(Left - second loaf baked, right - third loaf, most recent, much better)
Saturday morning I baked my third loaf of bread. Each time, I experiment with a few more variables to see what works best for me. This was by far my most successful loaf. These last two times I've done periodic stretch and folds instead of intensive kneading, and I much prefer that. The previous loaf was the worst - I decided to test the proofing setting on my oven (which I learned afterwards runs at about 100 degrees [!!!]), and the dough way overproofed, which left me with a dense and dry loaf. This time, I upped the hydration of my loaf from 60 to 70%, and proofed overnight for 12 hours in the refrigerator. This loaf spent a touch too long in bulk fermentation and I didn't degas before shaping the boule, so it went into the oven a tiny bit overproofed and therefore I didn't get quite as much oven spring as I was hoping for, but I still ended up with a nice soft, open crumb, a more tangy taste from the long cold fermentation in the fridge, and a golden and shattery crust - hurray! (You can see the comparison between this most recent loaf and the one before it above.) I'm finally feeling like I'm getting a good handle on this whole thing and its very exciting.
I'm recreationally doing watercolors these days. I'm trying to push my creative envelope a bit and see if I can't surprise myself, and it's been a great exercise. I'm learning more and more about myself recently and my need for these various forms of creative expression. All of my hobbies are important and provide outlets for various aspects of my creative itch, but watercolors are different than what sewing/knitting/baking have been for me so far; sewing and knitting tend to be more of a "left-brain" activity for me - they are more technical, more problem solving, but watercolors are nothing like that - they allow me to turn the left brain off a little bit and just sort of zone out and enjoy the colors. It's good. My right brain needs a little workout, it's been getting a bit flabby, and I find that keeping it awake positively influences the other activities in my life (Can you tell from what I've been painting what's been on my mind? :))
And on a completely unrelated note - you might be thinking now that all we do all winter is eat donuts and ice cream - which is not true. Which is a little true. (Okay we eat a decent amount of Haagen-Dazs.) But Indy's smile of pure delight in the background was too good not to include. And to temper the junk food pictures I included a picture of Indy peeling a clementine, which we truly eat far more often than ice cream and donuts. She's been insisting on peeling them herself and it's reminding me that it's really time to start more Montessori-style activities with her. Also, yes she is wearing the same shirt in both pictures, which were taken two days in a row. What, you put your kids in fresh clothes every day? Okay - you're far more efficient than me.