Thursday, November 25, 2010

Home for the holidays, thanks to ELECTRICITY!

Rather, thanks to God for electricity. And the power company men who finally made their way out to my parents' neighborhood after almost three days of dark, cold, internet-less existence.

Yes. I left freakishly warm and beautiful New Jersey just in time for Washington's equally unusual freezing wind snowstorm blizzard event. It was 60 F in Princeton and about 15 F in Seattle. Weird.

Thankfully, my parents were able to summit the frozen hill they live down, find the clear main roads, and rescue me from Sea-Tac last night. Then I slept amazingly well on a mattress in front of our wood-stove, flanked by 5' tall diagrams of plant cells and a shower-turned-window curtain of the periodic table, below a mural of dolphins, and not too far from posters of parentheses, semicolons, and commas. My sister, Amy, slept on a mattress next to me (everyone else stuck it out in the glacial bedrooms). Maddie, the golden retriever, slept between us much of the night. Ashley, our 16-year-old tabby cat, provided a less-than-soothing soundtrack to our slumber with her asthmatic breathing.

In the morning, Mom made french press coffee and pancakes on the wood-stove. So freaking thankful for that stove. Dad, Mom, Jenny, and I sat around. We waited for Amy to get back from work. We stared at each other. We talked to each other. We played with Maddie. We petted Ashley and Scout (the younger cat). We remembered the days of internet fondly.

When Amy returned with the one car of the family's four which can survive our icy hill, she took Jenny and I on a sister date! We snuck lattes into the movie theater and thoroughly enjoyed Tangled. GO SEE TANGLED. It was beautiful, funny, and touching. The best characters were definitely Pascal, the chameleon sidekick, and Max, the horse sidekick, but Rapunzel and Flynn were good too. :)


On our way home, we picked up pizza. When we arrived home, WE HAD POWER!!! YAAAY! Also, my little (6'3'') brother, David! We ate in front of the fire, with all six human family members and all three animal family members enjoying each other, and then slowly laptops appeared and people trickled upstairs to the TV. :)

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, everyone! I hope you have a terrific weekend--I know ours will be busy: dinner with grandparents and aunts, a trip to the brewery with my brother, a trek into Seattle with my parents to see Hamlet and have dinner with my old friend, Bethany. And then I'll run the Seattle Marathon on Sunday. We also have a German cake baking planned!

I must write about my recent trip to Chicago for a conference, but that requires pictures left on my camera in New Jersey. For now, from my phone, I give you a preview:
Plenary talk was in 3D.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Backen auf Deutsch, Part IV: #22 Halloween-Torte

Tyler, a 2nd year in my department, had a birthday on October 28th. What does this call for? CAKE!

He doesn't speak German, so he chose the cake based on its picture:


How seasonally appropriate!

#22 Halloween-Torte
This name is self-explanatory! But not terribly descriptive. The cake itself is spicy pumpkin, pretty similar to carrot cake. The frosting was supposed to be a layer of apricot preserves, followed by fondant, topped with the fondant pumpkins and bats.

I was excited to work with fondant for the first time. As an amateur baker, I wanted to learn a new skill. However, every time I said, "fondant", the response was, "eeew gross why can't you use real frosting???" Fondant looks beautiful, but it doesn't taste great. I consoled the boys with the promise of a can of cream cheese frosting on the side. They could redecorate their individual slices after we admired the whole cake.

To my dismay, I couldn't find actual fondant at Wegman's. I found marzipan, which definitely tastes better and functions almost the same way, but enough for the whole cake would cost $20. I opted for a $4 tube of it to make the wee pumpkins and bats and decided that the jar of cream cheese frosting would suffice for the rest. You win, boys, you win.

Back home, it was time to mix!

The recipe called for Lebkuchengewürz. (Gewürz=spice.) My favorite online dictionary had a forum thread about this spice mix. It is similar to gingerbread spices, but not the same. The recipe I ended up using is:

35 g Zimt, gemahlen
9 g Nelke(n), gemahlen
2 g Piment, gemahlen
1 g Muskat, gemahlen
2 g Koriander, gemahlen
2 g Kardamom, gemahlen
2 g Ingwerpulver
1 g Muskat - Blüte, gemahlen

35 g ground Cinnamon
9 g ground Clove
2 g ground Allspice
1 g ground Nutmeg
2 g ground Coriander
2 g Cardamom [But I didn't have any of this, so I didn't use it.]
2 g powdered Ginger
1 g ground Nutmeg blossom [What?? I didn't have this either.]

It looked and smelled delicious:

Which made the batter tasty:

I needed 225 g of grated raw pumpkin (which is what makes it more like carrot cake than pumpkin bread, which uses pureed cooked pumpkin). Thankfully, I had one little organic farm pumpkin left! After hacking it open and gutting it, I chopped the meat into manageable chunks and grated away. Faraday hated the sound and hid. I hated it too, but I couldn't hide. [Someone suggested later that I use my food processor. Next time.]

Kitty came out when I finished:

Speaking of kitty, I think Faraday's back legs look like Mr. Tumnus legs:


Am I right??


The batter perfectly filled one 8-inch round cake tin. While it baked, I set about preparing decorations.

First, I had to knead food coloring into marzipan. While yellow, red, and black food coloring look frightening on hands, they wash right off. Marzipan is kind of sticky and pretty yummy.


Next, I rolled orange marzipan into pumpkins. That was easy.

Cutting bats out of rolled-flat marzipan was another matter. It turns out that I am a terrible freestyle bat-cutter. (...bat...cutter-outer?)

Directions online all said, "roll out marzipan and use a cookie cutter to create bats!" At 10:30pm the night before the birthday, THIS WAS NOT HELPFUL. My cookie cutters are limited to fruit shapes. The apple slice (a semi-circle) was repurposed in an act of desperation. After a few knifed wedges here and there, my bats were at least recognizable.

Add some icing faces and we have Halloween cake decorations!

I left off the apricot jam layer. So now I have apricot jam. I never buy jam. Hmm.

After the cake cooled, I frosted it, slapped on the bats and pumpkins, and voila! Halloween cake!



It was a TOTAL hit at lab. My guinea pigs (aka fellow grad students) thought it was super cool and delicious. Tyler was quite happy with his birthday cake, and once again, I had no leftovers to bring home. :)

Changes made:
~used cream cheese frosting, instead of fondant and apricot jam.
Next time would:
~Probably not make marzipan bats and pumpkins for the top.
Perfect for:
~Any fall day that needs pumpkin cake!
~A Halloween party, I suppose. :)

Blogs I read

I have a new Backen auf Deutsch cake post all ready to go, but I forgot to take oooone picture which I need. So you'll get it another day. Tonight? Maybe.

Instead, here are blogs I enjoy reading. You might like them, too.

1. Eat the Damn Cake has wonderful commentary on society's views of health and beauty. She's also really funny, just got married, and was homeschooled (WOOHOO!).

2. Ministry so Fabulous is by a gal who ran a successful ministry mentoring to all ages of young girls a few years back, but now writes about her life as a single, 26-year-old woman following Jesus (I can relate) and partially raising five young girls, ages 3-8 (I cannot relate). She is hilarious and insightful and posts darn cute pictures of those girlies.

3. EPBOT is by a girly geeky chick who is into DIY projects about her house, making jewelry, and attending nerd conventions. She's pretty rad. I kind of want to be her. She and her husband also do Cake Wrecks.

4. Runner Dude posts workouts, race reports, gear reviews, and runner-friendly recipes!

5. Joy the Baker posts delicious recipes and much, much more beautiful pictures of food than I do. OMG go bake everything she posts.

6. Hyperbole and a Half is AMAZING. Her comics are too funny, and the MS Paint drawings with which she illustrates the comics are genius. I particularly like this one alot. Warning: she is not going to be appreciated by all of my readers. I apologize if you do not appreciate her.

This is really just a sampling. I read a lot of blogs.

Do you have any suggested reading for me?