What’s Making Me Happy – January 6, 2013

Cake Flour – and baking in general

Yes, cake flour. My wife is the resident artist-chef Chez Conner-Smith, and I am the designated baker. I do alright in that role, but I have to admit I have been discouraged by my results over the past year or so. However, I had some good success over the 2012 holidays, making delicious baguettes, a rustic loaf, and chocolate cookies that knocked my wife’s socks off (no small feat that – and no pun intended).

There are a few recipes in particular that I have thus far found vexing, such as biscuits. Before today, I had yet to follow a biscuit recipe that did not result in bricks that were just barely edible. Today I discovered the secret ingredient: Cake flour.

I just needed a little less protein. The following recipe that yielded light and fluffy biscuits that melt in your mouth. Delicious.

1 1/4 C cake flour
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder 
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 C butter, chilled
3/4 C buttermilk*
1 pat of melted butter
A little extra flour for the work surface

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a food processor.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces or pats and put them in the processor with the dry ingredients. Pulse and mix until you have coarse crumbs.
  4. With the food processor running, pour in the buttermilk in a steady stream. Mix until you have a ball of dough, which should only take about a minute. You don’t want to work the dough too much. The dough should be nice and wet.
  5. Put the dough onto a generously floured work surface. Pat or roll the dough out until it is about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut the biscuits into the desired sizes and shapes, either using a cutter or a knife.
  6. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the biscuits on the baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven, serve, and eat!

*If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by squeezing about a teaspoon into the 3/4 C. milk.

I’m encouraged to try cake flour with popovers, and perhaps other recipes!

What’s Making Me Happy, October 13, 2012

My favorite pop culture podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, ends each episode with a segment called “What’s Making You Happy,” and each of the panelists takes a turn sharing what in the world of popular culture and the arts is making them happy. With that inspiration, I’m going start doing a regular blog post on Paradoxologies about what’s making me happy. It will be fun to write, the sharing will also make me happy, and it will be an opportunity to spread good vibes (think: Puppies and Rainbows!).

I’m not promising that it will always be related to popular culture, although this first blog post is. And actually, I have two things that are making me happy:

The first: WXPN – I don’t know why it has taken me almost a year to discover this station. I guess I have been listening to Pandora and my podcasts all the time. Happily, a colleague at work told me that this week they are doing a count down of the 885 Greatest Rock Songs. It made the end of the week more fun in the office, and now I (finally) know about this local Philly radio station that has amazing programming! Yay!

The other thing making me happy is Tig Notaro. Notaro is a stand-up comedian who first came to my attention this past spring in the live show that This American Life did, in an act called Groundhog Dayne about Notaro’s encounter with the pop singer Taylor Dayne. I loved Notaro immediately. She’s silly and hilarious.  Later in the summer, I saw a clip of Notaro on a blog post that was shared in response to Daniel Tosh’s offensive rape “joke”, a story that was controversial and viral in July. The post was 15 Rape Jokes That Work (debatable, but Notaro’s clip is decidedly funny).

A few weeks later, I heard through social media that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer – in both breasts. And the prognosis didn’t look good.

More about how her story came to light, about about how she was faring came out this week. The best part of the story is that she has been successfully treated, and there is only a 7% chance that the cancer will come back. I was very happy to learn this.

The other part of the story that is making me happy is that Notaro is making a name for herself professionally, with the help of a very sweet and significant endorsement from Louis CK. After her cancer diagnosis in the summer, she did a live set at a comedy club in LA, and with raw emotion told the audience about her current bumps in the road. As if the cancer diagnosis weren’t enough, she had just suffered from several other major blows in her personal life, compounding everything. Louis CK was in the audience that night in August (and had performed at the club that evening as well). The next day, Louis CK tweeted:

in 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.

That right there made Tig Notaro go viral. So, her comedy and the very happy conclusion of this rough patch in her life, and Louis CK’s endorsement (really – what a great guy) of her work are making me happy this week. I can’t wait to see more of Tig Notaro’s work and comedy.

Terry Gross interviewed both Notaro and Louis CK about this story this week. You can hear part of her set in the story. Plus they are just great interviews.

You can purchase Notaro’s whole set on Louis CK’s site for $5.