We forgot to buy some bread for the week for lunches and such so I decided I’d give my hand at making a burger bun to use for sandwiches. I perused a few different recipes online and cobbled together my own version as below.
Warm milk – 1.5 cups
Egg – 1 large
Melted butter – 4 Tbsp
Sugar – 2 Tbsp
Active Dry Yeast – 1 Tbsp
Salt – 1.5 tsp
Whole wheat flour – 3 cups
All-purpose flour – 1.5 cups
Mix warm milk, egg, melted butter, sugar, and yeast in a bowl and incorporate until frothy. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, mix the 2 types of flours and the salt.
Add wet to dry and mix.
Dump mixture onto countertop and knead for 5-7 minutes.
Form into ball and place in oiled bowl and allow to rise (double in size) – ~45 min to 2 hours.
Punch down, pour onto countertop and separate into 8-10 pieces.
Let rest for 10 minutes before forming into balls.
Form each piece into a ball and then flattened to get more hamburger bun shape.
Allow to rise (mine didn’t rise as much as I’d like).
Apply egg wash to each bun.
Pre-heat oven to 380 F
Place in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes (I did 19 minutes).
Cover with kitchen towel for 15 minutes – I read this is supposed to help keep the bread rolls soft.
Overall these came out okay. I was hoping for wider and fluffier buns. They turned out a bit dense and dry. I baked them late at night (made them after work) and so left them out overnight to cool and that may have definitely contributed to the drying. I made 2 of them for sandwiches for lunch today and noted that one of the buns did crumble and fall apart some. I attribute that to the dryness. I suspect another part of the denseness may be because I did not knead the dough enough initially to allow for proper gluten formation. Another problem may be that I did not allow for proper rise times. Our house typically is fairly cool and during winter time it is cooler, leading to a longer rise time (which I did not have because I have to sleep).
I’ll probably try something similar again in the future but maybe see if I can’t make it fluffier and less dense.
Last month I tried a new pizza dough recipe. A few months before that, I had read in Men’s Health about an easy pizza dough that did not require hours of preparation (I had been using a no-knead dough recipe that required an 18 hour rise (more details below). I am always looking for both more efficient and tasty recipes for pizza dough. My wife enjoys the one I had been making but I am all for tweaking and improving so I decided to try this new (to me) recipe. I was fairly certain I had left the magazine in a spot in my treadmill room but lo and behold it wasn’t there. I resorted to trying to google the same recipe and don’t know if it was the exact one I had read about initially but I went with it.
Quicker pizza dough ingredients:
6 cups AP flour
2 1/4 cups room temperature water (recipe called for cold water)
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp kosher salt
Add 3 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp yeast to 2 1/4 cups of water in a large bowl and combine
In a separate bowl, mix remaining 3 cups of flour with the salt.
I then added in the flour mix to the flour-water combination (from step 1) and kneaded it within the bowl for about 5 minutes.
I let the dough rest – covered – for 30 minutes.
The dough was separated into 4 (relatively) parts and 3 of them saved in saran wrap and frozen for later use.
I split the dough into 2 balls and made pizzas from them.
What I liked about this dough recipe is that the dough had developed a decent structure. It was amenable to the stretching process and I felt like I could manipulate it without it easily tearing. The downside is that there wasn’t a lot of gluten/gas development within the dough (due to the short time of sitting). This resulted in a pizza dough that was relatively flat upon baking. It created a thin crispy crust – kind of like a cracker instead of bread.
Taste-wise the dough was not bad. It was a decent pizza but the dough didn’t really stand out much. It was more about the sauce and toppings.
In contrast to the above, the following week I made my more usual recipe for pizza. This dough involves sitting overnight (more like 18 hours) at room temperature to give the dough time to work on itself. This is a “no-knead” recipe so there isn’t a ton of work on the dough itself.
No-knead dough recipe
350 g AP flour
245 g warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast
12 g salt
Mix 1 tsp acive dry east in 245 g of warm water and let sit for about 5 minutes
Combine flour and salt.
Add water mixture to the flour mixture and mix until a cohesive wet dough is formed
Let sit, covered, for 14-18 hours at room temperature
I poured the dough out and made a rectangle and divided this dough into 3 relatively equal size balls. One ball I wrapped in cling film and froze. The remaining two I rolled into a ball shape and placed in a bowl and let that raise for 1-2 hours.
I then used each dough and stretched it into pizza shape.
As you can see from the above pictures, this time the dough’s crust had a decent rise on the outer rim. The dough also had a more chewy texture compared to the quicker dough. The flavor profile of the overnight dough also developed more, almost like a sourdough. You could eat just the dough (without the topping) and it has its own taste (vs the quicker dough).
Verdict: Overnight no-knead dough.
For now I’ll continue with the no-knead dough. I just need to remember to start it the day before I am going to make pizza. I’m not always great at pre-planning but that is the goal.
I know that I haven’t posted anything in quite a long time. Honestly I ran out of steam. With the way that this year has gone (from everything in the world to everything in my little world), I just lost all motivation to post. I drastically decreased my baking though still kept up with running (just not to the degree I had been doing it earlier this year). I didn’t have any races after my Spring ones so didn’t feel the urge to run a ton and post about it. I did work on increasing my running intensity (doing intervals on the treadmill and outside), which I think is good for my overall fitness.
There have been a lot of other big things going on such as re-doing our entire kitchen and taking up a new hobby. Since I know this blog isn’t really read regularly or even much at all, I’m going to jot down some notes/thoughts from the past year mostly so I remember it.
Early 2017 involved some big changes at work with new co-workers that I worked with closely. I enjoyed it as I got to put on a different work hat — that of being a mentor. Also there were a ton of staffing changes and something I’ve started to be more comfortable with, which is change. I’ve always been the type to like everything to stay fairly constant. Change is/was always a scary word to me. I need to take the advice of my father, who has the philosophy to “go with the flow” (of the river…or life). I think that at least with regards to work, I’ve become better at adjusting to changes.
The highlight of the early part of 2017 was two-fold. Japan (see posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) and the Big Sur Marathon. While I was sick for the latter half of the Japan trip, it was still such an amazing place to visit and great experience. The Big Sur Marathon was a bucket-list marathon and I’m still amazed I got in on the first go around with the lottery system. Even though I bonked (and didn’t have the best taper leading up to the race due to Japan), I still enjoyed the experience overall. Most likely I’ll never do it again so it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Plus you can’t beat visiting Monterey/Carmel.
The latter half of 2017 was focused mostly on the kitchen. At some point I’ll probably put up some posts about it since it was a big part of the year. I’m happy with the outcome and glad that it is done with.
A trip down to San Diego at the end of the year was a nice way to cap it off as well. Again, I somehow was sick for this trip as well so even though I didn’t feel the greatest, I still enjoyed it because it is San Diego!
2017 was also a very big music year for us. We went to a bunch of concerts and they were all great. It was nice to attend concerts put on by true singers and getting to hear their talent in person. We saw: Lady Gaga, Depeche Mode, Janet Jackson, Tori Amos. As you can see, we have very eclectic taste in music. All the performances were great and I also enjoyed getting to check out the new Golden1 Arena in downtown Sac. Not sure what concerts we may attend in 2018.
The mood of 2017 overall was not the greatest. This is mostly focused on what is happening in the world and more specifically with the United States. I am not one to get into politics but just wanted to comment on how it has had far-reaching effects on my mental health. It is depressing to see a lot of what is going on. I am going to try to remain hopeful that 2018 will be a better year for the world and humanity.
I started this blog at first to document my running adventures (race recaps, etc) and it morphed into a baking blog (a hobby I got into in the last few years) as well as a travel/food blog. I don’t know what direction this will take in the future but I do hope to get back into blogging more (about what is yet to be determined).
No big new year’s resolutions that I can come up with at this time but will leave you with pictures of two animals that don’t care about world affairs and just enjoy life (as I think we all need to do).
A few weeks ago I ventured out to try some new things after a doctor visit. I had fasted overnight and before the appointment so I could get some blood pulled. However that left me hungry after my visit. I decided to try one of our local coffee roasters that has cold brew coffee on nitro.
First impression was that it looked like a beer. It had a nice foamy head and was nice and chilled. I must say that when taps use nitro, it certainly makes for a much smoother mouth feel of the liquid. I thoroughly enjoyed my first cold brew coffee on nitro. I got the coffee at Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters. It’s a quaint little coffee shop that is no frills.
With my coffee in hand, I headed over to the relatively new Paris Baguette. This chain recently moved up here to northern California after I guess it grew big in southern California. This bakery reminds me of a Taiwanese bakery called 85 Degrees. You walk in and grab a tray and all the bread/pastry products are out on trays or in cubbies. You pick what you want and then take your tray to the register to pay and order drinks as well. I ended up getting a buttered croissant, chocolate croissant, and a croissant with an italian sausage in the middle. They were all delicious.
A few weekends ago the weather started cooperating with regards to baking. I also had incentive to make some sandwich bread again.
The weather finally started cooperating again for me to do some baking. This summer has been incredibly hot in Sacramento. I saw a graphic from the news that in July, every single day was above average (and we had strings of 100+F days multiple times). August is supposed to be the hottest time of the year too! When you are in triple digits, the last thing you feel like doing is turning the oven on.
It has been a long time since I actually made bread that I had to go back and read through some old posts to remind myself of the process. I followed the following for 50% whole wheat bread.
300 g whole wheat flour
300 g bread flour
150 g whole milk (had it on hand for a friend’s kid)
300 g warm water
18 g salt
20 g honey
10 g sugar (didn’t have enough sugar so added in some extra sugar)
1/4 cup olive oil
10 g active dry yeast (I purchased the Red Star brand recently to try)
I was feeling a bit lazy so I just combined all of the above ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using a spatula, I mixed everything so that it was all incorporated.
I then covered it and let it sit for about an hour. I found that one of my large plates actually fits almost perfectly over the opening of the mixing bowl I most commonly use. This is nice so I don’t have to waste some cling film (plus I hate dealing with cling film).
I removed the dough onto my counter after an hour and proceeded to knead the dough using the slap and fold method. I did this for about 15 minutes until the dough started to come together.
I then let the dough rise for another 1.5 hours or so.
I didn’t take pictures but after the dough doubled, I proceeded with 3 stretch and folds with about 30 minutes rest. After the last one, the dough was shaped into a log and placed into a buttered loaf pan.
This was the first time I used our new oven to bake some bread. I elected not to use the convection function for this first time.
I started the bake at 425 F for the first 10 minutes and then dropped to 375 F for an additional ~25 minutes. The bake took a lot longer than before but I’m not sure if it was due to the dough or the oven. The outside of the bread turned out much darker than most of my previous bakes but I went with the internal temperature (200 F) to assess doneness.
I had a decent crumb and the bread overall came out good. We used it for sandwiches for work for the week.
***I wanted to document some past hikes/trips that I’ve taken. I actually wrote the following shortly after the hike (way back in 2001). I made some minor edits to the text but overall they are my words from 16 years ago. ***
It all started while I was still at school. During spring quarter of my freshman year at Northwestern University, my dad sent me an e-mail asking if I would like to participate in a hiking trip. He informed me that the trip would be to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Other aspects of the trip comprised of the group being made up of five individuals. I was the only one under the age of fifty. The other group members included my father, my uncle, Mr. I-fu Shih, and Mr. Hsu.
To prepare for this hiking expedition, our group held practice hikes at a nearby mountain. Mount San Antonio, a.k.a. Mount Baldy, is the third highest peak in the southern California area. With a peak elevation of 10,064 feet, our group traversed this peak once as an entire group. However, each member individually climbed the peak at least twice, sometimes three times, in his own separate groups. These climbs were to help ensure that we would be in shape and ready for hiking the many miles of Mount Whitney. There are four different trails one can take to reach the top of Mount Baldy. I have taken two of the four routes. The first route requires taking a chair lift to the start of the trailhead. From the trailhead, the peak can be reached in 3.7 miles with an elevation gain of around 2,000 feet. The other trail is considerably more difficult. With an elevation gain close to 3,500 feet, the trail continuously climbs upwards, pushing my body’s limit. That trail has a length of 4.3 miles. A separate hiking experience I had to further my training occurred while on vacation in Alaska. One of the expeditions offered at Juneau was a hiking trip. I decided to take this expedition to help keep myself ready for hiking in the wilderness. One other preparation tool I had been taking advantage of was that of running. I would jog at least a mile everyday for a few weeks prior to our trip to Mount Whitney.
A few days before the trip, which was from August 31, 2001 to September 3, 2001, I bought a hiker’s backpack. We also purchased a shirt that helps alleviate the dampness that perspiration causes. Packing started on Thursday, the day before our departure. Items that were brought included: a knife, a small flashlight, a pair of gloves, a baseball cap, a rag (to block the sun from the back of my neck), ziploc bags, a thin mat, a rain coat, clothes, and approximately four liters of water. Also attached to my pack was a sleeping bag and also the fabric of the tent. My approximate estimate is that the pack weighed approximately twenty-five to thirty pounds.
That night I became quite pensive. I began thinking about the dangers of what we were about to undertake. I realized that there existed many hazards on the mountain. I had read a report of previous accidents and rescues that took place on Mount Whitney. I began to get quite worried about our safety. My father assured me that in case of such dangers as lightning, we would immediately turn around to safety. Still, I felt as if there was some danger involved and had to deal with it in my own way.
The following morning I woke up around 10:00 a.m. and headed to Target to purchase a battery for my camera. I was not about to let this opportunity pass up and not have any pictures of the wonderful scenery. Around 11:30 a.m., Mr. Shih and Mr. Hsu showed up and we loaded the Tahoe. Then I drove us to pick my father up and then we went to pick my uncle up. We took the 210 freeway to the 14. Then we took the 395 freeway and finally ended up in the city of Lone Pine, where the population is approximately 2,000 people. We stopped by the visitor center and looked through some material about the mountain. We also inquired about the weather and were told that the past few days had been clear and pleasant. Our group then checked into the Best Western and settled in. Mr. Shih and Mr. Hsu went to the Ranger station for Inyo National Forest and picked up our permits. Permits are required on the mountain because the National Forest Service has limited the number of hikers per day on Mount Whitney.
Since it was around dinnertime, we went and ate at a local diner and talked about the hike. From the city of Lonepine, Mount Whitney is quite visible and I took a picture of our formidable task. After dinner we returned to our motel rooms and double-checked our supplies. A slight problem was found because we had many items that had a scent. Any objects with a scent must be placed in a bear proof canister, of which we only had one. Therefore, the items that had a scent, we asked the motel to store for us, for we were to return to that hotel on Sunday night, September 2. After checking our gear one final time, our group turned in for the night. That night was filled with restless sleep. My mind wandered from the hike to the camping. I envisioned such calamities as falling off of the side of the cliff. Eventually I did end up sleeping for a good six or seven hours.
Everybody woke up around six the next day. We prepared everything we had and placed it into the car. We had a light breakfast of cereal and muffins, provided by the motel. The fourteen-mile drive up to the trailhead proved to be a nice relaxing trip. We drove through the Alabama Hills, famous for being the set of old western movies. Upon reaching the trailhead, we parked the car and unloaded our packs. Each of the five members carried a hiking pack. We all stopped at the sign at the head of the entrance and took a group picture.
The time was approximately eight o’clock when we started from the trailhead. The trail started off relatively easy, with a nice well-beaten path. There existed a few switchbacks and we crossed two creeks. Finally we made our way to Lone Pine Creek which required walking along logs that had been placed for hikers to cross the wide creek. When we reached the first creek, we stopped to take a breather. I had not realized how much harder it was to hike with a heavy load on my back. My shoulders had already begun to hurt and we had only traveled about 0.8 miles. We ended up taking some rests on the switchbacks. This gave me the opportunity to look back and see a spectacular view. I could see straight down the valley (that had long ago been carved by a glacier because of its “U” shape). My vision was unimpeded and I could see the winding road that had taken us to the trailhead. The day was gorgeous with not a cloud in the blue sky.
I knew the only way to get past the pain was to continue on and hopefully get acclimated to the pack. We next stopped at Lone Pine Lake (well, where the turnout to Lone Pine Lake was). We decided to eat out lunch there. Lunch consisted of an apple and a Nutrigrain bar. I trekked the 0.1 miles to the lake to see what view I could get. Once I reached it, I first noticed the clarity of the lake. The reflection off of the lake was stunning. I could clearly make out the trees and the outline of the mountain just by looking at the water. I pulled out my camera and took some shots.
After a good half-hour rest, our group continued up some more switchbacks. Soon, my father and I came to a clearing and we found ourselves in a small valley walking next to a beautiful meadow. I noticed how there were many small tributaries of a creek traversing its way through the meadow. I became entranced by watching the water move its way over rocks and through the green vegetation.
On the other side of the meadow, we made another stop at Outpost camp. Outpost camp is situated 3.6 miles from the trailhead and is 10,360 feet above sea level. From Outpost camp, we hiked another 0.7 miles until we were at Mirror Lake (at an elevation of 10,640 feet).
Just above Mirror Lake was the last place that provided tree shelter and shade. The last tree on the Whitney Trail is not far above the lake. After passing Mirror Lake, we hiked among boulders and rocks until finally reaching a breathtaking sight: Trailside Meadow. Right next to the path, I saw a waterfall that trickled down into lush green shrubs and flowers, with a creek running straight through. Located 5.3 miles from the start of the trail, our group felt it was best to rest here. It seems as if our group took many rest breaks, but I feel that we pushed ourselves and followed a strict timetable for making it to Trail camp. Upon leaving Trailside Meadow, a steeper incline followed with a few switchbacks and then finally, after much agonizing, we made it Trail Camp at 4:30 p.m.
Trail Camp is located 6.3 miles into the trail. It is also at an elevation of 12,039 feet above sea level. Up until this point, the highest point I had ever climbed was Mount Baldy, at an elevation of 10,064 feet. Therefore, upon reaching this area, I was amazed that I had handled the hike so well thus far. However, my body definitely felt the effects of the arduous hike. Finally, we set up our tent and started to put our sleeping bags into the tent. I felt very lethargic. Another dilemma came up when we realized that not all of our food and trash would fit into the canister. Eventually, some of the members in our group decided to bury it and hope that a bear would not come. Luckily, no bears showed up. That night’s sleep was not very good. We squished five adult males into the single tent. The ground was hard and uncomfortable. I had to constantly move the dirt beneath me so as to get better cushioning.
Because there is not much to do once the sun sets at that altitude, everyone was in their tents and trying to sleep by seven or so at night. This created a slight problem because I had not been accustomed to sleeping at such an early hour. However, my body told me that I was ready to rest. We all had to put on our long johns because the temperature had dipped quite a bit. My estimate is that the temperature hung around the lower 30s for the night. I tossed and turned the entire night. Once I had to get up and upon exiting the tent, I realized the brightness of the moon. The moon lit up most of the camp with its glow. Throughout the night I continued taking sips of water because the high altitude causes your mouth to get dry. Eventually I did get about two hours of continuous sleep and then we had to get up. The time was about 5:30 a.m. Luckily, no bears came and we dug up our food and trash and put them in our packs.
At 6:10 a.m. or so, four of us began our hike. Mr. Hsu had become quite sick during the night and did not feel he could continue on our hike. Therefore, the four of the remaining started our trek. We started out traversing 97 switchbacks. I was still half-asleep at this point. These switchbacks took us 1,738 feet in elevation in just 2.2 miles. Probably the hardest part of the hike, I contemplated whether we would be able to reach the summit at the rate we were hiking. However, I knew that this was a trip that had taken much planning and I did not want to fail.
At the beginning of the switchbacks, I found a nice steady pace to hike. However, I soon found that I had set my pace too quickly and became tired. Therefore, the rest of the way up the switchbacks took an agonizingly slow and painful process. After only two or three switchbacks, I would have to take a break to catch my breath. By this time, Mr. Shih had continued ahead of us because he was the one in the best shape. My uncle had stopped to take a break and have something to eat. Therefore, my father and I made our slow but steady way up to the Trail Crest. After two hours (8:15), we reached the Trail Crest (13,777 feet in elevation). Two other men were at the crest as well, one of them coming up from behind me. One of them let us use his sunscreen and told us how we had just traversed the most difficult part. I asked him how many times he had summited Whitney and he said he had already done it twice. We thanked him and continued on our way, now hiking on the opposite side of the mountain. Thankfully, since it was still early in the day, the sun had not risen high enough in the sky for there to be sunlight shining on the trail. The trail started to descend at first until it met the John Muir Trail (9.0 miles).
From that point, the summit is another 1,015 feet in elevation covering two miles. While walking along this trail, mostly over rocks and boulders, I kept thinking about when we would turn around. I realized that if we were caught still trying to make it to the summit at too late of a time, then our hike to get back to the trailhead could fall into the night and darkness. However, I also had to deal with the gorgeous view that I had from the trail. We were now overlooking Sequoia National Park. There were many lakes that were far below us and they were beautiful. I also had a chance to see the Western Divide.
Finally we came to a point where we were directly behind the peak. I was wondering if we were going to attempt to climb up the boulders directly to the summit or follow an easier path that wound around to the other side and slowly went to the top from there. It turned out we followed the path and after another long hike (or what seemed like a long hike) I saw the hut. From that moment, I knew that we would make it. Upon reaching the hut, the time was 10:10, exactly four hours after we had left Trail Camp. I went and signed my name in the register that is next to the Hut. Then I went and sat on a boulder and looked 360 degrees. The weather was clear and I could see in all directions.
So this is what it feels like to be on top of the lower 48 states. However, it didn’t really sink in that I was on top. Mr. Shih, my father, and I took a picture next to the sign indicating the peak and the elevation. Mount Whitney sits 14,496.811 feet above sea level. I felt proud that I had made it. I have to admit that throughout the trip, up until this point, I had felt as if I would not reach the top. When we left camp that morning, I had said in my mind and out loud that I would stop at the Trail Crest because I was not feeling good enough to make it to the top. However, I happily proved myself wrong. I was especially happy that I had done this with my father. He showed me a lot by his will to succeed.
We made our way down at 10:30 a.m. and reached Trail Camp by 1:30 p.m. We then packed up our tent and everything and set off for the trailhead at 2:30 p.m. I did not expect to make it to the bottom as quickly as we did. We reached the trailhead at 6:00 p.m. Going down the trail is quite challenging as well. It is not as easy as some would think. The pack that we carried still weighed a great deal and parts of the trail were quite treacherous. We had to watch our steps so as not to fall and injure ourselves. Luckily, I hiked with two ski poles and they help tremendously when you have to walk downhill with a heavy pack pushing you forward. We then drove to the motel and stayed another night, driving home on September 3, 2001.
The trip took us two days. Our hike eventually covered 21.4 miles (10.7 miles each way) and an elevation gain of over 6,000 feet. The hours spent on that mountain will be something I will remember. However, I take a lot more away from the mountain than just pictures and stories. Mount Whitney showed me that I have a lot more inside of me than I presumed I did. I never expected to be able to accomplish what I did.
It’s amazing how far technology has come in terms of digital cameras and such. I didn’t use a digital camera for this trip and ended up scanning in pictures. Some photo credits also belong to Mr. Shih.