Wednesday, April 25, 2012

performance mode

i have trouble socializing in large gatherings; by large i mean anything larger than 2 people outside of kaytie / chloe.  The ambient noise in large group settings confuses me as I have trouble not paying attention to everything going around me (this in turn makes it difficult for me to focus on the conversation i'm actually involved in).  On occasion I will actually feel mild anxiety attacks, though never nearly the sort that would warrant comparison to a disorder.  This isn't to say that I should avoid social situations.  I just struggle with them a bit.

In order to cope with the anxiety and disorientation, I've learned over the years of what is expected of me in situations and how to behave in these scenarios.  It's hard to describe my "performance mode" without sounding like a fake personality.  I feel that sometimes an introvert trying to be social and outside of a comfort zone is too often judged as having a "church-face."  (one reason why i never really enjoyed Casting Crown's "Stained Glass Masquerade")  I don't believe it's fake because my anxiety does not come from fear but merely from lack of a natural propensity towards multiple-person situations.  I do care and I enjoy having a social life.  I just prefer being in the kitchen cooking for the party rather than being in the party.  However I also realize that when I do emerge from the kitchen it would not do for me to enter the room with eyes downcast and to not speak to anyone.  I would not make many friends if I were to tell people "thanks but I'm really just interested in sitting here and observing."  And I do want to make friends.

So this social mode I can shift myself into allows me to dive head-long into what I feel would help the social situation I find myself in.  If I'm sitting at a table with someone, I should ask them generic, small-talk questions so that they do not feel alone or isolated; I know what it's like to sit next to someone who says absolutely nothing.  Problem is that since I am not naturally social, it's hard for me to establish boundaries and I often get myself in trouble.  I once got up on an upper-level railing at a dance in college and shook my bottom at the crowd.  (in case you're wondering, i do regret it now)  At other times I've said borderline inappropriate comments / stories at very conservative situations.  On purpose.  Aware of the ramifications of what I was about to do.  I get carried away.  All this because I either focus on what I need to do socially or I begin perspiring very visible amounts.  And those who have known me long enough know that when I get nervous the only functioning sweat glands in my entire body are only in my head; thus all the sweat that is normally distributed throughout my body is re-directed into the bottle-neck of my head's glands.  I become a fountain.  And if you're like me, if you're going to sweat like a dog you're going down at the very least with applause and laughter.

tonight i made pizza for the first time since kaytie's mom died.  Emotional associations with food are powerful.  Good associations can make terrible food intensely satisfying.  Bad associations can blacklist the highest quality instantly.  Some associations fade away over time and some are nearly insurmountable even with the most intense Dr. Oz treatments.  Fortunately for us, homemade pizza is fading back into the edible list.

When making homemade pizza I have three anal retentive requirements:
1)  Crust must be made by hand and must have a very high hydration level (high ratio of water to flour as wetter doughs are more likely to produce the desirably large, irregular, gaping holes in the crust)
2)  The quality of your crust is the foundation for the relevancy of your toppings.  If quality crust cannot be available, then one should save money and not worry about too much effort on the toppings.
3)  Pizza should be viewed like getting to know an introvert.  Flavor is best communicated with few words.  When too many words are put into a thought, the idea becomes jumbled and unfocused.  The point gets diluted and loses impact.  Listen and think, then give your idea.  My point is that less is more.  Do not over complicate your pizza just to impress.  Pick one idea for each pizza and stick with it.

Salami, olives, and goat cheese w/ red sauce


Chorizo pizza cross-section showing large holes from wet crust dough

Tomatoes, olives, and anchovies

Sunday, April 22, 2012

conflict to embrace

sometimes when we are leaving the grocery store there are those young people who ask if we have a "minute to save the children."  it's always hard for me to trust them (I've personally been scammed before).  At the same time, its difficult for me to tell them no, i don't have any cash i can spare to save the state parks as i walk by with my shopping cart full of organic strawberries and artisan pale ale.  it's a rough double-standard that I have plenty of money to drink small-batch beer or organic mint-chip ice cream but not for the beggar on the side of the street.  

the majority of our income is spent on two things - mortgage and bills and then food.  realistically, i have to admit to myself that, compared to a lot of people, I live at a standard better than others.  Being an engineer, I'm probably going to be earning more than others in more labor-intensive and even dangerous jobs.  

i've read a lot about how God wants us to enjoy his blessings.  no problem there.  definitely convinced.  no matter how much i read, how much i experience, how much i hear from other people, i can't be completely at peace with it.  I don't mean to say that this is burning a hole through my heart.  I don't struggle spiritually because of this.  And i do believe that God is okay with me choosing to spend more of my income on food of a better quality than mono-dehydrated oils.  

But i believe that, while God gives me the grace to enjoy these foods, he also expects my soul to remain raw to the reality of the world i am called to be a light and a blessing within.  

Jesus asked his disciples what good does it do for a man to gain the world but lose his soul?  I believe he means that it is better for a man's heart to be hurt than to become so cold and hard that not even the simplest compassion can penetrate.  It is better to have flesh that can bleed than to be a statue made of stone, to ache than to grow numb.  

Since I stopped running from Jesus almost twelve years ago, I've felt more pain than I ever have.  And the emotional wound I suffered that stopped the running was bad.  And, yet, i've felt more than i ever have.  I've felt more love than I ever have.  The wound that stopped the running also opened my heart to feel what I was always too stubborn and scared to feel.  

I am at peace with who I am and I look forward to how God plans on stretching my soul and all those challenges and stuff.  I'm at peace with the fact that I can earn more money than others and can afford a more luxurious lifestyle than others.  

But until the day that Jesus restores the kingdom and that material things of the world are no longer needed, I cannot rest the conflicts in my heart.  I cannot stay at peace with the fact that there are still people who starve to death while California state officials host $800k conventions.  

And on that note, here's a photo timeline of a sourdough made over the weekend.

Blue-Cheese & Dill Sourdough with Toasted Sunflower Seeds

4:00 pm - Danish Blue-Cheese and Dill
4:30 pm - Dough placed in floured banneton,
 to rise in fridge overnight
Next day - 7:00 am - Dough placed on
counter after overnight rise

7:02 am - Dough scored with "x" pattern, about to go into oven

7:05 am - Dough placed (carefully!) in dutch oven
 preheated to 450 deg. F then covered with pot lid

7:35 am - Loaf after 30 minutes of baking with pot lid on
(to bake w/ steam escaping from dough as it bakes)

7:50 am - Loaf after 15 minutes of baking with
 pot lid removed (to brown)

8:00 am - Loaf after additional 10 minutes of browning

moved in reverse

i know, i know...

i went to tumblr and now i'm back here.

i realize my indecisiveness.

is that a word?

anyways i'm back because blogger is just so much friendlier to the casual blogger.
so i'm importing the posts from tumblr to here...

six light-rye boules for Susie

six light-rye boules for Susie

Strawberry Cake Saturday

when life hands you lemons…
you take the zest of the lemon and a bit of its juice and incorporate it into a white cake batter.  
you take another one of those life-lemons and zest it into some mascarpone cheese, whip with three tablespoons of powdered sugar and then fold into a big pile of whipped cream.
then you make a two layer cake with sliced strawberries in the middle and throw the leftover strawberries on top. 
you also have your three year old daughter do the frosting so that you have a good excuse for baking a cake… it’s educating your daughter, after all.  Yes, our children increasingly in need for us parents to step up to the plate and give them a better appreciation for food (lettuce?  it’s that shredded stuff in my daddy’s big mac, right?).  However I also firmly believe that all children should one day get to frost a cake with sugar aerated within dairy fat molecule chains.  It really is important.
then you come to terms with the reality that the real education is that there are some foods that just should be made at home and eaten.  that there are some days when you need to give your elliptical machine the finger and consume lovely angel-food-esque white cake covered in early-spring strawberries.  With a mug of peppermint tea afterwards. 
and you must, must, must, lick your fingers after folding the mascarpone into the whipped cream.  and after frosting the cake.
and, while this is optional (actually it really isn’t), you may save some of the mascarpone topping for pancakes the next morning.  
these sort of days come every now and then and are not to be confused with the difficult days when things just don’t go your way.  The days when you could have sworn God decided that was the day the world shall test thy patience.  Those days are not the same as these days.  These days are for celebrating with cake because cake is delicious.  That’s it.  That’s where it ends. You eat cake on these days because the fruit is pretty and the day is pleasant.
I think sometimes I miss out on these days because so much of my days go to purpose.  The food I cook is carefully thought out to balance carbohydrates with mono-saturated fats to minimize our fat and cholesterol levels while optimizing flavor and salt levels.  To minimize the driving distance to the store to save gas so we can hit green on this month’s food budget.  Everything gets obsessed with purpose.  
not today.  I chose not to miss out today.
White Cake with fresh strawberries and mascarpone-whipped cream topping
Cake recipe adapted from p.193 of “The Perfect Finish” by Bill Yosses
1 cup cake flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
finely grated zest of one lemon (juice of half)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 small container mascarpone cheese
scant 1/4 cup powdered sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon + 3 tablespoons juice
1 box good tasting strawberries

sift flour with baking powder and salt.
break eggs into bowl and whip on medium until foamy.  Add sugar and whip until soft peaks form.
mix oil with lemon stuff and vanilla extract and 1/4 cup water.
fold flour mixture into whipped eggs in three parts, incorporating the flour completely before adding the next amount.
fold oil mixture into batter until incorporated.
be gentle, we want the whipped egg structure to keep the cake light and bouncy.
Pour batter into a buttered, floured 9-inch springform pan, bake at 350 deg F for about 30-40 minutes until center is clean to a tester.
cool on a rack for at least one hour.
meanwhile, whip the whipping cream to medium peaks (glossy but still silky… high peaks are when the cream just begins to look sturdy and almost partially chunky… the heat from friction can begin to cook the egg whites).  scrape into a clean, dry bowl then whip mascarpone cheese with powdered sugar and lemon stuff until fluffy soft.  Fold mascarpone into whipping cream until incorporated for the most part.  I wouldn’t bother trying for full mix because we don’t want to deflate the whipping cream.  
slice half your strawberries and then halve the rest.
slice cake in half, frost with a thin layer of whipped topping, add sliced strawberries, frost with another thin layer of whipped topping.  Add top layer of cake, frost with remaining frosting to your preferences then finish with remaining strawberries.

oh and, finally, chloe decided it was her mom’s birthday cake so we followed suit.  
why not?

Sourdough Cia-baguettes

Made a variation on a recipe found here:
I added 4 g rye flour and replaced the last 4 oz. of bread flour with whole wheat flour for a more country/rustic feel.  
The final dough had a fairly high hydration level so the dough didn’t really hold the baguette shape.  If i kept working the dough to get a baguette shape I probably would have crushed a lot of the hole structure.  Instead I started to form baguette loaves and then stretched them out ciabatta style to make a cross between (hence the slightly corny cia-baguette name).  
If I lived in san francisco and could grow san francisco sourdough bacteria this would have that nice sf sourdough tang that would make them oh so incredible.
alas, i don’t so oh well.
did you know that boudin ships portions of their san francisco sourdough mother starter to their chain restaurants every day?  SF starters lose their SF-unique bacteria within only a handful of feedings of the starter so in order for their chains outside of the SF area to maintain daily SF sourdough bread they need a fresh starter from their plant.  
nice thing about the high hydration level in this bread is that it helped facilitate the large, irregular holes that are expected in good ciabatta (and even sourdough) breads.  water keeps the gluten strands within the dough “moist”, partially preventing the gluten strands from sticking together when baking.  Additionally the extra water allows the bread to expand without restrictions from the hardened crust.  Since the oven is a dry environment, the outer surface of the bread hardens before the interior can fully expand and thus becomes a “shell” that determines the final shape of the bread and how many holes you can have in your interior.  Stiffer bread doughs will form this crust earlier while looser/wetter doughs form the crust later b/c the extra moisture keeps the crust loose and stretch-able longer.

Contrary to trendy opinion...

What?  Apple computers are just as vulnerable to virus and hacker attacks as those “Windows” things for uncool people?  
(robotic female voice) “From now on, I’ll call you Say-It-Ain’t-So, is that ok?”

Nerd Art

this makes every nerd gene in my body quiver with “that-is-so-freaking-awesome”-ness