Week Nine – Krav Maga and a Bake-Off
First off, my apologies for the belated post. I spent yesterday’s “Snow-quester” working from home and waiting for the 4-8 inches of snowfall that never transpired. It was difficult enough to be productive with my dog hurling toys at my head. Accordingly, I put blogging on the back-burner and spent the day working whilst playing fetch with an over-enthusiastic puppy. Needless to say, I spent Wednesday being far less productive than last week – during which I crossed two New Things off my List – Take a Self Defense Class (#48) and Enter a Bake-Off (#39). Without further ado:
New Thing # 48 – Krav Maga:
On Saturday morning, my friend JG joined me for an introductory class at Krav Maga DC. Developed by Israeli Defense Forces in the 1950s, Krav Maga is a self-defense system that focuses on realistic fight training through aggressive defensive and offensive maneuvers. At the start of the class, our instructor showed each of us how to form the Krav Maga stance. The proper stance features a forward lunge with hips squared facing the “attacker.” Your elbows should point to the floor and hands should be raised to protect your face. In practice, the Krav Maga stance feels a bit awkward. JG noted that she felt like a Velociraptor. Personally, I saw myself as Splinter – the wizened rat from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series.
The instructor then taught us Krav Maga’s two basic offensive moves – the jab and the cross. Each time he threw a punch, the instructor let out an intimidating noise -“HESSSHHH!” As we practiced, the attendees were encouraged to make similar sounds. I settled on a guttural and unattractive “UGH!” Our instructor then explained “Your attacker wants the attack to be quiet. YOU want to be as loud as possible. This may alert others; it also intimidates the attacker and signals that you are trained to fight.” Note to self – if ever attacked, be sure to channel (1) Splinter the Rat and (2) an angry gorilla.
After this introduction, the real workout began. We warmed up with dynamic stretching, jogging, push-ups and burpies. We then played a two-person game of “tag” in which each of us attempted to touch our partner’s shoulder, knee, or foot while evading his or her attempt to touch our own. Next, the group performed a series of punching drills in which we practiced the jab, cross, and a combo move in rapid succession. An instructor warned each of us to always punch with our top two knuckles – lest we break a pinky finger in a real fight. Unfortunately, I forgot this lesson in my enthusiasm to pummel my partner’s pad. The result wasn’t pretty.*
*I snapped this photo after class. When the owner asked what I was doing, I said gleefully – “I’m photographing my injuries!” Hopefully, my follow up comment of “Its so cool!” soothed any fears of an impending lawsuit.
Next, each of us were taught how to kick an attacker in the groin and/or the face from a safe distance. We also learned a move in which you (1) grab the attacker’s shoulder, (2) firmly press an elbow into his neck, (3) execute a swift knee to the groin, and (4) disengage by throwing the attacker’s body forward and using this momentum to run away. The group then completed a series of “fury drills,” during which we performed each move we had learned as fast as possible while screaming at the top of our lungs. This was surprisingly empowering. Later, the owner explained that the purpose of the fury drill was to encourage aggression – after all, one of the key principles of Krav Maga is to counter any attack with an instinctive and aggressive response. Although I’m no shrinking violet, I think even a wallflower would find her inner warrior after a few lessons in Krav Maga.
New Thing #39 – Enter a Bake-Off:
After a morning spent defeating imaginary foes, I shifted focus towards more domestic pursuits – baking a cake! A few weeks ago, my law firm announced that it would be hosting a charity “Bake-Off” (See New Thing #39) benefiting a local elementary school. As a self-proclaimed “paleo* nerd,” I decided to make a flour-less chocolate cake. I also wanted to incorporate the cayenne-and-dark-chocolate flavor combination that I enjoyed during the History of Chocolate lecture from Week Seven. After browsing the internet, I ended up combining several recipes for a Mexican Chocolate Cake flavored with chili, cinnamon, and cayenne. In case you’re feeling adventurous (and hungry!) the recipe is reproduced below.
*If you aren’t familiar with the concept, a paleolithic/”primal” diet eschews all grains and focuses on whole, unprocessed foods. Basically, I try to eat a lot of meat and vegetables. However, dark chocolate is allowed in moderation. To learn more, check out the writings of Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf.
The cake was delicious – it was dense, moist and packed the perfect amount of flavor. Because I wanted the dessert to pack some heat, I ended up using more cayenne pepper and cinnamon than what was called for in any of the recipes I’d found. Although I didn’t win the bake-off, I consider the experiment to be a success. My cake was the first to sell out in the office cafeteria – the bake sale ran from 11:30-1:30 pm and my entry was all but eaten by 12:15 pm. Further, several people asked me for the recipe; one person just informed me that she is baking the cake for a friend’s bridal shower this weekend! In sum, I learned to make a yummy new dessert and helped to raise money for a good cause. It was a day well-spent in the kitchen!
Flourless Mexican Chocolate Cake
Prep Time – 25 minutes; Bake Time – 25-30 minutes
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more to grease pans
12 ounces chili-infused 60-75% dark chocolate*
11 whole eggs, separated
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
Cinnamon (to taste)
Cayenne pepper (to taste)
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
* To cut down on cost, you could use regular dark chocolate and add ancho chili powder. Recipes online suggest 1-2 tablespoons for a cake of this size, I would add 1 tablespoon and taste-test.
Preheat an oven to 350˚F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray or butter.
In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate. Set aside and let cool.
Combine the egg whites and ¼ cup of sugar in a bowl and whisk until white peaks form. Set aside in a clean bowl.
Clean the mixer bowl, and combine the egg yolks with the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Whisk until it reaches ribbon stage.
Add the cinnamon and cayenne to the chocolate mixture. Fold the yolk mixture into the chocolate mixture, followed by the egg whites. Divide the mixture between the two prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. The sides of the cake will likely rise higher than the center. Once the cake cools, you can trim the sides (and eat them!) to in order to stack the two layers.
While the cake cools, prepare the chocolate ganache. Pour the chopped semisweet chocolate into a mixing bowl. Scald the heavy cream in a saucepan set over medium-high heat until it bubbles around the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Add cinnamon and cayenne pepper to taste, depending on how much heat you want in the final product.
Pour the ganache over the top of the bottom cake, and using a knife, spread it evenly. Place the top cake on the chocolate, creating a double layer. Next, smear the remaining ganache so the entire cake is covered.
Serves 10-12. ENJOY!
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