Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Ice Creams

One ice cream flavor I've been wanting to try for a while has been chai. On Friday I decided to give it a shot, since I wanted to make a batch of something for people to eat on Saturday afternoon after helping Rowyn move. This turned out to be two of the most thwartful and problematic ice cream making experiences I've had yet, though entirely worth it in the end.

All of the recipes I found online seemed to involve lots of eggs. I was a bit leery of this because the last time I made a tea-related ice cream (red tea) it had six egg yolks in it and actually tasted eggy even after it was finished. I should have just ditched the recipes from the start, but I ended up using this one and scaling down the amount of eggs in it. I also was pretty imprecise with the spices, since I didn't have all the whole spices it called for but I did have a lot of McCormick's chai spice blend to supplement what I did have.

In general, I think it came out alright. But once it was done I realized what I had really wanted, and that wasn't it. All the eggs make the ice cream extremely thick and creamy, which is nice in some cases. But what I wanted here was a much lighter, melt-in-your-mouthier version. (Well, I suppose any ice cream will melt in your mouth, but you know what I mean.) Ordinarily I'd just make a note for next time and then let it go, but this time around I guess I was just feeling ornery about doing it right, so I biked back to the store for more cream to try again.

This is when things started getting particularly inconvenient, since I returned home to find that my apartment complex had a power outage. I tried waiting it out for a while, hoping my first batch of ice cream would still be okay in the freezer. I called PG&E a few times and they were working on it, but the ETA for the fix kept getting moved later. So I finally ate (a cold) dinner, then carted all my ingredients and things over to Rowyn's place to use her power. All the spices and tea have to steep for a long time in the cream, but I did what I could and then left it to chill in her fridge while we went to Friday Night Waltz. I picked it up again afterwards and took it home to put in the ice cream maker around midnight. Unfortunately, though the power had since come back on, the ice cream maker hadn't re-frozen properly and didn't work. So after 15 minutes with absolutely no change, I had to pour the mix out again, wash the ice cream maker, put it back in the freezer, and go to bed. Then I got up early to finally finish the whole thing, and that time it worked.

Anyway, in spite of all the weirdness it had to go through, the final product came out quite well indeed. If you want to try it yourself, you can still use this basic recipe and just modify it. I used 2 cups of regular cream, 1 cup of milk, and no eggs. Don't split up the cream like they do, just steep all the spices in all the dairy at once (though the tea goes in later). Then of course skip all the steps involving eggs and custard and whatnot. Comes out very yummy.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Predictions, Wrong and Maybe-Not-So-Wrong

The So You Think You Can Dance? finale is tonight/tomorrow night. I missed the first season, so this is the third one I've followed. It's interesting how sometimes you can pick out a clear winner right from the start, and sometimes you can't.

In Season 2, Benji was just so ridiculously fun to watch that he was a shoo-in from the beginning. The fact that he actually won made me believe in the "wisdom of crowds." Last year was different. Nobody jumped out at me so much, and I probably would have been happy with several different winners. Luckily, Sabra was one of them.

This year is wacky. First of all, Evan Kasprzak completely sold me in the auditions, but inexplicably failed to make it through the Las Vegas cuts. Then, for most of the season, Will Wingfield seemed about as clear a winner as Benji had been. He did absolutely everything beautifully. He was stuck with a weak partner for a while, which was too bad, but it almost didn't matter because it was usually hard to watch her anyway, with him on stage. And at least as important as his partner routines were his solos, which included actual variety. I tend to think the contemporary (and ballroom) dancers have the solos that are the most same-seeming, and get the most boring after a while. So being able to do something noticeably different each time is a big plus.

But Will got voted off! What was America thinking? Ironically it was on the night that Nigel had reminded everyone to register to vote for the presidential elections as well. This does not have me looking forward to November. Anyway, that leaves me with Katee as my pick for the best remaining dancer, with Joshua as my second choice. The two of them have definitely been the best partnership of the show, doing a lot of my favorite routines. I don't think either of them has ever been voted into the bottom yet. Twitch could have a chance just as a personality favorite, but he still has weak points in his dancing, so I don't think he'll take the whole show.

But if we learned anything from Will's elimination, it's that this competition is about America's favorite dancer, not best. So I'm not going to get too attached to any of my own predictions tonight.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Three-Person Polkas

I got pulled into a polka with Tracey and Bob at FNW last night, and it turned out to be quite successful. When I've been in this sort of situation in the past, I've usually resorted to a very vertical polka redowa step. This makes it less important which foot you're on at any given time, since you aren't trying to reach and step line-of-direction as much. (And that's important because you can't do 180° turns anymore with three people, so you're always at different angles and you don't have enough feet to handle them all.)

What we ended up doing this time was basically just a traveling basket-hold buzz-step swing, right feet in the middle, paddling ourselves around with our lefts. I didn't think to much about how we were actually accomplishing the traveling, but it seems to work out okay just to aim somewhere and let your propulsion naturally bias itself that direction. We also tried putting left feet in and turning counter-clockwise, but that was more difficult, perhaps just because we aren't as used to doing left-footed buzz-steps.

Another option just occurred to me as well, which would be to mix Newports in with regular polka steps. That way you could remain on a particular foot a little longer, until your rotation has changed so that it's convenient to switch to the other foot. E.g. instead of going 1&2-1&2, you could go 1&2&3-1&2, or 1&2-1&2&3. Obviously you'd be having hemiolas all over the place, and it could be tricky to figure out exactly when to do the switch, and there might be times when neither foot is really convenient to be on. But it might be worth an experiment, especially if you can make sure your threesome can consistently get 360° around every three polka steps.