Musings on Sourdough Starters

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For many, many years, I owned and maintained my own, private zoo.* I fed and watered the creatures in it, occasionally neglected them, moved them from place to place, and when their population threatened to explode, I took out a large quantity and killed them. That’s what, in a nutshell, every baker does with their sourdough starter. A sourdough starter is a SCOBY: a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast; a complex colony of living creatures. It’s also what bakers call a preferment, like (but … click below for more ↓

Musings on a New Bread Machine

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Okay, I’ll admit I’m a gadget-loving guy. I am easily seduced by devices that have buttons, programming, switches, dials, and LED displays. And if they’re kitchen devices, I’m even more vulnerable to their siren song. Walk through a store display of Instant Pots, pressure cookers, stand mixers, panini presses, pasta makes, air fryers, or convection ovens, and my knees grow weak. I start to hyperventilate in the appliance aisle of a box store, touching the displayed appliances in an unseemly manner, and Susan has to … click below for more ↓

Potato-Onion-Tarragon Bread

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I recently hunted through my cookbooks and online for a simple recipe to make a potato-onion bread in my breadmaker machine. While I found quite a few recipes for potato bread, and others for onion bread, I didn’t find any that merged the two. I collected a lot of recipes and got some good ideas for loaves, but nothing was exactly what I wanted to make. So I decided to tweak a recipe from the 300 Best Canadian Bread Machine Recipes cookbook (by Donna Washburn … click below for more ↓

Breadmaker Tales: Blueberry Jam

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Longtime readers here know that baking bread is one of my passions (Susan might call it an obsession, one of my many), but I’m also I’m a reasonably competent cook (not as good as Susan, but I try…); I make my own fresh pasta and my own pizza, among other dishes. Of late, I have been branching out into new areas. None of them are terribly challenging, but they are new things for me to learn. And being retired, keeping my brain alive by learning … click below for more ↓

Bread Machine Cookbooks

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Among my shelves of books on baking bread by hand, is a smaller selection of books about using a bread machine to craft loaves and other items. I admit I’ve been somewhat lax in my creative uses of the bread machine, using it only to bake somewhat plain, whole loaves when I wasn’t up to or able to bake one entirely by hand. The results, I also admit, have been somewhat mixed, in large part because I tend to experiment with ingredients and settings rather … click below for more ↓

Real Bread, Slow Dough, Bread Books

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Making bread is a small passion of mine, has been for many years as readers here will know*, although the results of my efforts do not always match my optimism. It’s always a bit of a guessing game what will result when I put the dough in the oven. That doesn’t stop me from trying, though, and I thoroughly enjoy the tactile process of making the bread, even if the end result is occasionally more brick-like than loaf-like. There’s something to be said about making … click below for more ↓

Montaigne on Ice Cream

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No, Michel de Montaigne did not write about ice cream. I just used his name to entice you into this musing. But given the wide variety of topics he did write about, you’d think he might have at least penned a few words on it. Had it been available in his time, that is. It would suit his style to muse on its flavours, texture, ingredients, and digestibility.  Unfortunately, while Montaigne does mention food and eating several times, he really didn’t write any gastronomic essays, much … click below for more ↓

A Cup of Darjeeling

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With characteristic brightness frequently likened to newly minted coins, fragrant aromas, and sophisticated, complex flavours — delicate, even flowery (more stem than petal, as one expert blender put it), with hints of apricots and peaches, muscat grapes, and tasty nuts — it’s the world’s premium tea, the “champagne of tea.”… Darjeeling tea is often sold not just by single estate like wines, but also by flush, or harvesting season, a term nearly exclusive to tea from the far northeast of India… While Darjeeling tea’s unique … click below for more ↓

Musings on Pizza No. 2

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Pizza was one of those things I thought about when my hot flashes from my ongoing hormone treatment awoke me in the middle of the night this past week. Several times, in fact. As I tossed and turned I thought about my pizza-making process as I recently described here and wondered. I had received some comments about it, too, which prompted my continued meditations on pizza. I’ve been making pizza that way for years with only minor changes or alterations in the steps, but I … click below for more ↓

Finding a Breakfast Cereal With No Added Sugar

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Why is it so difficult to find a breakfast cereal without added sugar? Even your basic, unadorned bran flakes have added sugar in them! And not just a small amount. While I’m sure there are commercial brands of cereal without sugar or some alternative sweetener, I’m struggling to find many (if any) on local grocery store shelves. I’m not against sugar per se. It belongs in desserts and candy. I like some ice cream or frozen yogurt for dessert at times. And I sometimes enjoy … click below for more ↓

Musings on Making Pizza

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I have to admit that I like pizza a lot. Well, I guess most of us do. I like cheese, and I liked cooked cheese even more, and I like vegetables, so pizza is up there as a mealtime favourite. We don’t eat it frequently, perhaps once month or less often. These days I make it myself: we don’t order it from a restaurant or pizzeria, although we’ve had it from them when we went out for dinner (back in the pre-pandemic days). Nothing against … click below for more ↓

Musings on Making Pasta, No. 5

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I was back at making pasta this week, trying a slightly different recipe, and working on honing my skills with the pasta machine. As well, I  was hoping to get my recently-acquired mafaldine cutter attachment operating correctly (you might recall reading about the problems I had with it clogging in the previous post on pasta making). My usual mix for pasta dough is a ratio of about two-to-one tipo 00 flour to semolina. Thinking about that, I wondered if the gluten in the lower-protein tipo … click below for more ↓

More Musings on Tea

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Back in 1946, while England was still recovering from the deprivations of WWII and under rationing, the prolific George Orwell wrote his essay “A Nice Cup of Tea” with his eleven-step instructions for making what he considered the perfect cuppa.* But do they still stand today? Certainly, his notion of what makes a “strong” tea would be considered very strong by standards today. As the BBC noted in an article that debunked many of Orwell’s notions about making tea almost 60 years later, “The great … click below for more ↓

Musings on Making Bread and Chili, No. 1

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Longtime readers here know that before my surgery last summer, along with my pasta making I was an avid, if not always entirely competent, baker. I mostly made bread from “scratch” but sometimes for convenience used an electric bread maker. I made all sorts of bread in previous years, including soda (“quick”) breads, as well as the occasional scone, tea biscuit, and muffin. I’ve always looked upon my baking (and cooking in general) as a sort of living chemistry experiment. I play with recipes, tweak … click below for more ↓

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