First loaf with starter!

Wednesday – Immediately after mixing. Artisan Bread in Five dough is notoriously wet by design.
Thursday – Finished olive oil free form loaf

Feeling quite smart, proud, and giddy today, which is impressive given we are still in a global pandemic with a side of political unrest.

As I described in a previous post, I made a mini sourdough starter right before Christmas 2020.
I mixed up a small loaf of olive oil dough on Wednesday morning, using my starter to replace all the commercial yeast. Using starter in place of yeast does elongate the time to get to bread, but it’s yummy! I love this olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in Five. It is soft and tasty and a great daily bread. Using the sourdough starter has given it a subtle tang and it’s even better than the original. My palate tends to prefer less tang than more and I have learned that more frequent feedings – not starving the starter – results in less tang. Starving the starter will produce more alcohol and give you more tang in the final bread. The olive oil dough also makes splendid mini pizzas on a grill. My sister had that idea many years ago when I hosted an outdoor party and they were a smash hit.
The below link includes the basic recipe for olive oil bread.

I am no expert, so I was a bit worried about how I would use the sourdough starter in the Artisan in Five recipe. I did the research on how to use starter in place of commercial yeast and took the plunge. I purposely started small, in case of failure, so I cut the original dough recipe to 25%. I abhor wasting. I used a heaping one teaspoon of starter for this loaf, which was the equivalent to the commercial dry yeast I would have normally used. I added the other ingredients according to the recipe and used my eyes and past experience to get to the wet and sticky dough that is the symbol of Artisan Bread in Five. I let the dough rest in my oven with no heat. It was in a glass bowl with a plastic “shower” cap over it. I placed a 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup with boiling water in the oven with the dough. As I mentioned, using natural yeast (starter) rather than commercial takes more time. I checked it after an hour and didn’t see much movement, so I basically forgot about it, yesterday (Wednesday). I woke up this morning (Thursday) thinking about the dough and proceeded to shape it. For those unfamiliar with Artisan in Five process, you add a decent amount of flour while shaping. I then put it back in the unheated oven with the cup of boiling water for a final rise. I did leave it for a couple of hours, baked it, and behold!


I spent much of my summer eating keto style because my camping pod people are eating keto. I definitely saw the benefits of reducing my carbohydrate intake. However, I enjoy baking and love to make bread. It’s all about balance, right? I started binge watching the Great British Baking Show (or Great British Bake Off in the U.K.) and that really fed my desire to bake and ward off pandemic and winter-in-the-upper-midwest of the United States boredom.

I tried a traditional ciabatta with a biga and everything! It tasted and looked OK – didn’t rise much – but it seems ciabatta dough is tricky and practice will help.

A few weeks ago I decided to make the Cook’s Illustrated mini sourdough starter recipe, what they fondly call “Quarantiny.”

I am not a big fan of the standard sourdough starter process that discards 50% of the mixture at every feeding, so I use the traditional process as a guideline. If you do the research and use your smell and sight senses, it should work out fine. Starter is very resilient. I found an informative site for tips and explanations, like, if you want more tang in your bread, use less flour. Alcohol builds up when the starter is hungry. Baking is chemistry, you know!

Quarantiny started December 24 2020
Just after this morning’s feeding

Be silly, be kind, be weird

Saw a quote on Facebook that was attributed to Anthony Hopkins.  Knowing that most quotes on Facebook with those uplifting and thought-provoking images are not authored by the person named in them, I went off to search for the true author.  Of course, that led me down the Google rabbit trail that ended up at Nanea Hoffman’s Sweatpants and Coffee site.

The full quote is –
“None of us are getting out alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought.  Eat the delicious food.  Walk in the sunshine.  Jump in the ocean.  Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure.  Be silly.  Be kind.  Be weird.  There’s no time for anything else.”
— Nanea Hoffman

My minimal research results show Nanea Hoffman as the quote author, but I am open to corrections.  Intermediate Google stops found that Richard Gere coincidentally authored the same, exact quote.  Seriously, Snopes and other entities focused on navigating the internet to sort and sift through fabrications versus facts must be exhausted.  Maybe that’s my next career!  😊

I have always enjoyed a meaty research project and I would probably have been a splendid research scientist — except I am a true extrovert.  I must frequently engage with real humans or I become loony.  I love old libraries, their ghosts, and their smells.  Thinking of old libraries, I have a particular fondness for Walter Library on the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis campus.  This library opened in 1924 and was built in the Roman Renaissance style.  By the time I first visited there in 1981 or so, some of the oldest book stacks were cordoned off for safety and security, but the old book smell remained, and we could still get to some of the stacks.  The only scents missing were frankincense and myrrh.  Oh, and “old book smell” is a real thing.  Smithsonian magazine wrote about it.

Be silly, be kind, be weird