Friday, September 30, 2011

Math Games

Back when I was in sixth grade, we had a warm up everyday on the whiteboard when we came into class. For a few months in the middle of the year, our project was the "Four 4s," where we had to make every number from 1 to 100 with the combination of four 4s in any mathematical sequence. I had a dream last night which involved switching math games with a friend. I eventually suggested the "Four 4s." I got stumped at 13; I am a lot better at math when awake. I wrote a few down and added a couple of alternatives.
 At the doctor's office today I started working on them while I was waiting and I am now stumped at 31.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Over the Past Weeks

I have been incredibly busy starting school and returning to teaching after a few weeks of break. I thought I would catch everyone up on some general updates.

School: I am only taking three classes at the moment, but it is a full course load in terms of units. I am taking Sallust's Bellum Catelinae, Greek Prose Composition, and a seminar on classical research. It is a reasonable amount of work, although the vast amount of work in prose composition makes up the majority of my load. I am also planning on reading little bits of Homer with Properitus II once we finish the Crito. I also am going to attempt to work on my thesis revisions and start on my term paper for my classical research seminar.

Teaching: I am teaching a new class. It is an interesting group because I teaching in a different geographical area than usual (near school rather than near home).

Bread: I made another loaf of my newest sourdough recently. It was also fantastic, but I forgot to take photos. I am going to try to make Francis Olive's City Bread this weekend because it looks fantastic and I should have a little bit of time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wine Snob: Another Argentinian Malbec

This wine, the Gascon 2010 Malbec from the Medoza Region of Argentina, was really lovely. I tend to like Argentinian Malbec and this one was recommended to us by the person who sold us the lovely shelves that now hold the majority of our wine. We didn't decide to have the wine until about 20 minutes before dinner so it tasted a little, I don't know, condensed at first. I am not sure what the proper term is, but basically the flavors were less discernible but became increasingly differentiated the longer the wine sat out.

It was a medium bodied wine with a slight tannic bite and the taste of black cherry with a pinch of pink pepper. Instead of finishing, it seemed to vanish at the end of the taste. I really enjoyed it though I think I would let it breathe a little longer next time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Like One of those High School Movies

So I had my orientation today. It was like one of those horrible high school movies where the geeky girl does everything wrong and the day is a complete disaster. I took my placement exams for Greek and Latin at 8am this morning. Greek was a mess. It was a piece from Lucian and I just completely missed the vocabulary and it was a disaster.  The Latin was better, it was some 4th century AD historian and I actually knew a significant portion of the vocabulary.

Of course, that wasn't the end of it. Due to a mix-up, I ended up really early for the luncheon. Worse, afterward the professor who was grading my Greek exam ran up to talk to me. I felt so completely embarrassed. Luckily he hadn't graded it yet, but that actually made me feel worse because he was so nice and he was going to soon look at such a complete disaster.

Going to see a production of the Trojan Women tomorrow. I will write a review.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A New Sourdough

I mentioned in my blogpost yesterday how much I loved this bread. It's really fantastically sweet-- which may be a combination of the flour mixture and that I managed to use the starter right at the peak of it's feeding when it smells slightly sweet. I am including the recipe here so anyone can try it. It is a modified version of Peter Reinhart's San Francisco Sourdough Bread from Artisan Breads Every Day. This bread spends an incredible amount of time rising, but it does not require a significant amount of interference.
Ear-- finally able to use the lame properly
 This bread is 76% hydration. However, I used a lot of all-purpose instead of bread flour this last time so I might up the hydration to 77% to compensate. I also need to incorporate a bit more air when I am kneading as my last two breads have not had quite the open crumb that I desire.
Not perfect crumb, but still quite good

  •  56.5g 100% hydration starter
  • 227g Whole Wheat Flour
  • 150g Water, room temperature
  •  All of the starter
  • 445g Water (warm)
  • 567g Unbleached Bread Flour (I used a combination of bread flour and-- when I ran out of that-- a high-protein all-purpose flour-- King Arthur's)
  • 18g Salt
Starter (Day 1)
  • Mix the ingredients for the starter together about 8 hours befor you plan to use it.
  • Make sure you mix it with a for or something that will help incorporate a little air.
  • Cover the bowl or jar and leave it to mature overnight at room temperature. Otherwise, the starter can rest in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Final Dough (Day 2)
  • The starter, by now, should be all bubbly and smell slightly sweet.
  • Dissolve the starter in the water.
  • Then add the unbleached flour and the salt and mix into tacky ball. Let the dough rest for five minutes.
  • The knead the dough by hand for 3 minutes. Try to incorporate air.
  • Then do the first Peter Reinhart stretch-and-fold. Do four total with 10 minutes in between each.
  • Depending on how warm your kitchen is, let the dough rest out (covered) for 1.5-2 hours before placing in the refrigerator. It was about 75 degrees in my kitchen and I let the dough sit out for 2 hours. Place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Shaping and Baking (Day 3)
  •  Take the bread out of the refrigerator 5-6 hours before baking. Let it rest on at room temperature for 2-3 hours, depending upon the room temperature. The bread was still very cold at 2 hours, so I waited the extra hour.
  • Then turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it. It can make two 1.5lb loaves or three 1lb loaves. Preshape.
  • Let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes, and then do the final shaping. Cover the loaves and let them rise for 2-3 hours. My loaves needed three hours. The first loaf we baked after two hours and I think that it could have used a little extra rising time, while the second one we baked at three hours and it turned out better.
  • 20 minutes before baking, heat up the your oven with your stone-and-broth-pot or dutch oven to 500 degrees F.
  • Turn your dough onto a floured peel and score it right before you put it into the oven. Turn the oven down to 450 degrees F (425 convection). 
  • Let the dough bake under steam for 30-35 minutes, making sure that the edges of your scoring marks have turned golden.
  • Then bake it for 20-25 minutes without steam, ensuring that it has an internal temperature of 212 degrees. It should be fairly light in weight and dark brown in color.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fruits of Our Labor

I made some bread over the past few days. The bread is a modified version of a Peter Reinhart recipe in Artisan Breads Every Day. I will post the recipe soon. It was absolutely fantastic. My family had a picnic while we watched the first episode of the new season of Downton Abbey. The first episode was pretty amazing-- even thought I've been reading spoilers all week it still went a lot of different ways that I imagined (especially with Mr. Bates' story line). It was a little bit uneven in the pacing, but still great. Can't wait for next week! The show and the bread were fabulous. The bread was a sourdough, but it was really sweet and nutty in it's flavor. My dad gave the crust of the bread a 9/10, which was pretty fantastic.
Crust was Fantastic.
Not Perfect Crumb, but YUM!

The bread was about 60:40 white:whole wheat. It was just lovely.
Picnic Spread

We also included one of our fresh home-grown cucumbers in the spread.
Cucumber from the Yard

Saturday, September 17, 2011

School Bread

It's been a while since I've been in school. Although I have been working and continuing my education, without a full day of formal classes life is a little more relaxed. Some days I had the day to read and make the wonderful Tartine Country Bread or my whole wheat breakfast bread. However, studying for these exams, I realize that these days, with the exception of special occasions, are coming to an end.

Yet, I simply cannot give up my bread, especially as winter approaches and meals of soup and bread are so appealing. So what to do? Well, there are some recipes that take as much time, but less intervention. I have had a lot of success with breads from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, and so today I am trying to make (a modified version, of course) of his San Francisco sourdough. Pictures and analysis to come. I also will try some breads that take a little less time such as Wild Yeast's Norwich More Sourdough which I attempted recently.

I have also been considering venturing into the territory of no-knead bread. Although this does not have the stress-relief of kneading, it also has less of the clean-up stress. I have been very skeptical in the past (with the exception of the no-knead challah I make). One bread that captivated my attention was an Italian No-Knead featured on Yeast Spotting recently. That may be my next experiment.

More Astrophysics: Planets in the Distance

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Yale astrophysics class to which I was listening. I haven't had time recently because I have been studying for exams, but I did read a New York Times article this afternoon in which I realized I actually vaguely understood the science behind the discovery.

I am going to make an attempt at explaining this from memory, although science people please correct me if I explain this wrong. So in general, astronomers do not detect planets by seeing them. Instead, they measure electromagnetic waves and use Doppler shifts in order to determine the size, speed, and distance of stars an the planets that orbit them. In certain cases, the planets are oriented so that they pass directly between the telescope monitoring them and the star they orbit. In these cases, there are significant dips in the electromagnetic radiation whenever the planet crosses in front of the star and it allows scientists to determine that the planet is there and stuff about it with a great degree of accuracy. It's pretty cool. This is especially fabulous because the planet is actually circling two stars, hence the planet has been named Tatooine. Unfortunately, this planet's alignment is changing due to it's orbit and it will not pass directly in front of the star any longer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Macro Quantem Phenomena

Cerinthus is preparing topics for his thesis. One of the things that he is considering working on is a strange set of experiments with silicone droplets that show certain properties of quantum mechanics on a macro level. Although, I have to admit, I was skeptical at first, it's pretty cool.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Downton Abby, Revisited

Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)
I mentioned in a previous blogpost that I absolutely loved a series called Downton Abbey. The second season is coming out in England next week. Very excited, I have been reading some spoilers. I will put the most extensive of them here and there are also a couple of fun interviews. Being an incredible fan of the show, I've been thinking about it a lot. This is rather silly of me, but there is one thing that bothers me about the second series as it seems like it will play out (spoiler alter, beware):

The main story in the first season concerns the impending inheritance of Downton Abby by a solicitor named Matthew Crawley and many attempts to find a husband for the eldest of the Earl's daughters, Lady Mary. They, of course, after hating one another fall in love and Matthew proposes. Due to various complicating circumstances, Mary never gives him an answer and Matthew leaves. The ending is rather elegant, actually. Matthew leaves Mary at the Garden party and she seems to realize what she is losing, but it is ambiguous. I think the final episode eloquently combines the unpredictable element with a hopefully possibility in a realistic manner.

I appreciated the ending of the first season. If the season had stood alone, I would have been happy. Now I am nervous. I know from the spoilers that Matthew has a new fiancee in this coming season and Mary is courted by another gentleman. In principle this makes sense; Matthew is an eligible bachelor and Mary is rather spiteful. I worry, however, that the show will try to convince us each of them-- or at least one of them-- might end up happily with someone else in order to challenge audience expectations. I am, of course, not a fan of shows being predictable and Downton Abbey has done a magnificent job of creating brilliant unpredictability (especially Episode three which I just re-watched with Servia). However, I think that after an entire season building up to the perfection of the match, it would seem disingenuous to try to convince the viewers otherwise. Furthermore, the type of attempt which breaks up two so well suited characters rarely works (e.g. Sense and Sensibility, the second half of Little Women, the late match-up of Eowin and Faramir in Lord of the Rings, etc). The one exception, of course, is Emma, but Jane Austen works many threads well from the beginning.

I just don't think I'll be able to buy it if the writers try to move them apart as though they have moved on. Characters like Lady Edith are happy at the prospect of a comfortable life with someone kind, but Lady Mary is passionate and obstinate and Matthew simply seems to find this irresistible. Although I could imagine both of them trying to make some other relationship work, and even doing reasonably well at it, ultimately, upon seeing each other again, they would find themselves drawn to each other.

I know this is all very silly and as a writer's daughter I should be examining the story more and being less of a fan. However, I have faith in the writers because they have woven a brilliant story so far. Maybe they will settle it in a way that is both delightful and unusual.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Apple Pie, Revisited

My First Attempt at a Woven Crust
There are, in the past few weeks, green apples around which are tart and lovely. We bought some about two weeks ago, but all of my papers and exams got in the way. So yesterday, on my day off between finishing my last paper and getting ready to study for my entrance exams, I made three pies to use up the apples in the refrigerator.
Second Pie

I decided to make my own crust, as I have the last 5 or so times I made pie. However, I ran out of bleached flour (which I find makes a flakier and less rubbery crust than unbleached flour). I mixed the end of the bleached flour with some unbleached flour and some cake flour. I made a double batch of pie, so the crust was about 1 3/4 cups bleached flour to 1/4 cup cake flour to 1/2 cup unbleached flour (7:1:2 by volume). This was miraculous. Instead of being hard and troublesome after a few hours in the refrigerator, the dough was silky and smooth but incredibly elastic, allowing me to make a lovely, thin crust.
The First Pie
The pie received rave reviews. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it when it came out of the oven.

For the final pie, I had to make another batch of crust. This time I made a single batch. I didn't have any more unbleached flour so I mad a batch with 3:2 ratio (by volume) of unbleached flour to cake flour. This proved to be far too much cake flour. I had to use far less liquid and the crust tore easily. Next time, I would stick to a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio if I only had the two flours. However the crust tastes great, but I decided to weave it so that the fragility would not impact the pie as much. The recipes for apple pie and crust are on my recipe page.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

News on the Return of Some Berkeley Webcasts

Just over a month ago, I visited Berkeley's Webcast archive looking for an archaeology course I had seen previously only to find it had been removed when Berkeley upgraded its server. I posted a very angry note. Recently, Berkeley has just reloaded 169 of its classics courses-- Yay! Thank you Berkeley!-- and claims that it is going to attempt to upload several more.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Modern Astrophysics for Non-Scientists

iTunes U triumphs again. As I mentioned previously, I have been working (rather slowly) through the Ancient Greek history class given by Yale's Donald Kagan. He is quite enjoyable and it's forcing me to read through Pomoroy et al's Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. While I was thinking about these lectures, I thought I might look at some of Yale's other courses. I downloaded the first lecture of "Astrophysics Frontiers and Controversies" (Yale Website) taught by Charles Bailyn and I am totally addicted. Although my attention has been divided (he has a very soothing voice so I have been listening to him while I do things like clean my room or work on my Greek study guide), I still understand the concepts he discusses. The class is supposed to introduce non-science majors to modern topics in astrophysics with little math. It's fabulously enjoyable and fun for someone like me who loves astronomy but couldn't get through physics because I only like classical mechanics as they apply to space.

It makes me wonder whether I should have gone into astrophysics as I had originally planned. However, I don't know if I could have spent my entire life crunching data hoping desperately for interesting mathematical irregularities.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bread: Some Thoughts

Yay Bread!
It was finally cool enough to make some bread today and my sourdough starter was begging to be used, so I made some bread while I wrote the first draft of my paper on the Parthenon Frieze.

So it may not be my prettiest loaf, but it was quite a success. I took it out of the oven and it was light as a feather, which means that it actually worked. I have had little success with this recipe, Norwich More Sour Sourdough from Wild Yeast, and this is the first one that turned out perfectly I scored it with the new beautiful lame that I got for my birthday. It was hard to use because the blade was curved and I wasn't used to it, but it made a beautiful ear on the bread.
The Ear
The crust sang beautifully. It crackled nicely when I bit into it and looked lovely, although I might have left it in the oven for a few more minutes. I did change the cooking time. The steaming was 27 minutes and the crisping was 10 minutes (took out when the internal temperature reached 212 degrees F).
The bread was fabulously flavorful. 75g of the starter I used were whole wheat in order to increase the flavor and it was miraculous and I increased the hydration percentage to 78% instead of 68% in the original recipe. Unfortunately this meant that I did not develop quite the interior crumb that I wanted, but it still was nice and airy on the inside. Yum!

I did realize that I may need to recalibrate my thermometer that I use to check whether the bread is ready after reading a blogpost today, but I will just have to do that before the next loaf.

Note 09/02/11: We finished off the first loaf today. Further in the crumb looked a bit better.

When I made this loaf, I made a second one which I putin the refrigerator for 16 hours. Servia cooked it while Propertius II and I talked about the beginning of Iliad Book 14. She slashed it in the shape of a sun and I thought it was very cute.

The differences between the two: 1) both had flavor, the cold fermentation loaf was more sour a and a little more flavorful but a little less wheaty. 2) I baked the cold fermenation one slightly longer: 30 minutes under steam (because it came right out of the refridgerator) and 10 minutes crisping. The crust was a little thinner and it was more crispy than crunchy. Still lovely. 3) The crumb was better on cold fermentation. 4) There was less oven spring on cold fermentation.
Servia's Sun
Cold Fermentation Crumb