Babcia’s Bread Experiment: a re-awakening

With how hot it’s been all summer, we’ve done no baking at all. It was simply too hot in the house to do baking and heat it up even more! Only recently did my daughter finally start baking some bread again.

Which means that our dough baby has been sitting in its flour, unused, for several months. That’s one beauty of using this type of dough starter; it doesn’t need to be regularly used and fed, the way a wet sourdough starter needs to be, and will just go dormant.

Last night, I woke it up! 😀

It really doesn’t look any different, once it was dug out of the flour.

The flour it was in, however, did look a bit different.

The dough baby has its own canister of flour, which had started to form a sort of shell around the dough. When I opened it, I could really get that sourdough smell, and it was as much in the flour as from the dough baby. I will be using this flour when doing the bread baking, as it is probably infused with yeast, too.

As dry as it was, the dough baby had lots of air pockets in it, making it easy to crumble apart.

I stirred in 2 cups of very warm water, then set it in a warm oven overnight, lightly covered. After a few hours, I checked it and decided to go ahead and cheat by sprinkling a bit of traditional yeast (not the fast acting type) and a bit of sugar into it as well, then swirling it about.

This is how it looked in the morning, after being stirred again.

That orange bowl really messed with the colour!

Anyhow, it was lightly bubbly by morning. After stirring it down, I added some of the flour from the dough baby canister.

I tried to get some natural light on there, so you can see the proper colour!

I broke up the flour as much as I could, but I’m not too worried about the lumps at this point. I added maybe a cup and a half of flour to get it to the consistency of a thick batter. It then went back into the warm oven for the sponge to develop.

It will take a long time for the sponge to develop without adding more commercial yeast, so bread baking with it is going to be an all day process, today! It’ll be checked regularly, but for this sponge stage, I figure it will take a few hours before I continue with the bread baking. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 10: No Knead bread

A while back, we tried a recipe for overnight bread, which you can read about here, and find a link to the original recipe we used.

I then tried an “over day” version, using the dough baby from my Babcia’s bread experiment. It was fantastically successful!

We’ve made it again, as a pretty basic no-knead bread and, once again, it turned out awesome!

If you are new to this blog and don’t know the background to this, you can read the story behind my experiment to try and recreate the bread my grandmother made in pre-WWII Poland, as my mother remembers it. Or you can check out all the posts about it at this link. All links will open in new tabs, so you don’t lose your place here!

Here is how we made No-knead bread, using the old dough method.

The first step is to dig the dough baby out of the flour it sleeps in.

My Babcia did bread baking once a week, and when the old dough sits that long, it tends to be dry enough to break apart into pieces before reconstituting it. This time, the dough baby had not been sleeping in its bed of flour for that long, and it was still quite… doughy! 😀

So I just pulled it apart a bit and placed it in the bottom of a very large bowl.

I don’t know how much that is. Maybe about 2 cups, including the flour stuck to it? The dough baby rises and collapses while stored in the flour, and I made no effort to measure the quantity.

I also pre-measured 2 Tbsp each of course salt and sugar, and 1 Tbsp of yeast.

The yeast would be optional. The dough would need more time to rise without it, which would give more of a sourdough flavour.

Four cups of very warm water was added to the dough baby. Since it wasn’t dry enough to break into pieces, I spent some time stirring it and breaking it up in the water.

Then, the sugar and yeast was added and mixed in, the bowl loosely covered, and it was left for about 10 minutes.

I like to use traditional active dry yeast, rather than quick or instant dry yeast, but that’s just me. The traditional yeast needs more time to proof in the liquid compared to the quick yeast, and the instant yeast wouldn’t need to be added at all at this point, but would be mixed in with the flour.

If I were not using yeast, I would leave the water, dough baby and sugar mixture in a warm place for much longer, checking regularly to see how active it was.

Here is how it looked after 10 minutes. I stirred it again to break up the dough baby a bit more.

Then it was time to add some flour.

I started by adding 3 cups of flour. It’s easier to mix in that amount compared to starting with just one cup.

I decided to use Durum wheat flour at this point, just because I have it. Use whatever flour, or mix of flours, you like best!

After the first 3 cups was thoroughly beaten in, I added another cup of flour and the salt.

More flour was beaten in, about a cup at a time at first, then a half up at a time.

How much flour to use is something I’ve never been precise about. I know there are bread bakers that weigh and measure precise amounts, but in my experience, that just doesn’t work. The amount of flour needed can depend on things like how fresh the flour itself is, to how much humidity there is in the air.

With 4 cups of water, I would have expected to work in at least 8 cups of flour for this recipe (with my usual kneaded bread, I typically used 5 or 6 cups of flour to 2 1/2 cups liquid).

We are very, very dry right now.

Today, I worked in 7 1/2 cups of flour, and probably could have done with a bit less.

By this point, I was working the flour in with my hand rather than trying to stir it with a spoon. If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook, go ahead and use it!

Before setting it aside to rise, right in the same bowl, I sprinkled some flour over the top and sides, in case it rose high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl’s lid.

Lightly cover the bowl, then set it in a warm place for about an hour. With our chilly our kitchen is in the winter, I heated our oven to its lowest setting (145F on “warm”), then shut it off before I started mixing the flour into the dough. The covered bowl is left in the warm oven, with the light on, to rise. Anywhere that is warm and draft free will do.

Here it is, after an hour. It just barely touched the bottom of the lid! 😀

The dough it then pushed down and worked a bit to incorporate the flour that had been dredged on top.

Next is a very, very important step.

A piece of the dough needs to be removed and set aside for the next batch of bread!

I dumped some flour on a container and plopped about a cup of dough onto it.

Once the new dough baby was set aside, the rest of the dough was dumped onto a 9×13 inch baking sheet that was lined with parchment paper. The last time I made this, I used a parchment paper lined lasagna pan, but I could also have split it into two parchment paper lined loaf pans.

If I didn’t have parchment paper, I would have well oiled the pan, first.

Speaking of oil…

After spreading the dough out to fill the bottom of the pan, I stabbed at the dough with my fingers to create “dimples”, then topped it with oil, course salt and dried parsley flakes.

I happened to still have some fake truffle oil that I used, but an olive or avocado oil would work just was well.

The pan was then set aside for the dough to rise again. Since this batch is so flat and thin, I started preheating the oven for 450F right away. Had I used loaf pans or the lasagna pan again, I would have let it rise longer before preheating the oven. If I had used no yeast at all, it would be left in a warm place until doubled in size.

While the shaped loaf was waiting to go in the oven, there is this to deal with…

The bottom of the bowl still has quite a bit of dough stuck to it!

We can’t let that go to waste!

Into the bowl went the new dough baby, and the flour it had been resting on.

While working the flour dregs into the dough baby, scrape as much of the dough stuck to the sides and incorporate it into the dough baby.

You probably won’t get all of it off the sides, which is okay.

The dough baby is now ready for a nap. I have a canister of flour that I bury it in, but it can also be buried right in a bag of flour, as long as you’re not planning to use the flour for anything else in between bread baking!

After the dough baby has been buried, it will rise quite a bit before collapsing in on itself, breaking through the surface of the flour. Remember to check on the dough baby later on, to make sure it is still covered in flour.

Once the oven is ready, place the pan of bread into oven and bake. If you wish, place a container with about a cup of water on the rack under the bread pan, to add some steam to the oven as it bakes.

For a very flat loaf like what I made today, it took about 25 minutes. A deeper loaf, or a pair of loaf pans will likely need 30-40 minutes. Bake it until it looks like this.

With the oil added to the surface, it will have a deep, golden colour when it’s ready.

When baked, remove from the oven and left to cool for a few minutes. Once it is safe to do so, remove the bread from the pan and onto a cooling rack (parchment paper makes that job a LOT easier!).

I really like the big, flat slab of bread, but it is a bit hard to cut a slice off! 😀

Here is how it looks on the inside.

The crumb is light and fluffy, yet still wonderfully chewy. The star of the show, however, is that golden, flavorful top crust! It’s just a lovely and delicious combination of textures and flavours.

The only problem with this bread is how difficult it is, not to just scarf it all down right away! 😀

Here is the recipe.

Old Dough No Knead Bread


  • old dough set aside from previous bread baking
  • 4 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp traditional active dry yeast (optional, or use 2 Tbsp if you don’t have old dough)
  • 2 Tbsp course salt
  • about 7 or 8 cups of flour
  • small amount of good quality oil (olive oil, avocado oil, etc.)
  • small amount of dried parsley and course salt

Break up the old dough into a large bowl. Pour water over the old dough and stir. Add the sugar and yeast and leave to proof for about 10 minutes. If you do not have old dough, use the larger amount of yeast and proof it in the sugar water. If using only the old dough and no added yeast, leave the bowl in a warm place until the mixture is bubbly.

After the yeast and old dough has proofed, add 3 cups of flour and mix thoroughly until it forms a very smooth batter. (An electric mixer can be used at this stage.)

Add the salt and 1 cup of flour, mixing thoroughly.

Add more flour a little at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until it reaches a thick but sticky consistency. Use your hands to mix in the last of the flour. (If you have an electric mixer with dough hook attachments, switch to the dough hooks at this point.)

Leaving the dough in the bowl, dust the top of the dough with flour and cover loosely. Place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size.

Prepare baking pans by lining with parchment paper or oiling thoroughly.

When the dough has risen, punch it down again, folding it into itself to incorporate the flour dusted on top.

Dust some flour on a small plate or bowl. Remove about a cup of dough for the next batch of bread, setting it aside on the floured container until later.

Pour the remaining dough into the prepared baking pan(s). Using your hands, press the dough to fill the pan to the edges and corners, then stab into the surface with your fingers to create dimples in the dough.

Carefully sprinkle oil across the surface of the dough, then use your hand to spread it evenly across the surface.

Sprinkle the oiled surface with course salt and dried parsley.

Set aside in a warm place to rise.

While the bread is rising, return the dough set aside earlier to the mixing bowl, along with any flour in the plate or bowl. Use the flour and the dough ball to scrape off any remaining dough stuck to the surface of the bowl, working the dough ball until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball, then bury it in a container of flour, for use in the next batch of bread.

When the pan of rising bread is almost doubled in size, preheat the oven to 450F.

Place the bread in the centre rack of the preheated oven; if desired, place about a cup of water in an oven proof container on the lower rack to create steam.

Bake until the bread is a deep, golden colour – about 25 minutes when using a 9″x13″ baking sheet, about 30-35 minutes if using loaf pans, or a cake or lasagna pan. The finished loaf should sound hollow when the bottom is tapped.

Set aside to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the bread to a rack to finish cooling.


The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 9: a few changes

Yesterday, I made another batch of bread using the old dough stored in flour as a starter. I did change things up a little bit, though.

One of the things about trying to recreate how my grandmother did this is, I’m relying on my mother’s childhood memories. There would definitely be things my mother never noticed, never saw, or simply doesn’t remember. In reality, my grandmother would have made do with what she had, so while their bread would certainly have been as basic as flour, salt and water, if she had had other ingredients, she would have used them. I know they would have made their own butter and rendered their own lard. They may even have pressed their own seed oil (my mother does remember processing hemp, so they likely had hemp oil, too). They likely had honey or some type of sugar, if only rarely. It’s hard to say, though, since my mother doesn’t remember very much of that, and none of my research so far has turned up more historical detail. There just isn’t a lot out there to describe how people in poor, backwater villages ate because, frankly, most of the people recording such things either didn’t know about them, or were indifferent to how ordinary people lived.

I do think that there is room to experiment a bit and still be pretty true to how Babcia would have done things, even if they were only on special occasions or when she happened to have access to ingredients.

With yesterday’s baking, one of the things I changed up was how long the old dough was left to soak in warm water. My mother says it was left overnight. My grandmother had a large lump of old dough, for her weekly baking of a dozen or so loaves, but I’m not working with such quantities. The amount I’d set aside from the last batch was the largest I’d done yet, and it was getting too big for my canister of flour. In fact, I didn’t get any pictures of it when I took it out, because there was just too much flour all over, it was bigger than the plate I’d brought to hold it, and I just broke it up into my crock right away.

When the old dough was left to sit in a warm oven overnight, it seemed to me that this was too long. It was no longer actively bubbling by morning. So this time, I decided to just let it sit for a few hours. I also added a small amount of sugar (about a tablespoon to 2 cups of water that had been boiled, then allowed to cool down to the right temperature) to feed the yeast. Last time, I supplemented with a bit of commercial yeast, but not this time.

This is how it looked, after about three hours sitting in a warm oven.

Just look at how bubbly that is!

I did add a bit more sugar (another tablespoon or so) to the dough as I mixed it, too. No added yeast. This was a slightly larger batch than before, too. Previous batches used about 3 cups of water in total, to 4 or 5 cups of flour, but this time I used about 7 cups of flour to 4 cups of water. Then, after cutting away a piece of dough for next time, I tried something else.

I kneaded in a cup of thick cut rolled oats. This is something my grandmother would have had, at least sometimes, so I have little doubt that she would have included it, when it was available.

Normally, I would have added the oats at the very beginning, leaving it to soak in boiling water until it was cool enough that the yeast or sourdough started could be added. I wasn’t sure how that would affect the dough set aside for next time, though, so I left it until later.

I knew the flakes would still soften while the dough was rising, and it would add some texture, too. Kneading it in was a challenge, though! I deliberately left the dough stickier than I usually would have, just to make working in the rolled oats easier, and it was still trying to fly all over the place! LOL

Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take pictures after this!

The dough itself just did not want to rise! Yes, it was in a warm oven, but I’m using a plastic bowl (metal can react with sourdough, affecting the flavour, and this is pretty much a kind of sourdough), so I didn’t want to make the oven much warmer. It did rise some, and again as I formed the loaves, but even the smaller loaves didn’t rise as well. I really should be leaving it to rise for far longer, but it’s just to dang cold.

It does rise more while baking, of course, so that helps. The bread was still dense, but it did still have plenty of air bubbles in it. The rolled oats did soften up, as expected, while still adding a bit of nice texture and a subtle flavour.

Speaking of subtle flavours, there is most definitely a light sourdough taste developing.

I made a total of 8 small loaves out of this batch; 4 round loaves (basically just big buns!) baked in a cast iron pan, and 4 long loaves baked on a pizza stone. At 400F, the round loaves needed about 40-45 minutes to bake, while the long ones needed about 30-35 minutes. I have no idea how long my grandmother would have baked hers, since she had a masonry stove, and I don’t know what method she used to determine when the temperature was right.

As for the bread it self, it was quite tasty. I like the addition of the rolled oats. This morning, I cut one of the little long loaves into slices, pan toasted one side in butter, then topped each with a slice of mozzarella, for breakfast. It was very nice! It probably would have been nicer to broil the cheese, but I didn’t feel like fussing with the oven. 😀

Next time, I’ll have to remember to take pictures through the whole process. 😀

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part five: I killed it!

Ah, I was afraid of this. I managed to kill the dough ball.

My mother describes how her mother would bake only once a week. So after working using the old dough after letting it sit in the flour few a few days, this time, I left it longer. Last night, I took it out and prepped it to soak overnight, as usual. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me.

The dough ball didn’t look any different on the outside from before. The extra time did mean the inside was drier, which I did expect. It was basically a hollow ball. Being drier, it was easier to break up into small pieces. I added 2 cups of water that had been boiled and allowed to cool to the right temperature (because of concerns with our well water), and it was set in a warm oven with the light on, overnight.

This is what it looked like this morning.

Yeah. That yeast is dead.

In stirring it up, the dough was completely dissolved, but no hint of yeast activity.

I can say with confidence that the extra time buried in flour did not kill the yeast. I could have dehydrated it completely, and it should have reconstituted and kept right on going.


I killed it.

And I know how I did it, too.

The last time I used the dough was written about here.

One of the things I mention in there was that I “cheated” by using baking soda. If you’ve worked with sourdough recipes that called for baking soda before, you know what happens! There is a lovely chemical reaction that results in a light, fluffy dough or batter.

My mistake was, I didn’t take the dough ball out before I added the soda. That chemical reaction would have continued after I buried the dough ball in the flour, which is why it still developed a hollow center. However, as I thought might happen, the yeast was spent in the process. I didn’t remember to take the dough ball out until too late in the process, but I hoped that maybe it would still work. Alas, it did not.

Well, this IS and experiment!

So I am restarting the process. I don’t have the “instant sourdough yeast” I used before, so I am using regular yeast to make a sponge, which is currently in a warm oven to get all spongy. I’ll post the details later, but it is also a very old technique. It will slow down my bread baking plans for the day by quite a bit. Ah, well. That’s okay. It’s a learning process, and that’s the whole fun of it!

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 4, and baking day!

Last night, I prepared the dough ball from our previous baking. I was really curious about our bubble!

Seeing this reminded me of a story my mother told me, when I was a child, helping her bake bread.

There was a young couple and, while the husband was at work, the wife decided to bake bread. The only problem was, she’d never baked bread before!

She followed the recipe and set the dough aside to rise.

It wouldn’t rise.

After a very long time, the wife decided she had failed somehow and was feeling quite ashamed of her failure. Her husband would be coming home from work soon, so she decided to hide the evidence by burying the dough in the garden.

It was, however, a sunny and warm day. Some time later, her husband happened to glance out the window and saw what appeared to be a giant white mushroom growing in the garden!

The wife didn’t realize the house was too cold for the bread to rise properly, but once warmed by the sun, it rose quite enthusiastically!

Alas, the poor woman’s secret was out, and she had to explain to her husband why there was a giant bubble growing in their garden. 😀

I was talking to my mother on the phone just a little while ago, and told her about the bubble that emerged from the flour, asking if she knew what it made me think of when I saw it.

She knew exactly what that was!

We got a good laugh over it!

So what did this bubble look like when I dug the bread egg out?

Rather funny, I thought!

Like last time, it was light, with a dried, crisp outer shell, and lovely, bubbly dough inside.

I broke it up into pieces, putting it in a crock with 2 1/2 cups of warm water – the full amount I would be using in the dough – and set the crock into a warm oven with the light on, and left it overnight.

Here, you can see how it looked the next morning, after a good stir, and how the finished dough looked as it was set aside to rise.

Since I expected this to take a while, I decided to make a 2 loaf recipe of basic bread. In the time that took to rise, the old dough bread still needed more time!

With the plain bread, I took half of the dough, cut it into a dozen pieces, rolled each piece into long, flattened strip, which got wrapped around a hot dog wiener.

It’s been a long time since I made these!

That worked out quite well!

The other half of the dough, meanwhile, also got split into a dozen pieces, which got made into buns.

I baked those in a cast iron pan, to make pull-apart buns.

My Babcia’s Bread experiment still wasn’t rising, so while the buns and wieners were rising, then waiting their turns for the oven, I made another batch of bread.

This bread was my usual oatmeal flax bread, with the addition of chia seeds and hemp hearts. I made a 2 loaf recipe, but divided them into 4 smaller loaves.

By now, my Babcia’s Bread was still not risen a much as I would have liked, but with the oven in use, there wasn’t anywhere I could keep it warm. Besides, it did rise at least some.

I decided not to do three risings this time.

Plus, I cheated.

The bread egg is the same principle as a sourdough, without the moisture levels. Which means the developing yeasts would become increasingly acidic.

I decided to take advantage of that and employ a bit of chemistry.

What happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar?

Lots of bubbles, of course!

What happens when you add baking soda to an acidic bread mixture?

More bubbles!

I sprinkled some baking soda onto my kneading surface and worked it in quite thoroughly. The dough turned out to have risen more than it appeared to have, so it was already pretty light and fluffy. As I kneaded in the baking soda, I could actually feel the dough becoming even lighter and puffier in my hands!

After kneading it enough to ensure the baking soda, along with a little more flour to keep it from getting too sticky – and remembering to take off a ball of dough for the next baking! – I divided it into 4 small loaves and set them aside to rise some more more.

While my Babcia’s Bread dough was still rising, I had time to make yet another batch of bread. Surprise bread!

This time, I made a plain 2 loaf recipe, then added parsley, garlic granules, paprika and dill. After letting it rise, I made a dozen buns, each stuffed with 1 cube of mozzarella and 1 cube of old cheddar cheeses.

It turned out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself!

Here is my bread baking for the day – minus the hot dogs, which were already eaten! Top left is 2 loaves of Babcia’s Bread. In the middle is the pull-apart buns that were baked in a cast iron frying pan, and on the right are a couple of surprise bread buns. In the foreground is one of the oatmeal flax loaves.

This made for quite the productive baking day!

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 3b: first rising

When setting the old dough to reconstitute and ferment overnight, I had some concerns about temperature. The crock was sitting on our dining table, and that room gets pretty chilly. I did warm up the rice bag we have been using to warm our fermenting hard apple cider (which is probably ready to be bottled, but we haven’t gotten around to it yet) and set it under the crock, to help keep it at least a little bit warm.

While investigating some cat noises in the wee hours of the morning, I checked it and found it was looking pretty much the same as when I’d left it. So I warmed the oven up a bit, then put the crock in, shut the oven off and left the light on.

This is how it looked about 3 hours later.

Warming it up, did the trick! I’ll have to keep that in mind, as we continue experimenting.

I warmed the oven up a bit again, then put the crock back for another 3 hours or so, before I was able to start making the dough.

That’s looking nice and puffy!

I find it interesting that the pieces are still distinctly separate. When I stirred it, before adding it to some flour and salt in a bowl, I found the pieces separated and stretched, before starting to mix together. The water under the old dough pieces was pretty much clear until I mixed it, too.

I added this to a bowl with 3 cups of flour and 2 tsp of Kosher salt and mixed it together. I kneaded another 4 – 4 1/2 cups of flour in before turning it onto my table and kneading it for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Normally, I would oil the bowl the dough will be rising in, but my grandmother would not have done that, so I used flour, instead.

With this batch, I’ve got the same amount of water as the first batch the old dough came from, but I’m using less flour. That first batch was too dense. With only a little more than 4 cups of flour in here, after I remove some dough for the next batch, I think I’ll just make one large round loaf this time, instead of two.

Next time, I think I’ll up the water and flour quantities a little bit, and make a bigger batch. I don’t think I’ll adjust the amount of salt, though. Not unless I end up doubling the recipe or something.

The dough is now covered and set aside for its first rising. I’ll give it at least an hour, probably two, before punching it down and leaving it for a second rising.

I will post again, later today, with the final results! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 3: reconstituted, and more of the story

Tonight, the plan was to continue with my attempt to recreate bread, as much as possible, in the way my mother remembers my grandmother baking.

I spent some time doing research on the method, but there is nothing out there that quite matches what my mother describes. I gave her a call today with more questions, and got more of the story. 🙂

This video was the closest I could find to what my mother described, but it left me with a lot more questions.

Obviously, my babcia didn’t put the piece of dough into a jar and stick it in the refrigerator. They didn’t have refrigeration. The dough in the video is almost a batter. Also, did my babcia use rye flour? Since she baked only once a week, she had to have been making a LOT of bread. How much did she bake, and how much of the dough did she set aside for that much baking?

My mother had difficulty understanding some of my questions – and she’s at a loss as to why I am even bothering with all this! Using commercial yeast is just so much easier. 😀

So it took a while, but this is what I was able to find out.

My babcia’s weekly baking was for about a dozen round loaves. This was all one big batch. Her dough bowl must have been huge! She worked up the dough, using the old dough that was reconstituted overnight for leavening, then left it to rise. She then punched the dough down and left it to rise again. After the second rising, she would punch it down again, then knead and shape her loaves, laying them out on a flour covered surface. The shaped loaves would be left to rise one more time before baking in their masonry oven.

It would have been when she was forming the loaves that dough was taken out for the next batch, and all the scrapings from the wooden dough bowl and leftover bits of flour, would be incorporated into the ball. My mother says the ball of dough was about the size of a loaf of pumpernickel bread that she sometimes buys at the local grocery. That would make it about 3 – 4 cups of dough, before proofing, though I do take into account that, given her age at the time, her memory of the size might be distorted by her own small size.

Still, it’s enough information to assure me that my egg sized lump of dough is probably about the right size for a 2 loaf recipe.

I also learned that my babcia did use rye flour, as well as the wheat flour and corn flour my mother had already mentioned. Basically, whatever they had on hand. Or whatever was left, after either the Russians or the Nazi’s came through and took everything again.

It was a rather precarious existence for them!

I also confirmed that my grandmother’s dough was NOT a wet, almost batter like dough, like the one in the video above. My mother described it as being more like the sort of bread she used to bake all the time, when I was a kid. Considering that I helped her with bread baking for many years, that gives me a very good idea of what I will be looking for.

Armed with more information from my mother, I started on reconstituting our bread dough “egg” in preparation for baking with it, tomorrow.

Here is how it looked, when I dug it out of the flour.

It was most definitely larger than when it first went in! Not extremely so, but enough to really notice.

It also felt a lot lighter than when it was first put in. I was very interested in seeing how it looked on the inside!

Ooooo!!! That looks amazing!

The outer shell was almost flaky in texture, and was clearly doing a great job of allowing the yeasts to continue to ferment without contamination.

It actually rather reminded me of the sourdough in this video, minus the fire.

It’s interesting to note that, historically, people did conserve their sourdough starters while traveling by putting it into their bag of flour and allowing it to dry out. What I am making now will certainly result in a sour dough, eventually, though it is not at all the same as maintaining a sourdough starter.

Since I will be making another 2 loaf recipe, I decided to reconstitute the dough ball in the full 2 cups of water that will go into the recipe. I could probably have used half that amount, without any issues, but I figured, why not sue the full amount? I wouldn’t use the full amount of water if I were, say, making a dozen loaves, like my grandmother did, but for a small batch of bread, it should be fine.

I used water that had been boiled, first, as a precaution with using our well water. Once the water had cooled down enough, I put it in a small crock style canister that I have, then added the broken up pieces of old dough.

After that, it just got a quick stir, to make sure all the pieces were thoroughly immersed.

I don’t expect this to overflow as the yeast develops but, just in case, I placed the covered container on the lid of a large mixing bowl.

Now, it just sits for the night. 🙂

I am very interested in seeing what this looks like in the morning!

The Re-Farmer

More baking, and my daughter works in a tent now

I went into town today, driving my daughter to work. We got there at our usual 10-15 minutes early, but there were already several cars in the parking lot, and people standing by the doors. I’ve seen this before, but not with so many people. Weird.

Since I was in town anyhow, I made a quick run through the grocery store. My husband was running out of brown rice (he’s the only one who eats it) and the girls were running low on lactose free milk. There was plenty of milk, but almost no rice of any kind at all. Oddly, there were no potatoes, squash or onions. Entire sections of fresh produce were empty. I find myself thinking there are other reasons for the stuff to be gone, besides more panic buying. There was no shortage of bread or meat on the shelves, but they haven’t restocked in things like flour, sugar or yeast yet.

Still no toilet paper, either.

Thankfully, we are not in any need of these items.

Once at home, I did a couple of different breads. One was a sourdough soda bread from Alaska Sourdough, the cookbook that got me into sourdough many years ago, though I acquired my own copy much more recently.

This recipe uses 4 cups of sourdough starter, along with oil, sugar, salt and baking soda. I tried to get a video of the chemical reaction when the baking soda (mixed into a “jigger glass” of warm water) is added, but it just couldn’t capture how the mixture just… foams. It’s really quite fun to watch!

The recipes in this cookbook are hand written, and in this one, the instructions forget to mention when to add the salt! I just add it with everything else, before the soda and flour are added.

The recipe also said to use 8 – 10 cups of flour.

Eight to 10??? What’s with all these recipes that use huge amounts of flour? I barely got 3 in. I’d wonder if my sourdough starter is too thick or something, but it’s the same with non-sourdough bread recipes, too. I know we’re really dry here, this time of year, but it shouldn’t make that much of a difference!

This recipe requires just one rising, so it got shaped into loaves right away and I left them in a warm oven to rise while I made another double batch of my seedy bread. I ended up making it into a bunch of mini-loaves this time, just for fun. By the time that bread had its two risings, and finished baking, the sourdough bread was ready to go into the oven.

They came out so pretty!

While I was working on that, my other daughter came down for a break and let me know her sister is now working in a tent.

A tent?

The cash desk now has a plastic curtain around it, to protect the cashiers from plague customers who won’t keep their distance. It hangs from the ceiling, and is Tuck Taped to the counter, with windows cut into it to reach products for scanning. The pharmacy counter has its own plastic wall, with a slit for the pharmacists to go in and out at one end, and a slit at the pick up counter. Customers, apparently, are still trying to stick their faces right up to the openings.

People suck, sometimes.

After I picked my daughter up at work, she needed to go to the grocery store, so we swung by on the way home. Some of the empty produce displays were no longer empty – there were onions again, though not many. Still no potatoes or squash. So very odd!

As we were going through the till, I couldn’t help but comment to the cashier about how nice it must be, to be able to clean the belt more often. She confirmed that, yes, it is! She was quite enjoying the cleanliness. Customers still try to shove things onto the belt, but at least now the cashiers are allowed to tell them to stop, so the belt can be cleaned. I remember only too well how difficult it was to keep things clean in between costumers, when I worked as a grocery store cashier!

They’re also back to single use plastic bags. This franchise had only recently made such a big deal about no longer having plastic bags and encouraging people to bring, or buy, reusable bags. Now, if people bring their own bags, they have to pack them themselves. It’s long been known that reusable bags are very unsanitary, but it took the Wuhan flu for that to finally be taken seriously. 😦

Well, we’ll be able to go back to staying home for the next few days. No plague people hiding among the deer that visit us. There is plenty to keep us busy! The only thing I’ll need to remember to go out for is to get the mail, since I’m expecting my seed order to come in soon. I look forward to starting some of them indoors.

Oh, I also broke down and ordered a bottle cutter. This is not something we can find locally. I chose a type that can cut square bottles, as well as round. I look forward to using it to help make bottle bricks! Since I already know we plan to make the walls on our cordwood practice building 8 inches think, we can get a head start on making these.

Also, my daughter found a really nice recipe for no-knead Focaccia that I think we’ll be trying out tomorrow.

Should be fun!

The Re-Farmer

Bread Baking Day – all done!

Sometimes, I think we really need to do bread baking more often.

Then I remember how much clean up is involved. 😀

No matter! We now have two kinds of freshly baked bread done.

Here’s how the seedy bread turned out.

This is how it looked after only 1 hour of rising time. The bowl it’s in is pretty huge – too big to fit in our kitchen sink (which makes washing it a bit of a challenge! 😀 ) – with plenty of room for this 4 loaf recipe.

The timing of things works out really well. I use half the dough to make buns first, leaving them to rise while I shape a couple of loaves. Once those are done, I star to preheat the oven. By the time it’s heated up, the buns have risen enough to go straight in. Once they’re out, the loaves have had enough time for their second rising. When those are done, the overnight sourdough loaves are ready to go into the oven. No wasted time in between, making for more efficient use of a hot oven.

They came out quite beautifully, too! Such a tasty bread, with a really nice texture. I love the bit of crunch the seeds add to it.

The second rising for the sourdough loaves was probably about 4 – 4 1/2 hours. The first rising was probably about 11 or 12 hours.

This is how they looked, just before I put them in the oven. They definitely rose more than the first time I tried this recipe, so the modifications made quite a difference, but still not rising as high as variations that use added yeast.

Is it worth it?

I think so.

The actual working time to make this bread is low. It’s mixed at night, then kneaded for 10 minutes the next day. It really doesn’t need a lot of attention.

The loaves came out so smooth and gorgeous. None of the cracking you can get when using an added yeast bread, since there’s no sudden rise in height in the oven.

The bread itself has a slightly thicker, sturdier crust, while the crumb is incredibly soft, tender and fine in texture.

Reducing the amount of sugar was definitely a good move. The sourdough flavour was more dominant this time, whereas the last time I tried this recipe, the sweetness was more dominant. I think adding that little bit of baking soda helped with the rising, too.

I’d still prefer a more “sour” sourdough flavour, but that has more to do with our starter than with the recipe. We’ll be making more of this one, that’s for sure. I think I’m satisfied with it enough that, next time I bake it, I’ll post with the tweaked recipe.

Tomorrow is going to be another baking day, though this time for my daughters. I look forward to seeing what they’re planning to make. 🙂

The Re-Farmer