Friday, July 30, 2010

Good Bread

After all the failure this week in the sourdough department, I felt I needed to just make a good loaf, the way I know how - with store-bought yeast. This loaf is the best I have ever made. It's a cranberry walnut whole wheat bread. We have had cranberry walnut bread from the Whole Foods bakery several times. I decided to make it myself instead of paying the $6 for theirs. It came out so good! It's just a simple wheat bread to which I added 1/2 cup of honey, and dried cranberries and walnuts.

I have my sourdough starter in a plastic bowl this time. I am waiting to see it grow. Then I will try again for my first sourdough loaf!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sourdough: Stage Three - Epic Fail

Well, here are the results of the first sourdough experiment. I just couldn't throw it away without giving it one last chance to rise in the oven. So here it is in all its, um, glory?

Gee, it almost looks like bread in this shot!

You can see there are no air holes. That's because there was no living yeast left by the time I got through with it. I am sorry.

You could leave it whole and use it as a discus. It is quite heavy.

Of course it would make the perfect classic bookend. I think these babies could hold up Webster's and Roget's.

Or make it a pair of bookends. It looks kind of "kool kitsch", don't you think?
I could throw them in the pool to use for diving toys.
I could put them in the suet feeder and watch it drive the squirrels mad.
They would make good chocks for a trailer or an old car you have sitting around.

There are SO many things you can do with these, so you see it wasn't a complete waste of time and flour. The only thing you can't do is eat it. And I have learned to kill yeast. I put the starter in a metal bowl - a big NO-NO! The only other way I know to kill yeast is to heat it over 100°. I've started my next starter in a plastic bowl. Hopefully the next pictures I have will be of edible bread.

The very first "starter" I experienced was back when I made a bust out of papier mache last winter. I put the flour and water solution that was leftover in a container on the counter and forgot about it. I was saving it in case I would need to touch up my project. Within a couple days it was bursting out of the container. It was not usable of course since it had newsprint and all kinds of other 'ickies' in it. But I didn't even know that was sourdough!

For those of you who are feeling adventurous and want to try making sourdough, it's really very simple. Just mix up 1-1/2 cups of warm water with 1-1/2 cups of flour. You don't even have to measure it exactly. Put a piece of cheesecloth over the top so that it can breath. Set it someplace warm for it to grow. Yeast is everywhere. It will take a couple of days before you start to see it foaming and the bubbles forming. If you've ever proofed yeast, you'll know it's growing both by the look and the aroma. Once it's ready, you make your bread using the sponge method. If you don't know how, just 'google' it. Be sure to save some starter for the next round. Sourdough starter can last for centuries. Maybe I can get one to last long enough to get a loaf of bread out of it!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sourdough: The Continuing Saga

It's the sun! It's an alien moon! No wait - it's my failed sourdough! Heehee - just had to have a little fun with some photo editing on this one!

Here it is, after the entire night. It is a teeny bit bigger than it was last night. But you can see my fingerprints there. It didn't spring back.

I poked it again, just to be sure. I'm sure. I think what happened is when my starter outgrew it's container, and crawled out of the cabinet, I lost a good portion of it so it's just not strong enough, or numerous enough with the little critters.
I hate to waste. So I'm cheating. I am proofing some store-bought yeast and will mix up a dough, and then incorporate this dough with it. That's several cups of flour in there! And it does have a very lovely scent. Could turn out to be a great loaf of bread! Or several loaves!

I've already started the starter again. This time I put it in a larger container. And I placed the container inside a large bowl so if it does go wild, at least I can save it!!

It's SO simple - and if it works this will be great! It's just one cup of flour and one cup of warm water. Put it in a warm spot and wait - but watch!!! Haha!

Wish me luck today!! I'll be back with more results later!

Addendum: I was just reminded by a friend NOT to use a metal bowl for sourdough!! This could be my problem in it's not rising! I knew not to use metal, but then when it came time to do the next rising, the china bowl was dirty, and it was so late, and I was so tired, and I got lazy and just grabbed the clean metal bowl!!!!
Now it's in china again. We shall see!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Adventures in the Kitchen

Today I am making sourdough bread. I made my starter and it's ready!! I've been wanting to do this for many years and it's just been one of those things that I hadn't gotten to yet. I will let you know how it comes out!

I was making dinner a couple days ago and I noticed something had spilled on the dish drainer in one sink. So I rinsed it off. I continued about my work and then I noticed the spill again, this time it even looked bigger. I wondered how I missed it, and rinsed it off again. I went back to my dinner preparations once more. Then I saw the same piece of globby stuff on the drainer again! I thought now what the heck IS this??? I looked up, wondering if something horrible was seeping through the ceiling and as my eye passed the cabinet door on the way to looking at the ceiling I remembered that I had put my sourdough starter to ferment in the cabinet above the sink! It had overgrown its jar and was filling the cabinet and dripping down into the sink!!! At least I knew it was alive and ready!!

I think it's amazing that there is yeast already in the flour, and in the air, and in the right conditions you can grow it to make bread with it! This is the way it's been done for thousands of years. Talk about retro! I love every opportunity I can find to make it myself instead of buying it off the shelf at the grocery store. Don't get me wrong - I do appreciate the grocery store! But there is something in doing it yourself that is so satisfying. Usually it's better quality than the grocery store version too!

More later when my bread is bread!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Taking Back My Kitchen!

I have a wonderful book called The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider. It teaches you all you need to know to be able to cook meals of your own making, without recipes ultimately. It has been on my bookshelf for over a year. I have read many chapters but I had forgotten about it, being that I live a swiss-cheese life style - with holes in everything and incontinuity reigns. Now I have it out again and I am going to take another crack at it.

I'm taking back my kitchen and my cooking. I had given it away for a low carbohydrate diet that I heard about 8 years ago. I tried it and felt so good on it, I've been trying to do it ever since. I can't do it for more than a few days at a stretch because quite honestly I don't like meat and cheese that much. So I never had the success it was supposed to bring. When I realized that all these years of trying have gained me nothing but an extra 60 pounds, I knew I had to dump this idea, once and for all.

I know, you're thinking good grief, why did it take me so long to realize? I don't know. I do have a serious problem with continuity in my life and this has been one of the many casualties. What's done is done and now it's time to move OUT of this phase and onto something more productive!!

That means I get to do what I know how to do, which is cook. I love to cook. I am a good cook when I allow myself to use the ingredients I know so well, which is absolutely going to include carbohydrates. Good healthy energy-giving carbohydrates in the form of fruits and grains and seed and nuts and great homemade breads.

Today I've been reclaiming my kitchen. I retrieved my favorite vintage canisters from storage and put them out again. There's a whole world of cooking that goes bye-bye if you eliminate all carbohydrates. There's all my bread baking equipment and tools. I don't use a machine. I make it the old fashioned way. So I have a huge rolling pin and special board only for bread dough, things like that. I'm putting it all back into service. At last I will recognize my kitchen again and I will know what to do to make a meal. I've been so lost for so long. Sheesh. What else can I say but sheesh!?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Still In Pursuit Of Inner Freedom

Good morning dear readers. I have not written on my blog here in way too long. It's not that I haven't wanted to. I come here everyday wanting to write something wonderful and interesting, but for many weeks I have had nothing wonderful or interesting to share with you all. I do tend to do things in spurts. That is a fact of my life. But I miss writing to you all!

I started this blog because everything I read said that this is the thing you do when you have an Etsy shop and it will help increase your exposure and your sales. I don't know if it has helped my sales. The true is, I don't really care if my blog has affected my sales. This is just a wonderful place to connect with fellow artists and I love that connection! What started out as a part of my business has become a part of my life, and a part that I don't want to let go for anything!

I guess I am breaking a lot of old "rules" these days. It is sometimes very difficult to do but in the end, always freeing. It frees up things you may not expect, like your creativity. I'm in my fifties so a lot of the ideas in my head are very well set and hardened. That's one reason it's so hard to break them. Another is that they are very well hidden and disguised as "the right thing to do". They are not all worth breaking of course. But the ones that bind and blind you, those are worth the effort.

How do you know where these rules are hiding? It's a matter of listening. Just get by yourself and get quiet. They will come to you. They always do. It takes time. You can't rush it. You have to be polite enough to let them speak. Do you have a place in your life that is constantly frustrated? That's a good place to go listen. Remember, these hard and fast rules are just doing what they have been taught to do. They don't live in the present. They don't know that you are all grownup now and that you get to decide for yourself what is best. Treat them gently. Let them tell you their story. Try not to judge them harshly. Let them become your friend. Then you can start teaching them about freedom. Then you can set each other free.