Monday, January 31, 2011

All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.

The inner texture of the bread beneath the crust is called the “crumb”  Open crumb and closed crumb  is used to describe density of the bread.

Closed crumb breads are likely to have a more delicate crumb and the bread is denser. Run of the mill(1) white and wheat bread are typically closed crumb breads.   Bread dough that contain egg, like challah, tend to be denser and close crumbed.


Open crumb bread tends to have an open airy texture, and is often chewier than closed crumb bread varieties.  Open crumb breads are often breads like French and Italian breads.  Sourdough breads are almost always open crumb breads because the sourdough starter traps air.

Open crumb bread  generally has a higher moisture content, a gentler handling process and a longer fermentation period . . . see my recipes for magic bread and sandwich bread. 

A closed and open crumb loaf of about the same size could be compared in weight. The open crumb bread weigh much less since the dough is not as tightly packed together when it is baked. The closed crumb bread loaf will have more actual bread per square inch than an open crumb and will generally be softer and denser instead of chewy and light.

Closed crumb bread is often the best choice for sandwiches and open crumb breads are good for dipping in oil or spreading with butter or cheese.

Getting the perfect texture bread takes trial and error and practice, practice, practice.  Luckily, even your less than ideal loaves will taste yummy!

French Bread
  • 6 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 1/2 (.25 Ounce) Packages Active Dry
  • Yeast
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 2 Cups Warm Water (110 Degrees F)
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornmeal
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
 In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir in 2 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Little by little, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball.

Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch dough down, and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends.Grease a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water, and brush on. 

Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.  With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. 

Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread tests done. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.

(1) In the old days, a mill was used to refine grain into flour. Each run had the same result: a certain quality of flour. So, run of the mill means that something is very standard and usual--no exceptions.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

I remember my first romantic kiss from a boy as clear as anything.    I was twelve years old and it was the summer before I headed off to 7th grade.  I was spending a couple weeks of vacation with my best friend.  There was neighbor boy of my friend, who I had a puppy-love crush on, hanging around with us one day. 
He had a damned cute tush . . . in fact, I would grab his butt every chance I got when we were in school until the day he got sick of it and told me to knock it off.  You’d think he’d have been flattered but nooooooooooo . . .  that’s irrelevant to the story, but true.   

Anyhoo. . . he said he wanted to kiss me.  I was shy . . . yes, *I* was shy . . . and I wouldn’t let him.  He kept bugging me so I told him that if he could catch me I’d let him kiss me.  I honestly thought I could outrun him . . . or did I . . . I don’t know.  Whatever the case may be, I took off running.  And this boy with the adorable buns took chase.  I don’t think I got ten yards before he caught me.  Being the bashful little thing that I was I put up a fight . . . sort of?   Fair is fair . . . he caught me and he got to kiss me.    It was more like a smooch . . . short and sweet.  After that we went into the house to play Q-Bert on Atari. 

Well, romantic may be too strong of a word but it was the first kiss I ever got from a boy.

It’s amazing the stupid crap that rattles around in my head.


From smooching to knitting . . . there's really no rhyme or reason to how my brain works so just go with it.

I'm going to show you how to make a dish towel and matching dish cloth

                             Simple Dish Cloth

Very good for beginners

Cast on 48 sts

Knit 6 rows

Begin pattern and knit until desired length

End with row 5 in the pattern and knit 6 rows, cast off.

Row 1: K
Row 2: K7, P3, *K5, P3; rep. from * until last 7 sts, K7
Row 3: K3, P4, K3, *P5, K3; rep. from * until last 7 sts, P4, K3
Row 4: As row 2
Row 5: K
Row 6: K3, P3, *K5, P3; rep. from * until last 3 sts, K3
Row 7: K6, *P5, K3; rep. from * until last 3 sts, K3
Row 8: As row 6

You can use the same pattern and make another smaller dishcloth or a facecloth.  I've modified the pattern for a smaller edge.  

Cast on 36 sts

Knit 4 rows

End with row 5 in the pattern and knit 4 rows, cast off.

Row 1: K
Row 2: K5, P3, *K5, P3; rep. from * until last 7 sts, K5
Row 3: K2, P3, K3, *P5, K3; rep. from * until last 7 sts, P3, K2
Row 4: As row 2
Row 5: K
Row 6: K2, P2, *K5, P3; rep. from * until last 2 sts, K2
Row 7: K4, *P5, K3; rep. from * until last 3 sts, K1
Row 8: As row 6

Friday, January 28, 2011

Firewater Friday - Pants on the ground

I don’t know about you but I hate to see kids (and worser(1), adults) wearing their baggy ass pants below   . . . well, their ass. This silly fashion trend has been around since I was in high-school, which is to say a fairly long time. 

What’s the point?  It looks stupid and it can’t be comfortable having to hitch your pants up or have to hold your pants up with one hand or walk like you just got sodomized in a ridiculous effort to keep your pants from dropping to your ankles. 

If you were ever curious about this fad, here’s what I found out.  I can’t say whether or not it’s true but this is what I found on the interwebs about this goofy “style”.  And, if it’s on the Internet then it MUST be true.

This thing started in the 80’s as a way for gang member to identify whether they have done a stint in prison. Or, at the very least, imply  that that they’ve done some time.

What was once a mark of shame is now fashion statement.  Originally, wearing your pants in this manner was a prison thing that signified that you were another prisoner's property. If you were some dude’s bitch, he forced to wear your pants this way so it would be easier for him to pull your pants down and corn-hole you.

Seriously, who would make something like that up??

To those of you who think this look is uber cool, do you really want to give the impression that you’re available to do the bunghole boogie?  Uhm . . . ew!

In several municipalities it is actually a crime to where pants in a such a way as to show underwear . . . indecent exposure and whatnot. 

It’s ironic that a fashion statement that started in prison will actually get you thrown in the slammer. 


A man has creatively invented a created a device to keep saggy pants from hitting the ground.  Subs™ is a garter belt that “fastens around the waist like a belt and is connected to expandable straps that clip onto pants, regulating how low-slung they are.”

You can purchase your Subs™ here.


Speaking of pants on the ground . . . I had just started a job and the funniest, but embarrassing, thing happened.  My new boss and I were moving some equipment; computers, printers and whatnot.  My boss was a big, BIG man.  He lifted a printer off a table and his pants slid down his legs.  There he stood with the printer in his arms in his in his stripy boxers and his pants around his ankles.  I'm not sure who was more horrified.  TOO freaking funny!


Pants on the ground

  • 1 Oz Vodka
  • 1 Oz Gin
  • 1 Oz Tequila
  • 2 Oz Orange Juice
  • 8 Oz Cranberry Juice

Fill a glass half full of ice.  Add the vodka, gin and tequila. 

Top off with cranberry juice, leaving a little head space.

Pour orange juice on top and garnish with an orange wedge.  

Sit back and keep on your pants up.

(1)  not a typo  :-)~

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Food for thought

I am by no means a germ-o-phobe.  I actually believe that exposure to bacteria helps you build resistance to them.  However, I don’t follow the five-second rule.  You know the rule . . .  if food falls on the ground, its okay to eat it as long as it is picked up within five seconds.

Uhm . . . I don’t think so.  Ew.

It’s not *MY* rule and I don’t follow it.  I pretty much have to beat my husband off with a baseball bat to keep him from doing it.

I have my reasons but they’re probably not what you imagine them to be . . .  hold that thought. 


There have been real, honest-to-goodness scientific research done on this.    Yups, your tax dollars at work.

Surveys show that 96% of men and 13% of women were familiar with the five-second rule and many follow it.  Though it often depends on the food dropped; people are more likely to pick up a cookie as opposed to a carrot.

Depending on the surface type and environment . . . porous vs. impervious and humidity vs. dry . . .  bacteria can live for days or weeks or even months.  MONTHS, I say.

Microbes are everywhere around us, not just on floors. They thrive in wet kitchen sponges and end up on freshly wiped countertops.

One study shows that a bologna sandwich left on previously contaminated countertops picked up 150 to 8,000 bacteria within five seconds.  Left for a full minute, they collected about 10 times more.  Generally speaking, your floor or countertop at home will contain only a thousandth the number of bacteria applied by researchers but food dropped on them will still be likely to pick up several bacteria.  That may not seem like a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but think about this . . . the infectious dose, the smallest number of bacteria that can actually cause illness, is as few as 10 for some salmonellas, fewer than 100 for the deadly strain of E. coli.

If you removed a sandwich from its protective plastic sleeve and put it down repeatedly on the sleeve’s outer surface, which was meant to protect the sandwich by blocking microbes. What’s on the outer surface?

Some food types pick up more bacteria than others.  Wet or sticky foods like a lolly-pop obviously pick up more bacteria than, say, a pretzel.  And that wet and sticky food is also picking up other filth, like hair and lord knows what else. 

Other studies have determined that outside surfaces like sidewalks and pavement are cleaner than the kitchen floor in terms of the types of germs that cause illnesses.  Kitchen floors are more likely to contain harmful bacteria from uncooked foods and wet mops than a sidewalk.


So, why is it that *I* won’t pick up food off the floor and eat it . . . even if it’s less than five seconds?  The cat.  Assuming I could get to a dropped morsel before she could, all I picture is her little princess paws with their little jelly beans of death pawing around in the litter box . . . poopies, piddles . . . then traipsing all over the house.  Ew!
What's your own personal dropped food rule?


Sweet and Spicy Crockpot Lamb Shank

  • 1 Piece Roasting Lamb
  • 1 Cup Grape Jelly
  • 1 Tbls Ketchup
  • 1 Tbls Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbls Balsamic Vinigar
  • 1 Tsp Grated Ginger
  • 1 Tsp Sweet Chili Sauce
  • 1 Tbls Hot Pepper Flakes

Score the meat well to allow the flavor to get in.  Put the meat in the crock pot.

Combine all the other ingredients and pour over the meat.

Cook on low for about 8 hours (or probably about 4 hours on high).

Remove the meat from the crockpot and keep warm.  

Whisk in corn starch or very fine flour mixed with water to thicken up the sauce.  As the sauce thickens the oil will come to the surface.  Pour any oil off and use the sauce with the meat.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chew on this

Chewing has been used as a metaphor for mulling over and thrashing out for centuries . . . when y’all chew, yer jaws move up and down, kinda like they do when you’s speaking. 

The action of a ruminant, such as a cow, chewing its cud gave us "chew the cud”; the seemingly never-ending process in which cows chew and chew and chew in order to fully digest their food.  In the euphemistic sense, chewing the cud is chatting in a slow and aimless manner; seemingly on and on and on to digest thoughts.

"Having left her a little while to chew the cud, if I may use that expression, on these first tidings."

Sort of like “chew the rag”, which was originally army slang for complaining.  You know like to rag on [someone] and to chew [someone] out.  What is a rag and why would one want to chew it?   In olden days, 'red rag' was slang for the tongue.   Chewing the rag is similar to flapping your gums and clattering your tongue “on choice morsels of gossip upon which they could feast."

"Shut your potato trap, and give your redrag a holiday."

“Gents, I could chew the rag hours on end, just spilling out the words and never know no more than a billy-goat what I’d been saying”

Two other possibilities to masticate over . . .
. . . Some say “chew the rag” came from soldiers chewing on a piece of cloth when they ran out of tobacco.
. . .  Others say that "chew the rag" came from black-powder rifle days when men sat around talking as they chewed the rags used for wadding a ball into the rifle.

“Discovering in his mouth a tongue,
He must not his palaver balk;
So keeps it running all day long,
And fancies his red rag can talk.”

The idiom, “chew the fat”, is a phrase that the origination of which is something else to gnaw on.

Well, Sit yourself down and let's chew the fat for a while over “bringing home the bacon” before we get to that one.
I suppose it could be said that if you managed to catch and hold down a greased pig in a contest and won said pig you would be the lucky person bringing home the bacon.

There is a custom in England known as the Dunmow Flitch first started at Great Dunmow, Essex in the 13th century.  It is said that the ruling noble would give a flitch(2) to any man who knelt on the hard stone of the doorway of Dunmow church and swore before the congregation and God that for a year and a day he and his wife had not given each other tongue lashings. Believe it or not, this tradition is still in practice today, though it is the town that awards the bacon now. 

The explanation I’m going with . . . primarily because it fits in with the theme of this post and not based on any solid fact  . . . is in days of old when knights were bold pork was such a rare commodity that workers were sometimes paid in rashers(1) of salt-cured noms.  So, bringing home the bacon was quite literally the equivalent of a big payday.  It was something special that when visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

So, come over and chew the fat.

Other bites on the saying include  . . .
. . . Inuit used to chew on pieces of whale blubber almost like chewing gum. The blubber took quite a while to dissolve, so it just sort of helped pass the time while they were doing something else.
 . . . Sailors had to chew on salt pork when supplies were low, complaining about the poor food as they did.

Just sayin’ . . .


Cher’s Sausage Stuffed Pancakes

-          1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
-          3 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
-          1 Teaspoon Salt
-          1 Tablespoon White Sugar
-          1 1/4 Cups Milk
-          1 Egg
-          3 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
-     Browned Breakfast Sausages
-          Maple Syrup and Butter

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.  Press two sausages into the pancake.

Brown on both sides and serve hot with maple syrup and butter.

(1) A thin slice of bacon, or a portion (an order) consisting of three slices of bacon or ham.

 A flitch is the side, or a steak cut from the side, of an animal or fish. The term now usually occurs only in connection with a side of salted and cured pork in the phrase a flitch of bacon.