It is almost a month since I posted so bang goes my resolution to post just about every week. The problem with not posting for a while is that I forget the minutia of life that I wanted to record so that I won't forget...
I'm still knitting the "fish and chip" jumpers for babies. See this link:
Angela from Tracing Rainbows has also written a post about them. I've knitted a pile and given them to my friend down the road who added hers to the bag and passed them on to another friend of hers who passed them on - and so it goes. That way, we don't have to pay the postage to get them to the charity who are sending them to Africa. I have nearly finished the yarn that I was given. It is machine knitting yarn really so I'm using four strands at a time with a coloured stripe in the body of the sweater to make it a bit more interesting. I've knitted 27 in the last 6 months and have enough yarn to take it up to 30. I'll stop then because it is a nice round number and my enthusiasm is definitely waning. I need to be knitting something else for a while to make a change. Although it is very useful to have a pattern that is so straightforward that I can do it while watching a film or a whodunit on the tv on a winter evening.
The friend that I pass these jumpers on to, was given a sourdough starter just before Christmas. She put in at the back of the fridge and forgot about it as time went on. So she brought it up to me to see if I wanted to have a go with it. She thought it was probably done for but wondered if my magic touch might resurrect it. I let it come to room temperature and fed it a couple of times and it started bubbling away merrily. I've made my first loaf with it this week and given my friend back a good jarful of the starter. The bread is lovely and I had a slice of it toasted for breakfast this morning spread with some homemade marmalade. Yum! I was surprised at how well it rose.
I've experimented with sourdough before but not with a starter like this. Before, I did it the way that Shirley Goode talked about in the early days of her blog. She made a loaf in the ordinary way, with yeast, but kept back a piece of the kneaded dough about the size of a small apple. This is put into a bowl and just covered with water and left (covered with a teatowel) on the kitchen side. After 3 or 4 days, the lump of dough collapses down into the water. Stirred up well, this is used as the liquid to make a loaf with a bit extra water to make it up to the right quantity if needed. You keep a piece of dough back to prepare the starter/liquid for the next loaf and so it goes on. Obviously, yeast is used for the first loaf, but there is not much of the original commercial yeast present in the next loaf and even less in the next etc. I found this way of starting the bread to be very straightforward but our house is very cold and in the winter half of the year, it was taking forever for the wild yeast to work.
The bread takes a long time to prove when made by either of these methods but that means that you don't have to be around all the time but can go out and leave it. It is very tolerant as regards time and this is another point in sourdough's favour. Normal yeast bread doesn't like to be left to prove overlong. It can even be left to rise overnight in the fridge. Anyway, I'm pleased with my bread and my friend is pleased to have a fresh starter although we are both amazed that the starter hadn't been killed off by neglect. On the frugal side, each loaf only costs the price of the flour (bread flour in Aldi is 65p for white or wholemeal) and a bit of salt and sugar (and oil if liked) and oven time as the yeast is now free because of the starter. That is several pence off the cost of each loaf for a while. Every little helps. My next thing will be to make two loaves at a time and freeze one so that will halve the cost of the gas. The freezer is going to be in use anyway so the cost of the electricity doesn't really count.
There are a lot of articles available on the internet about sourdough and some of them are rather fancy. I like plain and straightforward methods of doing things and this is a link to one of my favourite articles about sourdough. It is American and the chap obviously lives in a warmer climate than is found in our house : ) He also has a useful FAQ section.
Mentioning gas reminds me that I sent in our meter readings and had the bills back this week for gas and electricity. Apparently our use of gas has almost exactly doubled in Jan-April as compared with the same period last year. I am puzzled by this as I just can't thing of anything that we were doing which would account for this. One of life's little mysteries albeit an expensive one.
Labels: baking, knitting