Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Berkeley any more.

There are many things that make our new town different from Berkeley--the super high-end shops, the lack of homeless on the streets, and (what I miss the most already) our church community.  In our old Berkeley Ward, you could never get away with saying things like "In Russia, they get up in the morning and start drinking."  Somebody would ask you to dampen the extremeness of that statement.  And if you said that you were standing in holy places by refusing to "sit at the same table with" someone who was committing adultery, somebody would remind you that Christ sought out sinners in love.  I don't mind the opportunity to ruffle feathers, but I do miss rubbing shoulders with the excellent people in the Oakland Stake--people who are open, honest, thoughtful, and brave enough to do things like tell a General Authority of the LDS Church how much pain was caused by Prop 8.  I'm proud of them and of Elder Jensen and I hope the Church will listen carefully to his report of the experience.

Here are two links on the topic, following them will lead you to many more:
Carol Lynn Pearson’s account of the event
Times and Seasons' Credible Criticism


awesome conversation blip

N: You ever notice how geeks tuck t-shirts into their pants?  It's a stereotypically geeky thing to do, but they do it anyway.  It's like a one-to-one correlation.

Both N and I at the same time: No's onto.


potato shallot soufflé

Yet another entry on food...I just have so may new toys and a kitchen to myself for the first time ever.  I'll post about other things soon, I promise.

A few weeks before I left the SF bay area, a coworker described to me a little restaurant, Cafe Jacqueline, on the north side of the city.  The only thing it serves is soufflé, he described, but they're incredible.  He also told me that if I made it there, make sure to use the restroom--you have to go through the kitchen, and there you see Jacqueline herself, a miniature French woman with Popeye arms, beating eggs.  I never made it to Cafe Jacqueline, but that image stuck.  It was so haunting that for the past week I've been fighting the urge to make a soufflé myself, despite the fact that I've never made one before.

But an overabundance of eggs and cream in the apartment forced me to give in--potato shallot soufflé it was.  I adapted it from the classic La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange. (Looking up that link I discovered that the English version was translated by Berkeley's own Chez Panisse co-founder Paul Aratow.)  The original didn't involve shallots or thyme, but being 100 grams short on the potatoes, I improvised to prevent the dish from being too egg-y.

Another thing that I changed was leaving in some of the potato skins and not mashing the potato pulp to be as smooth as the original recipe suggested.  This made for a heavier soufflé with a more rustic texture, which worked surprisingly well.

I beat the egg whites by hand, which resulted in a blister on my right-hand middle finger.  When I beat eggs or cream, I do so most efficiently holding the whisk like a pencil or like a hammer, alternating between the two as my muscles get tired, which they certainly did.

As soon as the egg whites were added to the rest of the mix, I fretted over the poor thing endlessly. I probably checked the oven every minute or so.  In the end, the soufflé was scrumptious and neither puffing out of the dish nor fallen, which I vote to be a victory.  We ate it straight out of the dish.

Potato Shallot Soufflé
3-4 potatoes (1 lb)
1 shallot
3 T butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
5 egg whites
salt, pepper, nutmeg, and thyme to taste

Wash and bake the potatoes at 375 until they are fully cooked and mashable.  Meanwhile, mince and sauté the shallots until they golden.  Remove the potatoes one by one from the oven, keeping it warm for later.  As you remove each potato, split it with a spoon and remove much of the skin, dumping the rest into a pan.  Mash the potatoes as much as possible before adding the butter and turning on the heat.  Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and thyme and continue mashing the potatoes smooth as you stir them.  Add the cream slowly, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  Once the cream is added and the mixture is fairly dry, move it to a porcelain or ceramic dish and stir in the egg yolks.  Whisk the egg whites into oblivion, or "into snow" per the original recipe.  I whisked them until they became very firm peaks, but the original suggested that they should stick to one's whisk as a solid block, like a "clown's wig."  Fold the egg whites into the potato mixture until evenly distributed, and then bake for 25 minutes or until quite golden on top.  Once it's out, eat it immediately!


wild yeast bread

I've been collecting wild yeast for a few days now, and when the recipe called to throw half of it away (deeming it not quite good enough for bread yet...or something) I decided to try baking with it anyway.  Rebel of rebels.

Without using a recipe, I just added flour and water until it felt right--sticky but not too wet, refrigerated it overnight, and added more flour and water the next morning.  I proofed the loaves for a few hours and stuck them in the oven, starting at 500 and reducing to 450, keeping a ceramic bowl full of water in the oven and spraying it with water in the beginning to keep the air humid.

The loaves came out incredibly--thin, crunchy crusts with beautiful pockets of air inside, and very moist.  Texture-wise, they were possibly the best loaves I've ever made.  The flavor was a little nontraditional, likely owing to the dark rye flour used to catch the yeast and the flavor of the local yeast as well.  That said, I still ate an entire loaf before N got out of classes--I worked from home today.  I'm interested to see how the yeast flavor evolves with time.

Catching and Caring for Wild Yeast
adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice

Seed Culture
1 cup (4.25 oz) dark rye flour
3/4 cup (6 oz) water
Mix flour and water, making sure all the flour is wet.  Place in glass container or bowl, mark the top of the dough (e.g. with tape) and let sit covered for 24 hours at room temperature.

1 cup (4.5 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
Mix flour and water with previous day's dough.  Update marker and ferment another 24 hours covered at room temperature.

1 cup (4.5 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
Check for a rise in the dough--perhaps a 50 percent rise.  (Mine had more than doubled thanks to the warm weather and the amazingness of King Arthur bread flour)  Discard half the dough and mix in the new flour and water--the height should be the same as the previous day's marker.  Ferment again at room temperature for 24 hours.  The next day the sponge should have at least doubled in size.  If not, repeat for one more day, discarding half and adding new flour and water.

Mother Starter
1 cup (7 oz) seed culture
3 1/2 cups (16 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 cups (16 oz) water
Mix seed culture, flour and water, making sure that all the flour is moist.  Transfer to a non-metallic container at least double the size of the dough and cover for 6 hours or until bubbly.  Refrigerate overnight before using.  The dough will be ready to use for the three following days.

Refreshing the Starter
When you use some of the starter, you should feed it.  For example, if you use 1 cup of the starter, add 1 cup flour and some water to refresh it.  Otherwise, throw half of the starter away and replace it with flour and water.  It's okay to let the yeast starter go soupy, which will happen after 4 or so days. Once fed and bubbly, you have three days to use it.

Using the Wild Yeast
There are a number of recipes that call for wild yeast, and you can always make simple bread by adding more flour and water.  To use it in recipes that call for commercial yeast, you can either calculate how much flour and water/liquid you need to subtract, or else just add the flour/water slowly until it feels right, which is usually what I do for dough recipes anyway.



I made fresh paneer this weekend--my first escapade in cheese making! (Recipe below) Next time, however, I think I'll use whole milk--I used 1% and it was delicious fresh, but after one night in the fridge, it was a little hard when I made saag paneer the next day. It wasn't too bad, but if I were to do it again, I'd use it all fresh or else use fattier milk. To curdle the milk, I did a mixture of yogurt and lemon juice; the latter flavored the cheese really nicely when we ate it fresh with a little salt and garam masla on top. Yum!

Paneer Cheese
makes 8 ounces or 30 1-inch pieces
1/2 gallon (8 cups) lowfat or whole milk (skim makes it hard and leathery)
2 cups plain yogurt (nonfat or any kind), or 1/4 cup lemon juice, or a mixture of both
4 layers of cheesecloth or piece of fine muslin

Bring the milk to a boil. Before it boils over, add the yogurt/lemon juice and stir until it separates into curds and whey, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour the curds and whey into a the cheesecloth (use a pan, bowl, or colander to help hold the cloth in place). Bundle up the edges of the cloth and let the cheese to drain hanging for 3 to 5 minutes--I tied mine to the kitchen faucet. Twist the cloth snugly around the cheese and press between plates or anything waterproof and flat (the excess cloth to side) for 10 to 12 minutes. I did this in the sink, putting the whey, which was in a big bowl, on top of the plates to press the cheese. The cheese should keep 4-5 days in the refrigerator or a few months in the freezer.


Film Review: Arranged

Last night N and I took some down time from unpacking and setting up the house to watch a 99 cent iTunes movie rental: Arranged. It's a story about two women who meet as first year elementary school teachers at a Brooklyn public school; one of the women is Orthodox Jewish and the other Muslim. The film focuses on their friendship as they deal with a very ignorant Principal, challenging students and family members, and the process of arranged marriages.

I thought it was an excellent film on many levels. The cinematography was beautiful: lots of detail shots that brought the cultures to life. Both the script and the acting were believable and honest, with many moments of genuine humor. One of my favorite quotes was "Someone should be shooting a commercial for world peace right now." I also felt like the film addressed some real issues in a gentle way without focusing too much on them--for example, religious tension obviously existed as a plot element, but it was expressed as a part of their personal struggles.

Overall, I think it was a wonderful use of 99 cents and a perfect break from unpacking.



Whew! It's been a whirlwind of a summer. I left my job at Yorba (which was super sad because I loved it) and my beloved bay area (double sadness points) to get married a week later (makes up for the sadness), hike the JMT in 16 days, pack everything for shipping, then drive cross country seeing friends and family in 19 days, and finally arrive at our new place this past Wednesday. Oiya. Lots of changes, but it's been a blast and I'll be sure to post some more (including pictures) soon.