Sourdough Made Simple

Sourdough has a reputation for being a bit tricky, so a lot of people find it intimidating. Thanks to my friend P, a fellow baking geek, I’ve been introduced to the Lahey method, which makes it super-easy to bake bread at home. I love this book!

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I’ve been experimenting with Lahey’s method for several weeks and my adapted recipe for sourdough is even simpler. It looks like a lot of steps but bear with me.

The genius part: Instead of folding/kneading your dough every few hours, you let your dough ferment overnight (18 hrs), do a second rise for 2 hrs and bake. No more being stuck in your house all day during the rising process!

STEP 1

All sourdough begins with a starter — natural yeast with a brinier flavor than the commercial yeast you find at the supermarket. Plan on 3-4 days before it’s ready to use. All you need is flour, water, air and time.

Mix equal parts water and flour in a wide mouthed container, cover it loosely so air can get to it, leave it out on your counter and wait. THAT’S IT. Really!

Once your starter is bubbly and active, try to make your dough within a few hours, before it loses potency. Thereafter, if you’re not baking regularly, dump out about 50-75% once a week, stir in equal parts water and flour, and start the process over.

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Starter is ready to use!

I encourage everyone to invest a few bucks in a kitchen scale and measure by weight rather than volume because 1) it’s easier and 2) it will guarantee consistent results. Remember, different flours have different densities so one cup of A may be slightly more or less than one cup of B.

Put your empty container on the scale, and set it to zero. Add 50g-75g whole wheat flour, 50g-75g bread (strong) flour, and 100g-150g cool water, resetting to zero after each addition. Don’t worry if you’re off by a gram or two as long as your ratio of total flour to water is roughly 1:1.

STEP 2

You’ve been patient and you now have over 100g of starter. Let’s get going.

Put a large bowl on the scale, zero it out, and add:

  • 600g flour (I like 475g bread flour +125g whole wheat or another grain)
  • 16g salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast (the kind you get at the grocery store)
  • 450g water
  • 107g active starter*
  • Optional: Add a generous handful of chia seeds and a tablespoon of caraway seeds, as I’ve done here.

*If this amount uses up most of your starter, replenish by adding  50g flour plus 50g water, mix well and set it aside to reactivate for a couple of days.

STEP 3

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Once you have a well mixed dough (it will be sticky; DO NOT be tempted to add more flour), loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it out at room temperature overnight for 18 hours. If you do this at, say, 4 PM, your dough will be ready for the next step at 10 AM the next day.

STEP 4

18 hours later, your dough will be bubbly and will come away from the bowl in long strands – this is the developed gluten. It will be loose and sticky; don’t add more flour!

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Those strands are the gluten

Dump it onto a lightly floured counter, and form the dough into a ball by tucking the edges under – using either a dough scraper or your (lightly floured) hands.

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The dark bits are the chia and caraway seeds.

STEP 5

The traditional method is to bake your dough in a pre-heated cast iron pot.  This is an easy alternative.

Divide dough into two balls. Shape each ball into a log and put them in a perforated baguette pan. For a free form shape, place your logs (or ovals) onto a baking sheet that’s been generously dusted with cornmeal. Leave plenty of room between them.

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Lightly dust the tops with flour. Cover the pan or baking sheet with a linen or cotton dishtowel (avoid terry cloth) or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise again for 2 hours.  After 1.5 hours have elapsed, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.

STEP 6

After another half hour (the full two hours), your dough will have puffed up nicely. Spritz your hot oven with water, put the bread into the oven and lower the heat to 475 degrees F.

You can spritz again after 2-3 minutes to keep the steam going and create a crispier crust. You can also score the dough at this point to let steam escape during baking but it’s not crucial.

Bake for about 25 minutes and check your bread – it should be a rich golden color. Depending on your oven this may take another 5+ minutes.

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Left: the bottom, showing bumps from the perforated pan.

To ensure your bread is baked through, check it with a kitchen thermometer – the internal temperature of the bread should be 205-210 degrees F.

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Nice and craggy with an open crumb

Cool. Slice. Eat.

 

Guest Post by Sleephelp.org : Boost Your Productivity at Work by Napping

Napping to improve your work life? Yes, please!

lifexperimentblog

It’s mid-afternoon, and your eyelids are starting to droop, but you’ve still got a good three hours before the end of your workday. As much as you want to give your employer 100 percent for a full eight hours, mental and physical fatigue can get in the way. But, there’s a simple solution that’s been used to help humans get through a long day for centuries – a nap. A growing body of research suggests that naps aren’t just for children.
Nap for Alertness
Whether you work the day, swing, or night shift a quick nap can help you stay more alert while on the job. Astudy conductedamong air traffic controllers on the night shift found that a nap mid-shift let to quicker reaction times, better alertness, and fewer signs of sleepiness. While participants didn’t enter the most restorative stage of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, they…

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Early Promise

I couldn’t attend my high school reunion last week, but thanks to generous friends who have shared memories, photos and excerpts from our literary magazine, it was almost like being there.

I especially enjoyed this witty story. Hope you do, too.

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Blue Streak

Earlier this week, I took a break from my favorite summer activities of wine tasting, beach walks and bread baking to pick blueberries at nearby Gibson Farms. I can’t say I’m the most efficient at this, as I subscribe to the notion of “pick one, eat two”, but both my friend P and I wound up with a solid haul: 9 pounds for her; 7 for me. (Not unlike giving birth, we joked.)

The first acres on this family farm were planted in the 40’s, with more added in the 80’s. The moist, mild climate of the central coast gives the berries their distinctive sweetness, and draws large crowds during the two-week “U-pick“ season.

Berkeley blueberries are Gibson’s current crop. Considered the most popular home garden variety of blueberry, Berkeleys grow well in mild climates. Their medium to large size fruit has great flavor and firmness, as well as a long shelf life, should you happen to not devour the entire crop in one sitting.

Blueberry Berkeley, Vaccinium corymbosum, High Bush Blueberry

You probably know that blueberries are healthy — at least until they turn into a pie!
A few facts:
  • Blueberries contain a plant compound called anthocyanin. This gives blueberries both their blue color (cyan) and many of their health benefits.
  • Blueberries can improve bone strength, skin health, blood pressure, diabetes management, cancer prevention, and mental health.
  • Their fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content support heart health. (Fiber helps to reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.)
  • One cup of blueberries provides 24% of a person’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
  • People who use blood thinners, such as warfarin, should speak to their doctor before increasing their intake of blueberries, as the high vitamin K content can affect blood clotting.

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Now, other than merely eating great handfuls, what else can you do? Plenty! — from smoothies to pancakes to salsa to desserts.
Besides the aforementioned pie, I made up a batch of muffins using this King Arthur flour basic muffin recipe and adding 2 cups of blueberries to the dry ingredients before combining with the wet ones. This trick keeps the berries from sinking to the bottom.
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The muffins would be even tastier with the addition of a streusel topping, but I thought it prudent to skip the additional butter and sugar.
If you are feeling indulgent, though, check out this wonderful Ina Garten recipe from my friend Terry’s blog. Terry will never steer you wrong when it comes to deliciousness!
Enjoy the rest of your week!

 

 

In Praise of Like

As a preteen, “liking” a boy was the highest form of attachment. Somewhere along the way, though, like was deemed second best to “love”. If you liked someone, that meant you were (only) friends but if you loved them, well, that was the romantic ideal.

I’ve been thinking lately that we shortchange ourselves when love supersedes like.

Shouldn’t our romantic partners/spouses etc. also be our close friends? People whom we respect, admire, enjoy and actually like? If those who set our hearts a-flutter are also good company, doesn’t that have more staying power?

Something else I liked this week: some hints on motivation.

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We usually know what we ought to be doing at any given moment – begin a project, get out and exercise, etc. — but feeling motivated enough to start may be more of a challenge.

So when I read this trick to outsmart your brain, it caught my attention.

A woman named Mel Robbins started researching the science behind motivation and discovered that our brains have an innate need to protect us. When we’re stressed, afraid, or in pain, our mind will keep us from doing the uncomfortable activity by communicating, “It’s ok, you don’t need to do that; do this instead”.

It’s not necessarily a lack of willpower or commitment that keeps us from pursuing what we ought to; it seems to be an innate response we can train ourselves to override.

Ms. Robbins has given talks and written a book about her 5-second rule and how to use it in every area of your life. It’s quite simple: when you find yourself procrastinating, count backward from 5 and then begin the activity. Apparently, it’s a form of metacognition that interrupts the excuses. Here’s more detail if you’re interested.

This sounds very cool and I’m going to use it right now to make myself pull some pesky weeds.

Or maybe after lunch….

Ghosts: Friday the 13th Ghost!

Happy Friday the 13th!

Book 'Em, Jan O

Readers, here’s a scary tale of visitations by the ghost of Frederick Douglass, appearing to right wrongs on Friday the 13th!  Really intriguing story!  Read on at patheos.com via http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/04/04/friday-the-13th-a-ghost-story/

Photo:By Engraved by J.C. Buttre from a daguerretotype. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To learn more about real ghosts, please see About Ghosts: A Useful Handbook.  For some great ghost stories, please see Death Be Not Loud, Rest In Fleece, and Sepia Seepage.  To learn about ghosts in modern fiction, please see Infectious Ghosts. And so much more, at my amazon page:  https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B071FK9L75
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Random Good Things About Friday the 13th

It’s safer

According to the Dutch Center for Insurance Statistics, Friday the 13th is actually statistically safer than other Fridays — there are fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft on these days. Is that only true in the Netherlands, though?

The first dinosaur eggs were found

Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the first dinosaur eggs at a dig in Mongolia, on July 13, 1923, a huge breakthrough in paleontology and a generally cool thing.

Gender discrimination became illegal in government

Although Title VII prevented private employers from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin and sex, it wasn’t until Executive Order 11375 that gender discrimination became illegal for the federal government and federal contractors. President Johnson signed the order — officially titled Amending Executive Order No. 11246, Relating to Equal Employment Opportunity — on October 13, 1967.

Now we need a law prohibiting stupidity in government.

Water was found on the Moon

On November 13, 2009, NASA announced that they had found “significant” water on the Moon. How much? Approximately a dozen two-gallon bucketfuls. But still….

The first female flight instructor got her license

On October 13, 1939, Evelyn Pinckert Kilgore became the first female flight instructor. She then flew non-combat missions during World War II, and owned and operated her own private airport after the war.

Benjamin Franklin wrote one of his most famous quotes

“[B]ut in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”

In a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, a fellow inventor, on Friday, November 13, 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote that the US Constitution had been completed: “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”

Heavy metal became a new music genre

Black Sabbath released their debut album on Friday, February 13th 1970.

Every Friday the 13th has been the beginning of a weekend

Duh! Have a good one!

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