Rising Dough and Raising Skills: Sourdough Breadmaking

(If you are here just for the recipe, it’s at the bottom!)

My cousin, Sherri, and I have both spent the last few months in a breadmaking extravaganza. Primarily, we have both been making sourdough breads. My family has wondered why I am making so much bread, and friends online have questioned whether my family can really eat this much bread (the answer is probably, but I’ve also been sharing with others).

But, making beautiful and excellent sourdough bread is a process. It requires patience – with the starter and with the loaves – and also practice. It’s hard to be a good sourdough baker from the start, because you have to learn the skills, but you also have to learn how the ingredients work in your unique environment. A warmer house will require a shorter proof, while a colder house will call for a longer one. More humidity in the air may mean that you have to cut back on the water in the recipe, but dry air may necessitate a little extra.

Sherri’s beautiful garlic loaf!
Look at the gorgeous ear that Sherri got on this loaf!
A pair of lovely loaves from Sherri’s kitchen

Not only have we worked on our baking skills and patience, but it has been a wonderful way to reconnect with one another. Almost every day, one (or both) of us are baking and sending images to the other. We talk about the trials and tribulations and plot our next bake. It’s been really sweet to develop our little bread partnership.

For someone who considers herself as a true lifelong learner, sourdough bread has presented an enjoyable opportunity to grow a skill, learn more about the science of bread and yeast, and study the different techniques used by the diverse array of bakers who present their recipes and processes online.

And, there is something about baking bread for others that feels like a very special kind of nurturing of body and spirit!

Ultimate Sourdough Recipe from Joshua Weissman

804g bread flour
75g whole wheat flour
740g water at 90*f
175g levain (35g starter, 35g whole wheat flour, 35g all purpose flour, 70g water)
18g non-iodized sea salt

  • Make your levain and allow it to double.
  • When you think that it is near the top of the rise, begin your autolyse by combining the flour and 660g of water. Allow to sit for 90 minutes.
  • Add the levain and a splash of water and mix, then slap and fold (or Rubaud knead) for 3-5 min. Allow to rest for 25 minutes.
  • Add salt and the remainder of water if the dough looks like it can handle it, then slap and fold (or Rubaud) 3 minute. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold, then rest for 15 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold, then rest for 30 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold, then rest for 30 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold, then rest for about 2 hours, watching for the dough to have rising at least 30%, be sort of marshmallowy on top, and show clear signs of fermentation.
  • Divide into 2 equal pieces and preshape. Bench rest for 30 minutes.
  • Final shape and place into floured bannetons or cloth-lined bowls.
  • Proof in the fridge for 12-16 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 500* for 1 hour. If baking in cast iron or on a pizza steel or stone, preheat that with the oven.
  • Remove loaf 1 from fridge, score and place in your baking receptacle with the lid on. Allow to bake 20 minutes, then remove lid.
  • Reduce temp to 450* and bake an additional 30-40 minutes.
  • Cool for at least 90 minutes before cutting.

Everywhere and Nowhere at All


About a decade and a half ago, there was a collective “woohoo” about how computers were going to revolutionize work life, particularly for mothers, because they would allow women to work from home, while still maintaining their family obligations. Everyone was very excited about the flexibility this offered and how it would help women attain greater work success without feeling that they were mothering poorly. And then, after some time, the research on this started being published and it didn’t seem to correlate with the hoped for idea. What most studies suggested was that women were not more happy and fulfilled, but less happy and fulfilled, and that they believed both their work and their family lives were suffering.

Why would that be the case? It seems that it was/is because, when they were tele- cyber-commuting, women felt that they were never really  home and never really at work. Home tasks and conversations were interrupted by work obligations. Work tasks and obligations were interrupted by home chores and interactions. The attempt to multi-task resulted in a sense that no task was being completed satisfactorily.

We know this in some sense. I think we have all had the experience of thinking we could read an article while watching TV and realizing after a while that we didn’t know what was happening on the show or in the article. Or, we’ve tried to make the pancakes and finish those emails and ended up with burnt pancakes and half-done correspondence. Tell me this isn’t just me.

We think we can save time by doing multiple things at one time, but it really just ends up using  up extra time and creating frustration, and it prevents us from being truly mindful about any of the things we are doing.

One of the advantages of yoga is that it helps encourage focus. It’s very hard to think about what to make for dinner when you are busy trying to figure out how to put your left foot into your hip crease and balance on your hands. It’s not a benefit I thought I would get from yoga, but it has turned out to be one of the most important things I have received.

Now, I don’t want to overstate this. I can’t lie. At this moment there are six tabs open on my browser. So, I still can get pulled into multi-tasking very easily. But, I would say that I’m at least more aware of that happening, and I don’t fool myself into thinking that I am getting or giving the very best.


Go Back to Class!

A joke for only the coolest Internet dorks.

As my Facebook friends know, I have a learning thing. I love to learn new things.

In the past six months, I’ve taught myself to knit, learned to use Photoshop, completed a set of classes on digital photography (doing more of that now), started really learning about vegetable gardening, and toyed with the idea of starting reiki classes in the fall.

This spring, another person sought my advice about adopting a vegetarian diet, meal planning, and nutrition. And it occurred to me that I could better serve the people who come to me with such questions, and even work that into my future plans for The VeganAsana, if I completed some real training in nutrition.

My good spouse, who has tremendous patience with my desire to learn and learn again, gave me a “gift certificate” for Mother’s Day to start my classes toward certification as a health and nutrition consultant. Sweet!

So, now I’m back in class, studying calories (4 per gram of carbs or protein and 9 per gram of fat, by the way), macro and micro nutrients, FDA labeling laws, and the like. Most of it is a refresher for me, as I’ve been studying nutrition for a long time on my own, but it’s great to have this organized curriculum, and I’m learning tidbits here and there that are news to me.

I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about nutrition on this blog in the coming months, so stay tuned (ominous or inviting, you be the judge).  And now, back to my books!