artifactrix: A tiny child in a giant lab coat and a paper bag hat peers at a cookie, and says "I will do science to it." (science)
As predicted by the internets, my beer starter remained an unprepossessing, sour-smelling slurry all week.  It did eventually develop some bubbles, but not very impressive ones.  Nevertheless, yesterday morning I mixed up some dough using the following:

1 cup starter
1 cup water, warmed in the microwave
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sufficient whole wheat flour to hold together a dough
4 tsp vital wheat gluten

I left this in an oiled bowl under a damp tea towel all day, and kneaded perhaps another cup of flour into it when I got home from the lab, all-purpose white this time.  Then I abandoned it again and went to visit the Boy, leaving it to sit in its bowl and think real hard about rising.  Apparently it didn't, though, because when I came home this evening, it was only very slightly embiggened.

Having lost patience, I heated the oven up to 420 F (215ish C), plopped the recalcitrant dough into an oily baking pan, slashed the top of it, and baked it for 45 minutes.  It did rise a bit in the oven, but not much.

But oh, it is tasty and it is nice.  It's fine-grained and dense and has a nice tang to it.  I am eating it, still slightly warm, with cranberry-tangerine conserve and very sharp cheddar, and it is delicious.  Entertainingly, something about this combination of flavors is reminiscent of hops; the plain bread does not taste of them at all.

Meanwhile, the starter, which got fed 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour and perhaps 2/3 cup water when I started the dough, did noticeably better, and was nicely bubbly when I checked it this evening.  Encouraged, I have mixed up a second batch of dough and fed the starter again; having been in proximity to the oven vents, it is already bubbling away and smelling much sweeter (i.e. less like sour beer).  The new batch of dough is doing its thing on the countertop, and I'm already looking forward to it.

Happy New Year, internets.
artifactrix: A tiny child in a giant lab coat and a paper bag hat peers at a cookie, and says "I will do science to it." (science)
Every year since I was tiny, my family has baked bread on New Year's Eve.  In earlier years, we used the baguette recipe from the Preschool Power video series, which often turned out dense and chewy and typically tasted overwhelmingly of Fleischmann's active dry yeast.  Bleh.  After acquiring the River Cottage Family Cookbook, we started using the white bread recipe found therein and never looked back.  Recent years' bakings have included wholemeal, fruit, nuts, olives, and other tasty variations.

This has been my first New Year's not spent at home with family; I returned to school shortly after Xmas, and spent First Night with the Boy instead.  Fun times were most certainly had: we went skiing in the morning, then went out on the town for drinks and a surprisingly excellent concert by Prydein, and kissed at midnight with fireworks in the background.  All well and good.  But it just isn't a new year without bread.

Unfortunately, I forgot to buy yeast, but I had a bottle of Blue Moon (unfiltered wheat ale) in the fridge.  In the past, I've gotten good results from a starter which began life as ale lees; it took several feedings to really get the hang of eating flour rather than malt, but once it hit its stride, it made some tasty bread.  On the principle that yeast is yeast, on January 1st I poured it out into a pyrex dish, making sure to get all the sediment out of the bottom of the bottle, and added flour until it had the gloppy (that's a technical term) consistency of a sourdough starter, then stirred in a teaspoon of white sugar to kick-start it.

After googling around a bit, I found a recipe page which suggests that I basically did it right (scroll 2/3 of the way down).  It looks like I can expect to wait a week or so before doing any actual baking, but I'm hopeful (willow willow waly).    Based on the instructions linked above, and on this thread, it looks like I'm on the right track.  It's going to look pretty sketchy and dead for a few days, but apparently that's normal for beer starters, and it should take off and behave more normally after its first feeding.  We shall see.

Edited to add links.  Oops.
artifactrix: Tony Stark in Iron Man armor (no helmet), disheveled and slightly bloody.  Captioned "A dubious role model at best." (role model)
Yesterday night, in the midst of some fairly bibulous good times with friends, I decided that what I really wanted was Irish coffee. Unfortunately, I lacked both Irish whiskey and cream. I did, however, have Pusser's Rum (medium-dark, kind of woody in a whiskeyish way) and sweetened condensed milk. What I ended up drinking was strong coffee with a shot of rum and sweetened condensed milk stirred in to taste, and it was glorious. Definitely something I'll be repeating, and as such, I need something to call it.

As far as I can tell, the closest preexisting beverage is the Pharisäer, which, like Irish coffee, is meant to have a discrete layer of cream on top, rather than mixed in.  Most other coffee-and-rum drinks contain additional liqueurs, spices, or citrus. 

Opinion questions: a) does coffee + Navy rum + sweetened condensed milk constitute a new and different tipple? and b) if so, what shall I call it?

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