In Which the Salsa Girl Gets Started on a Fresh New Year

I will not burden you with new year’s resolutions, in fact, I’ve made a choice not to burden myself with them either. Instead I have a sort of vague sense of what maybe I might want this year. It’s easily summarized, probably attainable, and goes something like “more dance”. I’m doing alright thus far. That said, I am also currently teetering on the edge of a savage cold that has the potential do some serious damage to my dance plans. Cross your fingers for me.

You see, I cannot afford to be ill, for I have decided that, clearly, I needed to book another dance weekend this month. Yes, come Friday I’ll be back on a bus scooting on down to Philly for Freedom Swing. I mean, I couldn’t say no. It’s so nearby! There are so many New Yorkers going! And don’t you dare call it an addiction, I swear it’s still just a habit. Coffee though? Yeah, that’s an addiction.

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So, let’s roll on back to where I left you last time. As I recall it was a Tuesday and I was lazy. Since then, I have hauled my sorry self back to work, done a fair bit of dancing, and even had a healthy amount of fun, and it all started on Wednesday.

After a long day back to work where I did not easily readjust to my normal schedule, I was very tempted to bail on the westies Wednesday night. I was so close, but then there was a message on Facebook and I was too lazy to cook, so off I went to meet a whole passel of dancers at an East Village bar. It had a nice vibe, great food, interesting cocktails, and no functioning credit card machine. Thankfully I had cash for dance.

Following a few hours of eating, drinking, and socializing, we split into cabs, ubers, and trains and set off for dance where we ate cake, drank wine, and danced our little hearts out.

Thursday and Friday I spent valiantly trying to get back into my 7am wake-up work day schedule. It may have involved an unhealthy amount of chocolate and nearly as many naps. Which is how I got to Saturday in a relatively functional state and only just beginning to feel a certain scratchiness of throat as I peered out my window into the “storm”.

Yes, we finally got snow, and lots of it. They called it a storm, but I associate storms with an awful lot more violence of wind and weather. I just thought it was a beautiful if rather chilly snowy day. I might have had a different opinion if I’d had to go out in it, but since I spent my entire morning and half the afternoon working on an artisan bread adventure, the snow was just nice scenery. I’ve grown bored of my standard, boring bread with it’s subpar crust and crumb so I decided to bite the bullet and haul my butt back to recipe land to re-learn the subtle art of bread baking.

I really wish I could say I followed the recipe exactly, but any of you who have known me for any time at all will know such a thing to be an impossibility. The recipe called for 90% high protein white flour. I used 90% whole wheat flour with a bit of all-purpose to top it off. Someday I will justify the purchase of high gluten bread flours, but for now, I just can’t quite face the price in a land where “strong flour” isn’t nearly so common or everyday as it was in Ireland. Predictably, the whole wheat flour had a rather different interaction with the water which resulted in a ludicrously high hydration dough just go get everything wet for the autolyse. It was such a menace to work with and by the time I put it in the fridge for it’s overnight proof, I’d almost entirely lost hope. It was too delicate and too flat and definitely did not look like it was going to do anything but fail. And that’s how I left it, heading into Midtown for three hours of dance workshops followed by about the same amount of social dancing.

The local swing club had brought Robert Cordoba in for the weekend and my goodness was he excellent! After one workshop focussing on building blocks for patterns, the second two focussed entirely on that thing which so expertly continues to elude me just when I need it most: actually dancing rather than just doing the steps. By slow degrees I’m getting there but it was fantastic to take workshops whose entire raison d’être was the promotion of that very thing.

After the workshops, a few of us grabbed a quick Chipotle before heading back up to the studio for a fantastic evening of dancing and shenanigans. Once again, Brittney and the boys danced along the tightrope between behaving and not and had an awful lot of fun along the way.

The following day, I tumbled out of bed to face the final step in my almighty mess of a bread saga. As I pulled my sad little lumps out of the fridge and peeled them clumsily off their proofing towels I was all ready to bake up a pair of bricks, but then by some strange magic, 20 minutes after they went in the oven, I opened up the door to take the lids off the dutch ovens and found that a miracle had occurred: it had risen! I’ve a ways to go before I manage to produce a bread of true Christ-like perfection, but that little rebirth performance was entirely enough to sell me on the notion of fighting through the tedium of high hydration dough to earn a crumb worthy of praise. The crumb is nearly there but the crust needs some more love. Perhaps longer baking and better steam. Fortunately there’s always next week to make it just a little bit better.

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After spending the better part of the day gorging on fresh bread, I headed out to La Vieja Guardia social. It was unexpectedly good!

Today, I woke up only a little tired and set off to work. It was not to be that easy. I arrived at the station and found that the F trains were all held at various stations around the city on account of some sort of water based fiasco at West 4th. So I took a J with the aim of an R to work. The J took it’s time in coming and when I hopped off at Canal Street I found myself on the coldest platform in the world watching W after W whoosh by but no R. More than 30 minutes later, another W pulled up but this time the PA system informed us that this particular W would become an R if only we trusted ourselves to it. I did eventually get to work, but not until 9am. My normal 10 minute commute had expanded inexorably into an hour and 10 minutes.

And now at last I am back in my cozy flat eating more delicious bread and trying to convince myself to be productive. It seems unlikely.

Only half frozen,
The Salsa Girl

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