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Sour Bakery

from barm to table

When feeding the starter, barm, or pulling some out for sourdough breads, there is always extra. I feel so sad just tossing it down the drain: the lovely, happy, and active yeast has no idea what awaits it down the drain hole and all its potential slips away. Sigh, I have tossed the extra more times than I care to admit.

In the past year I have started making crackers, herbed and garlic, as well as cinnamon spice. Yesterday I branched into unknown territory. Having recently satisfied my sweet tooth with a delicious cinnamon roll I thought I would try using started as the yeast in my own sticky bun.

I made the dough using a rich dough recipe, replacing the baking soda and powder as well as some of the flour and milk, with the starter. Leaving it to proof, I realized I did not have any pecans. If they couldn’t be nutty, they would be fruity sticky buns. I did have some peaches that were heading out, and some green apples I had just bought. So I made the buns three ways: classic spiced cinnamon, spicy apple, and sweet peach.

Experimenting, which seems to be a major theme of Sour Bakery, is so much fun! When I was at the Academy I was told I had to get the “classic” recipe correct before I should branch out to “oddities”. While I respect the classics, I think that a person can learn how to do what should be done while trying out what has not been done.

My first try turned out beautifully, spread out a bit to thin, my sheet pan was to big! I think I will try these in jumbo muffin tins next. I loved how the fruit filling blended with the spices, and the fruit that ended up on top changed the flavor of the caramel sauce. I had one for dinner, and another for dessert. Oh, and one for breakfast too.

I think I would sell these for $3, once I get them perfect and tall and crispily gooey.

Also, as a side note: I think I make up a lot of words. And I forget words and use odd words to replace that which has been forgot.

 

I am so excited to have a happy, healthy barm in my kitchen! I am also super excited to have all my baskets, baking stone, and other tools I need to make bread. The truck that had our stuff took its sweet time moving across the country. But, it’s all mine once again, and I am ready to go!

The home in Durham is so much warmer, my bread proofs like a slowly inflated balloon. In Santa Cruz I had to create a proof box, put it in a sunny spot, and pray for a miracle. Here, sits on my counter and -poof- pillowy soft gooshy goodness. I am not too sure about this oven. I’ve been using gas for awhile, and now I’m back to electric. Temp of the oven seems pretty good though.

In looking at other bakers breads I notice that they love having that nice open, holey, crumb. I don’t know. I like a bread that you can slice as thick as a finger, slather on some melted butter and jam, and not worry too much about all that goodness slithering down your hand as you gobble it up. I degas my loaves gently, but always feel best about my bread when it has solid, small to medium, bubbles.

I love experimenting: flavors, mix-ins, ratios, and scoring. I’m trying my hand at an “S”. Think the loaves tomorrow will have a tiny “s” and some other embellishments. I know the score is what opens the loaf and lends it some shape, but it is just so fun to see what happens.

All my loaves are between a pound and a pound plus a quarter. I sell my classic sourdough for $5. I think that is reasonable. I have also been exploring trade and barter.

 

A month ago, to the day nearly, I arrived in Durham, North Carolina. Most of my possessions came later (including most of my baking supplies. But I brought my partner, my two cats, and my barm. I have had this beauty since 2009 in Seattle. She has made 1,000+ loaves, crackers, pancakes, and cinnamon rolls. She has been in the San Francisco wild yeast air, and survived at least 5 moves.

I put her in a refrigerator bag, brought my scale, water filter, and flour. I think that my barm took up as much space as a cat, and I worried about her nearly as much. Once in Durham I noticed that she seemed sluggish, super sour, and not especially yeasty. She smelled like sea weed and rice, an olfactory flavor I had never smelled in her. I knew that the trip had been difficult. It was difficult for all of us (We had to drug one of the cats and she still yowled and rubbed her nose raw a few hours a day for 6 days). I just didn’t realize how rough it was on her.

Thinking back is like watching a movie that you have already memorized: you see all the plot twists and know exactly where the main character messes up. The car was not an even enough temperature. I left her in there for no more than 10 minutes (to use the bathroom, check into the hotel, get gas…) but it was enough time for her environment to shift too much, even in the refer bag. I fed her every night (should have been twice a day), and should have used bottles water, not just filtered from the tap.

Well (once “home”), I fed her a few times a day, but no change in her look or odor, for 5 days. I decided to go back to the feed from when I first started her from pineapple juice. I fed her honey, with the water and flour mix. I fed her honey for 3 days. On the fourth morning, she had exploded! She smelled like sweet yeast, bread, and heaven. I literally hugged her container, crooning to her like a baby. I think my partner feels I am a little crazy (he had been suggesting I start over with a new one, to which I nodded but secretly seethed at him-never abandon your barm!).

I am happy to say she is back. She’s off the honey and still growing well with each feed. My first Sour dough loaves in Durham are about ready. Time to break in the oven!!

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Olive you! I remember being younger and learning that if you mouthed “olive juice” it looked like you were saying “I love you”. Its been awhile since such innocent childhood moments. Now, when I make this bread, I’ll chop up some olives really small and put them in the cat food bowls. I think they smell the olives as soon as I get ready to make the Olive Loaf and they are waiting as close as they can get. While they eat the olives I’ll rub some juice on their coats. It is pretty hilarious watching them chase each other around and go into a licking frenzy. Of course, all this happens after the bread has been put away to proof, so cat hair is not an issue!

In truth though, I love olives. My sisters and I would put olives on our finger tips, become olive monsters, then eat them one by one, over and over until our stomachs near burst. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned the beauty of Kalamata olives, and green olives stuffed with garlic. This loaf has been inspired by the variety and complexity of different olives. When I get an olive loaf from a market stand I generally enjoy it. The bites with olive, usually Kalamata are glorious, but infrequent.

My Olive Loaf is full of Kalamata and Green olives, as well as pickled garlic and a hint of pepper. The pepper is coarse ground so some bites come out spicy, some oliv-ie. But I can confidently say that no loaf I have ever tried comes close to the heaven that exists in my Olive Loaf.

Olives: “olive juice”!

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Artichokes are just lovely. The flavor is so subtle that artichokes are often overpowered by the other foods we put them with. I tried a loaf of bread once that had, literally, been stuffed with an artichoke. Just one, and in the middle of the bread. It was a disappointing experience, but it inspired this loaf.

I marinate the artichokes with olive oil and herbs. There is also slivered garlic and chunks of parmesan. These flavor combine to support and enhance the delicate artichoke, with a lovely creamy finish.

Santa Cruz was just outside Gilroy, the artichoke capital. Hoping to find some amazing providers here in Durham.

When life gives you lemons…

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I have not been unemployed in-ever. I have moved so many times in the past 10 years. I’ve been working two jobs for the past 5 years. I have not had a job since the middle of June. Mind, at first it was due to moving from California to North Carolina. It’s been 13 days that I’ve been living in Durham, North Carolina and I’ve had no luck so far. Everyone keeps saying: don’t worry; you have so much useful experience; the right job will find you; take some time with no job, you’ve been working so hard; don’t stress. Words spoken by humans with jobs! However, not working has led me to more baking, so, a plus.

Breads are a passion for me. Sour Bakery is based on sourdough breads. But, I love sweets! I also love sour things. That is what makes lemon curd such a joy. When it is perfectly done lemon curd hovers on almost too sour, finishing with a murmur of sweet.

When I start working the Farmers Markets in Durham and the surrounding areas I think I’ll make these in a mini version.

Figgy Piggy Biscuits!

At first I made these as scones, however, the inclusions lent themselves more readily to a lighter dough. The Figgy Piggy Biscuits are inspired by a pizza of the same name from my favorite pizza spot in Santa Cruz, Pizza My Heart! Missing California very much, but really enjoying my brief stay so far in North Carolina.

The picture shows the inclusions that go into these decedent, delicious, and rich biscuits: fig, bacon, feta, and sage.  Hopefully, these will be a menu item at my Farmers Market stall.

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Summer Delights

My last brief time of Summer in Santa Cruz, CA was filled with unknowns. However, I knew that I wanted to experiment with some produce that is available for a few brief, delicious months. Blackberries.

At first, I considered doing scones or biscuits. But, why not add them to my wild yeast sourdough. This proved a bit of a quandary. I couldn’t fold them in like cheese, they made a huge mess of purple dough and the berry got a little lost. I tried adding them in the first folding, but that made the dough too slack. Final fold was the final straw! chopping the berries up a bit, I gently folded them in, trying not to degas the loaf too much.

It was good, like bread with the jam inside. But, not quite what I had in mind. Hello, white chocolate chips. These I added early on. The first try had chips popping out in the oven, browning all over the crust. Caramelized white chocolate! Divine!

Say hello to my sweet and tart, juicy Blackberry White Chocolate Sourdough Bread.IMG_6734

New Ways of Creating

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In the years that I have been making my various breads I have always used bannetons or bowls. I bought some baskets recently, to try a new way, but the dough stuck to the baskets too easily. Two weeks ago was the first time that I incorporated linen lining to the baskets. The first loaves, pictured above, came out a little bit too floury. This last weekend I was more successful at not applying too much flour, and getting it brushed off better. I love that I can now buy inexpensive baskets, of identical size, and still get my beautiful crust with a touch of design on it!

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