Monday, March 21, 2011

Crazy Train of Thought

As Nutty as I am, the following alien will guest star in the next series of recipe posts, but as by way of introduction, we saw Paul Sunday night at the Camera 7 Pruneyard in Campbell, and while I’m corralling the final bits of the Cooking Magazine Project and cleaning for a house guest tonight, my train of thought is chugging away...


Engine: If you are in the area and we are friends/acquaintances AND you have viewed the trailer at least twice AND you are SURE you think it might be your kind of funny, I will happily hop on down and see it with each and every one of you. Individually, even. Multiple times. It's hilarious, and has everything--ET, Star Wars, Alien, Predator, Alien Vs. Predator, Close Encounter, even Jaws fergawshsakes. And Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Two Geniuses, One brilliant team. And Simon Pegg is a Ginger. Did I mention he played Scottie in the Star Trek Redux?


Baggage Car: Having just moved down here to San Jose/ Willow Glen/ Campbell area a year ago, and most of that having been a whirlwind of circumstance, it feels like I've only just begun to explore my own neighbourhoods. Jedi Jasmin has lived here forever, and has always gone to the Camera 7 at the Pruneyard shopping center. While I had mostly patronised larger plexes--most recently the delightful newer AMC Cupertino Square (Vallco to the natives)--we never ventured this far south for movies. Well, not never. Back in the highschool days, I came to the Camera 3 theatre in downtown with a Bellarmine Boy to see 1000 Pieces of Gold. Around the same time there was an animation festival featuring an Italian take on Fantasia with a sequence of starving animals dragging through a desert to Bolero that haunts me to this day.


So this is a true local theatre, small like the Hacienda Cinema in Sunnyvale, CA (my very own first job in 1989). And they have a savings card! Buy 10 movie passes for $60; applicable to all movies and they get first-run movies. Their popcorn is fresh, popped by a 2011 version teenage Laura who will have to hand clean that sucker 15 minutes after the last show starts. Armburnsarmburnsarmburns. If I ever see a Now Hiring sign, my inner 15-year-old is filling out an application. Only drawback is, they do not carry Goobers.


Dining Car: Cooking Magazine Project! Several years ago, I began subscribing to Cooking Light, which has been mostly very cool. I twitch a lot at the sheer amount of “boneless-skinless-chicken-breast-ness” and sauces made of skim milk and flour which I have given more than a couple ol’ college tries and the result being, to quote myself, “BLECH”. I tend to side with Micheal Pollan in believing that the way to nutrition is to turn tail at the first sign of “Nutritional Claims” and run for Real Food. However, there are a LOT of really good ideas in magazines, but the groaning stacks upstairs are not so named for mere whimsy’s sake. So I have taken four years amassed volumes since the last project,


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sorted through and culled the stuff I wanted:

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put them all in sheet protectors:


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and then into the binders!


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Caboose: So, as promised last time, a recipe. And some face-up, on my part: BREAD!


NOTE: This will be a freebee, as I have found this 'new-style bread' basic recipe a zillion places, then I will exhort you to toddle into your local bookshop to lay hands on "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Fran├žois. This loaf is right up front. The rest of the book is so much delicious bread that is as easy to do that you will NEED their tasty tasty knowledge. Plus, they totally have my number-- I have admitted to never baking bread before because I believed it was soooo hard and that whole yeast thing was soooo confusing...as the authors state: “Yeast...Here’s another area where obsessing about an ingredient can take all the fun out of baking.” Who’s obsessive? Me?


You have Jedi Jasmin to thank for my enlightenment, and away we go:


“Artisan Free-Form Loaf” Makes four 1-pound loaves


-3 liquid-measure cups lukewarm water-- test it over your hand, it has to feel warmer than yerownself, about 100F.

-1.5 tablespoons granulated yeast (buy the jar, keep it in the fridge)

-1.5 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt

-6.5 dry-measure cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method

-Cornmeal for the pizza peel*



  1. Warm water,
  2. Add yeast and salt to water in a 5-qt bowl-- we did this in a stand mixer bowl cuz it makes the whole process go like stink.
  3. Mix in the flour. Kneading is not necessary, just dump it into the water in the mixing bowl, SLOWLY raise the speed of your mixer fitted with the DOUGH HOOK, or mix it with a wooden spoon in a big ol’ bowl. Do this just until the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl as one happy ball, then STOP! In the name of loave!
  4. Rising and Containment: You can stick it in a bowl and cover with a towel for at least 2 hours then start using it. THEN: We tend to keep ours in blubbermaid not-air-tight-lid plastic food storage containers in the fridge, where it will keep for about 2 weeks. This makes 4 portions, so using a square or rectangular container means just grabbing a quarter and baking.
  5. Bakers Away! DO NOT KNEAD. Give it what’s called a Gluten Cloak. Grab a chunk of dough from your container and place on a smooth cutting board (or pizza peel if you have one) that you have dusted with cornmeal, flour or whatever your recipe calls for. Do cornmeal here, it makes a nice bottom crust. Take your chunk and lightly stretch the surface so it’s smooth alllll the way round the top and sides and the bottom looks like a sea anemone. It doesn’t matter, it’ll fix itself. Let it sit, set a timer for **20 MINUTES**.
  6. When the timer goes off, set your oven to **450F**, place your bread stone (I happen to have a flat cast iron griddle that worked well) in the middle rack of the oven and set your timer for another **20 MINUTES**. Dust with flour and SLASH! in a nice pattern, hopefully not entirely evocative of Freddy Kruger.
  7. When that timer goes off, place the loaf on the stone in the hot oven. Place a metal pan filled 2/3 with water in the lower rack of the oven, close the door and set the timer for **30MINUTES**.
  8. Remove and place on a wire rack, where it will snap and crackle as it settles. This is normal. Deny the urge to tear into the fresh, hot loaf like a wolverine, you will burn yourself, and means you will not have nearly enough for:
  9. a) Almond Butter and Fig Spread Sammich b) Liverwurst, Caper and Dijon Sammich, c) Chicken Salad, Mustard and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper Sammich. Among other things.


I have now conquered the Bread Bogey Man, recipe’d you and got all OCD magazine filed. As you can see, I need a break, so really, call me, you really want to meet Paul. He’s cool like that.


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