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Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Surprisingly Good

Posted by Dirck on 31 December, 2019

Looking back over the year, as one does in these closing moments of any calendar, one struggles to find positives. Most of the things in the world that were in a terrible state at the end of 2018 got worse, if not by any possible objective measure then by the more rational subjective ones. From my own perspective, this was the first year in a lifetime of dalliance with depression that it got to the point of demanding professional treatment.

On that– the magic brain pills are helping, but the awareness of international politics and environmental issues are certainly not. The only reason I haven’t given up on anything that brings news of such things to me is that I find a blow hurts a little less when you know it’s coming. Just imagine being blissfully engrossed in The Expanse or reruns of The Muppet Show for several months and then stumbling over what’s happening in Australia right now.

Your heart would stop, right?

But.

But.

I am also aware that the people in my life, both physically present and even in the apparently cursed realms of Social Media, are kind, caring, deeply human beings. This is great comfort. It’s not specific to the events of 2019, since most acquaintances predate the start of the year, but that’s fine. It is a situation which persisted through a year larded with ugly awfulness.

Also, I find myself in a fortunate position regarding all that ugly awfulness. I’m insulated from the majority of it. I live in Canada, and our recent nation election was not a frenzy of self-destruction by the majority of the voting public… although there was certainly a tint of that surrounding the event. The province in which I live is not in the best hands… oh, no, they’re a pile of short-sighted stumble-bums to be sure… but there’s at least two other provinces under the control of premiers who are visibly avid to make life as miserable as possible, as quickly as possible, for the maximum number of people. Relatively speaking, things could be a lot worse here.

This is all somewhat negative, still, or at least a very passive from of acceptable. Can I point to any authentically good events, he asked in a highly rhetorical manner?

Let me count them. The first is good for me somewhat at the expense of others– the decision to step back from pen repair was absolutely the right one, even if I didn’t fully understand what was driving the decision when it was made. The reduction of external pressures kept me from an absolute crash. The magic brain pills (and some other non-chemical treatments) are working, yet I’m still… I’m secure enough in myself to say “fragile.” So I’m very glad to be dealing with no pens but my own.

There’s also the writing, which suddenly proves to have been going very well indeed. Four stories accepted this year, and three of them published in the past month! Where?

These and a somewhat (and forgivably, understandably, delays payment on another story) means that my writing income for the year soared into the mid-three figures!

All right, it’s not vast riches, but it’s a nice layer of frosting on the overall sense of accomplishment which publication brings. Speaking of which, I’m also pretty proud of managing a story a day in October, during the icy depths of depression.

Finally– I’ve really got a grip on this baking malarkey:

My brother’s comment: “That stollen is SWOLLEN.” I’m pretty sure that’s meant to be a compliment

I can’t take all the credit for this most recent object. Countless yeast gave their lives for deliciousness, and I also found a rather good recipe (as long as you know to let the thing rise for about 45 minutes after the first flour installment and an hour or so once all the flour is in). It has brought joy to many, and that joy reflects in me. So, yeah, despite efforts on so many fronts, it has been a surprisingly good year for me.

And I’m sure we all may hope the next year proves much better still.

Today’s pen (also a source of delight): OMAS Arte Italiana
Todays ink (more amusement than joy, given the name): Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Posted by Dirck on 3 January, 2019

Day What How Much Pen Ink
  • 31 December
  • 1 January
  • 2 January
  • 3 January
  • Scrambling in pursuit of a functional iPad.
  • Baking for a family New Year’s Day meal.
  • Second draft of “Preserve My Fondest Memories.”
  • Apparent success†
  • see below
  • 1179 typed words, and complete.

I decided to try a new thing with baking– flaky rolls. Since I had some success, I’ll share.

First, make up a batch of rough puff pastry dough (which sounds like it should be swaggering along an alley in a Carebears setting, does it not?). I amended that recipe in using common Canadian all-purpose flour and salt of unknown provenance, and rather than carefully “rubbing in” the butter, I just let my stand mixer molest the butter into the flour until it was in smallish bits before adding the water..

After the final rest and chill of the dough, roll it out, then cut it into twelve squares about 10cm on a side. With each square, fold the corners into the middle and press then down so they stick together (this is purely decorative; I expect more or less the same results from just folding in half along whatever axis tickles your fancy). Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment, brush with beaten egg, and cook at 375F for about 35 minutes. It’s almost like croissants, but with substantially less faffing about with rising– I finished this in under an hour and a half, and you really can’t get croissants in less than eight hours.

As a bonus, there’s the trimmed edges of the dough which you can… if you’re inclined… form into twists, throw on a sheet of their own, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. You could even, if feeling very charitable, tell the other members of your family about having made these little side-treats.

† No sign of the misery the initial iPad offered. Indeed, 747 words of this week’s production were banged out using tablet and its Bluetooth-enthralled keyboard, as a proof of concept effort. I may soon become a stereotype writer, lurking in a corner of a cafe and clattering away for hours after ordering a single inexpensive beverage.

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