Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Still perking along. While I was feeding the starters tonight I took some quick photos. I notice that the stiff levain is quite stiff right after you've fed it, almost to the point where it's hard to incorporate all the flour. A day later it's a sticky, stiff, nicely mixed mass, usually with nice bubbles throughout. The after is almost identical to the starter I received from King Arthur Flour.
The more "liquid" rye mixture is usually well-aerated by bubbles before feeding too, but what I notice is the change in color. Before: oatmeal grey/tan. After: pinkish beigey/grey. The after is definitely looser and wetter.
I don't suppose I really need to keep them in their little heated "swimming pool" anymore. They're pretty mature at this point. I like to see them perking away though so I might just leave them there but turn the heater down some.
Customer becomes evangelist
Saturday, December 25, 2004
I recently read some books by Guy Kawasaki and a recurring theme was the notion that successful companies' customers become evangelists for them. Now that's not something you can just DO -- you have to have good products, good business practices etc -- but when it happens, there's a whole 'nother level of spreading the word going on.
Today, after transacting some business with Williams-Sonoma, in the very same mall where I work, I paused to speak to the two women who had helped me. You know, I said, that I work for Apple. And yes, the one young woman did know that. Well, you've just done a really Apple-like thing -- you've made me a total evangelist for Williams-Sonoma and I want you to know how extremely grateful I am for what you did.
My 5 qt kitchenaid mixer died Friday. I didn't think it was possible to kill one of those, but when I started to mix the dough - the beater wouldn't turn anymore. I was really heart-sick about this, thinking about the expense of shipping this to whereever, and the cost of having it looked at and possibly repaired. So yesterday, after the crowds thinned at the mall, I went up to Williams-Sonoma to ask for advice about places I might have it looked at. The nice young man asked me some questions, expressed some surprise at what had happened (I told him I thought I'd killed my KitchenAid) and then asked -- did you get it here?
And the answer to that was yes. To which he replied:
Then bring it back!
But, I said, I've had it for several years. And I don't know if I have the box. I think I have the receipt (my practice being to staple it inside the book that comes with the appliance). Well he said - no problem about the box. If you have the receipt, even better. If we don't have the model you have, you can get a credit towards something else.
When I came home I was way excited to find the box in the attic. I found the receipt in the book. I dusted off the flour and packaged it up as best I could and put it in my car. At lunch time I returned to Williams-Sonoma and they weren't too busy so I presented myself and my mixer at the counter. And they did just what the young man had promised: they returned it and gave me full credit for the amount paid for the previous mixer towards a new one.
I'm still amazed and astounded! So folks, it pays to consider where you're buying things that you hope to have around for awhile. I don't know what W-S has to gain from swapping out a four year old mixer for me, except what I can give them which is some long-term faithfulness and some word of mouth evangelism, so here you go.
My folks and I had a very nice day together -- opening presents in a very relaxed quiet and enjoyable way. No rush, easy to share the opening and not miss the reactions. And of course we had a whole day to play with the new toys! Lots of fun there. One of my aunts made a surprise visit and brought with her a new fruitcake recipe to try - now that's just a wonderful thing. Since we'd already done present exchanging with my brother and his family, there were fewer packages under the tree but a good time was had by all, and it all ended with our traditional holiday dinner of filet mignon, mashed potatoes etc. Mmmmm good.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Yeasty boyz update:
The little aquarium set up is working out quite well. Only one problem so far with a container tipping over. No problem - just restarted the little buggers and the new bowl perked away quite happily.
I used some of the liquid rye sourdough to start a pre-ferment for basic bread out of St. H's book. That perked away VERY happily and I thought -- this is going to be a dream. Well, maybe a nightmare.
First I screwed up the recipe. ooops, you meant I should add water! Ah. Just a "brain fart" as they say. No problem. I'd made a double batch of starter since I'd hoped to make more loaves. So I started again. This dough turned out ok but incredibly sticky. So sticky that at times I thought my bleached bones would be found cemented to a bowl in the kitchen... But I endeavored on. Shaped the loaves, placed them on the prepared peel. Heated the oven. Came the moment and I slid - I said SLID - C'Mon now SLIDE already - the first loaf was of course stuck to the peel. The moment I tried to slide them, the second stuck to the first leaving me with a big butterfly shaped dual loaf thing. There was no way to separate the two things what with the superhot oven etc, so I moved them apart as far as I could, steamed the oven three times and let it go. Smelled good. Looked good, but I knew the chances of baking this odd-shaped thing were zilch.
And indeed - doughy in the center. What was cooked tasted great, had a nicely aerated interior and had GREAT crust - initially very crispy and later with great character.
So bloody but unbowed, I'll keep on feeding the little yeasties and try again....
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Oh! It's that time of year already?
Thursday, December 16, 2004
I mean -- it's that most wonderful time of the year...
All I can say is holy moly.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Fortes fortuna adiuvat*
that's what Fortune Elkins bade me after a round of emails and a bit of gumption on her part, ending with me getting an email from the author of the book we're both studying, Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman.
My starters were perking away when I looked at them this evening so I was quite pleased. The lavain was literally making little burps while I was snapping photos.
Fortune asked me what I was going to name these two (the rye sourdough starter and the levain) -- I guess time will tell.
For the moment I'll tell you that blogs can create some powerful support late night when you're a tad sleep deprived and wondering what the heck the consistency of your sourdough starter is supposed to be and if you'll fail all together due to having a very cool kitchen. But, I'm reassured, having had the support of someone much more knowledgable than I, and all is not lost yet -- it's all bubbling away, even as we speak. Thanks Fortune and Jeffrey!
* Fortune favors the brave. (Terence)
Yup, it's all about fruitcake.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Read a cool article about me and the Society here
Tis the season
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Yup, it's December. Lots of shopping days, a little snow, lots of weather talk, more shopping, and of course:fruitcake
So - it's just a whirl of phone interviews, requests for interviews and radio show call-ins, and today - an interview with a local paper.
Yesterday almost 400 people hit the fruitcake society's website. Watch for links to the upcoming press blitz.
Oh and for fellow fruitcake supporters, who would have guessed that the alcohol would be a big selling point for fruitcake among the young male market? Guys who I wouldn't have bet on putting any crumb of fruitcake in their mouths, happily munched it down with the info that there was alcohol in there somewhere. Eat happy guys, and learn to love fruitcake.
Finally, I posted a newly tried recipe for Pumpkin Fruitcake to the Society's recipe area. From a great cookbook I've had for years, I thought this year would be a good year to branch out a little bit and try a new fruitcake recipe. Turned out great and not hard to do at all.
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