Cracked: A Quick Post Worth Hours of Entertaiment

Photo Courtesy userlogos.com
Photo Courtesy userlogos.com

I have a few websites that I like to frequent for an update on current events, recipes, or just a quick laugh. My favorite of these is undeniably, cracked.com. They offer several outlets for your viewing pleasure: podcasts, videos, and my favorite, articles. My favorite of these favorite articles are the lists. (I love lists. I’ll spend half the day making lists of things that I should be doing. Sometimes I’ll make lists outlining things I should be making lists about…but I digress.) Lists like: 6 Books Everyone Gets Wrong, 6 Shockingly Out of Touch Celebrities (this one’s a video), or one of my favorites, 6 Sworn Enemies Who Teamed Up and Kicked A$$. (All good things come in sixes.)

But the reason I’m telling you about them now is because I read an article today that I think should be shared with everyone: 6 True Stories That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity. With all the bad we see, it’s nice to be reminded that the vast majority of humans are good, sometimes amazing, people.

Enjoy!

Book Review: Ticker

Photo Courtesy: Amazon.com
Photo Courtesy: Amazon.com

As an Amazon Prime member and proud Kindle owner, Amazon offers me one of four books at no cost to me.  I don’t have to choose blindly, one click on the book and it takes me to the book’s page so that I can read the synopsis.  It’s a pretty sweet deal.  Not only do I get a free book, but it means that I’m also reading authors, and sometimes genres, that I probably never would have without this Kindle first offer.

While some books are better than others, I have yet to read one that I just didn’t like.  But I was especially intrigued by Ticker, written by Lisa Mantchev.  It took me a couple of chapters to get past the strangeness of the book, but when I did, I found that I really enjoyed the story and the characters.  This “strangeness” turns out to be something called Steampunk.  I had never even heard of steampunk until after I had finished this book and was reading what some other people had to say about it on Goodreads.  Honestly, I’m glad that I didn’t ready any reviews of the book until after I had read it, because I probably would have passed on the book all together if I had.

Steampunk – When referring to literature, steampunk is a story that is set in, what can only be described as, an alternate dimension of the Victorian-Era.  In this alternate dimension modern inventions exist, such as air planes, motorcycles, and cell phones, but they are all steam powered.  In Ticker, (the only steampunk novel I can reference) they combined to create a book that is a little fantasy, a little science fiction, and a lot of action.  For example, the heroine in Ticker uses of a mobile phone-like device that allows her to send text messages across town, while wearing corsets and hoop skirts, and worrying about the impropriety of having a suitor in her house without an escort.  I admit, that kept me in a near constant state of confusion, but I couldn’t help enjoying the story.  If you would like to learn more about the whole steampunk movement, check out this website, they do a great job explaining it and provide examples and references.

I have to admit, that the story really requires a stretch of the imagination, and the reader has to be very willing to suspend their belief.  But if you’re willing to accept this strange reality, then the story proves to be entertaining and exciting, with truly surprising twists and turns.

Ticker has a fun cast of characters that I found easy to connect with.  The story centers around a strong-willed woman, who manages to be business savvy and fashionable at the same time.  A couple of times I found myself laughing out loud at the  witty banter between the characters, and I am looking forward to reading more of Lisa Mantchev’s work.

 

 

 

Basic White Bread

My husband and roommate have gotten really into baking bread lately, and for a week or so I would come home to find 2 or 3 fresh loaves of bread everyday.

IMG_20141121_171955_0921416613892938_IMG_20141118_133213_4341416614140189_IMG_20141121_165010_759

Of course, that was when they were trying to perfect their technique.  Now that they have, the loaves of bread come a little less often, but we still have fresh bread on hand most days.  It’s pretty awesome.  My husband has started writing down his recipes and taking pictures of his masterpieces so that he can create a digital portfolio to add to his resume.  I thought I would also add some to my blog for those of you who want to try your hand at making your own bread.

Basic White Bread

3 1/4 cups of hot water (110 degrees)

3 Tbsp yeast

4 Tbsp oil (Generally olive oil, or canola oil.  If you prefer an oil like coconut or sunflower it will significantly change the flavor.)

1/2 cup sugar

8 cups flour (the higher the gluten level better: bread flower, whole wheat flower.  My chefs recommend King Arthur flower)

3 tsp salt

A large mixing bowl, large enough for you mixture to double in size

A wooden spoon

3 or 4 bread pans

Note: My roommate likes to cut this recipe in half.  He says that half the recipe fits perfectly in a Kitchenaid.

Step 1:  Bloom the yeast: Add your yeast and hot water to a large bowl.  If it makes you feel better to stir the yeast and water, you can, but you do not actually need to.  Leave it to sit for about 5-10 minutes.  This will activate the yeast.  You will know that it’s ready when the yeast is bubbling and looks frothy.

Step 2: Add sugar, oil, half of your flour, and salt to your blooming yeast. Mix well to combine. Cover with a damp towel, place the bowl in a warm place, and allow it to rise for an hour.

Note: it will rise in a cool location, however, it will take double the time.  My chefs say the ideal temp is around 80-90 degrees, and will often put the rising dough on the back of the stove while the oven preheats.

Step 3: Your dough, at this point, will be very sticky.  Add two cups of flour,  1 cup at a time,  using a wooden spoon to incorporate the flour.  Once your dough is no longer sticking to everything it touches you can remove it from the bowl and place it on a floured surface.  Slowly add your remaining flour, mixing it in with your hands. (You’ll want to remove rings from your fingers at this point or you will never get the dough out of them.)  You’ll want to knead your dough for 10-15 minutes.  Return your dough to the (slightly oiled) mixing bowl, cover the bowl with the damp towel, and let it rise again for another hour, or until double in size.

Note: My chefs do this last part differently.  My husband returns the dough to the bowl to rise a second time, while my roommate places the dough in a bread pan and allows it to proof in the pan.  My roommate has found that his bread has better volume when proofed in the pan, while my husband prefers the consistency of his bread that is double proofed in the bowl before being added to the bread pans.

Helpful Hint: It is possible to over-proof bread.  You’ll want to try to catch the bread at it’s peak (this will take experience), but if it looks like it’s starting to deflate, or you see something that looks like an air bubble at the peak of the dough, then it is starting to over-proof.

Step 4: If you did not proof you dough in the bread pans then remove it from the mixing bowl and divide it into 3 or 4 loafs.  Place the dough into oiled bread pans, and allow it to rise again while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place an oven safe pan on the bottom rack of your oven while the oven preheats.

Step 5: Cut a small slit in the dough, using a very sharp knife, down the center of the loaf.  This will allow expansion and steam to escape from your bread without cracking it.  As you become more brazen with your bread you can make this slit decorative. Place your bread in the oven, and add a cup of water to the oven safe pan on the bottom rack to create steam. Bake for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160-165 degrees.  You may want to rotate your bread halfway through baking.

1417831255910_IMG_20141201_142412_559

 

This is a beautiful specimen of the white bread recipe above.  However, this took several tries so don’t give up when it doesn’t look like this on your first try.  Also, bread is a fickle creature.  The outcome of your recipe will be affected by your environment, your oven, the type of flour you use, etc.  This recipe was tweaked by my chefs until it worked where we live, which is at sea level.  You will likely have to do some tweaking of your own to make a loaf of bread that you are happy with and that works where you live.

Final Note:  If your bread doesn’t come out just right do not get mad and toss it.  If your bread is very dense then get ready for some crazy awesome french toast!  You can also use your less than best bread to make bread crumbs.  So take heart, “It is always OK to fail, but it is never OK not to try.” – Denny Axlen