Category Archives: Reflections

Baking With Sourdough

Now that I have mastered the art  science mystery of baking with sourdough I have to tell you about it. LOL!! I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. The truth is I have nowhere near mastered baking bread with sourdough, and my post about my trials (and errors) of making sourdough bread is still a work in progress.

Fortunately there is more to sourdough than just making bread. What I do have for you today are two recipes that I have made with sourdough that are really good.

The first one is sourdough banana bread. I made this once following the recipe as written but added a half cup or so of blue berries. It turned out good but a bit dry. The second time that I made it I added one more mashed banana and of course added the blue berries. It turned out perfect. 🙂

The second recipe I made today. It is this recipe for sourdough chocolate cake. I made a few changes to this recipe as well – I used melted butter instead of  vegetable oil; I used unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa; and I did not add the espresso powder.

I also decided not to make the frosting that goes with this cake recipe. In my laziness I decided just to put some store bought vanilla frosting on it. However, in his great wisdom, my husband suggested we taste the cake without frosting. Well let me tell you, it is moist (almost brownie-like) with a rich chocolate flavor and even had a little crispiness on the top. Delicious!!! There was absolutely no need to add frosting or anything else to this cake.

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As you can tell Trixie is earning her keep and we are most pleased to have her as part of the family.

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Now it’s your turn – have you ever had sourdough desserts? Do you have a favorite?

Hearing Me – A Documentary for the BBC World Service – Now Available to Listen to!

I have been following Carly’s blog with great interest for some time now. Like Carly, I too have been living with hearing loss. My hearing loss is similar to Carly’s in that it is only effects my left ear and that the tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, humming noise) is always present.
In her most recent post Carly talks about her experience living with sudden hearing loss and I can really identify with her experience. I hope you will take some time to listen and perhaps gain some understanding for what it’s like to not have full hearing as well as some appreciation for being able to hear.

My Hearing Loss Story

BBC World Service

It’s been two and a half years since I suddenly lost the hearing in my left ear, and today I am celebrating all I’ve achieved since my hearing loss.  Thanks to the BBC World Service, I am very happy to share this glimpse into my life without full sound.

Hearing Me is now live to listen to! Please note, a transcript is also available through the same link – just scroll down the page to download:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csynqv

Another big thank you to Chelsea Dickenson (Audio Always) who spent 4 days following me around Madrid with a microphone, and who showed me just how much energy and attention goes into making a radio documentary.

Please take a few minutes to listen and share. Thank you 🙂

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Learning To Ferment Foods – Sourdough (Part I)

My husband and I eat a lot of bread – toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, maybe even some type of biscuits or rolls to accompany whatever is on our dinner menu – but lets face it, the plain white bread that you buy in the grocery store has little to no nutrition to offer nor does it have any flavor, at best, as my husband would say, “it will make a turd”. I began buying some more expensive whole grain breads to at least increase my fiber intake, but even these breads are loaded with ingredients (oils and preservatives) that are unnecessary and potentially unhealthy.

I have been aware that sourdough is a healthier option for a while now and if we shop at a place that sells sourdough bread we usually pick up a loaf, but most of our local grocery stores do not sell sourdough breads as it is not a convenient food. Now it’s time to make our bread.

What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a fermented culture that uses friendly yeast and bacteria. It is used as a leavening agent and replaces yeast in bread recipes. This article from Natural News tell us why sourdough is a healthier choice than yeast breads. The main points are:

  • Sourdough breaks down gluten allowing some people who may be sensitive to gluten to be able to enjoy it.
  • Sourdough makes starches more digestible.
  • Sourdough lowers insulin resistance while increasing glucose tolerance.
  • Sourdough allows for better mineral absorption.
  • Additionally sourdough does not require a lot of ingredients – this basic white bread has only three ingredients – flour, water and salt. It keeps well so it does not require preservatives.

Fermented Foods Are Not Fast  Foods

If you have been following my recent posts about fermenting foods you probably realize that these foods take a long time (days or even weeks) before they are ready. It takes much planning, time and patience to make fermented foods and sour dough bread is no exception.

Obtaining A Sourdough Starter

The first step in making sour dough bread is to obtain a sour dough starter. To do this I had a few options. I could purchase a starter – I would have had to order one online because this is not something that can be found in our local stores. I could make my own and there are many online tutorials for making sour dough starter, or perhaps I could find someone who makes sour dough bread and obtain some from them. Hmm.

It was in early January when I was visiting a friend who makes and sells sourdough breads, I began asking her about her starter. After telling me that she doesn’t sell her sourdough starter she gave me details on how to make my own. It sounded easy enough and I decided I would try it, but before the end of our visit she placed a couple cups of her started in a dish and gave it too me. I was thrilled!!!

My next stop was at Hobby Lobby so I picked up this container to keep my sourdough starter in. I chose this container for a few reasons – 1. I wanted glass so I could see though it. 2. It was large enough for me to build up a good amount of starter. 3. The opening is large enough that I can scoop out of it. 4. Although the lid had a plastic ring for a tight seal I was able to remove the ring so the lid sits on the jar but does not seal thightly.

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When I got home I gave the jar a good rinse in very hot water before putting my starter in it.

Maintaining The Starter

Having a sour dough starter on hand takes commitment. Sourdough is a living being and  it needs to be fed daily. It’s not quite as bad as having kids or pets because you don’t have to clean up after it (usually).

Usually???   Let me tell you a story my friend shared. She keeps her starter in a plastic container with a snap on lid. The starter was growing in the container and she apparently was not paying attention to it. She showed me how the starter had exploded and blew the lid off the container. The sour dough splattered everywhere – walls, ceiling, counters, floors and everything in between. The plastic lid landed in a trash can about 8 feet away. Thus I learned an important lesson. Do not keep sourdough starter in a sealed container!! A loosely fitting lid is appropriate.

Once I put my starter in it’s new home I fed my it per my friend’s instruction – 1/2 cup of flour and a little less than 1/2 cup of purified water. I stirred it up and covered it. A while later I could see it bubbling. I then started reading about sourdough on this website. The website has lots of information on fermenting foods. I learned that perhaps I should be feeding it twice a day, and that the best way to measure the amounts of water and flour to feed it is to weigh equal amounts of each.

Since the starter does not speak up when it is hungry and I am afraid I might forget to feed it, it has been given prime real estate on my kitchen island. Thus far I have maintained my starter by feeding it 2 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water – one or two times per day.

Naming My Starter

This may seem a bit odd but it seems to be common for people to name their sour dough starters and I do think it is easier to refer to it by name than “my sour dough starter” all the time so my friends, meet Trixie.

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She Does Tricks

To be honest getting and maintaining the starter has been the easy part.  Since baking good sour dough bread has been more of a challenge I have decided to share those trials and errors in an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Have you ever eaten sour dough bread? Do you make your own?

 

A New Scarf Pattern

I have a couple of family members who occasionally email me crochet patterns that they think I might be interested in making. This one was sent by Aunt Donna. I though it was an adorable pattern and decided to make it into a child size scarf just to try it out. I have a feeling I will be using this pattern again.

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What do you think?

 

** Editors Note: In case the pattern is not clear in the photo – it’s puppy paw prints. 🙂

Lacto Fermentation – Sauerkraut

I would venture to guess that there is not one pharmaceutical that can :

  • Help improve digestion
  • Improve immune function
  • Reduce inflammation and allergies
  • Support cognitive health and mood
  • Provide cancer fighting anti-oxidants

but according to this article  eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods can do all those things. This post is part of a series I am writing on fermenting foods and for anyone who has come across this post but has not read my introductory post – you can find it here with more information about the health benefits of fermented foods.

For those who are not familiar with it sauerkraut is fermented (pickled) cabbage. I have been eating and enjoying sauerkraut for as long as I can remember. Sauerkraut and sausage has always been a family favorite and a I have always loved a Rueben sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese stacked on rye bread and then grilled. Growing up our sauerkraut was purchased in cans or jars at the grocery store.

I have made homemade sauerkraut with some degree of success in the past, which also means some degree of failure. 😦 The major “failure” was a large batch that went bad during the fermentation process. I could tell it was “bad” because it had a rotten – putrid smell to it. Eww! I can’t say for sure what caused it to go bad, but knowing what I know now I’d guess it was that the salt I used had an anti-caking agent added.

The batch the was a success had the smell that is unique to sauerkraut ( I’m not sure how to describe it but it does make my mouth water). It also had the wonderful and hard to describe flavor of sauerkraut – tangy – somewhat sour – somewhat sweet – somewhat salty all in one and it still had a some of the raw cabbage flavor which seems to disappear once sauerkraut had been pasteurized or canned. During the fermentation process the texture of the cabbage softened some but it did retain some of the crunchiness. Since this batch was 3 or 4 gallons I found it necessary to can most of the sauerkraut in order to preserve it. Although we were able to enjoy it for months to come, and there is certainly nothing wrong with eating cooked sauerkraut, (at minimum it still provides some good fiber) it no longer contained the beneficial probiotics that developed during the fermentation process.

Remember probiotic food needs to be consumed raw.

After successfully fermenting our garlic I decided it was time to make some sauerkraut. Since cabbage is not in season this time of year I purchased one when I was doing my grocery shopping. I decided to make only one quart in a wide mouth canning jar and found a recipe that told me I would need about 1 3/4 lbs. (.68039 kg) of cabbage and 1 table spoon of salt. I again used the Pink Himalayan salt. I also decided to keep it simple – there are many recipes out there that add different vegetables and herbs to sauerkraut – but I really like just plain (fermented) cabbage.

The process for making sauerkraut is different than fermenting garlic  because instead of making a brine to pour over the vegetables, cabbage makes it’s own brine. I sliced the head of cabbage in thin strips and weighed out 1 3/4 lbs.  I put it in a bowl then I sprinkled the salt on the cabbage and worked it in with my hands. The salt helps pull the water out of the cabbage. I then packed all of the cabbage into a wide-mouth, quart size canning jar. It is a tight fit and needs to be packed very tightly. There are tools designed to assist in this process. They are called sauerkraut stompers or pounders and although they vary in design they are consistently some type of fat wooden stick. I don’t own a sauerkraut pounder but I do keep a rubber mallet with a wooden handle among my kitchen utensils. The wooden handle was perfect for pounding or packing the cabbage into the jar. The reason for pounding or packing it tightly is to squeeze the water out of the cabbage thus mixing with the salt and creating the brine. Once the cabbage is packed tightly into the jar there should be enough brine to fully cover the cabbage. It is important that the cabbage be fully submersed, so if I ever come up a little short I will make up some brine to add.

I then placed my smaller jar (see fermenting our garlic post) inside the wide mouth jar as a weight to hold the cabbage beneath the brine. I covered it with a jelly bag (again another type of cloth would work) and placed a rubber band on the secure the jelly bag.

I began tasting the sauerkraut on about the third day and by the seventh day I decided it was ready to be moved to the refrigerator. We have been enjoying a couple tablespoons as a side dish with either lunch or dinner usually every other day or so.

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Now I think it is time to start another batch. 🙂

Next up – sour dough bread.

What is your favorite way to eat sauerkraut? Do you eat it raw? Have you ever made your own?