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Chimpanzee.A new movie that will surely will have you crying, but it has a happy ending . It is about a chimpanzee that is separated from its parents and is forced to be raised as a different being. For the first week it is out they will donate it to a chimpanzee fund. So don’t miss it! On the 20th of April will be the first showing. I will eventually see the film myself and bring more reviews to my site. So if you don’t donate to me than please donate somewhere. : )
What do Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, McDonald’s, and Disney all have in common? They’re all in the top 100 best global brands of 2011. A strong brand can be the difference between being Facebook or MySpace, Best Buy or Circuit City. In other words, brand is one of the fundamental keys to business survival.
Many things influence a customer’s perception of a company brand — but for me, two of the most important are product effectiveness and emotional connection. That is, how well does the brand’s widget function, and how does it make you feel.
So without further ado, here are the top 5 brands in my book…
|5. Southwest Airlines From the innovative ticketing system to the non-reserved seats, on-time and highly reliable flights, and employees who “luv” their jobs — everything SWA does makes you want to fly with them again next time. I once tweeted about an issue with my Rewards account and a social media rep got back to me within 5 minutes. SWA just gets it.|
|4. Lexus – Uncommon service, high-performing, ahead-of-their-time vehicles, and massages while you wait. Lexus thinks of absolutely everything.|
|3. Amazon – Everything under the sun delivered to your door in 2 days, plus unmatched customer service and simple returns. Amazon is a system that works end to end.|
|2. Starbucks – Consistent quality, great tasting products, and imitators just won’t do (although the Keurig does come close) ;-). There’s nothing better than a Starbucks Americano, in my Lexus, on the way to the airport to catch a Southwest flight.|
|1. Apple – iPhone. iPad. Macbook. I’ve used all three in the creation of this blog post. Their products are the definition of innovation, they’re fun, and they just work. Apple is pretty darn close to perfection.|
Agree or disagree with these? What brands do you love so much that you just couldn’t live without them? Let me know!
There is nothing like the smell of freshly baking bread. It fills the air with four hours of warmth and coziness that few things in this world can match. But while getting the aroma to waft through the house is easy, making a decent loaf can be a challenge. I’ve created more than my share of hockey pucks and mushroom cloud loaves, so here are my tips for getting the highest-quality results from your flour-filled fun.
Tip #1: Choose the right machine. Baking purists will say you should knead the dough by hand and bake the loaf in your oven. But with today’s technology, you can achieve more consistent results and more precise control using a good bread machine. But not just any old machine will do.
My first bread machine was given to me as a wedding present almost 14 years ago. While it served its purpose, the results were always hit or miss, and I wanted something that I could rely on to produce consistent high-quality bread. So I recently purchased the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker from Amazon.com. At around $250, you might say that it’s overkill. But trust me, the results speak for themselves.
Two things make this machine awesome. First, it makes rectangular, horizontal loaves, rather than the vertical rocket ships that most machines produce. This result is even baking and a nicely shaped loaf that more closely resembles what you would buy in the store. Second, it pre-heats all the ingredients to the exact right temperature before beginning the process. This is critical, as you’ll see in the next tip.
Tip #2: Use the right ingredients in the right way. With only four basic ingredients (flour, water, yeast, and salt), you’d think this would be pretty easy to get right, but bread is a surprisingly tricky thing to make.
The key ingredient is yeast, a living organism related to fungi that eats and breathes just like us. It’s this breathing (actually, the process of fermentation) that gives off carbon dioxide gas, which is in turn trapped by the gluten in the flour, causing bread to rise.
But it’s also the most finicky of all ingredients. Heat the yeast too high or too low and it won’t rise. You’ll end up with a dense, heavy dough ball. The ideal temperature is usually between 75-85 degrees F. In addition, you must add the ingredients in the proper order. Since water causes the yeast to activate the fermentation process, if the water and yeast come into contact too soon, you’ll get a bad loaf. Generally, you place the water (and any other wet ingredients) into the pan first. Then you cover the water with the flour, and finally add the yeast on top of the flour, being careful not to get the yeast wet.
The proportions of the ingredients to one another are also extremely important. Be sure to follow the baking directions from your recipe precisely. Even a tablespoon of water or flour can make a huge difference. Beginners can use an off-the-shelf bread mix with nearly flawless results. As you get more experienced, you’ll want to start experimenting with different flours such as wheat or rye, and tasty add-ins, like fruit or nuts. Note that non-white flours will not rise as much as their traditional counterparts, and most sweet add-ins will also weigh down the loaf. Experiment with different ingredients, realizing that your result may not look perfect but might still be delicious.
Tip #3: Let the loaf cool. This last one may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to ruin a good loaf by attacking it too soon. Once the bread machine is done with its thing, gently shake the loaf out of the pan onto a cooling rack. Use a soft plastic spatula to help get sticky sides off the pan. Once the bread has rested for 15-30 minutes, use a long serrated bread knife to cut the loaf into 1/2-inch slices. If you try cutting it when it’s still hot, you’ll crush and disfigure the bread.
Bread making and golf have a lot in common. You can miss the fairway all day, but it only takes one good chip-in to make you keep playing the game. So whatever results you get, be sure to take notes. Just like your golf swing, once you get that perfect loaf, you’ll want to be able to reproduce it every time.
I’m sure there are many other ways to achieve good bread baking results – what are some of your tips? Let me know!