Making Bread

Posted in Baking by Sandra on August 31, 2009
Simple White Bread

Simple White Bread

I’ve been learning how to bake bread since late last week. This is my third loaf, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy making bread. The transformation of flour and water (and yeast) into something sticky but not gooey under your wooden spoon; the kneading of the dough; the shaping of the loaf – it all invokes a certain feeling in me…

Oh, that’s right. That’s the sound of me becoming a hausfrau, albeit in denial.

Still, like I mentioned to a friend, baking (and cooking, for that matter), is a labour of love… And the BF certainly loves his loaves!

Simple White BreadBaking: A Commonsense Guide, Murdoch Books
Preparation time: 30 min+
Total cooking time: 40 minutes
Makes: 1 loaf

2½ teaspoons (7g) instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar
450g (1 lb or 3⅔ cups) white strong flour

1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over 150ml (5 fl oz) warm water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then leave in a draught-free place for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is foamy.

2. Combine the flour and 2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and make a well in the centre. Add another 150ml (5 fl oz) warm water to the yeast mixture, then pour the mixture into the well. With the mixer set to the lowest speed, mix for 2 minutes, or until a dough forms. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for another 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.

Alternatively, mix the dough by hand using a wooden spoon, then turn out onto a floured work surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

As I don’t have a mixer yet, I did this using the wooden spoon way. I admit I was very liberal in my mixing of ingredients: First, I mixed salt and flour in the bowl, made the well, poured in the yeast mixture and then slowly added 150ml of warm water in. I did it this way mostly because the yeast had foamed up so powerfully in the mug I was using that there was no space to add more warm water to it. And frankly, who wants to have to wash an extra bowl if one could help it?

3. Grease a large bowl with oil, then transfer the dough to the bowl, turning the dough to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a draught-free place for 1 – 1½ hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

I used melted butter to grease the bowl and to coat the dough. I only had olive oil and I wasn’t sure I wanted to taste olive oil on my bread. Seems to work as well.

4. Knock back the dough by punching it gently, then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a rounded oval and transfer to a greased baking tray. Cover loosely with a damp cloth and leave for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/Gas 5).

I learned a fair bit about shaping bread from this video tutorial on The Fresh Loaf.

5. Using a sharp knife, make three diagonal slashes, about 4 cm (1½ in) apart, on the top of the loaf. Bake for 40 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I followed the recommended 40 minutes without checking at 20 minutes the state of the bread. I have now learned my mistake:
Simple White Bread

Yes, it got rather burnt on the sides and the bottom of the bread. Next time I would bake for 20 – 30 minutes rather than 40 which is obviously too long.

I also made an egg wash (basically, a beaten egg) to coat the top of the loaf before baking. My previous breads always came out with a pale crust despite cooking through, and egg wash helps the top brown nicely with a golden glaze. There is more information about egg wash here.

My bread was soft and chewy but not too dense. The crust was crunchy and on the whole, if I ignore the darkened bits, this was the best bread I’ve baked thus far.

Note: I bought the book for AU$36.99 (with a AU$30 Christmas gift card from last year)… but there are other alternatives. :)

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Scones and Salmon

Posted in Quick by Sandra on August 19, 2009

Before I begin, allow me to apologize for being an over-sharer.

16 August
06:30 – Got up to pee yet again. This infection is getting on my nerves. I’ve been waking up at 3 hour intervals to relieve myself. I think I even accidentally witched on the bedroom light and seared the BF’s eyeballs. The scream of pain will forever guilt me. Weather’s pretty bad too – noisy, howling winds throughout the night. (At 05:30 I’d gotten up to pee, and was kept awake by Dion’s snores for about 15 minutes… so maybe it wasn’t as loud as I thought.)

Well, it’s Sunday. A weekend. I’d promised the BF to let him wake up to weekend scones, so I might as well get started. Only three ingredients, it can’t be that difficult…


I’ve been going into the bedroom to check on the BF’s state of consciousness every half an hour since 07:00. It’s now 08:30, and that man is still in bed! I can’t believe it! He says he usually wakes at 08:30 anyway. I think I shall bring in a bit of hot sconey goodness to wake him up.

Grumpy man.

After he realized he wasn’t going to get any more sleep (“It’s my BIRTHDAY!”) I got into bed with him and we had a bit of a snuggle (with the boys too) and discussed how very old I am and how he’s going to trade me in for a younger mail-order girlfriend.

After about an hour he finally dragged himself out of bed and cooked breakfast for me – Duckie’s Scrambled Eggs and Bacon on Toast. It was a leisurely breakfast with two salivating beagles staring at our plates, jowls a-quiver whenever the Heavenly Bacon was visible.

Then we spent the day lounging around at home. About late afternoon I settled down to watch Malcolm in the Middle, and the BF emerged out of his den (his study) to demand that I flick to the two footy matches on during the advertisements. (Carlton won, oh Chris Judd you’re my hero! /bats eyelashes.)

Dusk fell, and we got ready for dinner at Sakura, in Glen Waverley. (“OOOOHHHH JAPANESE! HOW DID YOU KNOOOOW I WANTED JAPANESE!” “Cause, I know! /smug”) It was fantastic – for the first time ever in ages The Breakfast Crew rocked up. There was talk, laughter, dog discussion, games, and an endless stream of business talk from two certain people. I caught myself thinking several times that the BF needs a holiday badly. He can’t ever switch off.

The Breakfast Crew

And the salmon sashimi. Oh how I’ve missed you raw pink salmon flesh…

When I’ve had time to let the fact that I’m officially no longer a teenager, I will post again.

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Windows: Marking an Active Partition as Inactive

Posted in Computers by Sandra on August 19, 2009

Accidentally marked my Mac-formatted external partition as “Active” in Computer Management today, so I scoured the net for a solution.

Open up a command prompt and type DISKPART.

Type SELECT DISK n (where n is the number of the old Win98 drive)
Type SELECT PARTITION n (where n is the number of the active partition you wish to make inactive)
Type EXIT to exit DISKPART
Type EXIT again to exit the command prompt

Mac OS and Windoze 7

Posted in How-To by Sandra on August 12, 2009

I really can’t call Windows 7 “Windoze 7”, considering how good it’s been.

My system specifications:
Mac OS X 10.4.11 (Tiger)
Processor: 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Hard Drive Capacity: 111.79 GB

What I Did:

I didn’t have a DVD burner, so I’d asked a friend to help me burn it the next time he comes to the house. Which would’ve been the next day, but I was too impatient and wanted to try installing Windows 7 without a DVD.

Google to the rescue!

1. I tried Windows 7 as a virtual machine on VMWare first. I was able to install from the ISO direct (available from Microsoft direct here).

2. Got a NTFS-formatted external hard drive. Followed instructions as per PC World’s article up till Step 5.

3. Used Bootcamp to partition 40 GB for Windoze.
a. At this point I ran into some error saying that some files could not be moved. I backed up everything I had to my external and simply reinstalled Mac OS X, installed Bootcamp, and did the partitioning. Time-consuming, but I’ve been wanting to do it anyway.
b. Possibly, uninstalling VMWare and getting rid of all of its files will work (as it did for Parallel users.)

4. Used a HP WinXP Pro SP2 CD to format partition as NTFS (No FAT32 for over 32 GB partitions).
Had it lying around – I’d brought it over from Singapore. (Left my nice long scarf at home though – shows you where my priorities are, eh?)

5. Installed WinXP Pro.

6. Accessed the partition with ISO contents and ran setup.exe directly.

Windows 7 installed over WinXP perfectly. It went without a hitch. I have to say, I am impressed. When Vista came along I didn’t think much of it. The phrase “Various Improvements Similar to Apple” was what I saw Vista as.

Windows 7, however, is another matter. Most programmes will run on 7 as its configurations are similar to Vista’s (or something like that). If 7 is unsure, a dialog will open asking if you want to just run it, or go online to see if there’s any known 7-approved methods of installing it. Most times, just running the installer and the programme as usual is fine.

What I Should Have Done:

1. Get Windows 7 as a virtual machine

2. Get an NTFS-formatted external hard drive and followed PC World’s directions.

3. Depending on if Bootcamp throws up an error, uninstall it and remove all VMWare files, or proceed. Do not restart immediately.

4. Install rEFIt.

5. Restart. The rEFIt menu should come up and show your ISO partition as active. Boot from partition, and install over Bootcamp partition.

I’m not sure if this shorter method would work. For me, when I tried to boot from the ISO partition, rEFIt told me that basically, it couldn’t boot from it for some boot-related reason that I cannot remember. Still, this shorter method was a brainwave I had halfway through the WinXP installation, at which time it was too late for me to exit the installer and try.

I now have Mac OS X Tiger and Windows 7 on my MacBook. I can play games on Windows and still do my normal stuff on Mac OS. I’m loving this freedom, and the ease of installation with Windows 7 just makes it all sweeter.

Man, I feel great.

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Raspberry Lemon Muffins

Posted in Baking by Sandra on August 3, 2009

I baked on Sunday, and it was fantastic. I’d to borrow a close friend’s electric mixer (“Watch out for splatter!”) and buy a new muffin pan because the old one seems to have disappeared in the move.

According to my calculations, the whole lot of muffins cost me $7.87, including muffin cups! Keep in mind that several of the ingredients still have leftovers I can use for another batch (ie, flour, baking powder, buttermilk). I foresee much baking this week… and the start of another frenzied research phase for an electric mixer of my own.

I didn’t have to buy sugar, lemons, salt, and vanilla extract as we had them in the kitchen already, whew!

Still can’t believe how cheap they are, especially if you take into consideration that a muffin here costs $2.50… Each muffin only cost me 65c to make.

I just realized what I typed… 60c, $2.50…

Anyways, the recipe I used came from Smitten Kitchen.

Raspberry Lemon Muffins

As we are the sort of people who “go all out” for our food (when we do make it), we got fresh strawberries and blueberries… way better than frozen! :) And the lemons? Freshly picked from the tree in the backyard!

It was fantastically delish! (It’s not a real word.)

Raspberry Lemon Muffins

The BF was not a big fan of lemon, but said they were very yummy nonetheless. Especially the blueberry ones… because he’s fickle that way.

I would send one to you Trish, but I doubt that the muffin’d last interstate! And you lot in Singapore can forget about getting your hands on this unless you fly over. :P

I made 12 muffins, half of which are strawberries and the other half are blueberries.

Four muffins went to the friend who lent me the mixer, one was consumed as a tester muffin, two were great desserts and one was nommed for this morning’s after-brekkie snack!

We now have four left… Hmmm!

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