Return of the Sourdough

March 25, 2010

Last autumn I discovered the joy of the sourdough starter. It actually began as an attempt to save money, as I read that you could bake bread without yeast. Fascinated I turned to my trusty cookbook Joy of Cooking and sure enough, in there I discovered a recipe for a yeast free sourdough starter. I attempted to make one and failed royally. The sourdough starter smelled awful, looked sickly and was going nowhere near anything I would eventually feed myself or my family. So what to do? Google! And there I found my answer. As one bread expert stated when delving into the world of Sourdough, don’t try to make your own starter, as you have no idea what it is supposed to look like, what it is supposed to smell like. What a beginner should do is try to get themselves some starter. Now you have some options, go to a neighbor who has starter, go to a bakery and ask nicely or send a self addressed envelope to Carls friends, they will send you some flakes of a sourdough starter that has been around since 1847. That is what I did. And I got a starter going and began the rhythm and cycle of baking with sourdough. Feeding the starter, baking with half of the starter, letting the leftovers rest in the fridge, to be fed again next week, and baked again, and left to rest again and so on and so forth. My bread didn’t look like much, but after a while, as I got to know the starter, the complexities of the sourdough taste in simple home baked bread gave new life our sandwiches.

So fast forward a bit, to May 2009, and an up and coming three month trip to California and Sweden. In between packing, organizing, worrying about where we would live, I was struck with a frightening thought… the death of my sourdough starter! Again, what to do? Who to ask for starter babysitting? Could I ask anybody? I turn again to… Google! And yet again I found my answer. I could dry my own sourdough starter. It is a simple process. Just spread a thin layer of starter on a wax sheet and leave it in a cool oven overnight. Next day peel of the dried flakes and put them in a ziplock bag. If you then put the bag in the freezer it will keep for a lifetime. As I returned in September I was a bit nervous to revive the dried sourdough flakes. But with the help of Breadtopia I was excited to try.

Dried starter flakes
Soak ½ tsp. dried starter in 1 tbs. lukewarm purified or spring water for a few minutes to soften.

Stir in 1 tbs. all-purpose flour, cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Make sure you cover bowl with saran wrap, so that it doesn’t dry out. You might want to poke holes in the plastic wrap lid to let in some air. While not necessary, stirring again once or twice during this 24 hours will expedite the fermentation process.
Stir in another tablespoon of flour with an additional tablespoon of lukewarm water. If the dried starter is at all viable, as it should be, you will most likely see the bubbling action of fermentation begin somewhere between about 24 and 48 hours. If not, something is most likely wrong.

It is alive!

So at this point, I weigh the starter on a food scale in grams. Then I divide the weight by two and add equal parts flour and water. So for example if my starter weight is 50 grams, I add 25 grams water and 25 grams flour. I keep doing this until I have the amount of starter I need to bake bread. I then feed it one last time (doubling the amount). Wait four to six hours until the starter is at its most active, and use half of it to bake bread. I feed the other half and then put that batch in the fridge where it hangs out for a few days or a week at most until I need to bake bread again.

There are so many websites and recipes out there devoted to the sourdough. You can make it as complicated or as easy as you like. I prefer the easy way (kinda lazy that way), so I use a basic recipe from the joy of cooking:
2 cups sourdough starter
3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup warm water.
Mix until sticky dough forms. Put in fridge unit double in bulk, 12-14 hours.
Take out and let rest 2 hours.
Add 1/2 cup bread flour and 4 teaspoons fine salt.
Knead until you have smooth dough.
let rest for 10 minutes
Divide and form two loaves of a bread for your choice. I am so simple I just roll it out into rectangles and then roll into a loaf, pinch together the edge and place in a regular old bread pan (which I have oiled).
Now the tricky part. Put in a warm place and patience and some more patience. Four to six hours later it should have risen. Mine never rise as much as I like. Jensen assures me he prefers his bread this way, but I don’t know. Perhaps you will have better luck. If you do, let me know your trick!
OK now your bread has risen, preheat oven to 450. And before you slip in the bread spray oven with water. close and wait a minute and then quickly put in your loaves. Wait 2 minutes and then open the oven and spray again. this is important. It makes the crust nice and crusty. With the denseness of the sourdough bread, it is very very important to have a crusty crust. Alright now it is almost done. Hang out close to the oven. It might take anywhere between 20 to 35 minutes. Let your nose be your guide. Take the loaves out, knock on the bottom of them if there is a hollow sign they are done!
remember you can always freeze bread. Let it cool a bit. Wrap with a layer of paper towels and then a few wraps of plastic wrap. It will keep in the freezer for a few weeks. Defrost in the microwave, on a low setting and it will taste like freshly baked bread. But first, sit down and enjoy a slice (or two) of your freshly baked, hot from the oven, sourdough bread with lots of butter and a crusty crust!

If you are tempted to try this out. Send me a comment and I will send you a couple of tablespoons of my dried starter flakes with directions.


Casting on

March 8, 2010

Right now I have three knitting projects going.

A sweater for Noah, pattern #9730 from Knitting Pure and Simple. This is way over my head so I think I will finish it in about a year, at which point he will have outgrown it. Oh well, I can stow it away for Theo I suppose.

Sweater for Noah

I also have two secret projects. So I will only give you a bit of a teaser and be back later with more details. See I have to get you to come back for more…

Secret project #1:

Secret project #2:

Isn’t it amazing how something so small will transform into… (well now I can’t tell you, but you get the gist, it’s gonna get bigger).

March 25th is waffle day. This is a holiday that Sweden has invented. American invents days to celebrate various family members and Sweden invents days that celebrate food. Hmm, what does this say…

Anyway, March 25th is Annunciation Day. And swedes celebrate this by making waffles. I was curious to find out why and according to this article it is because March 25th is the day that the women of Sweden set aside their winter activities such as chopping wood and knitting and start making waffles. Now I have never been much of a wood chopper and I am very excited about waffles, but I am feeling kinda stressed. As you can tell from above I haven’t gotten very far on my three projects and I only have two weeks to complete them. And how does exactly waffle making replace knitting. Are they really mutually exclusive? Now you may feel that I should just ignore these instructions, but as you all know I am a Swedish woman and I love following directions. I may just have to rebel, tap into the American part of my identity.

Well, we have gotten a sneak peek of spring. I don’t trust that it is here and am mentally bracing myself for an April snow storm, but yesterday was gorgeous and Ellie and I enjoyed the warm weather with an outing to the Quabbin with our three very handsome men.

From biggest to littlest:


February 27, 2010

I would like this blog to incorporate some of the new things I am learning about in this stay at home mom adventure.

One thing that I have been trying to learn this last year is knitting. And I am really enjoying it! And very bummed that I had not discovered this earlier. But that is actually not true. I was first introduced to knitting many many years ago by my great aunt. I do not remember many things from my childhood, but I do remember sitting on her couch fingering the yarn in her knitting basket, intrigued by the process in which she used two sticks to transform these rolls of brightly colored ‘string’ into scarfs, sweaters, hats and mittens. She showed me the basic stitch and I was hooked as only a 10 year old girl can be, for about a week, and then quickly moved on to my new obsession, horses! Which i think also lasted about a week. Oh well, I guess stick to it – ness has never really been my strength. But now I have grown. Now I am vastly different from that 10 year old girl, (well, perhaps not as much as I think). But I have rediscovered the magic of making sweaters from ‘string’.

Raglan cardigan

Aren't the buttons adorable!

Two scarfs and a raglan cardigan later and I am well on my way.

This scarf is made with yarn I got as a christmas present from my dear Sister-in-Law. Isn’t it lovely!

I made a scarf for Jensen. I loved the yarn and pattern, but I think I might make the scarf a bit wider. And Jensen is complaining that the yarn is piling quite a bit.

I have two books, The Vogue Guide to Knitting and Elizabeth Zimmermans Knitting without Tears. The Elizabeth Zimmerman book (EZ, as she is referred to in knitting lingo) seems a bit over my head at this point, but it was intriguing to read and I am excited about eventually reaching a level of comfort in my knitting when I can engage in EZ-knitting. She is very laid back and conversational in her instructions, and as many of you already know, I do love stern instructions that specify EXACTLY what I have to do and when.

I love the process of learning. I remember last year as I was first learning to knit, how many times I sat trying to figure out how the slip knot worked. I just couldn’t get it! Once I had mastered that and tried to cast on I ended up twisting all of my stitches so trying to knit them just resulted in a messed up, very tight, jumble. A lot of practice and perseverance, some blood and tears and now casting on is a breeze. So hard to even imagine what I found so difficult. Makes me wonder what I am struggling with right now, that in a few weeks, months, years, I will find so easy, be able to do so fluidly I won’t even remember a time that it was a challenge.

So here is my question to you, family and friends, anybody picking up a new skill, learning a language, craft, art etc? How do you feel about the process? Any motivational tips?

Oh and also, any and all knitting advice and/or book recommendations are always appreciated.

Candlepin Bowling

February 14, 2010

On Valentines our former neighbors, the Lahtis’, were supposed to visit for lunch. Unfortunately they got hit with a stomach bug and had to cancel last minute. Noah was heartbroken. Jensen and I were pretty sad as well. So to drown our sorrows, in a child friendly non-alcoholic family friendly sort of way we decided to go Candlepin Bowling with friends David and Kim. Candlepin bowling is a weird sort of bowling that exists primarily in New England and eastern parts of Canada. The ball is much smaller than a regular bowling ball which makes it a lot easier for children to play. The pins however are skinnier than regular bowling so overall it seems to be a bit more challenging than regular bowling. Though we missed our friends we ended up having a fantastic time!

So if you are in the area, I highly recommend an afternoon at Diamond Junction Bowling, located in Palmer, Massachusetts.

what form!

Check out how cute in his bowling shoes!

With the help of a ramp Theo could also bowl

Welcome Lady Eleanor

February 14, 2010

As most of you know, we have an addition to our family. On January 9th 2010 at 9:51 our long awaited baby princess Eleanor Viktoria Beach was born at 7 lbs 8 ounces (3401 gram) and 19.5 inches (49.5 centimeter).

She is an absolute darling. The two boys have taken to her from the start. There really is not much to write and since babies are so photable, I will let the photos do most of the talking.

At the hospital:

Buying flowers for mommy

“She’s cute, but I’ve got hills to sled down!”

Proud grandparents:

Jensens parents, Robin and Gregg flew in on January 6th. It was a huge help having them here during and after the birth. I cannot express everything that they did and how much they helped in making the transition from being a family of four to a family of five. Their help was immeasurable.

Having fun with grandpa

After two days at the hospital Ellie and I came home. We were welcomed with open arms and a snowman that Noah had built.

Happy 0-birthdaycake baked by David, frosted by Kim.

Having a new baby sister at home can be tiring. So the boys got a break and spent a day at the Holoyoke Childrens Museum with grandma and grandpa.

Grandma left at then end of January and she is very missed. But we are settleing in and figuring it out. I did manage to go grocery shopping with all three children last week. We’ve also gotten a lot of help from friends who have brought meals or come over and cooked for us. And we have been trying to savor the moments of baby bliss.

I have moved!

February 14, 2010

I have moved. Check out my new blog. Stop by, drop a line, encourage me to stick with it this time.

Easter weekend

April 14, 2009

We had a wonderful long easter weekend in the company of our good friends from Sweden, Rebecca and Tobias.

After they spent a couple of days in Boston, we picked them up in the big red minivan and drove them out into the country. It was a beautiful day and to really get them in the spirit the first thing we did was hike in the woods down the street. Even though we didn’t take pictures of it we did manage to find the creek Grandpa Beach found on his visit. I swear ;).

Noah enjoyed collecting pine cones and trying to stuff them into his pocket.

Friday and Saturday we gave them the New England tour, or rather we went to swimming lessons, walked around Amherst and then took them to Costco! Costco was hands down the most exotic experience for the Swedes.

Easter Sunday after getting VIP seats at our church (it was so packed we got to sit right up front behind the choir), we came home to an Easter egg hunt.

It was so cold. Check out mamma Anna out for a couple of minutes in between easter dinner preparations. This can only mean one thing, serious help in the kitchen. Thanks Rebecca!

Who cares about the plastic eggs. Check out this leaf that I found!!!

Wait, where the heck is Theo going? Ok mamma Anna is apparently not on the scene any longer.

After the easter egg hunt we combined traditions and both wrote rhymes on our eggs and painted them. All of the rhymes were in Swedish so I won’t bother writing them here, but let me tell you, we were all four of us creative geniuses.

The next day was gorgeous and we decided to explore our back yard. Apparently over the hill is a beautiful piece of property that is not used for anything. The creek runs right through. I see several picnic opportunities for me and the boys as the weather warms up.

Don’t even ask.

So if any more of our swedish friends get inspired and want to take the trip over to New England, we would be happy to have you. Just ask Rebecca and Tobias, I think they had a good time. We will even show you Costco!

Lots of Photos

April 4, 2009

So, Grandpa and Grandma Beach came and visited us for a week during Jensen’s 30th birthday. That’s right, Jensen is finally 30! I have been waiting for a long time for this, well four and a half years to be exact.

Anyway, they were here and we had a wonderful time. And they took lots of great photos of the boys. So since my last post was content high I figured I would just post their pictures and you can just sit back and enjoy. Ok, well, since it is me, it might be hard to refrain from a few comments here and there.

At home, Theo practicing his walking skills. He seems pretty proud of himself, don’t ya think…

Noah and his buddies, Eva and Elias

This apparently is just down the road from us. Who knew?!? Way to go grandpa Beach!

Here is the old man himself! Can’t you just see how old the guy has become. Jeez, 30! Ancient. (Oh and Noah is not shying away from the camera, he is completely asleep. I think he slept for 3 hours during which he was carried up and down stairs and the rest of us, including Theo, ate a huge lunch at a super busy and loud establishment.)

On a boat in the Boston harbor:

We spent our last day in Boston visiting Noah’s favorite museum, The Children’s Museum. It is a super cool place with lots of fun activities for both children and adults.

Thanks for a great visit!

The frogs are croaking…

March 28, 2009

in the woods behind us and that apparently means only one thing here in Massachusetts: Spring has finally arrived. And it sure has. The sun is shining, there is a warmth in the air and the kids have replaced mittens and beanies with caps and sunglasses and sometimes even umbrellas.

The kids have been out exploring their backyard after the wintery wonderland has melted away. And look what they discovered:

– taken by Noah, March 25, 2009

– taken by Eva, March 25, 2009

Krokuses. Yay! there is no turning back now. And from what I’ve heard the weather is like back in Stockholm, I am pretty happy to be here. Hopefully we don’t have a nasty snowstorm waiting around the corner to put a damper on our spring. But as i write the frogs croak happily away and well I am putting my trust in them.

What we have been up to:

Theo is completely into cars, trucks, anything with wheels. He pushes, he pulls, he hammers, whatever he does with them, he loves them. He is actually a lot more into toys in general then I remember noah ever being. Probably because with big brother around the amount of toys is more than twice whatever Noah grew up with. Theo is also working very hard on standing up and taking those first tentative steps. Whenever he gets a chance he pulls himself up and locks his knees. Sometimes he gets stuck and cries out frustrated before he goes toppling over. He is a furniture mover. Any chair, cart, easel that allows for movement will be slowly pushed or tugged over to another part of the room. He loves crawling under things. So more often or not I will hear a cry, run into the kitchen and find theo tangled into a chair, one leg over the lower cross support, one leg under. Head butted up against the seat of the chair and arms sort of bracing his weight somehow. I untangle him from the chair and before i have even put him down his little legs are moving just rearing to get in under that chair again. What he wants to accomplish exactly is completely beyond me.

He is our little social butterfly. He loves people. No matter how crabby he is, as soon as our neighbor April comes over, he shines up and puts on his best behaviour. Though this is a blessing, it is sometimes frustrating as nobody ever gives me the least amount of sympathy if he and i are having a bad day. All i get is “theo? No! He is so sweet. He is like the nicest baby I have ever met!” Argh!

Noah is our big boy. He is now a real bonafide little boy. He is completely enthralled with dinosaurs. He loves reading books about dinosaurs and talk about dinosaurs, where they might live, what they eat, how and why did they become extinct. He also plays dinosaurs with Theo, which is pretty funny to watch. Theo is either a t rex hunting noah or it is vice versa. Theo just sits in the middle of the floor bouncing up and down with a goofy smile on his face while noah is either running towards him or from him, making argh or help help noises. Great to see the boys enjoying each other, each in his own way.

Speaking of roleplaying, this is all that noah does now. If we watch a movie about penguins and a seal happens to hunt one (we were watching March of the Penguins on one of our sick days) noah is a seal hunting penguins for the next week. The next movie we watch might be a japanese anime movie with giant cat that is a bus and now we can’t do anything without noah asking if we want to ride on his back as he is a cat-bus. It is truly wonderful to be part of this great imaginary world that blooms up wherever we may be.

He is also hard at work learning his letters and his numbers. He loves using his etcha-sketch to write his T’s and O’s. Which he has pretty much down. He also practices drawing a eights, which is two circles somewhere in the vicinity of each other. I of course am so proud of him.

Jensen is busy at school. Working, doing workshops and independent studies. He has met a lot of great people, both poets and fiction writers. When at home he is usually holed up in his office, typing away. I am really proud of him, his ambition and his discipline. I know it can’t be easy get anything done hearing us down stairs having both good days and bad days. His work seems to be really appreciated by both his peers and his professors which is very encouraging.

I am whole heartedly enjoying this new phase of our life. I have now mastered the sourdough starter and starting to become curious about how to go about making your own buttermilk, filmjölk, ricotta, mozarella. We will see which of these crafts come into fruition. Well I am definetly going to try and make buttermilk and filmjölk. Especially as now it seems as though Theo does not have the same aversion to dairy as Noah does.

By the way, theo is my little eater. He LOVES everything I make. Ahhh, the 12 month old and their appetites. Poor Noah, he just doesn’t stand a chance. Of course he is still going through the preschool age fobia of food. One day he loves fish sticks the next hates it. He likes mammas bacon but not pappas (there is absolutely no difference, but shhh don’t tell him that). Desperately trying to avoid the pitfalls of becoming a short order cook, I am trying not to worry, but of course it is hard. If he only wasn’t so slender to begin with.

– taken by Noah

Well that is our update for now. I will be posting again soon with photos from Grandma and Grandpa Beach’s recent visit.

A day in February

February 4, 2009