Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bread and Pizza Dough

mentioned before that pizza is my favorite food.  When I was a kid, we'd sometimes go to a pizza place where they'd give kids a hunk of dough to play with while waiting for dinner.  I loved watching the chefs flip the pizza dough in the air so casually.  They are so talented!  I think that would be a cool skill to learn.

A few years ago I stumbled upon the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  The two authors are a scientist and a Culinary Institute of America pastry chef, who figured out how to take the delicate and labor-intensive steps out of bread-making, so that it is an approachable baking technique for those of us short on time.  It's Science!  I figured I would try my hand at making bread; after the first batch, I don't think I bought bread or pizza from the store for several months.  

This website shares the master recipe and also some suggestions for ways to switch up the ingredients to create fancier recipes, such as caramelized onion and herb dinner rolls, Indian naan, and my favorite: sticky pecan caramel buns.  

The only four ingredients for standard dough are flour, yeast, salt, and water.  (I urge you to compare that to the list of ingredients on the package of a store-bought loaf of bread.)  The flour can be white or whole wheat, or any combination.  I've found 50:50 is the ratio we think tastes best.

I let my mixer work for a couple minutes.

Cover with your favorite tea towel to let rise.  After a couple hours, the dough can be baked or stored in the fridge to bake later.  This is the part that is so flexible: the dough can rise for an hour or three--whatever is convenient for you.  Then it can sit in the fridge for a day or 20 days.  So accommodating for a busy schedule.

The dough can sit in the fridge for two weeks or even longer.  The longer it sits, the more of a sourdough-like flavor it acquires.  Once you are ready to bake, pull off a portion of the dough, sprinkle it with flour, and let it rise at room temperature before baking.  

While I use the dough most often to make pizza crusts, we've also experimented with french boules, whole-wheat sandwich loaves, garlic knots, and cinnamon-sugar twists.  

Hot bread from your own oven tastes SO, SO GOOD!

French boule
Whole wheat sandwich loaf
Pizza dough
The book is worth browsing at the library or bookstore to gather some good ideas of ways to use the dough.  

This method is so simple; it has made having fresh bread in the house so attainable!  Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wacky Wednesday

It's Wednesday--you know what that means.

In honor of Wacky Wednesday, here's a picture I snapped on the way to work the other day.  This store's "model" caught my eye, and I stared at the window display for a minute and just laughed to myself.  
I'm so glad that porcelain animal statues are well-dressed in this city.  Nice ascot.

Happy Wednesday.

Selling chic accessories for your porcelain greyhound statue

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ocean Beach and Brewery

We haven't been able to take advantage of the winter surf in San Francisco yet, because the wind has blown out the good conditions every time we think to check the surf reports.  So instead of getting into the water a couple weekends ago, we opted to walk along Ocean Beach and watch the storm surf and kite boarders.

Ocean Beach, with the Cliff House in the background
There were so many kiteboarders taking advantage of the wind!
The wind was perfect for all types of kites....

...but windier than we would have liked; the wind was blowing sand into our faces.
So we were easily convinced to check out The Beach Chalet.

I had seen this sign a number of times while driving near Ocean Beach, but it always seemed like a bit of a tourist trap, considering the name and the fact that it is connected to a Visitor Center.  But this was the first time I had seen the word "brewery" on the sign.  Cue newfound interest!

While there was quite a long wait to eat lunch, we had no wait to sit at the bar, which faced several of the brewing tanks.  
The taps:

We settled on the Presidio India Pale Ale and the Riptide Red Ale.  Both were excellent.
(...despite my distaste for the name of the Red.  Public Service Announcement: "Riptide" is a is 
RIP CURRENT.  Rips are currents, not tides! That used to drive me nuts when I was an ocean lifeguard.  And rips are great tools if you understand their mechanics...and very dangerous if you do not.)

The pints arrived filled to the brim, and they were refreshing.

A few sips in.  That top 10% tastes good!  Wish we had it more often.
The Beach Chalet has a wall of windows overlooking the ocean.  The other side, Park Chalet, looks onto Golden Gate Park.

And if you get tired of watching the waves, you can admire the sand art.

It was a good adventure!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Presidio Run

Yesterday morning I slept in, relaxed around the house and read, then laced up my shoes to take advantage of the sunny and warm Saturday.
I have run a number of times in the Presidio, but I haven't made it far enough west before to see the ocean...only the bay.  But I felt like I had a longer run in me, and I was especially anxious to see the views on a sunny and clear day.  From what I hear, sunny and clear days are harder to come by once summer hits, so I figured I should take advantage of the clear weather.

My goal was to check out Immigrant Point, and it did not disappoint!

The coast reminded me quite a bit of 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach.

The view looking South.  That point of land sticking out is Lands End.

To the North you can see Point Bonita (which is finally open!  I can't wait to visit.)

Though I wished I had brought some water with me, this run was gorgeous and otherwise perfect.  The scent from the eucalyptus trees and the traffic-free trails are pretty great.

I turned around to head home and switched ocean views for bay views.  There's Alcatraz:

I also ran past Rob Hill Campground, the only campsite in the city.  The two public sites can accommodate 30 people each; that sounds like quite a camping party to me.

We have plans to go camping north of the city, near Olema Valley, next weekend with some great friends.  I am already excited!

I hope you've had a good weekend as well.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Glass Half Full

Happy Friday!

We're slated to have incredible weather this weekend.  I CANNOT wait to enjoy every second of it.

I leave you today with a thought I had yesterday morning.
Yesterday I moved my afternoon workout to the morning, so that I could be home right after work for a cross-country Virtual Dinner Party (stay tuned for that!  I need to finish writing it up.)  Before we moved, I used to workout in the morning instead of the afternoon at least once a week--often more; I loved the realization half way through the day--especially on a Friday--that I already had a workout under my belt and that my afternoon schedule was wiiiiide open.

But an early morning workout is...uh, early.  Now that I no longer have Vron counting on me to meet her on a dark Friday morning, I have resorted to bribing myself with the treat of buying coffee after those morning workouts.

So yesterday morning I ran and then showered quickly enough to hit Starbucks before walking into my office.
Does the Starbucks (or Peet's) person always ask you if you want room for cream?  Well, they always ask me that.  And I always say no, because I prefer drinking my coffee black...and I want my full hit of caffeine!  But they ALWAYS leave room for...air?  Why even bother asking me, then?

Exhibit A: "No room for cream, please:"

This photo is before I had taken even one sip.  Do they fill it an entire inch lower than the brim because they think I will spill it?  Nevermind the fact that I did spill it, but that wasn't until after this photo!  And I was walking fast!

It got me thinking about a conversation we had this past weekend.  Will told me that some company makes this ruler-type gadget that you can store in your wallet and pull out at bars to see how full they filled your pint glass of beer.  Extremely nerdy! How's that for a Friday Find?  But it is really irritating when you pay for a pint of beer or a Starbucks grande with NO room for cream, and you get only 80% of what you pay for.

By a stroke of luck, the beers we ordered at Beach Chalet Brewery last weekend were full to the brim!  It was so refreshing to get to choose whether to drink the top inch or spill it all over myself of my own volition :)

Cheers to full beers (and coffees).  Hope you have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Favorite Ingredients

When we were bored one day, I challenged my husband to a guessing game.  I don't know how or why this is what I came up with, but I challenged him to select his five favorite ingredients--not meals, but single ingredients--and we would each guess each other's.  It required me to think about my favorite meals and foods and break them down to the ingredients and find the common denominators.

After a bit of deliberation, here's what I decided on for my top 5:


Sweet, savory, and cocktails.  I like it in everything!

I will eat this raw.  I think nearly all my readers know this :)

Pizzas, Bruschetta, Caprese Salad, Italian Food


I like it hot, iced, in smoothies, in ice cream and other desserts...


In everything. Period.

If I remember correctly, my husband successfully guessed only garlic and chocolate.  Poor showing.

I have a feeling you will see (or have seen) these five ingredients at a higher ratio than others!

For his favorite ingredients, the top five are:
Peaches, pork, beef, butter, and pork.  Yes, pork again-->He wanted pork to take up two slots.
Bacon, ham, pork chops, pork tenderloin, pork belly, pork sausage.  Is it a Southern thing he picked up while we lived in NC?  He really likes pork.

I think I guessed about 80% correctly, which is pretty good considering he bent the rules.

What are your five favorite ingredients?
Share your list in the comments section!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Little Details

Hope you had a nice weekend!

I took a number of photos of flowers during our hike last weekend.

I'm still practicing with the settings on my digital SLR camera.  It's been a fun learning experience.

Here are some snapshots of Marin Headlands nature:

Rather diverse, huh?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Marin Headlands

We didn't waste too much time between setting our sights on new local adventures and hitting the trails at Marin Headlands.  On Easter Sunday we awoke to pretty blue skies, when we had been expecting clouds, so a hike sounded especially fitting for our wide-open day.

Our intended route in the Marin Headlands was the Tennessee Valley Trail (a recommendation from my previous boss!), but we unknowingly pulled off of the road too early and ended up beginning our hike on a different trail head within the Valley.  However, since the trailheads were poorly marked, we only realized this a few miles in.  But it was pretty nonetheless, and now we have an excuse to return soon.

We started at the base of the Valley.

Our rather steep combo of the Oakwood Valley, Alta, Bobcat, Miwok, and Old Springs trails guided us through some pretty forested parts of the park before we emerged from the trees, able to see several miles in each direction.
Sausalito and Tiburon
The Bay and Angel Island

We could see the city and the Golden Gate Bridge peeking over the mountains...we felt high up!

We saw waves at Ocean Beach.

And interesting plants...

Our hike ended near the parking lot where we should have begun the hike--now we know for next time!  We finished with a short walk along the road, contemplating our destination for Easter brunch.  Since it was now after noon, we agreed we were leaning more towards a savory lunch than a sweet brunch, and after a quick Yelp consultation, we found ourselves in Sausalito at Fish.

Outdoor picnic tables, a view of the bay, IPAs served in mason jars, and fresh seafood.  This place hit the spot.

We ordered ceviche, which came with crispy chips.  This appetizer was incredible: fresh, a generous serving of fish, and lots of lime :)

Apparently I was pretty distracted when our crab roll and salmon sandwich arrived, because that's where my lunch photos end.  Suffice it to say, Fish made its way onto our list of places to take guests who visit us!

After relaxing and taking in the views for a while, we hit the road.  Our drive back to the city took us through Sausalito's cute downtown area.  And in less than 15 minutes we were back home.

It was the perfect Easter Sunday.