Sunday, December 12, 2010

Homemade Organic Boule

Homemade Organic Boule, originally uploaded by defmonk2007.

After no fewer than 60 loaves and as many methodologies, I finally pulled a nearly perfect loaf of a simple organic bread from my cheap pseudo-commercial oven. A combination of methods, it's largely based on the Sullivan Street Bakery's ( no-knead recipe first popularized by the NYT (despite my stubborn initial refusal to embrace the simplicity of that approach).

My desire to make bread from high-quality, but very simple ingredients, started this madness. It's hard to resist something so exquisite made solely from salt, water, yeast and flour.

The shortcomings of a pure Sullivan Street-style "no-knead" bread are: while passed off as "rustic" in appearance, the loaves are a bit sloppy, the attempt to make this method accessible creates some variation in result and the finished loaf lacks the "yeasty" smell and flavor of great artisan bread.

A generously floured round willow proofing basket, to my mind, yields a better-looking loaf. The regular concentric dusting circles, and light ridges, reft by irregular rising cracks are worth the extra effort. So, rather than all the dusted dishtowels Jim Lahey recommends, I just shape the dough and toss it into a dusted proofing basket.

I get highly consistent results simply by experimenting to find the best ingredients and working out careful weight measures. I've settled on Great River Organic Stone-Ground Bread Flour, Smart Water (good pH balance for the yeast), Fleur de Mer grey sea salt and a combination of cake yeast/Red Star active yeast. The liquids add up to 1-2/3 cups (rather than 1-5/8 cups) to 450g (rather than 3 cups) of flour.

I've bumped up the bread flavor by borrowing from the sourdough and "pain sur poolish" techniques. I start by mixing 8g of cake yeast with 3 Tbs of warm Smart Water and adding about a tsp of organic clover honey (agh, cheating...but it's worth it). I put this aside for some hours until the yeast activity subsides and the mixture has a strong fermented smell. I throw this mixture in a measuring cup, which I then top up with more Smart Water to reach the 1-2/3 cups of liquid required for my version of the recipe.

Overall, this produces an attractive, flavorful loaf, with all of the user-friendliness of the Sullivan Street revolution and without its shortcomings.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

America Speaks on Key Election Issues

The only thing that could lift me from the post-election doldrums is a spectacular infographic like this. It's really a fitting tribute to Ask America, our contribution to enabling real discourse and expression around the issues Americans care about. We're a complex bunch of folks and our views on key elections issues reveal this. Enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

America speaks: The top issues by region

This new infographic leaves you scratching your head. Sure, Floridians care about Charlie Crist and his political antics. But why do Westerners care so much? Is it the Arizona-Florida house slipper and rhinestone pipeline? Heck if I know.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ask America InfoGraphic, Part Deux

Yahoo-outlookjob-10.8.10, originally uploaded by Ask America.

Nearly 8 million votes prove the enduring truth of the greatest political barometer-arator of all times: "It's the economy, stupid."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

JESS3’s Data Visualization of Ask America

Another awesome infographic from JESS3. The people have spoken through Ask America...a whole lot.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bike Commute Photojournal

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

My new Eye-Fi wireless SD card (which automatically uploads photos directly from my camera when a Wi-Fi network is present) and my My-Fi (3G mobile wireless access point) inspired me to do something I've been threatening to do for some time - create a real-time photo journal of my daily bike commute. So I tucked the My-Fi in my bike bag and turned my camera to try to capture the wonder of a daily commute by bike. Some mornings I've lived an entire day before work. It's magical. A homeless couple boogeying with abandon to 70s tunes before 8 am. The guy salvaging his inboard motor from his boat grounded a quarter mile up the beach. The perfect spike. A surfer popping out of a barrel. The smell of baking bread.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Song of the Jabulani

I really have to speak out on behalf of the Jabulani. It's wonderful that Adidas' pursuit of perfection - the perfectly round football - has so fundamentally changed the way the game must be played. For the most part, the reaction from outfield players and goalkeepers (generally not under contract to the German apparel company) alike has been, in the words of "El Niño" Torres:

"We need to practice a bit more with this Jabulani because we are having a bit of bother with it" (

Yeah, it's more than a bit of a bother to any European team, other than the Germans. Mysteriously enough, Die Mannschaft and the Bundesliga have been rolling the Jabulani around for some time (Adidas). And it shows. The Germans seem to be among the few European teams who've actually unlocked this thing.

The Jabulani strikes at the heart of the muscular European style of England and Italy. There's no Beckham and no bending. Collapsing in a writhing heap 30 yards outside the goal, after slight contact, only grants your side the opportunity to fly another Jabulani free kick well over the crossbar. Change-of-field passes flying 60 yards or more bounce harmlessly out of reach of the attacking wingers. Sides have to keep the ball on the pitch and work their passes to decipher the defense.

The Jabulani gets powerful assistance from lowered aerodynamic effects at altitude and firm, perfect South African pitches. The groundskeepers should be given lifetime engagements at Wembley when this is all done. I can't remember balls running on the pitch so fast and true in international competition. It's not surprising, then, that the Latin American sides have seen great success through the group phase. The ball simply favors incessant passing on the turf and attacking creativity.

I think this is good for the game. I don't mind if fewer goals are scored from set pieces, corner kicks or 35-yard banana rockets. Or, that players have less incentive to roll-around on the pitch because they've been knocked in the shins. Let's see the quick low passes and shots that created the beautiful USA goal against Algeria. Love the Jabulani.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Love, Fútbol & Africa

This is less a meaningful blog entry than my own shameful ode to the iPad.
I've tried not to become a Fan Boy. Ardently (check my prior posts for some meaningful Apple bashing, literally). I'm in the airport lounge typing away a rare blog entry. This is the first time this device has left my bag. No laptop-into-the-bin-through-security struggle. I'm rather Clooney-esque as I zip through the security line. Grumbling at the laptop-wielding cretins who held me up was entirely satisfying. How great is this thing? Great. Sorry.

That's not the point of this entry. I'm on my way to the mother continent to soak in a few days of futbol. Right here I'd like to insert some Roots-y reference to transcending 400 years of slavery to return to the homeland in its moment of glory. It's not true. My great-grandfather was a rabid Pan-Africanist, who shuttled back and forth to the continent. I'm always puzzled that he never lived out his convictions by actually moving to Liberia or something. Last man standing?

That's not the point of this entry either. This is mainly a response to the somewhat quizzical lemon-face that is a common response to futbol-fandom in the US. The lemon-face tightens on the mention of South Africa, along the lines of telling your folks you were moving to New York in the 80s. Why suffer hooligans, car-jackings and terrorist threats to watch a sport played mainly by small children and foreigners? If the egregious ball kick-and-chase isn't yet illegal in Arizona, it soon will be.

It's basically this: I speak one other language poorly (that's English) and three others barely enough to utter a few common phrases (or, in the case of Spanish, just enough to decipher the clever metaphorical insults of my in-laws, I think). My verbal expression is constipated. Futbol is the language I speak fluently. Most of the folks on the planet understand it. It's my own little Mandarin.

It leads to peace at home, for the most part. My entire fandom can generally be resolved between the hours on 5 am and 10 am on the weekends, leaving me free to my pursuit of ideal parenting and spousing. Cheerfully attending brunches and family dinners without score-check fumbling with my smartphone under the table or fighting for the seat facing the TV over the bar. No conflicts with Fantasy on Ice or other forms of men in sequins and feathers (except that the esteemed Martin Rogers, fútbol writer of the highest calibre,
inexplicably turns to figure skating every four years: Beats me). Mexico playing the US does not lead to household harmony. Glad that doesn't happen so often.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Post Way, Los Angeles, United States