X Bread

Bet you thought I forgot about my bread challenge, didn’t you? Well, considering that the last time I baked bread was in February, I don’t blame you for thinking that. But have a little faith in me! The 2012 goals were all chosen for a reason – mainly, to have me practice and learn to do a few different things well. So I’m hoping to accomplish them all, and then some!

I adored making this loaf of bread, and wish I knew how to make more bread-like products. I’m not positive, but for next year I’m considering a bread challenge to up the ante and let me practice bread-making skills. 40 loaves might be a bit high for me, so that number will take some playing, most likely. Stay tuned.

I’ve heard so much about this “X bread”, recipe by Pioneer Woman. She just calls it “The Bread, In His Words”, but its telltale feature is the large X you cut into the top, so the “X bread” name is more fitting. When I first saw the recipe, a while back, I was like: “Oh, it has yeast, too bad.” I used to always say that! I was fairly terrified of yeast. Like not in a “it’s going to grow and open the refrigerator door – it’s alive!!” kind of terrified. Just, I didn’t have the cojones to conquer it. NO LONGER. When I looked back at this recipe last week, I was amazed to find that it actually looked incredibly easy.

Gather: 1/2 cup melted butter, 4 cups bread flour, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp yeast, and 1 cup of water. Add chopped herbs (I used chives) to the butter. If you’re using active dry yeast (as I was), sprinkle it on the surface of the water so it can start working for a few minutes.

Add all of the ingredients together. Like so:

Looks cool right? Like there are flour mountains and islands amid seas of butter. My kind of world.

And begin mixing together by hand! At first, your fingers will be covered with sticky goo, but soon the dough will come together and your hands will be magically clean. Alternatively, you can use a fancy stand mixer with a fancy dough hook, but I, sadly, do not have one of those. I ended up kneading it for about 15 minutes (while listening to the sultry tones of John Mayer) by hand, which is a decent workout. Seriously. I kneaded it until I could do this:

It’s called making a “window pane”, and it means that you grab a small chunk of the dough and stretch it slowly and gently. If it can become somewhat transparent before ripping, it’s done.

Form it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 1-4 hours until it’s “doubled in size”. I can never tell whether it’s doubled or just larger. Either way, I only had an hour  to let it rise, and it turned out just fine! Preheat the oven to 450.

Place in a casserole dish/soup pot/oven-proof bowl. Coat the dough with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and cut a large, deep X in the surface so the bread can “bloom”! So much fun! At this point in the baking process, I was fairly giddy. Cover (with the lid of the dish, or some aluminum foil) and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for 15-30 minutes. Mine needed only 15 after removing the lid before it was nicely golden brown and beautiful.

MMMMM. And smelled divine, too.

It tasted even better! I’ve been warming it up in the oven every time I want a slice, because it’s so delicious warm from the oven. This is a delicious, savoury bread that I would (and will) make again.

In fact, I’m off to eat some right now! Happy bread-making.

2012 Goals

My 2012 intentions are set, which means it’s time for the juicy measurable GOALS! I don’t know about you, but I love tracking things, and seeing progress. Which means that I have a lot more fun with measurable goals than with intentions – even though intentions are really important too!

To see the fully updated 2011 New Year’s Resolutions post, click here. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I might have liked, but I aimed for the moon and was really happy with where I landed.

This year, I am being no less ambitious. I know I could have made my blogging goal, so it’s staying the same. Turns out 100 books was too high, so I’m cutting it by a quarter. I’ve made simple adjustments to other goals and added some new ones. Each of them reflects something I want to learn or improve upon, and I think hope know I can get them all done by the end of 2012 if I really set my mind to it.

I’m posting my goals as a page on the blog here and will be updating it throughout the year. I’ve also created a public spreadsheet that I’ll be updating weekly with my progress. Gotta have that accountability!

Now, without further ado, my 2012 measurable goals!

2012 Intentions

As I head into 2012, this grand, glorious New Year, it’s important to me to draw myself a map. I need some signposts and markers on the road to steer me straight in the coming year. While I’ll be sure to look back on what worked and what didn’t from 2011, first I want to clear my mind and look forward. I know cynics can say January 1st is just an arbitrary date, but for me it feels like a fresh start, a clean slate. I love new beginnings!

I’d encourage you to open your mind and heart over the next few days and see what themes or quotes appeal to you. This is to find the major idea, or spirit of 2012, not necessarily any measurable goals. Those come later, once you’ve defined how you want to feel in the coming year!

For a couple of weeks, I’ve been ruminating on what kinds of habits and mindsets I want to foster in 2012, and I’ve come up with a list of phrases that sum up how I’d love to be and feel in this new year. Feel free to draw inspiration from these intentions, I’ve gotten them from many different sources myself!

New Year, New Look

Just a little head’s up: the site has recently undergone a subdued makeover! Heading into crisp, fresh 2012, I wanted to give the blog a clean, streamlined theme to match. It’s much less cluttered, much more elegant (in my opinion), and for me represents a clean slate for 2012.

I love this little space on the internet, and I want to make it as beautiful as possible. But another priority is to make it a place where I feel comfortable writing. And if right now, I need to clear out some of the clutter and pare down, maybe that’s just how the blog will look for a while. What you you think? Yay or nay?

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