Sunday, October 17, 2010

Globular Clusters

Globular clusters are some of the oldest formations in the universe, older than the galaxies that they are gravitationally bound to. They are tightly bound clusters of several hundreds of thousands of stars; in fact the stars are so close to one another that there are often collisions between stars. It is so dense in the center of the cluster that are hundreds of stars in a region of less that 3 light years wide. This image of M13 is one of the brightest globular clusters in the northern sky; if you have access to a telescope I highly recommend observing it.

These cinnamon sugar cake bite doughnut things will blow your mind. Seriously.

There is this late night bakery in Boulder called Boulder Baked. This place is awesome, they make cookies to order along with grilled cheese and other late night snacks. Its the type of place that I don't go to on a regular basis (thankfully, for my health's sake) but rather its the type that once I "rediscover" it, I'm hooked for a solid 3 days.

I introduced this place to my friend Nick and he became addicted to it, no joke. We would walk to Boulder Baked at 1am during the summer and eat all the cookies before we even made it back home. It's all about the journey not the destination, or something like that. On a few occasions when I would stop by his apartment on my way to class in the afternoon I found him passed out on his couch with a empty box of boulder baked cookies on his lap, a victim of an apparent sugar coma. I wish I had thought to take a picture. Priceless.

Last time I visited Boulder Baked I was feeling impatient about waiting a whole 10-12 minutes for a cookie and found these little cake-like doughnut things in the display case. Biting into them is pure heaven. They are soft and cake-like with a crunchy cinnamon sugar shell.
They have this cake-like taste but with the consistency of a moist doughnut... Its really hard to describe accurately. I knew that I had to recreate these at once. After questioning the guy working behind the counter for about 5 minutes he finally asked me if I was wanting to make them at home. Uh... obviously.

Since they would not divulge their "secret" recipe I turned to the internet. Coming up empty handed, I decided to combine a vanilla cake recipe with elements of a baked doughnut recipe and here is what I came up with:

Globular Clusters (aka Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut-Cake Bites):
(Note: I have no idea what their formal name is so I'm going to call them Globular Clusters--I think it rolls off the tongue easier than Super Yummy Cinnamon Sugar Two Bite Cake Doughnut Fritter Things)
makes 14

3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 c. melted butter
3/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

For the topping:
melted butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 35o degrees and spray a muffin tin with cooking oil.
2. Beat together sugar and the egg (~2 minutes).
3. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg; combine with egg mixture.
4. Mix in melted butter, milk, and vanilla.
5. Divide evenly among muffin cups, filling it about a quarter full, and bake for about 10-15 minutes.
6. Once they have been removed from the oven lightly brush the surface with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Banana Equivalence

Oh what a cold and dreary day it is in Boulder. It has been raining all morning with no sign that the sun will make an appearance.

What is your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? For me, it is baking followed by watching old episodes of Cosmos, there is just something so soothing about Carl Sagan's voice. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks that.

Seeing as how the rain inspires me to pick up a spatula and I had promised my friends that cheesecake would be the next thing that I made, I set off to the kitchen. After a quick survey of my fridge I discovered that I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand to make cheesecake but what I did have were overripe bananas. I'm not insinuating that I was able use bananas in place of the cheese in cheesecake (even though it seems that you could use bananas in place of just about anything nowadays) but what I did do was stray a little away from cheesecake and made...... banana cupcakes with honey-cinnamon frosting! Just as good. Besides, I've never been a big fan of cheesecake.

The perfect afternoon snack to accompany a mug of tea on a dreary day.

Banana Cupcakes:
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart; makes 12 - I got 15)
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 c. mashed bananas (about 3 large ripe bananas)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Honey-Cinnamon Frosting:
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 tbsp. honey
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In the well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir just to incorporate flour mixture.
3. Divide mixture evenly among baking cups; smooth surface.
4. Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes. Immediately remove cupcakes from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
5. Spread frosting on cooled cakes and enjoy (yum).

Beat sugar, butter, honey, and cinnamon together until smooth, ~4 min

Once the weather starts to get cold again it makes me want to crawl under my blankets and listen to Interpol all day. I love this song, the singer has such a beautiful voice:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory, also known as the butterfly effect, states that small changes in the initial condition of a system can yield widely unpredictable outcomes. This image of two Lorenz attractors demonstrates a sensitivity on initial conditions which evolves in a complex non-repeating pattern.

I've been living in a state of disarray for the past few weeks. A busy schedule combined with exams has equated to chaos, especially so for my apartment.

This morning after waking up and tripping over the obscene pile of shoes on my bedroom floor (and nearly spraining my other ankle) I decided that something needed to be done and embarked on a cleaning spree, rubber gloves and all. Have you ever been scared to look under your bed, fearing that an Ewok is hiding under there? Yeah, um... me neither.

I think one of the best parts of cleaning is finding lost items or things that you forgot that you even owned, case in point:

The found items include: peacock feather earrings I impulsively bought in a restroom on my birthday, a library book I was positive I returned, a meteorite fragment, etc.

I also found a sad neglected bundle of freckled bananas that were beckoning to be made into something delicious. Besides, I think that I deserved to be rewarded with cake for all of the cleaning I did!

The recipe that I used was one that I had bookmarked for a while which calls for a box of white cake mix and usually I try to avoid using cake mix but seeing as how I was at a shortage of energy I decided not to fight it and the cake came out beautifully. I probably should have added a bit more of baking powder and flour since I live at a higher elevation.

I couldn't... um... find my cake pan so I put the batter in a loaf pan and used the rest to make cupcakes

White Chocolate Banana Cake:
(Recipe courtesy of Deborah's Culinary Confections)
1 (18.25 oz) box white cake mix
1 c. bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 c. white chocolate chips

1/2 c. powdered sugar
enough milk for drizzling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; coat a 9x13 baking pan with non stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine cake mix, bananas, eggs, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir until well combined; fold in white chocolate chips.
3. Spread evenly into cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.
4. In a small bowl combine powdered sugar and milk, a teaspoon at a time, until it creates a smooth glaze and consistency for drizzling. Top cooled cake with glaze.