Capturing wild yeast and making sourdough bread!

This starter was created the beginning of the second week in May.

My list of new things to learn to do is always growing. When spring approached my research said it was a good time to capture some yeast and start my own science experiment on my counter. I read many different articles on how to make a good sourdough starter. The one I decided to follow was this one Sourdough Starter from Scratch: Collecting Wild Yeast.   My first capturing yeast was done in early April and it was growing well and I had been feeding it for a few weeks. I had put it in the refrigerator while I was gone from home traveling and when I tried to “fire it up” and reactivate it after a few days it developed some pinkish yuck so I threw it out. I started a new batch around May 10th and have kept it going on the counter ever since. I have tried four different Artisan sourdough bread recipes over the last few weeks and this weeks batch turned out the best in my humble opinion. My starter lives on the counter and I feed it daily with 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 cup WW flour. I toss 1/2 the starter about every 3 days. I feed it with AP flour the day before I intend to use it as that seems to create more yeast. The rest of the time the feeding is done with WW flour.

I have a little experience in bread baking over the years and anyone who knows how I am about recipes knows I have to go with my own flow and typically just use a recipe for some inspiration. That is what I did this time. I found yet another slightly different recipe and tweaked it to suit me using traditional American measurements since I have not acquired a scale yet. I found my inspiration with this recipe at Them Apples and I hope you take the time to check out this writer’s blog. He and I share a similar taste for foods! Lots of yummy stuff to be found and I love his layout!

I made my sponge using 1 heavy cup of my starter, 1 cup WW flour and 1 cup AP flour and 2 1/3 cups water. I mixed it with a fork and covered it with a cloth and it set on the counter from noon until 8pm. I wanted to have my bread ready to give a loaf to my physical therapist and my appointment was scheduled for noon the next day! I have learned over the last few weeks that baking good sourdough bread really is about taking your time and allowing the fermentation of the yeasts to develop. I love my set of Vintage Pyrex bowls and the large one was just perfect for this process!

While the sponge was doing it’s thing on the counter I tidied up my kitchen and prepared for an interview I was schedule to do at 2pm one of the reporters from the local newspaper. They are doing a full spread article on compulsive and problem gambling. I have been interviewed about problem gambling a few other times in the past.  I am happy to say this is the first interview I have had where I have significant recovery under my belt. The two other times for newspapers occurred when my life was in a shambles or I was literally sitting on my hands white knuckling it so I wouldn’t go place a bet. There was also a time I was interviewed for a TV newscast, and that occurred when I had been at a treatment facility and was at about day 45  and still trying to figure out how I was going to manage life once treatment was done. This time I am doing well today and it felt good to know that.  I am sure the article will focus more on the devastation that occurred during my 16 year battle rather than all that is good, and that is ok if the story helps educate the general public on the devastation that gambling can bring on a life. One other thing that is significantly different about this interview is that I chose not to remain anonymous. I am allowing the paper to use my name as well as my picture. Not because I am anyone special. Quite the opposite. I am just another person, who lives in the country and raises chickens and likes to cook and bake and has life challenges and loves people and is emotionally and mentally sound and happy with life. In a nutshell that is. I have nothing to hide anymore and it felt very liberating to say yes when asked if my name and photo could be used.

After the interview I hoped on my motorcycle and ran to town to check the mail for my guy while he is out of town and then back out to Applegate Valley Lavender Farm. I had promised my new friend Deborah Thompson, the proprietor, that I would help her do some preparing for the upcoming Oregon Lavender Festival. Check out her webpage and learn more about the Lavender Festival. Aside from enjoying this sweet ladies company, who wouldn’t want to hang out at a lavender farm and enjoy the scenery and the scents and the animals? I love it there. We played with her farm animal friends and pulled some weeds and ate some watermelon. It was a great couple of hours.

At 8pm I was back home and done with phone calls and little things that occupied my time for a while. It was time to make some dough! I dumped the bubbly mass of sponge into the bowl that goes with my standing mixer. I added 1 cup of WW flour, one cup of AP flour and 1/2 cup of oatmeal flour (that I grind myself with Organic Oats) and 1/2 cup of whole oats. I sprinkled in 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt and started up the mixer. Nice and slow at first. I didn’t want flour all over the place! It is a very wet batter as you can see from the photos. I added maybe another 1/4 cup of oatmeal flour after about 3 minutes because it was still sticking too much on the sides of the bowl. Once it all started to come together I amped up the mixer and let it fly for about 5 more minutes. I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer. It probably is the most used appliance I have ever owned. It is started to get a bit wobbly from so much use. When I use the dough hook to knead bread I have to hold the thing still because it bangs all over the place. I just use it as a resting place for the time it takes to knead it! After about 8-10 minutes with the mixer into an oiled bowl it goes!

Now to let it rise. I always pre-warm my oven to 350 degrees for just ONE minute and then turn it off and set my bowl inside with a tea towel or loose lid on it. I have a gas oven so it always stays a little warmer. It is a good thing I am a bit of a night owl because this dough still needs attention. As Rich at Them Apples states in his blog, this dough needs attention for about 4 hours or so. I would just stick my hands in the bowl and punch it down and turn it over and punch it down a few times each hour. At about 1:30 in the morning when I was just about ready for a good sleep I shaped the loaves into nice rounds and left them on a piece of parchment paper. I did the tea towel trick for holding their shape and it worked well. I covered them up and went to bed!

I awakened at 9 and padded out in my bare feet and turned the oven on to 450C degrees. I had a few things to do to put my “Barter Basket” so set to that while waiting for a good solid 30-45 minute pre-heat. I placed my rack in the middle of the oven and had a loaf pan full of water underneath that was heating with the oven. I also threw in some oiled new red potatoes to let them roast utilizing the pre-heat temps! I had my favorite Pampered Chef rectangular baking stone preheating in there too. For those who are curious my “Barter Basket” is a basket of home cooked and home canned food I put together each week for my physical therapist. She is treating me sans charge except for whatever I choose to bring as a barter gift. It is working out well for both of us. She and her betrothed are getting married in September and she has just asked me to provide some of the food for her dinner, which is a BBQ as well as highlight her bridal breakfast with some quiches and muffins and such! I have been so excited and honored about this. I have been enjoying cooking for most all of my adult life and to have someone ask me if I will cook for them for their most special occasion is just wonderful!

At 10 a.m.  I was ready to throw them in and have them bake. I had covered the bottoms of the loaves with a good layering of the oatmeal flour before letting them rise and so they moved about on the parchment paper I had set them on pretty well. I opened the oven and gently lifted each one with a nice long spatula and closed the door gently! Baked for 10 minutes at 450 and then turned the oven down to 200. The loaves were  just barely brown after 10 minutes. I checked on them after another 20 minutes and they didn’t sound quite hollow when tapped so I gave them an additional 5 minutes. On to the rack to cool while I got ready for my appointment with my PT.

My “Barter Basket” contained a jar of Marsala Chicken that I had cooked overnight in the crock pot, the roasted potatoes, a jar of canned peaches, a jar of Blackberry Plum jam, a plateful of Lemon Bars a loaf of this lovely Artisan Sourdough Oatmeal bread and a dozen of eggs from my Layers! My wild yeast starter is still growing on the counter and I believe I will make this same recipe again next week. I had a slice of this bread and it is very good, but I will add a little more salt next time. I think with the WW and Oat flours salt requirements increase! I hope you enjoy learning about Capturing Wild Yeast and making some good sourdough bread!


Preparations for Winter

Foggy mornings prevail in this valley.  The last few days I have awakened to a misty fog that hangs out  right here in our own little microclimate.  It isn’t suoper dense nor is it low.  It is just there enough to block seeing the hilltops across the property.  It is an enjoyable fog in my perspective.  Not too wet, not too cold, not too dense.  Just gentle drifts of whiteness.  It lifts around noon, and there are the grey skies just above the fog.  But it did not rain today.

I had to order wood to be delivered.  This is the first time I have had to order and buy wood myself.  I bought it from a young man who is just getting started in the business.  We have had a few warnings on Craigslist regarding the less than honest ethics that go with buying wood in these parts.  So when I spoke with this man I was very clear.  I told him that I had been a business owner in the past and I knew how hard it was to get started.  I also told him I knew of at least one household (M & E, my landlords, which is how I will always refer to them) that was needing a couple cords of wood.  I told them if they were honest and did a good and honest job that I would tell EVERYONE about them.

The first cord that was scheduled for delivery I received a phone call saying they were running late..  I told them I appreciated the call and the information.  They delivered the first cord and I did not measure it.  It appeared to be nice dry Silver Madrone, which is what they had advertiesed.

The next day they came back with another cord.  This time I measured.  8X7.5X20 inches.  It looked about the same as the last delivery.  I told them it seemed a bit short, and they said they would make it good.  They talked to M&E about getting wood later in the week.  I called and said by my calculations they were off by at least 1/4 cord, possibly closer to 1/2 cord.  I said I would be stacking it this week to get a true measurement.  They told me they would honor whatever was missing.

So today, I got out there and started stacking.  This is my first time stacking wood all on my own.  I had helped my brother in the past, as well as helped with preparing wood and stacking it where I lived last year.  But this was my very first time of doing it on my own.  I have to say I am feeling pretty good about it.  My stacks are tight, stable, sturdy and just about the right height.  I worked about 3 hours to get three stacks done.  It was getting dark and the girls had already got themselves into the coop by the time I finished up.

Dwindling wood pile

Wood Stack

First time stacking wood! I think I did a darned good job! More to do tomorrow.

How much wood do you usually use in a burning season?  I had about 1/2 cord already and am hoping I can make these 2 cords last.  Time will tell for me.  I did make some good progress on my stacking today.    I will have to make sure to set some aside for another cord or so for late winter/eary spring.  Where I lived last year I was told we went through 3 1/2 cords.  I was home most the time, so I may end up needing another cord. I do have to say, the woodstove I have here is wonderful at putting out the heat.  I am sitting at my table, having my dinner of Cha Cha Chicken and White Bean Chili and the heat is so nice coming from the woodstove.  I’ve had to remind myself more than once to close the bedroom door so my room will be cool for sleeping!  I like sleeping with a window cracked and the room cool, and nice warm cozy blankets and quilts.

I am considering making a Quiche tonight.  I have plenty of eggs as well as some fresh zuchinni, spinach and of course…onions and garlic.  I even picked up some Swiss Cheese.  For now I am going to enjoy my dinner and relax for awhile.  And I do know that a long hot soak in the tub in in my future before the end of the evening.

I am including a picture of my Polish hen, Donna.  She is quite the eye catcher.  Everyone notices Donna with her pretty coloring and her Bouffant hairdo!!!

Donna and her Bouffant hair

Donna is such a eye catcher. Everyone notices Donna. But she just pecks around like all the rest the girls and really doesn’t make much fuss about her appearance. Kind of like me!!!!