jade’s visit

April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

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A jolt of creativity flowed through my office today, thanks to Jade.

Jade has been coming to work with her mom occasionally when there’s a school holiday since she was a toddler. Even as a little kid she’s visited my office and gifted me with her creations. They were never just kitties and rainbows. Usually it was a complete drawing or two with very interesting written narratives included, or sometimes a sculpture of some sort. Having a mom in the design department is a benefit to her inventiveness.

Today she started with a white board drawing. I let her clear off all the outdated project notes and my old sketch diagrams to give her a full canvas. About 6 feet wide.  It was a school themed drawing with her recollection of recent STAR testing as the focal point. STAR is a program of standardized performance assessment tests in California. She’s not a fan. In her drawing she also included the fun her classmates may be experiencing–nothing to do with the test, as far as I can tell. “Paranoia test?” I asked, she answered and it went over my head. She’s eleven. Sounds about right.

After the massive wall creation she came back with all of her gear and plopped down on the corner of my desk. Next was robot building. Robot Duck. I asked her to read the instructions aloud while I worked–to allow me to give her a bit of guidance if she got stuck. For me it was a bit of cross-training from a different industry… completely applicable to our own systems’ label diagrams. It went smoothly, working the first time. Waddling back and forth on the carpet. She decided to give the duck the missing head it deserved. So, Jade asked me if I had a ping pong ball. To her surprise, I said “Yes.” So with that ball, a head, complete with eyes and bill was added to the duck robot. And a tail too. Other items in my office provided a bit of distraction during the drawing and duck building: music and sculpture.

I happened to have my DSLR with me today so I had the chance to document Jade’s creativity. That gave me the opportunity to a create a mini photo essay. What a fun, creative kid. Thanks for the visit Jade!
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more images in [slideshow]

destination: bread of the wild

April 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

Pain au Levain first attempt
This is the short version.

I am on a quest to learn how to make amazing homemade bread.  After a couple of failures over the last month I’ve finally achieved what I consider a success.

There are so many facets to real bread making, whether artisan or just “homemade.” Even at the mere beginning of this bread odyssey I’ve learned lots of new baking related terms to mispronounce: boule, hyper-diastatic, leuconostoc–yeah, I know! The most important information I’ve learned so far is that there are numerous factors in yeast bread that just don’t come into play when making things like banana bread: ambient temperature, relative humidity, flour type, oven sprint, bad bacteria (leuconostoc), hydration level, etc.  Learn the essentials first, then experiment. Got that edc?

Last night, a successful bread was finally born in my kitchen. It’s Peter Reinhart’s Pain au Levain recipe-a wild yeast (natural yeast) bread. Yes, I added a bit of the optional baker’s instant yeast to guarantee that I would have a fully risen loaf of bread in my oven, instead of the low slung breads previously created. My self-made, 14 day old natural yeast starter is a mixture of whole wheat, rye, and white flours. The white flour is a very high gluten bread flour from Giusto’s.
Pain au Levain first attempt
Pain au Levain first attempt-curley batard
Pain au Levain first attempt
The recipe produced two small loaves, so I tried different shapes. Both were baked separately, using the dutch oven method. The round loaf, baked second, did not rise as much of as the batard loaf, which was handled more during the shaping–a factor? The batard shown above curled because it wouldn’t fit in the dutch oven otherwise. They both had an excellent crunchy crust. Flavor was nice and mild, just a very slight tang. The texture was soft and lightly chewy, what I classify as a classic italian bread. It’s good bread. I have to admit that the sexy photos make it look 10x more amazing. I want really amazing.

My long bread story is still in process. Wild yeast destinations and others. There will be a bit more specifics in future posts.

It’s time to feed the starter…
Pain au Levain first attempt

additional photos [slideshow]

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bunny fools’ banana bundt

April 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Bunny Fools. A combination April Fools, Easter, and Spring kick off party held at Terri’s strawberry house. Kids and adults donning long ears, fuzzy tails and other festive decoration. I had very ripe bananas on deck to try another banana bread recipe in my never ending search for banana bread perfection–I am not there yet. But I wanted to make something more interesting for the party. Chocolate and banana came to mind. I found a bundt recipe or two online for quantity reference and referred to my banana bread recipes. I made it less cake-like since I didn’t want a super sweet frosted cake (I never do). Good thing because there were “a hundred” cupcakes, of all sorts, with frosting piled high.
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