Monday, June 25, 2012

Going up!

These photos are more for my benefit than anyone else's. There's not much difference between these two shots, but I need to see the progress made. It's all about the height with the middle wall going up.



I stood back after a day's effort lugging rocks yesterday and realised these two walls didn't exist until this year. Strangely, it seems like they've always been there now. But it was really the flood earlier this year, which prompted a new design. A lack of funds meant we had to scavenge rocks to build a drystone retaining wall, instead of our usual prefab concrete blocks.

David has been dutifully collecting materials when he's off work, and with days like yesterday, when the sun is shining and too nice to stay inside, I found myself pottering around the wall - moving rocks and basically getting blisters.

I don't mind blisters when they're for a good cause, yet progress on our wall seems to take us forever. Sometimes it's in the stepping back and realising where you were (prior to this point) however, where any distinction is made.

Wall anatomy

When you look at the above in and day out, it starts to look like a lot of work! There's quite a bit of rubble in there and each piece is moved strategically by hand. But when you step back and remember nothing existed until you collected your first rock, it seems amazing you've gotten this far!

I do want to have this finished before summer storm season arrives, but even if we don't, we took whatever time we had available to make progress.

Is there any projects in your life that seems to take forever, and what are your personal pep-talks to get yourself through it?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New recipe

3 Seed Sourdough Loaf

{This post has been updated for 2016...see note down the bottom for changes in how to treat the seeds.}

Fresh out of the oven

I've been meaning to write a post about the new recipe I make my sourdough bread with. It's still the same starter and process I used for the white loaf but I now add grains and a few other substitutions. Mainly, sugar has been replaced with natural honey. Besides the lovely flavour it adds, I've also noticed it keeps the bread longer before spoilage.

If you like expensive "Helga's" bread in the supermarket, this recipe is very similar in taste and texture.

All sourdough bread begins with the starter, which is a living yeast you feed at least once a week. If you're not familiar with how to make sourdough starter, click here, to make your very own.

I created another starter recently, as I threw out my old batch a few months ago. Nothing was wrong with it, I just decided to reduce my carbohydrates so I cut out bread entirely. It was a good exercise in realising how much I like sourdough bread, and that I can stop making it (or start making it) whenever it suits my situation.

So anyone who has managed to kill their starter from neglect, don't despair. It's not hard to make another batch. I like easy things and this was easy to do again. Actually, it was much easier to do over than continue feeding the old starter I wasn't using for a few months.

To quickly recap the process - you'll need to make the starter (this is your friend); secondly, make the sponge with half the starter (leave overnight, or a few hours) and finally, add the last ingredients to make your dough.

The new list of ingredients I add after the sponge stage is:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaped tablespoon natural honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
2 cups white bakers flour (or whatever makes the correct tackiness)

I knead the dough for 10 minutes or thereabouts, then stretch out the dough like a fat pizza base, and in the middle place:

1/4 cup linseed
1/4 cup sunflower seed
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Fold the sides into the middle, and then knead. I like this part, because when I feel the loose seeds breaking through the dough, I turn the dough over to start kneading back into the thinnest point in the centre. Basically it's a game of keep the pocket of loose seeds into the middle of the dough, until they've been incorporated thoroughly.

You will inevitably get "escapees", but it's no drama to roll the dough back over them and keep kneading. Then it's onto the waiting game of the first rise. I've got a few tips for making the whole process seem a lot quicker than it actually is.

Firstly, make the sponge at about 4 in the afternoon. Let it sit on the bench until 8 at night, then knead up the dough. Place in a large, greased bowl with a lid and let it rise overnight. When I get out of bed first thing in the morning, I punch back the dough and roll it to shape. It then goes in the baking tin and only needs another hour to rise before it's cooked.

 Waiting to go in the oven

Breaking the process up so half is achieved in the late afternoon/evening, and then finished first thing the next morning, I generally have the bread baked before I drive our daughter to school. That's what I like so much about sourdough, it's a slow leaven. I've got time to break the process up without spoiling the dough, so I can fit in the regular stuff mum's have to do also.

Tastes as good as it looks

Now that winter has arrived, the toaster and oven have been working overtime.  I've been having my morning toast with Kumquat Marmalade. My Kumquat tree is a tiny powerhouse of baby fruit this time of year, and I love making Marmalade for my morning toast.

Update Note:  

Since writing this post in late 2012, I have since started soaking my seeds in their volume, of boiled water (eg: 3/4 seeds to 3/4 cup water). Cover vessel they are being soaked in, with a plate, and wait until the water has cooled (30-60 minutes) before adding to bread.

You can also add them at the end of the sponge stage, just before you start making the dough. This makes it easier to keep them in the bread, as you're kneading.

Soaking the seeds means they don't draw moisture from the bread, and you'll have a less dense loaf. It will also help keep the seeds plump and moist, instead of dried, when baking. I don't normally soak sunflower seeds, as they don't absorb too much moisture. But the linseeds are particularly thirsty, so will consume the water I've made available in this recipe.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Simple gestures

This is what greeted me after Sarah ate her morning toast this morning. She said this is how she feels after toast.

 Maybe she should eat her crusts?
I love her art though

It must be winter, or the fact my new sourdough recipe tastes so nice. I have a post I'm working on about the new recipe. Will share soon.

Friday, June 1, 2012

On a lighter note

Before calls in the afternoon, of the fate of loved ones, I finished my shrug on Monday morning. I was very happy to finally have it off the needles and trying it on for the first time.


I did cheat a little, skipping the last 4 rounds in the project, only because Dave and I had a movie date planned for that morning too, and I wanted to wear it. Eliminating the extra rounds, only altered the thickness of the moss stitch band.


This could be why the bottom of my shrug tends to roll upwards at the back. Or maybe it would always do this no matter how thick the band was? I'm glad I skipped the extra rows, because it fitted nicely as it was. I do have to figure a way to get that back to stay down though. Ideas???

I was ready to move on to the next knitting project for myself, but my daughter loved my shrug so much, she asked me to knit her one! We went through my yarn collection, and she only liked the black colour. Unfortunately it was acrylic, which is way less fun to knit with.

Another shrug on the needles

Do you know how hard it is to knit in black? It's like knitting a giant ink splot. It's very difficult to see the stitches in natural light.

Nonetheless, I'm enjoying having something to knit again. As I did with my own shrug, I plan to tweak Sarah's a little too. Instead of the monotonous knit 1, purl 1 of the moss stitch, I have some fun fur yarn I will just plain knit (with larger needles) for the collar and the cuffs on her sleeves.

My daughter gets up every morning and checks my knitting needles, to see how far I've gotten, LOL. Thankfully, it's smaller, so hopefully won't take as long to finish.