Studies in texture.


Last episode’s yogurt bout turned out well. I ended up with six containers of passable plain yogurt — not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely edible. The results were more tangy than the plain yogurt I usually buy, since I didn’t add any sugar to the yogurt mixture (many of the recipes for homemade yogurt suggest that you might want to sweeten it to get results “similar to the yogurt familiar to many Americans”). This was fine, however, the texture of the yogurt I made was the downer here — the results skewed closer to Dannon than the Fage-like thickness I was seeking.

So, for this weekend’s batch, I’m leaving the yogurt in the cooker for a few hours longer — 13 hours instead of the 10 specified in the manual. I checked it before I left the house today (at 11 hours) and it was already less gloopy than the yaourt that came into the world last Monday. This week’s flavor is lemon herb — I made a simple syrup while the milk was cooling (1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 water, zest from one lemon, and a teaspoon of dried herbs de Provence, bring to a boil, cook 10 minutes or so until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally) that I added to the yogurt before putting it into the jars. A quick taste of the emerging yogurt revealed that it had a nice lemon flavor without being sickeningly sweet.

bubbling dough

Continuing on in the hippie/survivalist/DIY food theme, I’m also making bread this weekend, using the now-ubiquitous no-knead bread (albeit with some high-altitude adjustments) that swept through the Internet some years ago. I like bread, but I’ve never been that good at making it. I went through a bread-making stage about five years ago, inspired by a thrift-store purchase of the Tassajara Bread Book. I made some extremely dense loaves of dark-brown bread; bread so dense that it had its own gravitational pull, causing stray crumbs and grains of salt to slowly inch towards it. My dad and I grimly endured slices of that bread, which didn’t seem to work for anything that bread is good for. It sucked up liquid and fat like a Shop-Vac — if I dunked a piece of the bread in a bowl of soup, the result would be a soggy, heavy chunk of dough with a few solid pieces of vegetables left in the bowl. I left part of a loaf out on the deck for the birds once, and there it stayed; eschewed by the local starlings and magpies for the more-tempting crabapples and pieces of Dog Chow to be savored instead. Perhaps I just didn’t do it right — Brown’s book hints strongly that you can only successfully make bread if you have a special spiritual stoneware bowl, made by gentle spirits in Vermont or Marin County, and if you think special gentle thoughts toward your yeast as you work the dough (instead of the I hate you stupid fucking dough I will smack you around if you stick to my fingers again that I tended toward). This bread recipe, however, calls for five minutes of stirring and 20 hours of more-or-less leaving it alone, which I think I can handle.

(I wrote this on Sunday, but didn’t post it until a day later. The bread turned out fine, although it had an underwhelming second rise. I split the dough in two, since I was concerned that my 4-quart pot would be too small to cook all of it (I froze the other half). But the dough that I cooked successfully turned into edible bread. The yogurt was pretty good, too.)

This is one of the best Flickr sets I’ve ever seen — a collection of Polaroids of various bits of vernacular typography. Somewhat related: the new Center for Vernacular Typography, which also has its own Flickr group (although I’m not sure that all of the photos therein fit into the Center’s definition of what “vernacular” means). A confession: I registered the domain for myself earlier this year, but, as you can see, I haven’t done anything with it yet. It happened in a post-comprehensive-exams haze of purposefulness, when I briefly thought, hey, think about all the things you have time to accomplish now!

Hey, look, I bought new shoes. They are extremely comfortable — I taught three classes the first day I wore them, and my feet didn’t hurt afterward, which is the best endorsement I can give a pair of shoes.

This post, in its draft form, originally contained a long, dull section about my dissatisfaction with school and my research right now (multiplied X number of times by my discouragement over The Election), but reading over it depressed even me, so I’ll just say that lately, running something like the coffee bike for a living sounds like a very appealing career choice.

The top photo is of one of the windows in the UNM education building.

Comments (1) to “Studies in texture.”

  1. Since I’m wallowing in dissatisfaction with the corporate world right now, and am seriously thinking those Ph.D. program thoughts again, I thank you for not posting that draft. I can continue to have my blissful fantasties!

    But yeah. Coffee bike. Sounds like a plan.

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