never a dull moment.

There's a slight problem with the Bay Bridge:
Wtf is happening to the Bay Bridge?
        Looks like part of it fel... on Twitpic
Turns out the emergency repair they put in recently failed. Oops. Someone's fired.

Friday through Sunday was our Zen sesshin, sitting from 9am Friday morning to 7am Sunday morning. As always, it was both too long and too short: I spent almost all of it unraveling the tight muscles in my shoulders, which was fine, as it's a very in-the-moment experience, and needed to be done because everything was wound up tight. Along with the shoulders, my leg muscles relaxed under the stress of sitting, which is great because they've been super-tight from running. I went running again this afternoon, and except for a sort of mental disconnect with the feeling of exercise, everything went well.

I wanted to make some bread for the cute program director at the library, but it turns out she's allergic to gluten, so I'm finally learning a bit about gluten-free baking. It's excellent for me, too, because I'm not at all allergic, but I am a little sensitive, and wheat makes me feel mentally and physically slow, and start to gain weight, so making gluten-free stuff is better for me (spelt is a sibling to wheat and still has gluten). And it's tricky! Wheat is a wonderful, magical thing, and it's no wonder it was one of the founding domesticated plants. It's like steel, but for food: where steel combines strength and flexibility, and you can adjust those qualities for your needs, wheat has a delicious sweet taste and lots of protein that easily gives it structure to make bread. So, for me at least, following simple instructions and paying attention, making bread is easy. I find it pretty forgiving.

The first problem with gluten-free baking is structure, something to provide a lattice to support the spaces created by the yeast's carbon dioxide bubbling. The go-to for this is xanthan gum, which turns out to not only be pretty harmless (even Europe allowed it a long time ago, and there you actually have to prove it's safe), but looks like it's just a really neat substance: check out the uses (oil drilling!). After buying xanthan gum...what else needs to change?

Well. I decided to skip that part. Partly I was slacking and it didn't occur to me to look up a list of changes, but also I was curious what happens if you just make a 1:1 substitution of gluten-free flour, add xanthan gum, and pretend nothing changed. And that goes okay, though it's way more work, because (change number 1) gluten-free bread doesn't have to be kneaded. We knead bread to get the gluten all broken down and sticky, but since there's no gluten and the xanthan gum is handling all the stickiness as long as it's well-mixed, all kneading does is make a mess.

Other lessons, between my experience and these tips:

But it came out well! Gil was really happy, said it was delicious and everyone in the office liked it, and her mom makes bread for her and it's dense like mine was. (It's definitely bready, but you could also use it as catapult shot.)