Polly Going Crackers
You make it impossible
To do my job; Error.
Just a little haiku about how frelling crackers I am going here at work today. Systems have been changing over left and right, some without warning and some without adequate follow through. Our shipping system has been in the works to change for weeks and yet somehow almost no one received any of the the information to create a new account and now today it’s live with no way to access it. Meanwhile vendors are being problematic, schedules are filling up, directories are not directing…it’s just a bloody mess. The hardest part of my job though isn’t the technical hullabaloo that seems to occur on a regular basis, but interacting with people. It’s not that anyone I work with is particularly awful. I find that I like 99% of my colleagues and that is a rare thing indeed I believe. It’s just that I’m an introvert and no that doesn’t mean I hate people or have to be inherently shy. Introverts can be quiet wallflowers but that’s not what defines them.
What is an introvert? It’s someone who finds that interacting with most people requires an expenditure of energy versus an extrovert who gets a rush of dopamine and a charge from social engagement. An extrovert can enter a room full of strangers, flit from group to group making small talk and leave feeling awake and refreshed. An introvert can be perfectly fine in a similar social situation engaging with charming riposte but they will leave feeling tired and need some time to reflect, process and recharge. The more intimate the engagement, long time friends and such, the more comfortable the introvert will be. This is why introverts can spend days with the right people without feeling nearly so strong a “crash” as when around strangers.
Work colleagues aren’t strangers but there is a level of professionalism that must be maintained and boundaries that must be observed. An introvert will process this information constantly and thus find the social interaction at work very tiring. I especially find this to be difficult when stuck in situations where heads begin to butt. I’m a very strong willed person; prone to extreme stubbornness and fervor when I am knowledgeable or believe strongly in a subject. At work however, I find I defer more often than not out of constant fear over what I say and how I am saying it. I will make microsecond evaluations of every hand gesture, head cock and tone of voice in an attempt to quell my truculent nature and just get through the exchange. Couple that with some technical errors that are beyond my control and well, I get a bit cuckoo by week’s end. Not looking forward to this Friday I can tell you that much. Especially when I’ve become a bit of an ersatz IT guru and I know I’ll be asked for help with this damn shipping issue that I have no control over.
The introvert in me finds the ability to recharge in my baking/cooking endeavors. It is much to the frustration of family and some roommates I can think of who find it perplexing why I can be very angry when they come into the kitchen to question me while I’m baking. To most people, food is food and cooking is something done out of necessity rather than pleasure. I can certainly make cooking a social activity; in the past I’ve spent many a nights entertaining while cooking in the kitchen. The key element here though is that I was entertaining meaning I was “on” which as an introvert means expending energy. Cooking at the end of a long work day for me is a solitary activity that gives me something creative, physical and sensory to relax and focus my mind. Hence the feeling of intrusion when someone comes in and wants to know what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, steal a piece or just ask questions in general.
Gosh I must come off like a bitch here. How dare people want to know what I’m doing? I even find myself annoyingly high maintenance here. In any case what follows is a recipe for homemade crackers. It’s got a smaller list of ingredients than usual and the instructions are very simple. Plus this is a great bread dough to work out some aggression if you need something to punch, pinch and pull with the bonus of resulting in a delicious snack at the end.
From Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
- Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings. I also used some garlic and onion flakes!
1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough, satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors. If you want more formed crackers like I have here, run a fluted or straight pizza cutter across the dough. You don’t need to actually cut them apart, just run it through lightly. This will make it easy to snap them off in nice neat shapes at the end.
6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).
7. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.