improvising with bread

By the time we left Gilroy in May of 2015 I was a pretty confident bread baker. I didn’t need to follow a recipe: I knew the proportions required for a decent loaf and could play it by ear.

When we moved down here I stopped baking bread. In part I wasn’t confident that the oven that came with the house could produce a decent loaf. And part of it, if I’m being honest with myself, was sour grapes at having to give up my beloved convection oven in Gilroy.

This spring here in Hemet we bought a new stove with convection oven. We had to. The old oven was dead and the cost of repairing it was half the cost of buying a whole new unit. But the purchase made me a happy guy and all of a sudden King Arthur Flour had my business again.

Super 10 blend bread loafIt had been four years since I had baked bread, so I went back to my recipes. But once I regained my stride I started leaving those recipes on the shelf and making what inspired me.

I love sourdough bread, but Terry enjoys whole wheat and multi-grain breads, so I mix it up. King Arthur changes their multi-grain flour mixtures depending on what ingredients are available to them. The most recent formulation that I bought was their Super 10 Blend. Last week I made a loaf with 25% Super 10, 25% whole wheat, and 50% bread flour (along with a good measure of vital wheat gluten). It turned out quite well. That’s the loaf pictured here. I like the Super 10 blend; next time I’ll make a loaf with 50% Super 10.

This week, however, it’s sourdough French bread.

The journey continues.


The Dictionary Wars

Dictionary Wars coverThe Dictionary Wars: The American Fight over the English Language
Peter Martin
Princeton University Press (May 28, 2019)
368 pages
Kindle edition $9.88, Amazon Hardcover $19.03

Noah Webster is known, obviously, for his dictionary of American English. He was, however, not a skilled lexicographer, he was rather thin-skinned, and inserted his religious and moral beliefs into his dictionary entries. The Dictionary Wars describes this complex man and his lexicographical legacy.

It turns out that Webster was highly inconsistent in his original dictionary and was really bad at etymology. He also had some odd ideas about Americanizing spelling to distinguish American English from British. Some of his reforms caught on (“theater” rather than “theatre”), but many of his proposals were just weird, and were reversed in later editions.

The dictionary process became quite the family affair as he recruited his sons-in-law to assist in revisions and abridgements (he had three daughters). All of this was rather interesting, but the descriptions of ongoing battles after Webster’s death over ownership of various editions and whether competing dictionaries had plagiarized Webster became tedious while occupying something like the last third of the book. Those battles ended only with the deaths of those involved in the disputes.

There is some engaging material here, but one has to be a real language nerd to make it all the way through this book. As it was I skimmed the last several chapters.


Tasha: still surprising

Today is November 1st, and for me there are always two things of note on this day. It is All Saints’ Day on the Episcopal calendar, and it is the day in 2005 on which we brought Tasha home from the shelter.

When we first brought Tasha home she had a lot of puppy in her, and when we were away she would go through the trash cans in the house. We bought multiple covered trash cans to deal with that. It eventually became something that we didn’t worry about too much.

TashaWhen we moved south in 2015, without even thinking too much about it, we put an uncovered trash basket in the laundry room. That wasn’t an issue until a couple of months ago, when, on two instances, Tasha tore into that trash basket. She still has the puppy in her when the urge arises. I went to Target and bought a covered trash can for the laundry room.

At her age, however, she is still adaptable. Her afternoon walk has always been mid-afternoon, around 2:00 p.m. or so. But this summer it was just too hot, so we shifted her walk to early evening, around six-ish. She was happy with that. She seemed to agree about the heat.

Tasha is our amazing child who still keeps us surprised after all these years,