Oven Happiness

I have a new relay board. Jerry the Oven Guy installed it, and so now

I can bake–on bake!

Hooray!

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Straight Ahead

Two sourdough rounds

Mixed: 7:45 am (but first I activated the sourdough starter, as an experiment the evening before, by mixing in some fresh water and flour)

Molded: 4 pm same day

Baked: 6 pm same day

I’m still in experiment mode when it comes to making a genuine loaf of sourdough. With my oven pitching fits, I figure, why not fiddle around with the dough and just see what happens?

So, I mixed and kneaded, waited and waited, and molded and waited some more. Sourdough is the perfect fiddle dough. I like that the heat or cold or humidity of the day dictates when the bread will be finished. Sourdough is Adventure Bread.

Anyway, despite having to bake on convection, when I pulled the bread out of the oven it was beautiful.

Who to share with? At 6:45 pm, it’s quite late to run out into the street and find hungry folk. It’s already dark here at that time, and though I contemplated just sitting on the curb to wait for someone to walk by–someone who had an “I-could-use-a-nice-loaf-of-freshly-baked-bread” look, I decided to ask for advice instead.

I asked my husband. “Where to–left or right?” I was thinking that I’d just strike out into the neighborhood until I found someone.

But my husband is not a black and white thinker. “How about straight ahead?” He flashed me a smile.

“Okay,” I said, “Jack or Cindy?” (Since we don’t sit directly opposite one house, but sort of opposite two.)

“Let’s flip!”

So, I tracked down a penny  and tossed it into the air. Tails. Tails meant Jack.

Knocking on Jack’s door I was sure that he’d already had dinner. But, once again, the Law of Giving, which I’m slowly getting to know, proved that indeed Jack was hungry for a warm loaf of sourdough.

Onto the next batch!

Door Number Three

Two loaves of no-knead sourdough

Mixed: 10:30 pm

Molded: 10 am next day

Baked: 1:40 pm

First, I love the rain. I love overcast days. I love the fog. And the snow. Even hail. We get so little inclement weather here, so anything outside of sunshine and 70 degrees is lovely, and, to me, it beckons adventure.

I love adventure 🙂

I also love to be cozy. Funny how we can love so many things–even things that seem to be opposite one another.

This homeschooling year, Tuesdays are very light teaching days for me. We leave big blocks of time open for heading to the library, or driving to another town to see an exhibit, or for long stretches of research, reading or writing. So… just yesterday, Tuesday, my daughter (the homeschooling one) was deep into books on stress, taking notes for a science paper. Feeling, seeing, smelling the rainy weather, I just knew I had to bake and share some bread. With no teaching to do, John Ronan and I had the whole afternoon free.

By midday, dough that I’d mixed the night before was on its second rise. The little one and I were looking at a blog posting together; he was in a snuggly mood. The author of that blog had written about crafty winter projects. With the munchkin in my lap, we scrolled through the pictures, read the text and out came a grand proclamation, “Mama! Let’s make a Teddy Bear!”

Feeling adventurous (since I’ve never made a Teddy Bear or anything like it) I said, “Well, yes! Let’s make a Teddy Bear.”

Ten minutes later we had downloaded instructions to the funniest little Easter Birdy. I braved the garage and hefted out the sewing storage box, and then hefted out the sewing machine too. I turned on the oven (since the dough was just about finished rising) and…

We started to sew!

She took four happy hours to make. John Ronan followed every step and cheered me on. Just LOVE that boy. And the Easter Birdy had a very eventful afternoon playing on the rocks and swinging next door; she even got to go to preschool today in John Ronan’s ducky lunchbox.

But back to the oven–an oven who was having another off day. BAD oven. It seems the bottom element isn’t heating, except when it feels like it, so when I should have been baking bread at noon, I was finally putting the dough into the right sort of heat 1 hour and 40 minutes later. I’m sure you want to hear all the details…

  • Convection still works so we heated the oven that way. The convection heating element is behind the fan, behind the very back of the oven. The Oven Guy, Jerry, taught me that this week.
  • No-knead bread is very forgiving. You just can’t seem to completely mess it up. This bread had way overproofed (seems to be a habit of mine this week) yet, I tell you, that sourdough was still quite tasty…
  • I burned the top of the bread. Baking on convection will do that. I’m not a convection oven fan. I always think, Now, why would you want to bake something in the very windy, drying heat of the Sahara Desert? I’d prefer to bake behind a protected and heat-radiating rock face on a Greek island…
  • Thankfully, the sourdough that came out of the green pot was less charred looking. I set that loaf aside for the giving…

Fast forward to 5 pm. Cleaned up the scraps from our sewing day. Then…

Knocked on the blue screen door to our right, the loaf of sourdough wrapped in brown paper and tucked under my arm. Nobody home.

Knocked on the bright red door on the corner. No answer.

Knocked on the green door where they grow exotic everything in the front yard. Two year-old Owen answered. Then he knocked down two pumpkins that were sitting on their porch wall. I handed over the sourdough to a very thankful mommy, who then had to run after Owen because he had escaped out to the side yard. I celebrated, on my way home, the meeting of two new neighbors.

What a day. Lots of rain.

Three doors.

Two loaves of sourdough.

And one Easter Birdy.

Thunderclaps and Cheesy Bread

Four French bread recipe boules (with some extra cheesy goodness grated in)

Mixed: 1:45 pm

Molded: 3:15  (had to retard the bread in the fridge while the oven was heating)

Baked: 4:30

Good news and bad news. Bad news. The bread was overproofed–either my yeast is going bad, or I’m just being lame. Good news. It’s raining! Fall has arrived (finally!) and we’ve not only had a bit of rain, but we enjoyed the most dramatic evening  of thunderclaps and lightning. A rare occurrence here. Wonderful. And, well, other good news. My oven heated right up to 500 degrees. Looks like I got lucky, since later in the evening my husband tried to bake a frozen tart, and it never really unfroze. 😦

We’ve been wanting to share a loaf of bread with Carissa and her husband Sean for a long while. Carissa used to babysit John Ronan when he was a babe, and ever since she moved into the neighborhood we’ve hoped to pay her a visit. A cheesy loaf of French bread seemed just perfect for her, so we stopped at her home and yelled out her name from the curb. “Carissa!” We just about left (we usually don’t show up at peoples’ homes and just shout for them, but the front door had a padlock on the handle, which made us think that it wasn’t used, and we didn’t know what else to do..) “Carissa!” Little John Ronan yelled the loudest. Just as we were leaving she burst onto the porch, and we all hugged. Hugs are so very good.

One more loaf to give away. The Heath family often hosts teenagers to play games and watch movies in their very cool, boat-like home up on the hill behind us. I needed to pick my teenage Andrew up, so packed them a loaf of bread as well. Mrs. Heath bakes–so I felt a bit silly bringing her something I’d made, and yet, she announced when I handed over the small boule, “Yay! We’re having stew and didn’t have any bread to go with it!”

Giving is good. Though sometimes I feel uneasy about figuring out where the bread should go, this uneasiness helps me step outside of my selfish skin and keep sharing at the top of my to-do list.

And with more thunderclaps predicted

for thunder and lightning are perfect music to accompany kneading and baking–it looks like I’ll be busy for several more days, dancing in puddles, and handing out loaves of cheesy (and hopefully not overproofed) bread…