Monday, May 30, 2011

Can cheaters ever prosper?

You all have probably read my theory on cutting corners by now - if you haven't, and it is a whole lotta words, here's a synopsis: I don't like it. I don't like pre-made components in my baking, but let's face it: we all have to sleep sometime. Last Shabbat was Ayelet's (English) 15th birthday, and though her birthday Shabbat celebration with friends will take place for her Hebrew birthday, she still needed - if not deserved - an acknowledgement of the event. This was not the time or place for a fancy birthday cake, but a Boston cream pie would suffice nicely, thank you very much.(We all share a nostalgic fondness for Dunkin Donuts Boston creams, whether or not we actually liked them in the flesh. The idea is what counts here.) My cake recipe, while requiring the whipping of the egg whites, comes together rather quickly (some other time I will tell you why I feel obligated to hand whip the meringue here, as soon as I come up with a valid, non-crazy reason). But pastry cream on Friday afternoon after a nearly-no-sleep Thursday night was not happening. Enter the mysteriously shelf-stable pareve vanilla cream I happened to have in the pantry. Make a little ganache, and voila! You have a really yummy dessert with a minimum of fuss, not to mention a 15 year old who is reasonably happy and even grateful for her b-day dessert. But if you are looking for a picture, you will have to try Google. I can either make cake or take pictures. They ain't both happening!

But as a consolation prize, I will offer you a few pictures.

A six inch birthday cake for a very lucky daddy. Chocolate chip cake, chocolate filling, light blue vanilla buttercream, fondant stripes and polka dots in shades of blue.The six inch is such a cute size, perfect for a small family celebration, or as a tier on top of a larger cake, or even to crown a cupcake tower.Shabbat platters, some with special touches, also kept me busy. This was for the Shabban Kallah in anticipation of the marriage of Edit and Lior.A similar assortment graced the kiddush table of the Sheva brachot for Yoni and Suzy. I was feeling all kinds of Cake Boss-y, and chose a cke design I really liked, then translated it into cookie.Here is a close-up of the wedding cake cookie. Mazal tov!

This week's assortment looked pretty darned good too! Glazed lemon cookie,s oatmeal fudge bars, chai shortbread sandwiches, cherry chocolate chunk cookies, and cinnamon squares.

So in short, while I may have cheated a little on the birthday girl's cake, I think we all prospered. Lots of cookies and cakes got baked and decorated, we enjoyed our shortcut cake, and Ayelet knew she was being celebrated. I guess ordering sushi for seuda shlishit didn't hurt either. And sometimes it's okay to let someone else take a little of the burden whether it's the sushi guy, the pre-made filling, or anything else, as long as you are honest about it.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Odds and Ends

Here are a few pictures to share - and make you hungry!
Devil's food cupcakes topped with blue vanilla buttercream swirls and fondant toppers made to celebrate the three-year-old birthday boy's love of all kinds of playing balls: baseball, soccer, tennis, beachball, basketball, plus a birthday wish!

Mini cupcakes to celebrate our country's birthday - chocolate mousse filled vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting and blue sprinkles,

and strawberry filled vanilla cupcakes topped with blue and white swirled vanilla buttercream.

And finally sefer Torah cookies for a bar mitzvah:

All three sizes - mini and regular closed sefer Torah,

And large open Torah bar mitzvah cookies

Keeping very busy, so that's all for now!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Two poems for two days

Neither of these poems are what I say they are. The first, Billy Collins' 9-11 memorial poem, came to mind at the Yom Hazikaron ceremony we attended last night. When the list of the fallen that were from or somehow related to our yishuv was read, the last line popped into my mind. "So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart." It is true of 9-11, but no less true of the life story of the State of Israel. That's how it feels, so many names, so many lives lost, stolen, given to protect our land. 22,867 soldiers who lost their lives defending the state of Israel and 2,443 civilians who were murdered in terrorist attacks. Of the 25,310, 183 were lost this year. If only next year not another name would be added.

The Names - Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name—Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner—Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening—weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds—Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

We will never let these names be "wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory." We keep them alive as we remember their sacrifice.

And then we somehow transition to joy and celebration - Yom Haatzmaut. This poem was the one that woke me up, that struck a chord when we were realizing that maybe we really did want, need to live here. It was as if the poet know exactly how I felt, understood the intense draw of the land. So now it is a Yom Haatzmaut poem, one that makes me know how lucky I am that we understood the pull and acted on it. This is our undeniable historical, spiritual home.

The Thread - Denise Levertov
Something is very gently,
invisibly, silently,
pulling at me-a thread
or net of threads
finer than cobweb and as
elastic. I haven't tried
the strength of it. No barbed hook
pierced and tore me. Was it
not long ago this thread
began to draw me? Or
way back? Was I
born with its knot about my
neck, a bridle? Not fear
but a stirring
of wonder makes me
catch my breath when I feel
the tug of it when I thought
it had loosened itself and gone.

So Happy 63rd Birthday to the State, reishit tzmichat geulateinu. Moadim l'simcha, l'geula shelaima!

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