Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No-Knead Bread

The COG found a recipe for No-Knead Bread and tried it. It was from Cook's Illustrated- a supposedly superior (and more complicated) recipe. Coincidentally, the very same day, I found a reference to the original version, which was by Mark Bittman of the NYTimes and which was much simpler. My original thought was that it was fun, but not that useful. However, after reading about it, I decided it was worthwhile. And I've been making it ever since.

The important point is: this isn't about saving work (I can use the bread maker or my mixer to make dough, if I don't want to knead), this is about the science of bread making. The small amount of yeast and the long long slow rising - nearly 24 hours by the time it's done - actually changes the character of the bread, creating a lovely, crusty, loaf with wonderful texture. It's divine. Try it. It could be made by a 6 year old - it's that simple.

No-Knead Bread
3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 5/8 cups water

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: 1 1/2 pound loaf

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Bride Makes Dog Food

Sheba, aka the DOG of COG, has many problems with allergies - Allergic Skin Syndrome - to be exact.. This has come as a shock, because the Bride kind of doesn't believe in allergies. But when her dog's hair (the dogs hair not the Bride's hair) started to fall out because of them, it was hard to discount them. So anyway, the vet has recommended a special diet.

The special diet is hideously expensive and not particularly appealing, as least that's what the DOG of COG has told us. Yes, it's true, she has told us. Not with words, but in Dog language, she has made it clear to us. It goes something like this:

(Eager jumping around the kitchen with little excited barks as I wash her dish and prepare to put food in it.)( Standing very attentively, ears up, tail up, whole body quivering with interest as I place the bowl on the floor.)( A sniff at the dish.) (Another sniff at the dish.) (whole body slumps, ears and tail descend to position of utter despair, eye contact which indicates a patient resignation without reproach.) (Turns away from the dish without eating and flings self on blanket in front of fireplace.) (Head on paws, big dog sigh, eyes closed).

So the Daughter of COG told us about the food she creates for her dogs. First, she buys fabulously expensive, but organic grain mixture that requires soaking and to which you add meat and veg. The dogs love it. (Three little faces straining attentively, ears up, tails up etc. but in the end they eat it happily). I decided to replicate those results. But there was trouble getting the organic grain mixture, so the Bride considered the even more expensive mixture by the same company. The one that doesn't even have grain in it, but has..... something else, to which you add meat and veg and your grain of choice.

Is this beginning to remind you of the Mr. Tea that Father Guido used to sell - Mr. Tea does all the work, all you add is the tea and the water? That's what the Bride was thinking of.

So the Bride had a brilliant idea. Why pay Big Buck$$$ for oatmeal (which is what the stuff that's only fabulously expensive (as opposed to even more expensive) mostly contains), when she could just make the whole thing from scratch.

So now the Bride makes dog food. The picture shows chicken thighs ($0.99 a pound) atop veggies waiting to go in the oven. The whole thing bakes for a while at a certain temperature until done. Then it's chopped up and cut into squares and served. So far, not too difficult and The DOG of COG seems to like it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

After a long absence, Persuasion

I've not posted for a while because I just didn't have anything to say. But I've been engaging in a series of conversations with various female relatives about the latest Jane Austen adaptation on Masterpiece (the program formerly known as Masterpiece Theatre). It occurs to me that I should post it here.

So, Persuasion. I have to preface this by saying that I think the Amanda Root, Ciaran Hinds version made some years ago was just about perfect so I didn't really have high expectations that this would be memorable.

And they were confirmed. In some ways it was worse than I imagined. In other ways, not so bad. Of course, I always enjoy Jane Austen, so I was glad to see it.

First complaint: Ann, played by Sally Hawkins. Aside from her disturbing hairdo and what is possibly the worst wardrobe ever worn by a heroine in a BBC drama, I felt the actress just didn't work. There was nothing about her that made it seem reasonable that Captain Wentworth would still have loved her. She spent the whole film weeping and writing in her diary, except at the end when she was running through Bath, inexplicably pursued by her invalid friend. Part of this was the hairdo/wardrobe, the script and the director, of course, but a better actress could at least have shown some ... charm or character or something. There was also nothing that showed why Mr. Elliot suddenly preferred her to her sister, who was prettier and had better clothes and seemed perfectly happy to receive his advances.

Second complaint: It seemed rushed, though it was only 14 minutes shorter than the Amanda Root film version. Possibly, if less time had been spent weeping, writing in the diary and running around Bath, there would have been more time for character development. But it was oddly unconnected.

Third complaint: casting. The Amanda Root version was full of interesting faces and sharp characterizations and memorable performances. In this version, pretty much everyone blended together and looked the same. Even some quite familiar faces, who I like very much in other settings. Julia Wossername who played the older sister, Alice Krige who played Mrs. Russell Stella Gonet, who was Mrs. Musgrove and others.

Fourth complaint: The end when Captain Wentworth had bought the house - what was it called - for Ann. Ick. Stick to the text, please. At least there was no kissing. I hate kissing in Jane Austen.

Things I liked: watching Rupert Penry-Jones in his black and white evening clothes. Watching Rupert Penry-Jones in his blue jacket. Watching close-ups of the lovely Rupert Penry-Jones in his lovely white linen shirt and cravat. He looks great in Regency dress. But it made it even more mysterious why he liked Ann. Of course, some of the countryside, the exteriors and interiors were nice. It made me happy to see Anthony Head, it's like seeing an old friend from Buffy days. The breakwater at Lyme is always worth seeing.

The Son of COG told me this story while we were watching. Tennyson visited Lyme and his host wanted to show him the precise spot where the Duke of Monmouth landed. Tennyson said 'Don't talk to me of the Duke of Monmouth. Show me the precise spot where Louisa Musgrove fell.'

Next week, Northanger Abbey.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year

French Kate has been watching movies. I have been watching YouTube. There are some great parodies of 300 out there. I've shared two of below, but the lego one and the cat one are funny, too.

In December we had record breaking snows - more snow than we had all last winter. Now Mother Nature is out to break the temperature records. Its cold, really cold.

But I must brave the elements and walk the dog. I could use a little Spartan peptalk about now.

Spartaaaaans! Tonight we walk in hell.......

The 305

Another amusing 300 parody.

300 Spartan Apples

You must watch until the end, because the credits are possibly the best part.