Audentes Fortuna Iuvat

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burning island

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The Da Vinci Code has managed to sell an incredible number of copies in the past few years though I must be one of the very few people on the planet who have not purchased or read the book. Over Easter weekend, we watched a 2-hour special on the fact and fiction of the premise of the book largely because there was nothing else worth watching and the teaser mentioned something about the Catholic church being a bit pissed off about the whole thing. If the Pope is upset, it must be worth watching at least once. It was interesting to see just how far people are willing to go to believe something that is either ridiculous or highly improbable. Since then, there have been two other special programs on the National Geographic Channel's "Secret Bible Week" about the Templars and the apocalypse. And, now that the movie has been released, there are a whole slew of programs with Dan Brown and talking heads trying to look scholarly and thoughtful while thinking about what's for dinner tonight.

Having been through Catholic schools and a Jesuit University, I remain a recovering Catholic but retain some sense of humour at the thought of the Church getting its hackles up over a third-rate novel written by an author whose earlier books were not very popular or critically acclaimed. Throughout the centuries, the church has remained rather touchy about being reminded of its bloody past. The premise that Jesus and Mary Mag were married and had a daughter is entirely plausible, if not probable, but where the suspension of disbelief enters the picture is where Mary and the child disappear without a trace after the crucifixion well before there was a Catholic church whose misogyny their existence might cause problems for. The whole quest for the Holy Grail, a.k.a. Graal in Medieval literature, becomes the search for the lost bloodline of Jesus? I think the UFO abductees have more proof of LGM probing their anal cavities than the idea that the Holy Graal was in fact Jesus' long lost daughter whose descendants became the Merovingian bloodline 300-400 AD. Well, ok, maybe Jesus having a sex life instead of spending a few decades as a human male without jerking off or never having an erection is a little more credible than alien anal probes. There is no parish named "Our Lord of the Blue Balls", is there? I rest my case.

Then there is the idea that the Templars were the guardians of the secret that Jesus and Mary had a daughter and the subsequent bloodline. The Templars have been accused of just about everything imaginable given that a lack of information about something leads to a whole range of crap that people fill the gaps with. Now it is speculated that the Masons are the modern successors of the Templars after they were eradicated in 1307. Trying to imbue Masons with so much mystery is, well, amusing. My grandparents were Masons and every damn Christmas I had to get dressed up and be a bearer of gifts in some cult-like ceremony where each point on a giant 5-point star had some old prune in a different shade of chiffon sitting in a chair waiting for me to arrive after the appropriate incantation. I just figured that it was a social club much like their bridge club where everyone was ancient and had lots of time to kill. Creepy? Yes. Cultish? Yes. Mysterious? No.

Now the movie is out and, wow, what a boring three hour movie it is. Given the choice of what few decent movies seem to be around these days, it was either MI:III or DVC. There are a few amusing parts like the latin speaking killer albino monk and the Soprano cast of Vatican white guys trying to snuff the good guys. I mean, in the 70s when The Exorcist came out the Church had reasonably good grounds to get huffy and ban the movie, thereby ensuring its timeless popularity, as it was based on a true story and involved the arcane practice of exorcism which only the Jesuits in St. Louis seemed willing to attempt in defiance of the Vatican. The Exorcist also had a fabulous score with lots of the scary apocalyptic choir music so often associated with evil or doom whereas I can't even remember if there was any score in DVC. It provided Halloween costume ideas for years and years afterwards, too. What are kids supposed to do now, get into genealogy and trace their family back to French nobility? Boring. With The Da Vinci Code the whole story is fictional, even if parts of it might be plausible. It's not like Dan Brown inserted bits about Jesus preferring his right had to jerk himself off claiming them as fact thus refuting the long cherished belief that every sperm is sacred and that masturbation causes blindness. Think of the chaos that would cause amongst the faithful. What's so blasphemous in suggesting that this son of god guy might have been a regular Joe?

One would think that, after all these years, the Church would have figured out that there is no such thing as bad publicity and that by banning something it nearly guarantees that it will be an international success. Even in Finland, where they wisely ran off the Catholics early on, the movie has been sold out for much of the last week or two and I don't think it's because Tom Hanks is considered a hottie here. I'm sure Dan Brown is thanking the Pope and all the other religious freaks in a huff about the movie every time he looks at his rapidly swelling bank account.

Maybe it's time I wrote the novel about Jesus' wild teenage years and sexual coming of age, Jesus is Coming!.

And those with 10 minutes to kill will enjoy giggling at, The Albino Code, which is both shorter and cheaper than DVC. :)

Nemesis

http://www.axis-of-aevil.net/archives/2006/05/nemesis.html

Chocolate Nemesis or Decadence

« A flourless chocolate cake that goes by the name Chocolate Decadence ore Chocolate Nemesis. It could also be called The Dark Slab. :) »

I've been baking lately, but I've been too distracted and lazy to write about it as once I get home from work and walk the dog, I begin the slow drift of falling asleep on the sofa. I've been working my way through the same book for over a week now, too. Largesse is my middle name. Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. :)

In my spate of baking ennui, I noticed a friend had tried to make a chocolate cake with disappointing results. With a name like 'Chocolate Nemesis', I was curious and started poking around on the net and was amazed to find that this single recipe was responsible for countless angst-filled laments about wasted expensive chocolates and ruined dinner party desserts. This cake has four ingredients, how could people go so consistently wrong and not lynch the authors of the recipe/cookbook? Good question.

It is a flourless chocolate cake in its most basic form and, while you need to follow the directions carefully, this is likely one of the easiest cakes you can possibly make. I consulted my hefty tome of pastry and found a recipe almost precisely like the one causing all the flopped cakes except that it didn't call for overbeating the eggs, fleshed out little details like buttering the pan and lining it with baking paper and, most importantly, it included the all-important refrigeration. It has to be cold to set firmly for removing from the cake form and cutting.

So, no nemesis, just a rich chocolate cake that is easy, easy, easy to make. Take no shit from bad cookbooks and bad recipes, especially ones that seem to circulate around the net like wildfire. When you read through a recipe, it should have enough detail so that you aren't asking questions like what pan to use or how much water, etc. If you have more than one item left in doubt, keep looking for a better recipe. Bad cookbooks with bad, untested recipes really should get sent straight back to the publisher with a pointed critique as they keep on churning out these lame cookbooks as though they are completely unaware that some folks might actually try cook something from them. It's a pet peeve of mine.

Chocolate Decadence, a.k.a. Chocolate Nemesis

Makes: 1 10-in/25cm cake with 8-16 servings
Time: 20 minutes prep + 30-40 mins bake + 2-8 hours refrigeration
Source: The Professional Pastry Chef

  • 7 oz or 200g sweet dark chocolate (70% cacao)*
  • 7 oz or 200g unsweetened chocolate (85%+ cacao)*
  • 3/4 cup or 150ml water
  • 6 oz or 170g granulated sugar
  • 2.25 sticks or 255g butter, room temperature
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 oz or or 85g granulated sugar
  1. Generously butter the inside of a round 10-inch/25cm cake pan or springform pan. Cut baking paper to fit in the bottom of the cake pan, place on the bottom and butter the top of the paper as well. Set pan aside.
  2. Chop chocolate into small pieces and place on a sheet of baking paper. Slice butter into small pieces, too, and place on baking paper.
  3. In a saucepan big enough to hold the chocolate and butter, bring the water and 170g of sugar to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly stir in the chocolate until it is completely melted and smooth. Add the butter and stir in until melted and the mixture is again smooth. Set aside and allow to cool until it is only warm to the touch.
  4. In a large bowl, whip the eggs with the 85g of sugar at high speed until it is light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Do not whip the eggs as you would for a sponge cake as too much air will make the cake dry, crumbly and difficult to slice. Slowly pour the cool or warm melted chocolate into the egg mixture. Try to pour it down the side of the bowl and not directly onto the egg mixture. Mix together gently and well.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan and carefully place it into a pan filled with a small amount of water and add water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. If you use a springform pan, wrap the pan in a layer of aluminum foil to prevent leaking.
  6. Bake immediately at 175C/350F for about 30-40 minutes or until the top feels firm. Be careful not to overbake the cake. Allow the cake to cool for an hour and then refrigerate for a minimum of two hours or, even better, overnight.
  7. To remove the cake from the pan place in a shallow pan of warm water and run a knife carefully around the edge. Invert onto a plate and gently tap around the top if it is slow to unmold. Remove the pan and carefully peel off the baking paper. If you used a springform, run a warm knife around the edge, remove the band, place a plate on top of the cake and flip over onto the plate. Remove the bottom and then remove the baking paper on top.
  8. Using a thin, sharp knife dipped in hot water, slice the cake while it is cold and allow to warm up before serving. Serve with a raspberry or strawberry sauce/puree and sour cream.

* You can also just use 400g/14oz of 70% semi-sweet/bittersweet dark chocolate instead.