Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Early Morning Web Surfing

This morning, as I do every morning, I dragged myself into the kitchen and set up my stovetop Bialetti to brew my cup of coffee. I love the Bialetti because it gives me more control over the final product than those fancy one-cup machines, but I can still brew just one cup. The result is a wonderful, high-flavor cup; I usually still see oils on the top, and it sometimes even has crema if I catch it before it gets too hot.

Anyway, while I wait for the coffee, I toast a slice of my homemade bread, flip open my MacBook, and begin perusing Ravelry. If you don't knit or crochet, don't bother clicking the link; you won't get it. If you do and you haven't been to Ravelry, I command you: Get thee hence and sign up. It's a spectacular way to waste time.

Ravelry has a robust and lively bunch of bulletin boards, and this morning I signed on to find I'd been magic linked (Rav term - they sent me a PM to head over to this thread) to a conversation about cooking from scratch and general DIY cooking and kitchen planning. The ladies on this thread run the gamut from, "I love my frozen ravioli! BACK OFF!" to "Oh my heavenly STARS, the other day I harvested milk from the goatling whose birth I attended for the nanny I bought last spring, and then I used specialized bacteria harvested from the back of a cave in Malaysia to make goat yogurt, and YOU ARE A SINNER DOOMED TO EVERLASTING PERIL IF YOU EAT PROCESSED FOOD!

I read the five pages of comments because I am turning into a zombie. I wanted to respond every third post, but I realized that I had the makings of a fine post kvetching about my current bread-making situation, so I decided to save it all for you. Am I not good and generous with you?

Yesterday morning, the house still was a shambles. JB had discovered Sunday night that the pipes in the attic leading to the master bath were around halfway clogged and had to be replaced. Not being a plumber, he needed Mark and I both there to help him with the replacements, which we were delighted to do. This involved a lot of standing around and waiting, so I decided to throw together a batch of bread for the Christmas packages I planned to mail out.

I have a very expensive Kitchen Aid Professional HD stand mixer. Two years ago, someone gave my husband two tickets to the Boeing Christmas party in Galveston. The tickets were valued at $20 a piece, so we leapt. When we arrived, they handed us two sheets of tickets - 20 tickets each - with which to enter drawings for prize packages at the front of the room. The mixer beckoned, and without having to discuss it at all, we entered and won. We made out with the mixer, a set of knives, and a nice, polished chrome buffet set with electric burners.

I use it the mixer to mix and knead my bread because the bread machine just does not understand when to leave well enough alone. Every attempt at breadmaking without a mix resulted in a dense, dry, inedible brick of yeasty wheat. After taking a class with Gail at Bethlehem Harvest, I decided to use the Kitchen Aid for kneading. She explained how it would work, what I should expect, and how to test the dough to see if it is adequately kneaded.

The quality of my bread improved immediately, and I began making two batches a week to keep up with the demands. Everyone eats it for breakfast, and the girls also make their lunches with it. We all munch on it constantly, so much so that I was running through about 15 pounds of flour each month.
So we looked at our budget and agreed: We bought the grain mill.

So yesterday during one of the lulls where JB didn't need me, I ran into the kitchen and threw five cups of berries into the mill and made flour. If you're interested, I use Prairie Gold White Wheat berries. I layered all the components into the mixer and let it go.

In order to get the proper consistency on my dough, I have to let it knead for about 10 minutes. Yesterday, at 9 minutes, 45 seconds, I smelled something hot and funky (not your mom), and the mixer stopped. Yes, it just stopped. I called Kitchen Aid, but it's out of warranty. It will be $32 just to have it shipped there and back to have them look at it, and the tech said I should expect the repair to cost half the value of the blender. I was so sad. We had figured we'd need to buy a more industrial mixer to keep up with the demands (and by need, I mean that I am a spoiled brat), and we'd decided we would save up next year and buy the Bosch Universal Plus Mixer. We did not plan to buy that this month. Especially not after spending so much on the home repairs.

Notice how this photo is centered and larger than the others. Can you hear the chorus of angels?

Then I looked at the math. Gail's running a special this month (because Bosch is) where I can buy the mill and the mixer together for $599. This is about a $30 discount, and Gail offered to honor it since I just bought my mill a week and a half ago. That would mean I need to come up with $360. I have some cash saved that I was planning to use to buy into the 2010 Rockin' Sock Club; it's all saved from my personal spending money, so I wouldn't be depleting the family account for my habits. I mean hobbies. I had a couple of relatively minor complaints about the 2009 club and had been thinking about joining the Woolgirl club instead, but balked at the $375 price tag. I decided I was willing to put that toward the mixer.

We also received a check for $50 from my grandmother for a family Christmas. That brings us to within $75 of the sale price for the mixer. It might be worth doing.

Mark and I took the Kitchen Aid apart last night and could find nothing wrong with it. No stripped gears and nothing appeared burnt or melted. It is really well made, though. Enlightening to open her up. I made a half-batch of bread last night with no problem, and I figure I'll make a full batch tonight and see how it goes. We think what happened is that it has an auto-shutoff feature that doesn't allow it to overheat.

Problem is, now I'm kinda jonesing for the new, fancy schmancy one. What do you think? Should I splurge? Could I sell the Kitchen Aid to make back some of the money? Would that be unethical? Obviously, I would explain what happened to any buyers. Should I butch up and be frugal? Oh! But I have moneys, and it's burning a hole in my pocketses!

Is anyone still reading? Are you asleep now?

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