Sunday, February 14, 2010


I have mentioned before my love of bread-baking, and I feel confident that this will not be the last time I do so. I've been in the midst of beginning the process of building starters, both for a typical sourdough and for a rye sourdough. Because N. is allergic to yeast, developing sourdough starters with wild yeast has been an interesting adventure. I've found that using pineapple (or orange, or lemon) juice helps to get in some of the acidity and fermentation (about which I know very very little) and, more than anything, it helps develop the gas bubbles in the starter that are so desired:

which becomes this:

and then, if you're lucky, this (these are actually my friend A's boules; I can't help but chuckle when I see them, little buns that they are...):

I felt profoundly connected to the process of bread baking from the first loaf I made. Making sourdough, or any other bread requiring some sort of starter, however, is a test in patience. It's not a matter of hours, which is in itself a process, but a matter of days. The stater must be maintained every three days, which makes it a constant ongoing process in a way. They say that if you are thinking of having a child, it is a good idea to start with a plant, then a pet, etc. I've got many plants and two pets, and I've got to say that maintaining the starter is just as much a process!

So, why bread. Well, for me, there are so many layers. I love connecting with the process of a living organism. I took a lot of ceramics in undergrad, so there is a similar experience in relating to a lump of ingredients and working to make it into something beautiful. Making a shot of espresso is much the same; there is a mix of both precision and instinct in the process. I can measure everything out, watch the time to a T, but things generally go much better if I just follow motor memory and take my head out of the process. I love getting lost in kneading a loaf of bread, or wondering who might enjoy the second loaf in a batch. Bread is such a basic food, made of flour and water, really. Other elements come in for different breads, but it is so basic, so simple. Every loaf is different, just like every shot of espresso or every handmade mug is different. Each is an experience to be had, a possibility for a little shimmer of joy or warmth or rest in the midst of an otherwise chaotic world. It is the profound simplicity in these elements (pushing eucharistic undertones here, I know) that speaks to their power. In breaking bread together, we are enjoying a meal from one loaf, which is connected back to a starter, which will make many more loaves, given to many more people, shared over meals or toasted with jam for breakfast. I have already given part of my starter to A, who is new to bread baking. Thinking then to the connections as they extrapolate outward. All from a little flour and water and, in this case, pineapple juice.

Monday, February 8, 2010

a vegan-y weekend

on Friday we made gnocchi for the second time this year... Beet and Rutabaga--YUM! This time we added less flour which was helpful, it resulted in a tender, rather than tough, dumpling... we served the gnocchi with peas, toasted spiced pecans, salt, pepper, and olive oil... it was delicious, but would have been better at 7 rather than 10:30--mentally note: start time consuming food projects earlier in the day!

on Saturday we made vegan butternut squash soup--i roasted squash with sweet curry powder, earth balance, cloves of garlic, an onion, and half an apple. threw it all in a pot with some veggie broth and pulled out the immersion blender. then added a can of coconut milk and a can of light coconut milk... a bit of cayenne, salt, and brown sugar.... topped with spiced walnuts (curry, cayenne, salt, brown sugar).... it was AWESOME!

on sunday we mixed the dishes together and they tasted great. YAY for being snowed in and playing in the kitchen!

the best part was the sourdough yessie made from Pineapple juice--it was sour and tender and AMAZING! i love her :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


It's cold outside. Yes, this is part of February, I know, and I continue to stare in wonder outside as the snow begins to fall again. As a Texan-transplant, the snow still maintains a sense of magic for me. It isn't layers of ice, deceptively clear enough to lure you into an assured walk, only to fall hard on your hip or face. That is here, certainly, but it is surrounded by this...snow. I have been feeling kind of melancholy in the midst of all of it, though I'm not entirely sure why. I have been so tired that I work myself into a bit of insomnia. This morning, upon waking at four-thirty and tossing for an hour-and-a-half, I decided to head downstairs and bake a loaf of bread. I realized I could finish a loaf before class started at 10:30, and I went to work on a cinnamon-swirl loaf. I shared a loaf with a friend who has a birthday tomorrow, and realized once again how much a certain part of me longs to be in the kitchen. In the midst of kneading a sourdough this afternoon, I realized I was learning how to react to the bread. It sounds odd, I know, but I have found a remarkable connection with the process of baking bread, with feeling the soft dough form under my hands, as I work with it, and it responds to me. Bread, with all of its simplicity, is remarkably complex. I'm not sure what it is, but in the midst of the cold, majestic frozen flakes that fall outside, I found myself at home in the snugness of my kitchen, as my love slept soundly upstairs. I joined her there shortly after putting the dough out for its first rising, to catch an hour of long-sought after sleep and rested in the soft smell of flour on my shirt and the feeling of arms wrapped unconsciously and lovingly around me. It was the best sleep I'd had in days...

I'm too tired to write more now, and am slipping into sleep even as I write.

Peace and Grace