Friday, September 28, 2012

Kitchen Fails: Yeast is a living organism

I love to bake bread. My dad's been making homemade bread for as long as I can remember, and one of my favourite things in the world is to happily feast on think trenchers of fluffy white bread covered in butter. Fresh bread doesn't last very long near me.

I have a healthy scorn of bread machines, but the prospect of only bought bread, no matter how lovely, was too tragic to face. So I was pleasantly surprised when I moved out on my own and realized that I'd watched my dad make bread enough times that I could do it too. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, loads of time, some therapeutic kneading and voila, fantastic bread. 

True, there was the time that I made it entirely out of wheat flour and it turned out like bricks. Or the time that I left in the middle of the rising period because I hadn't left enough time and it ... actually, wait, that may have been the same wheat bread brick fiasco. Anyway, needless to say there were problems, but that's what happens when you don't stop baking bread after your first success. 

But guys, Australia has been a DISASTER in terms of my bread making adventures. 

One of the reasons is simply because I've started making DIFFERENT bread. I have a sweetie to try it out on and enough time to experiment, but I am still the person that would just delete a half-cup of cocoa from a cookie recipe and things can go ....wrong.

I decided to try making the bread in the cook book. My dad always told me that my bread recipe was based off the white bread in the Joy of Cooking, with maybe a cup of bran or wheat flour thrown in for health and texture. Guys, this is not true. The Joy of Cooking asks you to do all sorts of things that I never bother doing, and sometimes it doesn't even want an egg. Madness!

But it is the ancestor, no matter how distant, of my recipe, so I decided to try it. I scalded the milk. I dissolved the butter and lard and then I ... poured the hot mixture directly into the bowl with my yeast. 

The bread did not rise. The moment I noticed it wasn't rising like normal, I knew that I had killed it with my stupid scalded milk. I had killed all my beautiful little yeast monsters with milk that was too hot. I felt like a monster. So I promptly primed some more yeast and added it in. Because of course adding more yeast most of the way through the first rising would fix it. >.<

The bread still not rise particularly well, and was dense like a block of bread dough which does not rise. Literally. I may have stormed resignedly out of the kitchen, muttering darkly. The happy ending is that it made the Most Amazing bread pizza base ever, but it was not exactly a triumph (actually, it kind of was, those bread pizzas were DELICIOUS). 

I decided to go back to my original recipe. Similar, but not quite as drastic, rising bread problems. I did it AGAIN, but primed my yeast for longer (this is where you dissolve the yeast in water with a bit of sugar first). This time it turned out almost right. 

By this point I had begun to suspect that my yeast was perhaps not the one I was used to, and that the package didn't tell me to prime it because Maybe I Wasn't Supposed To. Priming yeast is one of my favourite steps, and I had figured that even if Dried Yeast wasn't the same as Active yeast, or some such that it would still benefit from a bit of activating time with water and sugar, but after the failed batch of pizza dough (it should still be fine, if maybe a bit denser once again) of tonight, I think I will try not priming it at all. 

Australian ingredients being Almost but Not Quite what I am used to keeps tripping me up. I shudder to think what is going to happen when I make pie crust from baking lard as opposed to Tenderflake. Everyone wish me luck! 

(Also, to those Canadians moving to Australia [Americans, I have not checked for your Crisco, you crazy people, that stuff is gross], they totally have baking lard, but keep it in the chilled area with the butter instead of near the baking stuff. There, two hours in the grocery store saved!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

WOA: Book Adventures

As a side quest in my World of Australia adventuring, I've started a book blog with a friend.

Yes, that is a different blogging platform, but that is what happens when you don't want to be the one setting it up and your friend does wordpress. We'll all survive somehow.

So if you want to know what I'm reading, and more importantly, what I thought of it, and follow some interesting adventures in SciFi reading (which is what my partner in crime is up to), feel free to wander on over there. Or click the link thing to the right. I've included it so that you can wander over WHENEVER YOU LIKE and not just when I mention it. Because I care.

And seriously, it is just whatever the hell we're reading and what we think. Which means I'm even going to talk about the more embarrassing young adult stuff I read. Which is Awesome.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

WOA: Dialing Internationally

WOA: Dialing Internationally (or just because you can jump in real life doesn't mean you can get across a tiny stream in game)

Things I have learnt about Internatinonal Calling while in Australia
(where I not only have to do it myself, but need to coach other people on how to call me. When I can't call myself. It is tricky.)

First off, making international phone calls from/to countries that have completely different number systems is totally hard. Usually, when travelling, you try to use your phone as little as possible. When you've moved, that's not what's happening. Here's what six months living in Australia has taught me.

"1" is the North American country code, not a magic number that lets you call long distance.

You need to dial an exit code when calling beyond North America, which we Canadians have trouble remembering because we can dial internationally to the US like normal long distance whenever we want.

In Australia, that exit code is 0011, which means that when I dial N.A. I actually have to put in 00111 (area) (7digitnumber) which looks ridiculous, what with the three 1s all in a row, but is correct. Having one as an area code seems all fine and dandy until you have to actually use it.

Sending a text message to an international mobile number will bizarrely not follow these rules and numbers you can call will not be textable.

Various permutations of these rules will not work.

Scouring the internet will reveal that most people give up and just reply to the Canadian number and save it.

It actually turns out that if you put a  (+) sign in front of the normal 1 + (area code) + (7digitnumber) in your phone, the mobile recognizes that symbol and will just automatically apply the correct exit code when you dial/text.

Seriously? How did I not know this? We use phones all the flipping time and this is the first mention I've seen tha the little plus sign actually does something useful and isn't shorthand for something. My iphone would save numbers with it All The Time and I just thought it was being pretentious.

So yes, dialing a phone, yet another thing you have to relearn when you move to another country. Pretty sure I just figured out the international texting thing today. >.<

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

WOA: Blue Mountains

World Of Australia
New Location Discovered: THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

The Blue Mountains are just outside of Sydney and glorious. They are especially lovely for a beloved's birthday weekend when they are also hosting IRONFEST, where steampunkers, blacksmiths and military re-enactors run amok for a weekend. It reminded me of the Norman, Oklahoma Medieval Festivals much more than the SCA events I've been to recently, and I had a glorious time.

The theme of the event was Apocalypse and of course I made sure to have an outfit.

One of the things I love about Steampunk is that people wander up to, and ask you about it because it turns out it is exactly the type of thing they've always loved but that they never knew had a name or a following. Since that's how I felt about Steampunk when I first discovered it, I think these people are Awesome.

The Battle of Lithgow and the Napoleonic re-enactment camp were just great. The Battle is a fictional re-enactment of what might have happened if the French had fought Britain for control of the colony, and it had cannons. I enjoyed the cannons, and also, by that point in the afternoon, the sitting down.

They also had a bunker with circus acts, and a damn good contact juggler. The fallout theme actually made my partner-in-crime sad, as we'd left his Fallout costume in Ottawa to follow us later, under the evidently mistaken assumption that we wouldn't need it for at least six months. Silly us.

The circus reminded me of another quest.

Quest: Learn Aerial Dance -ONGOING
     Turns out it is called silks/tissue
     Pole dancing studies often do it (huh. Didn't see that one coming)
     Circus Avalon in Newcastle MAY teach workshops
     Pole dancing studios MIGHT be getting some courses in soon (no e-mail reply yet, the bastards)

We also saw The Three Sisters rock formation, which was FILLED with tourists, and the equally beautiful and much calmer look-out by the Leura Falls (note, the trickle you see is the falls. There is evidently not a lot of inland water in the Oz land. I may have made an unimpressed noise, but since it was following the very impressed noises I was making at the mountain views no one seemed to notice).

Plus I got to see more of my favourite Australia tree, The Bone Trees. (hmm, can't seem to find my photo of them. You shall have to wait.)