The productivity highlight of a relatively unproductive couple of days (dissertation-wise) is that I FINALLY got my IRB human subjects application in. IRB is the internal university group that reviews research proposals to make sure they aren't harmful or unethical or shady or all three. Think Tuskeegee, and that guy who made people believe they were electrocuting people. My application (an "expedited exempt review") involved 6 attachments. Several of which involved checklists and requirements for specific language and other annoying stuff. Technically, I could have been required to submit three separate applications -- one for the data I will collect myself, one for the data that is publicly available, and one for the data that I acquired through an agreement with HUD. They let me consolidate it to the single ridiculous application.
I was a bit intimidated by the process (which has an air of mystery for policy students) so took too long to get it done. Which is a theme for me and this dissertation. Then on Wed night I had drinks with a couple of clinical psych students who set me straight--basically saying that everything they do requires IRB review and they submit pretty half-assed applications. Which inspired me to get off my ass. So (with the exception of a signature on one document that I am waiting on) I did! Let's see what happens.
But what I really did today was bake. Challah, and then cheesecake. A lady named Ruth's challah recipe, and Chantal's NY Cheesecake recipe (another Ch word!), to be exact. I was inspired for the Challah by the $7 price tag for a smallish loaf at a local bakery. Yeah, right. Seattle acts like fresh bread is some sort of mysterious luxury item, possibly because so much of it seems sort of ethnic (so folks think it should either be really cheap but only found in grungy out of the way places, or really expensive if found close to home?). There are a couple of places that wholesale to local supermarkets (and are ok), and then a handful of neighborhood bakeries that tend to be on the fussy side. Winter makes me crave bread, and I have been complaining about the lack of it for so long that I finally started to make my own. Which reminds me I also need to learn how to make Italian anisette cookies, which I used to buy by the (cheap) pound in Brooklyn and eat for breakfast with coffee. Here I have found them only at the overpriced gourmet Italian grocery in Pike market, expensive and imported from New Jersey.
So Challah. It really isn't hard and doesn't take much work. I think I might like it a sweeter next time (always looking for a place to put raisins) and maybe should have let it rise longer. My apartment is chilly and it takes longer to rise the colder your space is. But it's definitely good. Jake melted butter and sopped it up (which I find shocking, but whatever). We'll finish off the sesame loaf by the end of the night and I might freeze the other loaf to see how that goes.
The cheesecake was a Jake request--prompted by me saying something like Please God Tell Me What I Can Bake That You Will Help Me Eat. He loves cheesecake, and is otherwise indifferent to sweet stuff.
Turns out cheesecake, which I'm not all that wild about, has a cult following and involves lots and lots of very intricate almost superstitious steps. Chantal's recipe seemed the most straightforward, had about 3,000 positive reviews, and didn't require a water bath (I'm out of tinfoil to wrap the pan in). I learned a lot about cheesecake, much of which can be found on links from Chantal's recipe page.
It's in the oven now, cooling. It browned a bit on the sides, probably because I put it in a too-hot over after baking bread. And it will definitely have tiny lumps, and is also a bit sunken in the middle. All things the on-line world of cheesecake warned me about, and gives about 2385623845 tips on how to avoid--all of which I skipped. Because in reality Jake will eat it anyway (he polished off a quarter pound of cream cheese this morning, right from a knife, and then ate about a half-cup of the extra cake batter), and because running the batter through a sieve seemed excessive. If it's good, I'll post a picture. I'm getting the hang of that.