Thursday, August 1, 2013

Food Log: Ciabatta

Made a double recipe of ciabatta with wheat germ and olive oil from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread. Started with a poolish at 100% hydration.

Poolish looked great. Rose for about 18 hours (more than 12 - 16 suggested), with a little bit of starter added to yeast and flour.

Dough was likely over-hydrated. I've never made ciabatta and knew the dough should be moist. After mixing was over, re-mixed a bit to incorporate 1/2-cup (or so) flour.

Initial rise slated for 3 hours. Accidentally added 4 additional hours due to errands. Recovered dough from counter, threw out small amount on floor.

**Read shaping directions for ciabatta before shaping. They are unusual, and you will have to start over from the start if you don't.**

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Food log: Pizza

Made pizza per KA Flour's recipe for pizza crust made from leftover starter. Added a sprig of rosemary + chopped basil to dough.

Cheese: Shredded mozzarella with a little Cheese Guy stuff mixed in (S-- did the cheese)

Sauce: Newman's Own something-or-other

 Toppings: mushrooms, green peppers, capers, onion, eggplant fried in oil.

Final thoughts: Could have used more cheese. I really like green peppers on pizza.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Future lives of the little boomers

Our faith community has been experiencing something of a baby boom recently – one that we have contributed to with the recent birth of J—. There are many positive aspects to suddenly having babies rain down upon one’s peer group, especially when you are intentionally a part of that trend.

One less favorable outcome to this sudden and abrupt lowering of the mean age of congregants is the sudden interest that some folks seem to take in the marriage prospects of the under-two set. I, as an involved new parent, might have thoughts like, “Hooray, he found his hand!” (something I look forward to thinking, any day now). There always seems to be someone in the room though, who looks at all the babies and decides to get an early jump on the wedding planning!

I really realized how prevalent this match-making was recently, when a baby-loving  woman came into the room, carrying someone else’s newborn. She explained that she had been allowed to bring the baby so long as she took care to follow one rule. “No dates. Friends are allowed, but no dating the other babies.”

Sometimes, it is hard to maintain the appropriately polite smile and noncommittal response when somebody decides that Evelyn should marry Yankl or Dassi should marry Dov. (I would be hard-pressed to come up with fake names that are more noteworthy than the names these kids already have, but I enjoy trying.) Why do I get annoyed by the match-making? It’s hard to say. I don’t think I’m offended on the babies’ behalf. I might just be feeling unreasonably perturbed because of the statistical unlikelyhood of any of these babies growing up to marry any other of these babies.

What I really want to say to the match-makers is, “How many couples do you know who have known each other since they were children?” Though I don’t have the statistics to prove it, I’d wager that college sweethearts make up a smaller proportion of married couples than they used to, let alone high school sweethearts. Let alone kids who learned how to crawl together.

It’s very exciting that most of J—’s future friends have parents who are settled in this neighborhood. Many—if not most—of them will grow up together. One day they will sneak cookies before the service ends, and shortly thereafter (in fast-paced parent time) will be asking one another to school dances.

(I may not expect any of these kids to marry each other, but I’m willing to bet money that they will date within their circle, in increasingly unexpected pairings, throughout their teenaged years.)

And then, when it’s all said and done, I look forward to the day when they will all come home from college or trade school, apprenticeship or yeshiva, to gather on someone’s back porch with a few bottles of bitter melon soda or raw cider or whatever the cool kids drink in the early 30’s. I look forward to the conversations they will have, reliving the ups and downs of their childhood together, until someone leaves to spend time with his girl- or boyfriend, who is in town for just one night over the holiday. Then everyone will go their separate ways, though they will always keep in touch.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Rothko baby blanket

For the past few months, as I worked on knitting a sweater, I spent quite a bit of time considering my next yarn-related project. (One has a lot of free thinking time when one's hands are busy with a regular and uncomplicated knitting and purling sequence.) I decided to move on to baby blankets and, more to the point, came to the decision that it would be a great idea to make a series of blankets in the style of Mark Rothko paintings.

When I explained this at work, someone asked "who's Rothko?" and someone else astutely answered, "He's one of those modern artists who throws up a big block of color on a canvas and leaves you thinking, 'Do people really pay money for this?'"

I used to feel the same way, but through the influence of a Rothko-loving friend and a few years of thought, I've mellowed and perhaps even come to like Rothko's style. If nothing else, he seems particularly suited, among artists, to have his work converted into baby blanket form. After some time spent looking over his various works, I decided that my first blanket would be based on this:

1) It's square, which means I can crochet in the round. I like to crochet in the round.
2) The shapes are extremely symmetrical, which means minimal bother with moving one color into the collapsed side of another.
3) I had enough of both colors on hand, so I could start immediately.

After I began, and had gone through most of my first skein of dusky plum cotton yarn, I did discover a couple of cons as well.

1) Rothko made almost no other square paintings, so while my blanket will be based on a Rothko, it will not be the most iconic of Rothkos.
2) This particular painting was one of four made for commission for the Four Seasons dining room in NYC in the late 1950's, a group known collectively as the Seagram Murals. Rothko's goal with the paintings was, according to a contemporary article in Harper's Magazine, to "ruin the appetite of every son of a b**** who ever eats in that room." Charming.

Still, S---'s mystified reaction to that quote tells me that artistic sentiments have shifted a little in this country since the late 1950's. In any case, I have a feeling that these well-to-do socialites would have lost their appetites moreso because they would spend all of lunch trying to figure out how this qualified as art, rather than because it was inherently ugly. I suspect that the blanket form of the design will not lead to any lost appetites, particularly not in this day and age.

Something New on the Internet?!

Through my online explorations, I discovered something truly startling. If Google search results are to be believed, my plan to make a Rothko baby blanket is... wait for it... a relatively original idea! I have found exactly one other Rothko blanket, available for viewing here. I will point out that that one is adult-sized, and according to the information I have found, it hangs in an art gallery and is not for general use.

I found a few other entertaining riffs on Rothko, though -

Christopher Niemann, author of the Abstract City blog at the New York Times, considered a pixelated Rothko tile wall in his bathroom when trying to choose a new and exciting look.

The Salt blog at NPR has a story called "Mark Rice-ko," about a chef who dyed rice with natural food dyes and then made Rothkos out of her colored ingredients. I have a feeling that the article should be about the process of dyeing rice, as the Rothko angle feels like as much of a "why bother?" as some people might consider the process of putting squares of color on canvas in the first place. The story really falls apart at the end, when the chef makes coconut rice out of her "paintings," and with all the colors mixed together the result is extremely ugly brownish green rice that "tastes the same."

My favorite find so far is definitely these Rothko cookies, which look fantastic and would be fun to eat. They would certainly be a tasty thing to snack on while I'm crocheting my baby blanket.