29 January 2012

In which there are adventures

It's the rainy season here in Aus. That means wet and hot (bleargh). Oh well. I'm thankful it hasn't flooded like it did last year.

Mostly I just feel very cooped up, and will be very glad when the rain does finally let up.

We did get a lovely respite from the rain on Australia Day, of which my friends and I took full advantage for a day at the beach in Miami (oh yes) on the Gold Coast.

And of course the pre-rain days were filled with explorations and adventures, as is only right. :)

Guys, a kangaroo ate out of my hand.

I felt like such a cool kid.

We also got to pet a koala, and saw loads of other cool animals like platypuses and wombats and Tasmanian devils, all at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It is by far one of the coolest zoos I have visited, because seriously, what other zoo will let visitors mingle freely with kangaroos and wallabies and emus?

In other news, school has been chugging along nicely (contrary to the impression I may be giving my readers, I am actually here to study, not to frolic about and make you all madly jealous). We just finished the introductory module, and will be diving into the "real thing" tomorrow.

So, uh, if you find this blog rather neglected in the months to come, please pardon me.

Last week some friends came over to make pizza dough and bread. The pizza dough was just allowed to rise, then divided and frozen for later use. It will be used tonight, and I've been invited over for dinner, so maybe next time I'll write about how that turned out.

The bread was shaped and baked that day, and proved to be quite popular.

This was based on a recipe I made up while I was in Madison, just before coming here.

The thing I love about baking bread is that there is infinite room for experimentation with ingredients. The recipe I'm posting is the original one I came up with, but the one I made with my friends had some ingredients added (e.g., Craisins, sunflower seeds), some substituted (e.g., raw sugar and honey for brown sugar, sultanas for raisins), and others omitted (e.g., flaxseed). I'll probably revisit this original recipe once I've had a chance to visit the organic foods store for some flaxseed and wheat germ.

Oatmeal raisin bread

2 1/4 tsp. yeast
3/4 c. warm milk
3/4 c. water
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten at room temperature
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1 1/4 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. ground flaxseed
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 c. raisins

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm milk and water. (Note: Make sure the liquid is not too hot, else it will kill the yeast! What I do is microwave the milk on high for about 30 sec., then mix it with cold water.) Stir in the sugar and let stand 5 min. or until bubbly. Stir in the eggs and oil. Add the oats, flaxseed, flours, and raisins, and stir until a soft dough forms.

Flour the counter with a handful of whole wheat flour. Turn the dough out and knead for 5 min. or until smooth and elastic, adding just enough flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough should still feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl, cover with a damp dish towel, and let rise for 1 hr. or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and grease two loaf pans.

Punch down the dough, knead 1 min. Divide the dough in half and shape into loaves. You can shape the loaves however you would like. Personally, I like to make them into twists or braids, both for the aesthetics and the texture it gives the bread.

Place loaves into the prepared loaf pans, cover with a damp dish towel and let rise for 1 hr. or until doubled in size.

Uncover and bake the loaves for 40 min. Test for doneness by listening for a hollow sound when loaves are tapped on the bottom. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

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