Some time ago, I posted photos of the views from my apartment windows. Here's what I'm seeing this morning.
It's a sad state of affairs. Frankly, I'm all choked up.
Friday, 21 June 2013
For those of us who live to tell the tale, the last few days have been rather dramatic for Singapore. Fast-food deliveries have been cancelled, the army has suspended field training, and face masks, air purifiers and eye drops are flying off the shelves. The smog, caused by the illegal burning of forests on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, is a persistent problem for us every year.
This year's smoke haze, however, might well be chronicalized. Yesterday at 1PM, our pollution standards index (PSI) soared to a smothering 371. We all held our breaths, literally. Today at 12PM the reading breached 400. If the air quality value is considered hazardous at 300, then what of 401?
What do sitting ducks do in the face of adversity? Well, according to some we tend to behave like kids.
We shop for important things.
We hoard, in case we find it necessary to squirrel in for a few days.
Then we wish (ok, I wished) that the winds would turn around and the haze makers would get a taste of their own poison. Or is that kind of prayer deemed childish?
Who knows? Tonight they might drown in their own acid rain.
Sunday, 2 June 2013
Hello June! Did you see May and April? Don't you hate it when the months quietly slip by? The weather has been unbearably hot for several weeks now. On odd occasions, the celestial sphere offers empty threats of distant rumbling and howling winds. A door slammed, windows shook. There were much ado as we rushed about to bring in the washing and secure the windows. Then - nothing. What a let down!
Discouraged by the recent warm weather, I rarely step out of the office during lunch time. Instead I make do with some fuss-free home cooked pasta or a simple homemade sandwich.
Nothing beats a homemade focaccia. This isn’t the first time I’m making my own. The previous attempts were edible but I still have questions on my mind. For instance, what can I do to get those uneven crumb structure in the middle of the bread? How do I get a crispy crust but moist, spongy insides? To make a better focaccia, I spent weeks pouring over books by the professionals, like Amy’s Bread (a gift from Wai Leng), Bourke Street Bakery and Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Although at first I did wondered why Mr. Reinhart wrote in Greek because everything went right over my head!
The books pointed out that to get that thin crust and irregular hole structure that I wanted, I needed to have a very wet dough. A wet dough is heavy, and tend to ferment too quickly and collapse. Thus, knocking back and folding the dough in the middle of its proofing time strengthens it and improves the chances of a well-developed dough. I’m now ready to make some real bread. I started to work on the focaccia dough since yesterday afternoon.
1. Mix ingredients in electric mixer for 5 to 7 minutes until everything clears the sides of the bowl and comes together in a sticky dough.
2. Turn dough out to a floured counter. Using your palms, slap the dough all over to release the gas that has been trapped inside during proofing. Pat dough into rectangle. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
3. Stretch and fold the dough letter-style. Coat the surface lightly with olive oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
4. Stretch and fold the dough letter-style. Coat the surface lightly with olive oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
How come I can never get it in a nice rectangular shape?
5. Stretch and fold the dough letter-style. Coat the surface lightly with olive oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Leave to rest for 1 hour.
6. Transfer the dough to the centre of an oiled baking pan. Pat gently with fingertips to stretch it evenly out to the edges of the pan.
7. Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough overnight.
1. 7AM: Remove dough from fridge.
2. 10:15AM Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Brush and dot surface of dough gently with olive oil, dimple it in several spots with fingertips to prevent air pockets from developing underneath. Sprinkle surface lightly with coarse sea salt and dried oregano.
All dressed up and ready for the oven
3. Bake for 10 minutes then turn the loaf around and bake for further 10 minutes.
That was a long process! How did the bread turn out?
What about the crumb structure?
Can't say I'm satisfied with the result but it definitely looks and tastes way better than this!
Bread dough: 300 grams strong flour, 4 grams instant yeast, 5 grams salt, 10 grams extra virgin olive oil, 200 – 220 grams water. Topping: extra virgin olive oil, dried oregano, coarse sea salt