Archive for January, 2009

Sourdough Bread: A First Try

J. spent Winter break baking various kinds of bread with his Dad: English Muffin Bread, Julekage, Jewish Rye, and Sourdough. He came back to school with two delicious loaves to eat, as well as a jar of sourdough starter. So, on our first weekend back, we attempted to bake sourdough! The kitchen in my dorm is not exactly a cozy Winter nook– it’s gives more of a “public swimming pool” vibe, but we used it nonetheless.

We followed these directions, but I didn’t get photos of every step. Sorry!

The night before, J. added a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the starter, and let it sit all night. This is called  “proofing the sponge,” which I think is hilarious. I wonder if our great-great-grandmothers used that term when they made bread, or if it was invented by bread connoisseurs. 

In the morning we added 4 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the starter, and began to add flour a half-cup at a time.

Sourdough starter plus half cup flour

Sourdough starter plus half cup flour

 

When the dough began to thicken, we stopped stirring and began to knead. For the record, I highly recommend this activity for anyone with stress-related anxiety. 

 

J. kneading

J. kneading

 

Me kneading

Me kneading

 

Although the recipe called for 3 cups of flour total, we ended up adding only around 2 cups before the dough began to get a little dry. 

 

The dough

The dough

 

Okay, here’s where we ran into trouble: We let the dough rise for several hours, except that it didn’t so much.. rise. Or, very little at least. I was in class during this time so I didn’t get a picture, but it was apparently only slightly larger than our dough. Perhaps we should have given it longer, but it was a busy day, so J. kneaded the dough and let it sit again. When we reconvened several hours later, it still had only risen slightly, but we put it in the oven along with a handful of water so that it would form a nice crust. 

Our result? A very large, loaf-shaped sourdough bagel. It was actually quite delicious, especially a thick slice straight out of the oven and spread with butter. 

We have a few hypotheses for why the dough might not have risen: the kitchen was fairly cold (it is winter, after all), the olive oil could have lessened the rising process, or we may have simply not given it enough time to rise. Or, of course, sabotage. 

 

Here’s what we ended up with, photographed  attractively on my laptop.

Bread!

Bread!

 

Bread!

Bread!

 

So there it is: baking bread in college! I’m planning to try again with J. tomorrow, this time without the olive oil and giving it more time to rise. Mmm, delicious.

Little Good Things in Winter

 

Sunrise from my dorm window

Sunrise from my dorm window

 

Sometimes I think our natural instinct is to curl up and hibernate all winter. It makes sense, and to a certain extent, we are supposed to behave differently during the cold season. We gain weight to help provide some insulation, we feel sleepier because it’s darker, we spend free time curled up in our rooms instead of playing frisbee outside.

Back in November, the campus newspaper published an article on the high incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) among students, to try and warn us as winter was beginning to set in. It turns out that depression and anxiety are pretty widespread around here as soon as the leaves drop. In fact, I have a few friends who decided to study abroad because they didn’t feel they could survive another Ohio winter.

For the record, I don’t believe in SAD. I think there are too many medical “disorders” that try to diagnose perfectly natural (if not exactly healthy) behaviors. But I do believe that winter sets college students up for isolation and depression– especially on this campus. Somehow it’s easier to stay holed up in tall stone gothic architecture.

But it turns out that there are some beautiful things in winter: little pick-me-ups, like pink-peach sunrises from my bedroom window which make it a little bit easier to get up for my early class. Stuff like this keeps me from going all Jack Nicholson in The Shining on my classmates.

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