Saturday, October 30, 2010

R2D2 vs. Breadman

So, for my birthday James gave me a bread machine. It looks like R2D2, so that's the name it goes by now. However, earlier in the year Sue had told me that she had this Breadman laying around and that I could have it. In order to pick one to take to the apartment with me I decided to give these two a whirl. (This was in August.)

The test bread was brioche! I used The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook recipe. I saw it involved a lot of butter folding. It couldn't disappoint.

Results:
Breadman finished in 3 hours and 20 minutes.
R2D2 finished in 4 hours and 10 minutes.

Breadman's rise cycle was significantly shorter. R2D2 started baking when Breadman was just about finished. However, R2D2's cycle did include cooling down. I'm not sure this is a good thing, but R2D2 seems to blow cold air around the pan to cool it. So, the two loaves were cooled around the same time.

Another point worth noting is Artoo dances around the counter a lot. Last weekend I was making a sourdough loaf and neglected to put away the container of milk that was standing next to bread machine. The milk got knocked down on the carpet by Artoo during its kneading cycle. I was a huge mess. Ugh.

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Taste test:
I couldn't get enough of Artoo's brioche. No butter required. Breadman's wasn't as good. Too much crust? I decided I would make bread pudding using Breadman's loaf and save Artoo's for eating brioche plain. It was really good.

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It made excellent french toast a couple of days later too.
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And guess who moved in with me to my apartment? It's my little-naughty-milk-knocking-off friend Artoo.
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Oh, and how addictive are these stupid ass jigsaw puzzles? This was completed the August, the same day I did the bread machine testing. This panda kept me from checking on the bread every 5 seconds. (And that is very hard to do. It's like I'm expecting to see little gnomes kneading away in there and folding little pockets of goodness into the dough. Ugh, such an annoying habit.) The Bees, over here, helped me finish this panda-jerk. The white fur was just not cooperating, but we put it in its place.
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Homemade Noodles

I've never made fresh pasta. I wanted to make it when I was in Russia. Unfortunately I never got to it. But mama did. I think I was sick when she did this. (I got this awful sore throat and fever when I was there. Agh!)

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People in Russia don't even know there is such a thing as chicken stock. No doubt it's an awesome thing to have around. But dudes. Chicken soup started with just chicken and water is really good. I was eating this when every swallow was awfully painful but what happened in my mouth before every swallow was completely and totally awesome. To top it all off: fresh noodles.

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The FAM (plus a friend of the family). Grandma is already working on that soup. So cute. Gotta love papa's satisfied face and ULTRA-bright shirt. Grandpa is looking fab, as always.

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WE LOVE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP! Thanks, mama.

Carrots and Raisins

Carrot cake is one of my favorites. It's not too sweet, you can put raisins in it and the frosting is pretty delicious with it. I made this the night before leaving for Russia this past summer. I was trying to decide what recipe I should use. I had The Joy of Cooking and Baking Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen) recipes in front of me. I decided to use America's Test Kitchen's recipe. It was really easy and turned out really well.

The recipe is straight from Baking Illustrated. (It is an awesome book.)

Carrot Cake
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound (6-7 medium) carrots, peeled
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canola oil

Directions:
1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position; heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
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3. Grate the carrots (should turn out to be about 3 cups).
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4. Add the carrots to the bowl with dry ingredients and set aside.

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5. Use a food processor (I used a mixer. Cleaning the food processor is too much work.) to mix both sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined. With the machine running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process until the mixture is light and color and ell emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl.

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6. Stir in the carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no steaks of flour remain.

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7. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the cake to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours.

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Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 tbsp sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) confectioners' sugar

Directions:
1. When the cake is cool, process the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla in a clean food processor until combined, about 5 seconds, scraping down the workbowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the confectioners' sugar and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.

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2. Run a paring knife around the edge of a cake to loosen it from the pan. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, then invert it again onto a serving platter. (You might not have a serving platter big enough for the cake, but everyone should have cardboard boxes and foil. I took a box and covered it with foil and used that as the platter.) Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the surface of the cake.

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3. Cut into squares and serve.

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Eleanor: Good-bye, Steve.
Steve:
Don't say that, even if it's true. Don't say that. It's too painful.
Eleanor: What do you want me to say?
Steve: Say bon voyage.
Eleanor: Bon voyage.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Fire

Sometimes I can't believe I've been living in the U.S. for 7 years. Part of me thinks I've been here my whole life and part of me can so vividly remember the first few months here that I can't believe it was that long ago.

My brother listened to a lot of Eminem at that point and, simply because we spent a lot of time together, so did I. (I was listening to Britney too and somehow Eminem and Britney just complemented each other in my brain.) I remember really identifying with Eminem's lyrics and being inspired by them. Everything was new and kind of scary. Plenty of embarrassing experiences came out of my first year in the US, and the way I think I dealt with those was through Eminem's songs.

Lose Yourself, Sing for the Moment, Love Me after failures, when I needed to get back up and keep working. Without Me, Just Don't Give a Fuck, When the Music Stops when I accomplished something I was striving for. (Add the Beg for Mercy G-Unit album to the I-feel-pimpin' playlist. "If you don't know who I be you better AKS someboooooody about me..." Ha!)

I guess I couldn't really relate to Eminem's songs in the past few years but this past summer I reconnected to them again with the Recovery album. My goals have changed so much from what they were 7 years ago, but what makes me stop wallowing in self-pity and get back to work hasn't. The Marshall Mathers LP, The Slim Shady LP and The Eminem Show are awesome albums and definitely take me back to the old days, just like I think Recovery will always take me back to Summer 2010 when I was getting the fire back in me.

This 60 Minutes story brought a tear to my eye. I wish I could shake this guy's hand.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Miss Her

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I used to have the bestest-best girlfriend. We haven't talked in over a year. I need to make it right.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Meow

I want a kitty massage (or any other kind).

Alton Brown Can Suck It

I made it through week 1 of Fall quarter! I submitted my first CS111 (Operating Systems) project last night. Granted this was the easiest lab that we'll get but I'm proud of myself for finishing it a day early. If I could only learn to focus and debug my program at the apartment WITH my roommates around I would have finished it 5 days early.

It's amazing. I probably dicked around with my code for at least 3 hours on Wednesday night at my desk. But A and E were around and I kept getting distracted by conversations in the background even with my headphones on. AGH!

Trust me. It's impossible to not turn around and chime in when you hear "vagina dentata" and "hair clip" in the same sentence.

I ended up getting frustrated with myself not being able to fix my bug and going to sleep. Next morning I went to school 30 minutes early so I could walk with A and E to campus. Spent 25 minutes in the library and fixed the function that I was working on the night before.

And that happens all the time. My productivity decreases exponentially with the increasing awesomeness of my roommates.

Quite possibly our second favorite thing to do, after distracting each other from getting real work done, is to cook. A has been telling us all about this No Pan Pear Pie recipe and we wanted to try it out. Let me first tell you that I've never made an Alton Brown recipe successfully. That is not to say that he doesn't make delicious food, it's just that I NEVER have everything that he calls for and I'm not as accurate with temperatures as I think he assumes we should be when we follow his recipe. A waffle recipe requires all-pupose, whole-wheat flour and buttermilk at room temperature, mind you.

For this No Pan Pear Preposterous Pastry Pie (ahhhh alliteration) A and I were expected to use a SPRAY bottle to moisten our crust. We were also supposed to put a frozen cookie sheet on our dough when it got a little too warm. Of course we neglected to do either and just sprinkled apple juice concentrated with our fingers (freezing them off). It was a crumbly mess. I've never made such horrible dough. If I was working on it myself I would've given up and started over. A convinced me to keep sprinkling moisture on the crust as she finally shenagled the crust in a circle-resembling shape.

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Here is A working on getting the filling to stay inside and plugging up holes with her hands as I'm laughing at her.

Did I mention the filling contained a butt-load of balsamic vinegar, we needed butter separated in 3 different batches each at different temperatures and the crust had corn meal?

I admit, the filling tasted much better than other pie filling that I've made before. But, you know, I think it's due to A being there keeping me and my sugar doubling tendencies in line, not this particular recipe.

Photo on 2010-09-29 at 21.18
The final product. This was Wednesday night. By Friday lunch-time it was gone (along with 1/2 gallon of Costco vanilla ice-cream).

♥ kick-ass time in the kitchen badmouthing Alton Brown.