Sunday, March 29, 2009

Homemade French Baguette

Good baguette is simply delicious! No wonder you see elegant French chewing on a baguette on the street, because they cannot wait to get home. If I had a baguette in hand, I would do the same. Elegance can wait, my palate's satisfaction goes first. However, if you can bake this bread at home, you can keep your elegance and satisfy your palate at the same time. Thus, I decided to pursue this goal in my life. Owing to King Arthur Flour website, I baked this fantastic bread at home.

Baguette Recipe

1/2 cup cool water
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Direction: dissolve the dry yeast in water, then mix in the flour (Fig. A). Mix well using a fork or chopstick. Cover and let it rest at room temperature 14 hours or over night.

Fig. A Dough
All of the starter/sponge
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Mix yeast and lukewarm water in a big mixing bowl. Add the flour, salt and the starter. Knead till a soft and smooth dough is formed. I do this step in Kitchen Aid Artisan with the dough hook.
2. Cover the dough with a lightly greased plastic warp, let the dough rise at room temp for 3 hours, or till the volume is doubled (Fig. B).
3. Gently deflate the dough and let it rise again for 1 hours. Then deflate again and let it rise for another hour. If it is not practical to do this three rounds of rising in one day, the dough can be stored in the fridge, let it rise over night.
4. Turn dough on a floured surface. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Roll dough into long oval shape (Fig. C and D).
5. Work the dough one at a time. Fold the dough lengthwise into half. Seal the edge with the side of the palm (Fig. E). Fold again the same way (Fig. F).
6. Roll the dough into a smooth and 15" long log (Fig. G).
7. Transfer the 3 logs onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, leave the seals facing down (Fig. H). Cover them with a slightly greased plastic wrap and let them rise at room temperature for 1.5 hours (Fig. H).
8. Preheat the oven to 450F.
9. Remove the plastic wrap and spray the bread logs with water heavily. This will help the baguette develop a crackly-crisp crust. Use a sharp knife or knife with a serrated edge to slash the logs a few time (Fig. I).
10. Bake the baguette at 450F for about 25 minutes, or till golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool on a cooling rack (Fig. J). For a even crisper crust, After the baking, turn off the oven. Leave the baguette in the oven with the oven door cracked open for about 2", let the baguette cool in the oven.
11. Enjoy (Fig. K)!

Fig. B
Fig. C
Fig. D
Fig. E
Fig. F
Fig. G
Fig. H
Fig. I
Fig. J
Fig. K

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Crocus: Spring is here

After we moved into this house in 2007 Fall, I planted those crocus bulbs in the front lawn just a couple weeks before our daughter was born. That was about a year and a half ago. Last year, they brought us pretty flowers with intense colors in early April. I loved them at once.

Just a few weeks ago, we suddenly saw those tiny leaves shooting out of the ground with strength. Yesterday, they bloomed, which excited me very much.

Today, they bloom even more. I especially like this stripped purple one.

2009 Veggie Gardening-Seedling

In the beginning of March, hubby started seedling for our veggie garden. So far, so good. They are sprouted already! Underneath is the heating pad, above is the special lamp.

March 22

March 28

The first beautiful Spring weekend in 2009

After all, Spring did not forget our city in the upstate New York after an almost too long, too cold and too snowy winter. Today was such a beautiful day, sunny, warm and windless. Hubby already scheduled for brewing today, so our baby and I were going to have all the fun.

Powers farm market was scheduled to open today. Certainly, I would take Audrey there before her nap time. This is a family run farm store, selling all sorts of home grown veggies, eggs and milk, and of course home baked goodies. We try to support local farms, so we go there often and love it a lot. More importantly, they have a big outdoor livestock area for chicken, ducks, goats, cows, rabbits, deer and etc. Audrey is a fan of animals in her books. Indeed, she was very excited to see those live animals. To my surprise, she even recognized ducks and deer. Even though all of those animals were caged, she was scared to lean against me whenever the animal came close to the fence. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures.

Our patio and back yard is a nature paradise, so we mother and daughter decided to enjoy the nature and have fun in our own yard this afternoon. We first drew or doodled on the patio. Audrey kept taking more and more chalks out. In no time, her dress was covered with chalks, so was her hat (actually mine), even her face. Hubby even joined us for a while in between his brewing session. Our patio recorded his work! I drew the Lil Sprout.

We also had our snack break, eating apples, drinking water, WITHOUT washing our hands after handling those giant chalks. At least, our snacks were pretty healthy!

The rest of the afternoon saw us chasing in the yard, playing peek-a-boo, eating dirt and shooting pictures. It is challenging to take focused pictures for a 16-month old, who is on the go all the times.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gerber Pledge: For my Lil Sprout

I pledge to spend quality time with kids.
I pledge to let kids explore the world their way.
I pledge to bring kids close to nature.
I pledge to leave room for kids to be kids.
I pledge to create holiday atmosphere with love, not gifts.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Teaching Chinese in a Bilingual Family

My hubby and I have determined to teach our kid(s) Chinese before we even had any yet. Now we have a baby daughter. From day 1 after she was born, I am talking to her in Chinese, my hubby talking to her in English.

She did not say any words until she was 14 months old, meanwhile, she understood everything we said to her, either in Chinese or in English. Now, she is 16 months old. Her vocabulary is building up slowly. To my big surprise, she even picks up words that I did not teach her purposely. One day, she was sitting by her tabling, where she colors or doodles with crayon. She kept saying Bei Bei Bei while pointing to the cupboard above the island where we keep her crayons. All of a sudden, it became clear that she was asking for crayons. She not only knew how to see crayon in Chinese, but aslo she paied attention to where the crayons are kept. Crayons are called La (4) Bi (3) in Chinese, literally are translated into Wax Pen. Kids are natural learners!

To me, she can speak quite a few Chinese words curretnly, such as Bi(3)=pen, Mao(1)=cat, Tu(4)=rabbit, Bi(2)=nose, and etc. Of course, her articulation is not perfect yet. Still, to my Chinese ears, they are legible. As a Mother, I don't miss a chance to brag how smart she is to my hubby. However, to his Amercian ears, all those Chinese words sound the same to him. The smart one is not our daughter, but me, who can expand one sound that our daughter can make to many more Chinese words. How funny this is! In the mean time, this is quite challeanging, I have to admit. It would make me feel appreciated if my daughter would be able to speak Chinese when she grows up.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The 100th Day

About a year ago, my baby turned to 100 days.

In ancient China, turning to 100 days old was a big thing for babies due to the high mortality rate. Subsequently, turning to 100 days becomes an event that is worth celebrating, even in the modern days. We invited neighbors and colleagues over for a 100 day party for our baby.

This 100 day cake is very impressive, made by Auntie Phoebe. It deserves another show here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009