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Easy Miso Bread; AKA I Ain’t Got Time for That Sourdough Marathon Bread; AKA 80/20 Bread

For folks looking to make their own bread at home (or bread to share with neighbors), I’m sharing my recipe for an easy-to-make, very-little-kneading round rustic bread. It’s super forgiving recipe that makes crowd-pleasing bread without needing a sourdough starter or a KitchenAid mixer.

Mine’s a variation on Eric at Breadtopia’s Almost No Knead recipe , which is based on Cook Illustrated’s recipe, which was inspired by NYT’s Mark Bittman’s influential 4-hour bread (read the first comment or watch the video for the real recipe).

Mine’s a bit different in that I use miso to make it sourdough-ish. That works because miso is fermented, giving you echos of sourdough’s fermentation without the work.

If you are absolutely new to bread making, start with the Bittman recipe. Note, unfortunately, that the NYTimes has still not updated the recipe on that page and you have to look at the first comment or watch the video to get the right one.

My version is a bread that rises overnight, then has a very easy knead, then bakes in a dutch oven.

You will need:

  1. ¼ tsp of instant yeast (¼ tsp) Active Dry will work jut add 1/8 a tsp more
  2. A dutch oven of some sort – I use this Lodge 3 Qt Cast Iron Combo (that can take heat to 450)
  3. 15 oz All-purpose, white or bread flour 
  4. 1 tbs Vinegar of any kind (I use white vinegar as default)
  5. 3 to 4 oz Beer (any kind)
  6. 6 to 7 oz. Water (tap is fine)
  7. 1 to 1.5 tsp of salt (table, sea or kosher all work)
  8. 1 or 2 Tbs of Miso (optional but so good – I prefer brown or red, but any kind will do)
  9. Some oil, preferably of the sprayable type
  10. A mixing bowl, preferably two
  11. A plastic bag big enough to go over the mixing bowl

Nice to have:

  1. Parchment paper
  2. Digital scale (very helpful)
  3. Bread whisk
  4. Big silicone mat
  5. Bread scraper or equivalent tool 
  6. Bread scoring tool or a straight razor
  7. Oven gloves

So first thing to do is measure out 15 ounces of flour (about 3 cups, but far better to weigh it) into a large bowl. Then add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt (1 tsp if using Miso). Give a quick stir. Then add ¼ tsp of active yeast.

Now do the wet ingredients: 

If using Miso:, put a 1 or more Tbs of Miso into 6 ozs of water. I do this in a 12 oz Ball jar, since it has markings on it. Microwave this for 1 minute or so. This gets it hot and lets you whisk the miso until it dissolves. You can use whatever implement works best to break up the miso, but be careful if using an immersion blender – this water is warm.

Then add 4 oz of beer, preferably cold. You want the liquid to be lukewarm to warm when adding to the flour so not to kill the yeast.. Now stir in one Tbs of vinegar to the liquid.

Now pour the liquid into the flour. I tend to mix in about 80% of the liquid in the first pour. If you have a bread hook use that to mix up the water and flour. If not, just use your hands or some other tool. Then add the rest of the liquid and get all the flour incorporated. If need be add another oz or two of beer or water. You’ll have a shaggy mixture, which is fine. No need to shape into a ball, the yeast will do that for you.

Now put the bowl into a plastic bag and set it aside somewhere moderate temperature for ~ 12 hours. This is very loose. I’ve done 8 hours and 16 hours and it works out fine.

I tend to make this later in the evening then bake in the a.m.

The next morning, take the bread bowl out of the bag. It should have risen about 1.5 to 2x times its original size and have yeasty aeration holes on top. 

Now, do the second rise and bake. This is easy to do but requires a couple of hours. You’ll knead the dough, let it rest for 2 hours and preheat the oven.

First, if you can, get another bowl and line it with parchment paper. Spray a little oil on it. This is where the dough goes next. You can use the same bowl but it adds a small bit of mess unless you clean the bowl between uses.

Flour a surface (I prefer a large silicon mat) and get the dough out of the bowl. A bread scraper helps get the dough out, but you can also use a spatula or this great, cheap silicon tool. Sprinkle a little flour on the top so the dough isn’t sticky to the touch. 

Now you knead the bread 8 to 15 times, dusting with flour if you run into wet dough. This is pretty light kneading and you can even do it without your hands using the bread scraper or silicon tool

Form this into a ball and if there’s a seam put it on the bottom. Now put this on the parchment paper in the bowl and put it back in the bag.

You will bake this in 2 hours. 

Set a timer for 90 minutes: 

This is when you preheat the oven with the Dutch oven in it. 

Preheat the oven at 475 or 500 degrees (experiment later).

Let it preheat for 30 minutes.

Take a knife and score your bread. 4 short lines with a serrated knife is good (I now use a straight-edge razor).  This lets the bread expand when baking. It’s not a big deal if you forget and you can do whatever pattern you like. If you want the bread to look fancy, sprinkle a little flour over the top.

Carefully take out the big part of the dutch oven. If you don’t have parchment paper, sprinkle some corn meal on the bottom to prevent sticking. Now put the top on, put in the middle of the oven and reduce the temperature to 450 or 425.

With my oven, I like to put a baking sheet on the rack below the rack the bread is on. This prevents over-browning. This might not be necessary in your oven.

Bake for 30 minutes covered. This uses steam to get a crust on the bread.

Then open the oven, take the lid off the dutch oven. You can leave it in the oven or put it on the stove. Careful this is VERY hot.

Bake another 15 to 18 minutes.

Take the dutch oven out, using oven mitts or gloves. Use the mitts to take out the bread (via the parchment paper) and put it on a cooling rack or oven burner for 30 minutes (if you can wait that long).

Tada you have bread.

This bread is very forgiving and very versatile. You can throw in hard and/or soft cheeses (add more than you think), add garlic, nuts or spices, substitute whey for the water/beer, experiment with different kinds of beer, vinegar, etc. I’ve experimented with adding extras when first mixing the dough and when kneading and haven’t found a big difference other than better distribution when added in the first stage.

You can also use this same basic slow rise technique to make a decent sandwich loaf using a different pan. See the variation as the second recipe here.

Notes on ingredients/equipment:

Buy a 16 oz bag of active yeast: put it in a Mason or Bell Jar in the freezer. It will stay good for *years*. This is what I use and love: Saf Instant Red

King Arthur Bread flour is my favorite, but any flour will do. If you want to use whole wheat, use it as only part of the flour, add more liquid and expect a much denser bread.

I quite like using a cast-iron dutch oven and now have two so I can bake two loaves at once. The 3-quart size is just perfect for this. They do get heavy and you may need to move them with two hands so I *strongly* recommend oven mitts for both hands. These are what I use (a fine Christmas gift from my partner).

I find it easier to make 2 loaves at a time (even when I had only one dutch oven) as the bread freezes nicely (put it inside 2 sealed plastic bags). It’s not too much more work to make 2 or more at once than it is to make one loaf.

Chromecast, the Wonder Device, Ties Together the Little A/V System That Can

marquee-productMy dog is named Little. My living room is little. And my audio-video set-up is little.

But my dog and my A/V setup are awesome.

The awesomeness of the latter is in no small part thanks to a really nice boost from Google Chromecast. For those unfamiliar, it’s a nifty little device that plugs into your TV or monitor and allows you to stream movies and music that you control from your iPad, Chrome browser or Android-powered device.

This is a subjective Chromecast review, based on how I watch and listen to stuff. If you’ve already got a Roku or Boxee, you probably don’t need this — thought it might still be fun for traveling. I also managed to buy one of the $35 devices while Google was offering 3 months of Netflix, which I already subscribe to, so it cost me something like $20 shipped. I bought it from Google, which came with a shipping fee, but you can buy it through Amazon and get free Prime shipping.

My home A/V system is simple. I have a great little Asus 23″ LED widescreen monitor, a $25 T-class amp, a power supply for the amp, and a set of older Mission bookshelf speakers. If I were to set it up today, I’d probably go with this sub $200 Samsung TV (which would probably double OK as a monitor) and these $50 bookshelf speakers.

41n04jEFZEL (1)Previously to watch movies, I’d just hook my laptop up to the monitor via HDMI cable and using a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, I’d send the audio to the amp. For music, I’d attach a little Android something (either my phone or a Nexus 7) to the same 3.5mm cable.

Now the setup is a bit different. I plugged the Chromecast into the HDMI port on the back of the monitor and then ran a USB power cable for the Chromecast to the power strip. (If your monitor/TV has a more advanced HDMI port, it can power Chromecast or if your monitor/TV has powered USB ports, you can run a short cable from the dongle to the USB port to get power. My monitor had neither.)

I left the 3.5mm cable dangling from the amp, and now run a 3.5mm to RCA cable from the audio out on the monitor to the RCA in jacks on the amp. (That way I can send audio either from Chromecast or from any other source that has a 3.5mm headphone plug.)

With Chromecast, I can now select a Netflix film from my phone, and quickly throw it to the Chromecast. Chromecast takes over the job of streaming. You can then use your phone to control the playback and volume, and do whatever you like on the phone otherwise.

You can do the same with YouTube and Google Music, which makes for a nice working environment. The monitor and amp sit on the other side of the room, and I can pause, lower the volume or change tracks right from my phone. The set-up for Chromecast-enabled apps is very nice – your router isn’t streaming music to your phone which then sends it Chromecast. Instead, your phone tells Chromecast to do the streaming and your phone just acts like a remote control.

That works differently for Chrome browser tabs, which you can also throw to Chromecast. This works fine for most things, but it’s still in beta and highly dependent on your WiFi strength (there’s two hops going on).

Amazon videos look awful and the sound is out of sync — but perhaps Amazon will finally come up with an Android app for its video and make it work with Chromecast. While you can make Chrome open a pretty amazing range of video files, so far getting them to play nicely via Chromecast hasn’t happened.

But throwing a Vine or a webpage or a map or a YouTube video from an open Chrome browser tab is pretty simple once you install the extension on your laptop or desktop browser (so long as everything’s on the same WiFi connection). So far this doesn’t extend to Chrome on Android.

The sound for movies is quite good and will get more than plenty loud. The picture quality is great, but in my case, the WiFi doesn’t have to go far — the router is just a few feet from the Chromecast.

Music from Google Play (where you can upload 20GB of music for free) sounds very good as well, but it’d be nice to have Rdio, Spotify and Pandora support.

The two biggest drawbacks of my setup is that the monitor has to be on and that I still have to physically hookup my laptop to stream DVD rips. There’s also a very, very slight hiss from the monitor which you can hear if the volume is very high, but the source is quiet.

Don’t get me wrong – the sound is still impressively clear and there’s almost no way you’d ever notice this during a movie. you don’t get big bass from this system, but you do get incredible clarity and ambience for not much money.

Seriously, connect a T-class amp with a good power supply and bookshelf speakers and put on Bohemian Rhapsody and you’ll see how it handles layers of sound, quiet passages, vocals and a wall of sound.

So for now when I really want to listen to music intently where I might notice that little hum, I connect the music directly to the 3.5mm cable.

But with Chromecast, I find have music on much more often as I can quickly control it from my phone. The only annoying thing there is that Google Play doesn’t recognize long clicks on the volume rockers as next and previous track messages, so you do have to turn on the screen to adjust tracks.

But that’s just nitpicking. Chromecast takes a very solid and astoundingly inexpensive A/V setup and pulls it all together — and the setup of Chromecast is incredibly easy.

So take a $150 monitor/TV, $50 set of speakers, $50 amp/power supply combo, and toss in the $35 Chromecast and $15 worth of cables and for $300 you’ll have a great sounding and looking audio/video system for a small to medium-size room that you can control from your phone or tablet.

That’s just simply incredible. And as more services add Chromecast support, it’s only going to get better.



Founders and Funders: Stop Screwing Users on Privacy

Michael Arrington comes to the defense Sunday of one of his Crunchfund portfolio companies, Path, arguing that the New York Times‘s Nick Bilton is just piling on after Path “showed its belly” by apologizing for secretly copying and storing its users’ contacts in a company database.

But Arrington’s just wrong – it’s not piling on – and just because Path apologized, that doesn’t mean that it or the industry should get a free pass.

Bilton’s main point is spot-on: Path CEO Dave Morin, a Facebook veteran, should have known and did know that secretly copying users’ contact information was wrong and that his behavior is becoming all too familiar in the Valley.

Set aside Morin’s tenure at Facebook. Simply look at this exchange with Gawker in regards to the same issue with the first version of Path – where Morin states “Path does not retain or store any of your information in any way.”

Knowing that was an issue, Morin went on to launch a future version that secretly plundered the contacts from users’ iPhones. Path didn’t  even bother to use hashes to protect the data and stored it on their own servers in plain text. Path isn’t even using encryption to keep contact data on their servers, instead saying it’s protected with an “industry standard firewall,” which is just laughable to anyone who has followed the exploits of Anonymous over the last year.

But Arrington says it’s time to let up on Path because the company apologized and deleted the data. After all, Morin thought he could solve the problem by saying Path was being “proactive” in building a consent mechanism into upcoming versions of the app.

Bullshit. It’s time to stop letting start-ups and big companies (I’m looking at you, Google and Facebook) pretend they don’t understand basic fair information practices and then just “apologize” later after backing slightly off a huge insult to user privacy.

For start-ups that don’t know – the rules are really simple and basically boil down to “Don’t be a secretive asshole.”

Fair Information Practices have been around since the early 1970s. There are five of them. Notice, Choice, Access, Security and Redress. Basically that means you tell people why and how you collect data and what you do with it. You give them a choice about whether to provide it and a way for them to see/correct/delete. You use real security (e.g. in Path’s case, if they didn’t use MD5 hashes instead of collecting the plain-text, then the database should be encrypted and access to the database should be extremely limited inside Path). The company should also say what it plans to do if it violates that agreement.

This stuff is extremely basic, and Bilton is right to continue criticizing Path after it showed its belly. Path (and other apps) made the decision to blatantly abuse their users’ trust, *exactly* because it thinks it can be like Facebook and just ride out the storm after an apology, if they got caught.

As Bilton writes:

<blockquote>It seems the management philosophy of “ask for forgiveness, not permission” is becoming the “industry best practice.” And based on the response to Mr. Morin, tech executives are even lauded for it.</blockquote>

Instead of lecturing Bilton on being mean to Path, Arrington ought to be wondering why the hell he invested in a company that has absolutely no respect for its users, their privacy and basic standards of decency. Instead, he penned a column about how the net can become a “mob,” and what a shame it is that you can’t reason with a mob.

While I’ve always appreciated Arrington’s passion for start-ups, I find it very disturbing that he considers the users who raised their voices after being betrayed by Path on its march to the big bucks a “mob”. They aren’t a mob – and while they may not get every detail right, the people we call “users” are usually smart enough to know when they are being screwed.

And they got screwed, intentionally by a company you invested in, Michael. That should worry you more than a column from Nick Bilton.

Talking Facebook and Parents with Susannah Baldwin

Late last year, Susannah Baldwin asked me to be on her parenting show on KWMR radio to talk about Facebook. Thankfully, Susannah asked really good questions and kept away from fear mongering to talk clearly about parents, kids, and Facebook.

If you are a parent living in the digital age, it’s worth your time to give her show a listen, and you can find some online at her website,

Fuck All of Us for the Mosque Debate

The controversy over the planned mosque in lower Manhattan, blocks from the site of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, led me to go back to re-watch Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, the first movie to try deal with the emotional reverberations of that terrible day of loss and suffering.

In that underrated movie, Edward Norton plays (a bit too heavily) a convicted drug dealer in his last day before heading off to a seven-year stint in prison. The brilliance of the set-up is the genuine sadness felt by his friends, his girlfriend and his father — none of whom are morally admirable — for the loss of Norton, who’s likewise a morally flawed human. There’s a subtle and subversive message there that undermines our natural inclination to turn all the 9/11 victims retroactively into angels. The point is simple — even if some of the people who died in the World Trade Center were assholes — and probably there were a fair share — the loss of them remains deeply sad.

And just as importantly, the point is that same urge for moral simplicity is just as wrong when people try to use it now to justify opposing a mosque several blocks away from the WTC (a site further away than at least two strip clubs). Conservatives who oppose government encroachment on religion and property rights are calling on the local bureaucracy to stop the mosque. Even Roger Pilon, a Cato Institute libertarian, got in on the conservative culture-war game, whining, like a 19-year old, newly minted feminist at a liberal arts school, about “sensitivity to the feelings of others.”

Hell, if Ted Olson, whose wife Barbara died on one of the hijacked planes, knows enough not to oppose the mosque, what the fuck is your excuse?

Fuck that. And fuck all of the opportunists and know-nothings going on about a mosque in New York City.

The urge to have an enemy and to believe you are on the right side in a worldwide struggle is a powerful one. You could ask the dead, fundamentalist hijackers about that one. But the mosque will fit in with strip clubs, shoe shine guys, over-priced vendors of crappy Statue of Liberty snow globes, immigrant-run corner stores, Starbucks, gay porn shops and Cuban restaurants extorting $25 a person for brunch. Because that’s the way NYC, and the best of this country, rolls.

So fuck all the “hard-hats” who say they won’t build the mosque, fuck the fat-bellied, privileged-but-whiny Midwesterners who don’t live anywhere near a city that’s likely a future target for fundamentalist crazies, fuck the ratings-craving, intellectually dishonest Fox News network for pushing this shit as if it were a real issue, and fuck all of you all for feeding the Islamic terrorist dogs. From where I’m standing, it looks like you want to hand them recruiting material, just so you’ll have something to bitch about at your next barbecue in suburbia, which will never ever be a target for al Qaeda.

Fuck Obama for not having the courage to come out and say, “Build the damn mosque, show the world how inclusive we are, and let’s get back to real issues.” Fuck Russell Simmons for not having the brains to know that al Qaeda was responsible for the first WTC bombing.

Fuck all the people just want something to hate, and man, is it easy to say that a mosque built on Ground Zero is a slap in the face, when in fact, it’s as God damn American as you are. Fuck you for not seeing that the right-wing is prone to blowing up federal buildings and shooting abortion doctors, channelling the same ideological shit that al Qaeda does.

Fuck all you mosque opponents.

If you were as angry as I am that the Bush administration fucked up finding, capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, or you were pissed that the war in Afghanistan wasn’t left to become a quagmire in desert, so that Cheney and Bush could one up Bush’s father, I might give you a pass. But you aren’t. You make excuses for them, since they channeled the same cowboy machismo that gives you a hard-on when you re-watch Top Gun for the 100th time.

Fuck you.

And fuck us as a country for not having learned jack-shit after 9/11. To his credit, George Bush did make it clear that he didn’t blame all Muslims — even as his Justice administration managed to make the Muslim community feel like targets, rather than a resource. But what did they call on us to do? Go shopping.

We had the chance to become a better people and a better country and instead we learned how to make better unmanned aircraft that can drop Hellfire missiles on compounds we suspect harbor terrorists, but often just house women and children.

And what about the issues that al Qaeda and its ilk exploits to gain new converts? The Palestinian issue is just as screwed as it’s ever been, in no small part because the government remains perpetually afraid to tell the Israeli rightists to go fuck themselves when the time is right. Kashmir is still screwed, while Somalia remains a nightmare.

There’s a fine saying, “If you want a friend, feed any animal.”

And from what I can tell, the right in this country wants a weird friendship with the movement that led to 9/11, because they keep feeding them. Me, I want to starve those cave-dwelling, fundamentalist monkeys.

To which I can only say, channeling Spike Lee’s hatred/love poem to New York: Fuck all of you and fuck us all. We got the country and discourse we deserve, and the humans incinerated on 9/11 died for nothing, thanks to us.