Archive for October, 2009

BBA Challenge: Challah

Well, here we are at bread number six, Challah. I made it last week, but haven’t had time to write a blog until now. This was a pretty straightforward formula, and it gave me a chance to work on my braiding abilities. And, as an added bonus, I didn’t have to make a starter…though the process still took quite a while, from beginning to end. This was another bread that I started after work at 3pm, and I finished up at around 8:30 or so.

I started out by mixing up some dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, I think) and wet ingredients (eggs, oil, water, I think). I was all ready to take some pictures of this process, but my camera battery died the instant I turned it on. So, I had to move on without photographic documentation. I mixed the wet and dry stuff together and made myself some dough. I kneaded that for about 10 minutes. Finally, my camera had enough juice in it for some pictures—here is the dough, post-kneading.


It had to sit for about 3 hours, during which time I sat on the couch and played Batman: Arkham Asylum (which I have since finished!). Once the dough was ready, I divided it into six balls, which I would use to make two small loaves. I figured one big loaf wouldn’t fit on my sorry excuse for a baking sheet (also, smaller loaves are easier to pawn off on library colleagues).


The dough sat for another 10 minutes, and then I began rolling out each ball in preparation for some braiding. The book was a nice eye-opener as far as braiding technique. While I have always started my braids at the top of the loaf, the book instructed me to start from the middle instead—something that makes perfect sense, but I never would have thought of it on my own.



In my haste to finish this step while simultaneously cooking dinner, I screwed up one of the braids (on the left) and didn’t realize until it was too late. Oh well. The loaves had to sit for another 60-75 minutes before they went into the oven. The one problem I ran into was that I braided them at the same time, but could only bake one at a time (I really need another sheet!). So, one loaf ended up sitting for an additional 20 minutes or so, which caused it to over-proof a tad, and as a result came out quite large and mishapen. Oh well—it still tasted good.


Next on the list is ciabatta, which I’m kind of scared of. It seems like a pretty difficult bread for a variety of reasons. But, I was able to borrow my mom’s baking stone, so I’ll at least have one of the materials required to make this bread. My goal is to make it on Saturday, so we’ll see!


Read Full Post »

Road Rage

An Open Letter to the Guy in the BMW Ragtop Who Cut Me Off at the Entrance to the On-Ramp of the New Jersey Turnpike:

I just wanted to let you know that I think you are a jerk. You may have inferred this when you heard me honk at you. It’s really not fair for you to speed all the way down to the exit and then cut in right at the last second, while civilized people like myself had been prepared in advance to be in the correct lane. Maybe you think because I drive a Corolla and you drive a BMW, you can take advantage of me. Well, you’re wrong. Whenever I encounter people like you, it diminishes my faith in humanity. You are selfish and greedy and only care about yourself. If I ran things, you and all the idiots like you would be rounded up and cast out of society. I’d ship you off to a faraway land where people don’t drive cars, or where roads don’t even exist. Think Siberia, or the Australian bush. But since I’m powerless, you just keep doing what you’re doing, and hopefully Karma will catch up with you.

You should be ashamed of yourself. I hate you.

Read Full Post »

The next bread on the list was Casatiello, the Italian cousin of Brioche. The dough is pretty similar to brioche dough, with a little less butter (3/4 cup) and fewer eggs (2). However, it makes up for those smaller amounts with the addition of salami and provolone cheese! Definitely a great follow-up to my rich, buttery brioche.

I had off on Columbus Day, so I took the opportunity (periods of free time are becoming few and far between) to work on the bread. I made the starter at around 10am, which contained milk, flour, and yeast. However, something went terribly wrong during this process, and over an hour later, there was still no fermentation going on. Luckily, I had the whole day to work on it, so I scrapped the starter and made a fresh one, which worked fine. Once it was ready to go, I added more flour, etc. Here’s the dough.


Then, I had to add the butter, which was just as difficult to do as last time.


Then, I added the salami. I fried it while the first starter was supposed to be “starting,” so by the time I added it to the new batch, the pieces were pretty hard. It felt like I was kneading little rocks into the dough! Uncomfortable.


Once the salami was incorporated, I added some shredded sharp provolone cheese.


The book outlined a few different baking methods (cake pans, coffee cans), but I decided to bake it in muffun pans. I figured it would be better to have smaller, individual servings rather than a huge loaf. At this point, Michael and I are up to our ears in bread products, so the thought of devouring another loaf any time soon is a little daunting. The muffins were photographed among prep work for dinner (Thai curry chicken with vegetables).


They baked for about 20-30 minutes, if my memory serves me correctly. Luckily, I smartened up and bought TWO muffin pans to make it a more efficient process. I must confess, though, I did not love the aroma that wafted through the house while this bread was baking. This provolone cheese was quite sharp, and as it baked it smelled kind of like feet to me. But, they still tasted good in the end.




All in all, this bread came out pretty nicely, but I can’t say it was my favorite…mostly because I tend to avoid salted meats in my normal diet. Next on the list is Challah, a Jewish celebration bread. I’ll have to see when I can carve out some time for that one.

Read Full Post »

On Librarians

I haven’t written a while, so I decided to bring my laptop to the laundromat and gather my thoughts amid the gentle hums of the wash cycle. I must come to the laundromat at the same time of day without realizing it, because every time I’m here, Full House is on TV. This time, it’s the one where Stephanie accidentally drives the fancy red car into the kitchen. Classic.

Anyway, I’ve come to realize another distinct characteristic of library school students. It can be a dangerous thing to put so many librarians-in-training in a room together, because we all (myself included) tend to display certain inherent traits that have led us all to the world of librarianship. One trait in particular is our quiet and shy nature. Now, we probably don’t exhibit this characteristic all the time, but the classroom setting brings it out almost immediately. This becomes evident when we, as a class, are forced (note my lack of enthusiasm—disdain, even) to break up into groups to discuss one thing or another. The professor always instructs us to “choose a representative to take notes and then report your findings to the class.” This is the part that gets awkward. As soon as the professor gives this order, all pairs of bespectacled eyes dart around in a circle, trying to pinpoint who is the least averse to accepting the task. But, since these are librarians I’m talking about, that person rarely exists. Occasionally, there is a person who really can’t even stomach the thought of being The Talker, and this person will make their discomfort known by saying something to the effect of, “I really don’t want to do it,” or, “Please, for the love of god, don’t make me do it.” Eventually, someone begrudgingly steps up to the plate, and I am always eternally grateful to him/her. I am definitely not the one who commits this huge act of altruism, but I’m waiting for the buck to eventually pass to me. Nine weeks to go—I wonder when my lucky day will come.

Read Full Post »

BBA Challenge: Brioche

Last weekend I had to work, so I was unable to bake any new breads. Instead, I decided to bake on Monday afternoon when I got home from work at 3pm. I usually try to start my baking projects earlier in the day because they tend to take quite a bit of time, but this time I had to adapt. The next bread on the list was brioche, a rich, buttery French bread. The book provided three variations: Rich Man’s Brioche, Middle-Class Brioche, and Poor Man’s Brioche. They are each characterized by the amount of butter (and eggs, I think) they contain. I thought it would be most fitting to make Poor Man’s Brioche, since I myself am poor. I also didn’t want to make anything too unhealthy, since Michael and I are pretty much the only people eating my assorted breads. However, the “leanest” option still contains a whole stick of butter and four eggs!

I started by making a sponge with flour, yeast, and milk. That had to sit for about an hour, and once it was ready I added more flour, sugar, salt, and eggs. This is the dough, before the addition of the butter.


Then, I added in the stick of butter, piece by piece. I must say, this dough was ridiculously sticky and hard to mix! The bagel dough was a snap compared to this. But, I finally got all of the butter incorporated. This is the dough, post-butter. Very silky and smooth.

dough after butter

After it was thoroughly mixed, I transferred it to the table and kneaded for about 10 minutes.

dough ball

I then had to let the dough rise for about an hour and a half. After that, I formed the dough into brioche à tête rolls. I pretty much learned how to do this by following a link to a video turorial; however, I was at work at the time, so I had to watch it without sound. I watched what the guy did, but if he said anything important during his demonstration, I certainly missed it. So, I pretty much just winged it. This is how they turned out. I ended up with 12, but still haven’t bought that extra baking sheet, so six of them had to rest on an upside-down casserole dish.


About 20 minutes later, I brushed them with an egg wash and then baked them for about 15 minutes at around 400 degrees. My one problem area, no matter what I’m baking, is that I always make unbaked cookies, rolls, etc. much bigger than they should be. Even though the end result is always the same, I never learn that even though the unbaked stuff may look “too small,” it’s not!! So, my rolls turned out pretty huge, not surprisingly. The tops also sprang up quite a bit, which was probably due to an error in formation. But, they were nice and brown and delicious, even though they looked a little goofy.




Although I think they came out reasonably well, I think I’m actually going to give them another go on Saturday. I’ll be attending a French-themed dinner party, so it’ll be a good excuse to try and make a better batch. I may even go for the Middle-Class Brioche the next time around.

Monday is Columbus Day and I’ll have off from work, so at that point I think I will attempt the next bread on the list: Casatiello. This bread is made with brioche dough and has an Italian twist: the inclusion of salami and provolone cheese. Good lord, this Peter Reinhart is certainly trying to fatten me up these days.

Read Full Post »

9:02 AM  Facey McFacebook  got up early this morning even after a crazzzzyy sat nite!

9:31 AM  Facey McFacebook  getting into the shower…

9:51 AM  Facey McFacebook  ugh I hate it when the hot water doesn’t last long enough!!!!!!!!1

10:15 AM  Facey McFacebook  making breakfast and then doing laundry my favorite.

12:15 PM  FaceyMcFacebook  laundry finally done hooray!  off to mcdonalds to get some lunch!

12:29 PM Facey McFacebook  ugh could the drive-thru line be any longer?!?!?

12:36 PM Facey McFacebook  the girl in front of me is sending her whole order back…wtf?? gonna have to give her a piece of my mind.

12:37 PM Facey McFacebook  i just honked the horn and yelled at her and now shes getting out of the car and coming towards me uh oh!

3:01 PM Facey McFacebook  got into a fistfight with that girl and in jail now.  cops took my blackberry and i’m sooooo hungry!  hopefully will get out soon.  if you see this, pls come bail me out!!! (Uploaded via the pay phone at the police station)

6:05 PM  Facey McFacebook  finally out of jail.  funny tho that out of 581 friends no one came with bail money.  cops finally let me go but i have to go to court next month……fml!

6:36 PM  Facey McFacebook  home at last.  still hungry cause i never got that big mac!  at least im home in time for sunday nite football.

7:17 PM Facey McFacebook  lets go [insert team name]!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!!!!11

8:49 PM  Facey McFacebook  i luv these bud lite commercials….rofl

10:15 PM Facey McFacebook yay [insert team name]!  at least something good happened 2day.

11:01 PM Facey McFacebook getting ready for bed…

11:27 PM  Facey McFacebook  can’t sleep…. 😦

12:03 AM Facey McFacebook  dont want to go to work tomorrow…I HATE MONDAYS!

Read Full Post »