Sunday, June 29, 2008

How To: Sourdough

Some call you sour; I call you sweet.
A tastier bread I have yet to meet.

All week your 'mother' sends me smells that entice;
They beckon me bread box to cut another slice.

Smothered with honey and butter that's yellow,
A few bites is all I need to stay mellow.

With no yeast to mention than what's naturally there,
You are rye, water, salt, spelt, a very simple fare.

Fermenting all week, you're a digestible treat,
Quite different from breads peddled on the street.

So simple,
So wholesome,
So easy to share,
Brought to the table with love, butter, and care.

I cannot start pictures from scratch, because I already have the sourdough starter from my previous batches. But sourdough starter is so easy to make! Especially when it is so warm. Place two cups of rye and 2 cups of cold water in a clean bowl, mix well. Everyday transfer the starter into a clean bowl, and "feed" it another cup of rye and another cup-or-so of water to keep it "soupy". Once you reach 3 quarts of starter (often called "mother") you are ready to go.

You will need:
1 large bowl
1 wooden mixing spoon
2 quarts starter
13 cups spelt (just under 5 pounds)
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt (I have substituted 2 tbsp ground sea salt and the bread has still done fine)

Save a quart of the mother aside. You will continue transferring bowls daily and feeding a cup of rye and a cup-or-so water to keep it soupy. See the video below for a picture of what "soupy" means to me:

Defining Soupy Video

Cover the mother with double layered cheesecloth. I use butcher's string to keep it tight (keeping bugs and such things out). Leave in a nice warm place on the counter or above the refrigerator.

Here, in a much larger bowl, is the 2 quarts you will turn into loaves. Add a cup of cold water, and the salt, and mix until it dissolves.

For the actual bread-making, I use organic spelt. It is springier than wheat and will make for the easiest transition for non-traditional bread eaters.

The lovely first cup of spelt.

Here we are after about 4 cups spelt.

Here is the addition of the 8th cup spelt and the last 1/2 cup cold water soon to follow.

It gets quite thick as we plug along reaching towards our goal of 13 cups spelt.

At about this point, I fore go the mixing spoon and use my hands.

This keeps me well aware of the consistency of the dough, and whether it needs a little more flour or water.

Now for the kneading, which I do in my large bowl for 10-20 minutes.

Here I fold... I punch flat.

Eventually the dough feels right, and not so much sticks to my hands.

Here are some well-buttered loaf pans.

The dough, formed gently, and placed in pans (I am still looking for a couple more loaf pans)

Shallow slits made to let the gases out during rising.

Now, by the time they had risen I had forgot to take a picture. It was about 5 hours later, and they had nearly doubled in size. Below are pictures of loaves rising from the first time I made this recipie:


After rising

Entering the oven...

Exiting fully baked.

Then I let them fully cool on racks before placing in plastic loaf bags I have saved from previously store bought bread. You can also place the bread in large airtight containers. Loaves should keep, out on the counter, for a week. They will start to mold on day 7-8 depending on weather. Refrigeration actually makes sourdough stale faster. If you have more bread (3-4 loaves) than you can eat in a week - bless your friends and family!

Here is a peak at a mid-week "feeding" and transfer:

This is what the starter will look like after sitting all day before you transfer it to a clean bowl.

Make sure you wash the other bowl immediately as part of your routine. This will keep your sink and counters open for other projects. Besides, you will need this bowl again for tomorrow's transfer, how nice to have it clean and ready.

Here is the transfered starter and a bag of the rye flour I use.

Flour added first, then water, for thorough mixing.

Capped with the double layered cheese-cloth and tied off with butcher string.
Tomorrow repeat!

Find a good source of bulk flour if you cannot grind your own (we are still waiting for our own grinder). If you are in the Northwest, Azure Standard probably has a drop point near you and has great prices. Buying from a trendy natural grocer can put the flour costs upward of $4.50 a loaf, whereas buying from Azure standard will cost around $1.50 per loaf.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

How To: Kombucha

I am repeating this post which was originally posted here, as it seems quite fitting to be included on this site as well. There are a few more tidbits in the comment section of the original post.

Ah Kombucha,
Divine nectar of the Ural mountains,
How many Russian Matriarchs have served you to their tired husbands, sons, and house guests after a long day of work.
How unknowingly did they use you to protect their people from cancer, drunkenness, and the fatigues Russian suffering usually brings.

How satisfyingly do you quench the body's thirst!
How thoroughly do you cleanse toxins from the body!
How instantly do you lift the immune to recover from illness!
How proven is your preventative work against cancer!

You! Effervescent wonder of my kitchen,
You! "Tea Kvass" does not do you justice.
You! Testament to the healing powers of naturally fermented foods everywhere.
You! Replacing my husband's beer at a tenth of the price.

You! Oh Kombucha!
How the world could change if every home kept you brewing, thriving, and transforming sugar, yeast, and caffeine into powerful glucuronic acid and restoring the body's gut flora to the place God designed it to be - a place that knows how to filter, use, and protect the body from all that the world feeds it.

Thank you, Kombucha, thank you.


Step 1: The forbidden items (black tea and white sugar) come out of the closet.

Step 2: 6 Quarts of water boil.

Step 3: 1 cup of sugar dissolves in each 3 quart pot of boiling water. Then 4 tea bags in each pot sit to steep.

Step 4: The tea bags steep until the sweet tea is room temperature.

Step 5: The tea is transfered to a glass or stainless container. "Mushroom" and scooby sit by waiting to jump in.

A closer look at the "mushroom," which is actually a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria.

Step 6: Pour in a cup of scooby (kombucha from a previous batch), and top with the "mushroom"

View from above:

Then a criss-cross of tape,

and a breathable cover

and a hiding place where the temperature will remain fairly constant between 70-74 degrees
Step 7: Wait 7-10 days, pour, and enjoy.

Here is the view of the new layer of "mushroom" that has grown on the top:

And a view from the side, nice and thick!:

Friday, June 27, 2008

To Market, To Market: Mid-June

A lovely neighbor left us in charge of fetching and eating her CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) box from Sungold Farms for 3 weeks this summer.
Last weekend was our first indulgence!

Here is what we received from the 3rd week in June box:

A calendula (edible flower), which quickly began to open into this:

Fresh strawberries!

Once displayed...

...were gone by midnight.

Lovely Rhubarb - Made into Pie

Rainbow Chard - Enjoyed on the side of several meals, chopped and sauted in plenty of butter.

Flat-leaf Pasley, and Green Leaf Lettuce. We enjoy putting fresh herbs into our salads, but they also are a nice complement to ground meats and burgers.

Fava Beans

The whole box contents

I was excited to try something new, in the fava bean. I spent the time taking them all out of their fuzzy pod, and then peeling the wax coat off of them, and finally, I opened my cookbook to discover the following: "Fava beans contain a substance, which is not neutralized by soaking, sprouting, or fermenting, that can cause a type of life-threatening anemia in persons with an inherited susceptibility and are therefore best avoided"

Suddenly they looked scary, and my plans to incorporate them into a chilled potato soup fell through as we decided not to risk it with the children. Probably very rare, but we decided the reward would not be worth the risk.

I could not resist bringing these home as well:

They are one of my very favorite things about June.


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