Achieving Bread

DSC_1643After letting my starter sit over night in the fridge, the actual bread making process began. First I had to pull the starter out of the fridge at least an hour early to get it warmed up. Than I added more water and flour to create the actual dough (above picture)  This dough had to be kneaded for 15 straight minutes. Talk about an arm workout! After that there was more waiting for the dough to rise. I realized during this process that half of bread making is the waiting. After a few hours of rising, during which my dough didn’t even actually rise, I split the dough into two halves and shaped them into loafs. Then, you guessed it, more waiting. The dough had to sit out over night for the individual loaf dough to rise. 
Finally Baking Day! After what felt like an eternity of waiting it was finally time to actually make bread. The baking process that I used for this bread sounds a little strange. An important part to developing a good crust on a bread is a good incorporation of steam. In order to get the most steam possible, I put a baking dish with water on the top shelf of my oven while I was preheating it. I preheated the oven an extra 50 degrees to compensate for the loss of heat that was about to happen in my next step. Once the oven is preheated I placed in my dough and used a spray bottle to spray water along the sides of the hot oven. Then I closed the oven door for 30 seconds and then repeated the process 2 more times. I learned from my research that although it is strange, spraying the walls of the oven is the best way to get a lot of steam in the first moments of cooking which is crucial to having a good crust. I find it funny how the whole process of making bread takes at least a week yet the actual baking part only takes about 20 minutes. So 20 minutes later…. TA DA! We finally have bread.
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Overall I’m pretty sure my dough did not successfully rise enough. Also, I was really worried that the middle of my bread was going to be under cooked, thank goodness it wasn’t. Like all sour dough bread, the crust was pretty hard and thick but it wasn’t impossible to eat. Although my bread wasn’t great the flavor was still really good and it made a great picture! I am actually really proud of my first attempt at bread and I honestly feel like it was really successful.

Pre-Bread: Getting to the Starting Line

So after doing some more research about sourdough making, I discovered that it is a very LONG and COMPLICATED process. It takes about seven days to make bread the very first time from scratch. Seven days. That’s a really long time to make two loaves of bread! In fact, there are multiple steps you have to do before you can even start on a starter. Sourdough bread is special to other breads because it uses natural yeast instead of any instant dry yeast. In fact, there are only three ingredients in an original sourdough bread: flour, water, and salt.
I started my process by following the instruction of an online source and began making my starter. For a few days I took my first flour and water mixture and added more flour and water each day to grow my own yeast. Then, I recently discovered a great book all about bread making and did some even more in depth research about the sour dough process. I discovered that what I was making was only step one in the starting process and I shifted my technique to match with the book. Besides the water and flour ratio I was using to cultivate my yeast, I was basically doing what the book said to create what is called a seed cultivation? Basically, It looked like a very bubbly, pasty goo. I took one cup of this and added it to more flour and water to create a barm. Following the book’s instructions, I left the barm out for about an hour and then put it in the refrigerator over night. In the morning, it looked a little bubbly, but not as much as I hoped like the bubbly mixture my seed was. Luckily, a barm only has to be made once and can be used forever and ever to make bread in the future.
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What I didn’t know was that the barm isn’t even the starter that I need to make the dough! Today I worked on making the starter for my dough which is the last step before finally making the whole dough. To make the starter, I took 2/3 cup of the barm and mixed it with a cup of flour and a little bit of water to form a ball. I let this ball sit out on the counter covered with a towel for about four hours then put it in the fridge for the night.
Personally, I am a little worried that my yeast isn’t strong enough because nothing seems to be rising. I think that my barm was supposed to rise a little in the time before I put it into the fridge. Also, before I put my starter ball into the fridge for the night I checked on the size and it was about the same. I wasn’t expecting any major size changes but I was expecting a little. I mean bread is supposed to rise right!? I know that I had some real yeast action before I made my barm, but maybe I made my barm to soon and the yeast didn’t get strong in the process. The real test will be tomorrow when I do the final mixing and (hopefully) proofing (rising).  However, no matter what, in two days there will be bread. Even if it is the flattest, densest bread, there will still be bread!

Beginning Bread

Recently I watched a short show based on a book called Cooked on Netflix. Its basically a movie broken into four parts, or episodes. Rather than just talking about food, it talks a lot about the culture of food and how crucial it is to our lives. Each part is based on different aspects of the world of cooking better known as the four elements; fire, water, air, and earth. The main topic of the air section was about bread and baking bread. In a sense, when you really think about it, bread making is a magical process. The episode showed me how it is literally turning a little food into a lot of food. I also learned that because the store bought bread we know and eat today has so many ingredients and doesn’t even use natural yeast, that it may be the cause of gluten intolerance. It is when you use that natural yeast that gluten can be properly broken down and you can finally receive all the true nutrients within a small wheat grass.
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Before watching this show, I had no knowledge about bread or the true fermenting process that goes behind it. I became so inspired and decided I would try making my own homemade bread. I intend on making the simplest, most boring sourdough bread by only using water, flour, and salt. and honestly it will probably taste horrible at first. In fact, even if it is a great loaf of bread, our bodies are so used to that processed store bought stuff we call bread that it I know it won’t taste amazing for a long time. But I am now determined to make it good; to let my body get used to what true bread taste like. Wheat holds all the nutrients in it that you need to survive. So in reality, this whole idea that eating bread is all carbs and makes you get that stomach we all don’t want is all because of what our manufacturing society has turned bread into. So I’ve decided to share with you my journey to bread making! I will continue to update this post to share with you my bread making process.
Like I tell myself before each big hobby decision I make, I am choosing to pick this up, and it is okay if I want to put it down, but that doesn’t mean I will drop it forever.
So let’s begin!
Day one:
Today I began to make the “starter” for my bread. Instead of using a dry yeast, I’ve decided to make my own natural yeast. In order to do this, you have to combine water and flower together and then add more and more each day for five days in order to feed the yeast you are cultivating. I personally thought it was so funny having to “feed” my started every day, but it actually is a living thing. And as long as you feed it once a week, it will last forever and you never have to start one again.
Anyway, they say that you might not see bubbles forming in your yeast on day one, but I saw a few here and there starting to form! I never knew having a pile of flower water goo could be so exciting. Although it will take at least 5 days for me to even begin to think about actually making a loaf of bread, I have to start somewhere.

Having a Competitive Nature

Growing up having an older sister has caused me to become a very competitive person. Every day I try to be the best at everything. For my whole life, second place has never been an option. When people ask me what my greatest strength and greatest weakness is I often say that my competitive nature is both. I personally believe that being competitive is a great quality to have. Being competitive causes you to work harder in order to get on top and be number one. Competition is what pushes me forward every day and forces me to be the best person that I can be. Seeing life as a competition gives people something to work towards and creates a goal that people become determined to reach. However, like any great trait, being too competitive has its major downside.
For me personally, I am not simply a little competitive, my life revolves around competition and each little task becomes a race that I have to win. It is actually really hard for me to accept the belief that “it’s not a race” or “not everything is a competition,” because for me it is. This weakness causes me to have major jealousy which has become one of my biggest personal problems. It happens so often that if someone seems one step ahead of me I can’t help but feel my blood boil.
People always say that what other people do doesn’t affect you and shouldn’t bother you, but it always does. How can I be okay with being second place? My competitive nature and jealousy is something that I continue to work on each day. Instead of being in a competition with the rest of the world, I try to keep the competition within myself. I challenge myself to be better than yesterday. To exercise more, to eat better, and to work harder on every aspect of my life.
The fear of being second best causes low self-esteem. By comparing yourself to everyone around you, you can easily put negative images of yourself in your head. I believe that anyone can do anything they can set their mind to, however, you cannot be the best at everything. In reality, there aren’t many top body builders/astronauts/presidents/chief of police people out there. It is impossible for you to be everything all at once, let alone be number one at it. Therefore, it is important to find what you are good at and what you love doing and work on being better at it. Somewhere in the world, there might be someone better at it than you, but you can’t base your success off of what others can and can’t do.
Although controlling my jealousy and working on my own personal self-esteem is very challenging, I try each day to improve and break away from that part of me. I encourage you to take the first step by noticing the little things. Just by noticing what makes you jealous will already start to change how you see the world around you. Make a personal goal for yourself, and each time someone begins to beat you at the imaginary competition in your head focus on what place you are in for your own race. Ultimately, if you try to be number one for every single little thing you will never come in first place for the race that really matters: being truly happy.
Use your competitive nature to drive you forward and make you work harder, but never let your life revolve around being better than everyone else. Because ultimately the only person you have to please is yourself.

I Pick Things Up and Put Them Down

I am a person with many interests. From cooking, baking, photography, health and fitness (sometimes), to fashion; I want to do it all. I’m the type of person who gets the great idea to start a business and will do it the very next day. I am easily inspired and want to do everything. But in today’s society, I find that wanting to do everything makes everything a little bit harder. Many may agree with me that loving everything makes you an indecisive person living in a world of decisions. How can I choose what I want to do with my life if I can’t even decide what I love to do the most?
I pick things up and I put things down. This comical phrase from some gym comertials seems to describe my personality perfectly. I get so easily motivated that I jump right into tasks. Then some day I just stop and the new hoby, goal, or dream, never lasts or is completed. I never would have noticed that simply pick things up and put them down until I realized my mom was the same way. A few years ago she got into jewlery making and did it for a month or so and hasnt made any since. She had a phase when learned to play the ukulele and would play every day, and one day it just stopped. Now shes into knitting and I can only imagine how long that will last.
Now, part of me lives in fear of putting things down. I believe that if I skip a day of my new hobby or great idea that I will let it slip away into the black hole filled with jewlery beads, ukulele strings, and candel making equiptment, and be lost forever. This fear has actually prevented me from starting stuff. Why start something if you are never going to finish it?
But, as my mother said, “I’m not just going to never play the ukulele again.” Whether or not thats true, I’m begining to discover that picking things up is the important part even if you do eventually put them down. It is the ideas and new creative thoughs and plans that fill our lives with joy. Finding new things us people with many interests love to do is just one of the many benifites of living. So I wont choose. I refuse to choose the one thing I love because I love so many things. I will choose to continue to pick things up and know that I will put some down. I will always try to hold onto every new idea and new “phase” and most of all live for right now instead of worrying if it will last in the future.
Today, my mom picked up the ukulele and played. Maybe it’s true that you can pick things up and put them down and pick them back up again.