Saturday, March 29, 2014

Strawberry Daiquiri Cake






Strawberry Daiquiri Cake (based off a basic bløtkake recipe)    
A delicious strawberry daiquiri flavored cake, made by adapting a traditional Norwegian birthday cake recipe. The cake combines the flavors of fresh strawberries with rum extract and whipped cream -- providing a treat as decadent as it is lovely. Pinched for time? Double the whipped cream frosting and skip the custard.

Ingredients

Cake:
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 eggs, separated (you will need both yolks & whites, but separately)
1 cup sugar
1  teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract OR 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Custard filling:
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
Several drops of red food coloring

Fruit:                
1 pint of washed, sliced strawberries

Directions
Cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. With electric mixer, whip the separated egg whites until fluffy in a large bowl.



 Add in the sugar gradually. Beat the mixture until it gets to a stiff meringue like consistency. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg yolks. Gently fold the egg yolks in.



Combine flour and baking powder, and combine with egg mixture. You will now have a light, airy cake mix.


Thoroughly butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, and divide batter between them. You can try cooking spray if you like, but I found that it did not work nearly as well as butter. You can also use parchment paper if you find that works better for you.
 

Bake at 350 F until the centers spring back when touched with finger, about 30 minutes. Set on a rack to cool. Don't attempt to remove the cake until it's thoroughly cooled. Cake centers might settle somewhat during cooling.




Custard filling:

In a small saucepan, combine egg yolks, butter, cornstarch, cream and sugar. Your mixture will start a little lumpy. That's okay at this point.



Cook at a medium heat stirring frequently. Do not allow a buildup to form on bottom of pan. Continue cooking until mixture attains a thick and creamy texture. Remove from heat and mix in vanilla.

 
Let cool completely before using with cake. It's best to start this right after you put the cake in the oven, so that the custard will be cool when you're ready.

Assembly:
Remove cooled cakes from pan. Cut in half horizontally (yielding four 9-inch circles).

Place one layer of cake on a serving plate and spread with custard.



Arrange strawberry pieces on custard.



Top with a second layer of cake.



Spread custard and fruit as before. Repeat with third layer. Top with final layer of cake (do not put custard/fruit on this layer, as you'll frost/decorate it before serving). Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to finish.

 Frosting:

Combine powdered sugar, rum & strawberry extracts, food color and whipping cream.



Whip. Unless planning to utilize  refrigeration and a whipped cream stabilizer, try to prepare frosting and finish the cake an hour or so before serving. This gives the flavors time to combine, without leaving the whipped cream sitting too long.



 Finishing:

Generously frost the assembled cake with whipped cream. Decorate in strawberry slices. If possible, let sit half an hour before serving. Enjoy!



Strawberry Daiquiri Cake


Ingredients


Cake:
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 eggs, separated (you will need both yolks & whites, but separately)
1 cup sugar
1  teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract OR 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Custard filling:
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
Several drops of red food coloring

Fruit:                
1 pint of washed, sliced strawberries

Directions
Cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. With electric mixer*, whip the separated egg whites until fluffy in a large bowl; add in the sugar gradually. Beat the mixture until it gets to a stiff meringue like consistency. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg yolks. Gently fold the egg yolks and extracts in. Combine flour and baking powder, and combine with egg mixture.
Thoroughly butter** and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, and divide batter between them. Bake at 350 F until the centers spring back when touched with finger, about 30 minutes. Set on a rack to cool. Don't attempt to remove the cake until it's thoroughly cooled. Cake centers might settle somewhat during cooling.

Custard filling:

In a small saucepan, combine egg yolks, butter, cornstarch, cream and sugar. Cook at a medium heat stirring frequently. Do not allow a buildup to form on bottom of pan. Continue cooking until mixture attains a thick and creamy texture. Remove from heat and add rum extract. Let cool completely before using with cake.

Assembly:
Remove cooled cakes from pan. Cut in half horizontally (yielding four 9-inch circles). Place one layer of cake on a serving plate and spread with custard. Arrange strawberry pieces on custard. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread custard and fruit as before. Repeat with third layer. Top with final layer of cake (do not put custard/fruit on this layer, as you'll frost/decorate it before serving). Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to finish.

 Frosting:

Combine powdered sugar, rum and strawberry extracts, food coloring and whipping cream. Whip. Unless planning to utilize  refrigeration and a whipped cream stabilizer, try to prepare frosting and finish the cake an hour or so before serving. This gives the flavors time to combine, without leaving the whipped cream sitting too long.

 Finishing:

Generously frost the assembled cake with whipped cream. Decorate in strawberry pieces. If possible, let sit half an hour before serving. Enjoy!




* If all else fails, you can do this by hand...but they need to be beaten quite thoroughly, so I highly, highly recommend an electric mixer. 
** You can try cooking spray if you like, but I found that it did not work nearly as well as butter. You can also use parchment paper if you find that works better for you.

Note: Some of  the images used herein also appear in my post for the Norwegian birthday cake, because the process is essentially the same (and not all of my pictures for the steps to make each cake came out well :) )

Friday, March 28, 2014

Norwegian Birthday Cake (Bløtkake)



Norwegian Birthday Cake (Bløtkake)    
A fluffy cake, whipped cream and fresh fruit come together to make this cake as beautiful and colorful as it is delicious. There are different variations of the recipe, but this is the one I use. It relies on beating the egg whites until very, very fluffy (some recipes call for cream of tartar and more baking powder instead), and takes additions of extract/flavor changes very well. If you're in a pinch for time, drop the custard and double the whipped cream -- use it between layers instead of custard. Non-dairy whipped topping can be substituted for the whipped cream frosting, but the flavor difference is pretty substantial...I only recommend doing this if necessary.

Ingredients

Cake:
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 eggs, separated (you will need both yolks & whites, but separately)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Custard filling:
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fruit:                
1 pint or more fresh, washed (or, if unavailable, thawed & drained frozen) strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and/or raspberries

Directions
Cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. With electric mixer, whip the separated egg whites until fluffy in a large bowl.



 Add in the sugar gradually. Beat the mixture until it gets to a stiff meringue like consistency. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg yolks. Gently fold the egg yolks and vanilla in.



Combine flour and baking powder, and combine with egg mixture. You will now have a light, airy cake mix.


Thoroughly butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, and divide batter between them. You can try cooking spray if you like, but I found that it did not work nearly as well as butter. You can also use parchment paper if you find that works better for you.
 

Bake at 350 F until the centers spring back when touched with finger, about 30 minutes. Set on a rack to cool. Don't attempt to remove the cake until it's thoroughly cooled. Cake centers might settle somewhat during cooling.




Custard filling:

In a small saucepan, combine egg yolks, butter, cornstarch, cream and sugar. Your mixture will start a little lumpy. That's okay at this point.



Cook at a medium heat stirring frequently. Do not allow a buildup to form on bottom of pan. Continue cooking until mixture attains a thick and creamy texture. Remove from heat and mix in vanilla.

 
Let cool completely before using with cake. It's best to start this right after you put the cake in the oven, so that the custard will be cool when you're ready.

Assembly:
Remove cooled cakes from pan. Cut in half horizontally (yielding four 9-inch circles).

Place one layer of cake on a serving plate and spread with custard.



Arrange fruit pieces on custard. You can use more or less fruit as you see fit (I've found that I like more fruit than you see here, but some of my family relegates fruits to the category just above "green things" -- barely edible ;) ).



Top with a second layer of cake.



Spread custard and fruit as before.



Repeat with third layer.

 
Top with final layer of cake (do not put custard/fruit on this layer, as you'll frost/decorate it before serving).


Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to finish.

 Frosting:

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and whipping cream.



Whip. Unless planning to utilize  refrigeration and a whipped cream stabilizer, try to prepare frosting and finish the cake an hour or so before serving. This gives the flavors time to combine, without leaving the whipped cream sitting too long.

 Finishing:

Generously frost the assembled cake with whipped cream. Decorate in fruit pieces.



If possible, let sit half an hour before serving. Enjoy!




Norwegian Birthday Cake (Bløtkake)


Ingredients


Cake:
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 eggs, separated (you will need both yolks & whites, but separately)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Custard filling:
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fruit:                
1 pint or more fresh, washed (or, if unavailable, thawed & drained frozen) strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and/or raspberries

Directions
Cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. With electric mixer*, whip the separated egg whites until fluffy in a large bowl; add in the sugar gradually. Beat the mixture until it gets to a stiff meringue like consistency. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg yolks. Gently fold the egg yolks and vanilla in. Combine flour and baking powder, and combine with egg mixture.
Thoroughly butter** and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, and divide batter between them. Bake at 350 F until the centers spring back when touched with finger, about 30 minutes. Set on a rack to cool. Don't attempt to remove the cake until it's thoroughly cooled. Cake centers might settle somewhat during cooling.

Custard filling:

In a small saucepan, combine egg yolks, butter, cornstarch, cream and sugar. Cook at a medium heat stirring frequently. Do not allow a buildup to form on bottom of pan. Continue cooking until mixture attains a thick and creamy texture. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let cool completely before using with cake.

Assembly:
Remove cooled cakes from pan. Cut in half horizontally (yielding four 9-inch circles). Place one layer of cake on a serving plate and spread with custard. Arrange fruit pieces on custard. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread custard and fruit as before. Repeat with third layer. Top with final layer of cake (do not put custard/fruit on this layer, as you'll frost/decorate it before serving). Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to finish.

 Frosting:

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and whipping cream. Whip. Unless planning to utilize  refrigeration and a whipped cream stabilizer, try to prepare frosting and finish the cake an hour or so before serving. This gives the flavors time to combine, without leaving the whipped cream sitting too long.

 Finishing:

Generously frost the assembled cake with whipped cream. Decorate in fruit pieces. If possible, let sit half an hour before serving. Enjoy!




* If all else fails, you can do this by hand...but they need to be beaten quite thoroughly, so I highly, highly recommend an electric mixer. 
** You can try cooking spray if you like, but I found that it did not work nearly as well as butter. You can also use parchment paper if you find that works better for you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What can we learn from "God's not Dead"?

No, seriously.

I mean it, what can we learn from the intellectual travesty that is God's Not Dead?

Oh for pity's sake, stop laughing already! It might be unquestionably is a self-defeating, dishonest, and intellectually bereft film; but, for a film that centers around arguments and "logic" that would fail a highschool intro-to-critical-thinking class, it's actually surprisingly instructive.

Not about logic. Or philosophy. Or even the finer points of theology. No, God's Not Dead is a compilation of terrible arguments and worse stereotypes, presented as if it's something new and thought provoking...the dimwitted but loudmouthed jock of films, that blunders onscreen and spends a long time attempting to prove how clever it is -- but in the end leaves any thinking person embarrassed to be in the vicinity. And yet, it's still an instructive film, on a number of points.


1. It illustrates the power of the absurd, right-wing Christian persecution fetish. The very premise centers around an outlandish scenario of atheist-on-Christian persecution: the evil atheist professor, Dr. Radisson, demands that the heroic Christian student either turn his back on god, or else defend his beliefs in (and win) a one-on-one classroom debate with said evil atheist professor. As justification for such an absurd scenario, the movie creators cite a list, that stretches back decades, of a few dozen cases of alleged-Christian classroom persecutions. A few dozen instances nationwide -- even if they were all real (they're not*) -- across decades, while unacceptable, is hardly the stuff of widespread persecution. A professor dragging a student in front of a classroom for a one-on-one debate on which his grade hangs is an abuse of authority and a violation of the most outrageous sort. And a complete figment of the creators' (highly active) imaginations. The main premise of the film is the persecution of Christians. It emphasizes throughout the persecuted minority status of Christians. As David Johnson notes, in the film:
Josh and Pastor Dave estimate that, out of the 80 students in the class, Josh is the only one that has ever set foot in a church. In reality, 78% of all Americans are Christian—almost 4 out of every 5. Yet at this American university, only one in every 80 students has ever been to church? This fits quite nicely with the narrative propagated by many conservative media outlets that the white Christian is a persecuted minority in America—despite the fact that they make up a majority of the population, control the highest rated news media outlets, the lion’s share of the nation’s businesses and money, and have dominated political power since the nation’s founding.
The promotions appeal to the persecution mindset:


 








It's all about the heroic, persecuted Christian fundamentalist daring to take a stand against the secular persecutor. It's something along the lines of sitting in your basement and crafting weapons to destroy the invading cylons: a battle that's only happening in the minds of the "defenders". Christians aren't under siege. Christians don't live in "shame" or fear, nor do they have to (or are pressured to) "apologize" for their beliefs. In no way is the most powerful, well-represented and vocal majority in our nation somehow simultaneously a persecuted minority.

It would be comical, if so many didn't take it seriously. But, just like Fox's "War on Christmas", this mythical battle is lucrative for the producers, and they do everything they can to impress upon Christians that they, that ruling majority, are in fact the trod upon minority. Which brings me to my next point: their view of actual minorities.

2. God's not Dead illustrates powerfully the fundamentalist view of those who disagree with them.

Atheists:
- Radisson  doesn't actually disbelieve in god. He just hates him. This is something you hear a lot in fundamentalist circles. Atheists aren't actually atheists, they're just rebellious believers. Of course, I've yet to meet one such idiot who can explain why someone would willingly piss of the kind of god who burns people forever simply for not hearing about, and thus not believing in, him...even if you don't like the guy, even if you hate him with a passion, when you truly believe that he is all powerful; that there is no way to escape his clutches; that he will cook you on the great barbecue of righteous retribution for all time; that all you have to do to escape such a fate is abjectly grovel...who would piss off such a tyrant? What could they possibly hope to gain? The movie doesn't really address this. Like Pat Robertson's assertion that annoyance at being proselytized at work is the result of being raped as a child or demonic possession, there's something else at play here. You shouldn't take the Evil Atheist at his word. It's not a matter of disbelief, but of angry belief. He's simply lying when he says otherwise.

- Just as the powerful majority is a persecuted minority, as one of the most hated (and least criminally inclined) minorities in the country, atheists are really the guys and gals with power, and we're evil. 

- Which brings me to my next point. Atheists suck. I mean, really suck. We have no moral compasses. An atheist will dump his significant other when she's diagnosed with advanced cancer. He'll treat his spouse like shit. He'll treat his dementia-afflicted mother like shit (while his Christian sister nobly swoops in to the rescue). They harass the shams of Duck Dynasty (some of the better actors in the film). And did I mention how they persecute poor, beleaguered Christian students, who only want to get through class without being bullied and harassed? You know, the crux of this steaming pile of crap.

- Atheists are also pretty stupid. Radisson -- the philosophy professor -- seemingly knows nothing about philosophy. If you're interested in a list of his logic fails, see here. It's pretty sad.

- Terrible things happen to atheists, and, you know, they really had it coming, didn't they? I mean, they're such a-holes that violent or miserable ends are pretty much a given. Radisson's prolonged death is the result of a hit and run. The reporter has advanced cancer, and is dumped by her (horrible, evil, no good, very bad atheist) boyfriend. Don't worry, though: they both come to Jesus! This is a rather disconcerting display of inquisition mindset: unbelievers have to die terribly, but it's a beautiful thing, because in dying terribly they come to Jesus. Like the Inquisitor's flames, bleeding out on the road or dying of cancer isn't a tragedy: it's the gateway to heaven.

"Others":
You know, they really suck too. The Muslim father is an abusive fanatic who attacks and then disowns his daughter. The Chinese father is an unsympathetic bully. In the end, it's Christians taking in and aiding these abused "others" -- rescuing them from the waywardness of their own faiths and cultures, and bringing them into the safety of western Christianity. It's patronizing and demeaning in the extreme.

3. Finally, it illustrates that a film doesn't have to be clever, profound, subtle in its messaging or even remotely intellectually honest to be successful. God's Not Dead is squarely a preaching-to-the-choir film: it paints non-Christian religious people and "others" as brutes and bullies, atheists as downright evil -- and Christians as long suffering heroes. It indulges in sadistic revenge fantasies and invokes violence against non-believers. It's not nuanced, and it doesn't try to be: western Christians and those they convert are awesome. Everyone else sucks. The movie's arguments are beyond horrible (relying entirely on strawmen, appeals to authority, and other fallacies) and its presentation of atheism utterly dishonest, but it doesn't seem to have impacted its run. Apparently, the choir doesn't demand quality; just preaching.


In conclusion, I think the film provides an interesting opportunity to examine a number of aspects of fundamentalism. I think it's particularly troubling for its handling of atheists -- while it's progress that fundamentalist religious violence against non-believers is being acted out in film rather than real life, the schadenfreude-laden scenarios indicate that the mindset is still there. It isn't enough for the film's producers to humiliate and convert the atheists: they have to kill them, rather cruelly, for all to be right in the world. That's more than a little troubling. So too is the insistence that atheists are monsters; this serves as an implicit justification for the previous point. Atheists deserve terrible deaths because they're terrible people. The stereotyped and racist portrayal of non-western, non-Christians is another point of concern. Fundamentalist Christians seem to have a penchant for Islamophobia, and this simply furthers it: Muslims are either evil brutes, or innocents in need of rescuing and conversion. And I haven't even touched the propagation of horrible logical fallacies and miserable arguments (because it's already been done very well elsewhere).

It's easy to dismiss God's Not Dead as a steaming pile, but I think that would be a mistake. It is a steaming pile, but I think it's instructive to consider what, exactly, it represents.




*The eagerness to embrace the persecution narrative clearly trumps the need for accuracy in this film. As Dr. Johnson notes:
The movie actually lists a number of court cases, in the credits, as the “inspiration” for the movie, to leave the viewer with the impression that this kind of thing happens all the time. In reality, of course, they are largely just the aforementioned “Christian-email-forward boogeymen.” Take the case of Raymond Raines, who Christians claim was picked up by the scruff of the neck and yelled at by his teacher and principal for praying over his lunch in public school at the tender age of five. In reality, he was ten (not five), he got detention (not picked up and yelled at), and it was for fighting in the cafeteria (not praying over his lunch). It’s all just part of that victimization narrative. The standard movie disclaimer says it all: “All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.”
Another instance movie makers cite involved a student whose homophobic presentations were interrupted by a professor. Particular cases of free speech infringement, however, aren't really relevant because -- troubling though valid instances are when they occur -- the scenario involved is entirely made up. While a few dozen teachers, professors and instructors over the last few decades might indeed have acted inappropriately (and that's not exactly unheard of in the other direction...), nothing like the absurdity of God's Not Dead's premise has occurred, nor do the producers even allege that it has. They just leave it to gullible audiences to assume that such is the case.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't like being preached at? Get mad when someone proselytizes at work?

(Trigger warning)

Don't like being preached at? Would you get mad if someone insisted on proselytizing at work?

A viewer presented a scenario of this nature to Pat Robertson, declaring that the atheist in question (the victim of her conversion efforts) appears to get visibly upset at the mere mention of god; the writer rather cluelessly ignores the fact that her worktime proselytizing is both unsolicited and inappropriate. And she is clearly lacking the self awareness to even speculate that her harassing behaviors and efforts to prevent her coworker "perish[ing]" might be the cause of that hostility.

Instead of taking the opportunity to point out that work is not the place for missionary work, or that aggressive conversion efforts might indeed prompt a negative reaction, as a reasonable person might, Robertson speculates that the atheist in question might be demonically possessed. Or might have been raped as a child. It's not that she doesn't like being preached at while trying to do her job. It's demons, a rapist father, or something else going on "in her childhood".



While we've come to expect insanity from Robertson, and good people of faith are as appalled by him as I am, this is (yet another) despicable low  from a man with a long history of despicable lows. And though Robertson himself isn't much of a problem, the fact that people listen to him, turn to him for advice, and form their ideas based on his opinions...that's a little mortifying.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bill O'Reilly mischacterizes atheists (again), is generally an egotistical pinhead...

In terms of predictability, this ranks right alongside "the tide comes in, and the tide goes out"...but (surprise) Bill O'Reilly mischaracterized atheists, again, this time in an interview with Sally Quinn of OnFaith.

They were discussing O'Reilly's rather infamous proclamation that the Holy Spirit is responsible provided inspiration for and the gifts that make possible his writings (58 seconds, in the clip below).



O'Reilly was mocked at the time for a suggestion that, essentially, boiled down to God choosing him to write a version of Jesus' death that was in fact more accurate than the Bible. Perhaps the best response to O'Reilly's claim came from fellow Catholic and comedian extraordinaire Stephen Colbert:



 In relation to the story, Sally asks
I saw the ‘60 Minutes’ interview where you talked about how you believe that the Holy Spirit guided you to write this book. That comment was derided, but I wanted you to talk a little bit more about what you think your earthly purpose is and how your faith informs what you do.
O'Reilly prefaced his answer (the typical 'all good things in my life come from God [not the nasty ones, that shit just happens]' line) with this:

The problem with the secular-progressive movement is it simply cannot accept any people of faith and take them seriously. They’re so condescending and they’re so arrogant that, even though you might be a brilliant person, if you believe, you’re an idiot. So that just knocks out the whole Jesuit organization. It knocks out Thomas Aquinas, Augustine. Everybody is knocked out because they believe. That’s what the genesis of the criticism was.
I don't presume to speak for all secular progressives, but I do think I speak for many when I, as both a progressive and a secularist, call BS. I'm not religious. I don't believe in gods. But I was and have done. I don't think I was an idiot then. Just as a religious person will think that I am wrong now, I think I was wrong about that topic (as I'm no doubt still wrong about many things, subjects upon which I have not yet discovered the error of my thinking). But not an idiot. Being wrong about something does not an idiot make.

So, let me say unequivocally, smart people can be wrong about important things. I would not presume to dismiss someone as an "idiot" (or, say, a "pinhead"?) because I disagree with them and think they're wrong about something. No, smart people aren't "knocked out" because they believe. Intelligent secular progressives (and religious people) can and do respect intelligent people with whom they disagree over the god question. (Obviously, "idiots" can get the same question wrong [from my POV] too, but the fact that someone gets it wrong doesn't prove them to be an idiot.) That's a big, fat red herring, Bill: you were mocked not because you were religious, but because you were exceedingly pompous.

Oh, and speaking of pompous, do note the caliber of O'Reilly's other examples of religious persons likewise dismissed (in his absurd reality) by big bad secular progressives. There's Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, the Jesuits and...oh yes, Bill O'Reilly.



Anyway...after ensconcing the tales of his tribulations amidst swipes at "arrogant", and "condescending" secular progressives, O'Reilly spends some time arguing that he was merely attributing his success and ideas to his deity -- something that "all Christians, if they understand their faith, should believe". While this is a better defense than "they see me Christianing, and they hating," it's still not really accurate. O'Reilly was criticized for presuming that his deity picked him to correct his holy book. It was the idea that, when God needs someone to update the record he calls Bill O'Reilly, and not an "I give thanks to God because, without him, I'd be nothing" attitude that people mocked.

(Speaking of arrogant, O'Reilly's comment about "haters" really is worth reading:
I’m not comparing myself, but who was the most hated person in Judea 2,000 years ago?Many, many loved him, but just as many despised him. They’re always going to do that. If you speak your mind, you’re going to have some who like you and some who hate you.)

While you ponder how O'Reilly's not just in the Thomas Aquinas/Augustine category, but also the Jesus one...Quinn's next question couldn't have been better chosen to pander to O'Reilly's persecution complex.
Why do you think that there is so much sneering and ridicule toward religion by people who don’t believe?
And he was in fine form, answering with a duplicitous bit of misdirection so dodgy and dishonest that it must be quoted in full:
Because they don’t want to be judged. They believe that religious people are judging their behavior, and they don’t want to be judged. They want to do what they want.
Take a guy like Bill Maher. He’s probably the most visible atheist in the American media. Well, Bill Maher does not want to be told what to do. He wants to do whatever he wants. And if it’s take drugs, he wants to be able to do that. If it’s commit adultery, he wants to be able to do that. Whatever it may be, he doesn’t want anybody telling him not to. And the people that would do that would be religious people, so he strikes out against them.
First of all, there are plenty of Christians (and religious people of other faiths) who find the continual judgment inherent to many belief structures to be abhorrent. (I was one of those people, when I was religious). Many conservative Christians seem to get off on making other people's lives miserable, but there are plenty of Christians who actually try to live according to the values of the "Christ" of their Christ-ianity, and honor the exhortation to "judge not".

Secondly, that is neither here nor there, because that's not the reason that any sizable proportion of atheists are critical of religion. It's all well and good that O'Reilly tries to cast aspersions on individuals, but the assertion is utterly bogus. Atheists aren't annoyed with religion for calling them on doing bad things; we're annoyed when religion tries to control, persecute and marginalize people (which is why, while we disagree, most atheists have no issue with religious people in general; just the people who use religion as an excuse to cause harm). Atheism's beef with faith, when there is one, isn't because atheists are bad people intent on naughty actions. This is somewhat like the "but what's to stop you from killing/raping/etc. without God?" line that Penn Jillette addressed so well:
The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what's to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn't have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.
I say "somewhat" because it's similar but not entirely the same. O'Reilly seems to think that atheists, having already forsaken the restraining dictates of religious morality (not that restraining, one can only conclude from O'Reilly's own life -- seeing as how sexual harassment and divorce still happen despite falling in his faith's "not cool" bucket), now simply want to go around taking drugs, committing adultery, etc., without the pesky bother of religious people telling us not to do that.

This is a self-serving, simplistic and downright idiotic thing to say. (This would be a good example of me considering someone with whom I disagree on the god issue an idiot -- not because of his opinion on that question, but because he's, well, an idiot). He is shifting the conversation from ideas to personal attacks. It's not that atheists (and many religious people as well) think his self-aggrandizing claims that God instructed him to correct the Bible are laughable; it's that atheists are immoral meanies who don't want to be reminded of their wrongs. Christians like God's new mouthpiece are the line between vice and virtue, the line that keeps atheists on the straight and narrow, and we react strongly and negatively to that righteous coaching. (I can't help but wonder what Bill would say if someone reminded him that atheists make up a disproportionately small percentage of the prison population; an interesting fact, in light of our nefarious tendencies...)

Interestingly enough, in the same interview that he decries "condescending" "arrogant" secular people, he attributes criticism of religion (or, more accurately, absurd, self-flattering quasi-religious notions) to a desire on the critics' parts to do wrong unjudged. Because there's not a damn thing arrogant, condescending or presumptuous about that...

And all the time he completely ignores the fact that right wing Christianity -- largely furthered by him and his network -- continues to try to marginalize and persecute people who fall outside of their bounds of their select group (hint: that group is white, they have penises [which are only, ever used in a recreational fashion in relation to baby-makers women], and they pray to his god). He ignores the fact that conservative Christians continue to try to override constitutional separation of church and state in order to enshrine their particular brand of Christianity in law. He ignores that, when successful, conservative Christianity in this country destroy and even ends lives -- depriving citizens of healthcare, limiting food, forcing pregnancy on people, inciting deadly anti-gay hysteria on other continents, etc., etc. And while Bill focuses on the imaginary evils of other people, he misses the actual problem: the poisonous impact of cruel, tyrannical religious dictates imposed by clueless idiots who are incapable of compassion or introspection.

Speaking of which...the interview also explored whether or not O'Reilly had "ever had a crisis of faith" or if his views had changed much since childhood. Don't fall out of your seat, but the answer was no, to both. It must be awesome to be born with parents who know everything. But, hey, I guess that's small potatoes when God's asking you to re-write his Bible...

Norwegian Candied Orange Easter Cake



Norwegian Candied Orange Easter Cake
The following cake requires candied oranges and orange syrup. Those recipes can be found here. Alternatively, you can use a glaze (recipe included). I find that I prefer the texture of the glaze as opposed to the stickiness of the syrup...but either works! 



Cake:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract OR 1 additional teaspoon vanilla
10 candied orange slices, chopped (about 1 1/2 cup)
Additional candied orange slices (for garnish)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add vanilla, milk, oil, butter and egg and beat with mixer on low until blended. Continue to beat mixture for an additional minute on medium speed.

Add chopped candied orange slices and stir.


Mix thoroughly, scraping sides of bowl to ensure that nothing remains. You should have a nice, consistent batter.



Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan. The pan has a lot of grooves and dips, so make sure you're very thorough here -- a little extra attention to this part will save you a lot of time and disappointment later.



Pour in batter. Place pan in a preheated 350° F oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Test with a toothpick in center for doneness.


Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan and allow to cool completely.

Drizzle cake with orange syrup or a glaze (recipe below). Top with candied orange slices.
 

Glaze (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
2-3 tablespoons milk or water

Whisk ingredients together. If glaze is too thick, add more liquid. Should be runny enough for excess run off cake, but thick enough for a layer to remain (see below).



Drizzle onto cool cake.



Norwegian Candied Orange Easter Cake Recipe

Cake
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract OR 1 additional teaspoon vanilla
10 candied orange slices, chopped (about 1 1/2 cup)
Additional candied orange slices (for garnish)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add vanilla, milk, oil, butter and egg and beat with mixer on low until blended. Continue to beat mixture for an additional minute on medium speed. Add chopped candied orange slices and stir. Set aside.

Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan and pour in batter. Place pan in a preheated 350° F oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Test with a toothpick in center for doneness. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan and allow to cool completely.

Drizzle cake with orange syrup or a glaze (recipe below) and top with candied orange slices.

Glaze (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
2-3 tablespoons milk or water

Whisk ingredients together. If glaze is too thick, add more liquid. Drizzle onto cool cake.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Candied Orange Slices & Orange Syrup

Candied Oranges & Orange Syrup

Oranges, and orange cakes, are a big part of Norwegian Easter celebrations. Some cakes call for candied oranges and orange syrup. Here's a recipe for both (cake to follow shortly).

Whether you make a large recipe or a small recipe should depend on how many candied orange slices you want/need, and how much syrup you need. The large recipe yields somewhere between 24-36 slices, the small recipe a dozen or more. This varies by orange & slice size.

For a large recipe:

5-6 medium sized navel oranges
4 cups sugar
2 cup water


For a small recipe:

3 medium sized navel oranges
2 cups sugar
1 cup water


Oranges:
Cut ends from oranges. Make sure you get below the pith.




Now cut oranges into 3/16 - 1/4" slices.



In a saucepan large enough to hold water, sugar and orange slices, over medium high heat combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.



Add orange slices, lower heat to medium.
 

Bring to a low boil, stirring carefully & occasionally, and cook for 12 minutes (uncovered) for small batch, 16-18 for large batch.


Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 200° F.

After cooking time is up, remove slices from heat. Draining off excess liquid into pan, arrange orange slices on parchment paper.
 

They can be close but should not be touching. Bake for one and a half to two hours.

Cool completely before using/storing. Candied oranges can be stored in an airtight container.

Syrup:
After cooking and removing slices, decide if you want to reduce the syrup longer. If so, keep cooking. If not, or when reduced as desired, filter syrup through a sieve to remove any pulp.
 

Cool and store until needed.




Candied Oranges & Syrup Recipe:

For a large recipe:
5-6 medium sized navel oranges
4 cups sugar
2 cup water


For a small recipe:
3 medium sized navel oranges
2 cups sugar
1 cup water


Oranges:

Cut ends from oranges and cut into 3/16 - 1/4" slices. In a saucepan large enough to hold water, sugar and orange slices, over medium high heat combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Add orange slices, lower heat to medium. Bring to a low boil, stirring carefully & occasionally, and cook for 12-18 minutes uncovered (12 minutes for smaller batches, longer for larger batches).
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 200° F.
After cooking time is up, remove slices from heat. Draining off excess liquid into pan, arrange orange slices on parchment paper. They can be close but should not be touching. Bake for one and a half to two hours (more if your slices are thicker).
Cool completely before using/storing. Candied oranges can be stored in an airtight container.

Syrup:

After cooking and removing slices, decide if you want to reduce the syrup longer. If so, keep cooking. If not, or when reduced as desired, filter syrup through a sieve to remove any pulp. Cool and store until needed.