Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Yesterday some of my students argued that the University of Kansas should be ranked ahead of the Kansas State Wildcats when the final Associated Press NCCA Men's Basketball Poll is released. I can understand why some would make this argument. However, They went on to claim that KU should be ranked in the top five.

Even though I'm a KU fan, I didn't buy their arguments. Some would claim that I'm not a true KU fan because I disagreed with them. Some would claim I'm not a true KU fan because I supported KSU during their tournament run. I try to avoid fanaticism because I've found that it leads to irrational thought and unsavory behavior. The following video illustrates the delusional state of most KU fans:

I'm not always a civilized KU fan. However, I recognize the ills of fanaticism, and I try to avoid such behavior.

Speaking of fanaticism, here's Hitler responding to KU's loss to Northern Iowa:

hoping to post something more substantial later this week,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Genzano Country Bread

Over at the 12th Man Training Table, they tell me that, "One good knife can substitute for 90% of the gadgets at Williams-Sonoma." I agree with this statement. However, there are a few modern luxuries, such as the KitchenAid mixer, that I find essential.

Sure, I could knead my bread by hand. It's much more therapeutic and satisfying kickin' it old school, but the KitchenAid broadens the range of breads I can bake. There are some breads that consist of such a wet dough that they can't be kneaded by hand. The Genzano country bread from Daniel Leader's book Local Breads is an example one such bread.

At first glance, this bread appears intimidating and time consuming, but it's worth baking for the following reasons:

  1. The bread possesses a hearty, crunchy crust that is great for dunking in a soup.
  2. The interior of the bread is moist and velvetty.
  3. Its rustic appearance is unrivaled by any bread I've made.
  4. Its gargantuan size inspires awe, and its shape resembles curling stone
  5. This bread alone justifies purchasing a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
First you'll make a biga, which is a pre-ferment often used in Italian baking. I don't really possess the knowledge to explain what a biga is exactly. The experts say a biga adds more depth and complexity to a bread and helps preserve it. I just view it as a starter or the first step in baking some breads.

In Mr. Leader's book, he calls for using a sourdough starter in the above biga. Since I lack the discipline and committment to maintain a sourdough culture, I've adapted the recipe.

Recently I read on the actor Jorge Garcia's blog that he's been taking his sourdough starter to the set of Lost, so that he can feed it and stir it. This behavior is worth emulating.

Prepare the biga by doing the following:

  1. Place all the above ingredients in the stand mixer bowl and stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead to blend the ingredients.

  2. Place the dough back in the bowls and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to stand at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup bran for sprinkling
  1. Uncover the biga and pour the water over it. Stir with a wooden spoon to break it up. Add flour, yeast, and salt until a very wet dough forms.

  2. Use the dough hook and mix the dough on medium-high (5 or 6 on a Kitchen Aid mixer) for ten minutes. Since the mixer may "shimmy" off the counter, be sure you supervise it. I use this supervision time to sing show tunes and choreograph dance routines. The dough will not clear the sides of the bowl and will climb up the dough hook. You might have to stop the machine and scrape down the hook with a rubber spatula.

  3. Increase the speed to high (10, or 11 if you have a This a Spinal Tap mixer) and knead for 8 to 10 minutes or more. The dough will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl, and you'll see beautiful strands of gluten developing. Give the dough a window pane test to judge its readiness.

  4. Transfer the dough to a oiled, clear 2-quart container. Cover and allow it to rise until doubled. This should take about 1 1/2 hours. After the first rise, uncover and deflate. Then cover and allow it to rise again for 1 1/2 hours.

  5. Generously coat a banneton or colander lined with a kitchen towel with bran. Lightly dust the counter with flour. Uncover the dough and turn it onto the counter. Gently shape the dough to a round. Place it into the banneton or calendar smooth side down. Coat the loaf with more bran and over with plastic wrap. Allow the round to rise and double in size, 1 1/2 hours.

  6. About 1 hour before baking, place a baking stone on a middle rack of the oven and a cast-iron skillet on the lower rack. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

  7. Cover a baker's peel or rimless baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the parchment with bran. Uncover the loaf and gently tip it out of the banneton or bowl. Slide the loaf, still on the parchment, onto the baking stone. Place 1/4 cup of ice cubes in the skillet to produce steam. Bake for 30 minutes, and then turn the temperature down to 400 degrees. Continue baking until the loaf is very dark, almost charred-looking, 20 to 30 minutes mores. Do not worry about burning the loaf. It needs this much time in the oven for the interior to bake fully.
  8. Allow the bread to cool on a rack. Slice and enjoy.

break some bread,

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Greasy Five: Licking My Wounds

After KU's loss to Northern Iowa, I contemplated placing tinfoil on my windows, taking up a drug addiction, and sleeping until summer. However, the following five moments from the past weekend shook me from my malaise:
  • Sharing a wonderful breakfast with my family at Succotash in Kansas City. The apple streusel French toast was killer.
  • Watching K-State advance to the Sweet 16. While seeing this rival advance in the tournament might be salt in the wound for most KU fans, I'm still a proud Kansan, and I plan on supporting the Wildcats through the rest of the tournament. GO WILDCATS!!!
  • Playing in the snow with my daughter. We both enjoyed hurling snowballs at an old oak tree in our backyard.
bringing the funk

Friday, March 12, 2010

Love for Largehearted Boy

This year I'm trying to limit the time I spend surfing the web. I've found that going down that rabbit hole occupies a lot of time and keeps me from doing something that most people generally deem worthwhile.

However, I continue to visit the site Largehearted Boy on a daily basis. The blog is a collection of links and stories about two of my favorite topics, literature and music. It's worthwhile reading that fuels my creativity and steers me towards books and music I might enjoy.

My favorite feature at Largehearted Boy is titled Book Notes, where writers create and discuss a music playlist that ties into their recently published books. I often file these away, so I have some leads when I'm trolling for music or books. Last year author Laura Groff created a playlist for her book Delicate Edible Birds. She puts a spin on this by including a list of beers to go with each song and chapter of the book. In my world, you can't go wrong with beer. Beer, literature, and music. A great trio.

When you read, what do you like to eat or drink?

feed the brain,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Birthday Girl!

I apologize for the lack of activity on the blog, but we've been busy celebrating a birthday. I've been trying to slow down time, but six arrived in a flash.

And with a flurry of activity.

Little Miss Pickyeater chose the following menu for her birthday meal:

  • Steak
  • Green Beans
  • Fried Potatoes
  • Rolls
  • Strawberry Cake
What's your favorite birthday meal?

hope all is well,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

OKC: National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

muddywaters often slings disparaging comments my way, but I'm here to tell you that life with him is like being on picnic with Satan. I was frequently reminded of this on our recent road trip to Oklahoma City. Never travel with the guy because food is the only thing ping-ponging around that little brain of his, and these are the only three questions he ever ponders:
  1. When are we going to eat?
  2. Where are we going to eat?
  3. What are we going to eat?
That's the range of his conversation, 24/7. Imagine being on a road trip through the great state of Oklahoma. You want to talk about why the dirt is red. You want to talk about the Oklahoma land rush. You want to talk about The Trail of Tears and the Native Americans. You want to talk about Les Paul and the fact that he invented the electric guitar in Oklahoma. You want to explore Oklahoma's rich music history. You want to do all of this and explore the great state, but you're with a companion who possesses a one-track mind and he only wants to eat. It's a f'ing drag.

On the entire trip, I was only able to do one thing on my agenda, visit the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and he managed to sour that experience for me. At a museum I like to immerse myself in the experience, spending hours viewing exhibits, but he rushed me through the museum. He flit around like a hummingbird in a field of honeysuckle, but he never returned with any damn nectar. I don't think he savored a thing in the museum.

At one point I was immersed in an Albert Bierstadt painting, a grand work of art that beautifully captured the light of the sunset in the West, and muddy rudely interrupted me by tapping my shoulder and saying, "Hey, come check out this Nudie suit that was worn by Marty Robbins. We should buy a Nudie suit."

Then muddy dragged me around to a series of places in the museum that allowed photography, and he insisted I snap photos of him.

He posed like some ass clown in front of stuff that didn't really matter a hill of beans to me.
I spent so much time taking asinine pictures of him that I didn't get to really enjoy the museum. I didn't get to see all of the fabulous art, the Western exhibits, the beautifully landscaped grounds complete with sculptures, or their great exhibit on the history of the electric guitar.
Next time I'm returning without muddy, so I can enjoy this grand museum that's worth the trip to Oklahoma City. Plan on spending the day there because it will take at least 5-6 hours to see everything.

Keep the Ass Clowns at home,

Mr. Crankypants