Thursday, December 22, 2011

jacob seems like not a great father

I cleaned the oven yesterday, because I hew to retrograde, sexist gender roles. You know how I am. For a minute the door wouldn't close and I was panicking, because I need that door. I called a local appliance sales and service place, and they said, "We could send out our technician and he could maybe bend the hinges back into line." So I stopped talking to them.

But all is well, because it turns out I just accidentally engaged the hinge lock, and figured it out while I was on the phone with a guy from what sounded like possibly Massachusetts--he talked like Tom Silva a little bit. And now my oven is healed.

I am learning from Drive that I am a Type X person in some regards--the chief one being that I am situationally content. As opposed to Type I people, who tend to be content generally, regardless of circumstances. This worries me because Type X people are more stressed and die earlier and are less successful in the long run. But! I am also learning that you can make yourself into a Type I person. I will do this.

I wonder if it would be easier to say that I don't immunize Willa, rather than go to the doctor and get her immunization records. Yes. It would be easier. But then people would look at me the way I look at those crazies in Utah County who are giving us all pertussis outbreaks. If smallpox comes back, man, I will come UNGLUED.

It's amazing how similar pho breath is to Cool Ranch Doritos breath.

I have come to the conclusion that my pink grapefruit lotion from The Body Shop (which sounds like it would be all earthy and natural, but isn't) is going to have to be emergency lotion, because although I like the smell in the bottle and have no complaints with its moisturizing capabilities, it metamorphoses on my skin to become a B.O. fragrance of exceeding vigor.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I won't even stay awake to hear those magic reindeer click

I want to talk about lynching for just a second. It's bad, vigilante justice is bad, right? Academically I know this, but deep in my gooey nougat center I am a vindictive, vengeful harpy with a black and white perception of the law--not civil law, moral law. So I just wonder, after all the people who've been lynched who didn't deserve it, why can't we lynch someone who does deserve it? Why can't we lynch Sandusky?

I know, I know, rule of law. Right to trial by jury of peers, slippery slope, etc. In a world where we lack omniscience it's dangerous to mete out justice according to personal or public opinion. But still. Don't you sometimes wish you could smite?

Speaking of which, I do not miss Kim Jong-Il. Do you think there might be a slap-fight between his maybe horrible sons for who gets to succeed? Do you think they might each be even worse than their father? It's worrisome. Why can't all the bad people just die? See what I'm saying about smiting?

On to better and brighter topics.

Our neighbor's guinea fowl prefer our yard to his, because his yard is xeriscaped and orderly and boring, and ours is full of weeds and bugs and interesting messes. But guinea fowl and chickens do not easily co-recreate, so it looks a lot like the Sharks and Jets out there.

Man, my brother-in-law Steven has a great bit about learning how to fight from West Side Story.

We have a buck goat staying with us right now. It's Willow-Lane Ted Nugent--remember him? Did I tell you how at his old house he accidentally got caught in the electric chicken fence (for keeping out foxes and stray dogs)? We worried that it might have scrambled his brain, but if it did, then we have definitive proof that breeding is an instinctive, right-brain behavior, because he has no trouble performing his buckly duties. But he's fairly docile and doesn't pee all over himself as much as a lot of bucks I've met. He's like the fabled Iron-Owl Bobcat of yore, the best buck in all the world. Sniff. I miss Bobcat.

But Ted Nugent is so splashy! Calico--mostly white with splashes of black and orange. I think we're going to get great color out of him. Let me know if you want to buy a bred doe by the name of Baba Capra Julia who is going to have pretty babies. Do you want to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse/EMP or not? If you can't see the link between goat ownership and disaster preparedness then I can't help you.

I accidentally kneaded my bread for a half hour yesterday. It was liquid by the time I remembered to look at it. I think I'll sue Bosch for making breadmaking so easy that I forget to do my job.

Do you think it's weird that there are Lego sets that cost two hundred dollars?

Friday, December 16, 2011

what I thought about "make the bread, buy the butter"

You guys, I can't wait any longer to do a review of Tipsy's cookbook. Just buy it already. It is personable and funny and intelligent, and my whole family insisted that I read it aloud to them, they were that entertained. For someone like me, who is always trying to figure out how to sanely reduce the amount of process I eat, the book is a blessing. Who wants to be the idiot buying something that can be done better and more cheaply at home? Who wants to be the idiot trying to make something that is done perfectly deliciously and trustworthily and better by someone else? Not me, that's for sure.

Even if the recipes were all crap the book would still be a good read, and the recipes are not crap. I have made the peanut butter, the milk mayonnaise, the every day bread, the pudding, the hot chocolate, the Vadouvan mac n' cheese, the bagels, the chocolate chip cookies, and probably some others that I can't remember right now, and they are all great. Be sure you chill the cookie dough, though--I am an eager greedy, and I fared poorly. The Vadouvan mac n' cheese in particular is remarkable and addictive, and requires an inexpensive and transporting little packet of spices you can get from Kalustyan's which will make you feel worldly and sophisticated, which of course you are. Order some marble halvah while you're at it.

Tipsy is a smart woman, but aside from that, she is a woman of good breeding and impeccable taste, and you are safe in her care. If she says you can make it, you almost definitely can, but if she says to buy it? BUY IT. Unless you get a perverse pleasure from being an obstinate also-ran, in which case, knock yourself out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

treat me like a mushroom

Flats are not comfortable. They are murder on your arches, and I think people need to stop acting like they're better than heels, because they're not. They just shift the damage to a different spot.

It would be nice if we lived in a world in which young girls who are considered too cognitively immature to take an abortive pill correctly could be prevented from having to make such a decision. It would be nice if all children could be raised in safe, loving, homes by responsible parents. And I don't think pre-teens--regardless of the circumstances in which they got pregnant, despite my moral queasiness about the Plan B pill itself--ought to be carrying babies to term.

Ike had a dream the other night that I bought him a dog. I think I'm transferring my own desires to him. I look for dogs all the time, and I wonder when people will stop buying puppies from irresponsible and unethical breeders. I wonder when people will stop being irresponsible and unethical breeders.

The political climate in our country is very discouraging. I keep wondering why it is that only idiots are talking, and then today on Radio West one of the guests said that it--the polarization, the extremism, the disproportionate representation of special interest groups--is due to lower voter participation. Makes sense to me. When all the normal people check out, all that's left is the wingnuts, and there's no rational voice to counter their shrieking.

I hear the Iraq War is over now.

Do you ever think about how much mess and misery could be prevented and remedied if people just acted decent?

I like Santa. I like the Wizard of Oz.

Actually, that's a lie. I don't like the Wizard of Oz. I fail to see the magic. It's certainly not worth John Connor obsessing over it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

don't shoot me santa claus, no one else around believes me

I'm a pretty smart person. For example, when I read the headline, "Man Destroys House Looking for Girlfriend in Walls" I didn't even need to read the story to know that the guy was on drugs. I also suspected foul play in the shooting that happened in a church parking lot, even before the police suspected it. I am a luminary.

We're doing a present Christmas this year, and it's going to be quite an exercise in conspicuous consumption. The kids will never know what hit them! I'm pretty excited about the forthcoming glut of wonder.

So, the sourdough bread. It continues to be delicious. But: it is not sour. Not even a little bit. I don't know what the deal is. I like some tanginess, but I'll take sweet, light bread over the dumpy bricks I've had in the past. I haven't had an overflow like the first day since I started splitting the dough into thirds. The starter itself is fed with white flour, and then when I make the bread I do half white and half wheat flour. So it's not like a bread vitamin or anything. But it is delicious and chewy and soft. I recommend bread flour, which is what I've been using--Big J baker's flour, to be exact. Fantastic flour. It's the stuff my sister uses for the cinnamon rolls she sells on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer, and she makes like a bazillion dollars.

First off, you will need a sourdough starter. This is the hardest part, but if you read this blog with any regularity, chances are you are the kind of person who knows a weirdy who has a sourdough starter they can share with you. For example, me. I have one. I got it from Magic Wendy, who got it from a lady who wanted five dollars for it. Wendy thought that was a bit much, and she gave some to me for free. I think it's a good starter, but what do I know? If you want some, let me know. I gave some to my sister-in-law Emily the other day, so you can get one from her, too. If you don't know a weirdy, you can buy a sourdough starter on the internet. Google it and you will see.

You can make more than just bread with it--waffles, for example, that are light and crispy and soak up steaming gouts of syrup and melted butter, becoming infused with tastiness and rendering themselves far superior to hard, syrup-repelling waffles. But I mostly use it for bread.

Sourdough Bread (from The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers)
makes 3 loaves in my kitchen

3 C sourdough starter (he calls it "pioneer yeast," but I think that is gimmicky)
4 C flour, plus more for later (I use half whole wheat and half bread flour, but whatever you have is fine)
2 C room temperature water
1 T salt

1. Mix all the ingredients with a wooden spoon or with a mixer until the dough is thick and elastic. It's like a really thick batter at this point. Let it rest for five minutes.

2. Add flour, 1/2 C at a time (alternating between white and wheat if you wish to possibly slightly lower your chances of developing colorectal cancer), until the dough is just a little bit sticky. You may need three cups or more of additional flour. Knead for eight to ten minutes until the dough becomes smooth.

3. Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl, covered, and sprayed with oil, for at least three to four hours. I'm serious about this. At least.

4. When the dough is doubled in size, deflate it and form it into three loaves. Put the loaves into greased and floured loaf pans. Let them rise until double while the oven preheats to 350* (450* for a thick, crispy crust).

5. If baking at 350*, bake for 30-40 minutes. If baking at 450*, bake for 10-15 minutes at 450*, then reduce the heat to 350* and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes. Note: the times may be way off. Today I cooked mine at 450* for about 25 minutes and then pulled it out. Take it out when it's done, okay? You will know by the smell. Maybe take it out of the pans and cook it directly on the rack for the last ten minutes. Go crazy, why don't you?Now, here is the part that will change your life. When you slice the bread to make toast, spread one side of the raw bread with butter, then grill it--only the buttered side--in a hot skillet until it is browned and crispy. Once cooked, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, or spread some jam or honey on it. It is called . . . pan toast. And it is the best thing you will ever eat. I may be overselling it a little, but you have no idea how good it is. It is so much better than normal toast. It eats pieces of crap like normal toast for breakfast. I will never willingly eat normal toast again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the plight of a doughy mom

I eat too much, and it irritates me as soon as I get over the enjoyment of eating whatever it was I decided I wanted more than I wanted to be skinny. It's gross that I am surrounded by so much abundance and plenty that I have to worry about eating too much. Isn't that such a grody first-world problem?

I would really love to be skinny like my sisters and sisters-in-law, but I am weak and pleasure-seeking and indolent, so I always give up what I want most (to be slim and trim with no saddlebags or jiggly stomach) for what I want now (second helpings, continued couch-sitting). It affects my mood, so I'm a bitter, angry chub instead of a happy chub. And it's not even the health benefits that drive my desire to be skinny--I just think it looks better. I can see myself developing bulimia if I didn't hate vomiting so much, but no way could I be anorexic--too much discipline! I'm very monkey see, monkey eat.

Monday, December 5, 2011

too loud too loud

I'm making a half white/half wheat batch of the sourdough today. I'm interested to see how the wheat flour affects the texture.

On Friday my sister Aleece came over and we made the bagels from the "Breads and Spreads" chapter in Tipsy's book. Would you like to see?
We are not professionals.

I'm not sure how to explain these bagels, but I will attempt. When I first cut one open, I saw that the crumb is looser than the bagels I'm used to. It looked more dinner-rollish than bagelish. We tasted them, trying to compare them to the bagels in our memories, and they tasted different. It's hard to be objective about something like taste, but here's what I thought, and Aleece agrees.

They do not taste like the bagels I know. They're chewy like bagels, but the taste is not the same. I chewed and thought, "What is different about these? What does a normal bagel taste like?"

Let's see if you guys agree with me in my description of a typical bagel.
Requires toasting to be halfway enjoyable
Feels like lead in the stomach once eaten

Do I have that about right? An acquaintance used to bring Einstein bagels over to the apartment of a thing I was dating in college, and they were, to a one, awful. They were all the stuff I said above. I've had many, many grocery store bagels (fresh and frozen) and bakery bagels over the years (to be fair, none from a respectable bagel purveyor), and I do not like the bagel.

Tipsy's bagels were different from ordinary bagels in that they were soft and moist and flavorful and could be eaten straight and not suffer. Add some butter and you've got a delightful snack. They are also lighter than bagels. So they were delicious, and vastly preferable to every bagel I've eaten before, because the ways in which they are different are ways that make me hate other bagels, and the way in which they are the same (chewiness) is the only characteristic worth retaining. But the question is: are dryness and density required attributes of an authentic bagel? Because if they are, these are not bagels. If they are not, these are the only bagels worth eating.

So I'm torn. I liked these bagels a lot, but I am ignorant of proper bagel composition, and maybe I don't appreciate real bagels. Are they real or not? Is a bagel by definition a gross thing? If not; if this recipe in Tipsy's book is what bagels are really supposed to taste like, then it's just one more reason to be irked at the food industry for selling us mediocre garbage, and one more reason to be irked at ourselves for paying for the privilege of eating the mediocre garbage.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

why do birds suddenly appear?

Tipsy may have been the only one who expressed an interest in hearing about the sourdough bread results, but I know she was really speaking for most of you. That's okay--I understand your secret passion for bread research and development. So I will oblige. But first, some sauerkraut: Looks tasty! Did you know that sauerkraut is very good for you? It won't be ready for another two days, though. Let me know if you want to come over and eat some. Behind it you can see my sourdough starter and John's brownish gook which he is taking for his voice, because he is a delicate flower who bruises easily. And if his instrument is damaged that means no new countertop for me.

I let the dough rise for three hours, and that was hugely important, I think. The bubbles were very strong. I think the use of Big J Mill baker's flour was another important detail.
Look at those bubbles! That is gorgeous dough. Previously the windowpane test has mocked me more often than not, but with this dough I could have made a six-foot picture window for my dining room.

I formed it into two loaves and let it rise for another little bit--it was supposed to be a 90-minute rise, but I couldn't let it get that big, since it was already spilling out of the prescribed two loaf pans. Next time I'm using three pans. I baked it at 450* for ten minutes, by which time the loaves had already doubled in size, then lowered the heat to 350* for another half hour. I took the loaves out of the pans for the last 5-10 minutes, because I wanted a good hard crust on the bottom.

The oven spring on this bread was astonishing. I've never seen anything quite like it.
Don't they look like muppets? The crust is amazing; crispy and chewy, and the interior is soft and stretchy. This is unquestionably the best white bread I have ever made--or tasted outside of a professional bakery.
But there is the issue of appearance--I think splitting it into thirds would have helped immensely.

Two days later it is still soft and chewy. I've made slice upon slice of pan toast with it, and it is heavenly. I'm going to gradually switch it over to wheat, at which point I expect to be elected Bread Queen of the House in Perpetuity.

I will post the recipe once I figure out if wheat flour, another teaspoon of salt, and three loaf pans make it the perfect bread for granolas, hippies, helicopter parents, industrial-food conspiracy theorists, and bread pigs. That's a lot of masters to serve. I don't know if I can do it, but I'll give it my best.