Monthly Archives: October 2011

Determined to bake my own bread

This is my sixth attempt at homemade bread. Sixth! I know bread baking is something that is supposed to take a long time (lifetime?) to master, but… but… why?

Well. Let me back up because I believe have a good reason to be frustrated.

Sam’s mom, Debi, gave me a KitchenAid Mixer for my birthday back in March (…I know. So nice!). Of course, I immediately made a loaf of white sandwich bread. And of course, it turned out perfectly.

Bread baking is EASY, I thought.

The thing was, it was white sandwich bread: yummy, but nothing special. So then I got very snooty about the whole thing and tried making whole wheat sandwich bread.

Fail.

So then, I tried making Challah.

Major brick-like fail.

So then I tried to make Artisan Bread.

1 inch tall: fail.

Then I tried some sort of free-form loaf.

Too much wine + novice baking = Fail!

Although I did get increasingly discouraged each time, I was always eventually motivated to try again. First, because I bought a new cookbook. Then, because I started to read a delightful novel called, The Baker’s Apprentice. Then I was given another cookbook, and finally, because I read this interesting blog post entitled “October Unprocessed,” (as featured on Grist) about a group of people challenging themselves to go a whole month with no processed foods. If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you’ll know that I love stuff like that. I just love the idea of being self sufficient and doing awesome things like regularly having homemade bread.

So, how’d attempt five go?

At first, not so good. I may or may not (leaning toward may)  have added a full cup of extra flour. I’m still not sure. Anyway, I wouldn’t call this (picture at left), “wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container,” as the recipe calls for. (Not at all.)

But, now that I am accustomed to the idea of failed baking, I continued with very little to lose.

By this afternoon, the dough was much easier to work with after being refrigerated all day. This dough (photo right) seemed much more promising. (And yes, “seem” is really all I have to go off of.)

So, after shaping it I let it rise for 40 minutes (while I went for a delightful rain-run), popped it in the oven and voila: MASTERPIECE!

I am just so happy.

I also read that you can store the same dough for up to 14 days (covered in the fridge), to have fresh bread whenever you want with just 5 minutes of preparation time. I love this!

Did I mention how happy I am?

I found the recipe I used online (at the bottom of the page – the first few pages in this article are the “5 minutes a day” theory.) To novice and frustrated bread bakers – I highly recommend this recipe.

Good luck!

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Inspiration Station

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you need a good dose of something inspirational.

Well here you go:

(Not that you asked, but I recommend reading this slowly – to give yourself enough time to let things set in before you move on.)

On that same vein, Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech is a lot like this Holstee Manifesto. It’s inspirational in a jab-you-in-the-side-might-be-exactly-what-you-didn’t-wanna-hear kinda way. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, here are a few excerpts:

“…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. […] If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“…On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.”

-Steve Jobs

Since college, I have had this theory that there is just not enough room for meaning in everyday life – we are uncomfortable with it for some reason, except with our very close friends or family. I think this is just the type of advice we can easily be uncomfortable with. It’s easy to say, “What does that even mean?”

Or, you can apply it to your life in a very specific way and run with it.

In sum:

Start doing things you love. Stay Hungry. Stay foolish.

PS: TM – thanks for the inspiration. Everyday.  🙂

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Wishes, Loves and To-Dos

Approximately two and a half months ago I promised to document my half marathon training. Sadly (and somewhat unsurprisingly), that didn’t happen. Luckily, the half marathon training has happened, and I’ll be running it in just a little over a week. (eek!)

Tonight’s run was the kind that would have made this blog awesome had I documented the whole process. It was colorful, warm, quick and reminded me of how far I have come.

The jury is definitely still out about how much I actually like running itself. But the time to think, and the opportunity to notice little things to add to the list of all I love about Madison make it well worth sore hip flexors and inability to gracefully ascend or descend the stairs.

Anyway, tonight I particularly appreciated the thinking about nothing and now I have separated my “nothing-thoughts” into three categories for your enjoyment. (Amusement?)

Wishes:

– I wish I had taken the following classes in college: forestry, horticulture, creative writing, photography, pastry making (is that real?) and lots more. Just more variety. I miss learning.

– I wish I hadn’t stopped writing for so long. Ira Glass is currently my main source of inspiration on this matter: (click the image to enlarge)

Loves:

So many things!

– The houses that are growing beautiful things like pumpkins, colorful flowers, mums, etc, and have done it in lovely ways that I am determined to someday master.

– The block of Spaight Street that had the most perfect fall colors. Bright yellow, electric green, deep red. Oh boy, oh boy it was amazing. I gasped outloud.

– All the smells while running. Tonight’s highlights: the autumnal smell of decaying leaves that smells dirty and sweet at the same time, lots of dinners (particularly one that reminded me of Grandma Lynes’ goolash), french fries, and Sam’s cooking when I walked in the door.

– How I felt like I had a relatively easy run and it was five miles! I will never get over how awesome I think that is.

To Dos:

– Write more. (Do it, do it, do it. DO IT.)

– Take some sort of class to chisel away at my “wishes” list.

– Get awesome at baking bread and do it regularly.

Ready? Go.

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