Project: Sourdough Bread

I am, at heart, a California girl. I was raised in Gold Country, where tales of “Sourdough Miners” were part of my childhood, and trips to San Francisco could only be made better by clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl eaten on the open air as we dodged seagulls on Fisherman’s Wharf. In short, “sourdough” is synonymous with home for me.

I am guessing that is what has been behind my drive to learn how to bake sourdough bread since I moved to the Pacific Northwet almost four years ago. Yes, I can find some decent sourdough here, but something inside me has needed to make it myself. However, to paraphrase the old saying, if wishes were loaves, I would have opened a bakery by now. Truth be told, I am not a great baker. My husband is far, far handier with the oven than I am, while I am mistress of the stove and crock pot. Therefore, despite diligent efforts, I have failed repeatedly.

Until this past week!

I think the stars finally aligned for two reasons. First, this past January, I took a class on making sourdough at the Country Living Expo. There, I found a teacher who convinced me that ordinary mortals can actually do this and provided the class with a seven-day chart derived from a King Arthur Flour recipe to feed my starter and a basic sourdough recipe that she essentially swore we could not screw up if we followed the directions. (I would post a link to that recipe, but I can’t find the original source to give it proper attribution.) Second, I copped a sample of sourdough starter from my friend, Andrea at Farm and Hearth. Although I believe that you can create sourdough starter pretty much out of flour, water, and thin air, I had more confidence using Andrea’s starter since everything she touches seems to turn out delicious.

For the better part of a week, I worked at feeding my starter at the right intervals, then kneading and proofing. And this resulted!

Sourdough Bread











Probably more gratifying to me than the actual loaves is the fact the bread disappeared shortly after the picture was taken as my sons, husband and even diet-conscious mom consumed chunk after chunk. Indeed, my oldest and pickiest son, who would gladly exist on sugar and simple carbs preferably from a box, said that my bread was not only really good, but better than what we have been buying at the store. Now that is what I call a delicious victory!!

And So This Happened. . . .

I love to knit and crochet, and I think the aspect that attracts me most is watching lovely colors and textures come together. So, when my friend invited me along to a 4H class to learn how to dye and spin yarn a year or so ago, I joined readily. I left the class even more curious but completely overwhelmed. Fortunately, the latter feeling rarely stops me.

Fast forward to last fall when a trusted fiber goat breeder offered some of her kids for sale for a price I simply could not resist. So, Purl and, a week later, her twin sister, Knit(wit), joined the family.

Purl (left) & Knit













Since then, I have been tackling a pretty steep learning curve about fiber goats care and yarn spinning. (Hint: do not purchase young animals just before the wettest, most miserable winter on record for Washington.)  Indeed, one of my goals this summer is to process the two bags of fleece I sheered from Knit and Purl this past winter and spring into yarn.

Always being cost conscious, I decided very quickly that I would use the drop spindle method of spinning, rather than use a spinning wheel because a drop spindle can be bought for well less than $20, while spinning wheels run in the hundreds of dollars. Still, there was something intriguing about the lovely wheels. . . .

I’d put the whole matter to rest some time ago, when my husband asked me this week if I’d be interested in a wheel? Apparently, he spotted one in pictures of an estate sale happening this weekend. I jumped at the chance to at least look at it. And so this happened today:

Spinning Wheel














In one class I took on spinning, the instructor warned us to make certain that the wheel we purchased wasn’t just decorative, as apparently novices make that mistake and end up with a wheel that was never meant to spin. At the sale today, the cashier knew that the current owner had only used this wheel for decoration, but I suspected it might have been used for spinning by an earlier owner. So, we haggled a wee bit and settled on a price that was half the asking price and well less than one hundred dollars.

Closer examination at home has confirmed that this wheel was and can most likely be used for spinning, but it clearly needs a great deal of TLC. So, now I’m off to learn about the care, maintenance, and repair of spinning wheels. A new project is born!

Project: Lemon-Thyme Salt

A few years ago, my husband and I spent our anniversary puttering around Napa Valley. We ended up at the Oxbow Public Market. While meandering the stalls, I discovered lemon-thyme salt at Whole Spice. It quickly became a favorite in my kitchen, particularly in stews.

When we moved to Washington, I carefully hoarded my small stash of salt because I knew I couldn’t return to Oxbow too easily. However, I finally ran out and needed to seek a new supply this year. Price made it impractical to purchase and ship it online, and I could not find it in our local spice shops. However, one merchant was kind enough to point out that it wasn’t that difficult to make myself. Eureka!

Using this recipe for proportions, I substituted table salt for coarse salt and skipped the mincing by hand in favor of using the Cuisinart to dice the thyme and lemon zest to a paste. And I ended up with this lovely jar in a few days. It smells delightfully lemony and amazing and comes with the added satisfaction of having made it myself.

Lemon-Thyme Salt