I was recently amazed to discover that Gillian can write a lot more than I realized. I knew she could recognize all the letters and write her name (a few of the letters are interesting, but you can make out what she's writing). We were at Borders for story time, and afterwards they got to make Father's Day cards. She sat there and asked me what letters she needed to say "Happy Father's Day." I offered to help her write it, but she insisted she could do it herself. She only needed me to explain how to form one of the letters. Boy, this kid is quick, even more so than her big sister. She's not even four yet! And with the timing of her birthday (October), she'll be almost 6 by the time she can start kindergarten. It's really hard sometimes to figure out what to do with my smart kids to keep them challenged.
Jamie and I realized a couple weeks ago that boredom may be a lot of the reason B is driving us crazy lately. She doesn't have enough to do of her own, so she starts bothering G and wanting to play with her stuff. And I get tired of explaining, that yes, those toys were originally hers, but now G gets to play with them, since they're geared more toward a 3-year-old than a 7-year-old. *sigh* Fortunately, we were able to come up with a few ideas...J is teaching her how to play chess, since he loved it as a kid (and still does). I can play, but am nowhere near his level. And he's a much more patient teacher than I am. He found a couple of chess books for kids, too. Another thing that B really likes is puzzles, both word puzzles and the jigsaw variety. I think it's time to get some new ones--harder ones that G can't do yet, with more, smaller pieces.
She's also been reading a lot, which is good, but that only keeps her occupied for so long. Besides some new Betty & Veronica comics (J is the comic book influence), the main thing she's been reading is her Christmas present from my sister Kate. Kate got her the entire collection of Ramona books. With the new movie coming out next week, she's been trying to read as much as she can beforehand. She's already talked me into taking her to see the movie. The only movies I've seen in a theater for the past several years are the ones I've taken B to. Going to the movies isn't in the budget much.
Of course, you're all familiar with my main source of entertainment these days--baking. =) And a lot of the books I read are cookbooks. I was thinking the other day that I've gained an amazing amount of knowledge and skill through my participation in various baking groups. Tuesdays with Dorie and Daring Bakers have helped with cakes and other sweets. For bread, though, the biggest influence is definitely the BBA Challenge.
I mentioned in my last BBA post that I got stuck on the Marbled Rye and decided to jump ahead for the time being. Since I was making pâte fermentée for the Pain de Campagne, I figured I'd make a double batch so I'd have some ready for the next recipe, too, which is Pane Siciliano. I was really looking forward to this one, because I've really enjoyed every bread that I've made with semolina. The addition of semolina flour gives bread a pretty yellow color and I like the texture it contributes, too.
The dough for Pane Siciliano is fairly lean (bread flour, semolina flour, salt, yeast and water) but does have a small amount of olive oil and honey added to it. After the initial mixing, my dough was rather sticky. Rather than add flour when kneading, I decided to try Peter Reinhart's stretch and fold technique from his newest book, Artisan Breads Every Day. I did the stretch and fold on an oiled countertop 3 or 4 times in about 45 minutes, and then let the dough rise for another 45 minutes. When it was time to divide the dough for shaping, I decided that I wanted to set some of it aside for pizza crust. I did three portions of 7 ounces each that I formed into balls and stuck in the fridge to use for dinner. The remaining dough was about 23 ounces, and I shaped that into the traditional "S" shaped loaf. It's supposed to be topped with sesame seeds, but I didn't have any. The shaped loaf is retarded overnight in the fridge to develop flavor. The next morning, I pulled it out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit while the oven preheated, about 45 minutes. The loaf only took about 20 minutes to bake.
The verdict? I really enjoyed this bread. It made a very nice loaf, and excellent pizza crust. Next time I make it, I'll make sure I have sesame seeds on hand so I can try it that way. Everyone else here loved it as well. Jamie is my main critic for the various pizza crusts that we've tried, and he commented that he really likes how this dough worked--stayed nicely firm and crisp on the bottom with his choice of toppings, but was tender on top. I loved the edges of this crust--nice and puffy. I love the bubbles. =)
If you'd like to try Pane Siciliano for yourself, check out a copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice. There are so many excellent recipes and such good information on how to make bread. To see how everyone else is doing with the challenge, check out the BBA Challenge blogroll. Also, check out Yeastspotting for lots of other yummy yeasted treats. And I'm submitting this to Bread Baking Day #32: Italian Breads!