June 24, 2009

Marian the Librarian

I get the feeling I picked the right line of work for myself. I love my job, though it isn't without its hazards. Like last week, I broke the heel of my shoe in the grooves of the Spacesavers - those mechanical shifting shelves. And if I forget to wear pants/skirts with pockets, I have to hide keys and pens on my person, and that can get weird and uncomfortable. Sometimes that leads me to sport a pencil behind the ear, which along with my hair in a bun and librarian glasses is charming to someone, somewhere, I'm sure.

I am doing old-fashioned librarian work, which is good because I'm an old-fashioned girl. I get some good questions at the reference desk. Mostly it's "Where is the bathroom?" But I do get some interesting ones, like people needing literary criticisms of a certain work or author, requests for obscure statistics and author biographies. People will tell long stories about what happened to them and their books, and "Do you loan jump drives because I had one but I left it in the pocket of my jeans and it got washed?" Or, "I'm looking for my friend. She has long, dark hair." At that one, I thought, okay, there are about 10,000 people that walk through these doors every day... I also get to tackle people that set off the security gate alarms. It's fabulous.

Ever since I started working at the library, I've thought my job was awfully like the girls' in Desk Set. Random questions, but in the days before Google:

I bought the movie and invited some friends over to watch it. What menu goes with Desk Set? I don't know, but in the movie Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy eat the dessert Baked Alaska, so I decided to make that. I found this recipe, which was extremely easy. The hardest part was finding peach ice cream. I didn't have time to make my own, so I had to buy generic United Food Club stuff, but it wasn't too bad. You slice a round of pound cake, top it with ice cream, and freeze it. Then beat egg whites with sugar and cream of tartar to stiff peaks and surround the ice cream with the egg whites. The ice cream needs to be hermetically sealed within the meringue. (I piped the meringue around the ice cream with a large star tip.) Return them to freezer if you have time, for up to an hour. Bake for five minutes to toast the meringue. I served them with peaches and raspberries spiced with cardamom, which I think added presentation and taste points.

Baked Alaska Baked Alaska

I like this dessert because it has a nice presentation, tastes pretty good, wows people with the "You put ice cream in the oven!" factor, can be simplified by using store bought ingredients, is retro, and is open to limitless flavor variations. Christy and John came over last night for a weeknight dessert, and I decided to try Baked Alaska again. This time, I used a brownie base instead of pound cake, topped half of them with vanilla ice cream, half with coffee ice cream. I made the meringue with granulated sugar instead of confectioner's, then swirled it on with a spatula, instead of piping it. I also tried baking at 425° instead of 450° as in the other recipe, because the tops of the last ones looked charred.

Baked Alaska Baked Alaska
I personally thought the brownie base was too sweet with the ice cream and meringue, so I probably would not use that again. Actually, I don't know why you couldn't just eliminate the cake/brownie base, and seal the entire scoop of ice cream within meringue. Then you could serve that alongside cake or brownies. Also, I thought after I took the autopsy shot above and moved the two halves back together, how much that looked like a human brain, split down the middle, which would make the dessert great for a Halloween party. You could great really creative with "grey matter" and a cerebellum... maybe that's too much.

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