Sunday, December 9, 2018

Outdoor Patio and Third Loaf of Sourdough Bread

We changed up a few things this time. First, we fed the starter with some Dark Rye Flour on Friday, before we started the new weekly bread ritual on Saturday morning. Not only did it make the starter start to smell more sour, but the fermentation was also really happy about this change. It bubbled over after both feedings, and made a huge mess of the baking pan it was sitting in. (Thank goodness for the hubby's forethought to set it on a pan, so the explosion didn't destroy the floor of our oven).

We made sure not to overwork the dough again, and regulated the temperature a little better this time, too. Unfortunately, our timing was a little off today, as we were also working on the back patio, and we think we left it out of the fridge too long before we baked it... But other than that, I'm not quite sure how to describe what it is that we're missing. It's probably just a matter of more practice and eventual expertise, so we'll hopefully just get there naturally.

Notes for this week:

  1. We think we should try a loaf of Raley's sourdough in comparison to ours to see if we can pinpoint what we think we're missing.
  2. Just keep practicing...

In addition to our third loaf of sourdough this weekend, we also set up some new lighting and heating features in our back patio area. Excited to now have an outdoor area that's usable year-round. One of the amazing advantages of living less than 2 miles from the Santa Cruz beach.  <3

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sourdough Bread: Second Loaf

This week, our Starter looked much more healthy than it did last week. It was bubbling and growing the night before we made our dough, and had a much better smell to it. That was the first big improvement.

Because our loaf was a little under-proofed last week, we ended up over-compensating the opposite way. We kept the dough in too warm of a place for too long, and it ended up over-proofing this week. It rose beautifully every time we let it rest, and we were thinking that these were all very good signs. In the end, we learned that when the dough rises like that, it's easy to deflate it and it still comes out "not quite right."

Something else we felt we were missing in both loaves was a more sour flavor. So next week, we're going to try some different kinds of flour, to see if we can get the flavor profile closer to correct.

Notes for this week:
1. Keeping the loaf at room temperature is important, instead of too warm or too cold.
2. Round proofing basket made the loaf maybe more uniform, but it wasn't noticeable.
3. Dark Rye or Wheat Flour should make the bread more sour tasting.
4. White Rice Flour on the surfaces was a much better choice, as it doesn't stick so much.
5. Bake time took about the same 35 minutes as last week.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Sourdough Starter and Bread: First Attempt

Voila! Our first loaf of bread, fully made from scratch. We've even made our own sourdough starter. There is still so much to learn about getting this just perfect... But having the first loaf come out of the oven, tasting good, was a big enough victory for today.

The goal from here is to start on a baking journey, similar to the cooking resolution I had in 2015. Try to bake something every weekend to keep the starter alive and well, and learn all about the intricacies of making a truly great dough for pizza, sourdough bread, english muffins, etc.

Notes about today's loaf:
1. Bake time only took 35 minutes in our oven, not the full 45 minutes.
2. The crust is great, although the level of flour is too much on the surfaces.
3. The inside is soft, but very dense. Possible we over-worked the dough.
4. Starter may have been slightly too "young" to fully activate the yeast.
5. Color was not what we expected. Not sure if it's right or wrong though.
6. Next time, we want to try a round loaf instead of the oblong shape.
7. Would be interesting to try a seasoning or a different salt for more flavor.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Looking Back on a Year of Travel

This year has turned out to be a constant stream of travel for me:

  • Mid Last November - Guangzhou, China for work for 8 days
  • Late Last December - Cancun, Mexico for vacation for 7 days
  • Early February - Mexico City and Xalapa, Mexico for work for 4 days
  • Middle March - Ohio and Kentucy to visit family and meet my new nephew for 6 days
  • Early June - San Salvador, El Salvador for work for 6 days
  • Late June - Treviso and Venice, Italy for work for 6 days
  • Early July - Ohio for my cousin's wedding for 2 days
  • Middle July - Shanghai and Guangzhou, China + Hong Kong + Jakarta and Bali, Indonesia for work for 11 days
  • Late August - West Point, New York to visit friends and nephews for 4 days
  • Early September - North Carolina for continued education for work for 4 days
  • Late September - Rome, Capri and Naples, Italy for vacation for 10 days

Coming up, I'm already planning an "around the world" trip for work, including both El Salvador and Italy again before heading back home. And there have been several back and forth trips and a couple long layovers in Colorado sprinkled in there, too. It's safe to say that I'm feeling a little maxed out on the travel front. But the experiences, food and friends that you find along the way are always a perk.

The tough part about all of the back and forth everywhere is that it makes your time more precious than usual. Downtime becomes much needed recuperation time. So instead of recapping all of the trips in detail for you here, I'll just post up some of the best photos from the year.

 Holidays in Hong Kong for work, 2016

Mexico for vacation, 2016

Visiting Family, 2017

El Salvador for work, 2017

Northern Italy, for work 2017

Shanghai, for work 2017

Hong Kong


Indonesia, for work 2017

West Point to visit Friends, 2017

Southern Italy, for vacation 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Catching Up

I'm sitting here in my hotel room in the capital city of El Salvador, waiting to meet my team for dinner, and thought I would use a rare 30 free minutes to update our blog. But now that I'm sitting here typing, I'm not quite sure what to put in this update... Work has become crazy hectic for me these last six months. I took on a bigger role on our team back in March, and it has been a non-stop whirlwind of change and constant movement ever since. My brain gets filled up to its full capacity every single day, and the evenings are spent with the hubs, trying to make myself forget about the details of the day and relax. Traveling this week to San Salvador has proven to be challenging. When I don't get that evening time at home, I find myself working late into the night. It just never ends.

The funniest part about all of the stress and difficulty in this job, is that I love it. There are certainly days that are frustrating, and people that are frustrating. But it's been a long time since I felt so challenged and pushed to be the best that I can be in a work environment. I see the accomplishments of our work every day, and it feels very rewarding to be a big part of all this positive change.

I guess it's this busy work life that's kept me from feeling the need to send updates here. It's not exactly exciting to report on how well my projects are going at work or how a meeting turned out. And I've been making a specific commitment to myself to allow my free time to be non-regimented in any way. I have to be able to unwind in the evenings and on the weekends to be my best throughout the week. So I'm boring. haha  I spend evenings watching cooking shows, Jeopardy and whatever is new on Netflix. On the weekends, I lay by the pool, reading books and listening to music. One of these days, I'll be getting back on my bike to train for more triathlons. After almost a year off from training, I'm starting to feel "the bug" again... But it's taken me a while to get there after my 70.3 last July.

Maybe I'll have more to post someday soon. In the meantime, just know that all is going well out in California for us. We're busy, but happy. Drivers here are crazy, and the roads suck. Cycling is scary out on the crazy roads with the mean drivers, but we still go do it. And we can't complain about a winter that didn't have any snow... So life can't really be too bad.