Posts Tagged ‘ how-to ’
I was jonesing for a kitchen project this weekend so finally tried something on my bucket list: making a sourdough starter from scratch.
Sourdough bread is my absolute favourite, with its chewy moistness and subtle sour aroma. I usually feed my addiction by investing in $5 loaves from some of the Cowichan Valley’s many amazing bakers, but (like heroin) that quickly becomes an expensive habit. So every few years I decide I’m going to bake our own bread. In 2008 that meant adopting Brock’s parents’ breadmaker. I used yeast from a jar and we endured a few of my fresh-and-organic-but-not-as-good-as-store-bread loaves. Once we started going to farmer’s markets regularly we discovered artisan bread, which is usually made with starters and not dried yeast, and we were no longer able to settle for anything less.
in 2011, our Renaissance Women group shortlisted bread-making as a skill we wanted to learn, and some of our members taught us their secrets. These breads involved a yeast starter that had fermented overnight (“poolish”), and a sourdough starter that Tessa had maintained for years after being gifted it by her baking mentor in France. I kept my starter, Sabrina, alive for months, but eventually my daily commuting to work in Victoria made it too difficult to service her needs: living starters need to be fed flour and water at least once a week. Sabrina died a grey, stinky death.
This weekend I atoned for her murder by creating life where before there was none, simply by following the instructions in my much-beloved Joy of Cooking:
- Stir together 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup barely lukewarm water in a non-metal bowl.
- Knead or stir it for 3-5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then poke 5 holes in the plastic with the tip of a sharp knife.
- Let stand away at room temperature away from drafts for 12-15 hours.
After 12 hours the dough looked the same, which is normal. So I stirred in another 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water.
According to Joy of Cooking, my dough should have needed another feeding at 12 hours before resting for 24 hours, but I neglected my starter-in-progress while working and sleeping: about 18 hours later I woke to find my dough bubbling. Yay!!
Bubbles mean that my flour + water dough collected enough wild yeast from the air in our tiny house that the yeasts were able to reproduce. As the starter continues to ferment, bacteria will also reproduce and make my starter “sour” (which is what I want, so I can make sourdough).
I took a picture in celebration, then fed my new pet another 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water and covered it with plastic wrap (without holes this time). After one more feeding, my starter should smell slightly sour. It will hopefully have developed enough leavening strength for me to use it to make bread. I will keep my starter in a jar in the fridge, then take her out once a week to feed her and make a few loaves of bread or pizza dough.
Making the bread, of course, is a whole other challenge. I don’t want my starter to die again, but that requires using my starter to make bread at least once a week. Also, my hands are still gibbled from having uber-bad tendonitis this summer, and it is very difficult for me to knead bread properly. Luckily, it’s winter and Brock will be inside more — and he has the hand-strength to knead dough. So maybe our pet starter will prosper until the spring.
But say she does die, or the Apocalypse comes and we can no longer buy dried yeast at Thrifty’s. I now know I can make my own starter using just flour and water. I can make dough bubble, just like my great-grandparents could, before our society decided that individuals didn’t need to be bothered with that knowledge.
Reclaiming that knowledge this weekend tastes as good as the most expensive artisan sourdough bread, oven-warm and buttered.Continue Reading »
I write a column for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary magazine. My fourth column was published June 27, 2012 and is online here.
I crave an apocalypse. Not the sort where the earth implodes, or even the kind that wipes out half the population and creates a Lord of the Flies society. I want an apocalypse where we no longer have electricity, fossil fuels or chequing accounts. (Okay, maybe I’m not pro-apocalypse: maybe I’m just a Luddite.) For years I’ve felt that our decadent, hedonistic North American society is a single Jenga block away from collapse. Call it “peak oil” or “climate change” or “I can’t afford to stay home with my new baby because child care is cheaper than me not working”— call it whatever you want. We’ve built a tower so high that we can’t remember how or why we started. I want to see what happens when the pieces fall and we have to rebuild.
p.s. I’m not the only one.Continue Reading »
Making yogurt is so easy that I’m just going to post photos.Continue Reading »
Here are some how-tos I’ve picked up sporadically throughout my 31 years:
How to clean a ceramic teapot
Rinse the teapot with water. Dump in a bunch of baking soda. Wait 5 seconds, then wipe the teapot with a wet cloth, smooshing around the baking soda. It’ll be spotless, and without using any gross chemicals. This works for tea-stained and coffee-stained mugs/dishes too.
How to get your kids to read
Learned from my parents:
- read to them
- read in front of them
- take them to the library at least once a week so they can check out lots and lots of books
- don’t make them feel guilty about library late fees
- optional: give gifts of books at Christmas time (especially on Christmas Eve to help calm excited nerves and get everyone to sleep)
How to get a job
Don’t wait for job postings. Think of what you might want to do, then:
- Google local people who do that job, then email them and ask if you can take them for lunch/coffee and ask some questions. If they don’t think you’re creepy, you will be top-of-mind when an opportunity arises. NOTE: this doesn’t work for freelance or entrepreneurial jobs. You are their future competition.
- Tell your friends and family you want to work in a specific area. Inevitably someone knows someone. Then: see #1 above.
- In the meantime, stalk job postings (all of them, not just the classifieds, and not just one website) and apply for anything you’re somewhat qualified for. One of my favourite jobs came from applying for an entry-level job — they saw my resume and skills, and hired me for the (better) job they hadn’t yet posted.
How to find your love partner
- Do what you like to do, whether it’s a dance class, political activism, a book club, a sports team, etc. You already have something in common with everyone you meet, so you’re halfway there. If there aren’t any date-able options in your activities, see #2 below.
- Tell your friends that you want to date new people. Tell them what you’re looking for. At the very least, you’ll have lots of dates as a result. In our 20s, my girlfriends and I hosted “New People Happy Hours” at a local bar. We handed out invitations to interesting single people we met in the weeks beforehand, and challenged friends and coworkers to bring their single friends. It was awesome.
- Have fun by yourself. I met Brock when I went to a gay friend’s birthday party. I did not expect any straight men to be there. And I was sick too. But I went because I knew it would be a fun party, and once I got there I found out the birthday boy had a present for me: a tall, straight, single man.
How to emergency-iron wrinkled clothes
Use a hot-air hair dryer. You can even do this while still wearing the item of clothing. Be careful not to stretch the fabric with your hand while drying, though, because the fabric will stay stretched-out until you wash it.
How to shave your legs
A friend told me this before she trained as an esthetician … perhaps she’s learned a better method since: use body lotion instead of shaving cream. You moisturize your skin while shaving.
Not much for 31 years! Post your own below so I can learn more, please.Continue Reading »