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Archive for February, 2011

Received this card yesterday, at the end of a 5-week storytime program.

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BBA Challenge: Stollen

OMG, I totally baked a new bread. This is a big deal for two reasons. One: it took a lot of motivation to lift myself out of the bread slump I had found myself in post summer hiatus. Unfortunately, I had become a little burnt out over the course of approximately one year and 29 breads (if you are new to the blog or have forgotten my bread project, feel free to skim the original blog that started it all). I also saw a sharp decrease in free time after finally landing a full-time job. Nevertheless, I decided to suck it up and continue the project, which brings us to the second road block I encountered. Two: my first attempt at bread after the hiatus was a failure.

The next group of breads are all of the sourdough variety, which means that I actually have to grow my own seed culture (as opposed to using a packet of yeast), harvesting natural bacteria out of the air and into a mixture of flour and pineappple juice. The whole process takes about five days and always seemed very daunting to me. And this is actually reason number three that it took me so long to start baking again: fear. But, like I said, I finally decided to face the challenge head on. Unfortunately, I failed. I followed the directions correctly, but I did not achieve any real growth of my seed culture. I think the problem was that the kitchen (and our apartment in general) is a little too chilly to cultivate bacteria at present.

Admittedly, this was pretty tough to take. But, I am going to try again once spring comes and the weather gets warmer. Luckily, I did not let the setback get me down. I made an executive decision to skip all of the sourdoughs temporarily and move on to the next bread that did not require a “wild yeast starter.” That bread is Stollen, and it was most definitely not a failure.

Stollen is a German holiday bread that incorporates such ingredients as lemon extract, orange zest, cinnamon, dried fruit, and slivered almonds. For my fruit mix, I chose to use raisins (regular and yellow), cranberries, and dates. Ideally, the fruit is supposed to soak in rum or brandy for up to two days before being added to the dough. I didn’t know that ahead of time and had no desire to go out and buy liquor so, as per the recipe’s extra commentary, I substituted the booze for 1/2 cup of water and 2 tbs of lemon extract. I let the fruit soak for about an hour and then decided to move on, even though it was probably not yet at its peak flavor.

It was a pretty straightforward bread. It used an easy starter (flour, warm milk, yeast) that only had to ferment for one hour. I then mixed it in with the rest of the dough (flour, sugar, salt, butter, egg, orange zest, cinnamon, fruit) and let it sit for 45 minutes. I formed it into two loaves which then rested for another hour, then they baked for about 40 minutes. Once they were done, I brushed the loaves with vegetable oil and Michael helped by dusting them with powdered sugar. This. bread. was. amazing. We ate half of a loaf in about 5 minutes. Here are some glamour shots from the process.


We decided to take it easy on the sugar on the second loaf.

I have to say that, in the face of fatigue, laziness, fear, and failure, I am proud to be back on the breadwagon again.

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Fragment of a Dream

I woke up at 4am with the faint recollection of a dream I had just been having. I smiled at what I had just dreamed as the dialogue instantly started to fade away from my memory. Luckily, I had my phone on the windowsill next to the bed in preparation for an early morning phone call regarding a possible library closing. So, I grabbed it and groggily typed the quote into a note.

All I remember about the dream is that I was in my kitchen talking to someone (I don’t know who).

Me: I don’t want to be the only person who thinks it’s weird to take a dog to the movies.
Whoever: Tough luck. We’ll get ’em next time.

That is all.

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