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Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Day of Decision

Yay! Bruce's Portuguese cousin called last night and invited him down next weekend to the Central Valley to make linguica (say lin-gwee-sa). Apparently every year the locals slaughter a few hogs and have a big sausage making...I don't know, can you call it a party? Anyway, this is a new thing for him and he's going to be learning the traditional, authentic way the Portuguese here in California make it. Unfortunately that means he'll have to leave the Almond Festival/Aunt Paula's house early, since it's on the same day. Oh wait, it now seems that I can tag along, which means you all get to tag along too! I can't wait to see how the pictures turn out! Moo-ha-ha!!

This morning I began the process of making the sourdough loaf. I'm waiting to see if the rain affects it since I've always heard that you're not suppose to make bread on days where there is rain and it's been raining up a storm. It's getting Old Testament out there. And I noticed when I was getting the starter going that on the week it didn't rain, I had the best yeast activity. Am I just setting myself up for failure? We'll see.....

Here's my recipe:

2 cups of starter (my starter has a thick batter consistency)
3/4 teaspoons of salt
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

Using the bread hook on the Kitchen Aid mixer, I mix the salt in to the starter. Then I added the whole wheat flour and let it mix on 1 or 2 for a minute. Then gradually I added the rest of the flour. I let it go until the dough had absorbed all of the flour and had formed a pretty good ball. Then I turned it out on a floured board and kneaded the crap out of it. Jesus! That sucker was tough! Pretty much I was folding and pressing and folding and kneading, grunting, praying that this would be over soon. Finally I got what I was looking for. No, not another pair of hands to take over. I got a smooth satiny finish on the dough. So I folded in under and made a ball. Oiled it, slapped it into a large plastic container with a lid and stuck it in the oven with only the oven light on.

That was 10 AM. I'm checking it every hour or so. I'll let you know more later.

By the way, how did I make my starter? Well, first off, can I just say that it probably took a month? Really, I think it was only three weeks. Every 24 hours adding a cup or two of flour (started with whole wheat and moved to white) plus equal parts of water in a large, wide, clear glass mixing bowl, stirring the crap out of it with a whisk (taking it outside on nice days to let it stretch, enjoy the weather for a few minutes, letting the wind blow through it's hair) covered with plastic wrap, in the oven with the light on. I took special care to keep everything sterilized.

It's alive!

Eventually I was refreshing the starter every 12 hours. What I was looking for was a strong yeast activity, more than a sour smell. The sourness just eventually comes along on it's own. It was the yeast I was concerned with. This thing has been my child for the last month. Yes, I do have a bun in the oven. I've burped it, I've fed, I've even taken the damn thing for walks.

See the bubbles? That's a good thing.

One thing I noticed is the smell of the starter when refreshing with whole wheat as opposed to white. When using whole wheat, the starter (when at it's peak) smelled really, really...well, like fresh horse poop. A very grassy horse poop. Frankly, I tend to think this is ok and I recommend that when you start a starter from scratch you use a mix of whole wheat and white to build flavor. Using white alone, I assume, wouldn't give you this complexity, that is, what I call the horse poo factor.

Neglected kitties: "We're so over your sourdough phase."

4:00 PM

It's almost 4 PM. Around 2:30 I punched down the dough. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to punch down. I'm starting to worry.

I formed a loaf. I didn't have cornmeal, so I (yes) am using polenta* to sprinkle on the bread board. I placed the loaf on the board and covered it loosely with plastic wrap. It's now in the oven, hopefully rising. I have a feeling this could take awhile. I may be baking til the crack of dawn at this point. Aren't you glad you came along on this journey?

*Oh crap! Why didn't I think to use the grits I have sitting around. I have plenty of that (bad Southerner, not eating enough grits).

11:40 PM

It's shortly after 11:30. My bread making has been a success...a successful disaster. My loaf never rose to the potential I thought it had. The final product was a hockey puck.

I'll comment on this as soon as I can....



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