A weekend of happy birds

This weekend the Philosophe turns 40, and for several months I’ve been scheming about what cake I could bake him that would be truly memorable. I have found NOTHING cooler than this playable angry birds cake that a lucky six-year old got for his birthday. How cool would that be? (Go check it out in action, the birds are awesome, and there’s a proper slingshot for total destruction.)

Alas (as one of my friends says way too often), with the last few months occupied mostly by getting through three burglaries, sino-bronchitis (ugh), finishing off one book, starting (and very soon finishing) another, oh, and teaching/marking/invigilating/attending meetings, I have regrettably failed to get it together.

But birthdays are no time for regrets. If he can’t throw birds at pigs, he can at least enjoy a solid Danish birthday breakfast (because nothing will stand in the way of me channelling my inner Viking):

These are kanelsnegle, or cinnamon snails. Did I go all out and make proper puff pastry? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But the dough does contain an essential, if little known, ingredient for Danish pastries, which is ground cardamom (any “Danish” that does not contain cardamom is an impostor – could even be a Swede!). And with the leftover dough, this:

This does look pretty Danish, and it would be if it was full of stuff like raisins, cinnamon, and if we’re going to get really fancy schmancy, marzipan. Instead it’s stuffed full of Dairy Milk Whole Nut chocolate (for which there incidentally exists a very silly advert). To be honest, I don’t know if such an un-Danish thing has ever been pulled off before, and I have no idea how it will go down.

But how bad can cardamom-scented bread full of chocolate (for breakfast) really be? Pain au chocolat and all that. I’d sure rather eat that than a stack of double chocolate pancakes. There are limits!

Besides, we wouldn’t want to spoil our appetites, or dampen our fighting spirits. Imagine if a flock of angry birds suddenly pulled in and darkened the birthday sky…

Pop Tarts 101

Ever had a breakfast that looks like this?

Me neither, until just now. It was my first taste of this thing I’ve been hearing about for years, and which comes out of a box which looks like this:

Pop Tarts are rather popular in the US, I believe – so much so that they were apparently the first thing that Walmart sold out of in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (they keep for a long time). Some experts say that they are also indispensable for hiking – but do beware, because bears like them too. Though if a bear should eat some of you along with its Pop Tart, the shiny foil could just save your life by helping rescue workers to spot you, incapacitated (hopefully not decapitated), in a ravine. When enjoying them at home, don’t leave them in the toaster for too long, as they are also rather flammable (that’s due to all the weird chemicals the “government” puts in there to make you stupid, and which indeed turn this humble pastry into a government conspiracy).

So how do they taste? They taste of the USA, I’d say. Way too much sugar in there, but not too bad (in a small dose). And the pastry – long-life but curiously “fresh” tasting – is, as the Philosophe pointed out, a marvel of science. I did get briefly excited by the fact that there are 27 different flavours, and thus the possibility of discovering a flavour more suited to my palate (because I really don’t want a pastry that tastes like a blueberry muffin), but then I realised that they don’t do anything with peanut butter. WTF? How un-American is that?

Of course if they were made in South Africa, we’d be all over the savoury fillings: cheese and onion, boerewors and chutney… how about Simba’s whacky 2010 flavours: Walkie Talkie chicken (don’t ask: I have no idea), vetkoek and polony, snoek and atchar, masala steak gatsby…though let’s not given anyone more ideas about perfecting the science of long-life meat products.

And finally, I must now confess that it’s not true that I’ve never eaten something that looks like a Pop Tart. There is indeed a variant of (real) Danish pastry called hindbærsnitter (raspberry “slice”) which looks very much like it:

I didn’t make these (pic shamelessly swiped from someone else’s Danish Kitchen, where you can also find the recipe), but I did once make my nephew a birthday cake based on the same principle (they were his favourite pastries), except that little boys have no time for little “slices”. He wanted his to be a green bat, naturally:

Very realistic, isn’t it. Just like a Pop Tart (which incidentally took its name from Andy Warhol’s Pop Art… gittit?).