Hmmm... Bread?

I have a few cross stitch pieces that my great aunt made.
She gave many of them to my daughter but I have still to
put them in a frame yet. Love the tureen with the
vegetable decoration. It came from my mother in law.
I have been thinking that I may be suffering from a serious midlife crisis.  Like the middle aged men who run out and buy motorcycles, trade in their wife for a younger model and so on.  Except my symptoms are an obsessive interest in making things.  All sorts of things.  And one obsessive interest seems to breed another and snowball into a collection of unfulfilled areas of interest that manifests in a stack of books.

The other day I suddenly got an urge to bake a sourdough rye bread.  I honestly do not know where I got that idea from.  Most often my interests seem to evolve naturally from one area to another:  Soap to creams and lotions and back to soap on to essential oils and medicinal plants with a detour to crocheting borders for duvet covers and from there to dyeing with natural materials to bookbinding (yes! Bookbinding is fascinating), but this had no connection to anything else and surprised me.  I love to bake cakes and cookies, but that is just selfish, indulgent greed.  Bread?  No!  Tried it once.  Killed the yeast.  Decided it was not for me.  But then I got this strong urge.  One problem with a sudden urge to make sourdough bread is that one has to have a starter to make it.  Making a starter takes at least a week if successful.  So I have been having a close relationship with Grumpy, my starter, for a few weeks.  It wasn't successful at first.  He seems to be in good shape now and I have high hopes for his longevity.

It was a bumpy ride that started with an innocent mix of rye flour and water in equal amounts.  I used a glass jar.  Then I waited for it to start to bubble.  I stirred it every day, twice a day, until it did.  Then I fed it.  Also every day.  This involves discarding half of it and adding more flour.  It soon started to ferment and bubble quite happily.  It was a bit like magic.  Life from nothing, it seemed.  But getting from there to bread is only a part of the way.  My first attempts went into the trash with an loud bang.  I could have killed a man with that heavy blunt instrument.  This last one I baked in a cast iron pot that was too big, so it looks flat, but it tastes very, very good.  I also think that I may be starving my starter.  But I'm getting there.  I used a recipe from The Fresh Loaf site.  The recipe for the first bread is:

300 g. Whole wheat
150 g. Spelt
50 g. Rye
50 g. Whole grain starter

375 g. Water
10 g. Salt

I used my rye starter which is a bit wet.  If the starter is very  dry then use less, about 40 g.
This recipe is very simple and it worked fine for me.  I dissolved the starter in the water.  Added the salt.  Then the flour, which I had mixed well with a whisk.  I use my Kitchen aid mixer with a dough hook to mix the dry and wet ingredients.  Then I put the dough (it's sticky) into an oiled bowl and covered it with a plastic bag and a towel.  Placed it somewhere warm and draft free,  I let it rise overnight on the kitchen counter, for 10- 12 hours.

There is the wet finger test to see if it has risen fully.  You poke a wet finger into the dough up to the first knuckle.  If the hole remains and doesn't spring back then the dough is fully risen.  Then the dough is taken out, stretched a bit and folded, this should be done gently to preserve the gas bubbles that the rising has produced.  Then the dough is shaped into a ball.  It then needs to sit for another 2-3 hours and should rise again.  I put mine into a cast iron pot that had been heated in the oven at 230 C / 450 F.  I put a lid on and let it bake for 40 - 50 minutes, the last 10-15 without the lid.  To test for doneness one can apparently knock on the bottom of the bread and it should sound hollow.  This process is beyond my comprehension so I prefer to stick an instant read thermometer into the center of the bread.  The internal temperature should be about 99 C / 210 F.

I will continue to work on my bread until I get the perfect loaf.  I still have some way to go and taking good care of Grumpy is a high priority now.


  1. My hubby went through a similar stage several months ago. He made all kinds of breads with starters, and experimented with various baking methods as well. I kind of miss that stage! LOL!

    Best wishes to you & Grumpy!!

  2. Oh, how I'm familiar with - from soap to bread, from cream to crochet. Unable to face the new needs. I want to try to maketheir own hands , andthen another . Bake bread is very nice, is not it? This is neither an incomparable pleasure. Recently, I also grew sourdough bread and baked their own bread. I share your feelings and congratulate the new skill!
    О, как это мне знакомо - от мыла к хлебу, от крема к вязанию крючком. Невозможно противостоять новым желаниям. Хочется попробовать сделать своими руками и то и другое. Печь хлеб это очень приятно, не правда ли? Это ни с чем не сравнимое удовольствие. Недавно я тоже выращивала закваску для хлеба и пекла свой хлеб. Разделяю ваши переживания и поздравляю с новым умением!

  3. You've been missed, and nice to have you back :) Hope the tropics were energizing and put you in the right mood for Spring. I have done my round with sourdough bread, but it was never too successful. We have a great organic sourdough starter here which I'd be happy to send you should Grumpy act like its name..Love your post and can so relate to the obsessive compulsion of making things, regardless of their nature. I am so not the knitting, crocheting, sewing type of person because I lack patience for fiddling around..then last year I suddenly and totally out of the blue wanted to teach myself how to do pine needle basket weaving. Of all things! I spent a few months doing that, totally obsessed by it and then BOOM! lets move on and find out how to make incense sticks. Your theory is, it's hormonal? uh-oh

  4. Soaping has been my hormonal thing, except I lost all my hormones 18 years ago in an emergency hysterectomy, but if that excuse will allow me to keep spending all our savings on essential oils I will do it. Nice bread by the way!


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