Monday, January 26, 2009

Some of the best news ever!

I subscribe to an email newsletter sent out weekly from the author, Susan Wittig Albert. In her China Bayles mystery series, the main character, China, has chucked her big city lawyer career in favor of running an herb shop in a small Texas hill country town. The books contain a lot of Texas lore and herb/plant trivia, which I enjoy as much as the mystery itself.

Anyhoo, in today's newsletter, Ms. Albert gave me two pieces of extremely good news. First, tomorrow, January 27, is National Chocolate Cake Day. Second, chocolate is an herb with more antioxidants than red wine!

I am going to ignore the refined carbohydrate issues that the cake presents and think of it as an herbal remedy to all that ails me from here on out. I read it on the internet; it must be true.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A blast from the past. Literally.

In searching for a cd version of my dad's favorite album ever, the Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band's Sour Kraut in Hi-Fi, I stumbled upon an mp3 of one of the songs and had some immediate psychedelic flashbacks to my youth. I fear it may explain some things about my sense of humor and, unfortunately, some of my musical tastes (or lack thereof).

If you're brave enough, give it a listen. It's best listened to when you're about 2 good German beers into the evening. Try to stay tuned at least until the singing starts, so you can get the full effect.

Stars and Stripes Forever mp3

Shockingly, this gem hasn't been released on cd.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The sourdough starter has finally done my bidding

A while back I sent for a sourdough starter and started experimenting with making bread leavened exclusively with the starter (no added yeast). The first two loaves tasted fine, but both of them burst along the lower edge.

Nice side:
From Food

Split side:
From Food

I asked some expert bakers for advice and the consensus was that, with this particular recipe*, most of the rising happened in the oven and the outer crust dried out before the inside of the loaf had fully expanded. The suggested solution was to add a pan of hot water to the lower shelf in the oven and to cut fairly deep slits in the top of the loaf right before baking.

Because of poor planning, I had to refrigerate the partially-risen loaf overnight, which is actually good for flavor and texture. In case you need some baking trivia, that is what creates the dark, pebbly texture on the crusts of many artisan breads.

Results: It worked!

This time, along with the heavenly aroma of baking bread, I actually had a pretty loaf of bread. It's also awesome tasting - a tough, chewy, crackly crust with a moist, almost buttery interior. My only regret is that Spork and I made a significant dent in it the very first day. Next time I will make enough for two loaves.

From Food

* My variances from the original recipe: I only needed about 2.5 cups of flour - 3 makes a very stiff dough with my starter. I omitted the oil/margarine and just added enough water to make a slightly sticky dough. I also baked it longer, about 55 minutes total.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

Here's hoping that 2009 is a happy and prosperous year (and perhaps a little less stressful than 2008)! <imagine the sounds of cheering and blaring noisemakers> Happy new year! <clink clink>

And for those that tune in to look at food pictures, here's the apple pie I made for Christmas.