Saturday, December 31, 2016

Adieu 2016, hello 2017

It was a tough year. No doubt. But I've had tougher.

Some good friends left this plane of existence. I hurt, but I've hurt worse.

I laughed some. A few tears dribbled down my cheeks.

I did some things I was extraordinarily proud of.

I experienced fear. I faced my fears.

I took some photos, wrote some stories. I sewed some art quilts that amazed the one critic that really matters: me.

I was reminded, over and over again, that it is dark and light that together make contrast, and that perception requires contrast. Contrast is what brings richness to art and to life itself.

All in all, 2016 was a rich year. I expect 2017 to be even richer.

When I toast the new year to come in a few hours, I'll raise a glass to you, too. Thank you for reading my stuff. Thank you for laughing with me, not at me. Thank you for being friends, whether I've ever met you or not.

Happy New Year. May 2017 be full of riches for you and yours.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Oh no! Not fry bread!

Yes, friends, once again I'm attempting to do this thing called "cooking". In this case, it's deep frying, and the idea was to salvage a lump of flour and yeast that was supposed to rise into a glorious sourdough to be baked this morning.

But it didn't.  Rise, that is.  I should have taken a photo of the lump, but really, it was too embarrassing.

So. About the bread loaf that wasn't. I've gotten to the point where I can make a quite acceptable loaf of regular bread, but given that I'm using sourdough starter to do so, the result has been a big disappointment to me.

Not that it doesn't (usually) rise.  Not that it doesn't make a pretty loaf of bread.  And not that I don't still eat it, but... it's just white bread.  Know what I mean?

I want sour sourdough, not just bread.

Internet research reveals that one method for getting a more sour flavor is adding some rye flour to the starter. OK, I did that. The effect of rye flour is supposed to be like candy for a toddler. It's supposed to make hyper starter.

My starter looked and smelled pretty much the same after dosing it with rye flour.

Another trick is supposed to be maintaining a drier starter. My starter is like batter, but some people's starters are like, well, lumps of dough.  I chose a consistency somewhat in between.

Anyway, being me, I didn't go at this scientifically. I used rye flour plus I made a sponge that was less like batter and more like really soft dough. Um... was the sponge the part that was supposed to be drier? I can't remember. I used about ten different sources for this experiment and they kind of got mixed up in my head.

Should it have been a clue when, after 10 hours, the sponge was more or less just sitting there? Like a lump? Possibly. Nevertheless, I went ahead and added more flour, kneaded it, put it in the bowl to rise so I could punch it down in another 10 hours.  Making sourdough isn't a speedy process.

When I punched it the next morning, it didn't even twitch, much less sag. Very tough bread dough. Hmmm. I figured I'd give it another 10 hours to get a life.

It's dead Jim.

I was sad to be unable to detect any signs of life.  This morning I was faced with the option of just throwing the lump out or doing something else with it. That's when I came up with the idea of fry bread.

Not a slice of bread that's fried (like French toast) but dough that is cooked in oil, shortening, or lard, rather than baked. Not exactly healthy but hey, the fry bread I've had at pow-wows and various fairs in New Mexico is darned yummy. Really, it would be like making a stiff pancake, I figured.  How hard could that be?

I don't have any lard. The very word sounds nasty to me, and I know where it comes from. Ewwww. The white pasty glue-like look of shortening is icky, too.  But oil?  I've got oil.  

I used virgin olive oil. Maybe I'd end up with a non-traditional taste, but then I don't think fry bread usually is made with sourdough starter, either.

I tend to go through a bunch of recipes and pick the parts I agree with most and then combine the parts.  Just sayin'. The fry bread recipes I looked at said to use lots of oil. Deep frying, you know. Yeah, well, they weren't using expensive olive oil, either, so I poured about a quarter inch in a small cast-iron pan and heated it up. 

Meanwhile, I mashed a smallish ball of dough (a couple inches in diameter) into a flat disc. I fancied myself patting it into a tortilla sort of deal like a pro. I'm pretty sure I got all the cat hair off of the ones that I dropped. Never mind. The hair would be sterilized in the oil anyway.

And then I cooked them, one by one.  It took a long time.  The whole house still smells like fry bread and olive oil.

The end result: Not bad. 

Will I do it again real soon?  Um... let me get back to you on that.

NOTE:  Don't try this at home, kids, not if you want traditional fry bread. Dense, really sour disks of cooked dough aren't for everyone. But boy howdy, they do taste good with peanut butter.