The Science of Cake

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…here, in the Juliaverse… energy was never lost, merely converted from one form to another. Here, I took butter and cream and meat and eggs and I made delicious sustenance.
Julie Powell, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen

Cake (and the obsession with cake), has been around long before Betty Crocker became a household name and Super Moist cake mixes were distributed in brown cardboard boxes.

In his article, the science of cake, Dr. Andy, Connelly, a cookery writer and researcher in glass science at the University of Sheffield, explains just how butter, cream and eggs become the pillowy dessert we all love at birthday parties, tea parties…or just forget the party. I mean…it’s cake! And it pairs perfectly with a hot cup of tea!

Cake is for life…not just birthdays!

Betty Crocker mixes are easy…mix and bake,. But I believe for a really rich, moist cake, cakes from scratch is best! There are a number of important principles at work.

The texture of cake comes from gas bubbles added in by creaming or mixing fat and sugar. Air is carried on the rough surface of sugar crystals. The smaller the crystals, the more air. As the fat coats the bubbles, it creates an airy foam. Sugar also helps the crust to colour at a lower temperature. And it keeps the cake moist and yummy for days.

Fat also coats the starch and protein of flour, which reduces gluten, to make a short crumb, not an elastic bread. Sugar also helps tenderize flour protein. Factory cake mixes are the result of scientific experimentation to get the same results. Dr. Connelly used the adjective “plastic” and “globules”. Doesn’t that make make Betty more attractive?

With enough butter, anything tastes good. – Julia Child

Eggs are beaten eggs to maintain the fat/sugar foam. As the cake bakes, the eggs forms a protective barrier around the bubbles to protect the delicate texture from collapse.

Thanks goodness for baking powder. Baking powder is a dried acid and an alkali blend which reacts with each other when water (or heat) is added. It produces carbon dioxide, which creates air bubbles. Before raising agents like baking powder came along, eggs were beaten for a long time to lighten the “biscuit”. What a work-out!

Mixer

This makes it easier too! Credit my Dad for this amazing yard sale find!

Flour builds the structure by stiffening the egg foam and forming gluten, which in turn, supports the weight of the fat and sugar. It’s important to gently fold in the flour to avoid breaking the bubbles and developing the gluten too much. No one wants to eat a cake brick.

Baking itself involves three stages: expanding, setting and browning. Gases in the bubbles expand and stretch the gluten. The leavening agents release carbon dioxide, further swelling the batter. The cake’s shape sets around 80C into the porous texture of cake. And finally, it develops a rich brown colour and slightly crisp crust. (Is your mouth watering too?)

The cake is ready when it starts to pull away from the sides and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Cool it! Ice it! Perfection! (someone else created these delicacies)!

A party without a cake is just a meeting. – Julia Child

Happy Monday!

Flashback Friday: Grade 8 Grad

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A friend posted yesterday, that her kid wouldn’t allow her to post any grad photos. I admire her respect for her kid’s wishes.

Mosaic (4) (658x800)

Gr. 7 – The aftermath of creating a self-portrait mosaic from magazines

I, on the other, never asked. I assumed that since I paid for the clothes and the dinner tickets, I could post a photo.  Then there’s also the taxi services, field trips, late nights, last minute assignments, and scrambles to find missing stuff. I’ve tried to decipher teacher instructions, handle messes, deal with bullies, cope with tears and fears, all with grace. I will never forget that one time Little Guy didn’t come home and I called the cops after madly driving/running everywhere trying to find him. Then I was full-on crazy but it’s understandable.

It all comes with the title – Mom!

But he has a title too – Son!

He’s mine. I’m proud of him. I waited a long time for him. Gushing ridiculously would be embarrassing, but a photo? There are worse things I could do to him, and he knows it.

Still…not asking might be considered an infraction by some, so I decided to even up the score by posting my Grade 8 grad photo. And I picked the worst one!

This is what happens when I’m concentrating on not poking my eye out with an eyelash wand and someone yells, “Hey Jenn? Jenn!” and snaps your picture as soon as you look at them.

Grad

It was 1980-something. Peach was the “in” colour. Big bows and poofy perms were also all the rage. My Mom made my dress, but ran out of time to add the ruffle to the hem. I wore low, white heels, which my Dad took me to K-Mart to buy. I was allowed to wear eye shadow, mascara and lip gloss only!

My room was wall-papered with Garfield (I still love fat cats!) clawing his way down the wall, with pastel stripes. Those medals are from winters spent figure skating. There’s also a 3rd place ribbon from Track & Field. It was the only one I ever won. Had I figured out I was better at long-distance running than sprints before Grade 8,  I might have earned more.

My Mom and Grandmother came to the ceremony. My Dad was a firefighter and had to work. We had a dance too, but it ended at 9, not 10. None of the boys would dance with me or my friends because we were “square” so we took turns dancing with my “boyfriend”. He and I had been friends since Kindergarten, and I think we were “dating” because we felt pressured to have someone. It seemed so important at the time.

Looking back, it wasn’t a magical night, but it was a lot of fun! We felt like we had accomplished so much and we were ready to go out and change the world. Maybe some of us did!

So to Little Guy, and my friend’s baby…and all the other graduates out there. Congratulations! And happy Friday!

Graduation

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I’ve decided I like shopping a whole lot more when there isn’t a special occasion coming up. When there’s the pressure of a deadline, suddenly there’s nothing that I like, in my size.

Little Guy was going to graduate from Gr. 8,  and we  both needed something to wear.

When Big Guy graduated many moons ago, the expectations were a shirt, dress pants and a tie. I’m not sure that’s enough any more. I have heard other Moms of recent grads mentioning tux rentals, limo rentals and the need for the right pair of ridiculously expensive shoes. It seems the significance of the milestone is overshadowed by the name brands and photo ops.

Little Guy is a no-fuss kind of guy, which is good because as much as I love him and wish to shower him with good things, I’m not spending my life savings. These clothes will be worn for an hour in a hot banquet hall, followed by dinner (which he’ll probably end up wearing), and a dance, (where the girls dance in a cluster while the guys try hard to ignore them).

Even though I “pre-shopped” to eliminate dragging him from store to store, there was still a great deal of gnashing of teeth on the way to the Mall. Little Guy was super unimpressed that I was cutting into his time to “relax”. Like I had nothing better to do with my time?

We went to the Bay. I don’t like the Bay. The prices are high, the choices are slim, and the racks a mess! The suit jackets and pants were not together, and most didn’t match. The hanger size-tag didn’t match the tag on the item. Our options were Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren. Gasp.

He snarked. He sighed. He rolled his eyes. He dragged his feet as he trailed me to the change room, with an aura of disgust about him dark enough to blot out the sun. Then he locked himself in the change room, and I sunk into an orange plastic chair that was splattered with something brown and sticky.

Hubby called to see how it was going. I think he sensed the despair even before I said “hello”. He was kind enough to look up some addresses for me for men’s stores, so we bought a white shirt and black pants, and headed out.

So if you should ever doubt
Wonder what love was all about
Just think back and remember dear
Those words whispered in your ear
I said, True love.
– Madonna

The silence in the car was palpable, broken only by a snarled “I just want to go home”. “I know,” I huffed, “and at least you’ve had something to eat”.  Then I took a different track. “I love you and I just want you to feel good. This is an important moment in your life, one you’re going to remember”. Meanwhile I was wondering if all he’d remember was being forced to shop against his will.

Dear Teen – it’s not always fun being your parent either. I secretly roll my eyes behind your back too. Love Mom

I glared at him through the driver car window. No way was I going in this men’s store alone. He shuffled slowly behind me, shoulders hanging low in defeat. Within 5 minutes, he was skipping back to the car with a big, goofy grin. I’m not sure if he was happier that we found a vest or the fact that we were done and heading home!

Last night, we celebrated! And he looked good!

Grad 2

Just in case I don’t make it through this thing they call parenting, can I get my straight jacket in pink?

 

What’s In My Cup: Jumpy Monkey

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This morning, my boys and I are feeling it! We attended a rock concert Saturday night to see our favourite band, Skillet. Little Guy also did a lot of roller coasters, including three plunges down the new Yukon Striker, the world’s longest, tallest and fastest dive coaster. (No thanks!)
Our throats are raw, our bodies are sore, and I feel just like I did after I ran in Mud Hero.
GUys
It was totally worth it!
So this morning I reached for an “energy boosting” – David’s Jumpy Monkey! It’s an Argentinian maté (yerba and green) that includes freshly roasted peaberry coffee beans, almonds, white chocolate, olive leaf, Brazil and Kenya green coffee, and chicory.
Did you know coffee is a fruit?  Fruit have flesh that normally protects seeds. In a coffee bean, there are 2 seeds compressed together, giving it flat sides.  Peaberries are a genetic mutation with only one seed which means the bean isn’t flat but rather round, like a pea. They cannot be forced to grow this way, so they have to be sorted. This of course, increases the costs to produce. Arguments about whether the quality or flavour warrants a greater cost, is both subjective and highly contentious.
Jumpy Monkey_ed
All I know is that Jumpy Monkey is both sweet and nutty, and hopefully will help me get in gear, because it’s Monday, and I have to get back to reality. Still, I got to scratch this off my bucket list!
insta_ed
Light it up, light it up, now I’m burning
Feel the rush, feel the rush of adrenaline
We are young, we are strong, we will rise
‘Cause I’m back, back, back from the dead tonight – Skillet
Well…maybe after more tea! Rock on!

CFFC: One

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Bee3Bee2

Bee1

“According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyways. Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.
– Mary Kay Ash

This is my entry for Cee Nuener’s Fun Foto Challenge: One

Happy Wednesday!

 

What’s in My Cup: “The Buzz”

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“What’s the buzz about (fill in the blank)…?” It’s a phrase we use when we talk excitedly, like a swarm of bees, about the latest gossip. So today in what’s in my cup, I’m buzzing about The Buzz.

This blend of green tea, matcha green tea, and yerba mate has a citrus hit from orange and lemon peel, guarana powder, and lemongrass. It also has a big hit of heat from the ginger, licorice root, quince, and white ginseng!

Guarana is a Brazilian plant native to the Amazon, not something from a bat cave. The mature guarana fruit is about the size of a coffee berry, which seeds are processed into a powder. It contains therapeutic properties, as well as an impressive range of stimulants, such as caffeine, and antioxidants. Low doses of guarana can improve mood, learning and memory. What was I talking about?

The other ingredient I looked into, having only seen it on Masterchef Australia, is quince.  It is a bright-yellow fruit that is described as a cross between an apple and a pear. It has a tart or bitter flavor, and smells like a tropical fruit. Quince is purported to prevent cancer, aid in weight loss, improve skin care, and more!

This tea is bold and bright. It has citrus notes with a lemongrass undertone and a slight bitterness to it. I think what struck me most was the incredibly strong heat from this tea that tingles the tongue and warms the throat. Ginger, ginger, ginger!

This tea will definitely wake you up and get the creative juices flowing!

The Buzz_ed

This tea will definitely wake you up and get the creative juices flowing!

Creativity is intelligence having fun! – Albert Einstein

Go be creative – Happy Monday!

What’s in My Cup: Tulsi Tranquility

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Merriam Webster defines tranquility as the state of freedom from disturbance, agitation or turmoil; steady or stable. And who couldn’t use a little tranquility from time to time?

When your day seems topsy turvy and as stormy as can be,
there’s nothing quite as tranquil as a hot cup of tea.

Over the last few weeks, I have felt like a hamster on a wheel, running until I’m exhausted, but never really getting anywhere! Or even catching up.

So, while David’s Tulsi Tranquility might not really live up to its name, I am looking forward to a time when I can pair it with a good book and my new recliner on the back porch!

This caffeine-free tea contains rosehip shells and seeds, apple, rose petals, hibiscus, red currants, raspberries, strawberries and tulsi, also known as holy basil. Tulsi is a sweet and aromatic herb thought to relieve anxiety, stress, acne, and respiratory issues such as the common cold. It may also reduce inflammation and pain, and boost the immune system.

Tulsi Tranquility

Normally, tulsi is used as an oil in herbal medicines or steeped in boiling water, rather than for cooking because it has a bitter flavour. This tea reminds me of chamomile, but although you can taste the apple and berries, the tulsi adds a refreshing, peppery zing!

As for tranquility, well…maybe it’s time to rethink my approach to the wheel.

Happy Monday!

Dear Diary –

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Dear Diary –

I wet my pants at work today.

I went to drain the last dregs of tea in my travel mug. Somehow the lid magically loosened and instead of slaking my thirst, I ended up wearing my tea. It was lukewarm, and when I stood up, the puddle ran down past my knees!

The pastor was in his office, having just returned from a trip to the loo (I suspect), so I hoped it was safe as I whipped off my top. Thankfully I had a camisole underneath it, which was never meant to be seen. It had ripped lace and spaghetti straps, not exactly professional office wear, so I grabbed a tight, dusty cardigan peeking out from under my desk, and buttoned it up. Now I really looked the part of an aged gatekeeper in the cubicle of purgatory.

miss piggy

The other pastor returned with his lunch, to find me draped over the wall heater. I felt like Miss Piggy splayed over the hood of a muscle car!

He was kind enough to not to comment.   That’s one of the things I like about him.

* * *

 

Dear Diary-

The car was already parked at the front before I arrived. It was such a beautiful day and I was early so I walked about the perimeter of the property…twice…and practiced deep breathing. Once I was sufficiently oxygenated (or just plain nauseous), I entered the building, armed with 2 travels mug of tea (different flavours). I almost made it through the second set of double doors before people started talking to me…

There is not enough caffeine in the world!

.* * *

Dear Diary –

An elderly gentleman came to the door this morning. He wanted to thank me for sharing my “church cheat sheet” (aka list of local churches’ contact info.). He had visited me a few months ago, trying to find a young couple who were getting married. They had been special students of his wife many years back, and he wanted to invite them to his wife’s 80th birthday party.

It turns out he did find them and they accepted the invitation. The party was a success and his wife was overjoyed to connect with them again.

While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.
– Matt Bevin

Happy Weekend!