Monday, October 12, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The first two photographs were taken outside of my office. You might think this was from last winter, but the pictures were actually taken shortly after 8 AM this morning, October 12th. Good golly! The local news also reported that the snow on Saturday was the earliest measurable snowfall the Twin Cities has received in 24 years!

Snow on October 12, 2009



Snow clinging to the trees



I know we still have two months to go before winter actually starts, but this is already shaping up to be one of "those" winters. You know, the kind where we get snow every month from now through the opening of walleye fishing season in May. And here I had been seeing many woolly bear caterpillars with lots of brown on them. As I have discussed previously, according to the Farmer's Almanac, the more brown color on the woolies, the milder the winter. The woolly bear theory is turning out to be pure hogwash thus far! :)

It snowed most of the day, but thankfully it was warm enough that none of it stuck to the roads. The temperature was 37 degrees, and I had a great run when I got home. With the exception of two other runners and a lady walking a ferocious beagle who wanted a piece of me, I had the trails largely to myself. The sights along the way were quite remarkable with our strange early season snow. Here are a few images from today's journey:

Snow on the edge of the trails, mixed with some fall colors - very strange to see snow AND leaves!



About the only place on the trails where snow was accumulating was on the wooden bridges



Yours truly, from this afternoon's run



Let's switch gears and talk food! Saturday night I conducted a little experiment. People make bread with beer used as the liquid ingredient. Why not try making pizza dough with beer? There were dozens of recipes on the Internet, but I decided to improvise with my old standby - Alton Brown's pizza dough recipe, substituting beer in place of the water.

I follow the amounts in his recipe pretty much to the letter, but I typically use unbleached all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, and I cut down on the sugar and salt as he recommends. I also follow a slightly different process in that I warm the water (in this case, beer), add it to the bowl of my stand mixer, and sprinkle in the yeast to wake it up. Then I add all of my dry ingredients and the olive oil and mix away. I've had more consistent results this way. I also find it really only takes about 10 minutes of kneading in the mixer with the dough hook for everything to come together and produce a smooth, elastic dough.

The results were delicious! The use of beer gives a fantastic yeasty aroma when it bakes, and adds a somewhat tangy, sourdough-like flavor to the crust. I will be doing this variation on the recipe quite often. For my toppings, I figured what would go better with a beer crust than some sliced bratwurst and sauerkraut? Yum. Cheeses included an eclectic mix of small amounts of baby Swiss, Emmentaler, Gouda (from Wisconsin - not the real deal, but still good!), and smoked cheddar.

Pizza with bratwurst and sauerkraut on a Red Hook "Long Hammer IPA" pizza crust



The bratwurst sliced were browned first before adding to the pizza. And sauerkraut is a vastly underrated and underutilized pizza topping. Just be sure to drain the kraut, rinse, and squeeze as dry as you possibly can for the best results.

Anything with bratwurst and sauerkraut needs some good mustard!



See if you can get THAT at Pizza Hut! :)

Jean
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