On my sixth day of self-exile in my own home, and several sourdough loaves later, I wanted to try something different. My lazy self, before the world turned upside-down, would buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal bread once or twice a month. Baking bread, especially sourdough, isn’t onerous (Thank you Lord for my bread machine!) but does require you set aside the time necessary to manage the process. It doesn’t require a lot of brain cycles, but in my previously ‘normal’ routine, starting bread after six o’clock at night meant being up past my bedtime before it was done and cool enough to bag. Weekends were usually spent running errands, volunteering, shopping, visiting friends and relatives or attending events. For the foreseeable future, my bread machine and I are going to be BFFs!
When my daughter came to visit over the Christmas and New Year holidays, I made several trips to Trader Joe’s to purchase food she could eat without having an adverse reaction (she’s allergic to corn). While I was there I bought a box of peanut butter dog treats for Lexy. By the middle of January, we’d given Lexy all the treats from that box. I decided that since I’ve been making her dog food for a couple of months now, I might as well make her treats. That way, I control the ingredients and it’s also fun.
I searched for a peanut butter dog biscuit recipe and found several but one in particular caught my eye – a peanut butter pumpkin recipe. I was intrigued because our vet had us give Porthos pumpkin with his food whenever he had diarrhea. Apparently, pumpkin and chicken are easy for them to digest so that’s what Porthos ate for a couple of weeks last year until his tummy settled down.
Please be VERY CAREFUL which peanut butter you give your dog – it must NOT contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. Most Natural peanut butters are xylitol free but double-check the ingredients to be safe.
How I spent the first winter storm weekend of January 2020.
Until Friday, this January has had the weirdest warm weather I’ve ever experienced in northeastern Kansas. Usually, I’m bundling up because the temperatures outside are nudging into single digits or a raging snowstorm with a wicked north wind blows through to remind us of what our Canadian neighbors endure daily. I actually looked forward to a three-day cold snap with a soft blanketing of snow. My pantry was stocked and I could wait to shovel the driveway until Sunday afternoon (which I did). I avoided the ice forgotten under the snow from Friday’s all-day rain. I stayed snug in my home with my sourdough, my movies, my books, my dog and my hubby.
Just like last weekend, I set out my sourdough starter to feed, but this time I did it Friday morning, not Saturday morning, because my plan was to try the much longer process necessary for the Extra Tangy Sourdough bread recipe. I thought I’d take advantage of the low pressure system to boost my wild yeast production. And I wanted to try out my new covered ceramic baker I received on Friday, thanks to a free shipping promotion last week at King Arthur Flour.
The oven timer pinged before I finished writing my second phase post yesterday afternoon. I had hovered over the publish button many times, but kept finding things to fix and change. Once I heard the timer beep, I had to save a draft and retrieve the first loaf from the oven.
I’m happy but not completely satisfied with the first loaf results. I think I should have let it rise before shaping it. And I think I need a new lame. My slashes were not deep enough so the loaf did not expand as well as it could have with properly deep slashes. The loaf passed the taste test.
Welcome back! I’ve just popped the first sourdough loaf in the oven and in a few minutes my house, at least the main level, will smell amazing. And as my uncle commented on my fist post, he’s already salivating and soon I will be joining him. Nothing smells better than baking bread . But first, let’s back track about ninety minutes and catch up.
The Second Act ~ The Not-So-Meaty Middle
About an hour after I published my previous post, I pulled the dough out of the bread machine, gently kneaded it by folding the very sticky dough in upon itself from the four corners (of a ball, yeah, I know, doesn’t make much sense and is difficult to make a video while actually performing the action). I sprayed my glass stove-top with cooking spray and coated my my hands as well. I’ve learned from experience that the easiest way to handle high hydration doughs is to grease yourself and your surface to avoid getting stuck.
Today is the twelfth day of Christmas and it’s been eight days since my daughter gifted her sourdough starter to me when she returned to Seattle. I fed the starter late last weekend and set it out from the fridge yesterday morning to warm up to room temperature so I could feed it again in anticipation of baking sourdough bread today. Very early this morning, I checked the started to see how ripe (or vigorous) it appeared and it was quite bubbly. So instead of feeding it again (to enhance its vitality), I reviewed the Basic Sourdough Bread recipe at King Arthur Flour that I had decided to try today to see what to do to prep starter to use in an actual bread recipe.
The recipe required two cups of starter so I put eight ounces of water and eight ounces of all-purpose flour in my small mixing bowl (see first photo above). To this I took all but a half cup of the starter from the crock and stirred vigorously. I covered the small mixing bowl with my tea towel and then re-fed my starter as I would normally – half cup of water and a cup of all-purpose flour.
On any given Sunday, you’ll find me awake before sunrise. Old, very old, habits die-hard. I embrace being a morning person. Only causes an issue when I want to toast in the new year since I generally turn into a pumpkin around nine o’clock. Today was no different from any other weekend.
Yesterday was Twelfth Night, the official end to the Christmas season. When Dickens was a youth, Twelfth Night was ‘THE’ biggest day of the winter holiday in England. Between his Christmas Carol and Prince Albert’s importation of German Christmas traditions (namely the Christmas tree), Twelfth Night began to fade out of fashion during Dickens and Queen Victoria’s lifetimes.
I did not stay up late celebrating or hosting a Twelfth Night party. I had servers to upgrade and test bright and early on January 6th, also known as Epiphany.
I woke up before my alarm (I almost always do this; my alarm only woke me up once in the last six months) and got logged in and ready to upgrade a server. It went much smoother than the last time I tried, right before Christmas, and I was done within 20 minutes (leaving an hour forty minutes of my maintenance window unused). Server patch testing took another fifteen minutes so I was done ‘working’ before seven o’clock, still before sunrise.
I received a call from my son Thursday evening. This is a somewhat unusual occurrence as the last time I spoke to him was on the occasion of his 31st birthday back in early February. In our defense, we are both busy professionals working much more than your typical 40-hour work week, so we don’t have a lot of spare time for idle chit-chat.
We exchanged pleasantries and got caught up on the latest antics of their new pet Rottweiler, Ton Ton, when he popped the question. You know, the one you always expect when your offspring call you because they never call you unless they … wait for it … want something. But this time, my son surprised me. He wanted my Italian Herb bread recipe.
Seriously? This was too easy and too good to be true.
I’m thankful for many things this Thanksgiving. Oddly, I’m somewhat thankful even for my cold, dark oven.
I’m thankful that I won’t be on my feet for hours today prepping and baking for a family gathering. For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I will not be basting and roasting a turkey. I won’t be making more stuffing (I already succumbed last week and made a huge batch of stuffing because I couldn’t help myself). I might not escape baking entirely today, though, as I may break down and make Sticky Buns because it’s a TRADITION!