DIY Style

Well.

I had high hopes for my posts for today and tomorrow. I have been foraging for seaweed (kombu, sea lettuce, nori) and thought I would have adventures and footage to show. Also, I made my first attempt at wrangling wild yeast in creating a sourdough bread culture, and was anticipating photos of glorious spongey loafs.

Except my excursion to the beach yesterday was mostly about wrangling the toddler and the dog, one of which was intent on drowning herself in polluted city water run off, and the other of which was intent on getting lost. Which he managed to do 20 feet from me, seeing as his hearing is practically gone and his eyesight is following close behind. Also, there was no seaweed.

As for the sourdough, it turns out there is quite a science to making one’s own starter, that goes far beyond setting out a bowl of flour and water with a “Vacancy” sign. I knew this, but had found wonderfully simple instructions in a favorite cookbook and thought it would be no-fail. Turns out, the wonderfully simple directions were simply wrong. Allow me to demonstrate:

The book said it would only take 24 hours (Huge, incorrect, totally ridiculous assumption number 1)

Here is the slough at the beginning.

Since all the wild yeast would automatically hear the beckoning call of “PARRRTAAYYY!”, it was supposed to look like a foamy spongey miracle. Here is how it actually looked after 24 hours

Oh hey, it looks just like the day before! I felt hopeful about those bubbles, but they were, in fact, just air and not yeast farts.

In essence, I made a giant bowl of glue. Which, when added to the flour for the bread, created a dead doughy blob that failed to rise after 4 hours.

FAIL

With research (otherwise known as Googling) and corroborating tales of experience, I have hit upon a method I feel hopeful about and will report back.

It is empowering, trying things out on your own, even when it doesn’t work. I feel so grateful for the internet, because so much information is accessible and literally right at my fingertips. I used to feel a lot of sorrow whenever I would see a flyer for a class, workshop, or training program on a subject I had the passion for, but not the finances. This went on for years, until I gave up on ever learning things that cost more than $25 to be taught (like herbalism). Now I don’t even think it’s necessary to go out and buy a manual for a skill. Keep a good head on your shoulders, research online, watch videos, take free classes and talk to experts when you can, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or find out you were wrong and most importantly…DO IT. The best teacher is experience. This morning, I found everything I need to know about making sourdough bread, from how to make the starter to how to score it so it comes out with a pretty design to what kind of pan to use etc. Also, after reading chat boards and learning from other peoples’ mistakes, I figured out what the better methods are. Speaking of those other people, I find it invigorating to find so many different voices on a subject that it just increases my love for the human race (something I can be short on). In fact, the whole experience this morning was so inspiring that I was ready to devote myself to all things sour and wanted to pack my bags and run away to join a bakery.

Speaking of which, I came across this great recent video about Tartine Bakery in SF (mon restaurant prefere) and their love for bread is contagious. Plus, the live accordion accompaniment is adorable.

Now I’m going to toodle off and start another yeast motel with some rye flour at ma boulangerie.

Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission to know what you know. Now get to it!

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9 thoughts on “DIY Style

  1. hi hon – i make sourdough at home and seem to be getting pretty good at it…it’s not be it’s the microbes; but if you want to chat about it or do it together sometime, let me know. i am happy to share tips and techniques. i found that it really is a trial and error thing that relates to one’s exact kitchen!

      1. i’m up for it, mary. will be making bread soon – just have to get over a nasty cold that is hanging around a bit. actually, bread…and muffins. you know what is really gratifying? sourdough pancakes. i make sourdough rye pancakes with fresh apples. i always love to bake with people. i baked professionally for 8 years. I was the R&D manager at Just Desserts, designed all the new pastries (when i was a young’un). Now i bake for the joy of it.

        Note that i may have some extra seed potatoes (purple!) soon. If i do are you interested?

  2. YUM. Thanks for the video–I want to lunch at Tartine! Good luck on your bread, I have no doubt it will be great.

  3. yo. i might start trying sourdough at home now. you are so inspiring. i was reading sandor katz last night. i think you and me are on a similar sour-y ferment-y wavelength. my newest vinegar batch is so yummy smelling. i wonder if i could mail you some? also~ that video of your favorite bakery made me want to share a video with you of my favorite bakery. hehe.
    http://www.metroseen.com/metro/reel/9

    1. i love the vid! so great to see david! i have to admit, i was watching everyone in the background hoping for a sneak peak of you. i love the accidental development of the stuffed scones…that is such a good idea. so fun to witness a piece of your world. xoxoxo

      p.s. i’m excited about your vinegar, but mailing it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. did you document the process? i want your tutorial. your tutelage.

    2. Oooh i am so impressed that you are doing vinegar, David. I really want to do that. I am making krauts a la Sandor now, and i am really hella pleased with how my first kraut is ‘opening up’ – as he says. Cannot wait to do my next one.

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