Beignets

Do this, at least once, and you will probably be keeping beignet dough in your fridge from now on, forever. This is way too easy for how insanely amazingly delicious it is. People get this spectacular look of shock on their face when they bite in for the first time, especially since none of my friends know what beignets are. My most recent guest said, “these are like crack!”

All of this goodness happened simply because I was reading a book where a character was having beignets with chicory coffee in New Orleans and I got curious and had to google them because I didn’t know what they were. Then I googled a recipe and made a few modifications as we do….and was like “WHAT DELICIOUSNESS IS THIS”. The craziest part is that not long ago I was at a bakery, saw some beignets, and was so excited to finally eat an official one…..and it was a huge disappointment. But I still want to try a real beignet in New Orleans someday.

The dough takes 5 minutes to make and you can keep it in the fridge for a week or so. You can even freeze it and move it back to the fridge. I usually roll and cut about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough at a time, and this makes plenty of beignets for 2-3 people. If you have unexpected guests, bust these out, and people will be like “WHAT!!!”

The rolling and frying takes about 5 minutes total. It literally doesn’t seem like this should be real–it’s basically like you don’t do anything and you get the most delicious thing on the planet!

3/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup plain unsweetened soy milk
1 local egg, beaten (you can use one mixed egg replacer instead, if you do this, increase salt to 1 tsp)
3/4 tsp salt (1 tsp if using an egg replacer)
3 1/2 cups (18 ounces if you weigh) unbleached organic flour
2 T melted coconut oil
coconut oil for frying
organic powdered sugar for dusting

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let it sit for a few minutes. Then stir in everything but the flour, and finally stir in the flour and mix til it’s smooth.
Put the dough ball in a round glass tupperware: make sure it will have plenty of room to rise. Put this in the fridge. (If you want to eat these today, let the dough rise out of the fridge for 2 hours–but I always make the dough in advance and just let it do its thing in the fridge).

To make the beignets:
A 6″ cast iron pan is perfect for the frying. Fill this little pan with about an inch or inch and a half deep of coconut oil, and heat for a few minutes at medium to medium-high heat.

If the oil is not hot enough, the beignets will be more soft on the outside rather than slightly crisp on the outside: either way, they are going to be great. But I like them more crisp on the outside, so I try to keep the oil on the hotter side.

Meanwhile, put a bit of flour on a cutting board, and take 1/4 to 1/3 of the beignet dough out of your tupperware. Knead it a little into a smooth ball, and then roll it to about 1/4″ thick, attempting to make somewhat of a square shape as you roll (but don’t get too crazy about the square).

With a large chef knife or a pizza cutter, cut into squares of about 1-2″, depending on how big you want the beignets. The end pieces won’t be perfectly square and that’s fine. You should get about 8-16 pieces, depending on how big you cut the squares. (If I use 1/4 of the dough and make 1″ squares, I usually get 14 pieces, with 2″ squares about 9 pieces).

Now drop 4-5 pieces into the hot coconut oil — don’t be alarmed, because the coconut oil may froth up a bit at first. When the bottoms are golden brown (I like them very brown!), flip them over with a spoon. This should be quick, a minute or less per side.

Fish them out and put them on a small plate with a folded paper towel on it, to drain. When the beignets are all done and drained, put them on a new plate or a large bowl and sprinkle a little bit of organic powdered sugar over them.

I put a small plate over the cast iron pan of coconut oil and keep it on a back burner of the stove, because I still have more beignet dough in the fridge for another few days, and I’ll use it again. Don’t feel bad about eating these for breakfast. Coconut oil is good for you! And we just won’t talk about the powdered sugar 😉

To Find Happiness

Hallo Steph Davis,
YAYY! I hope you read this. I am in lab right now it is 20h and I still have so many experiments to complete…. I was supposed to go bouldering tonight but I hurt myself last night when I was doing post climbing core workouts. I sort of hate myself for that and am moderately annoyed I will rest instead of climb the next few days. Alas I am trying to seize these hours not climbing, and work because I am on the last year of my Plant Biology PhD, at a University in Belgium. I really find science cool and hope that my research helps to fill in the smallest, littlest, microscopic, pretty atomic sized, part of the massive gap of human knowledge.

I just wanted to say thank you.

I was lonely (I am originally from California) living abroad is a bit isolating at times, although I am enjoying being able to understand myself better. So, I was partying a lot last year. It left me tired and unhappy/unhealthy.

I really came to find happiness through climbing and reading your book High Infatuation, it is really inspiring, maybe that sounds cliche but you are fucking awesome. I love it you totally kick ass and it was so nice to read about your life, your accomplishments your poems and thoughts.

Thanks for being so amazing!!!!!
Ciao,
Clara

Hi Clara,
Thanks a lot for writing to me: and I’m glad you liked High Infatuation 🙂 Take it easy on yourself: when you’re a motivated individual, it’s easy to forget just how much you are actually doing in a day (or a week or a year). Remember, life is long!
I hope you are better from your injury, and enjoying the first glimpse of spring already.
🙂 Steph

Hiding From the Sun

Hello Steph and greetings from Finland;
You are outside so much doing different things. I would like to know how can you avoid skin-cancers because there is much sunshine still and high UV-index. I am not rock climber but I have done a little ice climbing here in Finland. I have five years break of it now but maybe will begin it again in next winter. One of my hobby has been gliding by sail planes and there have to watch to upside always so our face are towards to sun all time. Of course I have used suncreen and the best what we can buy here so it’s 50+ and as much as possible clothes also but still I had basal cell carcinoma on my nose and I don’t want to get melanoma which has had my mother. I wish you nice days there!
With best regards Harri Vesterinen Finland

Hi Harri,
I’m very sorry to hear about your mother’s melanoma. UV and skin issues are a real concern for those of us who love to be outside. I put sunscreen on my face every day, and light collared, long-sleeved shirts when I’m in the sun belaying or hiking during the hot season. I also wear sunglasses and a Kavu strap visor (I like the synthetic one best) to keep the sun off my face. It might be a good idea for you to use full zinc on your nose and any parts of your face that seem at higher risk when you’re out in the sun. Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any more you can do, although when I was hiking on the Karakorum glacier I remember seeing a group of tourists who were all wearing white cotton gloves and carrying parasols: not a bad idea!!
🙂 Steph

Spirit

Steph,
I love your spirit. I was browsing YouTube at work and came across the HBO Special on Wingsuiting. I am a NOVICE skydiver (barely working towards my A class license) and was very deeply touched by what the interview showed with you and your story. I am new to the sport and have no knowledge of who the “celebrities” of this sport are, but based on your website, it would seem I am late to the boat and you are well more famous than someone who would read this note. I have never touched a wingsuit and I am sure I have MANY jumps before I consider it, but I wanted to thank you for taking the time to do that HBO interview on your experience and I wanted you to know you have an effect far-reaching and the appreciation of what you have been through and what you do is never lost.
Luke

Luke, thank you so much for writing! I have gotten a lot of outraged (on my behalf!) emails about the HBO interview, as many people felt the host was insensitive. I’m glad you had a positive feeling from it, and took some inspiration. Best of luck with your A license, stay safe, and have fun!
Steph

Voices in Climbing

Hi Steph,
First off, I’m a huge fan, both of your climbing and your blog (I particularly loved your Sprinter Van articles, the one you wrote about financial planning, and your vegan recipes).

My question is about the movie Free Solo, and more specifically what you thought about the movie as a woman and free soloist. When I came out of the movie theater, I was really stressed and angry. At first I thought it was just from watching the near-death parts, and thinking about friends of mine who’ve had close-calls in the mountains. After more introspection and reading a few articles online, though, I realized that the fear aspects were only part of it, and that on another level, I was upset with the filmmakers for the story they chose to tell. The only female people shown in the movie are girlfriends, wives, or children of famous male climbers. The only black person in the movie is a kid who gets laughed at for his question.

Is free soloing really such a white, male sport? I was really impressed when I heard you’d free soloed The Diamond, and couldn’t understand why you weren’t mentioned in the movie. If you had been in the movie, what perspectives would you have brought that weren’t presented, if any?

Free soloing for me has always been very very personal, and I wouldn’t want to be public about it in that way, but I don’t think that has much to do with my woman-ness.

All in all, I can’t say I disliked the movie. It’s pretty impressive when a piece of media can make you have really strong feelings. I just can’t help but feel confused about the hyper-masculinity in the movie, given how many women I see free soloing, and that at least one of those women is famous (I mean you).

Thank you for reading, and I would be very very honored to receive a response.

All the best,
-Elena

Hi Elena,
Thanks very much for writing to me! I have been really behind in answering people’s questions on this blog (I blame it on Instagram but mostly on myself!), and your email came the same day I resolved to work harder at doing a better job here, so thanks for your great timing as well.

I haven’t yet seen Free Solo: I’m not a big movie watcher, because I am more of a reader, so I usually see only a few movies a year, and they always make a big impression on me because I’m not really used to the pace or the content: for example, I can’t watch anything remotely violent or involving any kind of cruelty (physical or psychological), because it’s way too disturbing. More recently, I don’t do well with movies where a spouse or a lover dies. And generally watching any type of movie involves a lot of crying for me–I’m just not very desensitized to movie images. So it’s always a bit of a thing for me to decide to watch a movie, and I haven’t yet seen this one. That being said, I definitely would like to see it, and have heard great things about it. I think the most important thing to remember about any type of experience based story–written or film–is that the story is really just the story of one person’s experience, and that’s it. I don’t think Free Solo can really be asked to be anything but the story of Alex’s experience with his climb (and peripherally, the ripple effects of his experience on people around him). As someone who is a reader and a writer, having worked on more video projects in the last several years, I’m always amazed at just how little can be told in a movie. From my point of view, script writing is unbelievably simplistic and abbreviated, and that’s just part of the medium–not very much can actually be done.

But I totally agree with you, that when we hear or experience a story that is really impactful, it often serves as a springboard to think about bigger questions or ideas, and I could certainly see how you’d leave the theater with a lot of thoughts in your mind after seeing this film–which seems to have made an equally big impression on everyone who’s seen it.

So springing away from Free Solo….you’re definitely not the only person who feels like there’s often something missing in climbing media from a gender or multi-cultural perspective, and I do see a lot of people who are inspired to change that. My friend Krystle Wright made a short film called Where the Wild Things Play last year–interestingly enough, she also received a few comments complaining about the ethnicity, age, size, shape, etc of the athletes. She was driven to make a film celebrating female adventurers because she felt like that was missing from the landscape, and so she went out and shot with people she knew or who were willing to let her film them. She didn’t have a lot of support initially, but she felt it was an important project to do, and she found it confusing (and a little hurtful) to hear some feedback that these women were the wrong sort of women in some way…. The complaints were minor, but they did hurt her feelings a bit, and I was disappointed to see that. It’s a great film, it got an extremely positive reception, and as a result, Krystle got support from Outdoor Research to make a sequel this year.

Garmin Outdoor has also been really supportive of women’s initiatives for several years now: I worked on a project for their Women of Adventure series last year.

And most recently, I’m excited to be a part of Kitty Calhoun’s new film 20/20 which will premier at the Ouray Ice Festival this January 25, highlighting 7 female adventurers (and some of us will be there on a panel together as well), as well as climbing and skiing achievements of women over the centuries, and looking into the future to encourage a new generation of women adventurers.

There are a lot of voices in the world, and most every story has some value or can help us see things a different way. Definitely keep asking for the things you are interested in, and keep supporting the 1.0 and 2.0 versions as they come! I think there’s a lot of vulnerability in telling one’s own story, and feeling like it mattered to someone is really important–so when you see something that resonates with you, don’t hesitate to reach out and give a thumbs up to the person who made it! It’s amazing how much positive or negative feedback can encourage or discourage people, especially people who are just starting out and gaining the courage to bring some diverse voices into the mix.
Steph

Climbing Paradigms

Hi Steph
I’m sending you this question because I see that you run lots of women specific climbing courses, and obviously are an experienced female climber yourself.
In the last few years there’s been a lot of very positive work to encourage more women to try climbing and to progress in climbing. I live in the UK and over here we have the Womenclimb organisation as well as the Womens’ Climbing Symposium and the Womens’ Trad Festival – all amazing, positive operations and I’m so happy to see that more women are being encouraged in this life and body affirming sport.
My question to you is: do you have any advice on how to encourage women to be confident and to celebrate their climbing ability?
To explain my question; I have been reaching out to lots of women climbers recently and joining in with womens’ climbing groups. As a rule these groups tend to be very supportive but so often I notice an odd mentality, in which everybody is really keen to verbalise negative thoughts (“I’m too weak for that route”, “I’m scared of leading”) and everybody downplays their ability. I myself felt too ashamed to mention the grade of a recent redpoint that I was proud of sending. It seems as though nobody wants to be shown to be ‘the best’ for fear of being singled out. Because of this negative mentality, sometimes psych can be quite low.
From my experience of climbing a little friendly competition is a good thing! (“Well done on sending that route, I best gear myself up to send it too”) and why not talk about what you’re proud of? (“I really want to get on that crimpy route; I’ve got strong fingers so I think that it’ll suit me!”). I know that quite a few women join all female climbing groups because perhaps they lack confidence but I think a culture of positive talk might help with that.
Any advice or insight from you would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you
Clare

Hi Clare,
Thanks for getting in touch and for your questions. Confidence is an enormous part of climbing, and life. It’s something I think about quite a bit also. I agree with you that gender can appear to have a connection with both under- and overconfidence. Frankly overconfidence concerns me (and irritates me) a lot more than underconfidence, because having an unrealistic view of one’s abilities is often dangerous in extreme environments. Being willing to take risks even while questioning one’s abilities, cultivating a “beginner’s mind” and having a great deal of respect for gravity is a real balancing act, in my opinion. In recent years in my women’s clinics, I’ve seen women navigating that balance very gracefully and offering uncomplicated support to each other, along with respect for both the environment and themselves. It has been extremely inspiring!

I think that many sports and outdoor activities are caught within a paradigm of quantification and competitiveness. For those who want to participate for reasons outside that paradigm (community, confidence-building, fun, health, adventure), those elements can create feelings of pressure that may get expressed as an upfront lack of desire to be competitive or quantified. I think the most important thing is to be conscious of those paradigms and understand that we do not have to accept them–our climbing experience is our climbing experience and does not have to be dictated by anyone else’s perception of what climbing is or what has “value” in climbing. The paradigm of “firstest, fastest, mostest” is just one paradigm, and it does not have to define the experience of all climbers. Having that understanding can remove the feeling of pressure and allow people to really blossom and enjoy their time on the rock. I would encourage you to think deeply about how these paradigms may influence climbing and people’s experiences, and have that conversation with your group: it may open doors to a lot of creativity, freedom and totally unexpected directions!
Steph