Tag Archives: bread

Further Fun(?) with Sourdough Bread

So. I’m trying to make sourdough bread again.
This is at least my third time trying this.
Basically, last time, I got pretty fed up with how heckin’ long it takes to make a batch of bread.
Like… I know the 18+ hours is mostly not “my time” – it’s time when the chef is inoculating, when the dough is rising, and rising, and rising… but for someone who’s used to starting the bread at 1pm and having it done before dinner? This is a LOT of time. Actually having to plan and schedule things levels of time.
Also, I was having a hard time getting the bread to rise enough, and to not kind of… crumble apart when cut and/or go moldy at the drop of a hat.
Seriously. I wasn’t sure what kind of bacteria I had making my starter bubbly, but…. the mold that resulted was a lot more multi-coloured than what I was used to. Which was concerning.
So, based on all of that, something was definitely going wrong.
Given that my bread is less a hobby and more a way of shaving $2/week off our grocery bill while making a semi-reliable offering to the household gods and ancestors… I put my starter in the back of the fridge and basically ignored it unless and until I had a batch of vegan baked goods to make and needed something to function as egg-replaces (for binding, not leavening).
However. Spring is springing, a friend in the neighbourhood is posting about her own sourdough adventures, and I keep waking up at 4am freaking out about How Are We Going To Survive When The World Ends???[1]
So: Sourdough bread.
What I did, was I dug my old starter (still kicking, despite the odds!) out of the back of the fridge, poured off the water, and then scooped what was left – about half a cup of starter – into a new jar in-which I had already mixed the following:
1 tbsp honey
1/4 C plane yoghurt
1/2 C milk
1/2 C water
1/2 C rye flour
1/2 C all-purpose wheat flour
That was the day before yesterday.
This morning, I fed it a tablespoon of rye flour and a couple of tablespoons of water, gave it a really good stir, and put it back in a sunny spot in the kitchen.
This afternoon? This afternoon, I discovered that my jar was bubbling like heck to the point of over-flowing.
So, in a small bowl, I mixed 1C all-purpose flour with 1C water[2] and then added about half of my starter. Which is hypothetically 4-8 times as much starter as I need? But also, I want this to work and I don’t want my starter jar to keep overflowing. So I used a lot.
This mixture is hanging out on my counter, and I’ll be quietly ignoring it – barring the occasional stir, before going to bed, for example – until tomorrow. At which point, I’ll be trying Step Two (The Levain) and Step Three (adding The Chef to The Levain hoping like heck that it all rises properly).
Fingers crossed, and we’ll see how it goes!
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] I’ve got a lot of friends who look at me and my wife and say that we’re where they’ll go if/when the zombie apocalypse hits. But realistically? Yeah, I can grow veggies. A bit. But how am I going to turn our humanure into nutrient-rich, pathogen-free biochar with some kind of a micro-sized gassifier (that I don’t know how to run, no less)? And without that, how am I going to (a) keep us from getting sick from shit-born pathogens, OR (b) keep our limited garden soil fed and fertile? …So the fact that I want to be able to keeping making bread without relying on freeze-dried yeast? Isn’t really going to be that relevant if I also don’t have access to wheat anymore.
See also: Reasons why I’m trying to get the hang of growing potatoes.
[2] From a previously-boiled kettle, so anything like chlorine or whatever has had a chance to evaporate.

Baking with Whole Wheat Flour – Baby Steps

Hey there.
So I’ve spent the day writing (YAY), making candles (YAY), and baking more bread for our household use.
My life is so hard, I know. 😉
Having read Cooked a couple of weeks ago, and having, as a result, been “suffering” feelings of inadequacy in the cooking-from-scratch department, and having found a medium-sized bag of whole wheat flour – advertised as “perfect for muffins” and so, in theory at least, a grind that is closer to “pastry/soft” than “bread/hard” flour – on at half-price when I hit up the grocery store last week, I have decided to start adding (some) whole wheat flour to my dialy bread recipe.
My first batch was 1/4 whole wheat to 3/4 polished/white flour. Today’s batch (batch #2) was 3/8 whole wheat to 5/8 polished/white flour. I think there’s a reasonable chance that I could up it to half and half and still get a tasty, flavourful, easy-rising loaf of bread using my current method (which is basically “make a wet dough” that can be stirred rather than kneaded, and use “quick rising” (fine grind) dried yeast in the mix).
I confess that I was really worried that my attempts at even partially whole-wheat bread would turn out dense, heavy, and kind of bitter. But, so far, this is working.
Part of it, I suspect, is that my whole wheat flour has the bran part – which is apparent kind of sharp and, as such, tends to pop the bubbles that make the bread rise – ground relatively fine, which makes for fewer bubble-popping problems in the dough. I think. The other part, maaaaaaaaaaaaybe, is that I mix the whole-wheat flour in with the yeast and sugar and warm water, rather than adding it, dry, to the mix along with the white flour. In theory, this is a way of pre-soaking the bran (and getting the yeasty digestion started earlier on it, too) before the whole business really starts becoming “dough”.
I’m really liking the results. I mean, beyond the Hearty Hippie Righteousness of putting whole-grain anything into my bread, the bread actually tastes good which was NOT the case the last time I tried to bake with whole wheat flour.
Maybe this is because I’m adding a tiny bit of extra salt to the dough. Or maybe it’s because – in the intervening ten years – I’ve learned to brush the tops of my just-out-of-the-oven bread with some butter in order to keep the crust from becoming a hard-to-cut-through shell. Or maybe it’s because I bake bread (and other stuff, but in this case bread) often enough that my flour doesn’t have time to, uhm, go rancid(?) on me, and my yeast doesn’t have time to get “old” or “tired out” beofre I use it (and thus has fairly vigourous levening powers when it gets used).
Regardless, it’s going over well with The Wife (and The Parrot, who probably shouldn’t be fed as much bread as I give her) and tastes good with savoury things (like as the base for a pulled-pork sandwich or as toast-with-marmite) and sweet things (toast with apple butter is particularly awesome – have yet to try it with something more “delicate” like cocoa-infused strawberry-balsamic jam, but I’ll get to it eventually).
It’s nice to think, too, that I’m getting something more than just calories (maybe even the odd mineral here and there!) from this bit of home-baking that makes up so much of my day-to-day diet.
I’m definitely not at the 100% Whole Wheat bread-baking stage of this game, and may never (or not) opt to bake things like cakes and tea-biscuits with whole wheat flour. But it’s a step. And it may be followed by another step. Who knows where this will lead? 😉
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Hearth Flow – Reorganizing My Kitchen (at last!)

So we (“we” – it was mostly my partner, I just put stuff in boxes) cleared out our kitchen yesterday. All the cupboards emptied and washed, and the whole bit. The apartment is, just at the moment, a total disaster. (It’s kind of surprising to discover that you don’t actually have enough space in the rest of your house to hold the contents of your kitchen cupboards, but maybe that’s not so weird after all…)

Now that we can start putting things away again, we’re taking the opportunity to get rid of expired products[1], amalgamate duplicates[2], and reorganize the cupboards so that (a) we can see and recognize everything we’ve got, and (b) so that the things we use regularly all have an easily-accessible Place, and the things we use rarely – like the spare coffee maker we have on hand for Big Parties – are stored in those hard-to-reach places (like the dead-end corner cupboards) that would otherwise go unused.

This is all fine and dandy, and I suspect my Kitchen Goddess[3] will be pleased with the changes and renewed energy/flow in the kitchen. So yay for that one. 🙂

I’m happy that we’re doing it, certainly. 🙂

One thing that I’m doing is getting my Soap and Candles stuff sorted into a neater, more easily dealt-with, package. Before (as in: an hour ago), I had everything in a big cardboard box on the kitchen floor. Which, on the one hand, is fine: It’s all in one place and – relatively speaking – out of everyone’s way. But, as open, available boxes tend to do, it quickly got heaped with cloth bags, pet toys, and other bits and bobs that needed to be coralled. So the “neatness” aspect of my handy cardboard-box solution fell apart pretty fast.

The idea, now, is to keep the “loose” stuff – zip-lock bags (labeled) of citric acid, soy wax, cocoa butter, shea butter, wicks, and (recycled) tealight cups, plus my huge blocks of raw (and gloriously fragrant) beeswax – in my former Bread Box. That being a literal hinged, tin box for storing loaves of bread[4] (for those who haven’t come across one before, since I don’t think they’re in massive use these days).
Up until now, I’ve been using my bread box to store specialty flours like rye, buckwheat, and romano bean – as well as rolled oats and their relatives, rolled spelt and rolled kamut. (I don’t actually have anything like a wheat intollerance/allergy, but I’ve got friends who do, so I like to keep some appropriate flours on hand if they’re coming over for dessert or similar). BUT! Because the bread box is (a) opaque, and (b) kept in the bottom of my cupboard, behind the rice cooker and the waffle iron, I tend not to pull it out very often. Not helpful.

“But, Meliad,” I hear you say imagine you’re saying, “Won’t you still have the same accessibility issue if you’re storing oils and waxes in the breadbox as you were when you were storing flours?”

Good point, my dears, good point.

My theory – and it really is just a theory at this point – is that:
1) Having re-stored my spare small appliances, I now have extra space on our Small Appliance Shelf.
2) This means that I have space to store the rice-cooker, the waffle iron, and the hand-mixer on the Small Appliance Shelf, rather than in the lower cabinet.
3) Which means I have extra space in the lower cabinet where, hey, I can store my soap and candle supplies in an easily accessible way that…
4) … Is also off the floor and not likely to get approrpiated by pet toys, cleaning supplies, or reusable shopping bags. (I hope).

It’s not a perfect solution, by any means. But it is a big help and, with any luck, will mean that we have more room-to-move in our kitchen while also giving me the means to (a) access my craft supplies without having to go digging for them, and (b) access the lower section of my Gorgeous Oak Hutch which contains a lot of my fancy servingware — which, y’know, I’d like to be able to use now and again. 🙂

Huzzah! Everybody wins! 😀

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] So far: one tin of mango slices, two tetra-packs of vegan milk, and the remains of a jar of pine nuts. Not bad, on the whole, and kind of a relief given how much Stuff In Tins we have in stock.

[2] I have so many little bags of baking soda, it’s not even funny…

[3] She handles all things pertaining to hearth, abundance, and stability, but stagnation is NOT her friend (I don’t think it’s anyone’s friend, actually), so getting things sorted and cleared and back in use will probably make her happy. 🙂

[4] My parents got a canister set for a wedding present – it included cilindrical tins for tea, coffee, sugar, flour, and cookies, plus this rectangular tin for bread. The idea being that if you store your bread in a cool, dark place, it will (a) last longer, and (b) be protected from any pets/pests that you have in your house. When I got my first house, I inherited most of these tins. And most of them are in regular use. (The one for tea, while it does hold tea bags, is also full of orange pekoe, which we pretty-much never drink. I’m not sure what we’re going to do about that). I *heart* them. They help me keep my cupboards neat and (relatively) free of Accumulated Bags. YAY! 😀

Local (Ottawa Area) Grain Millers – YAY! :-D

So it’s my birthday. There will be tarot readings coming, believe-you-me, but for now I just wanted to squee about the fact that I’ve (finally, with a few clicks of a mouse, no-less) found grain millers in Ottawa. They aren’t grain farmers, but they mill Canadian grain (YAY) and the mills are both local.

Ottawa Valley Grain Products does a variety of grains – corn, barley, and wheat – but (alas) they don’t do wheat flour.

Watson’s Mill, on the other hand, does do wheat flour, but only the hard kind that works for bread.

I have to admit: I’m thoroughly in favour of pearled wheat flour – that’s the standard “white” stuff that I’ve been cooking with, on the cheap, for most of my life[1]. It’s incredibly easy to work with and is basically a blank canvas in terms of what flavours can be layered over it. There are plenty of folks, I know, who would see this as a down-side (or try to sell it as a down-side, anyway), but I actually really like that. I can use it to make a delicately flavoured summer tea cake and not have the blueberry (for example) overpowered by the wheat bran (which can be a little on the bitter side).

That said, I’m thinking that whole-wheat PASTRY flour might actually be okay. It’s the same whole wheat flour, but it’s much more finely ground. That means the bran is better integrated with the rest of the ground wheat berry. It’s a softer, lighter flour, but it still has the whole-grain health benefits going on. It might be a place to start.

I wonder if I can find a grain miller in my region that does whole wheat pastry flour… That’d be good. 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] The economics of that preference are a whole other post – I’m a broke-ass writer. If I can get 10Kg of flour for $12, that means I can keep myself in calories for a good long time without having to break my miniscule bank to do it. The short version of said post is that it bugs the hell out of me that Good Food – food that is both ethical (by my own standards of ethics, meaning good for the land and the life it was before it was my food) AND healthy AND delicious (that last one is important, too, FYI. I am a sensual hedonist, after all) – is really hard to get ahold of in significant, body-sustaining amounts, if you’re broke. 😛 Even if your low-rent apartment is blessed with a balcony (which can be quite the luxury, and doesn’t come standard with all units), you still need to acquire and transport enough soil (and containers) up to said balcony to grow stuff in – which ain’t cheap, let me tell you – and even then, there’s no guarantee your plants will fruit under those circumstances. Anyway. I’ll rant about that another day…

On Bread

I made bread yesterday.  And cookies.

I know.  Baking when it’s 41C (that something like 106F, for you fahrenheit people) with the humidity, why was I turning on the oven??


But it’s something I do.  I’ve been baking bread since I was about fifteen, off and on (but mostly on), and it’s something I watched my mom do when I was little and we lived in the Maritimes and she’d do it every week for both us and the farmer’s market where she had a stall (bread, fresh produce, and bouquets of marsh flowers, fyi).


I love that bread is alive (even though, of course, you kill it when you bake it).  I love it because it’s such a huge staple food — the way rice is in just about every part of the world.  The staff of life.


I’ve got a cook book called Laurel’s Kitchen (I’ve got the original, which was given to my parents before I was born, but I’m linking you to The New Laurel’s Kitchen because it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaay less expensive than the original) and, while I definitely don’t agree with all of its politics, I love the way it talks about bread as a living thing that nurtures the makers/eaters on multiple levels.

It does.

When I bake bread — most of the time, anyway — I feel like I’m doing spiritual practice. My deities are those of hearth and home and harvest as much as they are of meadow and moon, sun and ground and crossroads. So when I take flour(s), warm water, honey and yeast, salt and oil and (sometimes) milk and eggs, and turn them into a living dough that I then turn into an edible substance of deliciousness… I’m working with the flesh of a number of my deities, and I’m doing something kind of akin to magic (sort of like alchemy?).

Sometimes I wonder if that’s why so many people (even now, when most of the folks I know do their own kitchen alchemy, making pickles or jam or paneer) react with “You make your own bread??? From scratch???” when they find out.
Other times, I figure they react like that because, no matter how easy bread-making actually is, the theoretical time-consumption and physical work is… a little intimidating if you haven’t tried it before.

Anyway. Those are just some very scattered thoughts on bread. Here. Have a poem:



Anyone who tells you
is a science
is lying
or misinformed

Oh, sure
if you follow the directions
to the letter
(six cups of flour
a tablespoon of yeast)
you’ll get something to eat
it may even be loaf-shaped

But it won’t be Bread

Because Bread is an art
The art
of making miracles
from scratch

It is breathing
back into the dead
(desicated bodies
the blood of trees
even stones)

It is taking what you have
whatever you have
mashed potatoes
and turning it
and turning it
and turning it
by fire and life
and the work your hands
you have turned it
into something new

is an act of worship

It is the art
of making love

like flesh


Meliad the Birch Maiden