Bread for Beginners

When I was about 10, my neighbor came over to babysit my brother, sister, and me.  My sister being about one at the time, my mother left one instruction: check on the baby.  Instead, we baked bread, which my neighbor loved to do.  I don’t remember how the bread tasted, but I do remember my mother yelling at the babysitter,“You didn’t check on the baby!”

“But Mrs. Lear, how did you know?”, the girl responded.  “Easy,” said my mother.  “There are no white footprints leading to her room, while there is flour all over the rest of the house!”

This, and the fact that bread takes a long time to make, has led to a lifelong aversion to baking bread.  That came to an end today, with a little coaxing from a few corners, not the least of which were my wife and daughter.  I started with the simplest recipe I could find, after my wife found yeast.   It’s Super Easy Bread for Beginners, which is found on  This is a recipe that is nearly impossible to get wrong, and yet I almost did, by misreading the amount of salt (I thought I saw a b in tsp).  It is an extremely white bread, but it’s a start.  Next stop will not be a challah, as I’m still not up to either separating out eggs, or braiding.  But it will be a more whole or cracked wheat bread with some fun seeds.  Wish me luck.

For the record: no flour all over the house, although daughter’s shirt needed a good sweeping.

The Hazards of Coffee

Christine got turned off of coffee when she was a young girl.  Her grandmother served it, and so that’s what she drank, but she didn’t like it, and still doesn’t.  I, on the other hand, am a Coffee Achiever.  But I can only achieve so much.  As many of you know, I like a half cup of coffee and a whole lot of milk.  Usually, there’s a lot of hand movement to demonstrate only this much coffee and THAT MUCH milk.  In Switzerland I’ve achieved Coffee Nirvana in two ways: first, the regional favorite is something called a Schale (a bowl).  In Schwiezertütsch that means “a half a cup of coffee and a whole lot of milk.”

Second, I’ve gotten addicted to Illy moka coffee that I make using one of those octagonal espresso brewers.  I remember percolators from years ago, and the coffee never really did thrill me.  But these octagonal thingies are better than the french press I’ve been using for eons.  The only problem is that there is no automatic “off” button.  You put it on the flame (or electric burner if you must), and then wait about seven minutes for it begin to boil, at which point you snap the thing off the heat so that you don’t burn the beans (something Starbucks does with stunning consistency).

I discovered Illy when we were in a villa in Roccastrada, Italy last summer, and after a week I learned how to properly brew the stuff AND that I am not 17 anymore, and two cups of that stuff will keep me awake for two days.  So that is hazard number one.

Hazard number two happened yesterday.  I made myself a reasonably good cup of coffee, went into my office, sat down at my desk, and knocked the coffee all over two disk drives, a computer, numerous power cords, my MacOS Leopard Install disk, the wall, the curtains, and the carpet.  I spent the next two hours cleaning, and nothing is quite right.  The Leopard disk was most easily dealt with because it got rinsed and placed in the drying rack.  Christine probably knew something was amiss when she saw a DVD in the dish rack.

This spill (if you can call it that) was above my daughter’s pay grade.  I couldn’t have hit more targets if I had tried.