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Archive for March, 2012

If there’s anyone else out there who is currently out of work, I started putting together a helpful guide to the ins and outs of unemployment. Hope this helps you through the hard times.

1. Are grocery stores open at 8:30am?
Yes!

2. Am I allowed to wear the same shirt multiple days in a row?
Yes, but make sure you toss it in the hamper after three (3) days, max. If you happen to be leaving the house on one of those days, make sure there are no stains on it. If there are, change.

3. I’m home in the mornings, but how can I avoid my creepy mailman who always rings the doorbell because he likes to chat?
Make sure you keep the blinds closed until he delivers the mail. If you have the TV on, keep the volume down during the peak mail delivery time.

4. My couch cushion is developing a large crater where my ass sits. What should I do?
Flip and rotate couch cushions daily to avoid an “ass groove.”

5. What can I do to stay sane?
I recommend strenuous physical activity, such as sanding a deck or working on plyometric push ups.

6. How much time should I devote to job searching per day?
Do not get up from your computer until your eyes start to burn or you start considering new career paths, like alternative dance or glass blowing. If this happens, get up to stretch your legs and eat something.

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…but I love this.

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This is a pretty accurate breakdown of my job. It’s sort of hard to read (I had to zoom in on it because I wear glasses similar to the ones pictured below).

From This Isn’t Happiness on Tumblr.

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Italian Basics

That’s how we roll.

From Food Republic

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I’ve completed the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. This is a big deal for numerous reasons. First and foremost, there was always a small part of me that thought I would give up before reaching the end. I even flirted with the idea of skipping the sourdough recipes after having so much trouble cultivating my own wild yeast. But, surprisingly, I persisted. I started the challenge on September 13, 2009 and finished on March 4, 2011. One and a half years, and 43 breads. In September 2009, Michael and I had just moved into our apartment in Montclair. I was still working part-time. Now, we’re married, have been in our house for almost a year, and I have a great full-time job. A lot has changed in a relatively short amount of time and, in addition to all of the major life events, I’ve also become a more accomplished baker in the process.

Below is the full list of breads in the BBA Challenge. I’ve starred my favorites that I’ll definitely make again. The majority of my failed breads came towards the end when I was making the sourdough rye varieties. The only failure that I would like to try again would be the English muffins. They weren’t terribly challenging to make, so I think if I went back and used my cumulative knowledge and skills, they’d come out better the second time around.

Now that I don’t have a list of breads to power through any more, I’m going to have to fill that void with a new project. I’d like to stick with the baking theme, but I definitely need a break from breads for at least a little while. If anyone has any suggestions for a new challenge, please feel free to let me know.

Recently, I’ve started to pay more attention to tv commercials which, I think, is the opposite of what advertisers want me to be doing. Most of the time, I think people actively try to avoid watching commercials, either by changing the channel, getting up to get a snack, or conversing with a significant other or tv-watching buddy. But, if you sit and actually listen to the statements that are made in these ads, it’s amazing how idiotic, pointless, and nonsensical some of them are. In a way, it’s insulting. It implies that it doesn’t matter whether or not the commercial makes any sense, because we’re going to buy this stuff anyway. I have a few examples that I found particularly appalling and will share in my new blog installment, Commercial Nonsense. With some examples, I’ll break down the quote into non-advertisement language to further illustrate the stupidity of its message. Some other quotes need no translation because they are that meaningless.

“The first step on that road [to happiness] may well be a bowl of soup.” —Campbell’s Soup
Translation: Canned soup is going to bring you happiness in life.

“No one really gets the apple.” —Healthy Choice
False. I think plenty of people “get” the apple.

“Do you dream in chocolate?” —Lindt Lindor Truffles
No. No one does.

So, the next time you’re watching tv, pay more attention to the commercials and count how many times they insult your intelligence. It’s fun, in a sad, I’m-ashamed-of-American-culture kind of way.

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This is it: the last bread of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. I did it! And, the challenge definitely ended on a high note, too.

This bread was one of the most complex in terms of preparation. It took three days to make, and the commentary section in the book cautioned bakers to plan accordingly to avoid stressing during the prep (I’m paraphrasing, but it really did give a word of warning). On Day 1 (Friday), I made the starter using barm, water, and 2 1/2 cups of flour. I let it ferment for 8 hours, but it still wasn’t as bubbly as it needed to be. The book said that, if this was the case, I was to leave it out at room temperature overnight, which I did. The next morning, it was nice and bubbly.

On Day 2 (Saturday), I made the dough. But, before I made the dough I had to roast some onions. I chopped a large onion, tossed it with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and roasted it at 500° for about 20 minutes, tossing the slices every 4 minutes or so. While the onions were roasting, I chopped a 1/2 cup of fresh scallions and chives and grated 3 1/2 cups of Asiago cheese. Finally, I had my mise en place together (onions not pictured).

To make the dough, I combined the starter with an additional SEVEN CUPS of flour! I knew that this was going to make an obscene amount of bread, but I didn’t want to halve the last recipe in the book, so I just went for it. [Side note: remember (well, you may not) when I made Polaine-style Miche, and I said I was too lazy to find out what “miche” meant? Well, it turns out that it’s French for, basically, a big loaf of bread. Had I learned that a couple of weeks ago, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the huge amount of flour in this recipe!] Anyway, this is what the starter looks like when I pour it out of the bowl.

After mixing the starter, water, and flour together, I added what seemed like a ton (3 tbs) of olive oil. The dough was very oily and I started to get a little worried. But, after adding the scallions, chives, and half of the shredded cheese, it all incorporated nicely and the texture of the dough was fine. I kneaded the dough for about five minutes and then let it rise for two hours. Again, I got a fantastic rise. Take that, sourdough rye breads!

After the rise, I divided the dough, formed it into two boules, and put them in the refrigerator overnight. I was shocked at how much they continued to expand, just after another couple of hours, even in the fridge!

On Day 3 (Sunday), I took the loaves out and let them sit for about an hour to get up to room temperature. They were pretty giant.

I proceeded to brush them with olive oil and then made a whole bunch of dimples with my fingers (that was fun!). Then, I sprinkled on the other half of the Asiago, and then topped that with the roasted onions. Please enjoy this photo progression:

Since they were so big, I had to bake the loaves one at a time. They baked at 450° for about 40 minutes, with one pan rotation in between. I hovered over the oven pretty much the whole time, watching the progress and making sure that nothing was burning. I was so close to the end, I wanted to make sure there weren’t going to be any last-minute problems. Luckily, they came out looking amazing. Since it was the last bread, I used our fancy dishes to take glamour shots!

This bread is heavenly. How can you go wrong with baked cheese and roasted onions? Answer: you can’t.

So, that’s it. The last bread. I’m still in a state of disbelief. Check back soon for a post on my final thoughts, as well as a comprehensive list of all of the BBA breads.

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