I Fixed the Oven
Posted in Baking
Last dog watch, 1 bell (6:31 pm)

Despite my singular lack of formal training in anything electrical, it appears that I have fixed my broken oven. For those that don't know me, I bake all the time. Not having an oven is an inconvenience (I could switch to my soaker, which I learned in a different recipe that didn't turn out the way I wanted but I think has something to contribute to this recipe. So my changes include: less white flour (original recipe was about half wheat and half white), non-fat milk instead of water, a little more honey (to sweeten the deal), and wheat germ added to the flour and milk soaker.

The idea with the soaker is that the wheat flour absorbs moisture overnight and softens up more than it would normally. I think this will be important because the hand-ground flour texture isn't commercial-fine. Depending on how things work out (I'll know later today) I'll upload a picture or two. When I'm happy with the recipe I'll add it to my cookbook.

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Vanilla Sleep
Posted in Baking, Hobbies
Forenoon watch, 6 bells (11:26 am)

Two words that really don't have much to do with each other. But they are two things that are on my mind lately. Well, aside from Dwarf Fortress (thanks a lot for the new addiction, Peppin).

I'm pretty sure my degrading sleep is due to my mattress. Last night my wife and I went out mattress shopping and ended up buying a Tempurpedic. But since nobody keeps them stocked around here, we have to wait a couple of weeks for delivery. In the meantime, I decided to try out the bed in our guest bedroom last night. I slept better than I have in weeks. Hence the conclusion about my mattress being the problem. I'm sure it will take more than one night, but early indications are favorable.

Now, vanilla! I have recently come in to possession of several hundred vanilla beans, and have decided to make my own vanilla extract. I started two small batches, 12 ounces each. That was almost two weeks ago. The Instructable recommends waiting 4-5 weeks before using, but by the smell I'd guess I could use it at any point. In any case, the experiment has been successful so it's time to go big, and this weekend I'll make a few much bigger batches with some wine bottles I got from a friend.

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New Bread
Posted in Baking
Afternoon watch, 2 bells (1:09 pm)

I am making a new bread this week: Italian Semolina. I made two loaves of white last night, and one big loaf of sourdough. And I'm enjoying a little bit of everything for lunch today! There are few better things than fresh homemade bread…

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Sourdough Starter Feeding
Posted in Baking, Recipes
Forenoon watch, 5 bells (10:44 am)

I've used this exact method to get a dormant starter going so well that it nearly triples when I refresh it. If this doesn't get your starter up and running like crazy, then there's no saving it!

Warm up 1 cup of water about 20 seconds in the microwave. It should be warm, but not hot. Too much heat will kill your starter. If it's too hot for you it's too hot for your starter.

Add 1 cup of your starter to the water and whisk until uniform. Discard the rest of the starter if it's dormant. If it's really active, use it!

Put 1 1/2 cups of flour in a bowl with the starter and whisk until combined. It's okay if there are some small chunks of flour, but you want it as well-combined as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap and keep it out on your counter. If you have a warm sunny spot, that's even better, but it'll work at room temperature.

Repeat this process in the morning and in the late afternoon/evening for 3 days.

Once it's really active, you should refresh it every 2 days or so if you keep it out. If you refrigerate it, it should keep indefinitely.

Baking Day
Posted in Baking
Last dog watch, 2 bells (7:18 pm)

Today started out pretty relaxing, Lorien fell asleep on the couch because she wasn't sleeping well last night, and I woke up early and continued reading my book (Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas). She finally got up and left, and I started refreshing my own sourdough starter I started last year (not the one I normally use). I'm bringing it up to full activity to test its flavor; it has one chance to be tasty or I throw it out in favor of another one I have lined up (still, aside from my normal go-to Giza starter).

So after I refreshed the starter, I made bread. Eight pounds of bread dough. I soon realized that my 8 quart container isn't big enough for that much bread to rise in, as it began a Napoleonesque expansion war. I had to tap it down several times before it blew the lid off my container. Even after I put it in the refrigerator. Eventually I decided to just bake a one-pound loaf.

Just as that came out of the oven, Lorien came home and asked me to start on another Strawberry Cream Cake like I made a couple of weeks ago. I just took that cake out of the pan and it is in the final cooling stages.

So I did a lot of baking today, and it was all from scratch. I even organized some of my dry goods into sealed containers. I moved both my cake flour and masa harina out of their rolled-up open bags into sealed containers. Also, it's time to get rid of my bread machine. I haven't used it in a very long time…