So there is this show on the Food Network called Chef Academy with a professional chef that guides a team of amateur chefs through all sorts of misadventures. Or something–I haven’t seen it myself. But I was told there is an episode that features a wheel of brie baked into a loaf of homemade bread. And I thought it might be fun to try making it.
Notes: This is a very, very basic bread recipe. The best recipes usually call for an overnight rise in the fridge, or at the very least 3-4 hours on the countertop, and less yeast. I was in a bit of a hurry when I made this and I found a 1-1.5 hour rise is all it needed. It’s not a complex artisan bread by any means, but it’s pretty damn tasty. You can leave the brie out entirely if you want an easy introduction to homemade bread without crazy recipes or complicated machinery. I know there are a lot of steps, but it’s really quite simple.
Also, that bread in the picture was not MY bread. That picture is from the Internet. Don’t be looking for that bread as a final product.
Homemade Bread with a Baked Brie Center
- 3 1/2 cups of flour (all-purpose is fine)
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 wheel of brie (the 200g size worked fine, you can probably find one for $7 bucks)
- 1 tbsp cornmeal
- Your favorite herbs. Dried oregano, rosemary and thyme would probably work well.
- Set aside that 1/2 cup of flour for later.
- Stir the 1/2 tsp. of sugar into the water to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast into the water and let stand for 5-10 minutes until it gets a little foamy.
- While yeast is foaming, combine the salt and remaining 3 cups of flour in your largest mixing bowl.
- Make a little well in the center of the flour and slowly add the water/yeast/sugar mixture. Grab a wooden spoon and combine.
- Stir until the mixture comes together into a shaggy, fairly sticky dough. There should be enough liquid to allow all of the loose flour to combine. You may end up with a little bit on the bottom of the bowl–don’t sweat it.
- Turn the dough out on to the countertop (it won’t be there long, don’t worry). Wash the bowl and pour that tbsp of oil into the bottom. Move the dough back to the bowl and toss it around in the oil to get it totally coated.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise at room temperature for an hour.
- After an hour, check out the dough. It should have risen pretty well by now–at least doubled in size. If you have the time, let it go for another 30 minutes to an hour. If you don’t have the time, it’s not a big deal.
- Remember that 1/2 cup of flour we didn’t use? Dust the countertop with a light coating of the flour and dump the dough into the middle. Sprinkle more of the flour on top and gently knead with your hands (to prevent it sticking to much to your fingers, wet them first). Knead for maybe two minutes to bring it together and smooth it out. Keep your touches light, but firm.
- Spread the dough into a rough square shape, about 12 inches by 12 inches, and smear a light coat of oil into the center. Top that oil with your oregano, rosemary and thyme.
- Unwrap your brie and place it in the center. Fold the edges over the brie. Don’t worry about how it looks, just try to keep it even.
- Get out a baking sheet and lightly sprinkle the cornmeal over it. This will prevent the dough from sticking to the pan as it bakes (and potentially letting the cheese out).
- Carefully flip your uncooked loaf on to the pan, folded side down. The top layer of dough will likely be bit thin so grab the dough at the edges of the loaf and gently stretch some of it out. Fold those flaps on to the surface of the loaf and pinch them together so they keep their place.
- Whew. That’s it. Hard work is done. Cover the loaf with a damp dishtowel (clean, please) and go have a beer. Come back in 45 minutes.
- Slide it into the oven for 25 minutes, or until nicely browned. When it’s done, you should be able to tap the top of the loaf with your fingers and hear a “hollow” sound.
- This is very important–let the loaf rest for 30 minutes. If you cut into it now the bread will be unpleasantly steamy and chewy. You have to let it cool a bit. Don’t worry, the cheese will still be meltey and good.
- Cut down the middle and impress the hell out of your friends.
A pretty amazing photo essay from the Denver Post (via GorillaMask) about a new recruit’s enlistment, training, deployment and return from Afghanistan. Incredible photos and a story that doesn’t pull any punches.
A neat list of abandoned towns and cities from around the world. Via Small Dead Animals.
P.S. Hey Bud Light, your new campaign sucks. Trying to be kitschy without, you know, actually being funny or clever.
In honor of my birth, and because I don’t want to take advantage of all my Facebook love today (that wouldn’t be right), I’m posting this here, on my long-neglected blog, for all and sundry to read and consider. It’s by far one of the best, if not THE best, column I’ve read on the legacy of The Sopranos and the mark it has left on television.
“The Sopranos Is the Most Influential Television Drama Ever” can be found over at Pop Matters, and the author is Maureen Ryan (just another indication that The Sopranos was not the testosterone-soaked exercise in stereotypes, violence and Gangster tropes that so many non-believers derided it as).
If you gobble that one up and find yourself wanting more, check out “An American Family“–the nine page article from Vanity Fair’s Peter Biskind that considers the show’s birth, heyday, and lasting impact when we were only a few episodes left from The End.
(The joy I feel from reading these articles stems, in no small part, from their admiration of James Gandolfini’s performance over six seasons as Tony Soprano. Where some other characters faltered or strayed into repetitiveness, Gandolfini never lost his edge or his focus. Why the man isn’t being hailed as one of the best actors of his generation is baffling to me).
A little while back I posted a list of 15 seemingly everyday things I cannot do, which put my uselessness into harsh perspective for a few months. So, I figured I would make a list of 10 things that I can actually do pretty well, to balance that sucker out.
- Juggle three spherical objects. Yup, taught myself this during a long autumnal season of working at the driving range. Now I have to either A) move on to bigger objects or B) move on to an increased number of similarly sized objects.
- Make a mean pizza. Oddly, it’s pretty much the only decent dinner item I can make that DOESN’T feature tomato sauce.
- Pan-fry a hamburger. With a side of rum.
- Read a book on the VIVA bus without getting sick. Unless, of course, some townie sits next to me and cuts a fart so unholy the people around me start speaking in tongues.
- Speaking them big, book-learnin’ words. I hope I never lose my perspicacity.
- TV marathons. Oh my, what’s this? You say The Sopranos: The Complete Series boxed set is only $159.00 at Costco right now? That DOES ruffle my stockings, I must say.
- Cutting the lawn. I hate it, but it’s a goddamn beautiful sight once I’m through with it. Again, the fruits of working at a golf course.
- Doing the dishes. Jesus, I must have been in the bathroom when they were handing out talents. What’s next, needlepoint and birdwatching? (Seriously though, I’m pretty good at washing dishes by hand).
- The Severed Finger trick. Look! First it’s attached and now it’s not! Wait, where are you going? Aw, to hell with you guys; I’m going home.
- I seriously can’t think of a tenth thing, so I’ll leave you with this hilarious short from the Coen’s.
I really don’t like horror movies, but after seeing Paranormal Activity last night (Halloween) and sleeping on it, I kind of want to watch it again.
I’m a pretty soft touch when it comes to horror–I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m jumpy, easily startled, and prone to bouts of anxiety. In other words, suspense takes a hell of a toll on me, so I tend to avoid scary movies like you’d avoid walking under an overpass at night. But Paranormal Activity, which is still at the top of the box office, has me hooked. Don’t get me wrong; I left that theater pretty shaken and more than a little nervous about going to bed that night. But it’s such a well-done movie that, now that I know where the jump-worthy parts are lurking, I want to watch it once more to be frightened and captivated, and to admire its separate parts.
It’s a simple story, and it’s true that it owes more than a little to The Blair Witch Project in terms of style. It’s main (and pretty much only) characters are Katie and Micah, a twenty-something couple living in a recently-purchased starter home that has an invisible, violent, and hungry presence. They’re “engaged to be engaged”, which sounds awfully sweet in the first ten minutes of the movie but quickly leaves the two of them a little more bound to each other than they would probably like. There’s obviously a smaller secondary storyline here about the stress that slowly disintegrates their relationship along with their sanity (it’s appropriate that most of the horror takes place in the bedroom).
The movie starts out with Micah setting up his brand new video camera–a shoulder-mounted monstrosity that looks kind of horrific in itself (we’re to believe the entire film is a product of his “found” footage). Strange things have been happening in the house lately: creaking, bumps in the night, things moving or being misplaced. His plan is to film the bedroom where they sleep and catch some of these happenings on camera, thereby proving or disproving any paranormal presence. Katie isn’t exactly sold on the idea–during a visit from a neighbourhood psychiatrist, she reveals that this angry presence has haunted her at different periods over her entire life, and she’s wary that trying to catch it on film will only aggravate it.
Don’t feed the presence with negative energy, intones the psychiatrist, but that’s of course exactly what happens. The camera becomes an increasing source of tension between the two, evidence that Micah is not taking their situation as seriously as Katie. He’s dismissive, and uses passive aggressive half-logic to convince her to keep the camera rolling as the demonic occurrences get progressively worse.
“Worse” barely begins to describe it, however. I won’t get into the particulars, but the film runs the gamut of things that you hope never happen while you’re lying safe in bed, all of them shot on grainy footage in a slow, torturous buildup. Worst are the sounds, which float up the stairs from the main floor. The genius of the film’s horror is in those sounds: we want to believe, as do Micah and Katie, that they’re just the sounds of the house settling (never acknowledged is the fact that this isn’t an old, creaky house–it looks brand new). We hear lights flicking on and off, thumps, a howling animal scream from the attic, and more terrifying, the sounds of feet running towards us, never seen.
To tell you how the spirit begins to act ON Katie and Micah would be unfair–just know that the demon isn’t content for long to stay out of that bedroom. Behind all of this is the knowledge that this couple won’t be able to hold it together; they don’t trust each other’s instincts and they’re utterly alone in a big empty house. The movie comes to an end in a scene that’s the culmination of our worst fears: the screams of someone we love waking us, and being terrified of what we’ll find. The movie’s most ingenious move was the set the action in the bedroom of Katie and Micah. It’s one thing to be haunted by an ancient witch during a camping trip–most of us would just avoid sleeping in the woods for a few years. It’s something else altogether to know that you won’t be safe once you’re home, wrapped up in blankets. The well-worn patterns and emotions of Katie and Micah don’t hurt either. As a couple, they’re achingly cliche, but not so much that we can’t see a little of ourselves in them.
*Side Note* After you see the movie, have a look around online for descriptions of the alternate endings. There are generally accepted to be two different ones, both of which are clearly designed to live in either the “tragic” or “in-your-face” categories. I think the current ending is by far the best of the three, having deftly combined the two. What happens in the final scene is ultimately melancholy, bleak, and definitely horrifying.
I starting typing the name of this blog into my Safari searchbar, and instead of writing “upperlip”, I started writing “stiff.” Which sounds like no big deal, right?
Wrong. I ALWAYS used to write “upperlip.” Not “stiff.” And I only bring it up as a way of demonstrating that it has been exactly 2 months since I last updated.
There’s lots new. The trip was awesome, more than expected and my expectations were already about as high as they could get. Email me and I’ll think about getting Caitlin to invite you to the Facebook album if you don’t have her as a friend. If you’re good.
I’m working now, at a magazine in Toronto. I’ve been told my blog will be sussed out sooner or later by my coworkers (who are all Internet bounty hunters), so I’d like to have something recent up. This means I’ve been collecting excellent new blogs and websites to point out to everyone. And I promise I’ll do it regular – even my Twitter. Which I can maybe update during my lunch break at work, if only I promise to go straight back working afterwards, and to not knowing a thing about 90210 or True Blood.
First thing for tonight: A fun time-killer called Winterbells! It’s probably easier with a mouse than it is a drawpad. My best score was a dismal 1050.
Second thing! Oh my god, it’s actually working. I was hoping it wasn’t just a prank.
Bonus thing! My new work. Wicked awesome, yeah?