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Tuesday, November 23, 2010


..How Luxury Lost Its Luster, by Dana Thomas.  Yes, I finally finished it.  Last year I read books like this to my homebound student--even read Atlas Shrugged to him.  Well, not all of it--there were parts I read only to myself.  Anyway, since moving up to the bigger 3A version of school, reading for pleasure has come to a grinding crawl, and that is one thing I do regret.   Paris Breakfasts (see Farmer's Wife's blog) mentioned Deluxe, so I took a chance and ordered it.   I loved Deluxe because it was such a revelation, such a peek inside the name-brand industry from the perfume to the purses, and how it has evolved from a small exclusive, elite industry to a mega bucks, mass production, money generating machine.   All of us who love to sport that designer logo make the industry what it is today.  I have made up my mind to never buy another "knock-off" because I do not want to help this counterfeit industry in any way.  Lots of little kids are used, yes, used to build the fakes.  Thomas interviewed someone who said, "I remember walking into an assembly plant in Thailand a couple of years ago and seeing six or seven little children, all under 10 years old, sitting on the floor assembling counterfeit leather handbags.  The owner had broken the children's legs and tied the lower leg to the thigh so the bones wouldn't mend.  He did it because the children said they wanted to go outside and play."  Now, whether this is true, I can't say.  I don't see how they could work with such pain, but even if it isn't, there are many kids, who are working in terrible conditions to produce a cheap version with a logo that people want.  Things do seem to make a full circle, and at the end of the book she tells about a couple of designers that haven't gone mass.  Christian Louboutin, a Parisian shoe designer (I love shoes) is one who has not sold out, and gone mega-mass. Stilettos, with his signature red soles are, are his trademark, and they are gorgeous.  Take a look for yourself at his own site (get ready for sticker shock if you want to buy). 

I like what he said about his industry, "I did not do a company to make money.  I made shoes and it became a company."  Something to think about in the age of the government trying to dream up "stuff" to stimulate the economy.                               

Another designer, who has remained exclusive, is Alice Cadolle in Paris, who specialize in luxury lingerie.  "The experience of having a custom-made bra at Cadolle is luxury in the old-fashioned sense of the term:  genuine personal attention, exquisite materials, beautiful handcraftsmanship, all to create something just for you."  A basic bra requires three fittings, and will set you back about $800!  Have a look for yourself at where there are no prices, but if you are interested you can probably arrange for your own personal fitting.  Let me know how it goes, because your description is about as close as I will ever get to this luxury.  School teachers' paychecks don't have enough lycra to stretch this far!  P.S.  I should be grading papers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chocolate Stout Cake

Finally, I had time to make a cake.  This recipe is from Bon Appetit--not anything I invented.  This is called Chocolate Stout Cake from the Barrington Brewery, Great Barrington, MA.  Here's how it went.   Since my county is dry, and no alcoholic beverages are sold here, I had to make a run to Midland for this dark, nasty beer.  It makes you wonder how a cake could be a cake with this stuff in it.
Sift the lumps out of the cocoa.
I added the cocoa to the beer and butter before the butter was completely melted.

Here it is--two cups of Guinness stout beer and two cups of butter heating with the cocoa.  It is pretty frothy, because the beer really foamed with the low heat.

While the beer mixture is cooling, beat the eggs with the sour cream until it looks like this.

Here is one layer, bubbles and all.  This looks different than any chocolate cake I have ever baked. 

And here is the Stout cake with the ganache icing.  You can see how thick the icing is, and it is delicious.  I am not sold on the cake.  It is dense, and not overly sweet--that is good, but it has a course texture, sort of rubbery and not tender.  I think there is way too much soda in this cake.  The next time I bake it I will use about half the soda, or maybe just one teaspoon, and see how it turns out.  The recipe called for three 8" cake pans that were 2 inches deep.  My pans were only8 x 1 1/2 inches.  You will need at least 2 inches because there was lots of batter  left over.
Here is the recipe, just the way it was printed in Bon Appetit.  This will serve about 16 or more people.  If you ate 1/12 of this three layer delight your beta cells would be in shock!  This is good for a leisure cup of coffee and good conversation.
2 C stout beer
2 C butter
1 1/2 C unsweetend cocoa
4 C flour
4 C sugar
1 T soda (I think 2 tsp. would do it, and maybe one, after all the beer has plenty of bubbles for leavening)
1 1/2 tsp. salt if using unsalted butter
4 jumbo eggs
1 1/3 C sour cream
1.  Preheat the oven 350
2.  Prepare the three cake pans.
3.  Measure the beer into a sauce pan.
4.  Add the butter, and heat on low until the butter begins to melt.
5.  Sift the cocoa into the beer and blend. 
6.  When butter melts remove from heat and cool slightly.
7.  Beat the eggs and sour cream until light and fluffy.
8.  Measure the flour, soda, sugar and salt into a bowl and blend thoroughly.
9.  Add the stout mixture to the egg mixture and beat just enough to combine the two.
10.  Add the flour mixture until it begins to blend.
11.  Get rid of the mixer and fold the batter until blended and no more--don't overmix.
12.  Bake about 30 minutes.
2 C whipping cream
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened or semisweet) chocolate
1.  Heat the cream in a heavy saucepan.
2.  Remove from heat and add the chocolate.
3.  Stir until the chocolate is blended, which doesn't take very long.
4.   Refrigerate, and stir from time to time.
5.  Ice the cake when the icing is thick enough to spread.