Well what a good start to the day. I woke early feeling fine so after an early breakfast I set to work sewing and finished the patchwork picnic cloth. I’m so pleased with it – made from old shirts and some other scraps, backed with vintage Laura Ashley fabric (from 1979!) I found in a charity shop a few years ago, and cotton thread inherited with my mother-in-law’s sewing box. Do what you can with what you have. I think the people it’s intended for will enjoy using it. I may even make another.
- I made a new bed on the allotment. This will be where some of the tomatoes will get planted, along with some flowers. I plan to have lots of flowers this year, in the garden and on the allotment.
- Sadly but not surprisingly the Open Gardens event that I was to have taken part in later this summer was cancelled today, but I think people will enjoy looking at my allotment all the same. It gives me great pleasure to see parents showing their young children my chickens as they pass by, which happens several times most days. I recall doing the same with our children when they were young and before we began keeping chickens ourselves.
- Later I did some more tidying in the garden. Lots more still to do, but it feels good to have made a start. Rather than try to do it all, I’m focussing on a small section at a time, so I get a feeling of satisfaction in having completed something rather frustration at still having so much more to do.
Exercise/stay fit – just the gardening again today, but that does include lots of walking and carrying to water key plants on the allotment (just while they get started, I hope).
Craft/making – see above! (and below). I am so very pleased with this, and it was a great way to relearn how to use my sewing machine, as a practice run for making other things.
House/home repairs, improvements – ha! why do I keep this on the list?? keeping it real I suppose. Right now I’d far rather have too much to do than not enough.
Admin – yes, some important jobs done. Happy with that.
Kind deeds/something for others –
- I’ve written up how I use my sourdough starter, to share with several friends and neighbours who’ve recently begun bread baking (some with my starter) – see below. I’ve added it here in case it is of use to anyone (or maybe inspires you to have a go). Though if you really want some expert guidance, my recommendation would be to follow zerowastechef on her blog, and Richard Caddick on Instagram. They are both inspiring.
- I’ve received several packets of seeds from neighbours, so I can resow the courgettes and squash that the mouse (mice??) took. This time I will take more care to cover the seeds with plastic and I hope deter the critters.
Stay sane! – I met the person I had the difficult conversation with yesterday and apologised. We both agreed that right now emotions are raw and that some conversations should just not happen, and we both felt better for having cleared the air. And – yoga. I’ve now done 21 days of a 30 day programme (which I began on 22 March; I missed a few days, but not too many).
And tomorrow, being Friday again (aka Culture Night), we will be watching The Tempest, streamed on youtube from the National Theatre. Should be a good evening – do ‘join’ us if you fancy it. 19:00, bring your own interval refreshments.
Look elsewhere for instructions on how to make your starter, or ask someone you know to give you some of theirs. I made mine using instructions in a River Cottage cookbook, back in December 2012. You could do no better than look at zerowastechef for her instructions.
Baking with sourdough takes time – not your time particularly (very little of that is needed), just time for it to grow and develop. Here’s what I do. I usually bake 4 loaves at a time (that’s what will fit in our oven, and freeze 3 loaves. Occasionally I make just two or even one loaf. You might find my approach rather haphazard – I’m experienced and confident enough to judge by feel and look when the dough is right. There are lots of good recipe books available if you’d rather learn by following precise instructions.
- I keep my starter in the fridge, and usually take it out the morning of the day before I want to bake, split it in two, and feed each half by adding equal parts white flour and water (I use an American measuring cup of each). Whisk in, put one half back in the fridge, keep the other half out to bake with (in the large bowl I use for mixing the dough, covered with a tea towel
- Later that day, I add water and enough flour to form a porridge-like texture (1 pint of water if I’m baking 2 loaves; 2 pints of water for 4 loaves). I normally use just wholemeal bread flour at this stage. I also add just under a tablespoon of sugar for each loaf – this isn’t essential, and you can leave it out if you prefer. I cover this mixture with a tea towel and let it stand. You’ll see bubbles appear where the sourdough is doing its thing.
- Either that evening or else the next morning, You can add a tablespoon of oil for each loaf if you like (it makes a softer loaf and maybe keeps better). I add just under a teaspoon of salt for each loaf I’m making (you do need to add some salt), and quite a lot more flour (generally a mix of white and wholemeal, sometimes I add some rye flour or oats or even muesli at this stage). I mix and knead it until if feels right – not too sticky, but not hard. Nice and soft and springy. I just keep on adding flour until if feels right (see what I mean about not being specific…).
- Then I replace the tea towel and leave the dough for a few hours to rise. Once it’s risen I turn it onto a floured surface and knead it again (adding flour as needed), cut it into pieces for however many loaves I’m making, and knead and shape each of them. Mostly I use non-stick 2lb loaf tins, which I lightly oil before putting the loaf in (and I don’t wash them between times).
- Cover the loaves again with the tea towel and allow to rise again (around an hour or so). Heat the oven – I bake my loaves at 175 C for 54 minutes. Once the loaves have risen, slash the tops with a sharp knife or razor blade, place in the oven and bake. Remove from tins and allow to cool before use.
- Once you’ve cracked this, there are so many other types of loaf and other baked goods you can make, by using different ingredients, different shapes, different baking methods. I have used a similar method for making white loaves (these rise far more than wholemeal or rye), cinnamon buns, challah, fruit and nut loaves, olive bread. I also now make pancakes with my sourdough starter, by just whisking an egg in.
- Have fun!