April 8, 2010

On merging food with visual arts.

Posted in Links and Re-Blogs, Misc Musings tagged , , , , , , at 4:34 pm by Dani

A friend of mine recently introduced me to toxel.com, which is a fabulous website for killing time and general miscellaneous entertainment. A few weeks ago I shared with you guys a link to weburbanist.com. This is similar, but organized in a very different way, and I love it.

Today I opened up my RSS feeder and was thrilled to see that toxel had a new post up, and it was about cake! Have you ever watched Ace of Cakes on the food network? These cakes are like those from Charm City Cakes (which, in case you didn’t know, is the bakery that Ace of Cakes showcases). Check it out:

You can see the rest of the cake post here.

If you enjoyed that, maybe you’ll also enjoy this post, which is about food art creations.

I love food when it tastes good. But you know what I love even more? When it looks good too! Next time you’re making yourself dinner and have extra time to spare, try arranging your food the way the do on food competition shows; somehow your food will taste better. Presentation is 5 points, after all.


April 5, 2010

On grilled cheese: that which I love more than Gerard Butler.

Posted in Misc Musings, Things I'm Doing tagged , at 11:23 pm by Dani

I love grilled cheese. I love all kinds of grilled cheese. Sometimes I dip it in ketchup or tomato soup, and sometimes I like it with tomato and avocado on the side. If the grilled cheese is particularly fantastic, I’ll forgo anything but the sandwich itself, in order to retain the purity of the flavor.

grilled cheese

The classic: white bread + american cheese. This pairs well with tomato soup.

Sometimes I like to make grilled cheese in a pan, and sometimes I opt for a panini press. I even have one of those sandwich grilling things that separate the sandwich into two triangles (I love this piece of equipment. It’s fabulous). Pans and presses are fantastic when there is more than just cheese in there, but when the sandwich is simply bread and cheese, the triangle one is ideal. It allows the cheese to pool and ooze in a beautiful, almost poetic way.

Here’s a little Haiku for you, oh grilled cheese, for you are truly the most perfect sandwich in existence.

I love you, grilled cheese

Oozing, cheesy, delighful

I’d die without you.

I’m going to attend the 1st 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, now who’s with me? Tickets are $10 plus $2.40 processing fee. Make sure you sign up to judge. I’m so excited!

April 2, 2010

On garage sale-ing.

Posted in Misc Musings, Things I'm Doing tagged , at 1:43 pm by Dani

Garage sales might seem like a fantastic idea when you’re staring at heaps of stuff you paid good money for, but simply don’t need anymore. DON’T DO IT. Donate. All at once. And don’t go through your stuff again once you’ve decided to get rid of it; you’ll end up keeping things you already determined toss-worthy. If you thought it was trash yesterday, it’s probably still trash.

garage sale

Never as glamorous as it seems. Plus, no one ever wants to buy books, which is pretty depressing. Even the library won't take books anymore.

Wish me luck in the selling tomorrow (starts at 7 am, and things need to be set up in the morning. Who wants to deliver coffee to me?)

April 1, 2010

On Cinnamon Buns; a discussion.

Posted in Baking, Misc Musings tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:29 pm by Dani

I was at the mall this afternoon with a friend of mine, and on our way out we smelled something we all know and love, and hate to love. Yes, kids, that would indeed be Cinnabon!

cinnabon logo

My friend told me she’d buy us a Cinnabon if I shared it with her. I couldn’t say no. Once you smell that delicious aroma, there’s no resisting. Yes, they’re 750 calories, according to Wikipedia, but hey! You only live once! I savored that gooey goodness. It was utterly oozing with buttery cinnamon and glaze. The dough in the center was just as I remember from when I was a kid: warm and soft!


Everyone loves cinnamon buns. Ellen Degeneres once said, “I really don’t think I need buns of steel.  I’d be happy with buns of cinnamon.” Tasty. It’s also about the smell. There are certain things in life that are universally irresistible. The taste of chocolate, the sound of ocean. The smell of cinnamon buns. The late great stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg had this to say on the subject: “I like cinnamon rolls, but I don’t always have time to make a pan. That’s why I wish they would sell cinnamon roll incense. After all, I’d rather light a stick and have my roommate wake up with false hopes.”

You know what Mitch? They do sell them! You can also buy candles or fragrance oils. You can even buy cinnamon bun scented perfume, in case you want to be eaten by random passersby! Oh science, you have made my life just a little more enjoyable.

How about history? Where do these scrumptious pastries come from? Well, I don’t have any answers for you. I’ve seen lots of sources (ranging from credible to not-so-credible) talk about the origin of the sticky bun being Northern Europe. I read somewhere that they came to America via Pennsylvania from Germany. I’ve read that they come from Sweden, and in fact October 4th is national cinnamon bun day in Sweden (Our national sticky bun day is February 24th). None of these facts come from 100% reliable sources, and it is indeed a difficult thing to do, tracing the origin of a specific food. Foods evolve organically, depending on what foods are grown where, politics (which nations are doing trade with which?), and chance.

I mentioned Pennsylvania in the previous paragraphs, and it should be noted that Pennsylvania has its own style of cinnamon buns–they include raisons.

Lets talk now about what a sticky bun actually is. Historically, sticky buns are sweet dough rolls, cut, with spices (not always cinnamon). Historically, the “sticky” part of the name came from the fact that the method of keeping the buns from sticking to the sides of the pan was to douse the buns and pan in syrup. Yeah, that sounds sticky!

I know you’re all saying: when is she going to tell us what Alton Brown says? That’s right now, folks.

You may watch yourself, if you’d like. I’ll happily recap as well:

Here is the link to the second part.

The part of this episode I find most interesting is when he talks about cinnamon. Cinnamon, as he explains, is not actually cinnamon. It’s actually the cassia plant. The bark is ground to form what we buy at the market labeled “cinnamon.” There is a plethora of types of cassia plants, and each is subtly different. Cinnabon advertises the use of “Makara cinnamon.” Real cinnamon, however, only comes from one plant, and it is not as suitable for baking as cassia. The flavor is much less pungent and aromatic. Alton describes it as “meek.”

Of course, he also talks about making cinnamon buns. Basically, combine ingredients in a stand mixer (I REALLY NEED ONE), let rise, punch down and roll, fill, cut, let sit overnight, proof, bake, gobble. Gobble. Gobble.

One last thing. Check out this great t-shirt from zazzle.com!

synonym bun

Love it! Yeah, I'm kind of a nerd.

March 30, 2010

On salvaging failures.

Posted in Baking, Cake, Holidays, Misc Musings, Recipe tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:36 pm by Dani

This is the story of a cake. This is the story of an inedible, nasty cake. This is the story of making a bad cake good. This is a cake rehab story. So it goes.


My mommy’s birthday is on Wednesday, so for the passover seder sunday night (we did it a night early) she requested I make her a layer chocolate-strawberry cake. Easy thing for her to ask for; not so easy for me to produce. I spent days trying to find a cake recipe that worked, but when sunday came around, I had nothing. So I used the recipe on the potato starch box, which was a very last minute decision. It was also a complete failure.

It was extremely dry. I took a bite of the pre-assembled cake and I ran straight for a glass of milk, resisting the urge to drink straight out of the carton. My throat was on FIRE. I DO NOT recommend this recipe. I know I know, passover cakes are always dry. Well, use the boxed mix then. Don’t waste your time on a from-scratch cake that’s going to be gross anyway. Or if you have a great passover chocolate cake recipe, leave it for me in a comment.

“So,” you ask, “what did you do? Time was running out, you needed a cake, and all you had was a dry, spongey, brown block. How on EARTH did you salvage this atrocity???”

I couldn’t help thinking about the mexican favorite: Tres Leches cake. It is the polar opposite of my dry, gross, THING. What makes it unique is that a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream is poured all over the cake, super saturating it.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake. This is wet, not moist.

Drippy cake was not what I wanted, and condensed milk kind of freaks me out (it’s goopey!), so I did this to save the cake:

1. Combine approx. 1/3 cup whipping cream with 1 cup non-fat milk (or alternatively, 1 1/3 cup whole milk)

2. Fold a 2 layers of paper towel in half, twice, to make a cloth thats 1/4 the size of a standard piece

3. Cut cake so that it will be layers, each about 1/4″ thick

4. Soak paper towel in cream/milk. Squeeze out enough cream/milk so that it’s no longer dripping, but still saturated

5. Dab each layer with saturated paper towel. Don’t skimp, but don’t go overboard either. Make ganache and spread between layers. Skewer to keep stable.

If you’re unsure about the cutting into layers, ganache, or skewering steps, read this post. I talk about the basics of layer cakes. But, for those who are too lazy, I’ll do a quick, concise review at the end of this post. But first: frosting!

I had a multitude of fresh strawberries (and also a lemon tree) so I made Fresh Strawberry Frosting:

1 box confectioner’s sugar

1.5 tbsp unsalted butter

3 strawberries, chopped fine

1 tsp lemon rind (Your’e all thinking, I can just leave about the rind. Don’t. Trust me, it’ll be a million times better)

1/3–1 cup milk/cream/water

Combine all ingredients except milk/cream/water. Beat on high, slowly adding milk, cream, or water until the texture is smooth, yet thick. Tastes like candy! Yum.

In the end, no one knew my cake started out as a big hot dry mess. It wasn’t drippy, and the ganache helped to keep all the milk from sinking to the bottom. From epic failure to success: that’s what I call a good day.

Keep reading for layer cake basics. Aka, click me!

March 23, 2010

On future posts, and also a correction.

Posted in Baking, Celebrities, Misc Musings tagged , , , , , , at 11:32 pm by Dani

First, and most important: I’d like to retract what I said about Gerard Butler being Irish. I just saw a commercial for him appearing on The Ellen Degeneres Show and they discussed that he is SCOTTISH. My bad. Still hot though.

Also, things I’ve already made, with posts coming soon:

  • Donuts (with bacon)
  • Chocolate and Cookie Dough Truffles

Also next week is passover, which means I’m going to be posting some passover-friendly recipes that are AMAZING, and in some cases family recipes. I know I’m going to be making a passover layer cake for my mommy’s birthday, which is going to be a complete experiment since passover cakes tend to be really dense (not at all suitable for layers). We’ll see how that turns out…luckily Costco has some really nice strawberries right now, so if all else fails I’ll make her something strawberry and she’ll be happy.

So stay tuned; there are some exciting things around the corner–I plan on posting the donut shenanigans on thursday.

If you’re looking for some internet entertainment (get your head out of the gutter, I didn’t mean THAT) I suggest you peruse this website. It has nothing to do with anything I’ve talked about on this blog, but they have some cool posts about art that’s going on right now, especially guerilla art and advertising. Modern stuff.

March 22, 2010

On over-using phrases.

Posted in Misc Musings, Rants, Uncategorized tagged at 11:22 pm by Dani

I have this one professor who says “if you will” at the end of every sentence. An example I jotted down in class tonight: “There is a band of clouds, if you will, around the equator. These clouds create albedo, if you will.” You know what, Professor? You really need to stop wondering if we will. Because honestly, we students WILL pretty much accept and regurgitate anything you tell us. We want A’s. So to answer your question once and for all: Yes. I will. Please stop asking.

March 15, 2010

On my future boyfriend.

Posted in Celebrities, Misc Musings tagged , , at 3:13 am by Dani

Just so you know, it was really hard for me to chose a picture (and also really hard for me to stop googling him).

Gerard Butler

I chose this one because he looks Irish in it

Gerard Butler. Need I say more? He established his standing as uber manly man in 300, and made women everywhere swoon every time he spoke with his Irish accent. And also, LOOK AT HIM. Perfection.

Gerard Butler Shirtless

Gerard Butler sans shirt

Don’t care for the manfolk? Fine. His Ugly Truth co-star Katherine Heigl, who I think is ridiculously gorgeous, and funny, and awesome.

Can I be her please? For like, a day?

March 14, 2010

On my choice of a name.

Posted in Celebrities, Misc Musings, Rants tagged , at 10:06 am by Dani

I considered long and hard how to name myself on this blog. I considered using a username-style alias (waytosomewhere) or something meaningful and clever (Ms. Who). I went though all my dvds and my dvr trying to find a character I identify with. I briefly considered using my real name or my middle name. In the end I settled on Riley. Why? So glad you asked! Let me tell you:

Firstly, and most simply, I just like it. I’ve always had a thing for  androgynous names. Secondly, I heart the Olsen Twins, particularly in their television series So Little Time. And I always liked Riley soooo much better than Chloe. They use these pseudonyms in some of their movies too. One of my favorite scenes from Winning London is the one where Riley is in the air duct, and says to her designated cutie, “the name’s Riley, not ‘kiddo.'” That line has always spoken to me in a cookie-cutter-tweenie-girl movie way.

So Little Time DVD cover. Riley is the on the right.

In conclusion: Androgynous names = good. Olsen Twins = my preteen idols. Riley = the better twin.

And I leave you with this, the best cinematic scene of ALL TIME: