By Maida Heatter, Toni Evins

Gathers recipes for muffins, cookies, pastries, crepes, blintzes, popovers, cream puffs, puff pastry, pies, cheesecakes, ice lotions, and souffles.

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Alan Davidson, former British Ambassador to Laos and a noted food writer, explains that there is no clearcut distinction between the two; instead, ‘there is a more or less continuous spectrum of varieties of rice from the markedly non-glutinous to the markedly glutinous’. The technique for cooking sticky rice is to steam it, never boil, and the secret of success is to soak it beforehand for a few hours. The technique for eating it is to use your fingers. Specifically, you take a small lump of the sticky grains, about as much as you can conveniently catch between one thumb and the first two or three fingers, and knead it into a concave pad with which to scoop food from another dish.

Gunungan rice is an essential part of the Garebeg, and at the end of the ceremony, in three days’ time, these elaborate rice mountains will be broken up. The final wrapping of its base in sheets of banana stem will take place without ceremony tomorrow. Two days later, the Muslim festival of Idul Adl-ha takes place in the Alun-Alun Lor, the North Palace Square that lies between the Kraton and the Great Mosque, and the day after that is the turn of the Garebeg. For this, the five gunungan are taken by the sultan, with a guard of 800 men, through the palace and across the square to the Great Mosque.

It takes twenty days on average to build one of these rockets. When the powder is finally packed in, the bottom end is sealed with clay-and-sugar and wood, exactly as at the top end. Then the hard part begins, which is boring out the packed gunpowder in increasingly wide sections. Using long steel rods, some with sharpened blade tips, others with screw tips, the borer aims to make four sections with different diameters. At the top, a 25-mm hole will penetrate the 100-mm diameter section of gunpowder; lower down the hole is widened to 50 mm, below this to 75 mm, while the last section is 90 mm, leaving just a thin, 10-mm jacket of packed powder.

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