Archive for May, 2011

I had off from work yesterday, so I gave myself a bunch of chores to do all day. Too many, really. To give you an idea of what my day was like, I will recount the process of making the bread in the context of the rest of the day’s happenings.

Sunday night: Made the pâte fermentée (starter dough), which contains flour, water, yeast, and salt. Let that rise for about an hour and then refrigerated it overnight.

8am: Took the pâte fermentée out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature. Drove Michael to the train station, stopped at the bank on the way home, but it was still closed, then went home.

9am: Mixed flour, water, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, egg, butter, and pâte fermentée to make the dough. Kneaded for about 10 minutes, and then let the dough rise for 2 hours. I took that opportunity to make a trip to Home Depot where I got a can of paint, potting soil, and flowers for the window boxes. My original plan was to go to Home Depot and Path Mark in that time period, but Home Depot took much longer than expected, so as soon as I finished there I had to head home. Went to the bank on the way back.

10:45am: I got home with a little time to spare, so for some reason I thought it would be a great idea to start the window box project right then. I carried a couple of really heavy bags of potting soil up to the porch and proceeded to fill the boxes with dirt. It was very messy and the slight rain drizzle did not help. I stopped that project about halfway through, once all of the flowers had been arranged (but not planted) in the boxes. After the dough had doubled in size, I divided it and formed it into two boules. I let the boules sit for 20 minutes, then formed them into bâtards, or torpedos. While the boules were resting, I made the “Dutch crunch,” a paste that would be spread on top of the loaves before the final proofing. The paste was made with bread flour, rice flour, sugar, and salt (I think). Once I formed the bâtards, I spread the paste on top.

The loaves had to rise for 60-90 minutes, so I ventured back out to Path Mark and did some food shopping.

1pm:: After I got back from the store and unpacked the groceries, I preheated the oven to 450º. I was happy to see that, in the time I was gone, the loaves had puffed up nicely. Once the oven was ready, I put the loaves in the oven and poured some water into an empty pan to get a nice steam effect (I still can’t tell if this process actually helps my bread). The bread baked for about 30 minutes and I took it out once it was nice and brown. Also happy to see that I didn’t underbake this time around!

I have to say, I always strive to have my bread look exactly like the pictures in the book, and I think this is the closest I’ve come so far. The bread is light and fluffy, but the Dutch crunch gives the crust a nice—you guessed it—crunch!

2pm: Painted the moldings/windowsill/door of the half bathroom.

3:30pm: Prepped chicken fajita dinner.

4:30pm: Sat on the couch for the first time and finished transferring our dvd collection from standard dvd cases to a book.

5:30pm: Couldn’t get up from the couch, so I watched the end half of State of Play (starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams) on HBO and did not move.

6:15pm: Packed 2 boxes of empty dvd cases into my car (to give to the library for in-house use) and picked Michael up at the train station.

Next bread: White Bread!


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I was pretty annoyed when I got stuck in traffic yesterday, but this little gem kind of made it all worthwhile.

This guy has a cone stuck under his car!!!!!!

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Is Jonathan Taylor Thomas driving limos now?

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Yesterday, Michael asked me to buy a roast beef and I came home with a London broil. I made this mistake because I confused “top round” and “top sirloin.” I’m sure that for guys, this is like confusing apples and oranges, but I can never get all of this meat stuff straight. Hopefully I am not alone in admitting this. So, for all the girls out there who want to impress their man at the next BBQ or steakhouse, here is a collection of helpful info that I’ve gathered from the internet.

First of all, where do different cuts of beef come from? This handy chart will help explain. Luckily, I don’t think this stuff has changed since 1996.

Chuck: Also known as the 7-bone steak because of the shape of the bone in this cut, chuck comes from the area above the brisket toward the animal’s front. A chuck cut of meat is loaded with connective tissues such as collagen, which add a stronger flavor to the meat.

Rib: A rib cut of meat is arguably one of the finest cuts of meat from the cow. It’s here you’ll find the best cuts such as prime rib, short ribs and rib eye steaks, all of which are prized for their juiciness, tenderness, marbling, and superb flavor.

Short Loin: You may not have heard of the short loin cut of meat, but it’s another part of the cow in which you’ll find some of your favorites, such as tenderloin, T-bone, and porterhouse.

Sirloin: Sirloin is a good cut of meat that comes from the lower portion of the animal’s ribs, and it’s got more of the best cuts out there, such as the tenderloin and the top and bottom sirloins. Also, London broil is the name of a finished dish, not a cut of meat—but butchers sometimes assign the name “London broil” to the following cuts: flank steak, top round steak, or top blade steak.

Round: A round steak or roast comes from the animal’s rump. It’s a lean cut with little fat, which makes it a bit tougher than the best cuts listed above. It’s a popular cut but can be difficult to cook.

Brisket: A brisket is the cut of meat from a cow’s breast or lower chest. It’s not very tender, but when it’s cooked properly, it’s a crowd favorite.

Shank: A shank cut of meat is the animal’s leg, and since it’s one of the muscles the animal uses most often, it’s one of the toughest cuts of meat out there.

Plate: The plate is the area on the animal’s front belly, just below the ribs. It’s generally fatty and tough, but it does yield two gems: the skirt and hanger steaks. (Note: skirt steaks are great in burritos!)

Flank: The flank steak comes from the cow’s belly muscles. It’s one tough cut of meat.

I got this info from an article on AskMen.com. Visit if you’d like to read up on cooking tips for each cut.

Last, here is a great chart that you can refer to in moments of doubt. I think I’m going to print it out and hang it in the kitchen!

Good luck!

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iPads and smartphones can do a lot, but can you tape one to the door handle of your refrigerator to remind you that there are ceam puffs stored therein? No, you cannot, and I’m sure that is the only thing keeping my grandmother from buying one herself.

My grandma, Rita (or Mommom, as she is commonly known), has always been pretty big on notes. We always have place cards at holidays so everyone knows where to sit, and before the meal is served, there are usually small pieces of paper sitting inside most of the dishes and bowls, designating where to put the green beans, stuffing, meatballs, etc. It’s amazing that no one has ingested a note in all the years we have spent our holidays there. Anyway, we were down at her house during the respite in between my cousin’s wedding ceremony and reception, and she must have had a lot on her mind in the days leading up to it, for there were many more notes than usual scattered around the kitchen. There was the aforementioned note on the refrigerator re: cream puffs, and a couple of notes above the sink re: hair appointments and pre-wedding events. There was one in the corner, underneath the paper towel holder, with information about my wedding (which I’m sure will be moved to a more prominent location as the event draws closer). But, as we continued to scan the kitchen, Michael spotted the best one.

What better way to keep track of what your grandchildren are up to? To be fair, this note gives me a little too much credit as I do not order ALL of the children’s books for the library, but she’s got the basics covered.

Like I said, technology is great—but sometimes old school is just better.

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Some things I dislike:

  • Cities that are named after planets
  • Running out of shaving cream after only shaving one leg
  • Getting a muscle cramp while trying to take off my jacket in the car
  • Spending 5 days trying to cultivate a sourdough starter and having it FAIL MISERABLY on the big baking day.

Basically, I think I got some fermentation out of the seed culture, but not enough. I had a feeling things weren’t going to go my way, but I decided to make the dough anyway. After letting it sit out for four hours, it had not risen whatsoever. So, there were five days and nine cups of flour that I’ll never get back. Well, Peter Reinhart, I have tried your seed culture instructions twice and have had zero success. I think I’m going to have to move on to another source if I’m ever going to get this damn sourdough off the ground.

Anyway, here is an image to brighten up this short and sweet (no pun intended—HA!) blog.

“Pies, Pies, Pies” (1961), by Wayne Thieubaud

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