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Happy birthday to me!

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About a week before my birthday, Nicole and Nathan both came down with nasty head colds. I didn't need a crystal ball to figure out that this meant Lauren and I would likely be sick on my birthday. What we didn't count on was that Nicole and Nathan would still be sick as well. It turns out that by my birthday, my symptoms only included a sore throat in the morning, but Lauren was really not feeling so well. I can tell she loves me because she still cooked up a nice birthday dinner of roast chicken, homemade stuffing, broccoli, and a spice cake with cream cheese frosting for dessert. Mmmmm.

Fresh sourdough
Fresh sourdough
Shark super steamer
Shark super steamer
Lauren knows that the past few months visions fresh baked bread have been floating in my head. I have been searching and searching for a way to get some more steam in my oven to give my free-standing loaves more oven spring. I stumbled across a $4200 double wall oven with a built-in steam injection system. Wow. How much is lofty bread worth? Not even $200 in my book. After consulting with some other people, I decided I really had two problems. One, the oven cavity size compared to the size of my loaf was very large. Two, the oven's vents made it nearly impossible to keep any amount of concentrated steam in the oven (we have a gas oven with considerably sized vents). So a container to bake the bread in. One friend had mentioned a dutch oven because it maintains the heat and keeps the steam from the bread inside the cavity. I hunted and hunted for a way to generate steam. I think I was looking in the wrong departments because I finally found that there are several little devices that are marketed as 'steam cleaners.' I found one of those for $40 and put it on my wish list. That is what Lauren got me for my birthday. I used the steamer with my own homegrown steaming setup to create the beautiful loaf of sourdough bread shown here.

Salter kitchen scale
Salter kitchen scale
Lauren's mom bought me a very nice Salter kitchen scale. I have been eying these scales for some time. After doing the research I finally settled on this scale and added it to my wish list. It is quite handy. It measures from 0-11 lbs. with a precision of 1/8 oz. (or 0-5 kg. with a precision of 1 g). Plus, it will zero out at any point in that range so you don't have to do the math in your head. I have 315 g. of flour, 210 g. of water, 5 g. of salt, and need to add 15 g. of yeast... And it looks nice too. I used it this evening to create a stiff sourdough starter (shown in the picture on the scale). Evidently, a stiffer starter tends to cultivate a more sour flavor. I am all for that.

This was a kitchen tools birthday for me. My parents got me a mortar and pestle that had been on my list for ages. This is one of those tools that just has no good alternative. I have some fennel seeds that I need to crush... The side of a knife? I don't think so. There were sufficient times in my kitchen forays that I needed a mortar and pestle and didn't have it that I am very glad to have one now. They are not an everyday tool, but like that special star-head screwdriver, sometimes there is no working alternative.

All in all, I had a good birthday. I can't even complain about the sore throat—it was gone by 10 A.M. anyway. Thanks for all your love.