Category Archives: food
Yesterday was the first day since the beginning of the ballet season that I haven’t had something scheduled that required leaving the house—or, well, technically, I did have a cirque rehearsal, but I was running a fever and decided that it would be prudent to stay home rather than passing my germs along to everyone else.
Same thing today: Monday is a day off ballet-wise, but a rehearsal day for a small group of us from cirque. We decided to cancel cirque rehearsal today, since of the three of us, one is away and one is ill (spoiler alert: it me). Meanwhile, it’s break week at FSB, home of the partnering class I’m taking on Monday nights.
I’m definitely not complaining about the extra day off, though. One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I really need some measure of time alone in order to stay sane.
I’m not sure whether my need for solitude (ha, that makes it sound so much more studious and intentional!) is an inborn trait or a function of having spent a great deal of time alone when I was growing up, but that doesn’t really matter anyway. It is, as they say, what it is.
Anyway, this past month has been one long, unbroken stretch of work days—and though I love my work, I’m seriously grateful for a chance to come up for air, even though it’s purely a function of coming down with whatever bug is making the rounds (and even though I’ve spent most of this unexpected down time asleep).
So, anyway, I’ve been meaning to write about how I’m managing at the moment—I mean the nuts-and-bolts of it. Now seems as good a time as any.
First, here’s a look at my work schedule:
- Sunday: Cirque Rehearsal, 12-2
- Monday: Cirque Rehearsal, 5-7, partnering class 6:15-7:30 (in practice, to actually do both, I have to leave cirque rehearsal at 6 and miss the first 45 mins of partnering class, due to an hour long commute)
- Tuesday: Ballet, 10-3:30; Teaching, 4:40-7
- Wednesday: Ballet, 10-3:30, Teaching, 4:40-8:15
- Thursday: Ballet, 10-3:30
- Friday: Ballet, 10-3:30; GFD rehearsal, 5-7
- Saturday: Ballet, 10-4
My shortest commute is about 30 minutes. My longest (home to ballet) is about 90. FSB is on the way home from the ballet, which is helpful, but it’s still a good hour from FSB to home. (I actually rather like driving, but it’s also physically and mentally stressful, so I’m profoundly grateful to finally have a couple of days on which I don’t have to drive at all.)
I’ve also been working a good many one-off cirque gigs and substitute-teaching fairly frequently, which is good for my income, but obviously means more driving and more time away from home.
The upshot of this is that I have very little time to do household stuff, which has been a challenge for me.
I’m not going to say that I’m on top of everything at this point.
I’m so not, especially not when I’ve planned my week around having most of Monday free and I get called in to sub during the day. I’m not great at switching gears, so things get a little bumpy when that happens.
I am, however, hanging in there better than I anticipated.
With that in mind, are the tools I’m using to at least keep us mostly ticking over:
- The Magic Of The Slow-Cooker: It would be hard to overstate how handy a slow-cooker is in my current situation. D doesn’t really cook, and I often don’t really have time to really cook, either, right now. Our slow-cooker has the standard low-heat setting and a higher setting, so you can throw a bunch of stuff into it and come back 3 to 8 hours later, and you’ve got food. It’s also huge. In practice, this means that I can dump some stuff in on Sunday and Monday afternoons, jet off whatever rehearsal, and return to dinner already sorted. It also helps with the next point, which is…
- Batch Cooking: D doesn’t like to eat the same thing for more than a couple of meals in a row, so I used to regard batch cooking as fairly impractical for our situation. Then, it dawned on me that I can make different batch meals on two consecutive days and stick the leftovers in the fridge, and D can alternate between them when I’m not home (or when I’m just too cooked myself to bother). Fortunately, D is a man of fairly simple tastes, and is generally quite content with things like chili, stew, pulled bbq chicken, and so forth. When I’m actually home for dinner, I serve them with…
- Bagged Salads: …Which are also my go-to lunch. At any given time, at least one store will typically be running a special on the “chopped salad” kits that include lots of crunchy vegetables and come with dressing and toppings like sunflower seed kernels, freeze-dried sweetcorn, raisins, and so forth. Often, I find them on clearance for less than $2/bag. They don’t hang around in my fridge long enough to go off, so I grab lots of those. Usually, one bagged salad can feed me through two rehearsals, which means that a fairly healthy lunch runs between $1 and $1.50 per day. A second one usually makes up the bulk of my supper. I also go through a ton of…
- Greek Yogurt and Frozen Fruit: I buy large bags of frozen berries (on sale, whenever possible) and large tubs of Greek yogurt, but I still get through about $8 worth of yogurt and $4 worth of fruit each week. Still, $12/week isn’t bad for a high-quality top-up between rehearsal and teaching.
- Frozen Burritos: I like to make burritos in batches and throw a dozen or so into the freezer. When you get home from a long day dancing and teaching dance, it’s easy to nuke a couple and actually make a decent meal out of them.
- Apples: I’m out of apples right now, and it has made me keenly aware how much I depend on them. I like really crisp apples, preferably tart or semi-tart, so I buy large bags of Granny Smith, Jazz, and similar cultivars. Normally, I eat a couple of them with some toast for breakfast, and they get me through to lunch. Without them, I wind up eating twice as much yogurt and twice as much toast. Apples are filling, y’all. They also don’t require any…
- Dishes: okay, so here’s where I’m flummoxed. I manage my own dishes by using as few as possible washing each dish as soon as I’ve used it and simply reusing the same two cups all the time: one for hot drinks and one for cold (they get washed once a day or so). D doesn’t adhere to that practice, though, which means I’m left with a batch of dishes to hand-wash on the regular (out dishwasher is dead). I haven’t found an ideal time for that, which means that at the moment they get done basically just whenever. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world, either. The slow-cooker also helps, since I generally only make one-pot recipes, which means fewer dishes to wash.
I’m still struggling to keep on top of laundry. The challenge there is mainly that D wants his work clothes hung up as soon as they’re dry, which means babysitting the dryer. Maybe simply hanging those things up to dry in the first place would help, though. Socks and the like could still go through the dryer.
D has taken over some of the stuff I was doing—particularly the yard work—which does help, and he doesn’t hesitate to wrangle laundry as needed. In the past, when I had no regular income, it bothered me if he did that, because I felt like as long as I wasn’t bringing in any money, that should be my job. At this point I’ve got a regular income, so I’m learning to feel okay with that.
We still have way too much stuff, which means that I never feel like the house is tidy, because it’s literally impossible to put everything away. We’re discussing how to deal with that—it’s not something I can handle unilaterally, because most of the stuff in the house isn’t mine. I have, at any rate, begun reducing where I can.
So, basically, we’re getting through. I enjoy working on cirque shows, but I won’t be sad to finally have Sundays off for a bit once our current show is done.
I’m actually managing better than I expected to, thus far. Ideally, going forward, I hope to eventually figure out a way too schedule my life so I have at least one regular day off, for sanity’s sake (two would be even better). Likewise, I am at present considering the best way to reduce the amount of stuff in the house and prevent more stuff from accumulating in its place: in other words, a way of solving that problem that will be equally motivating to both of us.
Life as a performing artist is unlikely ever to be as routinely-scheduled as almost any other life in a modern Western economy, and I’m rather glad to discover that capable of handling that.
Anyway, we’re back to ballet tomorrow, so I’d better go wrangle.my ballet laundry. I’m planning to post a couple of my go-to slow-cooker recipes some time soon, as well, and to get back to posting semi-regularly about technique.
I already wrote this once, and WordPress did some glitchy thing and ate the post (like, ate it so hard that it’s not even in my trashed posts bin), so unfortunately you’re getting the short version, which will inevitably be way less clever than the original.
Anyway, I recently learned an important fact:
I also discovered that when you randomly want polenta for lunch, but you also want to eat, like, Before Someone Gets B*tchy, you can nuke yourself some Quick Grits and just add stuff.
Only … like … if you add a bouillon cube? Add it to the boiling water before you add the grits, and safe yourself the weirdness of a random encounter with a big chunk of undissolved bouillon.
You should probably take a similar approach if you’re using something like Better Than Bouillon, just to make sure it’s distributed evenly. (BTW, Better Than Bouillon is awesome.)
Anyway, here’s the recipe for this afternoon’s lunch.
- 1 & 1/3 cup boiling water (or broth)
- 1 cube of bouillon or equivalent (unless you started with broth)
- 3/4 cup quick grits (not regular, or you will be sorely disappointed)
- salt to taste (you can definitely skip it if you use bouillon)
- random cherry tomatoes
- the remaining edible leaves in an otherwise disreputable-looking bag of kale (spinach would work just as well)
- about a teaspoon of butter & olive oil blend
- one egg
- Boil the water or broth and (if necessary) pour it into a large microwave-safe bowl (1 qt/1 litre will do)
- If using bouillon, ADD IT NOW, not later ^-^’, and stir to dissolve
- Add the quick grits and salt (optional) to the liquid
- Stir again
- Microwave for 4-5 minutes. My microwave is, erm, gentle, and it takes about 4.5 minutes. Yours will probably be faster.
- Remove the grits from the microwave, add veggies, stir, and allow to stand
- If desired, nuke an egg (spray a small plate with cooking spray, crack the egg onto it, and put it in the microwave). In my microwave, this takes 30-60 seconds depending on the plate in question and how cold the plate is at the start.
- Slide the cooked egg onto the grits, add the butter blend if you want it, stir, and enjoy.
If you prefer not to use the microwave, just follow the package directions to make your quick grits on the stovetop, adding the bouillon (if desired) at the appropriate point (before you add the grits), then carry on as before.
You can, of course, also make this with Instant Grits, and you can use any other veggies you have on hand. Get creative! Tofu? Why not! Could it be …. SEITAN? Sure! Toss some ham in. Omit the veggies and make a sweet-savory version by adding butter and maple syrup. Chill it, slice it, and fry it! Branch out and try old-fashioned Hasty Pudding! It’s all you!
Oh, and if you decide to make regular (as in, Not Quick) polenta?
Know that no less an authority than Serious Eats’ Daniel Gritzer says you can ignore the “rules” about waiting ’til the liquid is boiling to add the cornmeal and then stirring constantly until it’s ready.
Just sticking this here in case it might be useful to anyone else. I’m going to try this recipe:
…use some of the waffles for dinner or dessert tonight (haven’t decided yet if I’m making savory waffles or sweet ones), then freeze the rest. I’ll keep you posted.
Update: These are great! I made a sweet version seasoned with Pumpkin Pie Spice (I wanted just cinnamon, but apparently I’m out of just cinnamon?), and they’re lovely. Also, I would definitely count them as ADHD-friendly, though the way I printed the recipe made life challenging for me. I forgot the baking powder initially, then added it after I made the first waffle and realized my error. I’ve done this before, with other waffles, soooo…
I think, though, that I’d really like to try making them in a regular waffle iron rather than the Belgian waffle iron that I have—which is what I usually think about waffle recipes, actually, so they resemble regular waffles in that way, as in effectively all ways.
Also going to try making these whilst I’m mucking about in the kitchen:
Both look pretty ADHD-friendly (at least, once you remember to buy the ingredients that maybe you don’t have if you’re not normally a low-carb person), so I’m eager to see how they go.
I won’t know until I’ve made them, but I’m hoping I can potentially adjust the waffle batter so I can use the Foreman grill to make a sort of foccaccia-style thing with it (between the Foreman grill and the waffle iron, you can make SO MANY THINGS, guys). Likewise, I want to try making cinnamon doughballs based on the garlic recipe. I’ll report back about those, too.
In other news, for some reason or another, our water has been shut off. We’re current on the water bill (I checked, and then paid the next bill since I was logged in anyway), and usually the water company sticks a note on the door when they have to shut us off for maintenance. I’m stumped.
I suppose I could call them, but I’m going to give it a couple of hours first.
Bit by bit, I’m regaining range-of-motion and resuming my “Activities of Daily Living,” as they’re known to PhysioBots® from the future and their human counterparts.
This includes collecting small objects at a street festival whilst everyone else takes down the aerial rig and going to parties, not to mention catching up on the six million loads of laundry that are waiting for me because I was wary of schlepping large loads at first.
Anyway, it’s been surprising to observe my own healing process. Each day, I’m able to move my arms a little farther without yoinking anything, even though I’ve specifically been avoiding moving them beyond a pretty restricted zone. I can now get them into a languid “Romantic 4th,” basically, without irritating anything.
Practically speaking, that means I still can’t reach anything higher than the surface of the second shelf in the cabinet where the dishes live unless I stand on something, but at this time last week I was barely making it to the first shelf, so that’s good progress.
Also, it means I can at least put the plates away, though the soup mugs and pasta bowls will just have to wait a bit longer.
This weekend, I also realized how very strictly I avoided actually standing up straight outside of the ballet studio prior to my surgery.
Like most guys with moobs, I used to wander around with my shoulders sort-of rounded in on themselves. It makes you look like defensive and also makes you shorter.
It’s really still very weird for me to realize that when I actually stand up straight, I’m pretty much average in terms of height. Heretofore I guess I’ve known that rationally, but in a practical sense I still thought of myself as a little of the small side.
For what it’s worth, both D and I have found the results of my surgery a little unexpected. He mentioned last night that I look less different to him than he thought I would in some ways; more so in others—mostly that for whatever reason my whole body looks leaner and narrower. He’s not alone, either—other people also keep asking me,”Did you lose weight?”
I can only assume it’s something about the way I’m carrying myself…? Because, in fact, I’ve gained a little weight, as inevitably I do when I have to sit on my butt for a while.
For me, it’s more nuanced. I can’t say that I really expected to perceive my build as kind of rangy and muscular, nor to actually like that about myself.
Anyway, it’s weird. You would think that having this sort of thing done would just result in feeling like, “Okay, cool—that’s just me without moobs.” Maybe that’s been how it does work for some people. For me, though, it’s made me realize that I only ever looked at parts of my body before: I thought I looked at the whole, but now I think I really didn’t. I can’t really otherwise explain how surprising my body is to me when I look at myself in the mirror now.
Anyway, I’m back to slowly catching up on the laundry and the cleaning. I’m also counting calories and opting for a low-carb approach to food until I’m clear to Resume All The Things. That seems to be helping to keep my blood sugar levels a bit more steady, as it generally does.
I might stick with it once I’m back in action, but I might not. I’ve made a pact with myself: I’m not going to get hung up on any specific approach to eating, period. My normal schedule burns a lot of calories and makes it quite difficult to eat enough, let alone to eat enough whilst also largely eschewing an entire nutrient category.
On the other hand, the inability to lazily wrap everything in a a tortilla does mean I’m eating even more veggies than usual, since cabbage rolls (and shredded cabbage in place of noodles) are basically the order of the day right now.
Speaking of which, I should go assemble some kind of … brunch, I guess, since it’s 11:30 and I still haven’t eaten anything.
Yesterday, I had nothing before ballet, so I was properly fed and rested and so forth.
As a result, BW’s class went very well.
After, I went and played at Suspend, where we did all kinds of lifty things in Acro 2.
After that, my car decided to throw a fit and D had to come rescue me (fortunately, I noticed that it sounded weird and didn’t get on the expressway). As result, an already late night got later, and I was too tired to pack lunch.
This morning, D came home early and sent me to Cinci with his truck, which was really sweet of him. I had eaten two hot dogs for lunch, with the intention of grabbing some real food when I got back into Louisville.
In Cinci, partnering class was half really frustrating: I couldn’t hear because my allergies were trolling me, and we were learning partnering phrases, so I kept not quite understanding what was going on. As a result, I kept frustrating my partner, which made me nervous, which makes my brain not work too well.
- Also, my body wanted all the fouettés to be tour jetés. WTF, body?
Anyway, we got there eventually.
During the second half, we did group lifts, and that bit went really well. Didn’t hurt that Acro 2 last night was all about the dynamic group lifts :p
Anyway, after Partnering, my plans for food were scuttled by a traffic jam. I resorted to buying Chex mix at a gas station when I refueled the truck. I would be surprised if that even brought me back up to baseline.
Anyway, BW’s final class was more challenging than it should have been, since I basically ran out of juice. I got all the way through anyway, but my grand pirouettes weren’t really all that grand. They started out nice going right, then fizzled, going left, I just worked fourth-passé-second-plié-relevé-plié-relevé, etc, without the actual turns.
On the other hand, I cracked out some nice grand allegro: it was kind of my way of saying, “I value your class and, dammit, I’mma try as hard as I can!”
That backfired, of course, when we proceeded to follow the second grand allegro combo with even moar petit allegro.
Oh, I can now check entrechats six off my goals list. Or, at any rate, I can mark them as done with baseline success but in need of werk, werk, werk, werk. They’re not pretty, but they’re there.
We did 36 of them.
Also, after that, so many Royales, which are my least favorite jump. I mean, seriously, in France there’s a hamburger named after them.
- I may be employing artistic license here. Who knows?
Anyway, my legs felt weak and resentful (I suspect that, if you’re a dancer or a cyclist, you understand what I mean), and I resented their resentful attitude (note to self: I need to draw a resentful attitude 😁) until I realized that it wasn’t fair to resent them when it was my own fault for not feeding them.
Evidently, it takes a lot of calories to run this body at peak performance, or at any rate more than the ≈600 I have it before tonight’s ballet class.
At any rate, I’m pleased with myself for not giving up. There were a few times in class tonight that my dark side whispered,”You could just say your foot is unhappy!”
But I didn’t.
So there’s that.
Anyway, I’m going to go have a wee soak in some Epsom salts. Tomorrow, I have to leave at 7 AM for Cinci because evidently I’m insane, so after that I’m off to bed.
First of all: THANK FREAKING G-D. I have broken my week-long streak of disastrous classes, FINALLY.
Today in BW’s class, I was not a giant freaking disaster area.
I did not feel weak.
I did not forget every single combination (in fact, I managed to remember all but one of them, though for some bizarre reason I kept doing inside-out turns on one of them).
I did not feel horribly nervous or completely unworthy of BW’s tutelage and as such didn’t spend have the class talking, though I did ask several clarifying questions (another really nice thing about private class).
My legs didn’t fall off and my foot didn’t start screaming at me.
…Which is good, because it was, once again, the All Asher, All The Time show.
When you’re having a terrible
week day, nothing will make you feel worse than a private class.
When you’re having a fairly decent day … erm … well, you’ll probably come out of your private class feeling fairly decent.
Today definitely fell into that zone: I can tell I’m making progress, but the goalposts keep moving, so I keep thinking I’m so bad at this one thing, but I also think, I’m way better at this other thing.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve got 100% of my strength back, but I’m also not sure that’s accurate. Were it accurate, I think the 8-8-4-4-2-2 grand battement would’ve killed me.
In case you’re wondering, that particular grand battement is fairly hard, but still not as hard as Rayevsky’s which, if I remember correctly, went: 8 front, 8 back-inside, 8 side, 8 back, 8-front inside, 8 side, EFFING DETOURNE, straight into the other freaking side. Honestly, I feel like I’m probably missing something in there. Regardless, it’s clear that Mr. R wants his dancers strong—and he teaches with enough precision to warrant it.
In the hands of an ineffective teacher, that combination could easily become a turnout-destroying exercise in futility, but Mr. R is one of those teachers who have 27 pairs of X-ray vision-equipped eyes arrayed all over their heads so they can call you out on failing to engage one wee finger of your deep rotators even when they’re looking at someone at the far end of the barre.
Edit: I suspect invisible eyestalks may be involved.
BW also teaches with that kind of precision. I am still totally in awe of the moment when he shot me exactly the right correction with his back to me and no mirror for guidance.
Anyway, I think I’m in that in-between zone: kind of between levels. I’m working on sustaining higher extensions and so forth, and that requires a greater degree of strength in the supporting leg. I’m working on cleaner, sharper, turns with higher turn counts, which requires a better spot and more accurate placement.
- …Though, today I was just having a remedial “don’t turn the wrong freaking way” kind of day. There were singles and doubles and one triple, and that was fine, since we were aiming for precision.
- …And a steady supporting leg, which in my case also comes down to strength—or, more accurately, the balance of strength, as do extensions. BW noted that, for me, the challenge is balancing the extreme mobility of my hips and the natural strength of my quads by strengthening the rotators and other muscles that oppose the quads. Basically, I need to work on my butt. Even more. And not ever do anything extra with my quads, period, end of story. He might not have actually said that second bit, but it’s kind of implied?
We also managed to get our petit and medium-ish allegro on, though we skipped entrechats this week. BW was pleased with my changements, which we’ve been modifying to improve my tours.
- This works because ballet is systematic and sequential: sus-sous balance begets soutenu turn and soubresaut, which in turn begets changement. Soutenu turn and changement together, combined with a strong plié, beget tours and then double tours (or, if you’re me, 1.5 tours >.<).
BW has a way of saying to me, when we are in the midst of Accidentally Private Men’s Class, “We do this this way…” and then explaining some subtle point of men’s technique and what makes that subtle point important.
A solid double-tour requires that one’s legs squeeze together and stay there through the change of feet and through the rest of the jump, essentially because physics.
If you ever had the opportunity to play on one of those rotating tire swings as a kid, you probably remember that you could make it spin faster by tucking yourself into a ball or slower by stretching out and leaning outwards.
If you’ve done dance trapeze, lyra, rope, or any of the other free-spinning aerial circus apparatus that allow it, you also know that you can create insanely fast spin by making yourself into a vertical line that runs right up and down the vertical axis of the spin.
The same principle applies to tours: the closer everything stays to the vertical axis, the faster you can turn.
You can’t have your calves flapping around when you have to rotate twice around your own vertical axis before you land (facing the correct direction). That means you have to snap-squeeze your legs right the heck in from the tips of your toes to the tops of your thighs.
- …So if you’re a dude and you’re going to work on double tours, wear your best dance belt (and a smile, I guess?).
To build this habit, you do a billion changements in which you do not snap the legs out and bring them back (as pretty as that is), but instead sort of pivot them around each-other as you would in the midst of a soutenu turn.
- This is moderately counter-intuitive, because in a soutenu turn it doesn’t feel like that’s happening … but it is.
Anyway, that’s about all the braining I can manage tonight.
The funny part is that I remembered our medium-ish allegro combination, but still proceeded to do it wrong because my brain would not engage. It ended with assemblé back no change, assemblé changé. That assemblé back no change tripped me up soooo many times, because (like every dancer on earth) I do assemblé changé a lot more often.
In the end, though, I ran it until I got it right, which is another nice perk of flying solo in class. If you need to get a thing down, you can drill it ’til ya kill it.
Anyway, I’m taking an extra class tomorrow in honor of BG’s birthday, and then the usual assortment of weekend shenanigans, and then it’s onto my self-imposed Dancer’s Hell Week; my wee Choose Your Own Intensive.
You guys, I cannot believe it’s June already!!!!!!!
I’m really feeling a lot better — which is to say A) better enough that I realize how long I’ve been feeling like crap and, B) better enough to have energy to complain about things.
Before, I was basically feeling too awful and tired to resent feeling awful and tired (besides which, I basically spent the better part of ten days asleep). Now I’m well enough to be past that, but not well enough to be back to normal. So instead I’m feeling cranky and resentful and sorry for myself. Poor me. Le sigh.
I guess that’s progress?
The weirdest complaint is that I’ve apparently forgotten how to eat. This illness just basically killed my appetite, and I kind of don’t think I’ve really been eating enough.
Anyway, today we took our friend KH out for dinner, and I ate half a small Caesar salad and three small seared ahi nigirizushi, and then I was ridiculously and depressingly full.
Mostly it was depressing because the ahi was so good, and I wish I had skipped the salad (which was horrible because it was overdressed, even though this place does a good, legit Caesar … slimy lettuce is just kind of revolting) and just eaten the fish. I couldn’t even bring it home — it would’ve had to sit in the car for a couple of hours, and it isn’t yet cool enough here to pull that off with fish. (I know: First World Problems all the way, quel dommage.)
But it’s also annoying because now I’m eating Graham crackers in bed because I know I’m going to wake up starving at 2 AM but everything else seems nauseatingly oversized. I think I’ve taken in maybe 900 calories today. Bleh.
I hope my stomach will get its stuff together soon so I can go back to eating like I normally do, because this is no way to fuel a dancer.
I don’t have energy enough to complain about real problems right now, at least, so there’s that.
Anyway, I’m done whinging for now. Tomorrow I shall attempt class, so I’m sure I’ll whinge about that, too.
G’night, errbody. Feel free to drop your own ridiculous, frivolous, but still irritating whinges in the comments; I feel like a self-aware Open Whinging thread could be kinda fun, actually. We can collect them into a book later and call it Fine Whines, and we’ll all be famous on the internets and make a million yen (which is only, like, $10,000 dollars, but that’s a start).
I think I may may have posted my bread recipe at some point in the past, but I’ve updated it a little bit, so here’s the update!
I have a kitchen scale now, so later on I’ll add metric mass values so those of you cooking in Europe can give it a whirl without having to guess. It works fine by the fairly-inexact American volumetric method, though!
You will need:
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 4.5 teaspoons highly active dry yeast (I recommend SAF red; also, that’s 1.5 tablespoon, by the way; or if you’re using packets, 2 packets)
- 1.5 cups hottish (not boiling) water (or 1 cup hottish water and .5 cup milk)
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil (margarine or veg oil will work, too!)
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar, brown sugar, honey, or malt syrup (your choice)*
- 1.5 teaspoons salt *
Ingredients marked * are optional. I like the flavor of bread better with salt (and need tons of salt because my body is crazy), but you can leave it out. The sugar/honey/syrup changes the flavor of the finished bread only a little, but it can help get your yeast going if it’s sluggish. Honey or malt syrup add a little moisture, but not enough to require adjustments (edit: usually).
I think you can also bake bread entirely without fats, but I haven’t tried it, so I’m not sure how it would turn out.
To make the bread:
- Combine water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to blend them, then set aside.
- Combine flour, butter/oil, and salt in a large bowl.
- When the yeast mix gets foamy, pour it into the dry mix (if you’re using butter, the hot water will help it melt).
- If you’re using milk, pour it in, too.
- Stir with a stirring spoon to everything is fairly well blended (don’t worry — it doesn’t have to be anything like perfect!).
- If you have time, give the ingredients about 5 or 10 minutes to rest. This lets the flour take up the liquids. It also lets you find some awesome podcasts to listen to while you knead (might I recommend the History Chicks?).
- Squish everything together a little with your hands, dust your work surface with flour, and dump your dough right onto it.
- If you’re like me, set a timer so you don’t find yourself thinking, “OMG, I have been kneading this dough foreeeeeeeevaaaarrrrrr.” 6 to 8 minutes should do the trick.
- Ready … set … knead! Remember, no grouchy TV chefs are here, and even if they are, it’s your kitchen — so knead that dough in whatever way works for you!
- Ball up the dough, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 30 minutes (if you’re in a hurry) to 1 hour (if you’re not). Longer than 1 hour is fine, too. If it’s going to sit all day or overnight, though, maybe stick the dough in the fridge so it doesn’t go completely crazy.
- When you’re ready to bake, preheat dat oven — I like a darker, crisper crust, so I set it for 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Punch down your puffed-up, self-important doughball friend, then shape your baguettes or batards or loaf or rolls or boules or what have you. I often do one baguette and either four submarine rolls or eight dinner rolls.
- If you have time, let your dough rise again (like the Mary-Ellen Carter!) for 15 – 30 minutes. this step is optional, but gets you a pooftier end product.
- Bake for 15 (for dinner rolls) to 30 minutes on or in whatever kind of pizza stone, cookie sheet, loaf pan, and/or baguette pan you’ve got on hand. You can probably even use muffin tins (though I haven’t tried that).
- Cool (preferably on a rack) for as long as you can stand it.
- The most important part! Enjoy your bread while collecting accolades from your friends and loved ones who will be like, “OMG, this person is amazing!” (Unless they can’t have gluten. I should learn a good gluten-free recipe, because Celiac is no joke.)
That’s it! I’ll try to add pictures, and someday, I swear, I really will do a video post about this.
Edit: Oh, yeah. You can also also combine steps 1 through 4 and just mix everything together right away, as long as you have good yeast. I like to proof mine because it makes me feel like a mad scientist, but it isn’t really entirely necessary.
When I make pizza dough (exact same recipe!), I usually omit the second rise.
Since returning home from That Thing In The Desert, I’ve been playing catch-up and haven’t been able to resume my normal schedule because reasons, so my apologies for radio silence over here.
Just made a quick shopping list, read it to myself, and am feeling vaguely appalled because it reads:
I feel like I should put bacon (the ultra-processed kind, not the free-range artisan-crafted kind) or hot dogs on there just to de-hippify it a little.
Not that there’s anything wrong with hippies; it takes all kinds. But, wow.
Lunch today at J. Carino’s Italian Grill, an Italian-American casual dining sort of place with a $7.99 small plates lunch menu from which I didn’t order, because I was tempted away by eggplant parmesan (which I could fully justify, as I’m certainly going to burn it off tonight!).
Decent bread and seasoned olive oil arrived immediately, and I chose to start off with a Caesar salad, which was quite good in spite of the usual Midwestern lack of anchovies. The dressing still carried those nice umami-salty notes one hopes for from a good Caesar. The croutons, alas, did not live up to the salad; they weren’t terrible, but rather roundly mediocre. I added fresh ground pepper from a pepper mill at table.
My entree was quite good – crisp, tender, and flavorful; the fruit well-chosen to avoid the bitterness that sometimes characterizes the flavor of larger specimens (which, to whit, I don’t mind, but many dislike). A sound but-not-excessive coat of cheese and a layer of spinach between the eggplant slices (a welcome innovation, to my palate) rounded things out.
An enormous pile of spaghetti (cooked slightly less al dente than I prefer, but quite acceptable) and a very serviceable marinara — willing to take the back seat, but far from flavorless, and not suffering from the unfortunate sweetness that often plagues Midwestern marinara – topped it off.
I saved half of my eggplant and most of the pasta for supper; it’s true that dancing is hungry work, but I didn’t want to explode!
I finished up with a nicely-portioned mini chocolate cake (a lemon cream cake looked tempting, but wasn’t available in the manageable miniature size). Plenty of bitter cocoa flavor here, which offset a slightly-too-sweet chocolate frosting. A tiny scoop of quite nice vanilla ice cream dusted with cocoa powder played very well.
Overall, quite a bit better than I had expected for an Italian-American joint in a the orbit of a shopping mall in Lexington, KY. Service was also good — attentive without being invasive. I would have liked a little more time with my salad, but I eat very, very slowly, so most will probably find the timing quite acceptable.
I will definitely keep Carino’s Italian Grill in my roster of lunch places in this area.
Total came to $19.36 before tip. I tipped generously for excellent service that took me seriously even though I showed up wearing my octopus swim trunks and a deep-v t-shirt (and probably looking like some broke kid who might not tip well) 😉