I think I'll still come back to refine this picture more, but here is how it looks so far.
Yes, I did wipe it all off and start over.
Saturday is sourdough baking day! Today, we're trying cinnamon rolls.
The dough is rising now. But before you let it rise, ya gotta knead it...
Awhile ago I said I was going to figure out a way to explain how to put together my heart box. And while it's really simple, I didn't know how to do it with images alone. So, I tried a video. Its not a very good one, but it works? Maybe.
You can print the files at the bottom and cut them out, then watch the video. The video starts with a box that is all cut out.
No, I didn't have time to make the most beautifully posed picture, with the nice soft lighting, and the artistic arrangement, or any of that. You see, I was too busy eating three whole pieces of this loaf covered in butter.
It was so. Good.
I've come a long way from my brick of a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to share a couple more things I've learned since my last post about sourdough.
Let your dough stay nice and wet and sticky. Put just enough flour to get it to the point where it would like to stick to itself a little bit more than to the bowl--then stop adding flour.
I used to read the description in many recipes that you needed the dough to "clean the bowl" and thought that my dough had to be a ball that wouldn't stick to anything but itself, or something. I have since learned differently.
I actually figured this one out by accident. I had just enough flour in the house at the time to make one loaf of bread, and when I added the last of my flour it still looked stickier than I was used to making my dough. And I said, well, that's the last of the flour, I guess it will have to be good enough. And it was.
Who knew that I was making my dough too dry all this time? My bread before wasn't bad, but it wasn't quite as soft or fluffy as I'd like. Now I know why.
You will be more aware of subtle changes in your dough's texture if you knead it by hand, rather than using a mixer. Also, kneading is fun.
Maybe nobody but me remembers this, but one of my goals this year was to find types of exercise that I would, you know... actually do. And dough kneading is now the first on that list. I love the texture of the dough, and feeling it gradually grow stronger and more elastic. And I've found that the difference between dough that will pass the windowpane test and won't could be the difference of just a few fold-and-pushes.
So even though I have a kitchen aid that could do the kneading for me, so far I've done it all by hand. I'll probably be singing my kitchen aid's praises once there are little Perkinses running around wreaking havoc, but while its just me and Mr. Perkins, I like getting my hands doughy.
You can knead your dough on a floured surface, or on a watered surface, or on an oiled surface. Or you can be hard core like me and knead it without any of those things.
So, that time I ran out of flour? Obviously I still didn't have any when it came time to knead. But since the dough was already stickier than I was used to I didn't want to make it even more sticky by adding water, or oil. So I decided to just slap it on the counter and see what happened. And you know what? It made surprisingly little mess, requiring cleanup probably comparable to flour or water or oil. (Of course, at that point I still didn't know how my stickier-than-usual loaf was going to turn out, so I had a sort of "well if its already ruined, who cares?" attitude.)
Now, its possible that this was because the point at which I've now trained myself to stop adding flour (with about three batches of dough, but you know, its a start) is exactly at the point where the balance of flour and water is just right. Other bakers may train themselves to take it out a bit more sticky and need to knead (haha) a bit more flour into it to get the ratios right. Or others might overdo the flour a bit and so knead in some water. Or I could just be crazy and making all this up and its not a big deal.
Which basically brings me to the last point, which is this:
Trial and error, my friends. To learn anything, ya gotta get your hands dirty (doughy?) and just try things out.
Because there are so many variables in bread making, especially sourdough baking, that reading really can't get you that far. You just have to try things out and see what works for you.
Which is hard when its food and you don't want to waste it or ruin it. But that is part of learning.
Thats all for now. :-)
This didn't quite actually happen. I did actually make weird faces while reading The Queen of Attolia trying to raise only one eyebrow. And Rich really can do it and I can't. Still. But he wasn't actually there when I made the faces. Nobody was, fortunately.
Go read the book. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Its really good even if you don't make weird faces while reading it.
You know those paper heart baskets I posted awhile ago? Part of the reason I bothered to put that together was so it would stop bothering me. The concept had been rolling around in my head for weeks, and I thought if I actually made it and tried it out and made sure it worked, then I could forget about it. So, I made the paper heart baskets and said, I'm done.
Well, since I made and tested one thing using interlocking hearts, my brain decided to go crazy and think up more. Because its uncooperative like that.
So. I made a card, which is only a slightly altered form of a couple cards I've seen on pinterest, here and here. But after I made it, I thought, wow, I could make a cool box using this.
But right now you only get to see the card because I'm still trying to figure out the best way to explain how to put the box together. Because it's actually very simple and requires absolutely zero glue. Yep. And its actually really simple to put together, once you know the trick.
Anyway. All you get is the heart card for now. Knock yourself out.
Oh, and Happy Valentines Day.
So its no secret that I've been experimenting with making sourdough bread. And today, I have my first edible (delicious!) batch of loaves, so I thought I'd just talk about my experience so far and share what I've learned. There are a whole lot of people who know much more than I do on the subject, so mainly this post is going to give a few links to pages other people have put together, and give a few comments on how they have been helpful to me.
Also to ramble a bit. Because this is my blog and I can.
Here I go.
Growing up I always liked sourdough. With most breads, I had to toast it AND butter it AND smother it in jam in order to actually enjoy eating it. Sourdough toast was my favorite, however, and all it needed was a bit of butter to taste delicious. I never really knew what it was that made sourdough sour and didn't worry about it. I remember very clearly that once dad mentioned he had a friend with some "sourdough starter" he could share with us, but I never asked what that meant or found out any more about it.
Fast forward to now. We recently moved across the country and have been trying to figure out the area. We've been trying different restaurants and stores, trying to find things we like. (We haven't managed to find a restaurant out here that we especially like, unfortunately.) Once, when Richard was getting groceries for us, he grabbed a loaf of bread for us to try--a multi-grain sourdough bread.
It was delicious. Amazingly so. It has been our favorite bread to buy since then.
After discovering that bread, I thought that it might be cool to make some sourdough at home, and tried looking up some recipes. When I found out I'd have to leave out flour and water and let little things grow in it, my interest was lost. It sounded kind of gross, and also like a lot of work, and we had a grocery store a couple blocks away that would sell us delicious multi-grain sourdough bread with far less effort.
Another time when we were getting groceries, Rich convinced me to pick up some whole wheat flour along with my accustomed all-purpose, because he actually likes the flavor of whole wheat. So then I started to try to bake things with it for him, with varied amounts of success.
I had mentioned to my mom that we had found this amazingly delicious multi-grain sourdough bread, because I thought she'd appreciate that I actually liked multi-grain something. Which she did. She also mentioned to my grandma that I loved this sourdough bread, and my grandma decided that that must mean that I wanted some of her starter.
Which I did, I just didn't know it at the time.
Now, last I'd heard my grandma had a gluten sensitivity (or allergy, or something). And now she was all excited about making bread? That's weird. Turns out that (real) sourdough can break down the gluten (or something?) so that it doesn't cause problems for people with certain types of gluten sensitivity. Who knew?
So when we went home for Christmas, Grandma was all excited to give me some of her starter and show me this book about baking sourdough ("The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast" by Melissa Richardson and Caleb Warnock). And I thought, well, I guess I might as well take a look at this book since she went to all this effort to bring it to me. (And, well, you know me and books.)
So I opened it up and started reading from the beginning, even though this sourdough thing seemed like a whole lot of work... and I got interested despite myself. This natural yeast stuff was actually pretty cool. And super healthy to boot. (Of course it was. Grandma likes it.)
So I took the starter home (still a bit skeptical) and started feeding it. And now I finally have a nice batch of sourdough loaves to munch on! I already ate 3 pieces. I kind of want another one. (And now Rich came home and we finished off the first loaf. Fortunately there is more.)
Here is what I've learned so far:
Leaving water out uncovered to let the chlorine dissipate actually works.
There are so many sources on this one, and I don't remember where I first read it, but I've seen it on multiple sites about sourdough. Chlorine is put in water to kill all the little things living in it. This is a problem, because you want to encourage things to live in it. So if you live somewhere (like maybe upstate New York ;-) where they put a lot of chlorine in the water when they clean it, try leaving it out on the counter overnight and see if your starter perks up when you use that water--mine did. Now, I just keep a tall glass of water out on the counter by my starter, and re-fill it each time I feed.
Your starter won't double (or even grow much at all) if it is too thin. Err on the side of too much flour if you're not sure how much to put.
My main source for this is this blog post (by one of the authors of the book Grandma showed me). For awhile I was making my starter too thin and, even though it was doing a bit better with my de-chlorinated water, it still wasn't rising as much as it should. I think there were two things that led me to do it wrong. First was the description of the correct consistency as being "like pancake batter". This may be the fault of my preferring thin pancakes, but when my starter looked like pancake batter it was too thin and would barely rise. The other misleading thing for me was the "equal parts flour and water" instruction. Most sites make it clear that it should be equal WEIGHT not equal VOLUME. But I don't have a scale in my kitchen and I just fed my starter using my measuring cups. When you use measuring cups, keep in mind that you'll put a greater volume of flour than of water--so if you put in 1 cup water, you might put 1 1/3 cup flour (give or take).
When baking with whole wheat flour instead of white all-purpose flour, use slightly less flour and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes before kneading it.
I made a couple batches of mediocre, heavy (commercially yeasted) whole wheat rolls before figuring this one out. Well, I didn't figure it out--I found this awesome blog post, with lots of great pictures, comparing rolls and breads made with all white flour, all wheat flour, and half white/half wheat flour. There is a lot of great info on that post, but the summary is this: when converting a white flour recipe to wheat flour, let the dough rest for half an hour before kneading it to give the flour time to soak in the moisture and it will rise like it should. If you don't want to do pure whole wheat, you can do half white/half wheat and you don't need to alter the recipe or wait to knead the dough.
When you're just starting with sourdough and trying to figure things out, keep your starter on the counter. Then, once you've figured things out and you've decided to bake less frequently, keep your starter in the fridge.
I don't have a source for this one, I just made it up. I kind of did it by accident, but its worked out really well for me.
When my starter was barely rising I decided to keep a bit of it in a glass on the counter and see if it would do better in the warmth. This happened pretty early on in my starter-keeping, and has now been going on for about two weeks. All my learning and progress and baking so far has been done with my counter starter--I've fed my fridge starter, but haven't really done much with it.
Why do I suggest doing this?
Well, think about it. You're all excited to develop this new skill set and figure this sourdough thing out. Now, if you're like me, excitement for a new thing sticks around for about as long as that thing is new--a few weeks at most. Since I've only had my starter two weeks, lets use that as an example.
In two weeks, you would feed a fridge starter 2-4 times (depending what kind of schedule you are following--once weekly or twice weekly)
In two weeks, you would feed a counter starter 14-28 times (again, depending on your feeding schedule).
That is a whole lot more times! I would barely be figuring out the chlorine thing or the thickness thing I mentioned earlier if I was only on my fourth feeding of my starter. But since I've been keeping a starter on the counter, I've fed it more than twenty times, and I've had plenty of times to get it wrong and try new things and see what works. I've been able to do this when this is still new and exciting, rather than waiting a whole 'nother week to see if it will work, and not being able to bake bread until this sourdough thing has already gotten frustrating and old. Its also gotten me used to thinking about my starter more often because I've been able to keep it out where I'll see it any time I'm in the kitchen.
And no, I haven't moved my counter starter to the fridge yet, I've just fed the fridge one on schedule--using the things I learned from feeding my counter starter to help it, and it has responded similarly. From everything I've read, a counter starter will take a little while to get used to being in the fridge, but shouldn't have big problems. Or you could do it like I did and keep one on the counter and one in the fridge. Whatever works for you.
Because of the longer rising time of sourdough, you really need to cover it well or grease the outside of your dough so that the outside doesn't harden. If it hardens, it will form a hard shell that will keep your dough from rising.
Learned from experience.
I've found a lot of other helpful sites and recipes to try, which I've been collecting on my sourdough pinterest page. I'll continue to add to that as I learn more about sourdough.
Thats it for now. When I figure more things out I'll let you know :-).
Lately my mind has been going crazy thinking of all kinds of things I can make with shapes and half shapes that can slide together. I have a whole box of things I've made but have yet to find time to explain to anyone else how to make. I tried (and maybe failed, or at least didn't succeed completely) to explain how to put together my 12-sided ornament. Most of the other shapes are similar to that one, in that their main function is decorative. Maybe I'll get them out again in time for next Christmas. Which reminds me I never did show anyone how I made my cool triangle paper chain that I put on our tree here.
Anyway. When my brain was doing that "what are ALL THE THINGS we can make with half-shapes interlocking" thing it realized that a heart was a conveniently symmetrical and simple shape we could do stuff with. Even do USEFUL stuff, not just this "well that looks cool but what do we DO with it now that we've made it" stuff. Well, relatively. These still mostly just look cool.
Anyway. I'm just going to stop talking and show you what I made.
I give you... PAPER HEART BASKETS.
I made two variations--one with three sides and one with four. I would really suggest making them with cardstock so that they're stiff enough to, you know, actually hold something. And, of course, the bigger you make it the more space it has to bend, so enlarge at your own risk.
And here they are.
An early Happy Valentines Day to you all!
Time to make dinner.
Its time to retire my shoes. Again. Which is really sad because I literally wear them EVERY DAY. I have for years--no joke. Well, not this exact pair. I bought the shoes once after getting home from my mission, then wore them to death. I was so sad to have to find a new pair of shoes that I realized that the internet is a wonderful thing. Yes, I found and ordered the exact same pair again.
And now they have holes in them and let the water in. *sigh* I have a new pair of shoes mom got for me that I'm breaking in. And they'll be great, I'm sure. And I also really do have a box full of other shoes that I haven't bothered to unpack yet. I should go drag that out.
I'm just mourning the old ones first.
I, like many, don’t get very into the whole New Years Resolutions thing for a simple reason: I don’t believe they work.
I mean, think about it. You make a list of things you know you’re supposed to want to do just because it happens to be a new calendar year, and then you call them resolutions instead of plain old goals, and that somehow makes it more likely that you’ll actually do those things?
Like I said, they don’t work.
When I’ve made “New Years Resolutions” that have “worked”, they haven’t actually been “New Years” Resolutions at all--they’re things I’ve decided, deep down, to do, completely independent of whether a New Year is starting or not.
So here are a few things I’ve decided I’m going to do, and I’m using the New Year as an excuse to tell you about them all:
1. Blog Weekly.
I’m not going to decide on a specific day of the week to blog, because I want to keep a bit of freedom on my end. I’m just deciding that every week, between Sunday morning and Saturday night, I’ll post something on my blog. It may be a comic, a painting, a craft, an entry about my life, random musings on a topic nobody except me cares about (like, random example--New Years Resolutions.) Just something on my blog every week.
I debated awhile after combining my three independent blogs, each with its own theme--do I want to have a theme to this blog? And I realized that depended on the answer to the question, what is the purpose of this blog?
Eventually I decided, my purpose isn’t to write about any single subject. Its just to write about things that I think are interesting, and that other people might find interesting too. Basically just a way to let the world know what I’m doing and figuring out, what I’m excited about, and what I’ve learned. I don’t think its a coincidence that I really got into my other blogs when I moved away to college, and then came back to blogging when we moved across the country. Blogging is kind of my way (well, one of them) to keep in touch with the world.
So if there is a theme, this is it: Interesting Things. I can find something interesting things to post about every week, can’t I?
(Tangent: this was really solidified for me since I’ve been re-reading Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley, which is easily in my top 5 books ever. In it, Lois the baby dragon is described as galumphing from Interesting Thing to Interesting Thing and I realized that I kind of do that too. And that that was what I wanted to blog about.)
2. Get back into painting.
Part of this is figuring out a good schedule and structure for how this will work. But I’ve been mostly working digitally lately--in vectors, in fact, so I don’t even get to call it digital painting. And, while that is fun, I really miss my paint.
3. Find kinds of exercise that I will actually do. And do them.
Because I’d like to be healthy and do all the things. Weight isn’t really a motivator for me, this isn’t a diet type of resolution. I actually have a somewhat lower opinion of most diets than I do of New Years Resolutions, for some of the same reasons. I just want to be able to feel good and be active, but jogging and running don’t work that well for me as well as they do for many (at least for extended periods) because of foot problems. Also I think they’re just plain boring. So I need to explore other options... I’ve started doing a bit of yoga once in awhile, and want to find a few more things to try as well. Yesterday I realized that dough kneading can also be good exercise (my kitchenaid can only knead the dough for me if its a big enough batch, I discovered--one small loaf doesn't work.) Not cardiovascular, but seriously guys, bakers have big arms for a reason.
Which brings me to this last resolution--
4. Figure out making yeast breads in this new climate.
Because the breads I've made since moving here have been passable, but honestly not that great. I got to be okay ish at making bread in Utah, but even then I wasn't super proficient, and it was still pretty hit-and-miss. I want to figure out doing commercial yeast AND natural yeast, white breads AND whole wheat (maybe even multigrain), sweet AND salty (and whatever else) because I'm no purist. Yes, I know that naturally yeasted whole wheat would be the healthiest, but sometimes I'm in a hurry and want something fluffy. Also I managed to find myself a guy to marry who actually really likes the flavor of whole wheat, and I would like to like the flavor of whole wheat (if that makes sense), so thats kind of a sub-goal here for me.
So I want to experiment with them all--yeasts, flours, recipes. Speaking of, I have my first very small naturally yeasted (hand-kneaded!) whole wheat loaf rising in the kitchen as I type. I even have a picture. But we don't get to know how it will turn out until tonight because natural yeast takes foooooooreeeeeeeeveeeeeer. And I'm not super patient. But I have to be so I will. But also, like I said, I'm going to figure out the commercial yeast too.
Thats it. I know the list is short, but I don’t see much point in focusing on too many things at once.
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