Saturday, November 28, 2009

What not to say about your 1962 Missal

A missal is a book that has the prayers and readings for Mass. Missals from 1962 and before are for the traditional form of Mass, in Latin, while later missals are for the novus ordo ("new order") Mass.

So Christie and I were in San Diego earlier this week, and we went to our favorite church there, St. Anne's. It was a Tuesday evening and Fr. Masutti was giving a talk. He's from Argentina, a dark-haired man who speaks with an accent. His fraternity is the FSSP, a group of priests that says the traditional Latin Mass. So he was explaining to us how to use our 1962 Missals to find the prayers and readings for the current day by checking the liturgical calendar and proper of saints and so on. And then he offered some very practical advice:

"This is what not to say. I was at airport customs and the agent asked me what I had and I answered, 'Oh, I just have a missal in my bag!'"

Fr. Masutti says it took him a long time to explain.

The Benedictines remind you to...

...pursue tasty seafood!

It's Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California, home to a bunch of Benedictine monks and a great place for a day of recollection. I love to pray in their church. But I can't say I think much of the weird 70's font they've got going on. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Off to San Diego!

A friend and I are headed down to San Diego to stay with my sister. I'm really glad we're going! We'll be driving back to Los Angeles tomorrow night, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. So traffic should be pretty good, right? ;)

Mocha Madeleines

I saw a recipe for coffee-flavored madeleines in the December 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living and decided I needed to buy a madeleine pan and make it. :) I didn't realize that madeleines are really meant to be mini cakes, not cookies. So these weren't as dense and chewy and flavorful as I had envisioned, but heck, I'll take 'em. I'll type up the recipe if anyone wants it, but mainly I just wish to torment you with pictures. :D

Update: The recipe is here. I would add the following notes: I used a mini madeleine pan, which made about three dozen. I found that filling the molds a little more than level gave a better shape than underfilling them. (So fill them more than you see in my second picture. The third picture where they puff up sweetly came from overfilling the tins. The fourth picture where they're falling out of the pan shows the rough edges you get if you underfill.) Dipping the madeleines in melted chocolate instead of glaze might be worth trying. Any ground coffee beans should work; you don't need espresso beans. Greasing the tins with butter and powdering with cocoa isn't necessary if you have a nonstick pan. If you think it's ridiculous that the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of one kind of flour and 1/4 cup of another kind-- you're absolutely right. Just use a cup of normal flour. The recipe says to refrigerate overnight, but one hour was enough. I suspect you don't really have to melt the butter either. If I did this recipe again I'd just soften it and beat it in, and then I probably wouldn't need to refrigerate the dough at all. That nonsense about "fold flour mixture into egg mixture in 2 additions using a rubber spatula" can be ignored. Just mix it in any old way. Also-- a cake tester?? In my universe they're called toothpicks. Did the recipe's author think we'd be more impressed if she made everything harder? End update.

(If you're wondering: why yes, I have been in a baking mood lately. THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE!)

So I made a delicious batter with ground coffee beans.

And filled my mini madenleine tins.

They puffed up so sweetly. :)

The recipe called for buttering and powdering all the molds to prevent sticking, but I had a non-stick pan and the madeleines fell right out.

Made a glaze with powdered sugar, brewed coffee, and more ground coffee beans.

And it was time to dip the cookies!

Yes, that looks good. But does it taste any good?


A counterfull of yummy madeleines!

So cute.

I packaged them for transport to an undisclosed location.

Up next: Santa Claus faces! Really fun to make!

That's assuming I don't make anything else in between now and December 6...

Nerd talk

I knew a brilliant math major when I was in college, the kind who was lead author of his own paper while still an undergrad. He was two years ahead of me and helped me not to fail freshman math. Now he's an Oxford professor and I saw his picture on Facebook yesterday with his sister. "You have the same hair!" I commented. And he replied...

"Not quite the same, actually. My curls have a nontrivially larger radius of curvature."

There were other Techers who talked like that. I always used to enjoy it. The nerd language came naturally to them and allowed them to express themselves more succinctly or precisely than any other vocabulary could. Once I sat on an L-shaped sofa with several others, one of whom wished to switch places with the guy at the other end. "Let's shift chirality," said he. Another time a chem major formed an antibody shape with a mold-able eraser and tried unsuccessfully to stick it on the end of a pencil. When it fell off a future doctor picked it up and said, "Let me affinity maturate it," as he molded it more firmly to the pencil.

And was our college any good at sports? Let me put it this way: while I was a student there, People magazine and the Los Angeles Times both featured stories on the Caltech basketball team... and its remarkably long losing streak. I lettered in fencing... because I showed up. I only made the team because there weren't enough women to fill it out. And this was a fight cheer I heard:

It's all right!
It's okay!
You'll all work for us some day!

So, not an athletic powerhouse. I fit right in and really enjoyed my college days. :)

Charles Matthew Linsz, born November 23, 2009!

Meet my new first cousin once removed! I'm so proud. :) He's named after his great-uncle, a fighter pilot who was killed in WWII.

Peanut butter cookies. :)

Normally I prefer to make cookies from scratch, but when I walk by a display of snack-sized peanut butter cookie mixes for $1 each, I'm as vulnerable as the next one. Or more so. :)

So I admit it: those cookies I brought to the Star Trek Blu-Ray party last weekend were from a mix. And darn good too!

So ridiculously easy to make. Take a tablespoon of oil...

and two of water...

...add the mix...

...mix it up (and this can be done by hand; you don't need a mixer)...

...roll into balls...

...flatten with a fork in that famous peanut butter cookie way...

...until they're all criss-crossed...

...bake for ten minutes or so...

...and you're done! These were very tasty.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Lemon wreath cookies

Observe the latest creation:

It's lemon dough twisted into a doughnut shape, then baked and topped with lemon glaze and cute fall-leaf sprinkles. I got the recipe from Martha Stewart's magazine which informs me that these are Italian cookies known in their home country as ciambelle. Here it is with my comments in italics:

Lemon Wreaths

Makes 6 dozen [Rachel says: no, it doesn't. It makes 44 cookies if each one uses a tablespoon of dough.]

For the cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For the glaze
3 cups confectioners' sugar [Two is plenty.]
7 to 8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons) [ 2.5 lemons gave about 1/4 - 1/3 cup, which was enough. 16 tablespoons = 1 cup.]
1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons white nonpareils, for sprinkling [Or any sprinkles you like.]

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Make the cookies: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Pulse the sugar and zest in a food processor until combined, about 2 minutes.

  2. Beat sugar-zest mixture and butter in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until combined.

  3. Scoop 1 tablespoon dough (or use a 1 1/8-inch ice cream scoop), and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 4-inch rope. [Make it five inches, or the opening in the ring won't be big enough and it'll close when the dough puffs up in the oven.] Bring ends together, overlapping slightly, and press together to form a ring. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer rings to parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart, as you work. Bake until pale golden on the bottoms and around the edges, about 18 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool.

  4. Make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. [This is the tasty part. Make the glaze as thick as you can so there'll be a thicker layer on the cookies.] Dip the top side of each cookie into glaze, letting the excess drip off. [If the glaze is thick the coating might look rough and peaky, but once you set the cookie down it settles into a smooth layer.] Return cookies to wire racks, glaze sides up, and sprinkle with nonpareils. Let dry completely. Decorated cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
But of course there must be pictures! Here are lemon zest and lemon juice.

Lemon zest mixed with sugar. Maybe I'll just stop the recipe here and snack. :)

No, I'll add the butter and then stop the recipe.

Okay, here it is with eggs and flour and all. I'm totally about to lick that beater.

Looking dubiously at my "floured surface". I don't have much experience rolling out dough with flour.

A four-inch rope of dough, a tablespoon of dough waiting to be rolled, and a nice doughnut shape. These were my first attempts; later I learned not to coat with so much flour and to stretch out the dough a bit more.

A tray of doughnut-shaped cookies for baking!

And it's glaze time!

Sprinkling wet glaze with fall leaves and snacking as I go.

I made fall-leaf cookies till the sprinkles ran out...

And then switched to some other fall-colored sprinkles.

My mom had some colored sugar that looked brown, so next I tried that. But it was really rather pink:

That inspired me to try yellow, since these were lemon cookies, after all.

Here they all are on the cooling rack:


And here's what the counter looked like when I removed the rack. Glaze dripped all over the place.

Let's try more closeups!

You just want to chomp into that nice drape of lemon glaze, don't you? It's begging to be eaten.

I took care of it.

And here's a side view of a leaf cookie. Click for a bigger version, set as your desktop background. :)


I'm going to admit that the lemon dough was a bit bland for my taste. I should have been on my guard when I saw that the recipe called for three cups of flour and only 2/3 cup sugar. My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, in contrast, has two cups of flour and two of sugar. Sugar and flour in equal proportions = OM NOM NOM! Much less sugar than flour = what's the point? I suppose these Italians don't know the proper use of sweetness, but we Americans are expert in that area, if by expert we mean that we eat a lot of it. :) The glaze on top rescued the cookies, and I didn't have any trouble finding takers who would eat them, but I wouldn't go to all the trouble of making this recipe again, not when there are so many recipes out there of superior sugariness.

Oh, right, and why is a Thanksgiving cookie a Catholic dessert? Because the Eucharist is a Catholic thing and Eucharist in Greek means "Thanksgiving". Q.E.D.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Seen any Christmas lights yet?

On Wednesday night I saw that a house near ours had its lights up. These were icicle lights; no mistaking them for Thanksgiving decorations or Halloween holdovers. Then the very next night I saw a lit-up wreath on someone's door. Don't these people know how to procrastinate? Also, our first Christmas catalog of this year arrived in... August.

Stop the madness!

First Things has a poem called "Advent Carol" in its latest (December) issue:

Advent's dreary. Let's start living
Christmas now! Wear red and green!
While we're at it, skip Thanksgiving!
Deck the halls at Halloween!

Update: So I just received the December issue of Martha Stewart Living, with a bunch of Christmas recipes, and I thought I'd better clarify that of course I never meant to include cookie baking in my rant. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I grok Spock

Last week my friend Heathre learned from the Twitterverse that there'd be a screening of Star Trek IV on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, where much of the movie was filmed. I have such useful friends. :) She got a group together and so last Saturday I got to see my favorite Star Trek movie in a theater for the first time. It holds up well, just as funny as ever.

Kirk: "You're not exactly catching us at our best."
Spock: "That much is certain."

What has changed is that the movie no longer looks like the crew of the Enterprise visiting our own time. Now it looks like the crew of the Enterprise visiting that strange and colorful world of the 1980's, which is the primitive past to us as well as to them!

AND! Leonard Nimoy was there and answered questions for almost an hour afterwards! I haven't been to all the conventions like some who are better fans, so all of his stories were new to me. Did you know that he's the one who came up with the Vulcan salute? And you know where he got it from? Once as a boy he was in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, and the Kohanim, men from the priestly tribe of Levi, got up and blessed the congregation. They were calling out the blessing very loudly-- "May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you and give you peace!"-- and as they did people threw their prayer shawls over their heads and everyone was supposed to be bowing with eyes closed as the glory of God descended, but little Leonard Nimoy took a peek and saw the priests making that sign with their hands. Apparently they do this because the shape of it vaguely resembles the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter of Shaddai, one of the names for God.

I'm sure that's old news to all true Trekkers, but I thought it was cool. :)

Update: found a link that explains it.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Deliciously Evil Pumpkin Muffins

My friend Linda from church is a great person to know, not least because she gave me a recipe for pumpkin muffins a little while ago. Would you like to see it? :)

I know, I know, but it would take quite a while to type it up, so I'm just gonna slap a picture of the recipe up there.

I made these a few weeks ago, right after I got the recipe. They were great and I took them to work. I set the very large tupperware container filled with two layers of mini muffins on the table in the break room. About ninety minutes later I returned and the muffins were nearly all gone. But there was a piece of notepaper on the top of the container, on which somebody had scrawled two words:


I believe that's the best recommendation I can give to these scrumptious little muffins, which I made again today. So let's get going, shall we?

The ingredients: a can of pumpkin and lots of other stuff to dress it up. :)

We begin with white sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin.

Mix all that and then add eggs and oil and water.

An assortment of spices-- I really love the ground nutmeg, and cloves have a great scent. It's good to know your herbs and spices, because there's no better way to add FLAVOR without pouring on the fat and sugar and salt... not that there's anything wrong with that either!

We add the spice mixture to the pumpkin mixture:

A promising batter is starting to form (how do you like that action shot?)

You can make this recipe with raisins, but look how pretty the dates are!

Mixing in the dates.

Also the chopped pecans.

Mini muffin pan lined with baking cups. I have a good feeling about this.

Yes, this is headed in the right direction.

Oh yum (as I save some batter to eat out of the bowl). I ask you, how do you top that? You can't! You can't top this pumpkin muffin batter!

Oh, wait. Yes you can. With streusel! Flour, brown sugar, pecans, butter, and cinnamon! (Out of curiosity, how many of you saw the bad pun coming?)

Mix it all together and eat it out of the measuring cup for lunch sprinkle it on top of the muffins.

Now this is what I'm talking about!

Bake those suckers at 350°F for about eighteen minutes. They come out looking like this:

Are they any good? Let's take a closer look.

I don't know, can you really tell without a taste test?

You know how you get to the end of someone's recipe post, and there's a picture of the delicious final creation, and it looks so yummy, and you just wish you could be there with the cook and taste whatever she just made, but alas, you can't because it's just a picture you're viewing on the internet, but boy, it would be nice to take a bite? I feel that all the time. You know that feeling?


Today is not your day, but is MY day! Oh yes! Today I eat pumpkin muffins! Meditate upon that as you gaze up my nose!

Pumpkin muffins.