Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

Obits, firings, and random: October 3, 2017.

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

I didn’t feel much like blogging yesterday: what the hell was I going to say that everyone else wasn’t saying better? Plus, I was trying to dig myself out of a backlog at work most of the day, and then I had a doctor’s appointment (at least that went well) and then I went down to the cop shop to help with the CPA class (which had been moved from Tuesday)…

…so I really didn’t get a chance to blog Tom Petty, which was a good thing. First he was dead, then he wasn’t dead and the LAPD knew nothing, and now he’s really dead. What a mess.

I probably would have inserted a musical interlude or three, but really, you’ve heard them all.

John Coppolella out as general manager of the Braves in a “resignation”:

…after an investigation by Major League Baseball revealed serious rules violations in the international player market.
The Braves announced Coppolella’s resignation Monday, citing a “breach of Major League Baseball rules regarding the international player market.” Gordon Blakeley, a special assistant to the GM who was the team’s international scouting chief, also has resigned.

Longtime readers know of my interest in baking bread. I just found out about this: Modernist Bread. From those wonderful folks who brought you Microsoft Windows Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.

Right up my alley? Perhaps. But not no damn $562.50 worth. Though I’m sure it is beautifully photographed, and if you have that kind of money, good for you. I’ll wait for it to show up at Half-Price Books.

Random notes: March 23, 2016.

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Let’s play a little game: fill in the blank in this headline. (No fair peeking.)

New York Police Increase Patrols Around 20 Clubs to Combat [Blank] Violence

Did you say “gun”? Bzzzzzt! Sorry. Understandable, but wrong. We were looking for “knife”. “Knife”.

Police officials said on Tuesday that they would increase enforcement around 20 bars and clubs in New York City with a disproportionate share of the stabbings and slashings that have resulted in a surge in knife violence this year.

I just like pointing out the use of “knife violence” here.

And speaking of things I just want to point out:

The plan called for establishing a site where people could legally shoot heroin — something that does not exist anywhere in the United States.

“There’s never been a paper bag for drugs…until now.”

Sourdough starter!

Some people name their starters: William Butler Yeast, Herman, Sarah, Sky Pilot, Ms. Tippity, Eleanor, Roxanne.

I have to admit, “William Butler Yeast” is clever.

The latest additions to the National Recording Registry came out today.

A few random notes:

  • You can find the W.H. Stepp version of “Bonaparte’s Retreat” on YouTube if you want to compare and contrast to Copland.
  • I rather like the note on Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, putting it into the context of 1938.
  • I want to hear those two “Destination Freedom” episodes. I haven’t had a chance to go looking for them yet.
  • Dixie McCall for the win!
  • Yeah, I can accept both versions of “Mack the Knife”. You know who did a really good version of that song? Sting, believe it or not, with Dominc Muldowney on the Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill album, which does not appear to be available digitally.
  • As everyone knows, I am not a basketball fan, but I do acknowledge the significance of Wilt Chamberlain.
  • Damn, “Mama Tried” is a great song.
  • I have to agree Carlin belongs on this list, if for no other reason than the legal significance of the “Seven Dirty Words” routine.
  • “I Will Survive” is a good song, but I prefer the Cake version. (I also prefer girls with a short skirt and a long jacket.)
  • One of my coworkers and I have been joking back and forth about how metal I am. This is how metal I am: I’ve never heard “Master of Puppets”. Perhaps I need to fix that.

Bread blogging: experiment #1

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

This requires some background.

One of my Christmas presents was a box of smoked meat from Goode Company Barbecue in Houston. The meat itself has been very good so far. But included with the meat was a loaf of Goode Company’s Jalepeno Cheddar bread.

I was warned in advance: “This stuff is addictive. You’ll find yourself eating the whole loaf in one sitting.” Well, I wasn’t quite that bad (it took two sittings to finish the loaf), but it is very very good bread. I wouldn’t put it at the “crack cocaine” level; that’s reserved for Caramel deLites (or Samoas, depending on which part of the country you’re in). It is even better if you toast it and spread some of Trader Joe’s Pub Cheese on the toast, but that’s a digression.

(And by the way, Girl Scout cookie season is upon us again.)

Anyway, after I finished the loaf, I found myself saying the following: “Hey! I have a bread machine! How hard could it be to replicate their bread?”


Better Red than…

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Darden Restaurants Inc. said it would separate itself from its Red Lobster business while halting expansion at Olive Garden and stopping acquisitions “for the foreseeable future.”


Darden said the Red Lobster move may take the form of a tax-free spinoff to shareholders or an outright sale.

The last time I went to Red Lobster, it was kind of a disappointment. And the last two times I’ve gone to Olive Garden, I’ve walked out before even getting a drink. Maybe this is what Red Lobster needs.

Obligatory: the all-you-can-eat crab legs story.

Obligatory 2: make your own cheddar biscuits at home.

Bread blogging: Cheddar and Herb.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

The previous two breads I made were both repeats that I chose not to write up again here: Shiner Bock Cheddar from Laurence Simon, and Sourdough Chèvre from Brody and Apter. Of those two, the Shiner Bock Cheddar (with Cabot Sharp Cheddar) came out pretty well: I used a custom cycle on it, and still had some top crust problems. I added the jalapenos and sesame seeds right after the third rise started, and found that the peppers stuck better; the sesame seeds did not. Probably I’ll keep this one in the rotation, but won’t be making it again until I try some newer recipes.

The Sourdough Chèvre I jacked up with a tablespoon of Pensys “Italian Herb Mix”. The top crust would have come out okay, except the bread collapsed in the center. Adding the herb mix did make a difference in taste; specifically, it seemed less blah to me. My personal feeling, though, is that it is still a little bland: I’m not keeping that bread in rotation, as I just don’t feel the results are worth the effort.

New bread: Cheddar and Herb, from the Laurence Simon songbook.

Photos and comments after the jump.


Night thoughts.

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Some folks may have noticed that I haven’t been doing as much bread blogging recently. That’s because I haven’t been baking as much bread; I’ve been a little tied up with some family things. Nothing serious, nothing health related, and things are winding down. But it has distracted me a little from the bread machine. I’m going to try to do another one of Laurence Simon’s recipes this week, but I’m not sure which one.

In other news, I’m trying to get back on my bike. I have a Trek 7500 that I bought several years ago, and which sat idle pretty much the entire time I was going to St. Ed’s. I took it in last week and had it cleaned, lubed, and tuned; now I just have a series of petty annoyances I’m working my way through. (I couldn’t find my water bottles, so I bought replacements. You can’t have too many water bottles, anyway. Then I couldn’t find my bike shoes: I can ride the Trek in my normal sort of half-boot half-sneaker shoes, but it isn’t as efficient. REI had some Shimano SH-MT33L shoes on the clearance rack at an incredibly low price, so I grabbed a pair of those.)

(Side note: I bought my bike at Freewheeling Bicycles. Why? Lawrence bought his there. I’m happy I followed his lead. The total bill to get my bike out of hock last week was about $104. That price included $8 for a rear tube, and another $45 for a rear bike rack. I want to start making grocery store trips on the bike, rather than the car, so I bought the rack and plan to sling some panniers over it at some point. Since I bought the bike there, Freewheeling gave me a 25% discount on labor, so the whole thing ended up being much more reasonable than I expected. Consider this an endorsement of Freewheeling.)

(Side note 2: F–k Sun and Ski Sports, the horse they rode in on, and any horse that looks anything like the horse they rode in on.)

As a geek, one of the things I’ve always wanted to when I was riding was to log and track my rides. I have a cheap-ass bike computer with basic functionality: current and average speed, distance on current ride, odometer, and clock. But I’ve always wanted to be able to overlay my ride log onto a map and see where I’ve ridden, as well as getting elevation data. My feeling is that being able to do that gives me a tangible sense of progress, which gives me more motivation to ride. But those capabilities require GPS.

I’m still looking for work so I can’t (and don’t want to) spend $330 on a Garmin Edge 510 or $479 on a Garmin Edge 810. (“Social network sharing”?) If Garmin, or one of my readers sent me one, I’d certainly use it, but I don’t want anyone to do that (even as a birthday present). That kind of money will buy you a decent to nice Smith & Wesson, depending on what part of the country you’re in and what you’re looking at.

Here’s the thing: I’m smart. S-M-R-T. Smart. And not only am I smart, but! I have a smartphone! That has a GPS built in! And that runs apps! And, yes, there are cycling apps available! The big ones on Android seem to be MapMyRide and Strava, but I’ve also seen people say that MyTracks works quite well for cycling applications. And I already have MyTracks installed. And I already take my cellphone with me when I ride anyway, in case of emergency. Now all I have to do is get it properly rigged and I should have almost everything I need. (The last remaining piece is some cycling shorts with pockets. I’ve blown out the waistband on the one pair I have; whenever I put them on, they slide off my ass. This is not good for cycling purposes, or for staying off the sex offender registry purposes.)

(I got into a discussion with a friend of mine about Android/iPhone cycling apps. My friend’s position is that the dedicated cycling computers like the Garmin Edge line are preferable to using your phone for this purpose. His feeling is that running the GPS on the phone and logging data eats battery power, and your phone may run out of juice before you finish the ride. My feeling is: I’m not a high-speed low-drag road biker. I’m usually not out for more than an hour or two. If I start out with a fully charged battery, I feel like I should be able to run MyTracks for at least two hours without worry. We’ll test this theory once I get everything rigged for silent running. If I was doing the kind of thing he talks about doing, such as riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route 12 hours a day for ten weeks, I’d reconsider my position.)

Thinking about this some more, I wonder what the market for higher-end bike and running computers like the Garmins is today. Let’s see: I can pay $330 for the Edge 500. Or I can pay $196 for a HTC EVO V 4G Android phone pre-paid (no contract) from Virgin Mobile, get one of those cycling apps, and have two cameras and cell phone service. Or I could buy a cheap-ass used phone with no carrier off of eBay, run the same apps, do everything using WiFi, and not have to worry about breaking my good phone. All cell phones sold in the US are required to connect you with 911 even if you don’t have a service contract, so you’re covered in the event of a real emergency. And if you have a good cell phone you want to take riding with you, mounting brackets are a dime a dozen. Plus, I understand some newer Android phones support ANT+, so you can get cadence sensors and heart-rate monitors that will work directly with Strava or MapMyRide on your phone. No dedicated computer needed, so, again, what’s the market for that $479 Garmin Edge 810? (You can probably even do “social network sharing” from the phone, if that’s your cup of Gatorade.) Yes, you have to purchase the cadence sensor and heart rate monitor separately, but you also have to purchase those separately with the Edge 810: that $479 price does not include either sensor. If you have an iPhone, ANT+ isn’t directly supported, but Garmin will happily sell you an ANT+ adapter for a mere $50, or $40.73 from Amazon..

If any of my readers have experience with cycling apps like the ones I’ve mentioned (or others: I’m still running an Android phone, but iPhone users are welcome too) please feel free to leave a comment, or drop me an email if you’d prefer. Contact information is in the place where it says “Contact”.

Bread blogging: Shiner Bock Cheddar and King Arthur Flour.

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

This time, another bread from Laurence Simon, Shiner Bock Cheddar. And another recipe closely adhered to, even to the point of brushing the bread with butter and sprinkling in jalapenos and sesame seeds.

How did it come out?


Who would have thought it?

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

You can get botulism from prison wine, aka “pruno“, aka “that stuff that’s frequently fermented in a cell block toilet or other places just as disgusting”.

(You know where else you can get alcohol from, with less risk of botulism? Sourdough starter. No, really; the liquid that separates out and rises to the top if you leave it sit is somewhere between 12% and 14% alcohol. I haven’t tried drinking any of it, but I suspect it tastes a little better than pruno.)

Let my people eat bread.

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

My mother sent along an article from the WP that I had missed, “Better bread starts with a sponge“, which discusses some sourdough techniques for home bakers.

I appreciate her sending that along, and have already sent her some comments. But since they’re easy blog fodder, I’ll repeat them here. I don’t really have any problems with Marcy Goldman, or her article; I want to try her “Favorite French Bread“. But there are some questions I have and comments to make.

  1. Goldman quotes Cook’s Illustrated as saying home bakers should “forgo a starter to save time and simply add vinegar for that characteristic acidic taste”. This is, so far, the dumbest thing I’ve read in 2013. To her credit, Goldman does not endorse this, but I expect better from CI and that tweedy little bow-tied jackass.
  2. Why is this dumb? Because anyone can make a starter. It is not the nuclear rocket brain surgery. It isn’t hard. I have made starters and baked with them, and I’m not Thomas Freaking Keller in the kitchen. All you need is flour, water, and time; that’s how the original Alaskan sourdoughs were made. Yeast is a possible addition, but isn’t strictly needed. (I’ll touch on that in a minute.) As far as time goes, you can get a starter going in 72 hours, and it will keep indefinitely with reasonable care.
  3. Goldman’s stater recipe calls for a cup of spring water, 1 1/4 cups of unbleached bread flour, 2 tablespoons each of whole-wheat and rye flour, and 1/2 teaspoon of instant yeast. The starter recipe I’ve been using calls for 3/4 cup of milk, “heated to a simmer and cooled to 100°F”, 1 cup flour (white, whole-wheat, or rye) and 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast. Both make enough starter for one loaf in their respective recipes; I’ve doubled the recipe amount for my starter, and am feeding it with 1 cup heated milk and 1 cup rye or whole-wheat flour whenever I pull some starter out. That way, I always have enough starter. (I keep it in a crock on the back of my stove.)
  4. Here’s the thing, though: if you’re starting your starter with yeast, aren’t you just…growing more of the same yeast? I mean, if I want Fleischman’s, I can go buy that stuff all day long at the HEB. Or do the natural yeasts in the air eventually overwhelm your starter yeast? I have heard it said that’s what happens with packaged sourdough starter, like you might get as a souvenir in San Francisco or Alaska; you may get it home and bake some bread, but eventually the original strain will get overwhelmed by your wild local yeasts. (That doesn’t mean I don’t want to try baking with one of those starters; I do.)
  5. The one starter I’ve found that doesn’t call for added yeast is Nancy Silverton’s in Breads from the La Brea Bakery. I’d like to try that, but it takes 14 days to get to the point where you’re ready to bake with it, and it seems very fussy. While I was looking up Silverton’s starter, I found this starter recipe from Michael Ruhlman, which doesn’t take 14 days, doesn’t call for added yeast, and also looks like something worth trying.
  6. Speaking of Ruhlman, he’s probably worth a post of his own at some point. (I’ve been reading Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking and The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America, the latter of which I paid $1 for at the Austin Public Library bookstore. At one point in Making, Ruhlman mentions a CIA chef who has a starter he’s kept going since 1985; the book came out in 1997, so that was at least a ten-year-old starter.)

Bread blogging: Sourdough Chèvre Bread

Monday, February 4th, 2013

This recipe is from Brody and Apter, pages 149-152.

I followed the recipe without deviations or alterations, carefully measuring out exactly 5 ounces of goat cheese (interesting that Brody and Apter call for 5 ounces, when goat cheese is usually sold in 4 ounce packages in my neck of the woods), using my on-going sourdough starter, and yes, even using the powdered goats milk.

How did it turn out?


Bread blogging: French Onion Bread.

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

This one is from Laurence Simon. So finally you have a recipe that you can follow at home without purchasing a book from Amazon.

I followed Simon’s recipe more closely than I have any other recipe recently, even making several special trips to find date sugar. Sprouts didn’t have it. The Gateway Whole Foods didn’t have it. HEB, of course, doesn’t have it, even at Central Market.

(As a side note, I think the downtown Austin Whole Foods is the best place to go if you’re looking for unusual stuff. I griped previously about getting powdered goat’s milk; actually, both Sprouts and Whole Foods have it in large cans, as does Amazon. The recommendation is to use the can up within 8 weeks of opening, and I wasn’t going to use that much in 8 weeks. Amazon has smaller packages as well, but the shipping costs more than the product. It turns out the downtown Whole Foods also has the smaller packages, and date sugar too. So: shop the downtown Whole Foods. Thanks, Egon.)

Anyway, the only significant variation was that I used shredded Gruyère instead of Swiss or Emmenthaler. That’s what I had on hand, and I think that’s more traditional for French Onion soup. (Also, my machine doesn’t have a fruit and nut hopper; it beeps instead to let you know when to add fruit or nuts, so I threw the cheese in during that part of the cycle.)

How did it come out? I’m going to put the rest of this behind a jump; those who are bored with my bread blogging are cordially invited to skip to the next post, or for that matter the previous post. If you don’t like this one, just wait; there will be another one coming along shortly.


Bread blogging: Sourdough Beer Bread.

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

I thought I’d go back and revisit a recipe I’d made recently, but didn’t document here: sourdough beer bread from Brody and Apter, pages 141-143.

I kind of screwed this one up. Instinctively I put in an entire tablespoon of yeast, which is standard for most Brody and Apter recipes. But I forgot this was a starter-based bread until after I added the yeast; I really only needed half that much (one and a half teaspoons). The end result was a bread that I think was over-yeasted and over risen, making the top kind of ugly.

(This time I used a better camera than the spectacular cell phone CrapCam.) Here’s a top view:

So, yeah, kind of lumpy and mis-shaped, at least as far as the top crust goes. But I blame the over-yeasting/over-rising for that. How does it look inside?

Not too bad, actually. It has a nice texture and a slight, but not overwhelming, sourdough tang to it. It toasts up well; I’ve been eating it for breakfast with some butter and honey. I also made a big pot of French Onion Soup, and this bread was a nice compliment to it just placed in the bowl with some grated Cheddar cheese (not traditional, but I was trying to use it up before it went bad). This would be a good sandwich bread, too; perhaps a nice patè, or some good meat and cheese.

I think I’d like a little bit more sourdough tang to it, but that may just be my starter. The nice thing about this bread is that you don’t need much beyond starter to make it; flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and some beer, all of which I generally have on hand. This is probably a B; maybe an A if I make it again with the correct amount of yeast.

I’ve got everything lined up now to make Brody’s Sourdough Chèvre Bread (have you ever tried to find powdered goat’s milk?), but I want to take a break from Brody. The next bread in the queue is Laurence Simon’s French Onion Bread. (Sorry, Mom.)