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Trying times call for patience and baking

It has been awhile since I’ve posted on here, though I do manage to upload pictures of my dishes several times a week. There has been a lot going on between completing my third college degree in October until now. The Wind Symphony that I am a member of had a great set of performances at the California Music Educators Convention in February, and had one piece with guest artist Derek Brown. If you have never listened to him play, it is well worth looking him up. He plays saxophone and does beatbox at the same time. It is pretty amazing.

I went outside my comfort zone and made weekly bingo cards to post for the followers of the Food Network show Worst Cooks in America. It was received well, and seemed to get more reposts and players each week. Food Network seemed to like it as well; once the nation was (mostly) directed to shelter in place they copied my idea and made cards to use while watching their network during the day.

Since then, Covid-19 has swept the world, and everyone is sheltering at home as much as possible. I’ve notice the increase in baking posts on social media, and have been assisting friends with issues via email and text. All I can say is that sourdough is a commitment and labor of love. It isn’t something you can use one time and forget about. Many of the chefs I follow are still working, and some of the celebrity chefs have been posting cooking/baking videos.

I am still working at my day job, though it involves telecommuting to campus most of the time. One of the pluses of being home is I can start dinner earlier since there is no commute and I don’t need to stop at the store.

I did set a few goals to accomplish while I am working from home. I am keeping the list reasonable and somewhat short, since I don’t know week to week when the university will have staff shift back to being on campus full time. I’ll update the list at I finish one task and add another. The main obvious ones are to deep clean and paint my kitchen, organize and post my cookbook list, and work on my fair projects. I do need to do some write-ups and handouts, as I will be filming a short series of talks about a few food topics. This is something completely new, and I am looking forward to it.

Back to the current situation and baking. My sourdough starter, Stinky, is about two years old now. He had (thankfully) evolved past his name, and I am thinking about starting a companion starter next week. I am lucky in that I had already bought plenty of flour when the pandemic changed how we shop, so I didn’t have to deal with the supermarket scramble to find something to bake with. Sourdough is an interesting and challenging thing to work with, and timing is everything. I’ve been practicing on smaller loaves to get the technique down, and then branching up to larger ones when I feel more confident. Over time, I can now do a 100% sourdough loaf that has a nice rise, resilient and balance crumb, and a thin crisp crust. If you follow me on social media it looks like all of my baking is wonderful, but there are times where the bread is only good for crustini, stuffing, or breadcrumbs. I don’t let the “flops” bother me. It could be a timing issue, an ingredient ratio miscalculation (I don’t always follow a recipe exactly), or even a technique blunder. At that point, as long as it tastes good and I can use it in something else, I chalk it up to a learning experience and move on. It is therapeutic to knead and shape dough, and the smell of bread baking in the morning is one of my favorite ways to start the day. It isn’t for everyone, but it does teach patience while you wait for it to rise (will it? won’t it?) while proofing or in the oven. Watching the browning due to the maillard reaction to the degree of golden brown is like performance art. No two pieces are ever the same.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting recipes and reorganizing the site to make it more accessible and to increase content. If there is anything you want to see added, just drop me a line or make a comment.

Just a little sourdough to start the week with.
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