Homegrown Sourdough Bread

After I read Michael Pollan’s Cooked, I developed a minor obsession with fermentation. I had attempted to make sourdough bread when I lived in Idaho but it just didn’t ever really go well. I tried to make it with water straight out of the tap but I have since learned that the chlorine (or chloramine) in city water might interfere with yeast growth (which totally makes sense!).

I started with a 50:50 flour water mixture (1/2 c. each) using water I brought home from the water cooler at school. In retrospect the jar was too small but it seemed like such a neat little package to start with!

The second day I added another 1/2 c. water and a 1/2 c. flour. The next day, I fed the starter again in the late afternoon. I was starting to be skeptical about whether anything was going to work, yet again. I went into the kitchen in the evening to make tea and there were bubbles! It was alive!

By the next morning, the starter had exploded on the counter. There was plenty enough still in the jar to salvage so I moved it to a larger bowl and measured some out to make bread! I used this recipe and the result was unmitigated failure. It didn’t rise. There was a hunk of solid dough just sitting there. I didn’t use non-chlorinated water, which might have been the issue, I’m not sure.

I did some more research and found this post on Pinch My Salt that described how to make a “sponge” and THEN mixing up the dough. Finally I was on to something.

My first “sponge”:

The loaves themselves seemed a little flat. But they were clearly bread!

I slightly overbaked them but they were pretty delicious for the first few hours!

I tried again, making the bread into one loaf. It didn’t brown very well but oh my god it is so freaking good!

I’ve never been a sourdough fan but this has really great flavor. I can see myself going back to a commercial yeasted bread in the future but I’m having fun experimenting right now!

Wedding Cake

The guiding principle of our wedding planning has always been, “We’re doing this our way.”

My way involves birthday pies instead of birthday cakes. Forrest has always been okay with birthday pies.

And then he said “But you have cake at weddings.” I might have looked at him like he had two heads. The boy who has advocated no invitations, adamantly believes we should have no seating chart, and no amplification for the ceremony thinks that cake is a necessity at the wedding.

I’m not a cake baker. I actually really like cake but I’d rather my cake be unfrosted. I don’t really like frosting. I don’t mind eating buttercream frosting from the bowl but in the end, I think frosting mars my cake yuminess. I’d much rather have pie but since Forrest actually has much more of an opinion on this than me, cake we shall have.

Attempt #1

My first attempt at a practice wedding cake was Sprocket’s birthday. I made the vanilla buttermilk cake and frosted it with the Swiss buttercream from Smitten Kitchen. I loved the frosting and wasn’t crazy about the cake. I’d made some adjustments to it according to the Joy of Cooking’s high(er) elevation directions (the >2,000 feet but <5,000 feet ones) and that might have been the problem. Turns out, Forrest doesn’t like buttercream.

Attempt #2:

I decided to simplify. I made a “wedding cake version” of boxed cake. That’s right. I took a normal white cake mix and doctored it up just a bit (according to miscellaneous internet recipes to give it the necessary density). SCORE.

Forrest convinced me to try a basic white frosting…fail. The frosting tasted like it belonged on a Safeway birthday cake. Fortunately, Forrest had convinced me to only frost one layer of my cake experiment so we had another layer waiting for me in the freezer for frosting attempt #3.

Attempt #3:

The good ol’ boxed wedding cake came out of the freezer after almost two weeks nice and moist. Win.

This time I tried Ms. Humble’s Whipped Cream Cheese frosting. I’d heard that whipped cream frostings wouldn’t hold up under warm conditions. Fortunately, my house sits at about 80 degrees with low humidity all the time in the winter which just so happens to be a whole lot like Moab in September. The frosting didn’t seem to have any issues at all.

Attempt #3. Yummy.
Boxed Wedding Cake:
1 box white cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
4 large egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. oil
Mix on low 30 seconds then on medium for 2 minutes. Bake in greased and floured pan according to the box directions. (I suspect the vanilla made it more yellowy than white but you can’t see it until it’s cut and then you’re about to eat it so I’m sticking with it. It was yummy.)

 

I Love Pumpkin

When I was about twelve I developed an obsession with with using “real” pumpkin. (I know the stuff in the cans is real; it just doesn’t seem as real as the stuff I bake that comes from a whole pumpkin I touched, you know?) I asked my mom how to do this and she just told me to call Grandma (Dad’s mom).

Continue reading “I Love Pumpkin”

Cheesecake

I tried to make cheesecake last week. My America’s Test Kitchen cookbook said it was “good for beginners” but somewhere along the lines it didn’t turn out quite right…it’s fluffy or something…isn’t cheesecake supposed to be dense and decadent?

Any ideas what I did wrong? Mix the eggs too long? Didn’t bake long enough? Baked too long (although I doubt it…the middle’s still kind of gooey)?

Wedding Cake and Sisterhood

My best friend from high school got married last Friday. The ceremony was lovely and moving. The reception was held at their home (mini-farm!) and featured fabulous food and wine, and a great dance party (early to bed me danced until 3am). There was also a wedding cake made by Katie, the bride, with a little help from The Sisterhood.

Katie, Kaitlin, and I dubbed ourselves The Sisterhood back in high school. We were fantastic friends who gallivanted around the Pacific Northwest checking out Victoria’s Parliament building, skinny dipping, hiking, and making pilgrimages to Powell’s. In college, we met up in Switzerland, visited each other at school, and tried to meet up whenever we were back in our hometown.

We were all reunited for the first time since a July 2007 hiking trip for Katie’s wedding. While I was very glad to be able to fly back east for the wedding, I was kind of sad knowing that Katie would be plenty busy with miscellaneous tasks and that we probably wouldn’t get any “Sisterhood time.” Fortunately, a promise Kaitlin made to both Katie and I when we were high school seniors came to the rescue. Continue reading “Wedding Cake and Sisterhood”