Sunday, January 20, 2013

year of bread recipe 4/50: deep dish pizza dough

Guys, I'm killing this baking-50-bread-recipes goal.  I need to take a break and get behind my sewing machine!

For recipe number 4, we made deep dish pizza.  We just acquired a cast iron skillet a few months ago and it is amazing.  I can't believe I didn't buy one years ago.  Corey found this thread awhile back and made the recipe suggestion by commenter sfafard a few times.  This was my first time to handle the dough-making of this recipe, and my bread-baking goal is as much about just getting in the kitchen and making bread as it is trying brand new recipes, so it counts.

I have to make a disclaimer here that it's winter time and a lot of times it's dark outside when I'm working on these things.  Even though I'm a trained photographer with professional lighting equipment, this blog is more about having fun for me than my leisurely life becoming a photography assignment, so, you get what you get with available light.  I do love working on my food photography skills...but unfortunately I lose that motivation during winter!  I'm just being honest here.

Our toppings (filling?) were Tofurky Italian sausage, red onion, bell pepper, and feta cheese.  We rarely, but sometimes eat cheese.  We also topped it with fresh spinach before eating.

This deep dish pizza dough is great and definitely worth trying!  It has a great flavor and when baked in a cast iron skillet, the edges of the crust are amazing.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

my new serger

I have a new potential sewing new serger!  I say potential because we're not exactly BFFs yet.  We still have a little ways to go because one of us is a little persnickety and one of us is sometimes lacking in the patience department.  I'll let you figure it out.

This was my Christmas gift from my very generous and thoughtful parents.  It's very exciting because I can now sew finished seams more easily!

This is how my serger looked right out of the box.  It was threaded with color-coded thread for learning purposes.  Threading this thing is no easy task, but I am learning.

It came with a little scrap piece to show me what the serged edge should look like.  Then I practiced...a lot...on my own fabric scraps!  When I was finally feeling brave enough, I set out to sew my first pair of undies using the So, Zo...What Do You Know? pants pattern.

This is my first pair of pants (So, Zo is British!) waiting to be sewn up.  Sorry if this is too much information for you, I did ask myself if it was too much to be posting about sewing underwear on my blog, but I think this could inspire someone else to learn to sew them, because that's how I was inspired, so I determined that it's okay.  Don't worry, no modeling shots! That would be extremely weird.

The pattern is very easy to follow.  There are 3 pattern pieces: front, back, and gusset.  The only adjustment I had to make was going up 1 size.  The pattern advised that if your material isn't stretchy enough, you may have to do this.  The instructions are also easy to comprehend, but the process itself is just a little tricky to get the hang of.  It was especially hard for me to learn to sew the flat elastic on evenly.  I am still getting the hang of that!  But I think it just takes practice.  I serged the gusset and side seams, and sewed the elastic on with my regular sewing machine on the zig-zag stitch.  I think you could sew it on with the serger (with the top knife disabled) if you used regular flat elastic, but I chose picot (it has a decorative trim sticking off one edge) so the serger wouldn't work on it.  If you had a coverstitch machine then I assume it would be no problem.  If you don't sew and that sounds like a lot of crazy jargon, sorry!

Anyhow, I sewed three pairs of pants and the first two were practice pairs that I didn't completely finish, because some areas got a little wonky.  The practice was necessary and I'm glad I did practice on the real thing instead of just scrap fabric since this is such a small item and not much fabric was wasted.  Sewing the flat elastic around the curved leg openings is extra difficult!

My third pair was a winner and I hope to start a fourth this weekend and have even better success with it.  If you're thinking of sewing some pants for yourself, I'd say go for it!  If you don't have a serger, I wouldn't let that stop you.  I could have learned this a long time ago on my regular sewing machine.

Friday, January 18, 2013

year of bread recipe 3/50: ted bread

Well, I lost my steam a little by developing a cold the second week of the year.  However!  I am feeling better and now back on track with my sewing and bread baking goals.

I'm still on a mission to bake the perfect loaf of sandwich bread before I move on to something else.  So this week, I scoured my cookbook collection (I own only 6 cookbooks, not a lot for someone who likes to cook as much as I do--I think it's because most of my generation, myself included, finds recipes and cooking advice online, right?  There's something really nice about a printed cookbook, though.) for bread recipes.  I landed upon this recipe in The Grit Cookbook which was a gift from my dear friend Casey last Christmas.

It's called Ted Bread and the description says it's great for toast and grilled sandwiches.  It uses a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flours.  I also chose it because it has a rising time of only 40 minutes.  And, because of that, I didn't use my bread maker for any part of this bread!  That's right, I mixed it and kneaded it by hand...and guess what, it was amazingly easy.

This is what it looked like before going into the oven...and this is what it looked like after coming out:

I had a piece of peanut butter toast for breakfast.  It's very tasty!  It's still a little more crumbly than how I envision the perfect sandwich loaf, but I'm thinking it's because I didn't activate the gluten enough while kneading it.  I could also add a little more gluten to the flour next time to help it out.

In all, very good flavor, and I'm sure I'll make it again!  I hope I can visit The Grit restaurant one day next time I'm in Georgia.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

tuesdays are my favorite

Tuesdays are my favorite!  At least, they have been since August.  I don't teach on Tuesdays, but instead cobble together an eclectic schedule that I think is fitting of an artist.  I get to do a lot of my favorite things in the city all in one day and I have time to create!

The first thing I do is ride my bike in the cold to my 7 am figure skating practice.  Okay, the first thing I do is drink a cup of coffee.  But then I ride my bike to my ice rink, which is strangely warm and inviting after my frigid ride!  Skating is my favorite way to start the day.  I don't post about skating much here, but I have been figure skating since I was ten years old and it is one of my absolute favorite things to do.

Today after skating, I biked home and showered, then headed to my studio/darkroom near downtown.  I usually ride my bike there but today I drove because we have a lot of slushy snow and ice patches along the sides of the streets.  I'm hoping everything will melt ASAP!  At my studio, I had a note from my studiomate Steve telling me that another artist in our building had bought 5 of these little photographic bees I have been producing for a project.  I sold them once at a market we have in our building, then left my stash of them on my desk with the sign saying $1/bee.  I didn't expect someone to come in and want to buy some randomly, so it was a fun surprise to walk in to.

Steve also sometimes leaves little things for me, like apples from the apple tree in his yard, or a book about 1990s crafts, or this "Got Coffee?" magnet, which was today's treat.  What can I say, after 3 years of sharing a studio, he knows my interests.

This is my corner of the studio:

I have an awesome desk, super comfy desk chair, and a sweet avocado green cabinet.  All were surplus from a medical center at the university.  I highly recommend buying office-type furniture through a university surplus!  I wouldn't have been able to afford the quality of furniture I have in my downtown studio or my home studio area without doing so.  Plus the 1970s office vibe is kind of my favorite.

While at my studio, I developed film in my darkroom.  Some of the film was from a recent night time photo shoot (left roll below, if you know a lot about film and are wondering why it looks so thin--it was very dark!) and one roll was engagement pictures of my friends Callie and Aaron.  I can't wait to make them a beautiful black and white print!

It was COLD in the darkroom.  Can you read that?  It reads 48 degrees F!  Cold!  It is usually that cold.  Luckily Steve keeps a space heater in the darkroom, BUT while I was developing my film, the electricity went off for 15 minutes! It was so strange.  Luckily I didn't need electricity (I used my phone as a timer) and I just opened the darkroom door to let natural light in (once the film is in the developing tank you can turn on the light).

After finishing up in the darkroom, it was time for my weekly ceramics class!  My ceramics class is about a half a mile from my studio, which is awesome because when I have to drive I can park for free at my studio and not pay for a meter.  The best thing about the walk is the view of the Columbus skyline.  It's probably my favorite view of the city!  The reflection of that bridge is so beautiful in person.

The bridge I was walking on had patchy spots of thin ice that just looked like water!  I almost slipped a few times.

My ceramics class ritual is to make a cup of chai tea and sip on it for the entire 3 hour class (reheating it from time to time, of course).  People in my class have remarked that I must be a serious tea drinker but that couldn't be further from the truth.  I normally drink coffee, but this is just easier to take to class since we have an array of ceramic mugs and a microwave handy!  I've done it so much that now I start craving chai tea as soon as I walk in the ceramics studio.

Now that my clay skills are back up to par, this term I am focusing on making matching sets!  It is an extra challenge because it's harder than it looks to make multiples of the same size and shape.  Today I started with four slab cups, about 5 inches tall each.  I think they will be decorated in a coordinating but not identical way, and they are going to have another coordinating component like a matching saucer, maybe.  I'm working on gathering inspiration for this term (8 weeks) and planning to make most if not all of my pots fit into a sort of design theme that I come up with.  This is more fulfilling than just showing up to class every week and making whatever I come up with off the top of my head.

After ceramics, I picked Corey up from work and we grabbed a beer at our favorite bar in the city.  I had a delicious chocolate stout!  Now I'm at home wrapping up my lesson plans for tomorrow's class.

And that's just a typical Tuesday.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

year of bread recipe 2/50: whole wheat sandwich loaf

Well, two days ago I set out to make the perfect whole wheat sandwich loaf.  Although I have, dreams of experimenting with flat breads and rolls and buns and bagels and such this year, making a good loaf of bread was goal number one, because I use it for sandwiches, toast, skillet-toasted croutons, etc. on a daily basis.

My first try was a complete failure.  I don't think it's too difficult of a task, but it was just a fluke.  When I took it out of the bread maker, I knew something was horribly wrong with it.  I believe I either measured something incorrectly, or didn't mix the addition of gluten with the flour well enough (1 cup flour + 1 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten = bread flour).  Lesson learned: slow down.  You're making homemade bread, after all.  The recipe I used doesn't specifically call for using bread flour or the addition of extra gluten, but I've read in various sources that it's a great add-in for most breads, especially whole grain ones, because whole grain flour on its own has a lower gluten content than processed flours.  Vital wheat gluten, a protein in wheat, makes the crust better, among other benefits.

For my second loaf, I decided to leave out the extra gluten entirely, but later when I read these bread-baking tips from Smitten Kitchen, my gluten beliefs were reaffirmed, so I'll try it again next time (and mix better!).

Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf
adapted from Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread for Bread Machine by 100 Days of Real Food

4.25 cups whole wheat flour
.5 tsp salt
1.5 cups warm water
2 Tbsp brown sugar*
2 Tbsp dark molasses*
2 Tbsp olive oil
2.25 tsp yeast

*I subbed brown sugar + molasses for the honey, because I didn't have honey on hand.

I put everything in on the "dough" setting in my bread maker.  If you wanted to make this by hand, I'd recommend checking out the Smitten Kitchen article above.  It is a great guide!  At the end of the dough setting, I took it out, put it in a greased loaf pan, let it rise for 1 hour, then baked for 1 hour (rotating halfway through) at 350 degrees F.

The bread is perfect except that it stuck to the bottom of the pan, so I'll be looking into more ways to prevent that.  Overall, I'm going to call this one a success, though!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

year of sewing project 1/50: mustard yellow a-line skirt


I first sewed this pattern (New Look 6462) in 2005, and I’ve kept the pattern in my stash ever since but am just now coming back to it.  I love the way the finished skirt hangs since it’s cut on a bias (45 degree angle to the grain of the fabric), and the ease with which is comes together (It’s rated easy, after all!  No shame in that, even for more experienced sewers).

The last time I made it was for my Clothing Construction 1 course in undergrad.  The things we made in the class were: window valance, table runner, decorative pillow case with a zipper, pajama pants, and a skirt with both a zipper and a lining.  For the pj pants and skirt, we had to bring in a pattern of our own, and I chose this one.  Luckily there were no guys in my class—I wonder what they would have made in place of a skirt?  Surely not pants, as let me tell you, sewing pants is not equivalent to sewing a skirt (much harder)!

Let me tell you about my first attempt at this skirt in 2005.  I made it in a beautiful white toile fabric, with the toile details in pale blue.  I had recently ruined my favorite white skirt (I sat in blue pen ink…how tragic!) and wanted to make its replacement.  The finished skirt was impeccable.  I had never been prouder of anything I had ever sewed.   Just one problem: it did not fit me!  It turned out much too large.  The pattern says that the skirt should sit 1.5” below the waist, but with the slightest tug this thing slipped right past my hips and all the way to the floor.  In order to “pass” the assignment, we had to try on our garments to show that they fit us, so I just wore a very thick shirt which I tucked into the skirt, and a sweater over that which I pulled down over the waist to hold it up (a belt?  I don’t know why I didn’t think of that).  It worked and I passed!  And I never wore that perfectly constructed skirt again.  I cringe to think of it.  I kept meaning to take it up, but it had a lining sewn in and it would’ve been difficult to do without taking it apart.  I should have tried it on before I sewed the lining in, but that would have had to happen in a public restroom since we had to do all our sewing in class.  I want to say, however, that this ill fitting skirt was no fault of my own.  I don’t want to point fingers, but my teacher had given us the worst advice I can think of: take your measurements, then add 2” to them.  Then whatever that measurement is, make the skirt that falls into that size range.  The only thing I can figure is that what she meant to relay to us was that it is common to allow 2” of ease in the hips.  So that’s 2” of difference between your hips and the hip measurement of the finished garment.  It would be even less in the waist, and most of us made skirts that are only fitted in the waist.  But that’s not actually what she said (I remember it vividly) and sewing patterns account for ease already, so when deciding which size to make, you really do use your actual measurements!  Something was clearly lost in translation here.

This time, I managed to make a skirt that stays on, so that’s a definite step up.  I wear skirts a lot, especially for my teaching job, so this will be a welcome addition to my wardrobe.  I also have a soft spot for mustard yellow and snatched up this great mustard rib knit fabric as soon as I saw it at my thrift store (my friends all refer to this one thrift store in the city as my thrift store, because I go there so much!).  I normally sew with woven fabrics as opposed to knit, but this was a great “starter knit” for me because it has very limited stretch to it.  You never really know what length of fabric you’re getting when you buy material at a thrift store (okay, admission: I carry a mini tape measure around in my purse at all times, but I’ve never measured a big piece of fabric in the store), so when doing so I just hope for a serendipitous project to fabric match later.  I’ve had some awesome successes.  This rib knit ended up being 60” wide, 2 yards and 5” long and was $4.  My pattern called for 1 7/8 yards of 60” wide fabric!  Right on target there.  You also don’t know the exact composition of the fabric when you buy it secondhand.  I can tell this fabric is at least partially synthetic from the hand of it, but it doesn’t have that icky-synthetic-cheap-plastic feeling that many synthetics have, which is basically my rule of thumb when saying yay or nay to synthetics or blends!

I had a mustard yellow vintage zipper in my stash.  1953, wow.  The packaging is amazing.  I know it’s fun to keep old things around just to look at them, but this zipper was meant to be used for this awesome skirt, you guys.  Did you know that you can easily shorten zippers?  I learned that in Clothing Construction 1 as well, and it has come in handy a lot!  I stock up on zippers when I find them in bulk at secondhand shops or yard sales.  I almost always have a suitable color on hand, then I just have to size it myself!  The zipper for this skirt needed to be super short, only around 4”, so I shortened this 12” zipper and it does the trick.  This was also a dress zipper, which means it is connected at both the top and bottom, but I was able to snip the top closure in half with wire cutters and that did the trick.

The rib knit is very thick and the skirt would’ve been fine without a lining, but I decided to add one anyway to class it up.  And since you can’t see through the mustard, I went with a fun print I had lying around instead of a solid white or yellow (although I forgot to photograph it, sorry!).  As my 1973 Guide to Modern Clothing, third edition (my sewing bible) points out, “Prints, plaids, checks, and contrasting solid colors can be utilized effectively for linings to add flair to a garment.” Agreed!

In all, I’m very pleased with this skirt and happy that I chose it for my Year of Sewing Project 1/50.  It will get a lot of use, and I’m happy I finally have a wearable version of this pattern!

The finished skirt!

Millie wanted to be in a picture, but she never looks into the camera.

Wearing skirts like this makes me feel the need to curtsy.

the best mail day

Yesterday was a good mail day!  I received all of the sewing supplies I've recently ordered on the same felt a little like a second Christmas morning.  I got:

- 40 yards of underwear elastic in 4 different styles from Porcelynne's Lingerie & Sewing Supplies.  The selection available is amazing!  It was hard to narrow it down to four, but if I have great success then I'll get more.
- 1" bias tape maker by Clover.  I can't wait to make my own bias tape!  I'm tired of the poor selection of pre-made bias tapes.  If you sew, you know what I mean.
- Dritz 45 mm rotary cutter.  I have plans for quilting, and having a rotary cutter will also make cutting strips for bias tape much easier.  Imagine a pizza cutter for fabric...much easier for cutting straight lines than using scissors!
- Two vintage patterns from BN Vintage.  One is a blouse and the other is a skirt.  I'm really excited about the blouse pattern and it will be one of my next projects.

I've been working on my mustard yellow a-line skirt little by little the past three days and am almost finished. I've had a lot of freelance work which has kept me from finishing it, but I'll take more custom design work any day of the week, so no complaints here!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

the year of sewing

Oh, hello.  Well, so much for announcing that I would be starting over with a new blog in my last post.  I'm going back on my word now, oops.  I'm going to rework the layout and organization of my posts here, and the content will shift a little as I was saying in my last post, but I'm not going to move to a new blog.  I realized that the main thing I hated about my blog layout was all of the "recommended links" to older posts that I had at the end of each entry.  Those links were random and would often be really old and irrelevant and just things entries that, while not necessarily bad, aren't reflective of my current goals, abilities, topics, etc.  So I took those out, took out the "most viewed posts" sidebar, and will be reworking the sidebar categories.

That being said, now that you know about my Year of Bread, I want to share my second big goal this year, which I call my Year of Sewing (see a theme here?).

The honest truth is that I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember.  I’m fortunate to have a mother and grandmother who are excellent at sewing, and little by little, they’ve taught me so much.  I also minored in family and consumer sciences (the newest, most modern term for “home economics,” which was once called “home science”) when I was an undergraduate student.  I took a handful classes on sewing, textiles, and the fashion industry!  There really weren’t enough classes offered on the subject to satisfy me.  To complete my minor, I also took classes in nutrition and food science, another key interest of mine.

As a child, I remember assisting my maternal grandmother with sewing projects when I would go to visit her.  She still sews a little now, but due to arthritis in her hands she doesn’t get to sew as prolifically as she did when I was younger.  I learned all about sewing with patterns from her, as you can see above.  Aren’t we adorable?  My grandmother would sew me at least two dresses every year: one for Christmas, and one for Valentine’s Day.  How sweet!  I still remember all of the compliments I would get on those dresses.  My mom always sewed Halloween costumes for me and my brother.  Two that I remember in vivid detail were a Miss America costume for me (no, no, I was never a pageant girl!) and a Ninja Turtles costume for my brother (separate years, but those just stick out to me).  I can also recall a Dorothy costume (Wizard of Oz), Raggedy Ann, and a poodle skirt.

Growing up I hand stitched a lot of things, just little ideas that I would come up with.  I did have a child’s sewing machine (see the photo above!) but I remember it being a little too persnickety to use without assistance.  On my recent trip to my parents’ for the holidays, I found the Clueless-inspired muffler I mentioned a few entries back.  It did not disappoint!  Although the stitches were not very even, and the seams were left raw, I was quite impressed with my 9-year-old ingenuity.  I also loved my fabric choices (sorry I forgot to photograph it, but I’ll do so next time I visit) which were two mis-matchy floral prints…exactly the kinds of pairings I love now!  I can also recall sewing a Beanie baby knock-off by hand before I had any real ones.  It was a purple ladybug and was filled with pennies.  Yes, pennies!  It probably comes as no shock that I had no PVC pellets at my disposal, but looking back I wonder why I didn’t just ask my mom for some dried beans?  I know why, though.  And I know why my construction could have been a little more finished-looking on these two projects but isn’t: I did not want to ask for any help!

When I turned fifteen, my grandmother gave me a very nice White sewing machine.  It is still my machine today and I do not anticipate having to replace it any time soon!  I love it.  At that age, I really started to think about the design of the things I made.  I was not interested in being really trendy but just wanted to express my creativity in my pattern and color choices.  I made lots of purses and tote bags because following sewing patterns wasn’t my favorite thing.  There always seemed to be one step in a pattern that didn’t make sense, and misinterpreting it would practically ruin the whole design.  My craftsmanship slowly improved.  I knew what I needed to do to make a good object, but impatience sometimes got the best of me.

When I took my first sewing class my first semester of college, I really started to put more effort into having great craftsmanship.  I remember my professor grading very strictly!  I can appreciate that now, because it helped me grow so much. 

I used to have this dream, the dream of being able to sew all of my own clothing.  I would always add a someday to the end to make it sound less serious when I would talk about it because I know it’s not the most common dream to have in the 21st Century.  I would say, this is my dream someday when I have more time, someday when I have more money.  Etc.  Common excuses for most goals we can come up with.  I’m glad I didn’t get started on this dream too terribly soon, because I know my tastes would have still been evolving.  But now feels like the perfect time!  I’m approaching this goal extremely realistically, but also very seriously.  I know I won’t have my own handmade wardrobe in one year’s time, and I doubt I'll ever make every single piece of it.  But I am going to start making steps (maybe leaps) in that direction.  I must be the luckiest girl because I received a serger for Christmas!  I have long wanted one and I am so thrilled.  It will make this goal even more feasible.

So I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’m going to put enough time into sewing to sew fifty projects in 2013.  That’s slightly less than one per week.  To make this goal most doable, only 25 of those projects have to be clothing.  The other 25 can be accessories, things for my home, gifts for others, or something really fun like a stuffed animal.  I’ll probably edit this list more once I start sewing, but for now I think a nice breakdown would be:

10 blouses
5 skirts
5 dresses
3 jackets
2 pairs of pants

Pants are for dead last, after I gain more experience…I know they will be hard!  But I really want to get to that point.  I've also seen a lot of sewing bloggers lately blogging about making their own...undies! ha.  And now that I have a serger, I thought, why not, and ordered the special elastic needed.  So yeah, that's happening too, and I'll report on my results.

And my goals while sewing are:

-         -  Take utmost care to make quality garments that will last.  This is more important than meeting quantity goals.
-         - Use good quality materials.  Thrifted materials are a plus, when they are good quality in a color or pattern I would pick normally.
-         - Sew only with colors and prints that I love and know I will wear, as well as patterns that I’m really attracted to.  Find a balance between bright colors and prints versus neutrals.
-         - Sewing for special occasions is nice, but most of this year’s sewing should be for everyday wear, both casual and professional.
Learn new sewing techniques at a fun, relaxed pace, not one that overwhelms or causes frustration.  Keep reading sewing books and blogs for inspiration and information.

I'm hoping you don't think I'm crazy if you made it all the way through this post!  Thanks for reading.  I can't wait to start posting entries about all the things I have sewn.  I started this mustard-colored a-line skirt yesterday, so that should be one of my first finished items!  Just something simple to kick it off.  Last month I sewed a button up shirt and it was complicated!  Can't wait to get better at that.

What are your goals for the year?  Any goals to create something?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

the year of bread

Hello, 2013.  I am so ready for you.  2012 was just okay.  A few good things happened, but I had my share of disappointing moments.  But I'm looking up and I'm going to make 2013 great.

I have a lot of plans for blogging, but I've decided to start over with a brand new blog.  I've debated on this for awhile, and I am finally ready!  I will be working on getting it up and running over the next few days, then I'll post the link here.  I'd just like a fresh start, and to be able to categorize my posts in a more organized way.  The new blog content will focus almost completely on the act of making things.  I don't have grad school to post about anymore, and after a lot of thought, I've decided I don't want to focus on my job search or other career-related topics either.  It will just be a space for me to reflect on every act of creating that I partake in.  I'll include tutorials from time to time, or maybe geeky lessons on the history of various processes that I use.

It should be up in the next day or two.  I'm debating right now on keeping the One Lonely Apricot name (which is still the name of my Etsy shop) or changing it...and I'm pretty stuck on coming up with something new that I won't quickly grow tired of, so it will probably stay OLA!

Until then, I leave you with this...

I have several goals for 2013, which I'll share in detail on the new blog.  I'll begin here, though, with my bread-making goal.  The Year of Bread.  Do you ever make homemade bread?  Growing up, my mom would break out her bread maker for special occasions, and I always loved that.  When I moved into my first apartment, I bought a brand new bread maker from my favorite thrift store for $5!  I thought I just had to have it in order to make bread from scratch (it certainly makes it easier).  I regularly made my own bread for awhile, but eventually grew tired of the "bread maker bread texture."  I think it's something about the crust.  The shape of the bread is also very difficult to use for practical things like sandwiches, and because it's so large, it's also hard to cut into thin, even slices.

Because of this, and the fact that I somehow managed to purchase several defective jars of yeast (I've switched brands now and had no problems), I grew tired of making bread and my bread maker resided on top of my fridge for a long time and was rarely used.  I sometimes made biscuits or cornbread or pizza dough, and I often thought about making a regular loaf of bread in my loaf pan rather than my bread maker.  I just never got around to it.

Then Thanksgiving this year rolled (no pun intended) around and I decided to make homemade dinner rolls.  I took advantage of the "dough" setting on my bread maker, a setting I never use.  The rolls turned out great!  The dough setting took out all of the work of kneading the bread (the tactile process of kneading is actually appealing to me, but my kitchen is tiiiiiiny and while simultaneously making over half a dozen other dishes I knew I'd have no room for kneading bread.)

So now I think I'll just continue to use the dough setting, but do the baking part in my oven.  Those dinner rolls were so wonderful that I've made them three more times since Thanksgiving!  I made them today for the new year.  To kick off "The Year of Bread."  (It's also the year of the double Salchow but that's an entirely different story).  My goal is to try at least 25 new bread recipes this year, and to bake fresh bread every week and not buy it at the grocery store!  So I'll most likely be baking at least 52 bread loaves/recipes, but I'm setting the goal of 25 new recipes, because I know I'll want to repeat some!  I mean, come on, how could I not make these amazing dinner rolls again before 2014?