By request! The recipe I use for bread these days. Very, very yummy, and very, very easy. Remember how ML gave me a baking class for Christmas? Well, I finally went to a class back in June, and this recipe was one of the ones the teacher taught.
A few notes first:
- you have to plan ahead a bit for this, but only a bit! The dough has to rise 12-18 hours. But the dough itself only takes about 10 minutes to throw together, which I do in the evening the night before I’ll plan on baking it.
- if you have a digital kitchen scale, use it to measure the ingredients (rather than cup measures). It’s a much more accurate way to measure. I don’t have a digital kitchen scale, but it still turns out fine :)
- You can turn this into whole wheat bread by substituting a small amount of the bread flour with whole wheat flour. I typically use 3 parts bread flour, 1 part whole wheat. If you use more whole wheat than that, you’re dealing with a much denser bread!
Okay, so, ingredients:
3 cups (14 oz or 400g) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt (or 1 tbsp kosher salt)
1/2 tsp instant OR active dry yeast (doesn’t matter which)
1 1/4 cup (10 oz or 300g) COOL tap water (not warm!)
1 tbsp white vinegar
corn meal for dusting
a 5-6 quart dutch oven, or some kind of large stock pot with a lid – just note that it will be going in the oven, so it canNOT have any plastic on it (some pots have handles that can be removed…). I use a stainless steel stock pot.
some sort of pastry scraper/flat spatula
And here are the instructions:
Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a medium bowl. Mix water and vinegar and add them to the dry ingredients, mixing together until you have a wet, sticky dough (about 1 minute). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at COOL room temperature for 12-18 hours.
Then: line a colander or strainer with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal (I like to use medium-grain cornmeal so there’s a bit of a crunch in the bottom crust of the bread). Set this aside.
Generously dust a work surface with flour and using a dough scraper or spatula, gently coax the dough out of the bowl in one piece. With well-floured hands, gently nudge and tuck the dough under to form a round ball. Put in the colander. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or tea towel and let rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
Thirty minutes before the dough is finished rising, place a covered 5-6 wuart heavy pot on the lower third shelf of an oven and preheat to 475F. (Make sure all the parts/handles are oven-safe!)
Lightly flour the top of the dough and add decorate slashes (about 1/2 inch deep) if you so desire. Carefully remove the lid from the post and immediately place the dough, parchment paper and all, in the pot. Put the lid back on the pot and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the pot (carefully, because the steam from the pot can burn you!) and bake another 15 minutes. Remove bread from the pot and cool at least two hours before eating. (This is important because the bread continues to cook while it cools!)
Steaming the bread in the covered pot is what gives it the great artisan-style crust. And letting it slow-rise in cool water and at a cool temperature is what allows you to forgo the kneading process.
People have told me that they thought the bread was from a professional bakery! And that has nothing to do with my skills. :)
Feel free to ask me questions!
*The baking school is Baking Arts in San Francisco (www.bakingarts.net) and I highly recommend their classes! I’ve only taken the bread class, but it was a lot of fun and the teacher was fantastic.
So, I kind of love this blog (she’s on my blogroll and I also occasionally share her posts in my reader–you should follow my shared items!). It’s got a little bit of everything I love, minus queer: cooking, organizing, styling, designing, fashioning. Plus a little bit more.
She does this thing every month where she pictorially introduces things she’s happy about that month. I think I’m going to take a page out of her book and do the same this month. Yay February! You’re a hard month to get excited about on your own, but when I look beyond your name, you’ve got a lot to offer.
So. Here are the things I’m happy about this month:
1) Starting my burlesque class on Wednesday.
2) Valentine’s Day! I know it’s cool to hate Valentine’s Day, but sorry, I love it.
3) Making lots of kale chips.
4) Getting a vibrator for mi’lady’s house. Haven’t chosen one yet — we’ll take a trip (well, not much of one, seeing as how I live two blocks away) to Good Vibes SF to pick one out!
5) I get a bonus this month! My firm apparently exceeded budget this year, and so all staff are getting a fat bonus on our next paycheck. This couldn’t have come at a better time: mi’lady’s birthday coming up in March, plus hmmm maybe some burlesque costuming and props? And maybe some shoes? Also, erm, savings, cough.
Happy February :) (And yes, I know February is such a short month that it’s almost over. I’m a bit behind on my life.)
So, for those of you who don’t follow me on twitter, you may not know that mi’lady and I hosted a party at my flat on Friday night. In the spirit of not caring about my job, I took the afternoon off of work to prepare (just finger foods and cookies, not dinner thank god). It’s the first time I ever took the hosting controls for something of this scale—we had about 40 people come, and people, my flat is microscopic—and it was stressful but SO much fun. I wish I had pictures, but sadly my camera ran out of batteries after approximately one dismally out-of-focus photo.
On the menu:
- ricotta, parmesan, scallion & black pepper stuffed cherry tomatoes
- spinach, pine nuts & feta stuffed baked mushrooms
- mozzarella, basil & tomato skewers, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt & pepper
- baked pepperjack cheese bites (gluten-free)
- vegan cream cheese, garlic & herb dip
- various assorted crackers
- Acme baguette
- various assorted hummus
- cheese platter
- snowball cookies
- triple chocolate cookies
- gluten-free mint red & green M&M cookies
- friends brought cookies too! candy cane sugar cookies, and peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars
- mulled wine (we ended up using 8 bottles of red wine!)
- hot toddies, choice of whiskey or brandy (used a full handle of each)
- pumpkin pie martinis (which were… meh)
- eggnog martinis (which were yum!)
- folks also contributed spiced beer (forget the brand) and prosecco
So, we had an abundance of delectables. I did the dry pantry grocery shopping earlier in the week, and the produce shopping the day of. The cookies were all done several days ahead of time and packed in airtight containers to keep them fresh. And then midday on the day of, I sat down with all my plans and made a comprehensive list of what-to-do-in-what-order-and-when. So it looked something like this:
Take spinach out of freezer to thaw.
Prepare ricotta filling and put in refrigerator to chill.
Trim and hollow cherry tomatoes.
. . .
Make cream cheese dip.
. . .
Prepare ingredients for hot drinks and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375F.
. . .
Pop stuffed mushrooms in oven and set timer for 30 mins.
Take stuffed tomatoes and mozzarella skewers out of refrigerator and set out on platter.
There were a lot more directions under each time slot, but that’s just an idea. It was SUCH a good way to plan, because it meant I was left with no ugly surprises or last-minute chaos. I kept pretty much exactly to the schedule. There was a moment of panic around 5:30 when I found out mi’lady wasn’t going to be able to get here until around 7, and she was on playlist duty and still had to put it together so I wouldn’t really be getting any help from her, but that panic subsided when I realized I did, in fact, have it all under control. And she had a legitimate excuse for being held up – it was pissing rain, and she had errands to run (get creme de cacao for the martinis, buy small plates and cups, etc.), so she got a ride from a coworker and was basically at her generous mercy. (Mi’lady also drew a fabulous reindeer for Pin the Red Nose on Rudolf.)
And then the party itself was great fun. We expected to have it go until around midnight and then hit the Mission bars afterward, but some people lingered and we ended up staying in, cleaning up, and dancing to Erykah Badu and then the Nutcracker Suite.
And for about 24 hours I was like “I never want to see the kitchen again” and now it’s Monday evening and I’m at home and I’m all like “hmm, shall I bake some parker rolls? challah? date bread?”
It was the best welcome home she’s ever had, she said.
After all my thinking and processing last week about my femmeyness, I allowed myself to just revel in it. I spent all day Sunday preparing for her to come home. I booked a Zipcar to pick her up at the airport when her flight came in at 6. (Typically we would just take BART, and I had told her I would meet her to help her carry her stuff home… the car was a surprise!) I got my nails done in the morning (fingers and toes!)–short, a little bit squared, bright red polish. Paraffin wax, so my skin was silky smooth. I’d gotten a fresh legs and bikini wax on Saturday, so that I’d be ready and smooth for her. I planned out Sunday evening’s meal, bought the necessary ingredients on Saturday, and brought them over to her place on Sunday afternoon to begin prep before her flight came in. AND, on Sunday morning after the manicure and pedicure, I went to my favorite lingerie boutique in San Francisco, Dollhouse Bettie (they specialize in vintage and pinup lingerie), to make sure her welcome home would be *extra* special. (Dollhouse Bettie’s website doesn’t have a link to the piece I bought, so I found a link to it elsewhere instead. It’s got gorgeous detailing, and I got nude seamed nylons instead of black ones because I really wanted the basque to speak for itself. With these shoes and my full-sleeve black leather gloves from Doncaster, this is a stunning get-up.)
And it was such a wonderful day, from start to finish. Waking up and knowing that I was going to be getting my nails done, going lingerie shopping, cooking, and seeing/fucking mi’lady for the first time in a week was such an amazing feeling. I don’t think there’s anything I’d have rather done on a gorgeous Sunday. Seriously. And it all went off without a hitch.
The only thing I think could have gone smoother was cutting the pumpkin. Pumpkin soup was one of my menu items (and as SOON as she saw it she was really, really excited… she loves pureed vegetable soups), but I’d forgotten how ridiculously hard it is to cube and peel a raw pumpkin. SO HARD. I wrestled with it for a good hour. But it was so ridiculously worth it. It was really, really good, if I do say so myself. And the recipe is really simple — really all that’s in it is pumpkin, onion, a tiny bit of garlic, bay leaves, a bit of orange rind, butter, vegetable stock, and a tiny bit of milk. I garnished it with fresh chives. And that’s it. The best part though? Was mi’lady telling me that the pumpkin soup she’d had earlier that week at an upscale restaurant in Boston with a client “wasn’t even half as good as yours. Well okay, maybe half. But seriously, only half!”
The other menu item was risotto with leeks, spinach, white wine, and a little bit of plain yoghurt. I love cooking.
The best part of everything was that she just felt adored. I love that. Love it. It turns me on and makes me stand up straight. I’m doing what I do best, what I love to do. Fuck yeah. From getting picked up by me at the airport in a car, to having dinner planned and prepared to the AMAZING fucking hot sex we had, it was the best welcome home she’d ever had. And I’m responsible for it :)
If I’d posted last night at 10pm, which I almost did, here’s what I would have written:
This isn’t working. This isn’t fucking working. This isn’t FUCKING working. This isn’t FUCKING WORKING. THIS ISN’T FUCKING WORKING.
If I’d posted last night at midnight, here’s what I would have written:
Breathe in 1-2-3-4, hold 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, breathe out 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Breathe in 1-2-3-4, hold 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, breathe out 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
If I’d posted last night at 1:30am, I would have posted one of my favorite poems of all time, “The Telephone” by Robert Frost. I was reading it aloud to myself, keeping my voice steady and rocking myself with its words.
If I’d posted this morning at 10am, I would’ve written:
Taking the day off today. Need to clear my head. I need to make sure I’m okay. I need to keep in motion, because when I was learning about vicarious trauma as part of the rape crisis counseling training, I was taught that one of the best ways to move emotions in and out of us is to move our physical bodies. If I go to work, I’ll be sitting still all day. So I’m taking the day off.
And now it’s 3pm, and now I really am writing. I have been keeping moving — I got up and showered, I fixed myself a cup of tea and a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and read while the morning sun streamed into my flat. I did the laundry I had as a goal for last week. I don’t use a dryer, so when it was done I went outside on our back balcony to hang it up and Fish, a neighbor’s cat, came by for a visit. He’s gotten in the habit of visiting every day for hours, and I love it. He’s standoffish a little bit, but also at times incredibly sweet. Today he was being sweet. I felt so peaceful, hanging up my laundry in the San Francisco Indian summer sun, with the cat curled up at my feet. Then I went out for a walk, and came back to bake another batch of vegan red velvet cupcakes. (I baked a batch on Thursday to bring to my training on Saturday, and had all these leftover ingredients so wanted to bake up another batch to send to my dad and brother and sister… and some to keep for myself and my roommate and mi’lady as well. They are DElicious, taste no different from ovo-lacto cupcakes, and maybe I’ll post the recipe…) And now I’m sitting here writing, dishes drying in the sun, Fish stretched out in a patch of sunlight, purring, cupcakes cooling on the counter, and I’m getting ready to go to yoga in an hour. I’m calm, and quiet. And the devastating emotion of the past days has, indeed, started to move. With every exhale I visualize it leaving me, dispersing into thin air.
Clearly, then, my experiment with discontinuing Prozac didn’t work. My period should start any day now, probably even today, and the past few days have been a nightmare. Wild and dramatic peaks and slumps, unbearable darkness and despair, hours of crying in a heap on my bed. I don’t know how to survive at times like those. It’s just not sustainable. It has to change.
It’s made worse, right now, by the recent knowledge that my parents are getting divorced. I found out from my sister about a month ago that she thought it was going to happen (to my complete shock), and then a little less than two weeks ago, my mom told me herself. Until then I hadn’t really believed it. And then, less than a week after that — last Saturday — my dad moved out. My parents, my mother whom I was born out of and my father who held me in his arms when I was moments old, mesmerized, my parents who are equal parts of me no longer live together. Are no longer family. What?
I haven’t really been able to process it yet. It just doesn’t compute. My parents have been married for 27 years. I’ve always known their marriage has had its bad moments, but doesn’t every marriage? And I’ve always known my dad is, well, abusive. He’s abusive. I’m coming to terms with that. But 27 years of marriage and I know they’re best friends, despite my dad’s illness. That’s what it is, an illness. So why now? After 27 fucking years?
Well, I know. My little brother is finally out of the house, and my mother can finally, after 27 years, contemplate her own wishes, desires, hopes, and plans for the future. And I guess they don’t any longer involve my dad. It’s so, so hard to swallow. I love my father fiercely, although my relationship with him has been immensely complicated, fraught, and even damaging. And I love my mother too, differently from my dad but just as much. She’s been my mentor and my friend and a confidante, and it hurts me so much to see her hurting.
I haven’t been able to access any sort of emotion about this at all, unless I experience some sort of emotion from something else first. A gateway emotion, if you will. For example, Fish will do something hilariously cat-like, and then he’ll look at me like “what? I didn’t do anything” and I burst out laughing, and then somehow before I realize it I’m crying, sobbing even, crushed under the lack of comprehension of what’s happening to my family.
And here I am, typing away in the afternoon sunlight, and I think it’s time for motion again. I think I’ll go frost the cupcakes and then get ready for yoga.
Having been tagged last week by Em the Femme, I proceed to offer here ten honest things. They won’t be particularly revealing, because I tend to write pretty candidly as it is, and just about everything I can think of as an honest truth that IS revealing is something that I would rather write a full post about at some point. So, instead, here are ten honest things that will maybe help people get a better image of who I am and what my life is like…
1) I’m the oldest child of my parents; I have a sister who is just over a year younger than me and a brother who is five years younger. One of my favorite photographs is of my dad holding me minutes after I was born. He looks humbled and infatuated and gentle and adoring. He told me a while ago on the phone (context eliminated) that my birth was the first moment when he felt truly human. He’s the one who gave me my name, and he chose it because translated it means “first woman.”
2) I am a pianist. I started my classical piano training at age 5, and in my childhood and adolescence I played quite seriously, practicing hours a day, and competing and performing as well. For most of my young life, I assumed I would be a pianist (as a career). It was my identity, and I didn’t know anything else. I went through a major, major identity shift in my late teens, which included coming out to myself (among other things), and I think the emotional stress of it contributed to the physical injury to my right wrist which completely put a damper on my musical aspirations. For a year and a half, I couldn’t use my right hand at all, and once I could, I had lost much of my agility that made me a technically skilled pianist. I still play, and I have as much musicality as I ever did, but I don’t think I’ll ever be as good again as I was when I was 15. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with that, and sometimes when I hear beautifully played piano music I get so, so sad; I’m still grieving what to me felt like a death of a part of me.
3) When I was in tenth grade, my family spent six months living in London. My siblings and I attended a small private school there, and the experience was partly liberating and partly devastating for me. Liberating: the big city, the starting from scratch with new people, the excitement of London and living something entirely different from the suburban life I was accustomed to. For the first time, I was given much more independence by my family, and would often stay out late even on school nights, hanging out with friends and classmates (and boys I dated…). Devastating: I spread my wings too far and flew too high. I lost track of who I was. I dated irresponsibly and bruised people I should have cared more about. Sometimes, completely randomly, I’ll breathe in and something in the air takes me back to London. Strange how that happens.
4) *Ahem* I need to lighten things up a little bit. A little breather: When I was a little girl, my little sister and I would wake up at the crack of dawn (if not earlier) and rush downstairs, the whole world waiting for US to be AWAKE. And we would run to our play room, grab buckets of crayons and markers and stacks of coloring books and just sit on the floor of our living room and color until the rest of the house woke up. She would grab whichever coloring book appealed to her most, and used whatever creative juices she had flowing that morning to render her own interpretation of the black-and-white picture in colored marker/crayon/pencil on top of the original. She was not one for following the rules. I, on the other hand, would carefully pick the top coloring book from the stack, open to the first un-colored page, and make sure to use only the most realistic colors and color carefully within the lines of the original picture. I also never mixed media — if I started with crayon, I stuck with crayons throughout. My sister and I are two peas from separate pods that grew on vines far, far away from each other.
5) I have low blood pressure, and I faint quite easily. Some places I’ve fainted: on an airplane while reading the in-flight magazine, on the toilet while removing a bandaid from my knee, in church while reciting the Our Father, in an excruciatingly boring Monday morning seminar, in the shower. The list goes on. I hate fainting, but sometimes, when I really, really don’t want to be somewhere or do something, I secretly wish I would faint so that I can get out of it :(
6) I spent my senior year of high school living with a host family in Munich, Germany. (Side note: I never graduated from high school as a result! I love telling folks I’m a high school drop-out.) This year was also part liberating, part devastating. I won’t get into that here, because I think I’m going to write about that at some length in the near future. Suffice it to say I’ve been doing a lot of processing about it in recent weeks.
7) I love books. In fact, I realized during my year in Germany that places with no books make me feel ill at ease. Not in the short-term, but over an extended period of time. My host family there had no books (seriously, none) and it wasn’t until several months into my stay with them that I realized I was homesick for books. (My parents growing up, in contrast, had books lining at least one wall of every room in the house.) So now, I’m a book horder. I love libraries because of all the books in them, but when I read something, I rarely take it out from the library — I buy it. I like to make it mine, mark it up, smell it, drink tea with it, get cozy with it. And I prefer to buy it used (in fact I hardly ever buy new books) because they’re more lived-in, more human. I also prefer to buy them in stores, rather than online. Bookstores are my favorite places to spend time. So quieting.
8) I’m really, really horrible at keeping in touch with people. Instead of posting this right now, I should probably be answering any one of the dozens of emails from old friends and family members that are sitting in my inbox glaring at me. I don’t know why I’m so bad at this, and it’s something I keep trying to change, but somehow it just doesn’t happen. Sigh.
9) I LOVE shoes. Love them. Books and shoes are probably my two greatest frivolous expenditures. Also, contrary to many women, I find heels more comfortable than flats (with the exception of sneakers, but obviously I’m not going to walk around in sneakers all the time). Links to some of the many shoes I own are here, here, here, here, and the classic, which I wear ALL the time (see banner at top of page…).
10) I used to hate to cook, but now I LOVE it. There is something so wonderfully satisfying about putting together a balanced, delicious meal using local ingredients so that it’s all in season and fresh… I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but my roommate is very vegetarian so I never bring meat, fish, or meat/fish products of any kind into the house at all. Which is great, because I end up cooking really healthy stuff. It’s a stress reliever too. Can be stressful at the beginning, trying to think of something to cook, plan for it, et cetera. Especially if I have a time crunch. But I never, never regret it once I’ve done it. In fact, from time to time, I will probably be inspired to post a particularly successful cooking endeavor, more for my own records than for public consumption, so feel free to ignore. My next cooking goal (for this week) is to make fondue! Yummmm. Yesterday, I spent the whole afternoon with my roommate re-organizing our tiny kitchen, and the best thing about it was uncovering all these amazing unperishable pantry items I’d forgotten we had. Also, TEA. We have SO MUCH TEA, of every imaginable kind.
Well, I think that about does it. Phew! That was long. Now you all know a bit more about me than you did before. Any questions? :)
I’m moving on Sunday (just across the city) so I’m trying to eat up all the food I have already rather than buying new food, so that I don’t have to end up just moving it. This is proving to require a hefty amount of creativity, given that these are the current contents of my refrigerator:
- two dozen eggs (I have no idea how they all got there)
- feta cheese
- two yellow onions
- a grapefruit
- four different kinds of mustard (dijon, horseradish, tarragon, and plain yellow)
- sour cream
- frozen blueberries
- Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream
- Thai peanut sauce
- half a can of tomato paste
- lemon curd
Any ideas? Tonight I used up half an onion, my frozen spinach, two eggs, and the end of a block of cheddar cheese and made an omelette. That was about the last normal thing I think it’s possible to make based on what I’ve got left. I may be conducting some hazardous experiments involving a blender over the next several days…
Speaking of moving, yay! I’m moving! My new flat, although smaller, comes equipped with a washer/dryer, a cute little deck, an awesome neighborhood, a mere 15-20 minute commute to work, and an adorable British Indian (via Paris) chain-smoking roommate who claims she’s an alien sent down from outer space to record the human experience in downtempo spoken word trip hop. I kid not. She may be a bit eccentric, but at the very least she has a British accent, which counts for a lot.
Also, things are quite good in the lady department. She called last night, a bit drunk, and a bit teary (it’s that time of the month…), and bubbled over with worry that I was going to break up with her for moving to Oakland. It made me realize that I’ve been kind of a huge whore about the Oakland thing. She’s moving at the end of the summer to live with her band, and I haven’t been that happy about it because, well, she’ll be leaving the city. Oakland’s not far, it’s just across the Bay, but still… LEAVING the CITY! Who would want to leave San Francisco? Oakland is so far out of my realm of daily experience that it seems very, very far, and I’ve been apprehensive that her moving there will be a strain on our relationship.
But I realized last night that, while I’ve been trying really hard to be supportive of it, my stress about it hasn’t escape mi’lady. And it’s making her anxious. And that isn’t okay. I really want her to be happy, and if she’ll be happy by moving in with her band, then I think she should do it! I actually really do think she should do it. And so I just decided I’m not going to worry. Once she’s moved there, after all, Oakland will enter the realm of my daily experience, just by virtue of her being there. And it will work out. It will work out just fine. It will work out much better if she does move there than if she doesn’t and is unhappy about it. So I made the decision to let it go, and I have. I let it go.
Also, she’s just so cute when she’s drunk and weepy and tired that it just about melts my heart.