Thursday, May 16, 2013

Recipe: Maple Twist

My father's side of the family is Mennonite in the strongly traditional way many families in Boston are Catholic. When I see women in old fashioned dresses and bonnets, I think: cousins! But as readers of this blog will know, I've not stuck with the tradition myself. Still, there are three ways Mennonite heritage has left its mark on me: a cool-headed temperament, a simple "yes" or "no" for my word, and warm maple twist.

This is my go-to dessert when I need to bake something impressive in a few hours. Plus, the shaping part is fun!

1. Make (Most Of) The Dough
2 and 3/4 cup general-purpose flour (385g)
3 tablespoon sugar (40g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (3g)
2 and 1/4 teaspoon yeast (8g)
1 teaspoon maple extract (6g) [imitation is fine]
1 egg
Mix this stuff and set aside.

2. Warm Up Milk and Butter
3/4 cup milk (156g)
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted (62g)
Use a microwave, or put the butter on the stove at the lowest setting and apply patience or foresight. Mix with the milk and make sure the resulting liquid is warm on your skin but not uncomfortably hot, otherwise your yeast will be sad.

3. Combine

Add the milk and butter to the mix set aside in step one. Knead until smooth.

Not smooth


Put the ball of dough into a greased container and cover it. Let rise for an hour at room temperature.

4. Make Filling

This can be done any time during or just after the dough rising hour. Mix together:
1/2 cup sugar (105g)
1 teaspoon maple extract (6g)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (2g)
1/3 cup chopped almonds (28g) [or whatever you like]

5. Turn One Into Three

When the hour is up, start melting another 1/4 cup of unsalted butter (62g). You'll need it shortly.

Now, take the dough ball out of its container and split it into three equal parts. Flatten out each part into a circle about 9 inches or 23 cm in diameter.

6. Stack'm

Put one of the dough circles onto a greased pan, brush it with the freshly melted butter, then sprinkle about a third of the filling on top.

Put the second circle of dough on top, butter, and sprinkle. Same for the third.

If the whole thing has contracted a bit, just flatten it back to full size.

7. Slice'm

Find a traditional, Mennonite shot glass...or anything around that size (I use the lid of my Thermos). Press your doohickey down in the middle of the dough to act as a guide and to hold the middle down.

Find a traditional, Mennonite ulu...or anything sharp enough to cut dough. Make a cut from the edge to maybe half an inch from the thing you're holding down in the middle.

Then do the same on the opposite side. And between each of these cuts, making four evenly-spaced cuts total.

Then cut between each of the original four cuts, making eight cuts total. Finally, cut between each of the eight cuts—but not quite so far—making sixteen cuts.

8. Twist'm

Pull each of the sixteen wedges out slightly then twist!

I like do about six or seven half turns with my right thumb and forefinger while I use my left hand to hold the last twisted wedge in place and apply light pressure to the doohickey in the center (left hand not shown here because it's holding the camera).

A convenient way to keep the twists from contracting back toward the center is to bend each one around the last, forming a big spiral.

9. Bake

Cover and let rise for another half hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).

Bake for about twenty minutes until golden brown. This is thick enough to justify using aluminum foil on top for part of the time.

10. Drizzle

While the twist is cooling on the pan or presentation plate, mix together:
1/8 cup unsalted butter, melted (31g)
1 cup powdered sugar (83g)
2 tablespoons milk (28g)
1/2 teaspoon maple extract (3g)
Apply icing liberally to produce the final result:

Friday, May 3, 2013

State Quarters Project

My final project for Information Storage and Retrieval class:

The goal was to make the leap from last semester's static HTML/CSS project to a database-driven site. Most of the source:


This was a lot more work than the assigned final paper would have been, but I really wanted an excuse to spend the time required to get started on dynamic web development. Satisfied with my first foray.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Monthly Picks

How I Edited An Agricultural Paper by Mark Twain, in which I outdistanced my ignorance about turnip trees.

Single Guy's Lament: What Became of the Female Condom? by David C. Holzman, which I'm posting for no reason in particular.

A Dirty Little Secret: Self Censorship by Debra Lau Whelan (School Library Journal, Feb. 2, 2009), which told me everything I already suspected about publishers and librarians being the non-tip of the iceberg when it comes to effective censorship.