Monday, October 10, 2016

Telling the Story

According to Wikipedia:

"Long-form journalism is a branch of journalism dedicated to longer articles with larger amounts of content.[1] The length of long-form articles is between that of a traditional article and that of a periodical.[citation needed] Long-form articles often take the form of creative nonfiction or narrative journalism."

There are some things, topics, stories, which just don't fit very well in a Facebook post, and don't even get me started on 140 characters. I know that blogging is so 'yesterday' but I still read blogs, I listen to NPR because I want to know more about current events than I can get in a 30 second 'story'.  And too, I guess I am just wordy.  My brother is a writer and a master at getting more mileage with fewer words, but he too is a story teller not a tweeter.

As some know, I am a hobby baker and in the last few years I have honed my craft in efforts to make 'authentic' sourdough French bread.  I'm pretty happy with the bread I make but this is a lot like playing baseball in the world series: You can't rest on your laurels, there is another game the next day and you have to be on your game every game or, .... you fail.  

Another thing about SD French:  this product only contains five ingredients, flour, water, sourdough yeast, a little oil and a pinch of salt. and like so many French food recipes it is technique more than anything which separates fabulous from failure. 

It takes a long time to produce a loaf of SD French.  I usually start on Friday evening when I 'feed' my starter.  Then on Saturday you mix the dough, and then start the bulk ferment, a process than can take form three to six hours.  Then, it is into the 'bannetons' those little baskets that the loaf rises in for the final proofing.  But that process takes place in a refrigerator, ... OVER NIGHT!  OK, now we are on to Sunday and still no fragrant loaf stinking up the kitchen.  So Sunday morn the loaf comes out of the fridge and the final rise begins,.  This takes anywhere from one to several hours, while you preheat your oven in anticipation of sliding the loaf onto the 450 degree baking stone at just the right moment.  Too soon and your loaf will split or crack wide open, too late and it will fall flat, looking lke a a ciabatta but very dense, heavy and flat like a  ... cow pie.

So, somewhere along the way I woke up to the fact that it was folly to spend all that time and only produce ONE loaf.  It takes almost no additional time to produce two, or even three loaves.  Not that we eat three loaves of bread, they get 'distributed' among the neighbors and co-workers. This is no great financial gift, remember what I said about the ingredients?  There is probably not 15 cents worth of ingredients in a loaf of my SD French.  But when I went from one to three loaves I decided that I needed to trade up from my dough whisk to a real mixer.

I picked up a beautiful (used) KitchenAid 6 quart mixer on Ebay.  It wasn't cheap, but it made mixing a three loaf batch of bread dough a breeze.  I could still only bake one loaf at a time but so far everything was working.

But here in America there is the relentless drive for bigger and better, and MORE.  It may be my  OCD tendencies but after a time of contentment I yearned for MORE!  I reasoned that going from one to three loaves in a batch had worked pretty well, so why not double down?  Why not make a six loaf batch of dough? This worked great in theory, but it turned out that there was no way my beautiful 6 quart mixer was able make such a batch of dough.  I wound up making two separate batches of dough, one after the other.  I did this for a while but lurking in the back of my mind was the notion that, 'if I only had a beefier mixer I could make all that dough in one batch and that would be a time saver. 

So for the last few years I have kept my eye out for a mixer that could handle the task.  'Just looking' I rationalized but as I kept on with my baking 'habit' I got more and more serious about a mixer big enough for the task.  

A couple months ago (August) I found a much bigger (20 Qt) commercial scale mixer at an unbelievable price.  Some backing and forthing via email on the details and provenance of this mixer and one bright Saturday morning I was on the road to Newburg (A suburb of Portland OR) to check out a 'real' mixer. At first glance I will admit the size of the thing was intimidating, but also seductive.  This thing was big, REALLY BIG!  Very low hours was the claim and it looked like it had hardly been used and never used hardly.  It sounded good running with no load.  The more I fiddled with it the more it the more it seemed like it wasn't that much bigger than an 'normal' mixer.  The seller had to do vey little selling, I sold myself on this thing.

It sat on a wheeled cart and that was a good thing because when I rolled it out to the truck the cart was just about even with the tailgate, good thing also because there is no way I was going to be able to lift this thing. With a little Rube Goldberg/McGyver I was able to wrestle it into the middle of the truck bed.  I tied it down as best I could and then took a step back and looked at it,  The thing towered above the cab of the truck (Ford Ranger).  It looked like King Kong lashed to the deck of a freighter  ready to sail into NY Harbor.  So heavy that it sat on the floor of the kitchen for two weeks

until I was able to secure a rolling cart capable of handing the beast.  Neighbor Troy came over and helped me lift it onto the cart.

Sheesh it looked waaaay out of scale in the kitchen (had I made a stupid?)

The timing wasn't great.  In my world August is not a baking month, there are just too many things which call me to the great out doors.  The test drive would have to wait.

As I write I am half way through a four day weekend, the result of an unusual alignment of the stars, the planets, a federal holiday and my somewhat unconventional work schedule.  And it just so happens that this has been a wet and chilly run of northwest weather which nature provides to soften us up for the brutal  realities of November and December here in the great (WET) pacific northwest.  In other words nearly perfect baking weather.

I dumped the ingredients for a 6 loaf batch of dough into the bowl and the bottom of the dough hook was barely covered.  I was seriously worried that this thing was indeed way too big for my purposes.  But once I turned it on my mountain of ice cold fear melted into a puddle of warm satisfaction.  The machine did it's job to perfection. A day later I had six nice loaves.  Some to give and one to take to my old riding Buddy Brian's birthday bash.

(after gifting and pot-lucking - 4 loaves remain)

It was a potluck so bread seemed like a good idea but just a plain loaf seemed a little underwhelming.  Then at the last minute I had a lightening bolt idea: Warm garlic bread!  I didn't really have time: to pull this off I would need to slice the loaf, mix up some garlic butter (real garlic,  granules would never do) and somehow warm up the loaf before we arrived.   I was able to slice the bread and mix and spread the garlic butter which I had nuked in the microwave.  I stuck the loaf in the oven to warm but after getting my coat and preparing to leave I realized I'd need a half hour and it was time to go now.  I removed the bread from the foil, rewrapped it in two layers of 'plastic film' then wrapped that in a dish towel and popped it into the microwave. I picked a power setting of 2 and set the timer for 2 minutes and ran off to put my shoes on.  I came back shortly to see how this was progressing and  ...FREAKED!  In my haste I had set the microwave on HIGH for 20 minutes.  Fortunately less than 2 minutes had transpired so I pulled the bread out, rolled back the dish towel  and, gasped.  The plastic film had shrunk down tightly around the loaf and the bread underneath looked soggy. YIKES!  I quickly cut the plastic film off and replaced the aluminum foil,  rewrapping the whole thing back in the dish towel.  I wasn't hopeful but too late for plan B.  At least one thing had gone right, it was warm!

I should not have worried, when we got there I unwrapped the little bundle of garlic joy and plucked out a test slice. I anticipated an aerobic chewing exercise but it was ... PERFECT!  Well perfect it you like your garlic bread with a little too much butter and  a whole lot of garlic. It was well received by all who huddled in that chilly cooking shelter! What is it they say?  Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good?

I am blessed.

Tell me this, could this possibly be boiled down to a FaceBook post?  (I don't think so either)

1 comment:

  1. 1. Like.

    2. Keep blogging.

    3. I'm trying to make myself get back to blogging. One can always find an old blog past and recall a well remembered ride, or maybe a forgotten one. But finding something on Crackbook: a) good luck, and b) the FB posts almost never evoke old memories.