A few weeks back I bought the book Modern Art Desserts from Caitlin Freeman at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. For my son’s birthday I decided to bake the Thiebaud White Cake. As you can see here it come out alright:
2. How I did it
Making the cake took way longer than expected even though I knew that it takes quite some time to finish a layered cake. So first I made the cake but when I baked it the cake did not rise enough to create four layers. So I made a second cake which rose a little bit higher but still created the unwanted dome shape. Then I made the Italian Buttercream which turned out good even though denser than expected. A few days later I created the macerated strawberries and the sirup. FInally I cut the two cakes in two layers each and cut off the dome shaped top, warmed up the butter cream and assembled the cake. Buttercream is like plaster where any rough surfaces or imperfections can be filled up and covered over.
3. Lessons Learned
I still don’t know how to make a good, fluffy and level cake. The first cake came out bad because I forgot the sugar and when I added it later the batter did not look good and so it was not a surprise when it did not rise well. The second then looked great and it rose good in the beginning but in the second half of the baking the edges fell down and I got a high dome which meant I had to cut of a big chunk of the cake.
I have another recipe which uses whipped egg whites to make it rise rather than baking powder. Next time I will try this instead.
But maybe it is just my lousy oven that is responsible for the problems or my baking skills. One thing I might want to try is to cover the cake pan with aluminum foil to avoid a draft. I guess the only thing that helps is to try again until I succeed.
3.2 Butter Cream
Making the Butter Cream worked well until I had to add the butter at the very end. The cream deflated and became dense when I had all the butter added. Even though I took the butter out of the refrigerator early and cut it into pieces it still was cold inside the cubes. In another recipe they whip the butter and add it in one step to the base. The whipped butter has a more uniform temperature, is soft and when added all together it is much faster done.
3.3 Macerated Strawberries
The recipe asks for way too many strawberries. I just used about half of them. One problem I ran into is that the strawberries were too big, not soft enough and so messed up my cake layering. Next time I will slice the strawberries evenly so that when I place them between the layers they berries are a good and level foundation for the next layer.
Next time I’m going to cut the cake into layers using a strong thread instead of a knife. This way I should get more even and equal thick layers. I also will use a decorating bag to build the wall at the edge of a layer to keep the strawberries and their juice inside.
The biggest lesson I learned is to make sure that the strawberries create an even and not too thick layer in between the cake layers otherwise the cake becomes uneven and therefore hard to finish and decorate. Also the top layer can break if bend. My cakes were broken anyhow because of their dome shape when left cool off inverted but a bend can make them break even more.
Another lessons is that there is nothing like too much butter cream. Until I am getting good at creating such cakes I will make at least one quarter more butter cream than the recipe asks for. The butter cream can help to glue pieces together, to even out gaps and to cover up mistakes.
Some of the instructions in the book are misleading making me confused (like the preparation of the Butter Cream) and at other steps I would like to have more instructions. For sure the recipes are not for beginners and require some expertise in baking and making butter creams etc. On the other hand only making cakes will give me the experience I need to become better at it.
Update: since three weeks I am trying to loose some weight and so far I was able to loose seven pounds. It wasn't easy because I am still hungry from time to time making me moody and irrtable. Then during the meal I have to make sure that I don't eat too fast and so too much. In order to keep my hunger in check I eat enough to feel full at least once a week. Today I am back in Silicon Valley and so I took the chance to go to the gym for some running. Loosing around 500 kcal makes eating dinner so much more fun having already earned some credits.
Being back on the road for a few weeks I noticed on the airports that my shirts feel tight and crossing my arms in front of me put an uncomfortable pressure on my stomach. At the end of the second week I had enough and I decided to slim down.
You might wonder why I did not say that I went on a diet because I actually did not do it. What I started to do is to eat less and started to work out but I did not change what I eat or in what order. So I am still eating fries, drink beer or eat cake and chocolate.
Now don't get me wrong I am often hungry and moody because of that but this becomes less over time. This also means the time between 11am and lunch and 5pm and dinner becomes a stretch. And because eating hungry isn't good due to overheating I eat a little bit then. In addition I also sit down to eat even when I bring my food to my desk. Then I stop eating when I feel full plus one or two more bites just for good measures. So far my progress is modest but I like to change how much I eat than how much weight I lose. The second comes eventually with the first but without the bungee effect.
With respect to the workout I actually didn't start it to loose weight but to manage my lower, upper back and shoulder tensions creating some nasty headache when I am back with my family and it worked out so far. But it also leaves to a guilt-free dinner having burned a big part of it before.
The next big challenge will be when I'm done with my road trips and I am home full time. I need to keep on doing my workout as well as keep eating less especially when my kids are all back at school and I'm home alone.
Cheers – Andy
This is a pure copy and they did not even try to use a different color, shape or material to hide it. One would expect such a shady behavior from a shady company in China or Poland but not from a company in Germany and they aren’t even from the former East Germany but located somewhere between Freiburg and Munich.
I would encourage everyone to go with the original in order to support the real innovators and not copycats. You can find them on StudioNeat.
Cheers – Andy
Lately I discovered that Netflix beside increasing their fee also added a lot more titles to the streaming catalog. Now it contains the original Enterprise series, TNG, Voyager, the latest Enterprise, LEXX, Firefly and many more.
Sometimes the audio of Voyager is out of sync but now I can watch these episodes when I want and when I have time not when the schedule is up or when the broadcast channels decide the are going to show us again.
Well, I’m not there were I can get ride of the cable company yet but I did not watch any regular TV for the last two weeks and right now I don’t think I’ll have time soon. So maybe this is the first step of a brave new world without broadcasting and cable companies. I at least will not shed tears when they are gone.
Dear Hillcrest Parents
Like many of you I was surprised to learn that Maureen was leaving the school but then I was even more surprised about its aftermath. Soon the new school year will start and so I think the School, the board, PTSL and the parents should take this as an opportunity to “reboot” our relationship with our school of choice.
Having a head of school for 15 years maybe made us all a little bit complacent and we were all thinking that it will go on like that for another 15 years. But this all came to an abrupt end leaving many of us scrambling to get the school back on track. Currently we have a new head of school and the teachers get ready for the new school year. Even though there is still a lot of work that needs to be done the most important task, that our kids can go back to a fully functional school, is accomplished and we should breath a sign of relief.
In todays world where all the information is at our fingertips doesn’t mean we get all the information. Nobody, not even the board, knows everything and so we should be careful with an early judgement. From various discussion with people I have great respect for the work the board has done so far and there is a lot that needs to be done in the future. It doesn’t help our kids if the board resigns, is forced to resign or if the structure of the school is drastically changed. When we expect our kids to behave good at school and that they can discuss an issue in a civil manner then we must show them that we are a role model and that we can iron out our differences and implement changes in the same manner.
Now I want to take the opportunity here to thank the board of trustees, the teachers, all PTSL members and involved parents for all their hard work they already put up so far and that I am looking forward to a new and exciting school year. I will be getting more involved in the school than last year and the more parents get involved the better the school will become and so the eduction of our kids.
Cheers – Andreas Schaefer Sr.
Since a few years I am trying to get away from the Cable Providers a little bit at a time. Initially I started using MythTV to get ride of the Commercials but unfortunately it takes way too much time to keep up to date, MythTV dropped the support for my TV card and it did not accomplish my goal. When the new AppleTV started to be sold I decided to dump MythTV and use AppleTV instead. Then I moved ahead and signed up for Netflix.
As of now I still need a Cable Provider because my kids want to see their shows and my wife want to see the local news. That said I am hoping that Netflix can ramp up their streaming offerings where eventually I can cut the cable and fire my Cable Provider. It is not only the money but I don’t see what service they actually provide to me that justifies the amount I pay. I know they need to pay royalties but then they don’t pay anything to PBS stations. They intentionally create the packages so that I have to buy way more than I actually need and they don’t want to provide a la carte selection of channels. Soon, I hope, the time will come where I can tell them to go to hell and take their outdated, consumer unfriendly system with them.
Since my kids took over the TV I did rarely watch any TV. Not only did all the TV series I was somewhat interested in either die or got so unbelievable stupid that I found playing games way more interesting. I think our family can live without the local news but my kids and my wife need to be able to watch their shows and they should either be easier to access or they should cost no more in total than the cable company.
Netflix streaming is not there yet but I hope it will be soon. That said considering that streaming plus 3 DVD out at the same time costs only $20 per month it still would save us $60 per month if we would ditch the Cable Provider. That would mean I could either buy some movies from iTunes or an entire series season from iTunes per month.
Well, I guess that my Cable Provider’s future in our home is in serious jeopardy and might be cut short soon.
Yesterday was the first day I took my new telephoto zoom lens (Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM) out for a spin at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido. Especially when taking pictures of animals there is nothing that can substitute for a zoom lens. That said using a zoom is not as easy to use as a regular lens. First it is much heavier and so harding to keep still. That is where the mechanical image stabilizer (IS) comes handy. Then it is much harder to focus and even the auto focus can be slightly off or even fully off if it focuses on the wrong piece. Quite often I end up focusing manually to make sure that I get the right focus when I need it rather than being late because the AF is not ready or the focus is off. But then MF can be difficult as well foremost when the subject has not much contrast (an all white bird).
Even when mastered these problems some pictures can yield funny and unexpected results. Here I took a picture of two parrots on a tree branch against a dark background – at least that is what I saw. When I downloaded the pictures to my computer I got quite a surprise when the background was quite bright and vivid:
Even though it gives the picture some special character it distracts from the parrots. Here is another picture where the background is very nervous and also where the focus within the bird is a problem:
All in all the telephoto zoom is really great but I need some more experience especially in low light environments which I did not encounter so far. There is definitively a need to do everything on MF because the AF is even more error prone and takes way too long. That said the year-end performances in my older boys school is a good venue for that.
BTW if you want to see the pictures in a bigger resolution or other pictures from that day please check it out on my MobileMe gallery.