Thursday, September 7, 2017

Chase the wind: girl on a flying pony

I made these not-entirely-satisfying gifs from a Facebook video I loved, mainly because the video won't fit my antiquated blog space (and I can't find it on YouTube, except for the short excerpt I posted above).

This little girl is hell-for-leather, and if her riding style sometimes lacks finesse (she loses a stirrup near the end and begins to bounce around alarmingly), girl and pony somehow come through with great bravura. Together, they are fearless. At first I thought this video was on the wrong speed, the pony seemed so fast, but I think it has to do with the photography - the cinematography, I'd call it, which has some sort of understanding of show jumping and the way horse and rider move around the course. None of this wretched miles-from-nowhere stuff shot on a phone.

Cat rescue: whiskers in the night!


The living saints at Canopy Cat Rescue have done it again, beguiling a scared little tuxedo (with white whiskers to die for) out of a high and scary place. I made these gifs out of a video that didn't quite fit my screen, and it's too bad they don't have sound, because the miaaaawwwws are plaintive and beseeching: translated, they'd say, "Get me the fxxx DOWN from here!"

Pastry hacks at the speed of light

This is more of a watching video than a doing video. Fun and fancy, but I'll probably never try them. I'm more of a butter tart person myself, or a cheese straw person (mmmmm . . cheese straws. . . ). I haven't made a pie in a very long time. Eons ago, I would turn out a raisin pie with a lattice crust (I mean a true lattice, weaving the pastry strips in and out like a basket, not a faux lattice such as you see here). The kids didn't like it, but I think it kept my marriage together through many a storm.

Pastry is a hereditary condition, like certain diseases. I inherited the knack from my mother, who got it from HER mother, etc. etc., all the way back to Old Ireland and the most primitive, poverty-stricken kitchen, where women nonetheless turned out warm, juicy, delectable fruit pies, the cherries and apples picked the same day from their own trees. The pastry would be like a bit of heaven in the mouth. It must have helped to make a scraping, strivingly hard life more bearable.

We had a sour cherry tree in the back yard in Chatham, a gnarled thing with a big branch at the bottom that kept almost falling off, so that we had to tie it back on with rope. It didn't help that I kept climbing it to get over the picket fence to my neighbor's house and their fascinating pigeon coop. Once I saw the Dad flick the head off a live chicken and watched it flap around, while the head sat on the step, its beak opening and closing.

The sour cherries, when combined with just the right amount of sugar, were the kind of Proustian memory you take to your grave. I can see them now, and feel them in my mouth, the tart pink slipskins. Too bad the best stuff in my life had to happen so long ago.

My daughter picked up pastry-making from me, her light hand making her a natural. Caitlin then got it almost right away, perfecting it on second try. She just got it, understood that you must handle the pastry gently but firmly, not working the gluten. 

Many people never learn the knack. I don't put much into it, don't fuss, don't use a marble slab or ice water or anything (but I DO wipe the plant dirt off the counter first), sticking the bowl under the tap, when it's supposed to be some sort of distilled Alpine water or whatever. The pastry tells you when it is right.

(If you want to hear the sound track to this, click play, click on the Facebook symbol on the bottom right corner, and you'll get a sound version. Not much to write home about, but there it is.)

Julia Child's Classic French Madeleines

Prep time
1 hour

Cook time
20 mins

Total time
1 hour 20 mins

2 eggs
⅔ cup sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon All purpose flour (Maida)
140 grams unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
pinch of salt
Powdered sugar (optional)


Slightly beat the eggs in a bowl. Measure ¼ cup of eggs into a bowl. 

Then beat in the sugar and the cup of flour. Add little more egg ( a tablespoon at a time), if the batter is too dry. When thoroughly blended, set aside and let it rest for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauce pan, bring it to the boil, and let it brown lightly. Set aside.
Place the 1 tablespoon of flour in a small bowl and blend in 1½ tablespoons of the browned butter. Paint the Madeleine cups with the butter-flour mixture. Set aside. 

Stir the rest of the butter over ice until cool but liquid. Mix the butter with the last of the eggs along with salt, lemon rind and juice and vanilla. 

Add this mixture to the resting batter and stir well. Allow the batter to rest for 10 more minutes. If you want a big hump in the middle which is so characteristic about Madeleines, allow the batter to rest for one hour at room temperature or couple of hours in the refrigerator. 

Preheat the oven to 375 F, and set the racks in upper and lower middle levels. Divide the batter into 24 lumps of a generous tablespoon each, and drop them into the Madeleine cups. Bake in the preheated oven until the cakes are slightly browned around the edges, humped in the middle, and slightly shrunk from the cups. 

Un-mold onto a rack. When cool, turn shell side up and dust with confectioners sugar for serving. (dusting is optional). They will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two in an airtight container.