I've had a busy few days. I use the term busy lightly, because my days, while productive, and often full, tend to be slow, and meandering. But, my friends, that makes the little joys, like the ones I have recently enjoyed, so much more joyful.
Friday began with the purchase of two new toys that I am certain will bring a continuous cheer to my life. The first: a heavy spouted bowl from Williams-Sonoma. The best parts, besides for its fanciness? It's yellow, and cost a whopping five dollars! That's oh-so-perfect for me right now, considering I a) do not currently have a kitchen of my own to store my new toys in (that's why I have a collection of them in my closet), and b) do not have money to be buying toys, especially ones for my non-existent kitchen.
The second toy is an exception because it has been on my wish list for a long long time. It is, my friends, an ice cream maker! Yay! Tomorrow, I believe, I will begin preparations for my first batch, a pumpkin ice cream, because my mom has canned pumpkin that's taking up too much space in her baking cabinet and because she baked an oatmeal cake that pumpkin ice cream will complement just fine.
Both good things, no?
Earlier this week I whipped together a little biga starter for a ciabatta recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. The biga is simply a combination of water, a bit of flour, an even bittier bit of yeast (for this recipe, 1/16 tsp), and should have a consistency similar to that of bread dough. There's little to no room for error in this stage of the recipe, but I was convinced that my biga was a little off. I let it rest in an old wonton soup container, waiting for it to triple in size. It grew, and smelled wonderfully yeasty, but the container was embarrassingly large. I think it was mocking the biga, that had become tough and deflated, as it rested in the fridge until Game Day. But yesterday when I took the biga out to de-chill before adding it to the rest of the dough, it happily bubbled and rose a bit. I was optimistic when I mixed the final dough, but less so when it decided to rise only a very little after several hours. I blamed the kitchen, which I think is too cold, but also take some responsibility. I substituted the recommended regular flour for bread flour, which produces a firmer crumb. The catch is that if you use bread flour, you need less. I remembered this when making the biga, but not when making the dough. Even with approximately a quarter cup of too much flour then, I managed to produce a very tasty, if too-tough take on ciabatta.
That's the thing I've found about baking bread. It's difficult to get it perfect, but very very easy to produce something very very tasty. I happily devour my tasty imperfections as I'm learning.
This is long. I apologize. (I told you my days aren't actually busy). But I'd still like to share my lunch and post-lunch activity. Bear with me.
My mother snuck off to Fairway without me, but brought back with her a fresh remarkably tasty baguette, a really stinky wedge of brie, and vanilla beans for my ice cream making adventures! So, I forgave her for leaving me behind, and thanked her for inspiring my lunch: an open-faced baguette and brie sandwich decorated with sliced pears and mixed greens (also partially inspired by a grilled cheese I ate last week in Montreal - cheddar, apple, cucumber, and pesto. Really, really good. The cucumber sounds weird, but trust me, it was a very appropriate addition).
And finally, Valentine's Day is coming up. I have no job, a sorry social life, and a very creative sister who directed me to Martha Stewart's website and then drove me to the crafts store. I spent hours perched at the counter yesterday creating a beautiful mess of hearts and glue stick residue. I really, really suggest you do the same.
Cardstock paper, in Valentine's colors
stamps or stencils
red and/or white doilies