Burning Down the House

Half recipe, two French jacos using half yeast plus sour starter
Mixed 1:30pm
Molded 3:45pm
Baked 5pm
Gave to: see below…

So, I got a bit of a late start baking today. A not-so-typical Monday. My husband has just returned from India, so he was taking time in the middle of the day to do things that he’d missed while away. I was continually examining my list that had grown over the weekend to 19 items long. With my husband away I had lost some ground, and it being Monday, me being somewhat rested, I thought that 19 items, with a miracle here or there, might be possible. Ha! I’m such an optimist.

My husband’s a pretty handy fella, but electrical work isn’t high on his handyman resume. While I was doing some Monday morning tidying, I heard him on the phone with his dad, trying to figure out how to install an outdoor light fixture with a motion censor. It was a replacement for the old one that had been crushed to bits by a wayward basketball. The installation wasn’t going well, and the only reason I was tidying at all was because the power to my computer was repeatedly being turned off. Finally, after many failed attempts at getting it right, I suggested he visit Jack, our electrician neighbor across the street, who happened to be home.

So there it was, 1:30 in the afternoon, and I had “bake sourdough” as number 15 on the list. Not that I do things in order.

I’d wanted to bake sourdough to go with our evening meal of grilled veggies and chicken. Plus, I just like fiddling with sourdough. But where had the time gone? Being optimistic didn’t help; sourdough doesn’t respond to hope and optimism. It responds to warm kitchens and patience. So, I settled for a bread mutt: I mixed my typical recipe for French bread–unbleached flour, salt, and water, then used half the typical amount of commercial yeast and flopped in a full dose of sourdough starter.

Meanwhile, my handy husband was learning from our neighbor, Jack, that his wiring efforts were flawed. That he had connected the white and the red in exactly the wrong places and might have burned the house down. Oops.

So, now it’s 5pm, the bread is beautiful–it’s hot, but who to give the second loaf to? After all, that’s the whole point of this blog–to get me out of my cozy hole and get me giving. I glanced at my 19-item list to see if I needed to give anything to anyone… Nope, no help there. I opened the front door and peered up and down the street for haggard and hungry wanderers.ย  I thought about walking the loaf down to the neighborhood park, but it was awfully dark outside. Finally, I asked my husband, “who do you suggest?”

Sourdough Mutt for Jack


Of course, Jack. It must have been that list. I was side-lined by a list, not able to see past the list. Past the list to Jack, who deserved more than a loaf of bread as thanks for keeping us electrically safe. A sourdough mutt for Jack. I ran it across the street, propping it on a chair so he’d see it when he returned from wherever he’d zoomed off to. I hope he liked it. I checked a half hour later, and it was gone, found, hopefully eaten. Thank you, Jack…

bread for jack


14 thoughts on “Burning Down the House

  1. Jane,

    This is just lovely! The banner is perfect, as is the title. The beginning of your post listing the time, type of bread, etc. adds a really nice touch. I was drawn in immediately to your narrative; it describes well both your love for baking and, at the time time, the fact that this project, that thinking of others, is hardly “convenient.” I need this reminder – I mean every single day. I am grateful to you for sharing this personal journey with us! Bravo. : )

  2. What a great (and obvious!) name for your giving efforts. It was too close for us to see its viability! Love this account, and wish I could taste this bread mutt. Did I ever tell you I’m a willing candidate for free, freshly-baked bread? Maybe I’ll start wandering you street in the afternoons…..

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. A very interesting idea. I want the recipe exactly…that bread looks delicious.
    I like the way you pointed out the people that we don’t see.. so focused on our list are we.
    I will love checking in to see where your bread has gone. Neat about the starter as well! A fun blog!
    Hugs, Claire

    • Here’s the recipe in short.
      3 3/4 cups flour–usually unbleached all purpose from TJoes, but sometimes a bit of whole wheat thrown in, or even expensive bread flour…
      2 teaspoons both salt and commercial yeast
      14 ounces of water.

      This makes two, what I call jaco’s. A thick, short baguette. Sometimes I’ll make two boules, or 12 dinner rolls.

      I mix a very wet dough, banging it around on the counter, folding it here and there… It’s goopy for the first few minutes but then turns quite satiny…

      The first proof is about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the temp in the kitchen. I dust the bowl with flour and the dough with flour and cover.

      Then I mold. Usually into one of the shapes I’ve mentioned above. Sometimes I will retard the molded dough in the fridge, even for up to 8 or 10 hours, covered with a moist cloth, the tops of the dough dusted with flour. If I let it rise on the counter, then it’s usually not more than an hour…

      I dust the tops again with flour before I score the bread.

      Oven 500 degrees with a pan of water on a lower shelf for 10 minutes. Take the water out, turn to 425 and bake for a remaining 20-24 minutes.

      Voila. Let me know how it goes, Claire!

  4. Jane,
    I enjoyed reading your story and the bread looks fabulous. I am inspired by your efforts. Keep up the good work.

  5. Thanks for sharing Jane. I always enjoy your writings – no matter what they may be. You can bring me right into what’s happening as if I were there and I can identify ๐Ÿ™‚ Good Luck with this blog. I think it’s wonderful and I’m sure to enjoy many a story!

  6. Jane, You are amazing! Hopefully you have started something that will stir a chain reaction of giving. I always love reading your descriptive writings.
    Thank you for your kind efforts and your inspiring stories.

  7. If you are in need of recipients for your experiment, call me and I will give you my address! Ha! Just kidding ๐Ÿ™‚ This is great, Jane. I really enjoyed Burning Down the House and am looking forward to reading more!

  8. Jane, I love the idea of sharing bread as a way to say thank you. Bread baking is a lost art–so thank you for introducing all of us to this edible art. I plan to make some on my own according to your recipe. If it turns out…I will be sharing bread with friends this holiday season. God bless you and your creative spirit.

  9. Hi Jane,

    I love your blog! The site is beautiful with the lovely pictures of bead!

    Cooking can be a really “prayerful act” – especially when the food is prepared for and shared with others – which is exactly what you are doing! I have the icon of St. Euphrosynos The Cook in my kitchen and am wondering if he’s in your kitchen, too? I ask him to pray that the food I’m preparing will nourish both body and spirit, whenever I’m cooking for Church potlucks.

    I’ll visit your blog often. Thanks for creating it.

    In Christ,

    Myra T. Johnson

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