Sourdough: the Beginning

I’ve become fairly obsessed with bread baking. If the baking and bread subreddits are any indication, most people who embark on this journey do develop an obsession. I started my journey a few months ago and discovered that I not only love eating bread, I love baking bread.

Today I’m taking my hobby to the next level. I’ve started a sourdough starter. If I manage to cultivate yeast instead of mold over the course of the next week, I’ll be baking my first sourdough loaf next week.

Day 1: I’ve combined 3/4 c flour and 1/2 c water in a mason jar covered with a coffee filter.

I’ve named him Steve.

I baked something: Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I spent my Valentine’s Day evening baking cookies for the “heart healthy” themed potluck at work on Friday. I read somewhere that dark chocolate is a heart healthy food. Loophole! I decided I’d bake triple chocolate chunk cookies, chock full of dark chocolate baking cocoa, semisweet chocolate chips and chunks, and a last minute tweak to the recipe, salted caramel chips.

The tweak came about when I gathered my ingredients and found that I only had half a bag of chunks and that wasn’t enough for a double batch of cookies. There were plenty of other chips to choose from in my baking supply cart. Cinnamon? Mint? Caramel bits? Any of them would have been great, but I went with salted caramel because these cookies are insanely rich and I thought little salty bits would complement the chocolate overload best.

I learned that two batches in one bowl is too much for my mixer to handle and ended up stirring it up the old fashioned way. Yes, there was a little flour left at the bottom of the bowl. Cookie dough is tough to stir!

Since I was short on chunks, I used what I had to decorate the tops of the cookies. As you can see, I ran out of chunks a couple trays in and decorated the rest with chips.

Note: this recipe calls for cake flour. If you do not have cake flour ( I didn’t), you can make your own. For every cup of cake flour, put two tablespoons of cornstarch into your measuring cup and top it off with all purpose flour. Sift together. Voila! You now have cake flour.

This is the second time I’ve made these cookies. Chocolate makes my heart happy, and the salted caramel chips complemented these cookies perfectly.

I baked something: Honey Oat Bread

When my sister (and her mixer) moved out of the house, I bought myself a shiny new onyx black Kitchenaid artisan series stand mixer. I didn’t have any plans for it other than to have a fancy kitchen gadget of my own on the counter and maybe do a little baking. My sister was the baker, but I had a keen interest and an ever growing collection of recipes saved on Pinterest.

The first thing I made with my new toy was a batch of Alton Brown’s soft pretzels. The whole boiling and then baking thing is a bit of a pain in the ass, but as with all good things, totally worth it.

And while I meant for my new toy to become a source for blog content, I let the blog go by the wayside. I’ve never been very good at keeping up with my blogs. I’d like to say that I’ll keep it up this time, but I don’t like to make promises I can’t keep.

That said, my new toy certainly has become a valuable source for content. Baking has become one of my favorite hobbies. The more recipes I try, the bigger my “to do” pile becomes.

I started baking bread a few months ago, starting with a basic white sandwich loaf. It was nice, but dense. So I tried another recipe. The Amish white sandwich loaf was a hit. Light, fluffy, and flavorful. The squid thought it was too sweet though, so after a few Amish loaves, I tried another recipe. Which brings me to the titular honey oat bread.

My first attempt was pretty wonky looking, but squid approved. She took one bite of her first slice and then asked me for a ham sandwich.

A week later, I baked the two giant loaves pictured above. One for me, one for my sister. Not only did they look nicer, they were even softer.

I skipped bread baking last weekend because we had lots of store bought sandwich bread, but resumed yesterday. H-E-B had a $3 coupon for a 25lb bag of flour and I couldn’t resist. Like I said earlier, baking has become my favorite hobby. I go through a lot of flour!

So this weekend, I baked another pair of honey oat loaves. I’m really pleased with the shaping and scoring of these loaves. Something was a little off though, because there was some gapping inside. Maybe it’s the flour (I used a brand I’d never used before) or maybe it’s a proving issue.

Can’t complain though, it is delicious. I love this recipe. It’s not a fancy sourdough artisan bread with big bubbles and ears, but it’s a crowd pleaser and easy enough that even novice bread bakers like me can get good results.

Best part of bread baking, besides the bread eating? Filling your house with the smell of baking bread. My cat can’t get enough of that smell.

I watched a movie: Coco (2017)

If the plot of Coco sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was done a few years ago in another Dia de los Muertos themes film, The Book of Life (2012). Main character is faced with the decision to follow their heart or join the family business and proceeds to go on an adventure in the land of the dead. I had high hopes for The Book of Life because you don’t see many animated films featuring Mexican culture, but ultimately it missed the mark. Meanwhile, Coco resonates with its audience immediately. It’s the little things like the scene at the table where Miguel’s abuelita serves up a huge pile of tamales despite his protests. Or when she takes off her chancla, throws it at the dog, and then orders Miguel to fetch it for her.

My own family never made altars or ofrendas. There were no flying chanclas in my house. We didn’t celebrate Day of the Dead. We’ve never been big on traditional stuff like that, but it is part of our culture and it felt good to see it represented in a relatable way on the big screen. It was beautiful and authentic and real.

“I needed the audience to be able to connect with that character in a way [that] they forget they were watching animation. They forgot they were watching a skeleton. They were just seeing a soul.”

– Lee Unkrich, in a Vanity Fair article

I took my daughter to see it a few Sundays ago. That week’s Sunday Funday involved a bucket of popcorn, a giant soft pretzel, and a movie. I did not expect to like this movie as much as I did, nor did I expect it to have any lasting effect on me. And I certainly didn’t expect my 12 year old to ask me to buy it on DVD for her before we even left the theater. I am far from traditional, and my kid’s interest in movies rarely extends past the theater door. When her grandparents asked how the movie was, she said, “Very emotional. I almost cried.”

She lies. She did cry.

To my friends

I’m not a very good friend. Not to my acquaintances, not to my old or new friends, and not to my closest friends. I don’t always know how to be a good friend and mostly I fail at it.

My friends, I love you. Each and every one of you. Know that even though we don’t speak regularly, I think about you. I care about you. When you hurt, I hurt. When you’re gone, I mourn. I can’t promise I will ever be the friend you need me to be, but I love you. You matter to me. Maybe that means something.

Five Years

Yeah, it’s over now
But I can breathe somehow

I spent my morning listening to The Girl on the Train on audiobook. I had to take a break because a passage brought up memories and I just need to get them out.

Eight years ago, I met a guy in a game. We bonded over shared interests. Horror movies. Metal. A dark sense of humor. He liked to talk and I liked to listen. Our friendship grew into something more, and five years ago I met him in person. Five years ago, I ended it.

I wish I could say it ended over something simple but ultimately harmless, like maybe he’d misrepresented himself. Truth is, he was exactly what he said he was except that everything he’d said was presented as humor. He was intense and volatile. Things that seemed like temper tantrums from a distance seemed dangerous in person. He frightened me. He was only in town for two days and I’d only spent a few hours with him, but it was enough. 11 out of 15 warning signs. I did some things I didn’t want to do, and then I made sure he got to the airport and back home before breaking up with him.

He wanted to maintain a friendship when it was over. I did not, but I also didn’t want to give him a reason to find a way to hurt me. He’d spent much of our relationship talking shit about his crazy exes. I remember when he was feeling particularly paranoid, he would threaten one woman via text and blame her for making him that way. So I agreed, and we’d spend evenings talking on Skype. He’d tell me about the prostitute he fucked when he got home. He’d tell me about the haggard old slut who flirted with him (she was his age and seemed like a lovely person). He blamed one woman for his jealousy issues. He blamed his mother for his existence. He blamed me for his erectile dysfunction during his visit. Conversation would inevitably devolve into me listening to him cry and asking me why women keep fucking him over.

He actually believed he was good to me.

I wrote a short note about the breakup on my old blog after I’d ended the attempt at friendship. An Alice in Chains song, a few lyrics, and a declaration that it was over and I was okay somehow. No details. He left a nasty accusatory comment and blew up my phone with texts and phone calls, just as he’d done when I left his hotel the first day and when he got home and when I broke up with him. The difference was that I was no longer responding. I was done.

I did learn from this experience. It is possible to feel trapped by someone you’ve never even touched. It is possible for someone who lives across the country to completely isolate you from friends and family. I wasn’t a bad person. I didn’t lead him on. His malfunction is not my fault.

Most importantly, it is possible to heal and get on with life. I think I’ll continue my book now.

I read a book: The Book Thief, by Mark Zusak

Before I get into my thoughts on The Book Thief, let me share a bit about my reading habits. I have several books going at any given time. It’s not uncommon for me to come back to a book three or four times before I finally get into it. It’s also not uncommon for me to decide that it’s just not the right time for me to read a certain book and move it to my “stalled” list.

Sometimes a story never really clicks and I just give up on it. I used to hate giving up on books, but the older I get the more I refuse to give my time to things that aren’t adding value to my life. My TBR pile is huge. Ain’t nobody got time for bad entertainment.

I did not finish The Book Thief.

I know, I know. Everyone loves The Book Thief. So how did it end up on my DNF list?

This review by Goodreads user Sophia. sums it up pretty well. Death narrates the story and insists on calling the main character The Book Thief despite the fact that she really only stole a few books. And he can’t just tell the story, he has to tell you what’s going to happen before it happens. He spoils everything. Normally I don’t care about spoilers. I’ve been known to google the end of an episode of a show while I’m watching it. But I don’t need the narrator to do that for me. Aside from that, none of the characters seemed particularly dynamic. It’s a holocaust book and I didn’t feel anything. I got through about 60% of the audiobook and felt like nothing happened. I kept waiting for the story to start and finally decided I was ready for it to end.