Sunday, June 22, 2008

Two Meals

Quesadilla with sauteed onion, olive, and corn with salsa. Nicely plated.

Breadcrumb battered chicken breast with sauteed onions and garlic alongside spinach spaghetti with feta.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Adventures in Yeast

My attempt to make french bread last night was a hideous disaster, and a marvelous learning experience, producing completely inedible bread. You could beat someone with the results this morning.

Part 1: Yeasty Beginnings

I dissolved the dry active yeast in warm water. The package said that the water should be between 110 and 115 degrees. I didn't have a thermometer, so I guessed that should be below boiling (130-140? deg F) but hotter than the hot springs I sat in a few weeks ago (102 deg), so I figured I shouldn't be able to keep my finger in it for very long.

The yeast package said you heat water, dissolve yeast, let sit, and in 5 minutes, watch the yeast get bubbly. I may have seen a few bubbles, but my pot looked like miso soup. I read in a book later that a pinch of sugar often helps this process. Not sure of how many bubbles I should see I decided to keep going.

Part 2: Doughing What You Knead

I mixed the yeast into some bread flour and salt, then slowly mixed in the rest of the bread flour. While I made something of a mess on the counter, this is in my hypotheses, the only part of the baking that I got right. I got my dough ball out of the bowl, and kneaded the bread for about 10 minutes on the counter. Using the Test Kitchen instructions of pressing down with the heels of my hands and then turning and folding the dough, I got quite a rhythm down. This was the fun part. My dough ball even looked like the picture.

Part 3: A-Rising Discontent

Then it was time to put my happy little dough ball in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise, preferably in a warm place. I put it in the oven, but I found out later you're supposed to heat the oven to 200 deg and then turn off the oven, and then place said happy little dough ball in conducive rising chamber. My dough was hanging out in a drafty garage.

Part 4: Shape n' Rise

After hanging out in the oven for an hour and a half, my dough ball was bigger but definitely not double in size. I read that you are supposed to poke it with your finger and the dough should refill the indent at a moderate pace. My dough filled in, but slowly. Hope did not seem lost. I shaped the bread into a loaf and let it sit to rise again. 40 minutes later, no change. This was evidence that the yeast definitely wasn't working. At this point, I was tired, and I knew my bread was fucked. I decided to cook it anyway.

Part 5: Heating

Yes folks, I broke the pan. How do you break a pan? I'm not sure, but it definitely happened. I didn't think my bread was that heavy, or my oven that hot, but the baking stone cracked in half after 15 minutes of cooking.

Finished Product:

While my bread resembled a loaf shape, and had some nice golden brown spots on it, the interior bread was so dense that butter slid right off when I had a sample piece. It was heavy, leaden, and completely unrisen. My yeast was oppressed, not given the right conditions to grow. Surprisingly, although the texture was all wrong, my hot sample was relatively good tasting. This morning, it wouldn't have even made good croƻtons. It reminded me of when you bake flour and water to build a replica of the Alamo for a fourth grade history project.

Regardless, I was kind of proud of my bread bat.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


What a big fucking mess. I had beet juice everywhere. It spilled over the pot, sprayed out from the grater. I kept finding little red renegade pieces of beet on the kitchen floor. Both of my hands have a tinge of magenta all over the palms. No pictures of the mess, but hopefully pictures of the meal to follow.
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