The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

Adventures in Sourdough IV: English Muffins January 24, 2009

Filed under: baking,bread,sourdough — Amanda @ 17:32
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Sourdough English Muffins

Sourdough English Muffins

Chuck and I are big fans of homemade “Egg McMuffins” and I recently bought some English Muffin Rings from King Arthur,  so these were high on the sourdough to-do list. It was the first time I’ve made homemade english muffins of any sort, and also the first time I’d refrigerated my starter for more than a week between uses, so I was ready for adventure when I tried these out.

I took the starter (it’s approx. 100% hydration) out the fridge in the evening and fed it, and was happy to see that it had become active overnight.

sourdoigh starter just after feeding

sourdough starter just after feeding

starter after overnight activation

starter after overnight activation

I’m really fond of the two quart measuring cup that I got recently – between the graduations on the cup and a piece of masking tape to mark the initial level of starter/dough, it’s really easy to see exactly how the dough has changed in volume.

I was using the recipe from Ed Wood’s Classic Sourdoughs as a guide, and with the help of his “Consistency Template” in an appendix I was able to convert the recipe, which called for 1/2 cup of sponge (stiffer) starter into a recipe for my liquid starter – it’s quite a handy feature of the book! For the initial rise, I took 3/4 c of my activated starter and mixed it with 7oz of flour and 6 oz of water, then let it sit for about five hours:

starter, flour, water

starter, flour, water

five hours later, ready for the final ingredients

five hours later, ready for the final ingredients

At this point, I added a cup of warm milk with 3Tbs melted butter, some salt, and four more cups of flour; then I kneaded the dough and cut it into circles using one of my English Muffin rings.

proto-muffins, at start of final rise

proto-muffins, at start of final rise

I put them onto cornmeal-covered parchment and let them rise for about an hour (they probably could have gone longer, but I was a bit time-crunched, and they ended up with some skillet-spring, so it all worked out in the end).

slightly puffy, one hour later

slightly puffy, one hour later

Cooking the muffins actually took quite a while – I don’t have the recommended electric skillet, and I didn’t want to bake them (feeling that a skillet would be more authentic), so I could only cook four or five at a time in our largest skillet. The instructions were to brown the bottoms for two minutes at 400 degrees, then turn the muffins over to cook the tops at 325 for 8 minutes, and then flip again to cook the bottoms for 6 minutes over the lower temperature. Without the tempurature control an electric skillet offers, I pretty much guessed at the temperature ranges and adjusted my gas burner flame frequently, so my muffins are rather unevenly browned.

first batch of muffins, bottoms lightly browned

first batch of muffins, bottoms lightly browned

muffin tops, lightly browned

muffin tops, lightly browned

After flipping the first batch of muffins for the final time, I was excited – they actually look like English Muffins! As soon as the last muffins finished (it took a little over an hour of muffin-flipping to get through them all), I sliced one of the cooler muffins and served it lightly toasted with butter and salt as an afternoon snack – yum! They don’t quite have the same nooks and crannies as the ones we get at the store (probably baking soda acheives that better than sourdough for these guys, but that’s another experiment altogether!), but they were fabulously tasty and the cornmeal crunch helps make them seem english muffin-y. The best part is, the recipe makes enough to enjoy for a few days AND freeze for later, so we still have some left to enjoy.

Another batch, better-browned than the first

another batch, better-browned than the first

Check out Yeastspotting at Wild Yeast for other fabulous baking ideas! This is my first submission, but I’m looking forward to adding more as my Adventures In Sourdough continue!

 

Yosemite Hike: North Dome January 18, 2009

Filed under: hiking,outdoors,vacation — Amanda @ 16:36
Tags: , , , ,
View from the top of North Dome

View from the top of North Dome

Yosemite Flashback #3: North Dome, September 18, 2008:

We woke up early for another hike near the Tuolumne Meadows area of the park (and therefore a 45-minute drive to our trailhead). As we pulled onto the road to drive out of Yosemite Valley we were stopped to wait for oncoming traffic, half of the road being closed for a proscribed burn going on about half a mile away from our room. As we waited for our turn to go, we saw a bachelor heard of mule deer – there must have been at least eight of them: two with larger racks indicating older bucks, most with six or eight points, and one who had lost an antler in a fight. We watched them go by and take their breakfast in the neighboring meadows before we got to drive along the valley floor. We watched the burn area as we rode slowly by, realizing that we’d been hiking in the area just the day before as part of our six mile Valley Loop rest day walk, where now there were red embers and smoldering undergrowth, hot enough to melt our hiking boots for sure!

Proscribed burn

Proscribed burn

After leaving the valley, we made our way to the North Dome trailhead. We were the first car to arrive there that morning, with a second car pulling in just as we started off.

North Dome trailhead

North Dome trailhead

We made our way downhill from the trailhead, following a crumbling paved road that apparently dates back to the Porcupine Crek campground that closed thirty years ago. The first part of the hike was pleasantly shady, even a little cold given our relatively early start. Before too long we came to the end of the road, where the campground used to be. We continued on the trail, climbing and descending leisurely through the forest. After about a mile and a half, our trail met with others that descended into Yosemite Valley via Mirror Lake or Yosemite Falls – it’s fun how so many of the trails actually go from the valley walls all the way to the bottom. We did another mile or so of mostly shady ups and downs, finally rising up to Indian Ridge and the Indian Rock spur trail.

Looking ahead on the North Dome trail

Looking ahead on the North Dome trail

We decided to save the side-trip for the way back, and so prepared for the more-exposed section of trail ahead by reapplying sunblock and shedding our coats and pantlegs. We continued on down the side of the ridge, where we got our first panoramic view of Clouds’ Rest and Half Dome, then came out onto a mini-dome just before North Dome.

View from the ridge, North Dome trail

View from the ridge, North Dome trail

We descended further until we reached another trail junction (and our last chance to head down to Yosemite Falls instead of North Dome) – only half a mile left from the junction to North Dome!

Half Dome, from North Dome trail juntion

Half Dome, from North Dome trail juntion

We headed down the surprisingly steep trail to our left, dropping about two hundred feet of elevation in only about a tenth of a mile. Managing to reach the bottom with ankles and knees mostly unscathed on the uneven path, we descended a little more through a small pine forest and then climbed up the broad, gently sloping back of North Dome.

At the top of North Dome

On top of North Dome

At the top, we took lots of pictures of the great view (and the smoke rising up from the proscribed burns), chatted with the pair of hikers who had passed us on the trail, and enjoyed our pack-flattened sandwiches. From our spot on the top we could see people on top of Half Dome – some of them got really close to the edge!

Smoke rising up from the valley floor

Smoke rising up from the valley floor

A cairn on North Dome

A cairn on North Dome

View from North Dome, to the northeast

View from North Dome, to the northeast

Finally we headed back, dreading the steep climb back up to the trail junction, but we took that sharp ascent slowly and made it to the top safely and fairly quickly.

Two-thirds of this hike’s elevation gain is on the return trip, so we braced ourselves to climb the ridge again. As we headed back, we begain to see a trickle of people heading out to the dome – far fewer hikers than we had seen on the trek to Half Dome. We plodded along back to our trailhead, happy to see the Indian Rock arch from afar rather than climb higher to get closer, and happy to get out of the sun as we descended into the forested part of the trail again.

Almost back!

Almost back!

We reached the junctions with the Valley trails fairly quickly, and were happy to see the sign marking the campground road – only 0.7 miles to go.

Decaying stump along the trail

Decaying stump along the trail

The final ascent was not quite as steep as we remembered from the walk in, except for the final two-tenths of a mile. Just as the slope was cranked up beneath our feet, we were close enough to see the cars parked at the trailhead through the trees, providing us with the final burst of energy needed to finish the hike.

Half Dome and meadow, just before sunset

Half Dome and meadow, just before sunset

After returning to Yosemite Village and grabbing an early dinner, we took a sunset walk around the valley and headed over to the amphitheater at Lower Pines campground (unless it was Upper Pines or North Pines) for a ranger talk about bats. The program was super-fun, with lots of up-close slides of different species of bats – it was my favorite of the evening activities we attended at the park. It was even better because we saw bats flying around the bridge near the campground just before the talk.

Half Dome, sunset

Half Dome, sunset

Buck in the meadow

buck in the meadow

bridge near the campground

bridge near the campground - bats live here!

 

To the Zoo! January 11, 2009

Our San Diego Zoo membership gives us access to monthly early-hours events at the zoo (and quarterly ones at the Wild Animal Park), and occasionally we even manage to go! Yesterday we woke up early and headed over to Influx for some coffee and The Best Pastries Ever before heading over to the zoo.

photo from influxcafe.com

We got to the zoo just as they began letting people in at 8am – there were probably about 100 people attending the early-hours program – and shuffled our way to the morning’s presentation at the Guinea Singing Dogs exhibit. There, we watched two 14-week-old cubs play around with dad as mom watched from a hill-top perch. The pups were so cute!

Guinea Singing Dog pup

Guinea Singing Dog pup

Guinea pup exploring his enclosure

Guinea pup exploring his enclosure

Next door to the singing dog presentation, a keeper was also talking about (but not sharing a cage with!) the stripped hyenas. I think these guys are usually sleeping when we walk by, because I was surprised by how big they are when they’re up and active.

A Striped Hyena

A Striped Hyena

After leaving the hyenas, we went down to check on the warthogs. There were five of them in the enclosue, including the gnarled old male with giant warts and crooked tusks.

Warthog on a walkabout

Warthog on a walkabout

When one of his friends woke up, the big male retreated to his warthog cave – trying to hide?

Warthog Cave!

Warthog Cave!

We then headed up through bear canyon to elephant mesa, where we saw a mob of meerkats taking in the morning sun.

Meerkats

Meerkats

Meerkats

Meerkats

More Meerkats!

More Meerkats!

The Baird’s tapirs were already sleeping by the time we visited them:

Baird's Tapir - Count the toes!

Baird's Tapir - Count the toes!

But the pack of capybaras (they’ve multipled! there used to be two but there were at least ten yesterday!) that share their enclosure were awake and quite skittish, running away every time the guanaco came close to them.

Capybaras

Capybaras

The giant anteaters were hiding out of site, and the Giant Vietnamese Squirrel was apparently too tiny to see, but we got a very close up view of the two rhinos on elephant mesa:

rhino head

rhino head

friendly rhinos

friendly rhinos

And the giraffes were enjoying a morning in the sun.

Baby Giraffe

Baby Giraffe

Giraffe eating breakfast

Giraffe eating breakfast

We then headed down tiger river (the three young tigers were snuggled in close to the glass at the first viewing window), and came to the Malayan tapir enclosure for what turned out to be the highlight of the day. Chukai, Chantek, and Annie were quite active and very vocal, chasing each other around the enclosure and the pool. We heard a lot of the typical tapir squealing, but also a coughing/sneezing-sounding noise that we hadn’t heard tapirs make before.

Malayan Tapirs in the pool

Malayan Tapirs in the pool

Looking for apples in the pool

Looking for apples in the pool

Tapirs everywhere

tapirs everywhere!

After our lengthy stay at the tapir enclosure, we stopped by to see the okapis, and then walked over to see the Harpy Eagles before heading home.

Okapi hiding in the trees

Okapi hiding in the trees

 

Athena Takes a Bath January 9, 2009

Filed under: kitties — Amanda @ 19:45
Tags:

Athena was getting to be a bit of a Smelly Cat by last weekend,so we decided to have a kitty spa night, with long-put-off nail clipping and a bath. The nail clipping was fairly easy, but we were all set for craziness during the bath. I put on my apron and we set up the kitchen sink with some lukewarm water and a bit of vanilla-scented shower gel. Chuck had the job of holding her down in the sink, while I was in charge of the actual washing. Much to our surprise, she was actually quite calm! She tried to bolt once or twice, but then relaxed and maybe even enjoyed her bath experience a little bit! Afterward, she was adorably de-poufed, and she spent the next two hours giving herself a bath. The next morning, she was delightfully fluffy and clean-smelling – well worth the effort!

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(Almost) Everything Else I Did In December January 3, 2009

Eeeek! It’s already 2009, and I still have at least three posts to write from last year, plus all those activities I never got around to blogging! December was actually quite a busy month – we went to four concerts, did a lot of cooking, had a creole-chocolate dinner, and drank some fun beers! Here’s a pictorial tour through December, not necessarily in order:

Serpent’s Stout, another great beer offering from The Lost Abbey:

Serpant Stout from The Lost Abbey

Serpents Stout from The Lost Abbey

We saw Po’ Girl in concert for the second time this year, again thanks to Acoustic Music San Diego:

Po Girl

Po Girl

We ate a dragon fruit!

We ate a dragon fruit!

We attended the Creole Christmas chocolate tasting dinner at Eclipse Chocolat (I’m definitely looking forward to future dinners there!)

Smoked Tomato-Crawfish Bisque

Smoked Tomato-Crawfish Bisque

Truffles from Eclipse

Truffles from Eclipse

We saw Kenny Eng, Dave Booda, and Veronica May (an awesome musician AND Take Lessons music instructor!) at Lestat’s :

Veronica May

Veronica May

Dave Booda

Dave Booda

We drank another of our Bruery beers:

Saison Rue - The Bruery

Saison Rue - The Bruery

I made a cornbread recipe from Red Sage for our Christmas dinner:

Cute little corn sticks!

Cute little corn sticks!

We visited the Main Tap Tavern in El Cajon (yep, East County finally gets a good beer bar AFTER we move!)

Sampler at Main Tap

Sampler at Main Tap

Chuck got a new tapir:

Chuck and his new stuffed tapir

Chuck and his new stuffed tapir

With our sourdough pizza, we drank Nørrebro North Bridge Extreme IPA, one of my picks from our trip to the Bottle Shop at Pizza Port Carlsbad (and possibly the first Danish beer I’ve had!)

Northbridge Extreme IPA

North Bridge Extreme IPA

I tried to chase Athena out of my gym bag:

Athena in the bag

Athena has a New Years resolution to hit the gym!

Went to Lestat’s (again!) for Josh Damigo’s birthday concert, with Rob Dees and Bushwalla:

Rob Dees

Rob Dees

Josh Damigo

Josh Damigo

Bushwalla

Bushwalla

Drank Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout:

Lagunitas Cappucino Stout

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout

And to top it all off and ring in the new year, we went to an awesome concert at the Casbah: Steve Poltz and the Cynics, Gregory Page, the Truckee Brothers, and the Rugburns!


Photo from Flickr member: Soaked In Sin

 

 
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