Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome Spring!!!

Now we've all "sprung forward" so you know the seasons are's starting to feel warmer around here, and rain a lot more, so I guess that is good?
Whether spring is fully here or not, my paper snowflake decorations were starting to seem depressing, so I decided it was time to move onto a new season. I got some yellow mums (because they look great for weeks!) and divided up the bunch into lots of vases to spread the cheer.

I also made flag garlands out of paper because the windows were looking a little bare. They are just diamonds out of magazines that I folded in half and glued over a piece of yarn. It is hard to tell in these back-lit pictures, but they are pretty and colorful. 

It occurred to me that this could be a really cool way to "scrapbook"--for instance if you saved pieces of paper from cards people sent you or events you went to, then it could mean something AND look pretty. Or (too late for me) but you could save a piece of the wrapping from each gift at a wedding shower to make a flag garland. I think that would be so lovely. 

Nathan checks his email and flags in the window
In some great news, my friend Steph (and her boyfriend Ben) who I know from my time studying in Costa Rica, has just moved to Seattle, and not only that, she has moved not two blocks from us! Last weekend was her birthday, so we met up with her best friend from high school, Hannah, who went to Mt Holyoke with me, and Michael, who also knows Steph from Costa Rica. Hannah's mom also joined for brunch at Odfellow's Cafe.

Steph with her birthday eggs benedict
Nathan, me, and Michael

In other happenings, I decided to try to make the bread that Andy Banka makes, because it is delicious. I don't think I've ever made real yeasted bread before. 
Mixing the ingredients: flour, water, yeast, salt--pretty simple
After I let it sit
After baking! TA DA!

Ok, so I'm no bread baking genius, but this recipe was very easy. It's Jim Lahey's famous NO KNEED bread, but I know it better as Andy's Bread. Here is the recipe!

ANDY'S BREAD (adapted from the Jim Lahey's recipe)
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
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: One 1½-pound loaf.

Making it in my cornish-ware kept the loaf perfectly round.
SO I just copy-pasted fromt the NYT, but Andy said he had better luck if you just let the dough rise for the half hour the oven was heating and not for 2 hours, otherwise he finds the dough flattens. So I struck that direction from the recipe! Also, the recipe calls for "instant yeast" but andy says regular yeast is just fine, and that is what I used.
As for me and my complete inability to follow a recipe, I let the bread sit out 24 hours initially instead of 18, I skipped the part where you let it sit 15 min loosely covered in plastic wrap, and then only let it sit 20 min while the oven pre-heated. I also put the seam side down in the pot. And it still turned out pretty good. A little denser than the perfect consistency of Andy's. Hope to make again and maybe actually follow the directions. Maybe.

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