Sharing Squared

No baking for me today…

My brother’s bread business is now delivering to several restaurants here in Santa Barbara, which means that every now and then, when the regular delivery guy needs a day off, my older brother John gets the honor of traveling up the coast–the back of his prius loaded with sourdough goodness. He’s charming enough to stop by our home on those days, and in return for his charm we offer him a cup of green tea and our morning smiles.

And usually he has an extra loaf or two of something that he shares with us.

He’s always been good at sharing. 🙂

Well, today he asked if we could use TEN loaves of par-baked sourdough. My eyes goggled a bit, and I saw massive giving in my future. Ten loaves! First, I thought about all my favorite friends and how they could make yummy gourmet sandwiches for dinner. But then, I remembered that this Lent I’m trying to really give to folks who are in need, or with whom I need to make amends. Because of the rainy and chilly weather, many of the truly downcast and desperate head straight to the Rescue Mission for dinner and a bed. So glad I was prompted to think of that…

Okay, my daughter and I were studying chapter 25 of the Algebra One book today after my brother left, and guess what? If (X+3)(X-3) then you can factor those together and get X²-3². Isn’t that cool? Both X and 3 are squared! My sharing today, being timesed by ten, felt absolutely algebraic! My brother shared with me, and I shared with the folks at the Rescue Mission. Algebra in bread-giving action…

The children were happy to go on an adventure. We even had extra fun since Morgan, our favorite neighbor-friend, spent the day with us. Here she is hiding behind some of the bread…

You know what? I felt tremendously fortunate to be the giver of ten loaves of bread on a rainy day like today.

Truly, I did…

Sourdough!

Two batches of sourdough

Gave two small boules to Mad’s intrepid science teacher, and shared a jaco with our in-laws

I grew up in a home where every day meant fresh sourdough bread on the table. There was an endless supply coming from our family’s bakery, and though I knew our sourdough was better than most, I was horribly surprised to land in Colorado as a young adult and discover that good bread couldn’t be found everywhere. As much as I loved the mountains in Colorado, that preservative-rich, chewy white bread that abounded there was dreadful. Eew! Eew! Eew!

In Colorado I tried to make my own sourdough but miserably failed. My baking skills were still too juvenile and I could only make beautiful yet inedible and overly sour loaves. Most of them were shaped into long flutes and served as fighting weapons for my kids. They were so heavy and hard and horrible!
Now that I’ve been baking consistently for many years now, I finally  decided I was ready to become a baker of sourdough. I can keep a starter alive–I can look at dough and know where it’s at in its rise, and I’ve learned some of the oven tricks which help create an artisan loaf. I’ve been gearing up for this big day for quite some time and yippee!!! I made my first real loaf of sourdough!!!
I say real loaf because I have successfully made several very edible batches of sourdough using the no-knead method, where you add starter to your mix, along with a tiny bit of commercial yeast, and bake off your loaves in an enamel or iron pot. And believe me, the no-knead bread is an amazing imposter and worth perfecting. But what I’m talking about is this method: mix-by-hand, let rise for 12 hours, then mold, then let rise another 10 hours, then bake. It’s patience bread, really, and so worth the time…

Sourdough is made by mixing “sourdough starter,” (or mother dough–or levain) with flour, salt, and water. The starter is a yeast mixture of wild yeast, flour and water that is kept alive by regular “feedings.” I know, it sounds a lot like having another baby in the house. This baby, however, eats infrequently, and lives happily in your cupboard or fridge…

Unlike my brother’s bakery, Etxea Bakery in LA, the temperatures and climate in my house vary from day to day, so baking a loaf of sourdough takes a watchful eye. The first batch I baked rose for an initial 12 hours (from 8am to 8pm), then I molded it and let it rise on the counter until 11pm, then I put it in the fridge until 7am the next morning, when I finally baked it. Almost 24 hours start to finish. The second batch rose for 16 hours (from 10 pm until 2pm the next day!), then I molded it, and baked it off at 6pm that evening. A 20-hour journey for this batch–and quite a different voyage for the two rises. Both batches were delicious, but so varied in the way those little yeasties went to work…

Some things I learned:

  • The first rise, just like in all other types of baking, will always take much longer
  • Sourdough is very resilient. The bread can even seem a bit flimsy when going into the oven, like it has overproofed, but the oven spring is amazing.
  • Working with sourdough seems very forgiving. The time frames are so much longer–if you need another half hour to finish a chore, it won’t ruin the bread to wait…

I’ll be posting a sourdough recipe in the next few weeks. For now, if you live in LA and want some terrific sourdough that my brothers are producing, you can grab a friend or spouse, and head to one of these hot restaurants for a taste 🙂

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe–Malibu

26 Beach Restaurant–Venice

Cafe on Location–Tarzana

Fin’s–Calabassas

Fin’s–Westlake

Fonz’s Steaks and Seafood–Manhattan Beach

Fratelli’s NY Pizza–Woodland Hills

John O’Groats–Encino

John O’Groats–West LA

Kate Mantilini’s–Beverly Hills

Kate Mantilini’s-Woodland Hills

Kip’s–El Segundo

Lawry’s Carvery–Century City

Lawry’s Carvery–S Coast Plaza

Lawry’s–Beverly Hills

Literati Cafe–West LA

Malibu Seafood–Malibu

Michael’s--Santa Monica

Neli’s Deli–West LA

Nichol’s Restaurant–Marina del Rey

Petrelli’s Steakhouse–Culver City

Rock’n Fish–LA

Rock’n Fish–Manhattan Beach

Stanley’s–Sherman Oaks

Tam O’Shanter–LA

The Galley–Santa Monica

The Great Greek–Sherman Oaks

Tony’s Liquor and Deli–Sherman Oaks

Venice Beach Wines–Venice

Sorrento’s Italian Market–Culver City

Zin Bistro–Westlake Village

Ultimate Friday Giveaway

Been baking all week

My daughter requested a loaf of French bread for her birthday.

That was Tuesday…

My husband wanted to take another giant loaf of sourdough to Renato, the owner of his favorite coffee spot, Via Maestra, but this time not force him to eat it. Here it is below, before it took the short trip from our home to the coffee shop down the road. (See this post–A Tribute to Community–for the earlier story)

That was Wednesday, and here it is on display in Via Maestra 🙂

And Friday turned into Ultimate Bread Giveaway Day. I needed to drive my daughter to LA; she was invited to spend the weekend with her cousins. My brother, whose bakery now has all the health certificates you could ever ask for, will begin delivering bread to customers on Tuesday. They’ve been baking up a storm these last two months, with no one to eat all the product, so it just ends up everywhere–mostly given to the mayor of Hawthorne where the bakery is–who then takes it to the city’s soup kitchen and homeless shelter. When my brother showed up at his house with two giant bags of the most gorgeous sourdough, I was happy to take a loaf, or seven!

I then gave out three loaves at my son’s school. Gave one loaf to a lady walking down the street, and we’re eating a giant loaf of rye right now…Just had an avocado and roasted red pepper sandwich. Here’s a photo of some of the amazing loaves of bread coming out of Etxea Bakery.

I still haven’t given any bread to the triplets down the way.

Oh, oh…. and my daughter helped me gather some sea water at Butterfly Beach. We’re going to make our very own Santa Barbara sea salt. More posts on that as we progress, but until then, three cheers for Madeleine who braved some very, very cold water to humor her wacky mother.

Okay everyone, that’s my bread giving week. Let’s just keep chugging along together, giving to others as we can. I’d love to hear your stories…

Cheers!

In Honor of a Hard-working Sister

One enormous loaf of “Sister Bread” or “Pain a la Suzanne”

Mixed: Wednesday, 8 pm

Folded: Thursday, 10 am

Molded: Thursday, 10:20 am

Baked: Thursday 1 pm

Gave to: 18 very hungry Thanksgiving meal family folk–minus my sister 😦

My sister was once described as an Eveready Battery. She’s a dynamo, who charges into the world at 4am, teaches 23 aerobic classes in one week (I’m not kidding!), who somehow manages to still bake pies for parties, and can beat all of her siblings at pushups, long distance anything, and crossword puzzles.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day and Suzanne could not join us for the big turkey meal out on the terrace. Unable to recharge her massive battery in time, she opted out of the two-hour drive to the desert and stayed home to celebrate the holiday, (which was also her birthday,) with a friend. Missing her, and in her honor, my older baker brother and I made the coolest loaf of bread ever, and named it Pain a la Suzanne. Only problem is, we ate it!

For all those people whose lives are just jam-packed with busyness as Suzie’s is, this loaf of bread is perfect. You need only the most basic ingredients–you quickly mix it the night before, then fold and mold it after a 15-18 hour rise, then bake it in a large enamel pot in the oven. The end result is a very crusty hearth loaf that has a sturdy, chewy, delicious crumb. The originator of this no nonsense recipe is Jim Lahey of  Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan–and I just dare you to try it!

Here’s a link to the recipe, followed by a photo of the bread coming out of the oven.

No Knead Dough Recipe

And here is my brother and husband trying to beam the bread from the desert to the coast. It didn’t work, and as I mentioned above, we ate it…

But even though we ate it, we’ll be baking again tomorrow, and the day after. We’ll get her a loaf soon–no worries there.

Happy Birthday, Suzanne. We love you…

Brothers

Two loaves molassas bread (plus cranberry preserves)

mixed: noon

molded: 1:40 pm

baked: 2:20 pm

gave to: homeless dinner at our church

I grew up in a home of four children: girl-boy-girl-boy. I’m the third, squished between two boys–one six years older than me, the other who toddled just behind. These two boys have helped shape my life in countless ways. I was an indentured yet happy servant to one, and a mini-mother to the other. They are both people you love to be around, one so selfless and silly, the other completely made of charm… And they would do most anything for me. Run to me if I needed saving. Even drag me off on business to France. I love them.

As I watched the line gradually grow at the dinner for the homeless last night, where my basket of molassas bread sat waiting for hungry mouths, I wondered where their brothers were. These men and women, dirty, drunk, so full of hurt. I walked among them, chatted to Dina about learning Greek, signed a floppy leather hat of another who then begged to have his photo taken… Where are their brothers? Where?

I have such love around me, such happy security. Such beauty in the fountain that brings finches to my yard, the scent and space of the ocean just down the road, the smell of bread baking, the sound of my children singing while they play. And I have these brothers who make me laugh. I’m thankful for them, and pray I can be the right kind of sister to them, and maybe even be a sister,

at least for a moment,

to those standing, waiting their turn for my molassas bread.

A Gift

No mixing, molding or baking. But we did refresh our beloved sourdough starter before heading home.

That lucky starter. What fun. We fed it water from la source, and wheat from the French country side. We toted it to the village church and to the bank of the Nive and to visit the lambs–we even brought it with us in the car the day we visited three neighboring villages. Now, it’s home; its second trip across the Atlantic a success. No messes in the suitcases, no explosions in the cargo bay. I remixed it last night and, ooh, does it smell good.

And I’m ready to bake. After a week of touring and translating I’m itching to get my fingers worked into some dough, which I’ll do in an hour or two. My son’s school is sponsoring a homeless dinner this evening, so I’ll be sharing molassas bread and cranberry preserves, but more on that later.

This week spent in the Basque country was an absolute gift. To spend six days with my two brothers, laughing, recounting stories, making new memories was an unexpected treasure. I made a pact with myself at the beginning of the trip that I would rejoice in every twist and turn of this adventure. No moaning, no complaining–only a grateful heart. I was there to work–to be the media woman–to take photos and video, and to translate and help guide. And there were a few times whenI had to remind myself that being tired didn’t matter, that being squished in the middle seat of an airplane for eleven hours didn’t matter. That this was a gift and I should rejoice!

And in the spirit of sharing that joy, here are some photos of our time together. Though not a single loaf of bread was baked and given away, the spirit of giving was a part of every day–between ourselves, with the villagers, with our cousins and aunt… I am grateful!

Shoulder to shoulder in St. Jean de Luz

Communicating with Pantxo on the other side of the valley

Two baker brothers and me

At our great grandfather's old bakery

Our sourdough starter on the road

Johnny in Espelette

One of Pantxo's lambs

Etxea Maitea--the family house

The boulangerie

Leaving Les Aldudes

Baguettes from Baigorry

Feet in the Atlantic