Tuesday, June 8, 2010

In Which I Bake a Brick

 I like to have a special breakfast on the weekends, something that involves pancake batter or a cinnamon streusel top, but, alas, this weekend I had no pancake fixings, no coffee cake fixings, nothing special at all. But wait, thought I. I can make a loaf of bread and have toast. I dearly love toast and jam and tea; that is the ultimate comfort food in my home. I even still have two jars of homemade blackberry freezer jam from last summer. Perfect, thought I, a bit smugly.

However, bread and 106 degrees Farenheit (that's 41 degrees Celcius to gentle readers from abroad) apparently do not mix, or, perhaps more accurately, I have not figured out how to let dough rise in excessive heat. The chemistry must be beyond me. I thought it would be a good thing to let it rise on the patio, rather than in my house, which was completely shuttered against the heat and rather gloomy and cave-like.

I was wrong. The first rise looked okay. The second rise looked okay. The third rise, in the bread pans, looked adequate, but the dough was sticking to the covering. I should have taken that as a warning. What baked were not two fragrant, light loaves just waiting to be slathered in butter and blackberry jam, but two bricks. Flat on top, with the consistency (but not the sweetness) of a pound cake. Pound bread. Literally and figuratively.

Anybody need a doorstop? I have a brand new, eco-friendly, all natural bread brick you can have that's not even been opened (the twin to the one pictured). Ugh. A good blow to my vanity, that bread brick.

I never thought I'd ever really agree with David Brooks, the conservative columnist for the New York Times, about anything, but I have to doff my hat to his column today, which could have been entitled "Why the Humanities Matter," or "Why a Liberal Arts Degree is a Good Thing." I seem to have somehow stumbled through a Masters and a Ph.D. without having read Thucydides, Herodotus or Gibbon, but thanks to the nuns who first taught me and the women's liberal arts college I attended, I know who they are. [Insert cocky wink here.] I cannot tell you how hard it is to find college students these days who know how to think. That is actually one of my personal goals every semester, to teach my students how to think critically and to express their arguments in a concise and logical manner (thus, the essay exams, which they all hate and grumble about all semester long). Only one student in five years has recognized that the medicine was good for her, and thanked me for getting her over her fear of essay exams.

And just so that I leave this post feeling better, another photo of the hummingbird babies. Their eyes are open, as are their beaks, constantly.

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