Thursday, May 20, 2010

Relatively easy-to-make crusty peasant loaf

One of my favorite features of writing here on Rhosgobel has always been my "recipe blogging of the week" posts.  Through that little feature my SO and I have posted more than 110 different recipes. While I make no promises about continuing to post one recipe a week, I am happy to return to recipe blogging with the following bread recipe.

Peasant-style loaf with wheat germ.

While I've always enjoyed baking bread, the amount of work entailed in making a good loaf relegated  bread baking to days when I had lots of free time.  My favorite artisan bread baking book is Hamelman's "Bread"; it has incredibly detailed recipes and descriptions of techniques that allowed me to make a few loaves of delicious ciabatta.  However, said ciabatta also took me much work across two days, and thus my SO and I found ourselves frequenting our local bakery whenever we wanted bread.

That all changed when a friend introduced me to a new book, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day".  I was extremely skeptical at first, as I'm always suspicious of recipes, books, and cooks that promise that home-cooked, old-world taste in two minutes flat ("and $20 off if you order in the next 5 minutes!"1). However, after a few failed attempts, I was able to modify the technique introduced in the book to make a surprisingly good peasant loaf with a minimal amount of work.   Here's the basic outline of the technique:
  1. Mix the ingredients in a large container and allow to rise for three hours at room temperature.
  2. Put the risen dough in the fridge, and refrigerate at least overnight, though it can hold for up to two or three weeks.
  3. Take the dough out of the fridge, pull out as much dough as you want to use that day, roughly shape it, and let it rise for about two hours (folding it after the first 20 minutes).
  4. Bake for ~40 minutes, and let cool until ready to eat.
While I'd hardly call it "bread in five minutes", the ability to have risen bread dough ready to go in the fridge has enabled me to bake bread virtually any day I want it.  Whenever I finish up one batch of dough, I immediately start another; my SO and I almost never buy artisan bread anymore.  So, if you're looking for a crusty loaf of bread that has a chewy, wheaty interior and yet doesn't take a tremendous amount of work to make, you might want to give this a try.

Bread ingredients:
3 cups water, ~100F
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
32.5 ounces (~6 1/4 cups) unbleached white flour
1/3 cup wheat germ

We read old cookbooks

"No, it isn't particularly good, but it may be eaten by the bulging with a clear conscience."

Description of the "Dressing without oil" recipe from Joy of Cooking, 1964.

Rombauer, I. S. and M. R. Becker. 1964. Joy of Cooking. The Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's it like to create a new Facebook account?

I've deleted my personal Facebook account, but since most of my friends still post on Facebook regularly, I wanted a way to keep up with what they're doing.  So I created an empty shell account with a disposable e-mail address that I can use to view what they post (at least until they ditch it as well).

What struck me during this process was just how privacy-invading Facebook's default settings have become.  I found myself thinking "What if my mother-in-law or some other non-net-savvy person was doing this?  Would they understand what was actually being shared?"  So, in this post I'll summarize what Facebook's sign-up process looks like to a new user, focusing on how privacy is presented.

To sign up, users are asked for their name, e-mail, sex, and birthday.  Pretty easy.

Facebook's signup page

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ahhhh, that looks better ...

The housekeeping is largely finished, at least for now.  I've got a shiny new template, a non-swindling comment service, a reorganized sidebar, and a new home for my "recurring features" pages (they're now hosted here on Blogger using the "pages" tool, which will save me a lot of time).  

A few things are missing: I've pared down my sidebar links to what I actually read somewhat regularly (sorry!), I've removed my no-longer-updated delicious page (which I used as a hack to categorize my posts before Blogger came out with its post "labels"), and the old Haloscan comments are gone (sniffle).

Oh, and I can now use "jump breaks", too.  :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010


A bit of dust has collected here at Rhosgobel over the past few years, and it's going to take me a bit of time to clear it all out.

I'll be updating the template 1 and whatnot, but the biggest change will be in the comments.  Haloscan, the commenting service I've used since starting the blog, has died.  Haloscan transferred the comments to Echo, but in a most user-unfriendly way: while the comments are still visible on the blog, the old comments are neither visible nor editable in Echo's user interface, I have no way to export the comments, and they want me to pay $12 a year for this great arrangement.  So, I'm going to switch to Blogger's commenting system and close the Echo account.  I've saved a selection of the old comments2, but won't be able to go through all the old posts to save every last comment.  It sucks.  Sorry :(

1 I'm still using the template I picked back in 2004!

2 This is why there are currently two "Comment" links below each post; I need to have both Blogger's and Echo's commenting links visible to copy over the old comments.  I apologize for the confusion.  

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A return to Rhosgobel

Regular readers will note that ... well, let's be honest: there are no regular readers of this blog anymore.  I haven't written anything here for more than two years, and haven't posted regularly for longer than that.

What happened?  Many things.  I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, and had to drastically cut back my computer use: computer game playing has vanished, online teaching is no more, online reading has been slashed, I'm a slave to typing timers, and writing for fun got largely eliminated.  The pseudonymous nature of the blog also started getting in the way: I found myself wanting to write about items that could lead to someone easily identifying me, and I also wanted to share what I wrote with my circle of local friends, many of whom worked at my campus.

So the blog fizzled.  I was sad to see it go, but I soon replaced it with Facebook, which I enjoyed for the ability to privately share what I thought with close friends without anyone else (students or coworkers) being able to find me.  But in the time I've been using Facebook the privacy settings have gotten steadily worse1 and the company has gotten more and more focused on invading privacy to make money; I've finally gotten tired of it.  I'm leaving Facebook, and replacing it with a mix of other information sharing websites.  I've missed being able to share things I enjoy with people other than my few dozen contacts on Facebook.

So, I'm back.  I'll still write under Radagast, but will be more open about the site with colleagues and I won't try as hard to hide my identity.   However, along with this change will come a separation of public and personal.  Don't expect vacation reports, family news, personal pictures, or the like: those will be shared elsewhere.

Oh, and my wrists are still not great, so I don't promise to post with any regularity.

1 I had the strongest privacy settings possible, yet Facebook still forced me to be visible to "friends of friends", forced my profile pictures to be publicly visible, defaulted all of my (previously private) interests to be public, and started sharing my information with third-party websites without my permission.  Many of these changes were "opt-out", meaning that I had to be aware enough to go in and undo their changes to stay at least somewhat private.  Facebook's focus on "monetizing" the information they've collected on their users' interests and browsing histories irritates me, especially since many users thought their information would be held privately (and few websites are bold enough to ask people to list their religion, sexual orientation, hobbies, educational history, everything they "like", and all of their acquaintances in one place ...).