Sourdough and the VW Van

For several days I’ve been keeping my sourdough active, ready for the right mixing moment. Late Wednesday I decided to get my hands into some dough, and mix a batch of homemade yumminess for Thursday night. If you want sourdough from scratch, you have to think 20 hours ahead.

My arm muscles got a workout and the physical movements cleared my mind and allowed me to shift into prayer. I do love the miracle of making bread.

Fast forward hours and hours and it’s time to score, and bake, and figure out what to do with that extra loaf. I almost posted a facebook status, hoping someone would be in the neighborhood, want to swoop by, and relieve me of a giving adventure. Giving is an adventure–especially when there’s NO plan.

AHA! I thought. Three weeks ago there was a raffle at school, and my little one needed to sell tickets. We scurried door to door, and at one house we met a new family who had recently moved in. I felt awful that our first meeting was all about exchanging $10 bills, so have wanted to bring them a proper Bread Welcome. Here was our chance.

But they weren’t home. At this point, I honestly wanted to return to the house and settle back into introvert world. I prefer weeding over meeting new people.

But we spied a gentleman down the road who was tinkering with the engine of his VW van. John Ronan was at my side, and he bounded down the road, shouting out hellos. I followed with a bagged loaf of bread. (Isn’t it pretty?!!!)

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Twenty minutes later, after a full tour of the VW van, its two sleeping compartments, a peek at the engine, a few stories of trips to Canada and Mexico, some fiddling with the cool cup holders, radio, etc and a last exchange about my daughter who plays piano at all hours and whom the neighbors adore… well, I finally dragged the little one away, promising we’d return another time for another van adventure. We had met a new friend, put a name to a face of a man we’ve been living near for over a dozen years… Once again, this giving proves…

That chatting with neighbors is better than weeding!

That giving is better than just about anything…

Cheers, friends!

Sourdough Starter

Recently I’ve been sharing my sourdough starter as fast as I can bulk it back up. Two women two weeks ago, two more last week, and some for Dean who made sourdough dinner rolls and said they were kind of ugly, but delicious!

Here’s what I gave to Dean…

Typically my starter lives in my fridge, where I feed it once a week or less, if I’m not baking with it. It gets tucked all the way to the back left side, and usually has apples in front of it, or tubs of salsa, or a jar of homemade plum jam.

When I’m in a sourdough frame of mind, then the starter gets moved to the counter, where it lives in the open air and I feed it once, even twice each day. It goes bad out in the warmth if you don’t pay attention, so I keep it where I’ll always see it, right by the drawer that holds the dinner napkins and the phone charger. For the last two months, my starter has been working overtime.

Fido. I know it’s silly to name a sourdough starter, but Fi-means faithful and Do-is a lousy but fun version of dough. Catchy? Ha. Our family’s lore says that we Garaicoetxea folk (Ga-ra-ee-ko-eh-chay-uh… that’s the way you write our very Basque surname) brought our levain–our sourdough starter–all the way to the new world in the 1890’s. Since we were bakers in the Basque country, and immediately opened a bakery in California, it’s probably all very true! Here are some photos from my last trip there.

Anyway, what’s the big interest suddenly in sourdough? Well, articles are popping up everywhere about fermented foods, and so I thought I’d share a few links so that you might know a little more about this sour magic.

On food sensitivities

One person’s story on going grain-free, then reverting back to eating grains and their health benefits

The science behind sourdough, and a bit about San Francisco’s claim to sour fame

So, if you live near me and are tempted to try your hand at baking some of your own sourdough-based recipes, send me a message and I’ll put you in the giveaway lineup. If not, just make your own. Here are some sourdough starter recipes from trusted baking websites:

The Fresh Loaf

King Arthur

Bon Appetit–with some nods to Richard Bertinet, one of my favorite bread book authors, and a recipe for sourdough bread to boot!

Just be careful if you are inspired, but don’t want to bake sourdough bread yourself. Many of the commercial varieties aren’t all that special. Instead of using the traditional method of allowing the bread to ferment and rise over a long period of time–thus gaining that sour flavor and the benefits of fermentation, many of the large commercial bakeries simply add vinegars or souring agents to a typical loaf of industrial, yeasted bread… The ingredient list will be long, and you won’t gain any of the health benefits. Real sourdough bread has these three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. 🙂

Lastly.

Sourdough toast with butter and homemade plum jam. Stew and sourdough. French toast from sourdough bread. Bread pudding made from stale loaves. Egg in a hole. Grilled panini on homemade sour. Sourdough pancakes and waffles! Hot sourdough baked in a pot, on an open flame.

Are you hungry yet?

Not Baking… and Here’s Why

So, if your brother tossed an enormous bag of bread into the front seat of your car, what would you do?

We–pull out the bread knife.

The Kids–eat all the chocolate bread in one fell swoop.

I–make a lot of croutons.

I–give some of it away.

I–make two batches of French toast. (French toast made with old sourdough bread is the BEST!)

I–burn some of the French toast. (See this post.)

I–don’t do a whole lot of baking. Not for five days–maybe more.

And now, the brothers are threatening me with a 50 pound bag of flour sent up on one of their bakery trucks. My answer?

Yes!!!

 

Oh, Dear

Sometimes life gets busy and the dough that is rising just keeps on a risin’.

I mixed up some sourdough last evening, forgetting that I’d be away all day on a field trip to the zoo with 40 munchkins. When I returned, I didn’t even look in the kitchen, I headed straight for my pillow.

The nap ended and here’s when I emphatically said, Oh, dear!

16 hours on the rise, that batch of sourdough was losing steam. I quickly dumped it out, shaped it into a ball,

heated the oven and a half hour later popped it into a super hot pot.

And, voila! Who said baking has to be a perfectly timed, measured and calculated event?

And it’s never to late to share when you have a house full of Arizona guests, happy to flee from their summer heat. Tonight it will sit all lonely on the cutting board–for the Capo Chef is making pizza. But tomorrow–oh, tomorrow! it will make some amazingly delicious French toast, don’t you think?

Sourdough Swap

My parents have moved to Santa Barbara and it’s the first time since I was eighteen that I’ve been this blessed to have these two generous and interesting people so nearby!

My mom marvels at the fact that I make jams, sew Dr Seuss shorts, and bake bread, while I marvel at the fact that she can do a crossword puzzle in about five minutes flat. She’s a whiz. The other day, because she says she wants to learn some new hobbies (she’s also taking calligraphy from Carla!), she came over and we tackled another batch of homemade kumquat marmalade together.

Back up. We have a lovely, healthy kumquat tree in our front yard, and some years it fruits like crazy, but this year. 😦 hmmm. Nothing. So, for the second time this season I raided my neighbor’s tree. They don’t like kumquats. (Are they crazy?!!!) And I do.

I set my mom to de-seeding, while I flipped between subtraction problems with John Ronan, the laundry, and chopping cut kumquats. She’s a worker, that mom of mine. Five cups of chopped kumquat later, a cup of local honey and a bit of water and we raced to shut the doors to keep out the bees. Bees seem to know where the honey is, I’ve found, and don’t mind trying to get back that which we sneak from their hives.

I know this because four bees came into my home to inspect the pot last week during Kumquat Marmalade Number One.

Mom sliced, I chopped, and only a little while later we were ladling marmalade into jars and canning them in my big red pot.

Back up even more.

The same day as the marmalade, I baked off the MOST beautiful loaf of sourdough I have ever made. If I didn’t think it was obnoxious, I would have typed all of that in caps. I mean, beautiful. So, as my mom was leaving, after all her hard work of picking out those dastardly seeds from inside a tiny citrine fruit, I offered her my best–my most beautiful. Plus a jar of marmalade. She taught me how to share when I was just a wee one. And here I am, still working on it in her midst.

Cheers to all of you, and I’d love to know what you’ve been either snitching from your neighbor’s tree, or cooking in your big red pot 🙂

Out of Doors

In Southern California we are able to eat outside for many months. We have few bothering bugs, we are drenched with warmth and sun for much of the year, and for all that we pay massive amounts of taxes–with more surely to come! 

Anywho, many of us have these dinky little homes, which means that using whatever outside space available is… smart. And with teenagers, whose bodies are bursting out of these little rooms and places, going outside helps maintain sanity (plus you don’t have to sweep!).

Recently I baked up a beautiful batch of sourdough. I toted my two loaves over to my parents’ new home, and we grilled some sausages, set the tables and enjoyed the fresh air and the view. It’s that time of year, and more often than not, that’s where you’ll find us in the evenings, gathered around a table or another, pairing grilled sausages and sourdough bread, with fava beans plucked straight from our forest. sipping lemonade or margaritas, and knowing that–

hopefully living the fact that–

(despite the taxes!!!)

we are blessed.

Wild about Sourdough and Snow

Two loaves of sourdough (the 24 hour kind, and baked in a pot)

Mixed: 3:45 pm

Molded: 10:30 am next day

Baked 4:30 pm

Cold weather and warm ovens mix so beautifully. The storm that passed through our state over the weekend beckoned me into the kitchen, and wasn’t I pleased when my batch of sourdough came out looking authentically wonderful? I just had to share.

It was already dark, but I noticed most of my nearest neighbors weren’t home. I grabbed the umbrella and prepared for an adventure. After combing the two nearest streets, I ended up almost back where I’d started–right next door, chatting on the front porch while the rain fell all around.

Warm bread. They were pleased, I was pleased, and that nice mood kicked off all sorts of weather planning once I returned home.

Having grown up in sunny Southern California, I relish any weather that veers from blue skies and warm breezes. Now, there are those around me, who grew up in just the same way, who don’t appreciate my viewpoint. I don’t mind this at all–for when a sprinkle of snow comes to our mountains, only the wild-eyed weather-seekers are motoring their way up the hills. And that is just what we did the following morning.

What fun. Whatever the weather, I pray this day finds you well, my friends. I’m off to bake some rye crackers and maybe even find my way to the library with the little ones. If it snows again, grab your boogie board, a thermos of hot chocolate and I’ll meet you on Figueroa Mountain.

Deal?