Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Makin' Sourdough Pretzels (or how to use your MFA)

Rachel’s Sourdough Pretzels

compiled from PJ Hamel: and Margot's blog

Mix wet ingredients:

3/4 cup lukewarm water

1 cup unfed sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator (or use fed starter)

2 tablespoons brown sugar (or non-diastatic malt powder or reg sugar)

1 tablespoon butter (or veg oil)
 (could also use 1 head roasted garlic, mashed into paste with butter, or dijon/other mustards or other spices)

Mix dry ingredients:

3 cups bread flour (add 2 xtra Tbsp water for highest gluten flours) or all-purpose flour, or mix of both

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2- 2 teaspoons rapid rise instant yeast

Mix all together until you’ve made a cohesive dough.

Knead dough until it forms a smooth ball. For the chewiest pretzels, knead for 15 minutes (15-25 by hand) until you get a baker's windowpane.

Spray mixing bowl lightly with oil, place ball of dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, for about 3-5 hours (3 hrs min-24 hrs max). The longer you let it rise, the more sourdough flavor. If you need to wait more than 24 hrs, you can refrigerate it and bring back to room temp.

When ready to form pretzels, bring 5-10 cups of water to boil with 1/3-2/3 cup of baking soda.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Fold a few times to deflate, then shape into a rectangle.

Score once lengthwise, then 5 times crosswise, to make 12 pieces.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap, so it doesn’t dry out as you work.

Roll each piece of dough into 12-18 rope. Keep the other pieces covered.

Twist the ends, and bring them down and under to make that classic pretzel shape. Or make logs or nubbins- whatever suits your fancy.

You can shape two at a time to boil and keep the rest of the dough pieces covered.

Preheat the oven to 450°

Two at a time, gently place the pretzels in the boiling baking soda bath. Boil for 1 minute, turning halfway through. Using a spatula or slotted spoon, remove to a colander to drain while the next batch boils, then transfer to a baking sheet coated in oil or lined with parchment paper and cover.

When all are shaped, whisk a raw egg with a tablespoon or two of buttermilk (or milk or water), and brush the tops of the pretzels. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for 15 minutes (@ 450°), or until the crust is a deep, glossy brown.

Eat right away, or store in a paper bag. Plastic/airtight containers make 'em soggy.

Here is the result!

And as extra proof, dad said they taste just like the ones he bought in Reading, PA... in the days of yore...when Reading made yummy pretzels.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In Between Things

It's been a long time since I've written up here, but it seems necessary at this point in order to figure things out. Soon I'll put up images from a recent performance for the big review, but until then, the most recent drawings.

The telephone drawings weren't quite a hit. I'm trying to figure out how to improve after some debate over the quality of the rendering. I wanted them to look gestural and hurried, but apparently they just don't look very good. It was also stated that there was some magic in projecting the video over the drawings- as if they came to life right then. So in response, I projected a video over top of tracing vellum and drew a scene on each layer so that they collapse on top of one another in registration; I even used punch registration pins for printmakers to keep all of the papers lined up. Then, after rendering each layer to a certain extent, I separated each on dowels so that there is space between them. The only thing is that the projection looks really lovely on the first sheet, but the paper is only translucent, and captures the projection detail all on one layer. That means each successive layer only receives a glow and no video imagery. Does there need to be projection on every layer? Also, I enjoy each image by itself. Perhaps it doesn't all need to be on top of one another. Maybe they can each be separated. But what about the projection? Should it just be on one? Is it sufficient to have the other drawings just hanging around? But how- somewhere in space so that they can be walked around?

The other possibility is to have sections cut through each layer, so that the projection comes straight through, leaving shadows. And perhaps I could use a wood-burning tool to sort of singe through the paper rather than a plain stencil cut.

Lastly, I am still very much debating on the furniture for the typing installation. I had used stools and old chairs for a temporary setup before, but it wasn't quite right.

It was suggested to me that I build my own device- a sort of table/stand that the typist's legs fit right into. It would be simple and clean, not drawing much attention, and keeping everything in place and stable. I did sketches, though, and those models remind me of a podium or organ, even. It's not the look I'm going for. For some reason the "Retro-future Secretary (on Wheels)" version strikes me the most. It's very awkward, strange, mobile and pathetically optimistic about a form of communication that can't possibly work.

And I still like the telephone drawings. There is still hope for the broken phones. Even though they are not rendered so well, perhaps they just need to interact in a different space; they are fragmented bits in themselves, rather than just relating to one another.

Viewing this strange sight on the way home made me realize my interest in abandoned, obsolete things. There is something beautiful and terribly sad about these objects that continue to hang on, despite their 'uselessness'- just like these construction lights left strewn, fallen over and abandoned in the snow. I feel pity for them, and I want to keep them, help them somehow.

Perhaps I'm just a tad strange, but I want this feeling for my piece: a pathetic machine that has so much hope for an impossible task, and yet we have empathy for it. It is sad and pitiful; it is ramshackle, unwieldy, and limping along; it just barely pulls together what we have it set up to do. I think these strange broken stools and chairs on wheels will be the trick. Oh, just to find them.

Till then...