Monday, February 21, 2011

Baking is exhausting

chocolate, cake, batter, flour, sifted, mix.Well. I'd been meaning to make a chocolate cake of some variety for a couple weeks, and today I finally got around to it. This recipe came out of the copy of Martha Stewart's Entertaining (also see this old blog post), which I received in the mail Friday (thanks to that B&N Groupon the other day). I'm saving the actual reading of Entertaining for a time when I can sit and peruse leisurely, but I nabbed this cake recipe for now.

meringue, egg whites, stiff peaks.
Chocolate almond cake comes from one of the wedding menus (for ~50 guests, as opposed to the 100 and 200 guest menus. Dear God.) at the back of the book. The original recipe actually involves making the full size, multi layer, stacked wedding style cake, and uses both this recipe and an orange almond cake alternately for the layers (with copious amounts of decorative frosting, of course). I just halved the recipe and made a basic two layer cake, instead. Some of the chocolate I'd been intending to use disappeared, and I ran out of eggs, so the chocolate glaze (which I nabbed from my Williams Sonoma book.. and quartered!) is a bit sparse. 

chocolate, cake, layers, assemble, cooling, rack.
Anyway, the recipe specifies that you shouldn't overcook the cake, because it should be extra moist in the middle. I may have overcooked a little bit, but it's so hard to tell how done the cake is before it cools... Still, it's quite tasty. The meringue gets folded in last and provides that nice fluffiness. I just stuffed some blackberry preserves that happened to be in the fridge between the layers, but I'd rather have used raspberry, and had a fluffier frosting on top. My resident critic tells me he doesn't like buttercream frosting, but I've never tried it at home. It's likely to be a lot better than the grocery store stuff, in any case.

chocolate, cake, slice, removed, preserves, jam, layer, filling.
Meanwhile, you may notice that my accompanying photos are a little nicer than usual. I've been getting back into my photography habit lately, and have been working with a DSLR for the last month. The internal debate over what camera I actually want and whether I can justify buying it has gotten quite raucous, but someday soon...

chocolate, cake, slice, jam, filling, preserves, plate.
After reading Photocritic's post about prime lenses I was eager to try one... and then I realised how silly that was. Of course, all cameras used to have "prime lenses." This zoom stuff is really quite recent (a prime is simply a lens that has a fixed focal length, eg, no zoom). So, these photos are indeedy sharper than the average bear, and more excitingly, were shot at f1.4 in my dark little kitchen at night. So HA.

And you may also notice the watermark on these images. I've actually gone and sprung for Adobe Lightroom, which has made my life a good deal easier with its editing, cataloging, web design, export... everything. I have a little project in the works...

Annnd recipe:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Snark: Earth Abides

Perhaps, he felt in his mind, that was the difference! That was the difference between woman and man. She felt only in terms of the immediate, and was more interested in being able to spot her child's birthday than in all the future of civilization. Again, he felt superior. 
Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart (1949).

In fact, in reading this book about the fall of civilization, I am possessed by a great urge to preserve and protect the history of the world for posterity, just in case something should happen. If humanity vanishes for whatever reason, and/or if electricity eventually fails, what will be left? ebooks? I certainly think not. While electronic formats may be "the future," may be convenient, may be efficient, they will not last beyond the next wave of advancements. Neither will mp3 files, dvds, or all the information on the internet. In this fantastic future world, when perhaps everyone will be gone, those who are left, or those who make a galactic archaeological dig of the planet Earth may find files that are in no way compatible with their technology, or they might find vast libraries of knowledge on paper, which have only to be translated.

Earth Abides was a fantastic book, but in the end very frustrating. It became evident that it was not just the aforementioned woman who was uninterested in preserving civilization, but all of the "stolid" people who happened to survive the plague. Apparently it was beyond their capabilities or caring to teach their children how to read or write so much as basic numbers, much less entire books. Strange that in a novel about a post-apocalyptic world that was what I found most unbelievable.

The future may be defined by forward movement, but that movement should not assume complete abandonment of the past.