Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sourdough SUCCESS! It rose!

So the missing ingredient was . . . sugar!  I looked at a couple of websites on getting sourdough to rise (regular, not gluten-free like I did) and I found some helpful suggestions:
  • add sugar to the starter
  • only add a tiny bit (but don't skip it) of salt
  • leave the starter/sponge out in a bowl overnight (I covered it with a towel)
  • cover the bread when it's baking at 450 degrees for the first half hour, then uncover for the last 15 to 30 min.
I once again did not measure, but I used the following ingredients:

starter (I added some of the flour and let it sit overnight)
oat flour
brown rice flour
little bit of sweet sorghum flour
little bit of flax meal
2 eggs
baking powder
a few teaspoons sugar
pinch salt (1/4 teaspoon?)
pinch xanthum gum (to make it stick together, gluten-free)

Today's loaf makes a hard knock on the outside, and a soft, moist inside.  It rose this time, which is a first really, and I attribute that to the addition of the sugar.  I didn't add enough flour to where it was kneadable, I left it pretty moist and used a spoon for my "kneading" and to transfer it to the bread pan.  I poured the starter into a bowl last night, turned on the oven till it was a little warm then shut it off, and put the bowl in the oven with a damp towel overtop. 

In the morning I added all of the other ingredients (including the eggs) and then stirred the mixture in the bowl and let it sit for about 2 to 3 hours.  Then I transferred it to a buttered loaf pan and let it sit another 1 1/2 hours in the slightly warmed oven with a towel overtop.  I covered it with a glass lid that almost fit for the first 1/2 hour and let it bake uncovered for the last half hour.

If interested in replicating this, you will be pleased to find that I intend to measure and post the measurements next time!  :)  The only part I will not be measuring is the starter.  That you just need to play around with (like I did) and try to get it to bubble. 

Just put one part flour, one part water in a jar.  Add a few teaspoons of kefir (I use dairy kefir) and a pinch or two of sugar.  2 to 3 times a day add more flour and water (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup, rotate between buckwheat, sorghum, brown rice or sweet brown rice, oat, etc.--I really like the texture of my flours and I have been grinding them myself with a coffee grinder for about 30 seconds (buy one that holds as much as possible if you plan to get one for this purpose)).  If your starter doesn't seem active enough you can add a little sugar or kefir to the starter.  Stir with wood or plastic when you add the flours.  Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions! 

Obviously if you can eat wheat use at least mostly whole wheat flour and this will taste unbelievable.  You would want to add enough flour to knead yours.  And you can skip the xanthum gum.  Lucky you!

For you gluten-freers, this is a great loaf.  Way better than what you buy in the store, and it keeps like wheat bread.  Great for eating fresh with butter and jelly or for toasting.  Happy baking!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Personal Prayer

I don't know if anyone else will find this as helpful as I did, but I've struggled for years to really know how to keep focused when I pray.  I get bored, antsy, forget what I'm doing, drift off to sleep, or avoid it because of expectance of failure.  This was a really helpful and practical method to pray, and I love listening to Tim Keller, the pastor of a church in New York City.  He's so down to earth.  Anyway, hope it's helpful . . .

Friday, October 23, 2009


Micah was convinced that Halloween called for the making of scarecrows . . . so here's our best (well, our ok) attempt at it.  They each decorated the "face" of the scarecrow, and we stuffed them with newspaper and threw a few strands of straw in for effect.  Happy Halloween!

Sourdough Bread: Attempt #3, Result--Tastes good, flat

Well, I can't get it to rise . . . but it tastes good now.  I started using only flours I know taste good (like brown rice, amaranth, sorghum, oat) and just a little bit of buckwheat.  I'm still not measuring anything.  And I've been adding an egg (this time I tried 2) and a little baking soda.  So I can't really get it to rise at all, but it's moist and it tastes really good.  So that's a major improvement.  I'm using about a cup of kefir each time, too.  I'm still brainstorming ways to make it rise, and then it will be perfect (and gluten and added yeast free), or as close as gluten-free can get.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From Grapes to Nuts . . . Er, Juice!

So, with the help of the Davis children picking up handfuls of grapes to wash in the sink, the grapes were washed, boiled, squished through a strainer with a wooden squisher (technical term), sweetened with sugar, boiled, and poured into 200 degree heated jars and then sealed with screw on lids as the liquid cooled.  We got 5 and 1/2 quarts of juice out of half a bushel.  The juice tastes amazing, way better than from a can.  I didn't strain it through a pillowcase like I read you can because I figure I don't care and it probably gets rid of fiber or something good.  So it's just a little cloudier than store bought.  A success for sure!

Still in Search of the Perfect Sourdough . . .

Well, I still haven't found it, exactly.  But I feel like I'm on the right track.  I started using about (as of now, I'm not really measuring--so if I actually find a winner, I'll have trouble replicating it) a cup of kefir (that thin yogurt-like stuff I'm growing on my counter), a half cup of starter, a cup of coffee-ground sweet brown rice, 1/2 c sweet sorghum flour, and 1/2 c coffee-ground oat flour.  I also added, for good measure, a little shake of xanthum gum (it helps hold together gluten-free recipes), one egg, about a teaspoon of baking powder, and, oops, today I forgot the salt.  So it didn't really rise much, if at all.  But at least when it baked today it rose incrementally.  And it tastes great.  So even though potato flour makes it rise more, I'm going to avoid it.  There's nothing yummy about the smell of potato when making toast.  Anyway, today's loaf at least made some pretense of rising.  I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Story with a Hole

It is rather alarming to me that news stations are posting stories about "killer vegetables" and leaving readers to assume that handwashing neglect is responsible for thousands and thousands of food contamination deaths each year. These vegetables (and other foods) are mostly being contaminated by the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) which feed cattle and other animals foods they were not designed to eat, pack them closely together and allow them to stand in their own feces, and the runoff water from these disgusting "farms." Added to that is the problem of the monster California farms feeding the nation while small local farmers (a far safer source for these 10 risky foods) are left with a very limited customer base. Why is our media (let alone our government) not suggesting the solution of local sustainable agriculture . . . a MUCH safer alternative.

The 10 riskiest foods in America - Food safety-

School Days

Micah has been in Nursery School for a few weeks now, which has been an adjustment for him and his mother (well, and especially for his little brother, who of course needed to pose for the school picture, too).  He really likes it and does really well overall, though recently drop-offs have been excruciating.  He draws an elaborate picture of a boat every morning right when he gets to school.  At home, he tends to draw camping sites or rockets.  Most recently, he's into castles.

This one is on its side, but we're starting to be able to tell what he's drawing before he tells us (he practices drawing about 3 hours a day).  Right now he's drawing a map of our neighborhood (though I'm not sure it's entirely accurate, it seems to feature a giraffe).  Anyway, we're enjoying the boys and praying that Micah will go back to the cheerful drop-offs of the first two weeks at school.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sourdough Bread: Attempt #1, Result--partial failure

This actually looks better than it tastes.  It was only pretty good with lots of jelly.  I don't think I can actually repeat this recipe exactly, because I add a different flour to my starter each time I feed it.  The recipe I use, based on major adaptations to one on, was:

2 and 1/2 c amaranth, millet, quinoa flour (ground in a coffee grinder)
1 c buckwheat flour
1/4 c flaxmeal
1 c warm water
1/2 c sourdough starter
1/2 t salt
1/4 c olive oil
flour for dusting; garlic powder and sesame seeds to sprinkle on after last rise and after rubbed with olive oil

Next time I won't let it rise in the crockpot.  It sort of started baking.  I think that was why it didn't rise enough and got really hard.  I'll also use honey to sweeten it a little.  I also might use whey or kefir in place of the water or part of it, just to see.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Truly Terrifying Article

CAFO beef strikes again! E-Coli runs rampant in the beef industry in this country.

NYT: E. coli path shows beef inspection flaws - Food safety-

Let's support our local farmers who feed their cattle grass. I'm about to buy (and split with friends) 50 pounds of grass-fed beef from a local farmer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Upcoming Events: Grape Juice and Sourdough

Hopefully on Monday I will be able to post a picture of at least one of my next projects: the baking of the first sourdough loaf, and the making and heat-sealing of grape juice (I asked the Amish girl at the farmer's market and told her I didn't know how to can but she assured me it was ok to heat seal grape juice). 

The sourdough had to go in the fridge for the weekend b/c we're going out of town and it's smelling a little ripe and ready to go.  I think I'd cry if I came back to find overly fermented sourdough on the counter.  The kefir's in there too for the weekend.  All fermentation projects on hold for now. 

The concord grapes are in the cool pantry/mudroom.  We'll see how they hold up.

Honey-Baked Lentils

hippiechickinsing on Chowhound gives a great recipe for yellow lentils. She says:
"I like honey-baked lentils. It's basically 2:1 water to lentils; for 1 cup lentils, I add 1 T. honey, 2T soy sauce, 2 T oil, 1 clove garlic and any spices. I usually use a curry blend, but dill works nicely, too, and salt and pepper. Put everything in a casserole dish, cover and bake at 350 for about 45 min.. I add carrots and red peppers sometimes. It's a versatile dish and goes well with baked potatoes, rice or flatbread."

I had no idea what to do with yellow lentils and had them around for about 6 months before I made this attempt. They were really very good (and I had very low expectations). I didn't measure anything, but I put in everything she said except the optional veggies. And for the spice I just used a little bit of curry.  I did use 1 and 1/2 c of the lentils and adjust amounts.  But then I had to bake it for at least an hour and a half.

I served it with Rice Vinegar/Garlic/Soy Sauce/Olive Oil marinaded ahi tuna steak with my homemade kefir as a yogurtish topping, sweet potatoes, and broccoli rabe/baby red beet green saute. It was a great meal. Yum.