Monday, 29 July 2013

Citrus Griestorte

It was my birthday last Wednesday and I decided to try out this recipe that I found in a magazine - Griestorte, a flourless semolina and ground almond cake. 

So, a year older and hopefully a year wiser. Birthdays. Normally, people would think birthdays are for celebrating us turning one year older, commemorating the day of our birth. It's a day where we 'should' receive presents and be pampered. It's a day where everyone 'should' be nice to us, treat us as kings or queens. 

I used to think that too. Of course, we've conquered another year, isn't that something to celebrate about? Yes. But I think it should actually be the other way round. It should be a day where we especially thank our parents. After all, even though it is a day of our birth, for many of us, it is also a day when our parents, especially mother went through immense pain (child labour). We should thank our parents for all the sacrifices they've made for us, to bring us up to who we are. Because of us, they have probably gone through a lot of suffering - countless sleepless nights when we were babies, worrying about making good money so we could have a good upbringing, getting disappointed when we upset them, being the stubborn kids we are, worrying about our future, etc. etc. 

And in actual fact, in Buddhist teaching, birthdays especially should be a day where we practice good deeds for others. Be compassionate towards other sentient beings, including animals, such as going vegetarian for the day (if you normally eat meat) is especially good. In Buddhism, there are many chants and mantras. One particular one, The Great Compassion Mantra, is one of the most important mantras. When we recite this mantra, we are actually 'hailing' the thousand buddhas, as the mantra is in actual fact, comprised of names of buddhas. Hailing these buddhas to our sides will help protect us. 

Many people are afraid of death. The reasons for most are uncertainty, fear and regret. Uncertain of what the next step is. Uncertain of where we will be going. Fear of pain. And regret of what we have or have not done in our lives. The core of buddhist teaching actually addresses these issues. Buddhists believe in reincarnation in the 6 realms. The 6 realms are heaven, human, demons, animals, ghosts and hell. Reincarnation in the realms will depend on our karma, which is all the good and bad deeds we have committed in our countless past lives and this life. The ultimate goal, is to escape this cycle of reincarnation and to be enlightened or in other words, to attain buddhahood. So, how do we do that? We have to let go of attachments. Attachments lead to greed. These worldly things are not important as we can't take them with us when we die. Most people don't realise this until it is too late. What we can take with us however, is our karma. We have to be compassionate. If we understand the 6 realms of reincarnation, we will understand that every sentient being is equal. We will be kind to others naturally. We will understand that we may one day reincarnate as an animal, or an insect, if our karma determines it so. Understanding that will provoke us to let go of eating meat or harming others. We will do what are the really important things in life, and stop wasting our time doing unimportant things - live life without regrets. Chanting will help us attain buddhahood, and escape this cycle of reincarnation. Chanting will also prepare us for our death. If we chant everyday, it becomes ingrained in us and at the moment of our death, we will also be chanting, hailing the buddhas and hopefully when we go, we will go with the buddhas to the Pure Land. 

So, on our birthdays (if not every day), we should really reflect on our lives and ask ourselves, have we really lived how we wanted to live? If we die tomorrow, will we have any regrets? And it really is possible that we die tomorrow. Nobody knows how long we have to live in this life. So, having death in mind, it will encourage us to live efficiently, use our time well, treat others well. And, through that, it will prepare us for our death, and eliminate uncertainty, fear and regrets, which will also encourage a more peaceful and 'controlled' passage. 

This cake, I would like to dedicate it to my parents, for sacrificing all your time and effort so I could live the privilege life I lead, for teaching me all that you have learned to fuel my wisdom, for your unconditional love and care. I would also like to dedicate it to my other family members and my friends, who've cared for me and been there for me, and made me who I am today. 

[Citrus Griestorte]
6 eggs, separated
1 cup raw sugar (finely ground)
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup of fine semolina
1/2 cup of ground almonds

250g cream cheese
150ml cream
1/4 cup raw sugar (finely ground)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 orange

1. Preheat oven to 170C. 
2. Grease a 20cm round cake tin. Line the bottom of the pan. Dust the sides lightly with sugar and semolina. Tap the tin and tip out excess. 
3. Cream egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar until light, pale and fluffy. Add vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Continue beating until thick. 
4. Fold in semolina and ground almond gently. Leave to sit to soften semolina.
5. Meanwhile, in a clean bowl, whisk egg whites until it starts to foam up. Add cream of tartar. Continue whisking until soft peaks starts to form. Gradually add in sugar. Whisk until firm peak stage. 
6. Add a third of the egg whites into the semolina mixture and fold until more or less well mixed. Add the second third and fold, add the last third and fold until well mixed. Take care not to over mix. 
7. Pour into the lined tin and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or golden. The cake should spring back lightly when pressed with your finger. 
8. Remove from oven, cool, then split into thirds. 

1. Soften cream cheese by beating it in an electric mixer at medium speed, then gradually increase to high speed, until cream cheese is light and fluffy. 
2. Add cream and beat until mixed.
3. Add sugar, vanilla and lemon and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. 
4. Spread 1/4 onto the base layer of the cake. Place the second layer of the cake on top, then spread the second 1/4 of cream cheese on, then place the last layer of cake on top. Spread the remaining 1/2 of the cream cheese onto the top and sides of the cake. Using an off-set spatula, smooth out the icing.  
5. For decoration, slice the orange into thin slices. Place onto the sides of the cake. Place a few pieces of rind on top. 
6. Refrigerate before eating. 

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