Saturday, January 8, 2011

Holiday Neglect & Bread Recipe

So I was on Christmas vacation, and I didn't post. Oh well. Here is a bread recipe to make up for it...

Basic Bread
Makes about 2-3 loaves, depending on your pan.
2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 lukewarm water (not too hot, or you’ll kill the yeast!)
Mix these three together in a bowl big enough to easily fit about 4 cups of water. (It’ll make mixing easier, later).
Melt approximately a half a cup of butter/margarine in the microwave and set aside to cool. The original recipe calls for lard, I think, but not too many have lard just lying around. This butter amount is pretty flexible… you can use less or more, depending on your choice. Butter is fat and fat feeds yeast, so using a lot of butter will probably shorten the amount of time it takes to rise, but will also make the bread richer. If you’re using salted butter you probably will want to cut the amount of salt you add in the dry ingredients. If you’re using a lot of salted butter, take out the salt entirely.
In a big bowl, mix:
8 cups of flour. I usually use about 50-50 bread flour and all purpose. If you want whole-wheat try something like 70-30 allpurpose/bread and whole wheat. Whole wheat flour is more dense, so keep that in mind… you don’t want to use just whole wheat flour or it could end up more like a rock than bread. Also, if you don’t have bread flour, no worries, it will still be good with regular ol’ AP.
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 cup of sugar
Stir those all together nicely. If you want it to be a sweeter, more breakfast-y type bread, add a little more sugar. (I think 2/3rds of a cup would be nice if you want breakfast bread (breadfast?), but I haven’t tried it).
Now go back to the bowl with the yeast.
Crack in one egg
add 2 cups of lukewarm water
and add the previously melted and now cool-ish butter.
Stir that together so the egg is relatively well mixed, then pour it into your dry ingredients. Mix it all up. At first you can use a spoon, but it’s easier to use your hands. The dough should naturally ball together… if there’s a lot of flour in the bottom of the bowl that won’t mix in, add more water. If it gets too sticky, add more flour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and kneed for about ten minutes.
Kneeding is fun. The dough should begin to feel smoother and more elastic as you work with it (the gluten is lengthening! mwahaha). To kneed:
Press the heels of your hands into the dough, pushing it away from you.
Take the ‘top’ end of the dough (furthest away from you), and fold it down towards you.
Turn the dough 1/4 turn counter-clockwise (or any way you want, so long as you turn it haha).
Repeat steps one through three.
The longer you work the dough, the longer and stretchier the gluten strands get. These gluten strands allow the dough to hold the tiny air bubbles formed by the yeast, and so the final bread product will have a nice crumb. :) 10 minutes is the standard recommended amount.
Then let your dough sit in a warm-ish not-drafty place for about 1-2 hours or so. The bread shouldn’t get to be more than double in bulk… or you risk it collapsing. If you need to speed the rising process:
  • You can add more fat (butter) or more sugar… these feed yeast.
  • Or, without altering the recipe… Turn your oven on low heat for about 2-3 minutes. Then turn it off and quick slide the bowl of dough in, without letting the heat escape. The heat is not enough to cook the bread, but it will make the yeast more active.
Once it’s done the first rise, gently kneed it for only a minute or so, to get rid of any huge air bubbles. divide it into pieces about the same size as your loaf pan, or into smaller pieces, if you want buns. Put one piece in each loaf pan. (Or whatever) And allow to rise again, again about an hour or two. If you only have one loaf pan, you can throw the other pieces into the fridge to slow the rising process or the freezer for later use (just remember that they have to have the 2nd rise after they come out of the freezer or fridge!).
Pre-heat your oven to 400 F.
When the bread is risen, pop it in the oven, for about 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375F and bake for a remaining 20-ish minutes.
Bread is done when it comes out of the pan and sounds hollow if you knock on the bottom.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stitch Markers

I really need some....

I've switched projects from the mysterious thing I mentioned a few posts ago to some fingerless gloves, which, of course, require increasing for the thumb gusset. And I'm using little pieces of paper to keep track of my stitches. How ghetto.

So I was searching stitch markers on etsy and came across these:

From beadpassion's etsy shop

Aren't they adorable!! She has other ones too. I definitely think I need to get my hands on these as soon as possible... Maybe I'll order them as a Christmas present to myself. Knitting with these would take the awesome level to a whole new level of awesome.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I did it!

Well apparently guilt-induced guilt is very effective!

I did finally get around to studying last night (not very much, but hey it's something). I just finished the exam about 2 hours ago. And it died under my pencil... it begged for mercy... but I spared no question! Mwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! And I knitted... unfortunately it's for Christmas so I can't really give any details. But I'm about one pattern repeat away from completion!

Here is a picture of the yarn, though. I'll get pictures of the FO up after Christmas, but for now this will do.
And I shall call it squishy and it shall be my squishy...
For those of you wondering, this deliciousness is Diamond Yarn Luxury Baby Alpaca Sport (link goes to Ravelry). And oh boy they aren't kidding when they say luxury. It's so soft and nice and I'm sorely tempted to keep this present for myself but I won't, because that would just be silly  bad probably not so good.

Part of the reason I got so much done yesterday knitting-wise was because I was watching TV at the same time. I find it really, really difficult to just sit down and knit, unless the pattern is really complicated or something. This project I'm working on now is dead simple, mostly stockinette... and so it doesn't really need my full attention. Last night I knit and watched episodes of Full Metal Alchemist, which sounds is really nerdy. My defense is that my boyfriend started watching it and recommended it to me. Haha. I can never seem to get motivated enough to "just knit"... although I've got my eye on some really pretty lace patterns, so I might need to break that habit. I knit in cars, on buses, in class, while watching TV... but hardly ever just by itself. I'm currently hunting around for an audio book copy of WoT book one The Eye of The World to see if maybe I could listen to reading and knit at the same time. I generally much prefer to read a book myself, but I'll discuss that in another post, I guess.
I promised pictures of fresh baked bread a few days back, and I have a confession to make... I totally ate all the bread before taking pictures of it. Instead you get a conciliatory photo of these really cool penguin crackers President's Choice has started making. President's Choice, for all you non-Canadians out there, is a supermarket brand that makes some really tasty stuff*.

Trying to make love work despite a cable needle chasm... much more charming than those stupid Red Bull commercials.

Anyhow, lovelies, I shall post again at a later date. (Tomorrow, probably, but saying "at a later date" is more suspenseful)

* I am in no way affiliated with PC. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Found a new blog! And Guilt-induced Guilt

Plus side: I have just discovered Half-Assed Knit Blog, which is absolutely hilarious and also awesome.

Down side: After reading her knitting goodness, I have been dragged down into a mire of guilt which reminds me that I have:
a) not knitted anything in a while and thus am facing certain likely doom for Christmas present time 
b) not studied for my socioanthropologie de la famille exam which is tomorrow. 
c) spent all day in my pjs (irrelevant but STILL)


Studying will commence now! And I will knit something tonight!! *puts on determined hat*.

Brown Ajah, apparently

According to the several tests I just wasted time with took, I'd be a Brown. That really doesn't surprise me, actually. I'm not really suited to Green... I'm not a warrior all the time (although, if I were in Randland I'd definitely use all my knowledge to fight the DO), and Blue's manipulative ways doesn't appeal to me. White is too cold and impassive, and I get the sneaking suspicion that I have too much of a temper to be a Grey. Now that saidin's been cleansed, there's really no sense in choosing Red. I would be a Yellow, except I think they're too specialized, and I would want to do more.

I'd definitely choose the Brown. I'd been like a more-awesome Verin, except not dead and not Darkfriend.
That said, given RJ's love of a good mind-fuck, I'm not entirely convinced that Verin's really dead. We shall see.

Towers of Midnight (Unorthadox Book Review)

(Spoiler Alert!)

For those not in the know, Robert Jordan's newest Wheel of Time novel Towers of Midnight came out in November. I was saving up to buy it for my birthday, and I finished it a few days ago. It's been stuck in my head ever since.

The first time I picked up a WoT book was at a book fair in seventh grade. Lemme see... that would be in 2002. It was The Great Hunt... and I've been reading WoT ever since. Although I, like most other fans, are well aware of the flaws in Jordan's writing, I still find these books addicting. They've changed in flavour just a bit since Jordan died and Sanderson took over, but I still get the same thrill, reading them.

Towers of Midnight was both awesome and confusing. The time lines for each character group (those surrounding the three ta'veren, as always, and then the groups around the SuperGirls), were slightly out of sync, which was kinda odd. And there are some things that I just don't understand. Like the title. WHY was it called Towers of Midnight!? The towers are in Seanchan, and this book barely has any Seanchan in it at all! It kinda felt like reading an essay without a thesis, lol. Which was kinda disappointing... I love Tuon's character, and I can't wait to see what happens with her and Mat, who is another of my favourite characters.

And oh, poor Mat! I guess now we know what "One half of the light of the world" means. I'm still burning with curiousity to find out what the other half of the answer means "to save the world"... but I knew Moiraine would be back and now she is. Interesting.

I loved Perrin's parts in this book... last book I skimmed everything to get back to Mat, but this book I really enjoyed watching Perrin. And the hammer forging was just so cool. I'm also glad that Galad has taken over the Whitecloaks... hopefully they stop being so looney and get their act together.

But as much as I loved it, this book didn't really answer any questions. We didn't really hear anything from the Seanchan, Mordeth (who I'm convinced will turn up and screw over somebody yet), any of the still living Forsaken except for Graendal and Mesaana (and Graendal's fate remains a mystery), Shaidar Haran... really anyone on the bad side. Aside from Egwene's defeat of Mesaana, Perrin's fight with Graendal's Trollocs, and the battles in Saldaea, we don't really see any activity from the Darkfriends or Forsaken at all. I feel like this book was probably just to wrap up some loose ends (like Perrin and Slayer) whilst setting the stage for the LB... but I feel like I'm missing a lot of information.

I'm going to have to re-read the series now... Although I've been reading these books since I was 12, I only own The Great Hunt, The Gathering Storm, and now Towers of Midnight. I'll have to round up the others so I can read them, and I think that these books are worth buying, finally. I've read them all via the library, but I'm realizing that if I owned them I would re-read them enough times to make it worth the price.

And, in a final blow of nerdiness, I'm seriously considering making an Ajah shawl, so I can wear it while re-reading and feel awesome. If I can find a pattern I think would fit, I'm totally doing it. If I get into the Harry Potter House Cup on Ravelry, I think I'm going to submit an Ajah shawl as an O.W.L.

The final question then... what Ajah would I be?

Friday, December 10, 2010

And now just 3 more to go...

So, first take home handed in = check.
second exam written = check.

I think it went okay. I am very happy I did some reading just before the test, otherwise I know I would have gotten at least a few questions wrong. I know there are questions that I didn't answer exactly the way she wanted them answered, but I'm not sure exactly how far away I was from the perfect response. I suppose I will see come January.

My next exam's on Sunday, which means all day tomorrow is study study study time! I probably should be studying today too, but I can't bring myself to do it. I'm tired of exams, and they've only just started.

The only good thing about having exams all squished together like this is that I'll have a lot less to worry about come Sunday afternoon.