Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Making Bread part 3

Here we are at part 3, only half an hour after part 2. I hope you did something good with your time. I made a pasta bake, saw a kid off to drama, read the paper, and I forget what else. Anyway, it hasn't been hard work.

I normally get the oven really good and hot - around 240C - but today, it's more like 180C, because I'm being practical and cooking pasta and meatballs at the same time.

Your instructions now - just bake the bread! At a hot temperature, it might take around 12 minutes - mine took longer, but that suited me today. Hotter temp = even more crusty, but nobody complained about today's.

Here it is, cooling off on a rack.

And here it is as part of dinner. I've deconstructed the spaghetti and meatballs, because I've been watching Masterchef and apparently that's a thing. And also because I'm the resident vegetarian.

I hope you've enjoyed this bread method. Go back to part 1 for links to the cookbook I recommend. There's more to know about making full sized loaves.

Oh, and this dough - best pizza base imaginable!

Making Bread part 2

Well, I hope you were here for part 1. If not, just go there and start now, You'll catch up.

Somewhere between 8 hours and 24 hours after doing step 1, you should move on to today's steps. It's flexible because 8 hours is JUST enough, and 24 is not too long. If you have a reason to leave your dough longer than that (like, your baking time was interrupted by a family emergency, or you needed to watch Masterchef), just pop it in the fridge. It will stay nice for a day or two longer.

1. Lift the lid of your dough.

Mmm, does that look nice or what? I'm going with "what". If it looks like a creepy, bubbly, shiny, slime mould, you're doin' it right. Relax, it will look more foodlike soon.

2. Sprinkle lots of flour on your nice clean counter, and scrape the bread out of the bowl. A silicone spatula does a good job here. Get your hands floury, and fold the dough over just a few times, until it looks like this. Not scary at all!

If you made a mess of your counter or hands, use more flour next time. It makes cleaning up easier too!

3. Today we're making breadsticks. Why breadsticks?  Because they are easy and quick to make, serve and eat. Shorter rising time. No breadknife needed. Also, more crusty, and we love crust.

So, tear your dough into four segments, and stretch/roll them into long sticks. The dough is springy and wants to stay round, but be patient. Let a piece "relax" while you pummel the next one, and this step will only take a few minutes.

Sprinkle a tray with lots of flour, and lay your breadsticks on it. The flour stops them from sticking, so be generous.

That's the end of step 2. Go and do something else for half an hour or so. You could turn the oven on during that time. Good and hot please.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Making Bread part 1

I've been asked to post my bread recipe - well, it's a well known one. You can read about it here, and I read about it in this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The bread I like making takes a long time - that is, a long waiting time between one step and the next. But it takes hardly ANY time for you! It's even joined my roster of "foods I can make on those busy nights". Interested? Well, here's step 1, which I'm sure you can do today. Come back tomorrow and we'll enjoy step 2.

  1. Find the bread flour. Oh no, which one is bread flour? They both are! I like to have at least 5kg on hand all the time, so I've split it between two large containers. That's a Tupperware Rectangle 2, and a 3, the biggest arrangement that can fit in this cupboard!

Plain flour will do, if you can't get proper "bread" flour. Bread flour has a higher protein content, but Aussie plain flour does just fine.

2. Drop three cups of flour into a mixing bowl, and add this much salt. Or more, or less, but don't leave it out (it affects the texture as well as the taste).

3. Put in just a quarter of a teaspoon of dried yeast. That's a tiny amount - most recipes call for two whole teaspoons or more. I keep a measuring spoon in the canister for convenience.

Give the dry stuff a little stir. It's more efficient that sifting, you know.

4. Now pour in just over a cup and a half of water, just on the warm side. If it's freezing cold in your kitchen, you can add some boiling water from the kettle to some stone cold from the tap - then you won't be wasting a whole lot waiting for the tap to run warm!

5. Now stir it up. Note, I didn't say "knead", or "pummel" or any other complicated word, just stir it. It will be kind of sloppy for a dough. That's OK. A little wetter or dryer here will still work fine.

Pop a lid on the bowl (a cloth would do, but a loose fitting lid is much better, you don't want it to dry out.) I'm using a Tupperware Ultrapro baking dish for this task, which is overkill, because it's a fancy dish. But it works great!

Final step - you should have a sticky, doughy spoon in your hand. Wash that right away, it will be vile to wash if you leave it til tomorrow.

All of this takes me about 3 minutes. Let's leave the bowl in a warm place (a warm place in Melbourne in winter! Hah!). I'm using the oven that has been turned off some time ago. DON'T do that with a melty plastic bowl.

See ya tomorrow for part 2, and we'll see what we have made.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

What the kids are doing during a long stopover at LAX

We found this place - Powersurge - a place where they can play wii and Xbox games by the hour. Sadly it's not AT the airport ( wouldn't that be awesome?) but this mall is a short bus ride away.

I'm ready for my flight now...

I've got a Somerset Studio from the second hand bookshop, and I've had a lovely Chai tea.

Jeff eating a square bagel

Oh those Washingtonians, so efficient. Even the bagels are square. Sorry, squagels.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Tyya and Uncle Jeff

This is our lovely niece Tyya with Jeff. She's 7.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Washington symphony

I swear, there were sirens going off at all hours in DC! On our last day there we were woken by an emergency vehicle with its siren, zooming past our hotel. Then the driver sounded the horn too. And here's one we stood back for while walking on The Mall. The indoor car park we used even had the sound of klaxons going the whole time. This is not a relaxing place!

Mr, Obama, are you home?

Pop the kettle on and we'll come around! Or maybe just finish our Washington sightseeing.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Highlight of the air and Space Museum

This tribute to the world's most unpleasant airline. I really do not recommend Philippines Airlines. We were on a 747-400, which is possible to fit out quite comfortably. This one wasn't though.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Cool Animals at the Smithsonian 3

The Armored Rat, because normal rats are not gross enough. This one has spikes too!

Cool Animals at the Smithsonian 2

The Chinese Water Deer - Bambi with fangs!

Cool Animals at the Smithsonian 1

Seen at the Natural History Museum, this is the Pink Fairy Armadillo. It's tiny, too. At last, an armadillo for children.

Thirsty for coffee?

We've left laid back LA and arrived in businesslike Washington DC. How can you tell you are in a serious town? Well, the locals are in a hurry, there's sirens going off all day, and the coffee is very serious!

Here's a multiple serve coffee for sale at a sandwich shop, it's like a wine cask with a handle. Walk it back to the office, gather 13 to 15 colleagues, and share the percolated joy! Don't forget to fill your pockets with non dairy creamer first!

I think I'll stick with my skinny latte thanks.

Monday, 9 July 2012

My breakfast table in LA

Here's where I have breakfast. The rest of the family join me when they wake up. I'm having tea bag tea, and I've brought out a cup of fresh milk to add to the tea. When I get around to it I'll have some oatmeal and fruit. There's pancakes and French toast today too. You can sit inside, but I like it here.

We fly to Washington DC today!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Jonathan can not catch a break!

We had a second day at Legoland - that's how the ticket worked - and so we took our time over seeing all the little things we missed. Jonathan stopped to play his favourite game with this Lego boy, but sadly, was outwitted yet again.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

And here's how we cool off

Our favourite treat (which we've had most days so far) is frozen yoghurt! All the places are serve yourself these days - a choice of at least 10 yoghurts, then you sprinkle on your own toppings. It's charged by the ounce. We do have just one of these in Melbourne, but they are everywhere here!

Ride waiting times

Here's the only topic of interest when you are in a theme park - what are the waiting times? This is late in the day, and they are heading for the 90 minute mark. Way, way better in the morning.

A genuinely determined and organized family can see all the good bits, and repeat the favourites, in one day easily.

Best queue I ever saw!

We rode the Transformers ride at Universal Studios. It was popular hand had a longish wait. But it was the best waiting I've ever seen! As soon as you are inside the building, in spite of being in a long snaking queue, you are entertained by "briefings" about the situation (the bad guys are about to do a bad thing, and we have to stop them, basically). These become the actual safety briefing as you progress. There are props to look at too. But best of all, there are buttons to push! And control panels! And dials! Turns a half hour wait into a fun activity.

Of course, later in the day it becomes a 90 minute wait - I can't help you on that!

Cool ride though. Simulator combined with 3d movie, of course done by the people who made the movie. I haven't seen the Transformers movies, so it's quite possible I missed some of the subtle nuances. I won't tell you how it ends, but ... since the world is still here, you might have guessed.

And went to Universal Studios too!

Here's Jeff at the front of Universal Studios theme park. Fun day, cool rides. We discovered the secret of the "single rider queue". If your family of five all want to go on a ride (and if nobody is little enough to need supervision), just march up to the special extra short queue. They seat you in rows with other people to make sure each ride is full. Turns a 1 hour wait into a 15 minute wait. Thomas swears by it!

This park sells a "front of line" pass for double the normal pass. It lets you jump the queue at the popular rides. Well, we went on a busy day, and found short queues all morning, then single ridered all afternoon. Glad we didn't waste our money!

Serious lobbying from the boys to be allowed to go off by themselves. We are very hesitant, but I guess we are at that stage.

You guys look guilty...

Thomas and Jonathan have breakfast away from the rest of the family. It's a buffet, with pancakes some days. They never had it so good!

Snack update

Here's a snack update from Los Angeles. McDonald's has been caught actively engaged in making a palatable snack! This is the "fruit and walnuts" (no, they didn't think of a catchy name for it). Actual, attractive fruit, some yoghurt, and some walnuts, all for about $2.

Ok, so the yoghurt is pretty sweet. And there's sugar on the walnuts. And there must be a bit of preservative on the fruit to keep it that nice looking. But they got me to buy one.

Late night bar scene...

Gail suggested that if I couldn't sleep when I'm on holidays, I could go to a bar and try to meet famous people. Well, here's the local bar, so that's where I shall be spending the evening, sipping champagne and nibbling salted cashews.

Oh, wait, there's a misplaced apostrophe in the name. Deal's off.

Unless the bar is owned by a Mr Cup.

More sky zone

Here's the boys playing dodge ball. The guy in white rounded up all the right-age people for a game. Even his mum was playing!

A visit to Sky Zone

So what's Sky Zone? Oh, it's just a GIANT ROOM FULL OF TRAMPOLINES! Well, not just one room, of course, there's one big room, several dodgeball courts, and the jumping-into-the-pit-of-foam-balls room. They let children in too, but clearly it's mostly for adults that need to bounce a bit. We spent an hour here, and got good and tired!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Car park fireworks

Here's a bit of the scene we walked out of the cinema into - family groups letting off fireworks. Awesome night!

Happy Independence Day!

Question. Where can you see some fireworks going off on the fourth of July? Answer. Outside.

We came out of a cinema just before sunset to see families having fireworks parties all over the mall car park. There were booms and crashes from every direction, and occasional big fireworks going off in the sky. It was way better than any professional show! Police were cruising around to keep things nice, but not interfering.

At 10 the local amusement park put on a good show. We found some locals in a public park waiting to see it, so we waited with them.

A fireworks shop?

Hmmm, what's this then? A little shop selling fireworks? These temporary shops have sprung up in every car park in town. One, I notice, is a fundraiser for a local church. Fireworks have been banned in Australia for a long time, so we only get to see professional shows.

I wonder where we can see some fireworks going off?

Goin' to the movies in America

We went to the local cinema to see Brave. Because it was America, we bought popcorn. See that big bag? The five of us couldn't finish it!

Once again, Catriona is Miss Not Appearing in This Photo. She was a happy participant in the outing though.

Our neighbour, the berry farm

Our neighbour here in Buena Park is Knott's Berry Farm. That's an amusement park with some fairly big roller coasters. We can hear the screams from the hotel car park. It's so relaxing.

Here's one of their rides at night, lit up in patriotic colors for Independence Day.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Alice Teapot at Disneyland

No, didn't buy this one, but I did by some tea in a pretty tin.

Ah, dinosaur topiary

Probably my favorite kind of topiary.

Santa Monica pier

We just got home from Santa Monica. Here's a seagull. Isn't he cute? The kids went on a ride each, and we went shopping (fantastic puzzle shop called Marbles). Catriona and I had burritos for lunch (yum) and we hope to go to the movies tonight to see Brave.

The truth about Disneyland

There are Ears. On. Everything.

Catriona at Disneyland

My Mum wondered why I wasn't posting photos of Catriona. The answer is, she's a teenager. Here's one I managed to get.

We went to Disneyland!

Yesterday was our day to go to Disneyland! It's ten minutes down the road from here, and the road system guides you smoothly to your parking spot. Disney have worked it all out, the will be no hassles from when you drive in the driveway to when you leave. A tram collects you from the car park and drives you to the gate. Your bag gets searched (I sneaked in muesli bars and apples, and they don't seem to mind), then you buy your ticket. Well, you can buy them in advance, but seriously, it was zero effort at the gate.

Since we arrived at about 9, the crowds were still a bit down. We raced onto Star Tours, a fabulous Star Wars themed ride, which has recently been updated. It was the best! We got flown to Hoth and zoomed around the AT-ATs (that's the marching bad guy machines, as seen at Legoland yesterday).

I sent the others onto space Mountain, a scary roller coaster, while I had a go on Tomorrowland Terrace (that's a coffee shop). Coffee came out to $3.01 when the tax was added. I automatically rounded down in my head, but no, here they want the 1c. So now we have 99c in change.

And the rest of the day was very Disney. We went on all the good rides, it was all fun and so well done. Here's the boys at the front. As often happens, I didn't take a lot of photos in the park. Too busy doing stuff, and it's more fun to see with your eyes.

There are signs at every ride showing the waiting times, as well as a booking system where you can make an appointment for later and not stand in line. A lot goes on behind the scenes to make all of that work - I'll bet a lot of it happens in the IT department!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Jeff orders at Fatburger

Yes, we decided Fatburger was the way to go. Not as fat as we expected, they were offering honest burgers cooked to order. I had a Vegie burger on a whole meal bun, thank you.

How you'll feel after a whole day at Legoland


Try harder Jonathan!

Darn, that's twice in a row Jonathan's been outwitted. He chooses scissors, while the dastardly Darth Maul goes rock.

We went to New York too!

Oh, wait, that's Lego again.

The mini Eiffel tower

Only this is the mini Eiffel tower in mini Las Vegas at Miniland in Legoland near Los Angeles, not the mini Eiffel Tower in mini Paris at Miniland in Legoland near Los Angeles. Things get a little meta here.

Giant lizard attacks Miniland!

A bit attraction of Legoland is miniland, the miniature city built of Lego, with lots of detail. In the mini las Vegas, we were amazed to see the this enormous lizard Godzilla-ing his way around town.

My Lego car

Here's my car on the test track. Poised to win! Or poised to make a right turn and hit the side, which it did every time. It went on (in later iterations) to become a winner! I let Jonathan stick it onto the top of his car.

Best thing at Legoland

Here's Jonathan at the Build and Test. A terrific Lego activity. You sign in and get issued one set of wheels. Then build any car you want, and test them against other cars. Jonathan's extremely long and heavy car handled the test track really well.