Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Good Bread

Having a hard time coming up with a theme of something to post without my head exploding or just having the place fill with blather. I'm *this close* to being done with Cryptonomicon, which means I get my life back! There's a reason I don't usually read 900 page books. While in theory I would love to wallow around in the book-world for days, in reality I can't commit that kind of time to it on a regular basis. And I can't leave it and wander away because I might not come back. I thought I would get it all done yesterday, and came close. But there was a bread incident.

I was shocked to my toes a couple years ago when I heard Rachel Ray say "I'm not good at baking". What?!?!? Aren't you the star of 80 cooking shows??? Turns out that cooking and baking are two different categories of skills and supplies! Who knew? Not me. Of course now that I think of them as separate things, it makes kitchen organizing easier. Me? I like to bake. Mostly bread, sometimes cakes, cookies, or other funky things. I'm ok at cooking but miserable at meal planning and shopping to a list, so all the fun gets sucked out. But baking. I can do that.

This weekend, I volunteered to bake bread for a potluck. I got started a little later than I thought because I puttered around cleaning the bathroom, then had to take a shower so I wouldn't contaminate the baking, and it all took longer than I expected. Anyhoo, I'd picked out a few recipes the previous night: Scandinavian beer bread, Portugese corn bread, and DOE French bread. I had most of the correct ingredients on hand. I had to sub in some stuff for the French bread and didn't measure carefully (very bad in a baker) because I was in a rush (not a good enough excuse, I was lazy). The beer bread came out great and people loved it. The corn bread was fine but nothing to write home about. The french failure didn't even rise, though I knew I hadn't killed the yeast.

The french lump sat in the bowl during the party. It wasn't quite dead when I got home yet still hadn't risen appreciably, so I kneaded in a little more water and let it sit overnight. In the morning it had a bit of a sourdough smell to it, so I punched it down and made two loaves. After a couple HOURS of raising, they still were small and I decided just to get it over with. They baked up a little more solid than the average french bread. But that sour smell came out like stinky feet, and not in an "oooh, that's a tasty cheese" stink, but something even more foul. I tossed both loaves in the trash and took the trash outside immediate-l-y. Then I spent a fair portion of sunday washing everything in the kitchen that could possibly have been contaminated by the spores of whatever caused that stink. (Hopefully not much since I raised it covered then proofed it in the little oven.) Still and all, it was a lot of scrubbing. And less reading.

I did get over to a local art fair sunday too. By local, I mean a 5 minute walk, so there's no excuse not to go. The number of people selling pottery with faces was up to 3. ("Kim's pottery" in my sidebar is one of them.) So all in all, I baked bread, went to a party, made serious headway on my book, cleaned the kitchen, did all the laundry (found the missing Dreft stain remover in the bottom of the hamper!), and wandered through art. Not bad, not bad.

When I started this post, though, I was just going to do my happy things for today. But I suppose the Rachel Ray epiphany had been circling the brainpan for a while so it doesn't surprise me that it escaped now. Along with these happy things:
  • Today was the first of 3 days of training at work. Unlike many training classes, I'm learning useful things! I've been using JuMP software for a decade or better but never had formal training and never had enough time to poke around learning to be adept for the sake of it. What I've learned today will make my life so much easier and my data manipulation enough faster that I've already got my money's worth. You can pre-set the direction that the histograms go and not have to do it manually every time! I understand the journal feature now. Yay!

  • The date's birthday was today. Since I didn't find out until last night - and his parents took him out - I didn't really have anything for him but smooches, but he seemed ok with that. (Oh, yeah, and my tonsilitis cleared up. I'd say it happened on it's own - meaning no antibiotics - although I sure used a lot of listerine and nasal rinse this week to hasten its demise.)

  • I went to the grocery store and got in and out with minimal wandering around in a dazed stupor and actually found all the things on my list.


Anonymous said...

does the beer bread taste beer-y?


Anonymous said...

Would you post the beer bread recipe or tell me where it came from?

And BTW, the date's b-day is the same as mine. :) He must be okay.

CrankyOtter said...

I'll post the beer recipe! It was tasty and definitely had beer flavor, but little kids loved it too. It's a soft, kinda hearty bread.

And happy birthday! I knew I should have sent you a card... didn't remember what for, but I had one in mind.

Wade said...

I just finished ANATHEM. It was fascinating stuff, but more explanation than story. Still, it was better than the last two books of The Baroque Cycle, in my opinion.