Friday, September 26, 2008


I over-proofed this batch of Country White. I wanted to bring it up to the requisite 62 degrees a little faster than the three hours that it normally takes, so I turned on the oven for several minutes, which was a couple minutes too long because I then had to wait while the oven cooled down again so I could finally put the bowls of bread in to proof. After only a couple hours the boules checked in at 67 degrees. I could tell the bread was overproofed just by touching it—the dough was shaky and trembly, not firmly taut like it should have been. I quickly turned on the oven to pre-heat, tsk-tsking at my carelessness.

There is only one way to remedy this kind of problem, the overproofing problem, and that is to dock the bread with a more shallow cut than normal. I did that, and the bread turned out fine, but you can see in these pictures that the bread looks sallow, washed out, and sick. It doesn’t have the strong, robust, vibrant look of a properly proofed loaf.

But the loaves will still taste pretty good, so it's not the end of the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I don’t know about you, but my mother taught me to never bump a loaf of bread when it had risen. She showed me how to ever so gently slide the loaf into the oven and ever so gently close the oven door. Any slamming around and the loaf would collapse in upon itself.

But not so with sourdough. (Ha---that rhymes!) Once the dough is all big and poofy, then you get to do some major playing around, flipping it over, pushing it from the board to the oven tile, and even cutting, or docking, the boule. This turns bread-baking from a domesticated, genteel activity into a therapy session for the rebellious and defiant child. Not that I harbor any resentment toward my mother and all the many many instructions she gave me. No, no, certainly not. Though slashing that soft, risen dough does sooth my soul....

Of course you must still be gentle—no poking or pinching, though that is a tempting proposition since the dough feels just like a baby’s butt, or a baby’s marshmallow cheeks (facial ones).

First, dump the loaf out upside down on a bread board (or in my case, a cutting board).

Second, dock it. There are all different cuts, depending on which type of bread you are making. You can create your own cuts, of course—the only goal is to be consistent so that a certain cut always indicates a certain type of bread. I use a razor to dock my bread because the cutting device needs to be, um, razor sharp. Make the cut quickly—a ½ inch deep cut at a 45 degree angle.

Docking the bread is not simply for decoration—it allows the bread to expand properly. If you didn’t dock it, the boule would explode out in one way or another. By cutting the boule, you are telling it where to expand so it does it in an attractive fashion.

I feel powerful and bossy when I slash the dough and then shove it into the oven. The dough collapses quite a bit (maybe I'm too bossy?), but within the first five minutes of being in the hot oven, it rises back to it’s beautiful shape, and then even grows some more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Second Baking

Rosemary-Olive Oil Bread
Adapted and very briefly summarized from Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton.

The marking for this kind of bread is a tic-tac-toe pattern.

The ingredients are the same for the Country White, except that after you have added the salt and kneaded it well, you then add one tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary and a quarter cup of olive oil and knead it again, for about another five minutes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Baby's Bread

I made bread with the bread baby! It worked! Yippee, yee-haw, and whoo-hoo!

The kids and I tore into one of the loaves while it was still hot from the oven. We spread the warm, crusty pieces with lots of butter and tore off huge mouthfuls.

Since it was getting close to noon, I just cut up apples and sliced off some chunks of cheese and called it lunch. Supper was sandwiches. I toasted thick slices of the bread and spread one slice with pesto and one slice with mayonnaise and then put oven-roasted tomatoes and slices of Provolone cheese in between the two.

Like I said, we’re going to be eating a lot of bread from now on.

Country White
Adapted from Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton, and briefly summarized.

I do not normally measure my ingredients in pounds and ounces, but I discovered how easy it is to put my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl on the scale, zero it, add the starter, zero it, and so forth. There’s hardly any mess, and it’s very exact.

Note the nice hole structure---it looks just like the holes in the bubbly starter. Nifty, huh?

1 1/3 cups (12 ounces) white starter
7 cups (2 pounds and 2 ounces) white bread flour
2 1/4 cups (1 pound and 2 ounces) tepid water
½ cup raw wheat germ
4 ½ teaspoons sea salt
a little oil

Day One
In the morning I mixed up my ingredients (the process includes kneading it in the mixer for 5 minutes, letting it rest for 20, and then adding the salt and kneading it for another 5 minutes, and so on---little details that I don't want to bore you with).

I put the dough in a lightly greased plastic bowl and let it rise for several hours. Then I dumped it out on a lightly floured counter and cut it into two pieces.

I lightly kneaded it to get all the air bubbles out,

and there were a lot---do you see them?

I left it to rest on the counter for 20 minutes. Then I shaped the dough into two boules.

I lined two glass bowls with cheese cloths (you’re supposed to use bread baskets, but I don’t have any), sprinkled some flour over the cloths and set the boules in, smooth side down.

I covered them with a shower cap/plastic wrap and let them proof on the counter for one hour before slipping them into the fridge.

Day Two
I took the dough out of the fridge first thing in the morning (actually, Mr. Handsome did that for me because The Baby Nickel woke up at some obscene hour, like 4:30, and so as Mr. Handsome left the room to go fetch the non-sleeping twit, I croaked to him to please take the bread out of the fridge, which he kindly did) and took off the shower cap/plastic wrap,

and let them sit on the counter till they were about 62 degrees.

(not quite ready)

I put my big pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheated the oven to 450 degrees. I gently turned one of the loaves out on to my floured cutting board,

docked the top with a knife (it’s a backwards C cut for the Country White) (a razor blade works way better than a knife, but this being the first time baking sourdough in a year or two I wasn’t fully prepared), and slipped the loaf off the board and onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. (There are no pictures of that process because I had to work quickly.)

I spritzed the oven thoroughly with water right before putting the loaf in the oven, right after I put it in, 2 ½ minutes later, and again 2 ½ minutes later. Then I set the timer for 20 minutes and did not open the oven during that time. When the timer went off, I rotated the loaf 180 degrees and continued baking it for another 10 minutes. Then it was done and I baked the next loaf the same way.


Some of you have probably figured out that there is a problem with starter. A quantity problem, as in too much. I’m feeding this baby three times a day, each time doubling the amount of starter that is already in the jar. So, for example, if I have one cup of starter, I add ½ cup of water and ½ cup of flour. Then I have two cups of starter, so at lunch time I add one cup of water and one cup of flour. Then I have four cups of starter. See? There’s potential for some serious issues.

I only have three ways to use up all that starter: bake with it, give it away, throw it out. If I used all that starter in baking I would never leave the kitchen, and so far no one has come knocking at my door, empty jar in hand. That means that I mostly just throw it out. It’s careless and wasteful, I know, but I do have to take care of My Sanity.

One thing I have done to help cut down on the waste is to make only the minimum amount of starter that I need in order to keep it my baby healthy; I'm now only reserving ½ cup of starter every morning. That means I can keep the baby in a half-gallon jar now, instead of a gallon jar, and I have just enough for one (maybe two, depending) recipe of bread each day, if I were to want to bake each day. Which I don’t. But, in any case, I’m not tossing such copious amounts of flour and water onto the compost pile.

Here is my baby in it’s half-gallon jar. It’s ready for it’s lunch. Notice how bubbly and alive it is.

Here it is after I’ve added water and flour. The bubbles have been smoothed out, but by suppertime it will be just as bubbly as it was before lunch.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Couldn't Resist

The starter was so lusciously bubbly this morning that I couldn’t resist using it to make pancakes. We call these pancakes “Farmer Boy Pancakes” because I imagine they are a bit similar to the cakes that Almanzo’s mother made for their Sunday breakfast feasts. (At some point in the book they talk about how she kept her starter going, but I can’t find the spot now. Maybe it’s in one of Laura’s other books.)

When Almanzo trudged into the kitchen next morning with two brimming milk-pails, Mother was making stacked pancakes because this was Sunday.

The big blue platter on the stove's hearth was full of plump sausage cakes; Eliza Jane was cutting apple pies and Alice was dishing up the oatmeal, as usual. But the little blue platter stood hot on the back of the stove, and ten stacks of pancakes rose in tall towers on it.

Ten pancakes cooked on the smoking griddle, and as fast as they were done Mother added another cake to each stack and buttered it lavishly and covered it with maple sugar. Butter and sugar melted together and soaked the fluffy pancakes and dripped all down their crisp edges.

That was stacked pancakes. Almanzo liked them better then any other kind of pancakes.

Mother kept on frying them till the others had eaten their oatmeal. She could never make too many stacked pancakes. They all ate pile after pile of them, and Almanzo was still eating when Mother pushed back her chair and said,

“Mercy on us! eight o’clock! I must fly!”

We don’t eat quite that many, though we did eat a lot this morning. I made a double batch of the following recipe, and Mr. Handsome wasn’t here and I only ate one-and-a-half pancakes and there were only three leftover. I may not have to feed my kids any lunch.

Once I bought maple sugar to better imitate Almanzo’s mother’s pancakes—I was trying to get the melted butter and sugar effect—and they were good, but too expensive and too much work. I prefer to make them big and serve them with just butter and syrup.

Farmer Boy Pancakes
Adapted from Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton

2 cups white starter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the wet ingredients and then add the dry. Heat up your griddle, grease it with some butter and proceed to fry up a big ol’ stack of pancakes.

Serve with maple syrup and butter.

Note: For how to make whole wheat Farmer Boy Pancakes, click here.

A Healthy Baby (Day 18)

My baby lives! I am so, so happy. This has been such an emotional roller coaster: one minute I’m all excited and the next minute I’m in the depths of despair (yes, I do have a flair for the dramatic). For awhile there I was kind of resigned to the fact that I just might be a failure,but I don’t need to worry about that anymore. My baby is a bubbling, seething mass, and all is right with the world.

Now that I’m feeling more confident in my role as parent to a bread baby, it’s time to analyze the two babies and their past 18 days of life. It’s been a long process, and if you are following this, I feel that I own you a little synopsis.

Back in the day when I was a parental failure and my baby was dying, the way that I could tell my child was suffering was that the liquid would rise to the top of the mixture in a slimy wet layer. This time around, however, the liquid is absorbed into the mixture. The top gets all frothy and bubbly which is good and also very different from having puddles of liquid sitting on top.

Another clue that it is now doing well is that there are air bubbles all the way through the mixture. Yesterday they were tiny bubbles because the baby was still young, but this morning when I came downstairs I could immediately see that the bubbles were getting larger and more numerous.

Also, I can see the mark on the jar that indicates that the baby rose up and then fell back. In other words, as it ate the flour and water it became more active and bubbly, and now it’s shrinking back—the classic sign of hunger. It’s soon time for it’s breakfast.

Bread baby bubbles are beautiful and beneficial. (There’s a tongue twister for you.) They signify eating: chewing, swallowing, and burping. It’s what babies do, though I hope if you have a human baby it is not filled with as many bubbles as my bread baby. That would be rather unfortunate.

I will wait another day or two to bake (if I can stand it), just to make sure the baby is really strong.

Now I have a dilemma: What to do with Baby Number Two? I certainly don't need another baby anymore. Chucking it seems cruel, but I think it just may be fated for the garbage.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Part Two: Making the Starter, Again (chapters 7- 8)

Chapter 7: All Over Again
Day 1, and Day 11: September 9, 2008
This is getting really confusing. Part One is done. Part Two has begun. But I'm fiddling with the starter from Part One (that's the starter for Day 11) but I'm starting it back at the beginning, so it's really also on Day 1, but with a little head start (maybe). I can't keep this straight. Plus, I'm trying to organize this into the most readable fashion, but I'm not computer savvy I get really confused. I type these posts with a very scribbled-upon yellow notepad perched on my knee. Not to mention I have a slow internet connection. And it's rainy outside.

Anyway, I'm not going to document the growth of the new starter like I did the first time around in Part One. I will be doing most everything the same, and I'll let you know if I do anything different. I will take pictures occasionally, just so you can see how things are coming along.

Just for simplicity's sake, we'll refer to this brand new baby as Baby Number Two. The old baby that died, upon which I am attempting to miraculously revive, we will refer to as Baby Number One. The regeneration plan for Baby Number One is completely up in the air. I am not referring to any books or manuals---I'm just winging it. We will follow this baby more closely (for now) than the other.

Part Three will detail the makings of the breads. If we ever get there.

Is all this clear? Are you still with me? Hello? Hello?

Day 2, and Day 12: September 10, 2008
Twenty-four plus hours after beginning the new baby and it’s looking pretty good. The flour is bubbling up and the liquid is sinking down. I’m hopeful (or else a fool).

I wonder why I couldn’t make bread with it now. Why do I have to wait ten days to start regular feedings? Is it for the sour flavor? And what about just mixing wine with flour and water? Would that have the same effect?

The old baby, on the other hand, still looks rather dead. I’m ignoring it.

Day 3 and Day 13, September 11, 2008

This new baby is going berserk. The bag of grapes is pushing up to the top, and the jar of water has been ousted from its King Of The Mountain position and has sunk to the bottom of the ar. It smells good, too.

The other baby is still there. The bag has inflated, and there is a bit of liquid sitting on top. That’s all.

Day 4 and Day 14, September 12, 2008

My Girlfriend Shannon visited me this morning. She took one look at my baby sitting on the counter and declared, “That is one ugly baby.” She’s right; it is hideous.

I fed both babies today. Baby Number Two got the requisite cup of water and cup of flour and a nice swishing. I pushed the sack of grapes to the bottom and pressed the pint jar of water down on top. Silverton says that you can use the starter to do some baking at this point, though she claims the flavor would be compromised. I’m pondering taking some starter out and getting it going on a regular feeding for several days. I’m dreading letting it sit for five whole days—it seems like that’s when it always goes kaput.

I gave Baby Number One a half cup each of water and flour, as well as a swishing. Baby Number One smells surprisingly nice. Maybe...

I’m not holding up to well emotionally. All this waiting and worrying is taking a toll on me. I just want to get past this part and on to baking bread. I hate this part. What makes me mad is that I’ve done it all before, so I know I can do it. It should be a simple matter—follow the instructions and make a starter, right? But this process is just not concrete enough. It’s eluding me, and I don’t like to be eluded.

Chapter 8: Playing Around
Day 5 and Day 15, September 13, 2008
Last night I did some on-line reading about sourdough starters. Most of the starters that used only water, flour, and grapes have a very similar start-up process as Silverton’s. The variations were minor: one said to start regular feedings on Day Eight, another said that you could start baking right away once you start regular feedings (Silverton says to wait for five more days to get the starter well-established and strong), another said to only feed the baby twice a day, and yet another explained how to make the starter with just water and flour. All of the directions made the whole process seem simple, so either the authors are all very devious, or I’m just dense. In any case, it was good for me to see the possible variations in the process. I began to see that it just might not be an all or nothing proposition.

As my mother says, “Hope springs eternal.”

So this morning I took Baby Number One and removed its placenta, I mean, it’s bag of grapes. I put one cup of the rosy pink starter in a gallon jar and fed it some flour and water (same portions as before). I’m going to continue to feed this baby for several days to see if anything new develops. It had a nice tangy odor this morning, so just maybe...

Baby Number Two is busy fermenting. The bag of grapes is hugely swollen.

I think Hope is hiding out in there.

Day 7 and Day 17, September 15, 2008
I don’t want to jinx myself or Baby Number One. I’m scared to say it, but I need to, I think. I feel the words and emotions burbling around down in the bottom of my throat. I’m afraid I might blow... MY BABY IS ALIVE!!!

Goodness! I did blow!

Now, let’s not talk about it anymore. I’m doing some psychological tiptoeing. In other words, I’m feeling fearful, nervous, superstitious and excited.

Note: I am trashing this odd way of posting that I’ve developed. I was intending it to read like a story, but it is getting too cumbersome for me to scroll all over the place and do all that cutting and pasting. So from now on, I’ll just be posting like this is a normal blog. Parts One and Two will still be as there in the archives, just the way they are in their tediously long narrative format.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Part One: Making the Starter (chapters 1-6)

Introduction: This site will document the process of making sourdough breads, from the creating and growing of the starter, to the mixing, shaping, and baking of the breads. Everything I learned comes from Nancy Silverton’s Breads From The La Brea Bakery.

I'm not attempting to teach you exactly how to make sourdough bread; rather, I'm simply showing you how I do it. If you get inspired and decided to attempt this (time-consuming) undertaking, I highly recommend that you purchase Silverton's book. I can guarantee that you will read it over and over again as you muddle through the ins and outs and ups and downs of making sourdough breads.

Chapter One: The Very Beginning (Grapes, Flour, and Water)
Day 1: Saturday, August 30, 2008
On the north side of our house we have a grape vine.

This is no ordinary grapevine, as you can see. It does not stretch in a neat row, carefully growing along an arbor. No, our's is a Tree Grapevine. It completely covers that poor (dead?) tree that happened to grow up beside it. Mr. Handsome has to use an extension ladder to pick the grapes.

When we first moved here three years ago there were no grapes and practically no leaves on the vine at all. In fact, when I was making dill pickles and needed a grape leaf to put in the jar (why do we do that?), I had to scrounge around at friends' houses in search of some grape leaves.

Mr. Handsome and I contemplated cutting the whole thing down but we never got around to it.

Which was lucky for us, because the next year the arbor, I mean, the tree, was loaded with grapes. It has been this way ever since. Once we see that we're going to have grapes, Mr. Handsome sometimes gets out there and sprays a couple times, but more than likely he'll forget and we'll have totally organic grapes. I think this was one of the no-spray years; I did not wash the grapes before using them in my starter.

Most of the grapes are not quite ripe, so I picked out the darkest ones. I needed a pound. (You can use store-bought grapes, but make sure you wash them first.)

Then I took a piece of cheesecloth and folded it so that it was layered four times---I didn't want to risk having seeds and skins in the final starter.

I gathered up the four corners,

and tied them together with string.

Next, I poured four cups of water into a clean gallon jar. Silverton uses a thermometer to measure the temperature of everything---flour, water, etc. The water was supposed to be at 78 degrees, so I checked just to make sure mine wasn't too far off from that. It was about 85 degrees. I figured that was good enough.

I added 3 3/4 cups of unbleached white bread flour (I use this type of flour the whole way through),

and stirred it up with my most gigantic rubber spatula, though it's also fine to just use your hand, not worrying about all the flour lumps.

I pushed the bag of grapes into the jar and kneaded and squeezed it until the grapes were nice and mushy and a lot of juice had dribbled out.

I swirled the grape bag through the flour mixture, and then pushed it down to the bottom.

I screwed the lid on tight, and there it was, my new baby. Isn't it darling?

It's supposed to be kept at room temperature, around 75 degrees, and since my kitchen tends to get hotter than that, I set it on the shelf in the bathroom, next to the diapers. Figured that was an appropriate place to set my bread baby.

Don't you think it would be nice if we could shelve all our babies like that? Just set them on a shelf above the washing machine, next to the diapers and light bulbs and cleaning rags and there they would sit? Tidily? Quietly?

Chapter 2: Fermenting
Day 2: Sunday, August 31, 2008
At first I didn't know if this baby was going to take off or not. It looked a little ill this afternoon. There was about an inch or so of pale yellow-red liquid floating on top and the flour paste was just sitting there on the bottom, only a few tiny air bubbles in it (sorry, no picture). But then, a couple hours later I went to the bathroom and as I was sitting there (yes, on the toilet---it's directly across from the shelf upon which the baby sits, so I can monitor it's progress every time I have to go pee) I looked up and yelled, "It came alive!" The kids came running, eyes quickly scanning the bathroom, searching for the critter that caused me to yell. When I pointed to the jar of starter, they looked at it, then looked back at me, disappointed and a little bit wary, and left the room.

But really, it was amazing. The flour was seething with bubbles. The liquid had sunk down to the bottom third of the jar where the bag of grapes sat, and the flour mixture had risen up a couple inches. Beautiful. Before I went to bed, I took a picture for you.

Day 3: Monday, September 1, 2008
I’m not supposed to do anything with the starter until Day 4, but I got my baby down off the shelf to snap a couple pictures of it so you can see what it’s doing. (I’m as bad as any new parent, showing off the little one.)

See how the sack of grapes and the liquid are sandwiched between the layers of flour paste? Note how the top layer has more bubbles than the bottom layer.

I opened the lid to take a sniff... ah, what a delicious smell, sweet, tangy, grape-y, yeasty, like warm wine. It makes me get all tingly and jiggly inside. The excitement is building!

Chapter 3: Baby's Hungry
Day 4: September 2, 2008

My baby is getting hungry. Do you know how I know, besides the fact that I’ve had a lot of experience with babies (and besides the fact that Silverton told me so)? See the mark on the jar that shows how high up the mixture had risen yesterday? But now it’s shriveling up, falling in on itself with hunger, and there aren’t as many bubbles. It’s growing weak, starving.

Looking down in the jar you can see how the bag of grapes has risen up to the top. It is still inflated, which is a good thing.

Ew, it doesn’t smell so fine today—a bit on the rotten side, but it’s supposed to, says Silverton, so I’m not worried.

There is a remedy for this hunger issue: one cup of water and one cup of flour.

I dumped them in and mixed it all up with my hands, swishing the bag of grapes around and pressing out some of the juice. The mixture was very runny. I pushed the bag to the bottom, but it promptly rose to the top again, so I left it there.

Ooh, my hands smell sweetly of grapes and yeast. If only that could be my permanent scent. You know how grandmothers supposedly smell of cinnamon and nutmeg and brown sugar? That’s a very nice scent and all, but I’ll take the Grapes-and-Yeast Scent, please.

I set my baby back on it’s shelf. It looks like nothing special now, just a flour-water mixture. (Kind of how I feel at the end of a long, long day—like Nothin’ Special.) It’s probably worn out by that big dinner, and then all the exercise immediately afterwards, poor thing. Anybody will tell you that’s not a wise idea, exercising after eating. I’m sure it will feel better after a nap, so we’ll let it rest in peace now. Shh.

I’ll let you know when it wakes up.

Chapter 4: Fermenting (or rotting?) and Thoughts on Mortality
Day 5, September 3, 2008

Nothing much is happening with my baby. It’s just sitting there, scrunched between the cardboard box of lightbulbs and the bucket of clothespins. Maybe it’s bored, like my other kids. Maybe it needs a little entertainment, you know, some stories read, some music played, etc, like Toad’s seeds (in one of the Frog and Toad books) needed in order to grow...

About this stage, Days 5-9, Silverton doesn’t say very much. There’s not much to do, and there’s not much happening (I noticed that already). She says that the mixture separates (quite notably so) and mold may develop—in that case, we’ll have to skim it off. So that will be my main job, scrutinizing my baby for signs of mold. Yum-yum.

Day 6, September 4, 2008

The starter looks really boring. It’s not doing anything. But I got it down anyway to peek inside, and low and behold—could that be mold in there? See it? That dark blue-blackish stuff lacing the edge of the liquid?

I got a spoon and tried to scrape it off, but then I wasn’t so sure it was mold after all. Maybe it was just bits of the purple-y grape bits that leaked out of the cheesecloth, and the white slime was just water-flour paste that was smeared to the top of the bag.

I scooped a bit of the stuff out anyway, just in case.

Then I added another half cup each of flour and water because Silverton said that if the starter grows mold it could be a little bit out of balance. And flour and water is definitely a lot cheaper than Prozac.

I’m feeling a bit fretful. I don’t know how this child of mine will turn out. Will it make it to adulthood, or in this case, motherhood? Maybe this whole thing will flop and I’ll be a failed parent. Everyone will glance at me and then quickly avert their eyes, embarrassed to have been caught staring. No one will want to associate with me. I will be known as the Parent of the Failed Bread Baby.

Now I'm starting to feel unbalanced.

Day 7: September 5, 2008
One thing I'm concerned about is that Silverton said that the starter should separate, "forming a yellowish liquid top layer", and my starter's liquid layer is definitely not yellow. It is clearly a purple-pink. Just a minute ago I went in to check on it (and no, that is not a hidden code for saying I had to go pee) and I could see little white specks shooting up to the top and down to the bottom. Maybe that's it's version of twiddling it's thumbs?

I'm won't be posting here till Sunday. I'm going away, and I'm not taking this baby with me. It doesn't need me right now, and it actually depresses me to look at it. I'm fully aware of its mortality. I feel like I'm on the brink, preparing myself for it to go either way. I won't be suprised if it dies, but I will be surprised if it makes it. I'm not normally a pessimist, so this dismal thinking is a little unusual for me. I must be stressed.

Just so you don't think I'm a total nut (a partial nut is okay), these are normal feelings to have when raising a bread baby. And for those of you who aren't parents, these are similar to the feelings that most parents have (not the dying part, I hope, but the "making it" part) when raising the type of baby that has actual limbs and digits. We wonder if our totally goofy, weird, onory, bratty (not mine, of course) children will actually turn into sensible, caring, reasonable, non-bratty adults. Some days it really does seem like a gamble.

I felt this way making a starter baby the first time around. My first one didn't make it, so I know my fears are well-founded.

Cross your fingers and send pleasant thoughts to the jar sitting on the shelf in my downstairs bathroom. Come on, baby! Come on, come on, come on!

Chapter 5: Scheduled Feedings
Day 10, September 8, 2008

Time to start regular feedings.

First, I squeezed the bag of grapes and removed it from the jar. I think it looks rather like a placenta.

I gave the starter a good stir,

and poured off one cup and put it in a clean gallon jar.

The starter was really runny. I reserved a pint of the starter, called “The Mother”, to store in the fridge in case something happened to my other starter. I dumped out all the rest of the starter.

For the first feeding I added a heaping half cup of flour

and a half cup of tepid water.

I mixed it up with my hand,

partially screwed the lid on, and set it aside.

Second feeding, four hours later: 1 1/4 cups flour and 1 cup of water.

Third feeding, six hours later: 2 ½ cups flour and 1 cups water.

The mixture is not looking so hot and it smells like flour paste, not tangy and yeasty like it’s supposed to. We’ll see how it’s doing in the morning, but I don’t think it will make it.

Chapter 6: Endings (ie. I screwed up) and New Beginnings
Day 11, September 9, 2008

I checked my baby first thing this morning. Bad news. It was just sitting there, only a few bubbles in it. There was a little liquid sitting on top and it looked slimy. The mixture still smelled like flour paste, the scent of failure. There were no marks on the jar showing that it had risen and fallen during the night, the indicator that it was properly taking it’s food. The baby was off its feed. It was dead.

To put it bluntly, I was pissed. I went out for my run, pounding out my frustration on the gravel road. I came back hot and sweaty, still pissed, but with a plan.

I continued with my baby, pouring off all but one cup of the starter, which I put in a clean jar. I added the half cup each of flour and water (always a little more flour than water). Then I wrapped up a half pound of grapes in a cheesecloth, squeezed the juice into the mixture, dropped the cheesecloth with grapes in, and swished it all around. I have never done this before, but I figured that now I have nothing to lose. I’ll see if I can revive this baby. Back at Day 2, the whole thing was a seething mass, just like it should be, so maybe by tomorrow it will have gotten it’s second wind. I’ll play around with it. Maybe I’ll learn something new.

But just to be safe, I also mixed up a brand new baby. I did everything just like before. The only differences were that I used a thicker cloth for the grapes (it’s still called a cheesecloth, but the holes aren’t so big), and I filled a glass pint jar with water and set it on top of the whole mess in an effort to keep the bag of grapes towards the bottom.

Hang on to your hats, folks. Here we go again!

(And thus ends Part One.)