Post #540 Updates on Life

July 26, 2017 at 2:49 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Well, the virus that hit me last week was more stringent than I thought at first.  I’m fine now, but it took longer to recover than I thought it would.  This is standard stuff for Partner/Spouse and I.  It takes anywhere from 6-8 months to acclimate to any new hospital system’s germs.  So we spend that time getting sick and getting better until all the antibodies for all the local ills are set in place and we can move forward.  This is the first real illness to befall us, and certainly won’t be the last.  So, we’ve had some “fun” stuff going on.

You may recall our sojourn to this great place.  We had movers come in and load up our already packed boxes and take them to their warehouse in another state to store until we had moved into a place.  The hospital booked the movers and advanced the funds to pay them off.  However, they never delivered, and kept giving excuses instead of furniture and belongings.  The hospital got involved with their legal team since they felt responsible.  Back and forth, back and forth, and just when we thought it was all resolved, the moving company came back with a bombshell.  According to them, and providing photographic proof, the warehouse was the victim of a weather related catastrophe.  Total loss.  We are not getting our stuff.  And it’s likely to take several weeks to resolve the insurance claims.  So, we have the few bits we brought with us (computers, luckily), but that’s all.  One of those, WTF moments.  Also kind of an “It can only happen to Joe” kind of moment, too.  The hospital lawyers are still representing us pro bono, and Partner/Spouse thinks they may advance us the settlement.  In the meantime, we’re working on lists of things we need to replace, and prioritizing the order of replacing the stuff.  But it’s all okay.  It’s stuff, that’s all.  Some of it had high emotional value and can’t be replaced, but whaddaya gonna do?  We can’t live backwards, only forwards.  Plus there’s always chocolate.

Last week, while I was still sick and not entirely in my proper frame of mind, I decided to try to pull myself out of the doldrums and make bread.  I didn’t have a stand mixer, but I did have a hand mixer with a power/low speed setting and dough hooks!  Anyone who’s read this blog over time knows that my holy grail is the perfect bread recipe and I think I’ve come close to finding it.  I’m the time testing part of the quest.  And thanks to my good buddy at Food Interactive on FB, I have a recipe that I love!  And so far, it’s standing the test of repetition.  I won’t put the recipe here because it’s published in a couple of previous posts.  Search “best bread”  and you’ll find it.

So I pulled all the ingredients together and got out a bowl.  Out came the mixer and the dough hooks, and into the bowl with the ingredients.  Power on and there I go!  I knew that I wanted to knead this mix for about ten minutes, so I didn’t want to leave in the bowl for too long, but I also knew that I wanted it to be fully mixed and in one cohesive ball.  I’ve never mixed bread with a hand mixer before and I was fascinated by watching the dough come together.  Always before it had been in a bread machine or a stand mixer, both of which I could walk away from and come back later to a mound of bread dough.  This was kind of fun.  I could make adjustment to the dough immediately because I was watching it closely.  When it finished up and became a single wad of dough, I felt like I had accomplished something on my own.  So I turned it out on the granite counter which I’d floured and went to work on kneading.  I don’t know if it was because of the hand mixer, or the fact that I wasn’t 100%, but the dough felt different, and kneading it was easier than normal.  It was slightly sticky, which would be normal given the difference in mixing methods, but the flour on the surface took care of that.

Have you ever watched The Great British Bake Off on PBS?  It’s a cooking competition from Great Britain where non-professional home cooks enter a contest that’s several weeks long.  Each week highlights a baking technique and each week someone is eliminated until three contestants face the final bake off.  It’s a lot of fun and I’m totally addicted to it.  We even bought the DVDs for each season that’s available.  There are some standard competitions through the seasons, and one of those is bread week.  And I learned a way to determine if you’ve kneaded the dough enough.  When you think it’s ready, you break off a small chunk of dough and hold it to the light and stretch it gently.  If you can stretch it think enough to see through, a window pane, without it breaking or tearing, it’s kneaded properly.  So I did that.  The key to good bread is having enough gluten to hold it together and give a good chew, but not have so much that it become tough and hard to chew.  The window pane test works.

So I went through all the other steps, proofing, shaping, proofing again, then baking.  It smelled wonderful.  Fresh baked bread always smells wonderful.  Since I had two loaves, I decided to make one loaf a cinnamon swirl to have for breakfast toast.  So when I had the bread rolled out to a 9×14 rectangle, I spread a mixture of brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon on the top, a pretty thick layer.  Then I rolled up tightly so there would be a decent swirl inside.  Cinnamon retards yeast activity so it needs to rise longer.  Both loaves came out looking and smelling great.

We had some for with dinner that night and the bread was a little disappointing, but Partner/Spouse said it tasted good, so put it down to not feeling well.  The next morning, I made toast out of the cinnamon swirl.  I had to throw it away.  It tasted too salty.  But I wasn’t feeling well, and my taste buds were off.  I mentioned it to Partner/Spouse and we discussed it, but not deeply or for long.  A few days later, he tried the cinnamon swirl, pronounced it disgusting, so I tossed it.  The white loaf was in the fridge, a big no-no with bread, but since there were no preservatives in it, I didn’t want it to get moldy.  So last night, I wanted to make cottage eggs.  Those are eggs cooked inside a ring cut of a piece of bread so the bread toasts in the pan while the eggs cooks.  I cut four thick slices and used a biscuit cutter to cut out the rings.  Since I was feeling much better, I decided to test the bread again.  It wasn’t too salty, but it was certainly salty.  Uncomfortably so.  Into the trash it went, and back to the recipe I went.  And discovered the mistake.  One tablespoon of salt, not two.  Lesson learned:  do not bake when you can’t pay attention.  And I will never again make fun of a competitor who forgets an ingredient during a bake.

So, overall, things are looking up.  Despite bad bread, no more stuff, and illness, we’re still moving forward in a place we still enjoy the heck out of, and the dogs are fat and happy.  Life is good.  And the soup is on the stove.

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4 Comments »

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  1. Wow, Joe, I can’t imagine losing (almost) everything but yes, it’s just “stuff”. I’m in the process of getting rid of “stuff” and the hard part is letting go of “stuff” I feel like I should hang on to. Like, all the pictures and letters that my late mother had of her friends. But why? I can’t even identify the people in the pictures and the letters are about their families whom I didn’t know. So I’m finally throwing them out but there’s a tinge of guilt.

    As for your mistake with baking bread, take it with a grain of salt, as you said, you’ll pay more attention next time! What’s missing in America is just that, a bakery with the smell of bread baking continuously. Our local Wegman’s bakes a lot of bread but they must do it overnight as I never smell anything in their bakery department. Only place I smell bread nowadays is Cinnabon and their cinnamon.

    • I also know the pang of voluntarily giving up stuff. We’ve been trying to pare down for nearly a decade. We actually got it down less than a thousand books. Now it’s less than a dozen. There’s some of those things that can’t be replaced, but as it was no one’s fault, you gotta roll with the punches. I agree that the average American now goes for convenience and a faster pace. I think when people did things by hand for themselves, there was a better sense of community. When I first moved to Yuma, we got a house in the county about twelve miles from town. My brother still lives there. There was a group of about 40 families out there at the time, and whenever anyone was going into town, they’d call around to see anyone needed anything. You might not like your neighbor, but you could depend on them, and it counted. I think it’s that sense that people are nostalgic for, and the current administration is tapping into to fuel their horrendous agenda.

  2. While you are right, it is just stuff, the easily replaced items are nothing more than noise. But the emotional items, thats the hard bit. We had a house fire, losing all of my childhood photos, our first two children’s photos and a whole wealth of books we had carefully collected. The pain will recede but it will take awhile.

    I’ve never owned a stand mixer, and for decades didn’t own a hand mixer until I had to eat gluten free, and stirring the dough for 3 minutes wore my hand/arm out.

    About 25 years ago, there was a giant long lived cold snap, we lived in Alaska in a tiny village at the time. And bread was one of the big 3 to disappear from the grocery stores, eggs, milk, bread. So, I pulled out a cook book, remembered what my grandmother had taught me and baked up several loaves. It was so good, we stopped buying bread. Years pass, and with four boys eating like locusts I could no longer keep up. When the only homemade bread train pulled into the station I was cranking out 12-16 loaves of bread a week. By hand……

    • Now that’s impressive! Bread by hand is an undertaking. We go through about three loaves a week, and our waistlines show it, although we have both been losing weight recently. When my mom was teaching me to cook back in the 70s, we didn’t have any of the electric machines either. It wasn’t until I started buying her things like hand mixers, etc. that she decided there were easier ways to cook. I like a stand mixer for the power and the convenience in letting me walk away to do something else while it takes care of the mixing. Also, for the attachments. Can’t wait to get a new stand mixer and the ice cream attachment. As far as loosing everything, there’s some things that I regret, but for the most part, c’est la vie! Take care!


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