Happy Birthday to Me

March 1, 2010 · 12 comments

Tomorrow, I will turn the ripe old age of 38 years. That means, among other things, just one more stop between here and 40.

Birthdays aren’t quite what they used to be, are they? They no longer mark a day of arrival, or a chance to do something that’s newly-legal. While still fun in a This-Day-Is-Officially-All-About-ME sort of way, they just mark one significant thing: the fact that we are truly only getting older. I do have a trump card, though: the luxury of having a son who’s birthday is a mere five days after mine. So I always have his celebration to look forward to and plan for during the week following my birth anniversary — those days that might otherwise be filled with thoughts that drift ominously toward middle-age navel-gazing.

Of course, being in my late 30’s rather than under-10 doesn’t make my birthday wish-list much shorter. I’ve just traded the toys in the playroom with toys in my kitchen. My continuous list has levels: so, there’s the Lottery-Winning List, containing items such as a convection double wall oven and a commercial 6-burner gas range. Then there’s the Once-Every-Five-Years Upgrades list, containing expensive items that might replace things I already have, like this Cuisinart Stand Mixer, or a few more pieces of Le Creuset enameled cast-iron cookware. And finally, the Reality List, containing items that I might actually have a chance at getting. Things like this, this, and maybe even this (a stretch for the Reality List, I know, but I’m being hopeful).

I’ve decided, though, what to pick for myself this year. My parents usually send me some cash, since they wisely gave up long ago the idea of crawling into my uber-selective brain to figure out what I might want (the check’s in the mail, right Dad?). The item I’m going for at the end of this 38th year is the Oxo Kitchen Scale (item #2 on the Reality List). It recently received top-reviews from Cook’s Illustrated, has an 11-pound capacity, and a pull-out display that makes reading easier when you have a large item overhanging your scale (say, a box containing an item you just sold on ebay and need to purchase online postage for). But mostly I’ll be weighing flour. Pounds and pounds of it. And hoping that it makes my bread-making a touch  more predictable.

In all my years of making bread, I kept thinking it was the humidity that made the end result seemingly so unpredictable. Why else would I need only 6 1/2 cups of flour one day, and 7 1/2 the next? I was measuring my water on a level surface, and doing the dip-and-scrape method for my flour. It’s the South, I’d say. The South is so humid, I’d like to see Rose Beranbaum come down here for a week, walk in our humidified shoes, and see how predictable her bread is. But then we moved to the Midwest, and my bread is just as whack.

I finally came to my senses, after reading about three different bread books that continued to express in no uncertain terms that measuring by weight is the way to go when it comes to bread. So this week I’ll check one more item off the continuously-growing List of Kitchen Covetousness, and begin making bread in a whole-new way. I hope to convert my weekly sandwich bread recipe to one of weights, and charter new personal territory with cautious experiments in the mysterious world of sourdough.

Which is a good segue to my final, and ultimate birthday wish: that my commercial sourdough starter, rehydrated over a week ago, would actually double, and therefore tell me it’s ready to be put to work. Because if there’s one thing that money can’t buy, it’s bacterial cultures that behave themselves in a 66º kitchen.

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Jen March 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Oh happy birthday (tomorrow) Katy!!

Looking forward to hearing more about your sourdough starter, bread recipe weights and of course, what actually does make the birthday gift cut.


Rebecca Martin March 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Why the Cuisinart stand mixer rather than KitchenAid? I’d like to know your thoughts.

Also, yes, the scale. I, too, am wanting/needing one. I’d hoped to get that for Christmas, but alas.

When you work out your sandwich bread recipe according to weight measurements, will you re-share it?

Christine O. Taylor March 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I had forgotten that we share the same birthday. Sometimes I wonder about all the things I’ve forgotten, but never for long because, of course, I do not know what they are. I’m sure some of it was really good stuff.

Happy birthday! My husband and two-year-old are busily tasting the cakes they’ve just mixed up for me. Soon the house will smell like chocolate. And he’s getting our eleven-year-old knives sharpened for me as a gift. I hope that’s not unlucky.

Kelly March 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Happy Birthday! Made your white bean stew the other night – very tasty. Don’t laugh, but it was my first venture cooking white beans :)

CK March 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Ahhh, the kitchen scale. You know Scott had to have one of those, because he’s wicked precise. Of course, he used Titus’s birthday as an excuse to get a new digital one, in order to weigh the baby during those early days of breastfeeding. I laugh, but it’s amazing how often we use it now.

Happy birthday!

Angie @ Just Like The Number March 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Well, happy birthday! I’m throwing a little surprise in the mail for you today, but sadly it’s not on your wish list. Now I’m coveting that thermal French Press – what a beauty! I purchased my first kitchen scale just a few months ago. I didn’t get anything fancy, just one of the lower priced Salters at Sur La Table. Now that I have one, I’m wondering why I didn’t get one ages ago. I’m a measuring fool.

Stephanie March 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Happy birthday, Katy! I also would love to hear what interesting kitchen gadgets you got today – and see what you end up cooking/making with them. :) Oh, and now that kicking-the-bucket post makes a lot more sense. Have an awesome birthday!

katy March 2, 2010 at 8:18 am

Thanks for all the good birthday wishes! Christine, the minute I saw your name I too remembered our shared bday — I think you were the first person I ever knew who was also born on March 2. Happy day to you!

Rebecca — I haven’t done much research, since I’m not about to buy a new mixer. But I’m disillusioned with Kitchenaid, since my lower-end mixer is literally being held together with packing tape, and has been since early in its life. The Cuisinart was the Winner of CI’s most recent round of testing — and doesn’t it just look sturdy? I do wish it had a larger capacity — would love to knead more dough, and I just don’t like the look of the Bosch.

What, Angie? No thermal french press? Come ON!!! No, really — I’m looking forward to it ; )

Katherine March 2, 2010 at 10:07 am

I hope you get everything your heart & kitchen desires! Happy Birthday!

Liz Wiley March 2, 2010 at 10:24 am

Happy Birthday Katy! A mixer is on my wish list as well, but as the birthday has already passed, it moves on to the “tax return” wish list. So excited about getting to see all of you in a couple of weeks. It’s been too long.

Melissa March 3, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Let me know how weighing the flour works for the bread making. I have just decided that a perfect loaf of bread is not in my near future. Mine always over rises when in the oven. I have tried everything so maybe there is something to the weighing thing.

Should’ve read the blog then I would’ve been up on the birthday. :)

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