Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Bake Heffezopf

So, for those long-time readers of mine (hrmmm... that makes pretty much all of you, doesn't it?), you may remember this post from way back at the beginning, where I told you all how to make my Oma's delicious Heffezopf (jeez I hope I am spelling that right...)

Anyway, a few of you remarked that those instructions, umm, kind of sucked. And you were right. Looking back at it I couldn't remember how to make the sweet bread for the life of me and had to call my Oma up just to make sure I was on the right track.

So I'm here to rectify my mistake. This past Friday I usurped Mr. Lurie's kitchen and went about baking Heffezopf Oma-style, i.e. in one huge batch. Here's how I did it:

4-6 lbs flour (lower for whole wheat, higher for white, though I'd recommend non-whole wheat flours until I get the peculiarities of the WW recipe down)
4-5 yeast packets
2.5 cups of sugar
2.25 sticks of butter
2 cups of milk
5 eggs
Salt to taste

Oven preheat: 375. Do this after the dough has risen.

This should make 4-5 loaves, depending on how large the loaves are.

Step 1:
Pour about 2/3s of the flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a small impression on the peak of the flour pile, not unlike a volcano:

Step 2:
Mix the yeast packets into hot water and pour on top of the flourcano. It should look like the volcano has spewed forth liquid hot magma:

Step 3:
In a sauce pan mix up the milk, sugar and 2 sticks of butter and put on mid-low heat. Stir to make the sugar/butter dissolve into the milk and continue to heat until the butter has completely melted. Save the butter wrappers for a later step.

Step 4:
While the butter is melting beat 4 of the eggs. When the butter is melted pour the beaten eggs into the sauce pan and let it heat for a bit on medium.

Step 5:
EDIT: because I am an idiot sometimes and forgot that really hot things and yeast don't mix, PLEASE COOL THE EGG/BUTTER/MILK DOWN BEFORE POURING ON THE FLOUR. Make sure it is luke warm before pouring!

Step 6:
Now we stir the dough, letting the flour absorb all of the water. Add flour as needed until it gets firm enough that you can use your hands.

Step 7:
Once it is firm enough, coat your hands in flour and pounding it with the heel of your hand, flopping it over, and pounding it again until it has a smooth consistency.

Step 8:
Once the dough has been beaten into smootheness, gather the dough into a hemisphere and then cover to let it rise for about an hour.

Step 9:
After it has risen, eat some of the dough. It is delicious.

Step 10:
Tear/slice out a loaf-sized chunk of the dough from the rest, then tear/slice that into two equally sized halves.

Step 11:
For rectangular bread pans: Roll the two halves into long pieces roughly the length and combined width of your baking pan. Then braid the two loves together, like so:

For round bread pans you can simply make a glob of dough in a hemispheric shape. You can also add details to these kinds of breads by cutting with a knife, like this:

Step 12:
Using the butter wrappers and the quarter stick of butter grease the sides and bottom of your bread pans. You don't have to use all of the butter, but make sure that all surfaces are greased.

Step 13:
Place your braided/glob of dough into it's bread pan. Repeat steps 10-13 as needed to use up the rest of your dough.

Step 14:
Beat another egg, then using a basting brush (or a spoon if necessary) coat the top and sides of your doughs with the beaten mixture. This will keep your bread from burning and give the crust nice coloring and texture.

Step 15:
Place your loaves in the oven and let them bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check in every so often- if they look like they are drying too much brush them with more beaten egg.

Step 16:
Once they look like below, take them out to cool. Fresh, warm Heffezopf tastes the best, so be ready to sacrifice one to the ravenous hordes!

Make sure to wrap your Heffezopf to prevent it from drying out and going stale. You can also place them in Ziploc bags and freeze them for later consumption or for mailing to friends and family.

Heffezopf is great by itself or covered in a variety of toppings, my two favorites being butter and maple cream sugar. I would recommend against toasting as the moistness of the bread is one of its selling points, so reheating in a microwave is recommended. Try out your own combinations, and enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Batman Pug

Because someone will find this hilarious...

Until next time...

"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's."
- Letter to W. D. Howells from Mark Twain, April 2, 1899

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Our house has been undergoing quite a bit of reconstruction recently, as Jason is removing the roof of our house and a lot of work has been needed! As a small example of the truly heroic labors that are happening, please take a look at the albums below. One is from the Easter Feast and shows a bit of our house before construction. The other is from what it looks like now. Enjoy!

Easter Feast '10


Until next time...

" is less trouble and more satisfaction to bury two families than to select and equip a home for one."
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

Friday, July 16, 2010

World Cup: the Last Week

The last week of the 2010 World Cup was pretty whirlwind and continued all of the crazy, unpredictable nature that it has come to exemplify. On the last Tuesday game I and some of my lady friends went to the Nomad to watch the Dutch/Uruguay game, proudly bedecked in our orange shirts. The Dutch gave the South Americans a sound rubbing, even though the Uruguayans threatened to close even with the Niderlanders in the closing minutes of the match. So much expected.

Picture from Wikipedia

Then disaster struck. Paul the (now infamous) Octopus chose Spain to defeat Germany. I hoped and prayed against it... but to no avail. I watched this game in my lab with the teens, and it was a train wreck. The German defense crumbled, the offense failed to get started due to widespread lack of coordination between the team members... I just couldn't understand what was going on! Germany was supposed to have the superior footwork, but somehow the Spaniards made them look like bumbling idiots. Not that the Spanish had much luck either, scoring a goal only 15 minutes before the final whistle and continuing their 1 goal victory streak.

I was despondent, much more so than I had expected. I moped in my office for the rest of the day, and even our 3rd place finish on Saturday failed to excite me. We had lost the title, and my team had choked up at the ultimate moment. Le sigh.

The final match I saw at the Riverview Theater, and the place was PACKED. Every single seat and then some was taken up by rabid soccer fans, and the cheers, jeers and oohs and aws were fantastic to witness. For those who didn't see it, it was a brutal game. The Dutch must have thought that they were ninjas or Street Fighters the way that they were karate kicking all over the field. It was a dirty, dirty game- I believe that 13 yellow cards were thrown because of flagrant fouls, 8 of which went to the Dutch, probably because they were angry that Spain held the ball the entire time. Only one red card resulted from the sea of yellow, leaving the Dutch 1 man down for the last 10 minutes of overtime, allowing the Spaniards to finally rally and score.

Throughout the entire game no one was able to sink a shot. Through some horrible combination of tragically mistimed crosses, accidental headers, and general poor shooting every single shot on goal (except for one from Spain) failed to even come close to entering the net.

Still, it was a fun game to watch as it left you on the edge of your seat the entire time. There was even a great sportsmanship moment (surprisingly) on the side of the Dutch after the Spanish goalie accidentally caused a corner kick after grazing a long shot that was way off target. Instead of taking advantage of the situation the player simply kicked it to the goalie and let him have his goal kick.

Oh, and Paul the octopus correctly picked the winner despite it not being a Germany game. The little rubbery mollusk has now picked correctly every time he has been asked since 2008 except for the EuroCup final. How he manages to be so lucky I don't know, but it's starting to get scary. Betting houses were actually letting gamblers bet that Paul's choice for the final would be right or wrong before they knew what the choice was, and it was very good odds that he would be right! Apparently he is being retired now that the World Cup is over, but still... 86% right over all!

Until next time...

"Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.""
- Mark Twain's Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Zombie Beach Party!

On Saturday my coworker Oahn hosted a Zombie Beach Party themed bash in her usual awesome fashion. Everyone showed up in beach gear and then got zombied up with face paint and fake blood. Then we headed out for a photo scavenger hunt, which was great! You can find my pics from the event below:

Zombie Beach Party

The weirdest thing about the event was how chill everyone on the street was with the fact that we were in zombie  make up. "Oh, you're doing a zombie photo scavenger hunt? Cool." was a very common reaction to us going about our business. One group of people even posed for us eating their brains while they played the guitar!

The night closed out with some much needed dancin' and partyin'. Flippy cup made its welcome re-entrance to my life as "In Flippy Cup it doesn't matter if you win or lose- that's not what Flippy Cup is about", as my team mate said. So true.

I'll discuss my World Cup experience next, so until next time...

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"-- a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
- The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson and the Comedy of the Extraordinary Twins

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sky is Upon Us

Happy belated Independence weekend everybody! The 4th up here in Minneapolis was a nice time. The weather people  had been saying all weekend that there was a chance of showers on the 4th, and the clouds certainly looked to fit the part.

Rachel and I had planned to head over to a fellow CTEP-ers house for a BBQ and decided to bike over. I brought steaks and beer, only to discover that I was the lone meatatarian at the party. Oh well, more steaks for me! We had a good time at the party, talking about lots of different topics and ending with games of Mad Gab and Can Google Translate This?

We then biked into downtown to watch the fireworks. I had never done this and it felt  pretty bad ass to be biking around the traffic and crowds on our way to our destination. We ended up watching the show at St Anthony Main, and we were pretty close to the action. The show was relatively short, only about 15 minutes if that, but the people seemed to enjoy it.

We then headed over to the Soap Factory for the 10 Second Film Festival. The Soap Factory is a great arts venue in downtown and festival is a collection of 10 second submissions from all over the world. It was pretty casual and irreverent- the judges bowed to the will of the crowd on almost every decision, probably due to the fact that there were a lot of no-shows for the winners. This led to certain films (STICKS!) winning in very different categories and pretty much every film with actual artistic merit being left out in the cold. Still, it was entertaining and there were some pretty cool submissions in every category (including the awesomely named Mindless Violence). The films should be up on the website soon if you want to take a gander.

Image from City Pages and Taste of Minnesota

As mentioned previously, Rachel won a pair of tickets to the Taste of Minnesota festival thanks to the Nomad's World Cup festivities, so we decided to go on Monday. Since it hadn't rained the night before, all of the weather people were predicting doom and gloom for Monday, and the dark clouds we saw hovering over the fair certainly didn't prove them wrong. Almost as soon as we walked into the park it started raining, then pouring. The vendors were great and let us shelter under their tents until our food was prepared, then we scurried over to the tent where the bands were playing.

The first band was pretty good- had a certain Caribbean sound to it and at one point they had an extended section where they did improvisational beats on cowbells that was actually good. Then the Heirospecs came on and they were AWESOME. A St Paul band through and through they had plenty of references to the local area in their songs. They had a cool rapping style and some great beatboxing talents when need be. Every song seemed to be a different musical style, and they were uniformly good. Rachel and I have decided that we need to get their album now.

Image from and the band Heiruspecs
After the Heirospecs show the rain let up somewhat, allowing us to journey home once again. We decided to spend our evening cleaning and packing up stuff from our room, which led to plenty of dust flying around and a forest of cardboard to spring up in our living room. Thank God for storage lockers...

Speaking of rain, it's been raining indoors for quite a while now! Jason, his dad and a team of carpenters are busy dismantling our roof and hopefully installing a new one... but they keep on running into more and more unseen complications because our house is weird. Basically there have been iterations of construction since the 1920s, and none of the previous owners seem to know anything about architecture. Wiring is a crazy mishmash of styles, the supporting beams are incorrectly put in place, and a wall sinks a little along the roof... lots of stuff. So we've been living with blue tarp and plywood over our heads, but it hasn't been as secure as we'd like. So our kitchen occasionally turns into a mystical waterfall, and the near daily rain hasn't helped matters much. Oh well, should be great once it's finished.

I've spoken enough, but I've got more to blog about. So until next time...

"The rain is famous for falling on the just and unjust alike, but if I had the management of such affairs I would rain softly and sweetly on the just, but if I caught a sample of the unjust out doors I would drown him."
- quoted in My Father Mark Twain, Clara Clemens

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Busy Independence Weekend

Things have been moving this weekend- I've barely had any time to sit back and relax! Well, here's the rundown:

The World Cup continues its strange and exciting journey! While I missed the Netherland's upset victory over Brazil on Friday and Spain's last minute frantic goal over Paraguay, I did get to see the other two games this weekend. First, Ghana vs Uruguay. This was a really good game- plenty of back and forth action, lots of shots on goal, and it went all the way to a shoot out. Of course it shouldn't have gone to a shoot out, if not for some brilliant and unorthodox thinking on the part of a Paraguayan defender.

It was the last minute of double overtime, the score tied at 1-1. Ghana put in their all for one last desperate attempt at a goal and there was frenzied action at the Uruguayan goal. The keeper deflected the ball three times, twice just as it was about to cross the line. The third save had him fall to the ground and another Ghana striker slammed the ball home... only to have it blocked right on the line by a handball. As one of my soccer buddies later mentioned, he had always wondered when an intentional hand ball would be tactically sound, and this was it. Ghana failed at the penalty kick in the last second of double overtime and went on to lose the shootout.

The Germany Argentina game, however, was even more awesome. Germany came on strong, scoring in the first 4 minutes. They then continued to be strong, dominating every phase of the game and scoring three more goals in the last 20 minutes. Schweinsteiger continued to be the best midfielder ever, setting up goal after goal with ease. The keeper, Manuel Neuer, blocked every Argentinan shot with remarkable aplomb. And Klose moved into place for second most World Cup goals scored, only one goal behind Ronaldo. A 4-0 slaughter should see them do very well against Spain, who have not shown the greatest amount of initiative so far. And after that, World Cup glory in the finals!

The games that I've watched I've tried to watch over at the Nomad World Pub, my favorite bar in the Cities. Every game they have a raffle and some trivia questions, and for the Argentina-Germany game Rachel actually got chosen to win a pair of Taste of Minnesota tickets! For those not in the know, it's a festival where there are lots of cool shows going on and we can try out all sorts of awesome food. We're planning on going on Monday night, so I'll be sure to report about it later.

I've also been hanging out with my CTEP folks a lot. Last night was a potluck at a drive in movie theater where we watched Toy Story 3 (AMAZING) and the Karate Kid (surprisingly brutal, but good) remake late into the night, the day before was a Corps Day at my site and tonight is hopefully going to be a BBQ and watching the fireworks down by the river, so long as it doesn't rain at least. They're a great group, and they'll be another thing I'm sorry to move away from in August. But that's part of the deal, so I'll just make the most of it while I can.

Until next time...

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either."
- Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Thursday, July 1, 2010

EPIC News!

Yesterday morning started out like any other morning. There was an unusually blue sky and the weather was rather enjoyable, but since I slave my day away in darkness underneath the Advantage Center these particulars were, quite literally, window dressing. No kids showed up to my classes as I had predicted since summer school started this week, so I had my YJCs cleaning up the lab in anticipation for the Corps Day that will take place here at the end of the week. On a side note, this is the first time that I can see the runner along the floor of the back wall of my office in about a year, and my desk top (analog, not digital) has more empty space now than filled. Yay!

I got a call around 11:00 that went straight to message through the interesting telemetry that the lab presents to cell phone signals. I ignored it till I had finished setting out my next batch of instructions then checked it.

Area code 608? That's from Madis-

I quickly dialed my voicemail, my heart beat rising a bit. Perhaps they just had trouble contacting one of my references... I know that one of them in particular is getting ready to have a baby, which might have caused some kind of complication with my application. It was my HR contact from Epic, saying (in his usual aridly dry and strangely punctuated humorous way) that he had something exciting to discuss with me.

Letting my YJCs know that I might be squealing like a little girl presently I closed the door to my office and dialed my contact's number. He picked up on the first ring. He started off by saying that Epic was prepared to offer me a position and that they were excited to have me on board.

I did a fist pump.

He then jumped into the benefits, which I had heard already and had in paper form from my onsite interview. I knew most of them by heart, but adding in covering the expense to move me to Madison?

I started my happy dance. My YJCs looked up, shook their heads, and continued to work.

We then started talking about when I could start. August 2nd was bandied about, but we decided that September 7th (or even later if necessary) was the ideal time for me to start. Giving me about 2/3s of a month between my current job and the Epic one.

The happy dance picked up some angular momentum.

While I said that I would accept the position, he wisely informed me to wait till I heard the pay. "I mean, you probably don't want to agree if we offer you two dollars and a ham sandwich... though it'll probably be a bit more than two dollars and a ham sandwich."

I sagely said sure, reversing the direction of the happy dance's angular momentum but not its intensity.

He said to call him back after I had heard the offer, then bid me adieu.

I exited the lab and did a slow mo Tiger Woods fist pump. Then went to lunch and got back to work.

Three hours later someone from payroll called me. She said a number.

My happy dance started back up again as I tried not to make a sound.