Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes

I found this here online after listening to a very cool podcast. The frosting is wonderful, but it doesn’t harden. Yields 20-24 cupcakes.

3 T Dutch-process cocoa powder (3 Esslöffel)
1/4 c hot water (50 ml)
1 1/4 c flour (173 g)
1/2 tsp baking powder (1/2 Teelöffel)
1/2 tsp baking soda (1/2 TL Natron)
1/4 tsp salt (1/4 TL)
4 oranges, zested
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar (158 g)
1/2 c buttermilk, at room temperature (100 ml)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (1/2 TL)
1/4 c butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (55 g)

4 oz bittersweet baking chocolate (113 g; Am besten wäre normale Schokolade mit hohem Kakaoinhalt – mindestens 72%.)
2/3 c butter, at room temperature (146 g)
1 1/3 c confectioners’ sugar (190 g)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners. In a small bowl, stir the cocoa powder into the hot water until it dissolves; set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. Grate the zest from the orange into the bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla, then the dissolved cocoa. Whisk in the melted butter, then the dry ingredients.

3. Using a tablespoon, divide the batter among the muffin cups filling each about half full. Bake until the cupcakes are puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the cupcakes from the pan.

4. To make the frosting, melt the chocolate and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, using a stand mixer, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar with the paddle on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate until combined. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip with the frosting and pipe a spiral on top of each cupcake.

all closed up

Man, what is it with this place?

Yesterday, we needed an ice cream fix. Our favorite Eisdiele, Diba, next to the Pustet Passage, was closed, despite business hours posted in the window that declared them open and ready to satisfy us. We shuffled over to Neupfarrplatz and tried to hit up Gellini instead — no love there, either.

Then today Tammy tried to walk in at a hair salon at 8:00 a.m., since they were supposed to be open, according to their hours — no dice…at least not for a couple hours. This evening, marking the one-week anniversary of our first day back at work and home after the cruise, we were planning on hitting our favorite local Greek restaurant (not, as you might think, because it’s so authentic, and/or we had so much Greek fare while abroad, but rather just because it’s tasty). I met her there directly after work. And guess what? They were closed, contradicting their posted business hours and messing up our dinner plans. Surprise.

P9241963About the only thing that has been unexpectedly open lately has been the tower of the Dreieinigkeitskirche (church of the Holy Trinity) around the corner from us, between Bombay Express and the Thai joint, Havan Bistro. Even after nine o’clock last night, they were open for visitors to climb up the I-don’t-know-how-many flights of stairs and take the city by the light of the full moon and gentle late summer breeze.

It was nice.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

Everyone has a brocco-cheese-chicken-rice casserole somewhere in their culinary arsenal. I think I found one that works for us. Rich, but very yummy. I found the base at, but I’ve tweaked it enough to claim it as my own.

1 cup rice
2 cups broccoli florets (I used fresh, but frozen would work if thawed)
4 chicken breasts, cut into bitesize pieces
2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/4 tsp celery seed
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp prepared mustard
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 (10.75 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Cook rice according to package directions. If using fresh broccoli, steam briefly (no more than 5 minutes). In a large bowl, combine broccoli and rice and set aside to cool.

2. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with garlic salt, pepper, tarragon and celery seed until lightly coated. On medium-high heat, cook chicken in oil until lightly browned, stirring constantly. Remove chicken from heat with a slotted spoon and add to rice and broccoli to cool. Cook mushrooms in the remaining oil for 2-4 minutes, then add to rice bowl to cool.

3. Combine mayo, mustard, curry and condensed soup in a bowl and whisk until well blended. Pour sauce and shredded cheese into large bowl of cooled ingredients and stir well. Spoon mixture into a greased 9×13 casserole and bake at 350°F for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown on top.

the cruise recap

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

I am writing from somewhere off the coast of mainland Greece — I think. It’s hard to say, but I’d reckon that outside of the cruise ship staff, no one else knows, either. Pretty much everyone else on board is asleep, except for the septagenarians of course. It’s about 9:30 in the morning, but during the night we crossed into the next timezone, so it feels like it’s only 8:30. But I still get the impression that would make it an early morning for most people partying like it was 1979 last night at the disco before the Ice Sculptors got their craft on.

Read on for the recap and photos…. Continue reading the cruise recap

cruising the med is very cool

Just a quick post from an internet cafe on our way back down from a cliffside (ha) village to our ship in the harbor whose pool is calling out to me like a siren of Grecian lore.

This is great; everyone should do it. But wait until you’ve retired if fitting in with the in-crowd is important to you.

Pictures to follow, once a reliable not-billed-per-minute internet connection is available (shipboard ain’t working)…probably not until we get home next week.

blog and other sites will be down for four to eight hours tomorrow


I realize it’s not much notice, and it’s a weird coincidence with our vacation, but this blog and other sites (most notably I run which are hosted at are going to be down for four to eight hours tomorrow.

Don’t freak out. The hosting company is just moving across town; that’s all. We’ll try to post from the ship when we get there.

last work day before the cruise

Yesterday was a weird day.

I think in a lot of workplaces, people tend to cut loose on Fridays. Our company is undergoing a lot of changes, not the least of which are happening in our department and location. We used to be the headquarters and I always thought that was the place with the safest jobs. But that can be fatal when you get bought.

I think it was healthy for us to blow off some steam.

Kerstin3 Cliff8 Simone4

Yesterday was also a particularly yummy day.

We were graciously invited by Christina and Rainer out to their house for dinner. I had hinted pretty strongly during the planning phase that I wanted her to make Green Mango Salad. I almost felt guilty about that until it (a) she enlisted me in the preparation and (b) we sat down to eat it.

It is amazing (Tammy: I’m gloating at you. Oh, how was the Dult?). It’s like energy waves from the four dimensions of taste have intersected in my mouth:

– sweet (julienned mangoes*)
– sour (lime juice)
– spicy (thai chilis)

Oh, and Christina left the cherry tomatoes whole, so I could pick them out quite easily. This stuff also makes a great leftover-breakfast. We also had Son-In-Law Eggs and Penang Curry. I’m trying to put pressure on Christina to post the recipe for the Penang Curry, but it will be difficult while I’m lounging on deck chairs and grazing the shipboard buffet, etc. But I promise I’ll try.

Here are some shots from the meal:

P9071332 P9071337 P9071330

the bridge at night, plus a Riesenrad

Sort of in anticipation of our upcoming trip (7 days!), I took the tripod out tonight with my trusty and patient assistant for more night shots. I actually tried this about a week ago, but I had some weird-colored pixels show up in my image where I definitely wasn’t expecting them. And they weren’t random — they kept showing up in the same spot on all my pictures with long exposure times and thus appeared to be hot pixels. Turning on the noise reduction makes a world of difference, even though the dark frame requires some extra downtime between exposures. But even that’s not a problem when you’re measuring your exposure times in fractions of minutes, not seconds.

I was hoping to use the anti-shock feature* to get some good moon shots, but the clouds tonight are getting the way. It’ll have to wait for another night. I doubt that’ll do much good on a ship out at sea anyway.