you throw at the wall sticks and ends up conveying whatever message or intention you had in mind.
There is this quote from the book In the Company of Women that I think about a lot as an artist. Carla Hall says, “Success to me is loving something enough to fail at it repeatedly until you get really good at it.” That is how the creative process goes. You throw yourself into something with all of your heart, willing to fail, making mistakes and initial missteps, but the more you fail, the more you also find out what does work until eventually you succeed and the piece begins to form itself. It falls into place in front of your eyes and when that starts to happen, it is the most magical and rewarding thing possible. As a choreographer, it is what I live and work for. That transformation from the awkward, unsure first steps into a piece that has a palpable shape and feeling to it.
As M and I keep asking ourselves and each other, “How will we know when we are ready? How do we know when the piece is done?” I try to have faith in what success means to me. Have faith in the difficulty of starting out- that it is something not to avoid, but to push through with all of your love and blind trust. Just. Start.
Similarly, but with a completely different practical skillset, baking is its own creative process of trail and error. It is the forming of an idea into reality and if you are conceptualizing a totally new recipe, you also just have to dive in, taking that first, tentative step.
I knew I wanted to make something lemony- some sort of healthyish but sweet baked breakfast good. My eyes wandered to my lonely donut pan that hasn’t been used often enough and the idea came to me. A riff off of lemon poppyseed muffins. Lemon chia seed donuts, and let’s see if I can make them gluten-free. Loosely following a gluten-free cake recipe, I was completely unsure if these were going to turn out. However, the batter was looking good and when I saw the little risen donut puffs as I pulled them from the oven, I knew they had been a success. I soaked them with an extra dose of lemon glaze, decorated with a thicker icing and sprinkles of lemon zest. The result was a strongly citrus-flavored, hearty, baked donut. Exactly what I had hoped for.
These are decidedly “healthy” as far as donuts go. Less sugar, gluten-free wholesome textured flours, more crumb and less fluff. However, that doesn’t mean they are not delicious- far from it. They’re cake-y and full of lemony good flavor and sticky-sweet glaze, making for the perfect breakfast treat or an afternoon pick-me-up.
-If you don't have a donut pan, this recipe could easily be adapted to muffins + probably even a loaf pan. Since I haven't personally tried it, I am not sure how many it would yield, but feel free to test it out and let me know! I am sure they would still be delicious in any form.
-For a less-refined sugar version, I am sure these would also be great with coconut sugar if it is available to you. Also you can use any unsweetened nondairy milk in place of normal milk for a dairy-free option.
Lemon Chia Baked Donuts with Sticky Lemon Glaze
Makes 10 donuts, Gluten-free
(adapted loosely from The Big Man's World)
- 1 1/2 cups (190g) gluten free rolled oats
- 1/2 cup (60g) chickpea flour
- 1/3 cup (60g) granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp milk or non-dairy unsweetened milk
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- zest from 1 lemon (roughly 2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 6-7 tbsp milk (or non-dairy milk)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon zest
Icing (optional- more for decoration)
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp milk (or non-dairy milk)
Preheat your oven to 375ºF and grease a donut pan (use two if you have them, otherwise, you can bake in two batches like I did). Add the oats to a food processor and blend until they become a fine powder. Dump the oat flour, chickpea flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and chia seeds into a large bowl and whisk together. In a separate smaller bowl, mix the milk, lemon juice, zest, honey, egg, vanilla and olive oil until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until combined. Let sit for a couple minutes so that the mixture can thicken a bit (the chia seeds and oats soak in the moisture), then carefully spoon the batter evenly into the donut pan, filling up each mold about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
While the donuts cool in the pan, make the lemon glaze by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor or whisk together until there are no lumps. Start with 6 tbsp of milk and add an extra if it is too thick. Make the decorative icing by whisking together the powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl. Carefully remove the donuts from the pan, and once they are completely cool, dip each one into the glaze and set to dry on a rack with parchment paper underneath. The glaze will soak into the tops a little bit, hence making them sticky and sweet. Drizzle the icing on top in whatever pattern you want and let it set. Enjoy with some coffee or tea.