Monday, November 25, 2013

Laughing Bubble Baby - Zoomer

Laughing Bubble Baby - Zoomer

Because I'm the Grandma Now

I remember a sticky-sweet television ad for a snack food. In it, the 20-something mom talks about how when she was a little girl and her mother gave a party her mother would serve this snack food. And NOW, she can serve it at her parties because SHE’s the MOM.

I tried that snack food.  I didn’t care for it.  Notice: I’m not naming the product.

But when I visited my grandmother, she served me schnecken.  That’s German for snail. This delight is called a snail because the dough is rolled and looks much like a snail shell.  She taught me that if something you bake turns out dry, you can put it in the freezer over night and it will be moist when you heat it in the morning.  She always kept schnecken in her freezer.

My 12-year-old grandtwins are coming over tomorrow, and I want to serve them schnecken.

The catch with my grandmother’s recipe is that it calls for brown sugar.  If I eat sucrose, my hands hurt.  No way am I going to all the work of making schnecken if I can’t enjoy them.

So, I’ve spent months adapting the recipe.  It’s not enough to substitute honey for brown sugar. Brown sugar contains molasses.  Regular molasses is high in sucrose.  But blackstrap molasses is very low in sucrose.

Honey is enough in the dough part of the schnecken.  But honey with blackstrap molasses is key to both painting the dough and putting in the muffin wells.  

Basically, the dough of a schnecken is any bread dough with a little extra honey so it is slightly sweet.  

3/4 cup warm milk or almond milk
1 TBSP yeast
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour (possibly more, depending on the weather)

(No, my grandmother did not use whole wheat flour. She used white flour and was proud of it.)

Let the yeast soften and come to life in the milk.  Add everything else.  The dough should still be a bit wet.  If it is goopy-wet, add more flour.  Let the dough rise for at least 30 minutes. Longer if the house is cold.

Shake flour on a pastry rolling cloth or silicone sheet. Plop the dough onto it. Turn the dough over several times so it is coated with flour. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a rectangle about 16" x 7". 

In a sauce pan, melt: 

1 stick of butter
1/3 cup honey
3 TBSP blackstrap molasses

Use this mixture to paint the rolled out dough.

Shake cinnamon over the painted dough
Put raisins on the dough, so there is about 1 raison every half inch in all directions.
Shake ground walnuts or pecans on the dough.

Roll up the dough across the long dimension, so the roll is still about 16 inches long.  Squeeze the roll tightly, along its length.  It will grow to about 18" long.

Pour the rest of the melted butter/ honey /molasses mix sort-of equally into the bottoms of 12 muffin cups.  Put a pretty nut-half in the center of each one.

Slice the roll into 12 pieces.  I do this by cutting in half, then each half is cut in half, and the remaining quarters are cut into thirds.

Put a flat cut edge of each schnecken into each muffin cup.

Allow to rise an hour, or longer if the house is cold.  The dough should look puffy.

Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 20 to 30 minutes.  Or longer if you put the dough in before the oven is hot.  The dough will look slightly browned when it is done cooking.

Invert the muffin pan(s) (I use 2 6-cup muffin pans) onto a cookie sheet or big plates. The butter/ honey/molasses mix will drizzle down the sides.  Allow the schnecken to cool.

You can eat them now, but they’ll be much more amazing if you put them in a baggie in the freezer over night and then heat them the next the morning.  Microwave or oven.  It doesn’t matter.  You can wrap them in aluminum foil if you prefer that to plastic baggies.  Either way, take them out of the wrapper before you heat them.  It is safe to put aluminum wrapped schnecken in an oven.  But any other combo makes a mess.  No aluminum in a microwave. No plastic baggie in either an oven or a microwave.

These are delish, as my grandmother used to say.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'll Give You Something to Cry About! - Zoomer

I'll Give You Something to Cry About! - Zoomer

Across the Atlantic

Many years ago – possibly in the last century – a poet-translator sent me a poem about Merlin that he had translated from Breton into English.  It was perfect for the Loch Ness Monster website I was building at the time, and he was happy to give it to me so long as his name was on it.

Since then we have been corresponding about a wide range of topics.  He has translated his brother’s fascinating poetry into English.  He is currently translating more Breton historical poetry into English. As usual, I go over his English to make it fit with colloquial and common usage. Sometimes I challenge his word choices because they seem illogical. And he often admits that he was taking liberties with the original for the sake of a rhyme.

We also discuss culture and politics.

We have both become grandparents via our daughters. We send each other books intended to corrupt our respective grand children with our own cultures. In particular I send science activity books, and he sends Tintin. He even sent a recording of his grandson saying “Tintin” so we could pronounce it correctly.

We both have sons-in-laws who disapprove of us. My politics are more liberal than my correspondent’s, but that never before led to any major disagreements.  I do not expect that my friends will agree with me about anything. It’s just nice when they do – especially if we are working on something together.

Today, for the first time, I find myself in a major disagreement with my French correspondent.  His son-in-law quit his job, and is now a stay-at-home dad.  Apparently this is unheard of in France.  My correspondent is concerned that his grandchildren will be teased because their father has no job, other than cooking, cleaning, and transporting the children.  His daughter makes enough money to support the family.  Women had that role in the US until the economy became so bad that both parents had to work to support a family.

If they can pay their bills on one salary, I see no problems. But my correspondent is shocked, outraged, angry, that his son-in-law is not normal. In his world view, men have jobs.  It’s as if his son-in-law is no longer a man because he quit his job.

Yet, my correspondent is retired.  That seems to be okay. Retired isn’t the same thing as quit, apparently.  But the fact remains that neither of them go to work. And they are both men.  He has agreed, at my request, to keep his opinion to himself and not harangue his daughter or his son-in-law.  But he is upset in a way that blasphemy used to upset people. His repulsion to job quitting is similar to that against an act of treason during a war.  

There is nothing in his correspondence to indicate that his son-in-law never intends to work again. He simply hated his job, and he quit.  I’ve done that. Many Americans of both genders have done that. But apparently it is rare in France, and for a man to do it is unheard of.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Overheard at the Dentist's Office

I went back to the dentist who pulled my wisdom tooth for a check-up. I had asked for the earliest appointment of the day.  When I arrived at the waiting room, two other people were there ahead of me.

One was a young man of about 20.  He was chatting with the 50ish woman in the other chair. “I had a dream last night that I was an elephant and poachers were taking my tusks.”

The other woman assured him. “You’ve come to the right place. She’s so gentle.”

I wouldn’t describe getting a tooth pulled as gentle.  This dentist knows how to numb people. And she knows how to be quick and efficient.  She made it as untraumatic as possible.  But gentle?

There was no point in arguing. The goal here was to calm the young man down.

Even though both these other people arrived first, apparently I did have the earliest appointment.  My healing gums passed inspection.  I hope I never have to go back there.

I got home, ate, brushed my teeth, and brushed a filling out.  So, I had to call my regular dentist. He had room for me in a few hours.

When I walked into the office, the receptionist said, “Weren’t you just here last week?”  Yes, I was.

My dentist is an honorable man.  When he saw that it was a filling he’d put in only 2 years ago, he said there would be no charge.

While we waited for the novocaine to start working, he told me about visiting his uncle, who was also a dentist.  His uncle was one of the first dentists to use anesthetic on children.

And when I left, we both expressed the wish that I won’t have to go back for at least 6 months.