This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for June, 2011

Wouldn’t be Shavuot without Cheesecake

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 7, 2011


Son is at his yeshiva high school for Shavuot and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a cheesecake for just the two of us. After all, I had no trouble passing up lasagna! But it doesn’t seem like Shavuot without a cheesecake and cheesecake is so simple to make. Shavuot (the name literally means “weeks”) celebrates the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is observed on the 50th day after Passover, after counting the period of the omer, which is 49 days (you count a “week” of “weeks,” i.e., 7×7 days).

A lot of customs are associated with Shavuot:

  • Learning the entire night. Many communities and synagogues set up schedules of lecturers for the entire night, followed by morning prayers and a light breakfast.
  • Reading the Book of Ruth at the morning service
  • Decorating the synagogue with greenery
  • Eating at least one dairy meal (hence, the cheesecake). Blintzes and lasagna are also popular

For explanations about the customs, meaning, family activities, and recipes, see the Aish haTorah page (in English). They have a recipe for a Snickers cheesecake. I kid you not. Too sweet for me but if that’s your thing, go for it. I don’t have a very strong sweet tooth, so I prefer a simple cheesecake that tastes of cheese and cream, not nuts and chocolate.

Simplest Cheesecake

500 grams cream cheese
200 grams sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Start with the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 300 F/150 C.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add the sugar gradually, beating thoroughly. Add the eggs individually, beating after each egg so that it is incorporated. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is thick. If you are using high-fat dairy products, you will get a rich, thick batter. If you are using low-fat, you will get a wimpy-looking milkshake.

Pour the batter into a buttered 9″ springform pan or baking pan (I used a quiche pan because my springform pan started leaking too badly to seal with foil, I tossed it out, and haven’t replaced it yet). Bake for 1 hour or until the cake is just set in the middle (bang the oven gently to see how much the cake ripples) and the sides start to pull away. Let the cake cool in the oven with the door ajar. (This helps prevent the cake from cracking.) When cool, cover loosely with foil and refrigerate.

Serves 10.

You may notice that I did not specify what kind of cream cheese or sour cream. There are so many different types available, with high and low fat content, and you probably know what kind you will buy. All I can say is that the smooth, rich texture and creamy taste come from fat, so if you make your cheesecake with diet products, you’re not going to get the same results. Cheesecake is not a health food, but you probably don’t eat it very often unless you’re one of my coworkers (dry, tasteless cheesecake is one of the standard desserts in the dairy cafeteria). Try to use real vanilla, rather than a synthetic extract.

Chag sameach!

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Etienne Cliquet: Flottille

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 6, 2011

Etienne Cliquet created this video of micro-origami unfolding in water, caused by the paper absorbing water through capillary action. Cliquet, a multimedia artist based in Toulouse, France, creates origami diagrams with a computer, folds the designs with tweezers, and places them gently in water and records them unfolding.

He teaches at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts and has been researching computer-assisted origami since 2004. He describes his work (in English) on his site, Oridigami. DailyMotion has a video interview (in French) with the artist.

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Alexandre Dubosc: Alimation

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 6, 2011

Alexandre Dubosc, a young French director and photographer, created this clever animation from food for the Annecy Festival, 2011. His Flickr site has a photo set that illustrates the making of “Alimation”. If you want to see more of his work, go to his site; the site is a bit tricky to navigate if you don’t read French. You can use Google Chrome to translate it but the layout makes it difficult to see the menus.

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Jerusalem Day, 2011

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 5, 2011

Jerusalem Day 2011

I suppose this photo could be called “Dancers in Front, Daveners [pray-ers] in Back”. I took a few photos of the Jerusalem Day march.

Jerusalem Day 2011

An animated discussion by the Paratroopers’ Memorial. I’m not sure what these guys were discussing but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Jerusalem Day 2011

Jerusalem Day 2011

I love photographing tourists:

Jerusalem Day 2011

Damascus Gate. Pity it was under scaffolding, as it’s the most elaborate of the Old City gates:

Jerusalem Day 2011

Four girls coming through the Damascus Gate. Actually the girls’ route was to the Dung Gate on the other side of the Old City but things got a bit confused by this point.

Jerusalem Day 2011

Jerusalem Day 2011

The Western Wall plaza was really crowded, so we went up the steps to one of the streets overlooking the plaza. I created this panorama from three photos (click to view a larger version on Flickr):

Western Wall, Jerusalem Day 2011

Jerusalem Day 2011

Jerusalem Day 2011

Incidentally, the archaeological site in the foreground of the photo above a newly discovered secondary branch of the Cardo (Roman marketplace). Ancient maps show that the Cardo had several branches, but until recently their location was unknown. A few of the other photos are in my Flickr set.

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Couple Jerusalem Day Videos

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 1, 2011

Happy Jerusalem Day, everyone! Jerusalem Day marks the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. It’s not a civil holiday, like Yom Atzmaut (Independence Day), so I’m at work, but I hope to leave early for the flag dance. The video above is a 6-minute video about what the Western Wall means to Jews by Aish haTorah, a yeshiva based in Jerusalem. Some of it’s a little over the top but it’s still a nicely produced video.

Not on the same scale at all is my video, below. My son was playing in the band from Netiv Meir Yeshiva High School last year, so I went to the flag dance and shot some footage. (My son plays the electric guitar, second from the left in the last section, in front of the gutted Palace Hotel. If you want a challenge, try following a float surrounded by dancing boys, while shooting video and stills!). There are bits of different bands and a group from Kinor David Musical Yeshiva High School in Jerusalem. This year I didn’t bring a video camera, just a DSLR.

Now that I see this video again, I’m starting to regret not bringing the camera and making another video. I use my old Canon PowerShot S5, which is a lot of weight to drag around, in addition to the Rebel XSi. Hmm. Maybe I should start saving for a DSLR that does video, like the Canon T1.

On the other hand, one problem that I have when editing videos with music is that I hear the audio track non-stop, during my waking hours and sometimes in my sleep. It’s like having the worst ear worm you can imagine — it doesn’t fade for months. When I asked a musician friend, he said, “I’ll bet you have perfect pitch, right?” I do have perfect pitch and I think it’s one of the most overrated “gifts” in existence. He said that my hearing the audio track was an indication of unusually keen pitch memory. (He had to stop tuning pianos for the same reason, because he would hear the out-of-tune piano notes playing in his head, over and over.) For me, perfect pitch is a curse.  I really enjoy shooting and editing my own videos but ones with music in them are problematic. Sigh.

Posted in Israel, videos | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »