Thursday, April 24, 2008

Black Forest Gateaux Cupcake Experiments and the Dosh on David in 2 Samuel 11

So there are colleagues who spend hours doing a screen-by-screen critique of Edison Chen's home movies and then there are colleagues who, despite declaring themselves old skool, cannot resist folding in references to Nigella Lawson and her ample posterior into every (baking) conversation:

"Hey, what chocolate do you think is best for this cake?"
"Well, Nigella would say 'best dark chocolate' but look at her now."

"Do you think I should up the proportion of butter?"
"Well, Nigella always heaves in a heckload of butter, but then that's how her ass got to the size of a Budweiser horse's."

"You know, everyone complains that Nigella's shows are porn, that she uses sex to sell food..." (Apparently the good lady spends alot of airtime licking things while staring meaningfully into the camera lens.) "...but I find her a disgusting glutton. At the end of every show, they have this bit where she sneaks into the kitchen in her nightie to steal food. There is nothing even remotely sexy about her inability to control herself. This is why the obese glutton flopped in France like the rancid lard-butt that she is whereas Trish Deseine is so popular."

Nigella made another appearance in our latest conversation on the infamous black forest gateaux project:
"If all else fails, you can adapt a recipe from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. Nigella recipes are so easy that even, if you pardon the expression, a half-brained monkey could whip them up."

But it became apparent late in the day that the recipe itself wasn't the problem.
Black Forest Cupcake: Prototype Beta
The problem was the possession of an unusual palate, one fond of intense flavours and a variety of textures in one confection; one roused only by perceived complexity and depth. Few others commensurated. This meant it was fairly useless for taste-testing food to be eaten by other people. Therefore, man-on-the-SBS-bus guinea pigs cupcake testers had to be recruited for the purpose.

Black Forest Cupcake Prototype Beta: the consensus was that the cupcake was very rich (score!). This didn't stop people from scarfing most of it after a very full dinner while complaining about aforementioned richness.
Experimental Sponge Cupcakes: Self-raising Flour, Some Cake Flour, Some Cocoa Powder, More Butter, More Melted Chocolate, Black Cherry Jam, Lower Oven Temperature
Everyone also agreed that the sponge had the right texture and a good crumb, was nice and chocolatey and moist. I'd left them a bit fudgey which was a-ok with the testers. Apparently some cupcakes bought off homebakers through the internet had crumbled like dust and tasted like styrofoam, so they hadn't been expecting much better.
Black Forest Cupcake: Prototype Gamma - Layer of Kirsch-soaked Cherries
The proportion of alcohol was just right (I upped this for the alkie whose cupcake was deliberately doused with kirsch and as a consequence was happy for the rest of the afternoon). Opinion on the cream cheese frosting was varied: some liked how it cut through the uniform taste of the cake, some thought it introduced too many flavours, others thought it was too salty for what they perceived to be a sweet dessert, and still others just bore a grudge against cheese in all forms anyways. The kirsch-soaked half-globe cherry layer had some rabid fans but others thought them distracting. "How to pack the cherries to perfection so as to use as little cream as possible?" ask Tomaso Aste and Denis Weaire in The Pursuit of Perfect Packing. I just didn't use any cream lor. Which probably contributed to the lack of structural integrity.

Black Forest Cupcake: Prototype Gamma
Black Forest Cupcake Prototype Gamma, topped with thick cream and cream cheese whipped together and sprinkled with dark chocolate curls, was better received.

Black Forest Cupcakes ready to take over the world!
Take us to your leader!
The second problem was that, despite what all this baking and (cup)caking might suggest, I wasn't actually fond of sweets and desserts. Like how it had been with the chemistry kit, I just liked observing chemical reactions taking place. So naturally, was most keen on having the cool sort of housemates who'd be ecstatic about a bathtub splattered with chocolate.
Heston Blumenthal's "In Search of Perfection" - The Black Forest Gateau

These chaps were working on a recipe from Heston (Fat Duck) Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection. Which hot-blooded person wouldn't be excited about the power-tools macho-ness of assembling a black forest gateau with the aid of a vacuum cleaner, a paint spray gun and several canisters of nitrous oxide? The Times published a copy of the recipe here and The Independent, unsurprisingly, dissed it/its creator as pretentious.

Edison Chen, Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal. Everyone loves to have a go at public figures. There is good money to be made by tabloids in putting people on pedestals and tearing them down later. The gossip rags in Zion/Jerusalem must have had a field day with King David.

The story is well-known. In spring, the time kings go out to battle, the glorious leader is slacking in the palace. After an idle lounge-about one afternoon, he steps out to the balcony to survey his kingdom and spies a very beautiful woman (in the words of 2 Samuel 11) bathing. He inquires as to her identity and is told that she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his own valiant men (1 Chronicles 11:41) who is away fighting David's wars for him. Whatever. David has the unfortunately-named Bathsheba is brought to him, he has his way with her and then sends her home. She later discovers that she is pregnant with his child.

David's first instinct is to cover up the deed by recalling Uriah from battle and trying to get him to sleep with his wife. Uriah refuses to even step into his own house. Damningly he reasons,"The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing." (2 Samuel 11:11). His concern is for his compatriots, his king, his nation and God, not his personal desires and comfort.

But David is unrepentant. He then attempts to get Uriah drunk so Uriah might do everyone a favour and wander off home in his inebriated state. But even when plastered, Uriah remains resolute. So like a good mafia boss, David arranges to have him killed in battle. David then marries Uriah's grieving widow, Bathsheba.

This would have been a nice clean ending to the mess since pesky forensic detectives and democratic tabloids had yet to be invented. But someone was watching. He knew what David had done last spring (2 Samuel 11:27) and wasn't terribly pleased. And he had the power to do something about it.

But in the meanwhile, we tsk and tut at David's folly and expound on the dangers of giving in to lust and of open-air baths. But secretly, we are pleased. It is good to see a righteous man fall. It is good to hear of married pastors running off with their partners or of priests molesting young boys. It is good to know that people are scum like us so we won't have to try so hard to be godly; we can be content wallowing in our scuminess. In fact, we can go one better by riding past on our moral highhorse and spitting on these once great/respected men. (The hip-ness of environmentalism and animal welfare-ism can also be linked to this, but that's another post.)

The most satisfying thing about all the juicy "did you hear?", "did you know?" tattle is to gasp, hand to open mouth,"Who would have guessed?" Who would have guessed that David, God's own anointed king, the person God said was a man after his own heart, would have so nonchalantly committed adultery and murder?

But perhaps the right and smart response to all this is not to be smugly confirmed in our sinfulness but to be warned never to be fooled into being complacent about our lack of sin. Life isn't a moral high-horse race or a competition to convince ourselves that we are really good people. It is lived out under an all-seeing, all-knowing judge who will one day deal justly with all who do not live rightly according to the natural laws of his creation.
But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD. (2 Samuel 11:27)

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At April 25, 2008 1:53 am , Anonymous cupboard shelf said...

very pwetty. =)
was just thinking that your cooking times/effects are also diff from what your recipes mention because you're not baking in a usual 9" tray. you're not using muffin tray either..?

At May 08, 2008 2:56 pm , Anonymous shadow said...

hehheh. is cos don't haf recipe in the first place mah.


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