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Archive for November, 2009

Bad Advertising

Has anyone else seen these ads online?

I don’t get this ad. It has so many implications, none of which relate positively to either A) going back to school, or B) having children. It would appear from the photo that this woman attempted to go back to school (and then perhaps go back to work?), and she doesn’t look too happy about it. On the one hand, she looks overworked and miserable, as if to say she doesn’t have the time to juggle a full courseload in addition to being a mother. If this is the case, why would this ad make someone want to return to school? Another way to look at this ad would be to say that the woman is feeling pangs of resentment towards her child, who thwarted her dreams of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in macro economics. “Ugh, I could have been a mid-level manager by now if it wasn’t for this baby!” Last, this picture seems to impart that a work-life balance that so many monthers try to achieve is essentially impossible. A bold statement, I’d say.

Also, what does Obama have to do with all of this? I just don’t get it. I saw another one of these ads months ago—same Obama tag line, only the image that went along with that one was simply an animation of a woman doing sit-ups. Were they trying to encourage women to shed the rest of their baby weight before strolling onto campus?

Well, congratulations, ClassesUSA. You’ve created some of the worst, yet thought-provoking, advertisements that I’ve seen on the internet in quite a while. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for future contenders.

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I’ve made it to bread #10 in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. This variation of corn bread was different than others I’ve had in the past, with the inclusion of corn kernels and…bacon. I made this bread over a week ago and am just blogging about it now, so my memory might be a little spotty about the procedure. Also, my camera battery was extremely low, so most pictures were taken in haste and in between short charging stints.

I thought this would be a semi-easy recipe, but it turned out to be quite a lot of work. I had to combine the corn meal and buttermilk and let it sit “overnight” (but instead, I mixed them at around 9am and then made the bread after work at around 4pm). Before I started making the batter, I also had to cook the strips of bacon and save the…bacon grease…for later use. Once the bacon was done, I mixed the dry and wet ingredients separately, then combined everything, along with the cornmeal/buttermilk.

I then mixed the corn kernels into the batter. You can’t really see them, but they’re there. The book called for fresh or frozen corn. I’m sure the fresh corn would have been a lot better but, unfortunately, we are in the wrong season.

While mixing the batter, I preheated the oven to 375 with Michael’s cast iron skillet inside. After the skillet warmed up, I took the leftover bacon grease and (sigh) used it to grease the bottom of the pan. After warming it up for a few more minutes, I poured the batter into the skillet and placed the crumbled bacon on top.

The book said to bake it for 30 minutes (I think)—I baked mine for about 40-45. It seemed done when I took it out, but I would later discover that it could have used an additional 10 minutes or so.

The bread was a little bit mushy in the center, which I was dissapointed about. It still tasted good that night, though, alongside some of Michael’s homemade chili. Some other bloggers said it was a noticeably sweet—and yes, even though it does contain granulated sugar and brown sugar (1/4 cup each), it wasn’t nearly as sweet as I had expected. All in all, I quite enjoyed it and would like to make it again and not undercook it the second time around.

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Karma

On Tuesday morning, I was driving down to New Brunswick for yet another round of Digital Libraries and Collection Development. Everyone speeds on the Turnpike, more so than on the Parkway, so I myself was doing about 78 mph in the middle lane. All of a sudden, a black BMW came tearing up behind me from out of nowhere. He had to be doing at least 95. Being in the middle lane himself, he must have been quite perturbed by my tortoise-like pace, so he decided to get into the left lane to pass me. In passing me, he did that annoying cut-off move where he only left about an inch between our cars (just to prove the point, I guess, that 80 just doesn’t cut it). As he did this, I thought to myself, “Man, what an A-hole.” A few second later, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was a cop car, all the way over on the truck side of the Turnpike. He then proceeded to speed up and make a beeline for the opening in the median. Kicking up a huge cloud of dust, just like Bruce Willis might do in any of his assorted action thrillers, the cop made the switch from the truck lane to the car lane and flipped on his lights. Soon after, he disappeared from my view, and I wasn’t sure who he had his eye on—although I had an idea. Moments later, who did he have pulled over? That’s right, Mr. Black BMW. I waved to him as I drove by, but I don’t think he saw me.

This is the second bad experience I have had with a BMW driver in the last month or two. Are these people A-holes before they buy their BMWs, or does the car itself turn them into A-holes? I wonder.

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In the wake of last week’s cinnamon buns, I would have liked to mix it up a little and make something that didn’t involve more cinnamon, raisins, and nuts. But, that’s the way it goes when you’re baking through an alphabetized cookbook, I guess. On the bright side, this formula was pretty simple. I started by combining some wet and dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon; egg, milk, melted butter, yeast). My mixture was quite picturesque until I poured in the proofed yeast, which covered up the egg that I had cracked into a crater in the flour. Oh well.

flour

Once I mixed and kneaded the dough, it was time to add the raisins. Kneading them into the ball of dough wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but I got it done.

raisins

Once all of the raisins were incorporated, I had to do the same thing with the walnuts.

nuts

After letting it rise for about 2 hours, I divided the dough into two loaves. They were supposed to go into two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pans, but I only have 9×5 pans, so they had to do.

loaves

After the second rise, the loaves had shaped up pretty nicely, although they weren’t cresting the pan like they technically should have.

rise

They baked at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Though they were a little on the short side, they still came out well.

done

slices

I actually ended up really liking this bread. I thought it was going to be very sweet and cinnamony, but the flavors were a lot more subtle. It also had a really nice nutty flavor from the walnuts. All in all, this turned out to be a nice, easy, and enjoyable bread.

Next: cornbread. With bacon. Should be tasty. And fattening. We’ll see on Wednseday, when Michael and I have it alongside some chili.

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I’ll be honest. I was looking forward to making these sticky buns and trying my hand at the “rolling” method of making baked goods. However, I wasn’t really looking forward to eating them. Reading other blogs in preparation for this one, I noticed that everyone else taking part in the BBA Challenge chose to make cinnamon buns with the white fondant glaze on top. I decided to take a different route and make the sticky bun variation instead. First thing’s first: I had to cream together some butter, sugar, and salt.

ingredients

I then mixed in the wet ingredients: milk, eggs, lemon extract, etc.

dough

After kneading the dough for about 10 minutes, I put it in a greased bowl and let it rise for a couple of hours. Once it had doubled in size, it was time to roll it out. I couldn’t think of a makeshift way around a rolling pin, so I went out to the grocery store and bought one that morning. The photo below includes the cinnamon sugar mix that would be sprinkled atop the rolled out dough, as well as the ingredients for the glaze (more sugar, more butter, and corn syrup) that would be spread onto the bottom of the baking pan.

stage 2

I rolled the dough out into a rectangle that was approximately 14 inches wide and 12 inches high. I used my trusty ruler in doing so. Then, I sprinkled the cinnamon sugar all over the dough. This was definitely the messiest recipe I have encountered so far!

cinnamon

Once that was done, I had to roll up the dough.

roll

After I rolled up the dough, I mixed up everything for the glaze. Since the book kept referring to it as a “glaze,” I assumed it would have been more liquidy. But really, it was just a buttery, sugary mix. I spread a thin layer over the bottom of the pan and then sprinkled on some walnuts and raisins.

glaze

Then, I proceeded to cut the dough into 8 big rolls. I could have probably made 10 to 12 smaller rolls, but I only have the one pan and I didn’t want to make more than one batch, what with the glazing of the pan and all that jazz. So, 8 it was. Once I cut them, I placed them in the pan and let them rest for about 30 minutes. After that short rest, they were already starting to look pretty huge.

buns

And they were only going to get bigger once I put them in the oven…

finished

Once they were done baking, they had to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then, the moment of truth. I flipped them over to reveal the glazy goodness. And yes, they came out ridiculously huge.

finished

close

In short, the sticky buns made the apartment smell wonderful. They taste pretty good too, but it’s the kind of food that I’m happy to eat once, and then not eat again for a really long time.

Next on the agenda is Cinnamon Raisin Walnut bread, which actually just came out of the oven a few minutes ago. I’ll be posting a new blog about it shortly.

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Anachronism

As I was walking home from work today, I saw a guy standing on the sidewalk using a pay phone. I quickly looked around for some sort of modified Delorean, but didn’t see that or any other type of time machine vessel. It’s funny how something like that seems so out of place these days.

“The times they are a-changin’.”

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I spent Halloween morning working on the next bread, ciabatta, which came out relatively well. Michael and I were planning on leaving the house at around 2pm that day, so I had to get up bright and early to start making it. I had made the poolish (starter) the night before, so I woke up at 7am to take it out of the fridge, then went back to bed for an hour while it got up to room temperature. At around 8am, I went back to the kitchen and mixed the poolish, flour and salt, and proofed yeast.

ingredients

The book said that this was supposed to be a very wet dough, so I ended up adding close to 3/4 cup of water to the dough. When all was said and done, I thought it turned out a little too wet, so I added a few handfulls of flour at the last minute. I had been mixing it with a spoon the whole time, but then decided to get in there with my hands to get a more accurate reading on the dough’s texture. Big mistake! The dough was so sticky that it immediately coated my hands, and there was no easy way to get it off. Anyway. Here is the dough, pre-flour addition.

dough

Once the dough was adequately mixed, I transferred it to a “bed of flour” on the table.

bed of flour

I stretched it out to form a rectangle about 8 inches long, and then folded the dough into thirds.

loaf

It had to sit for an hour, then I stretched and folded one more time. After that, I cut the dough into two equal pieces. The loaves were then supposed to rest in something called a “couche,” which is a special canvas cloth for breads. The material is stiff, so it can be folded and bunched—this way, when the bread rises, it will keep a particular shape. Obviously, I don’t have a couche, so I had to improvise. I used a bunch of cloth napkins that Michael and I inherited when one of the Bloomfield roommates moved out and didn’t take them with her.

couche

The bread sat in the makeshift couche for another hour or so, and then it was time to bake. I preheated the oven to 500 degrees with my mom’s baking stone, as well as an empty roasting pan, sitting inside. When the time came, I transferred the loaf (I baked them one at a time) to the back of a sheet pan, which I had dusted with cornmeal. Then, I slid the loaf onto the baking stone. In order to have the real “hearth” atmosphere in my oven, I also had to pour hot water into the empty roasting pan, thereby creating a burst of steam in the oven. I was instructed to close the oven, wait one minute, and then mist the walls of the oven with water to create more steam. Here was another problem. I don’t have a spray bottle. I really had to think hard to find a way around this requirement, but I finally figured it out. I ended up using our iron, which has a spray function, to spray the inside of the oven. Smart, huh? I had to do this twice at 30-second intervals, and then the bread baked for about 20-25 minutes.

The loaves ended up coming out pretty nice, although one had a little too much flour stuck to it. I thought I had done a pretty good job of not deflating the loaves when I formed and transferred them, but the bread didn’t have quite as many holes as I was hoping for. But, it was still a success.

loaves

finished

holes

Next on the list: sticky buns. Not exactly looking forward to having a large quantity of dessert-type products sitting around the house, but hopefully I will be able to pass them along to some other lucky people.

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