Baking Amish Friendship sourdough bread

Chatting to ski instructors in the staff room is great when you want to learn tips on skiing or snowboarding. It’s even better though, when they offer some of their homemade, sourdough bread for you to try.

About a month ago, Geri told me how she makes all her own bread rolls and loaves and baked goodies from a sourdough starter, rather than commercial yeast. Aside from it’s general deliciousness and gourmetness (that should be a word), I’ve always been interested in sourdough bread for its digestive benefits as well. It has a lower GI (glycaemic index), which means our bodies digest the sugar more slowly and, as a result, are less susceptible to sugar spikes and lows. The gluten is said to be more easily digested in sourdough bread, and more accessible to people with irritable bowel syndrome (read more about the benefits here: http://greatist.com/eat/best-healthy-bread).

I worked at an organic, sourdough bakery for a year in Brisbane, Australia, and fell in love with the stuff. Strangely though, I had never really thought that I would be able to make it myself! Enthused, I asked Geri all about it. In no time at all, she offered to give me a sample of her starter and some instructions. Yes, yes, yes!

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The sourdough baker’s starter pack (literally)

The very next day, Geri had her husband deliver a sourdough starter “care package” to my desk at work, containing a jar with starter, a photocopied leaflet including instructions on cultivating my own starter and several yummy-sounding recipes, and even two loaf pans to get me going.

I quickly realised though that this isn’t the sort of thing you can do in one day. Making sourdough bread from the starter is a time consuming process (which I will argue without hesitation is totally worth it). From when you receive starter from your friend, you’ll need to be patient for 10 days of bag-mashing, feeding the yeast, and waiting for it to ferment. It will smell bad – kinda like beer – but to me, it smelled wonderful. It smelled like empowerment. Empowered fermentation. (Maybe I’m taking this too far…)

I stuck to the instructions. Finally, on day 11, I added the last lot of flour, sugar, and milk, separated my mix into 4 (3 more to grow or give away!) and with one quarter, I prepared for my first batch of bread. Following one of the bread recipes, I made the dough, and kneaded away.Once the dough was created, another 12 hours to rise somewhere warm. Add a dash more patience.

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It rose! More kneading needed. And then another 6 hours to rise in the loaf tins.

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Now, I offer you an example of real life – things don’t always go to plan, and certainly not the first time you do them. The bread was cooking, the bread was rising, and suddenly it was done so I turned the oven “off” and left the door open to cool down the bread slowly. I went to play cards for a while with my housemates, trying not to let my eagerness to scoff down warm bread show on my poker face. Some amount of yelling later from another housemate in the kitchen, I found out the oven I had actually turned the oven up to inferno-style temperatures rather than off, aaaaaand my beloved bread was burned to a crisp.

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If there was ever a time appropriate for that shocked-face emoji, it’s now.

Yup.

I was able to tear off and discard the burned tops though, and salvage some amount of yummy bread for tasties. Not too bad actually! I found it a little sweet, though and made a mental note include less sugar next time.

After cultivating my yeast starters again, I had another go. I added some hemp seeds for texture, and added less sugar. This time, I actually had some success!

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#notburnt

Sliced up, it actually looked pretty good! Now it’s not the sourdough bread I’m used to, from my favourite artisan bakery at home, but I think with time and some tweaks I could definitely get used to this impromptu home-bakery.

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So yes, hiccups aside, baking sourdough bread at home is not as hard is you would think! There is a process, but the reward is so worth it. Moreover, the self-efficacy gained from achieving a new domestic goal tasted just as good as the bread itself. 10/10 would recommend.

Colour-burst porcelain jars

A few months back, I started experimenting with ice-white porcelain stoneware. I found this clay super frustrating to work with at first. Compared to regular “porcelain” and white clays, this bad boy is almost completely unforgiving. If you push him too far, he won’t do what you want again no matter how much you cry. But I was determined to break him!

I started with a few bowls, and plenty of failures. Most collapsed on the wheel. Those that made it were too thick for my liking, or too thin for my clumsy hands to handle, and ended up breaking in the leather-hard stage.

Enter these cute pots. Success at last!

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Ice-white pots after bisque-fire. The lids are pinky because they’ve just been sanded under running water.

The ice-white stoneware is delicious because it offers the most pure white finish I’d seen before in “amateur” pottery. Knowing how white it would go, I felt compelled to sand these boys – make them shiny, make the ladies love them. And we sure did.

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Pretty pots, with evidence of their creation on my sandals!

Finished with a clear gloss, and a surprise burst of colour inside. I am in love.

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“Pop!” said the colour.

The yellow pot was a present to my dear cousin on her 18th, but I haven’t been able to let go of the others yet. Sure, you can buy one if you like! But you’ll also be buying a piece of my heart.  (*optional cringe*)

 

 

 

Somewhere to begin: South America

In late 2015, I had the incredibly good fortune to spend 11 weeks backpacking in South America. After two years studying Spanish as an elective at university (chosen at the time because I was told Spanish is the easiest new language to learn), I had stumbled across a thirst for knowing Latin-American culture – a thirst that could only be satisfied by immersing myself in the culture. Upon returning to Australia in February, 2016, I found it very difficult to bring my head back to earth. My mind was trapped in fantasies of sand-boarding giant dunes in Huacachina, Peru, dancing to Reggaeton until 6am in Buenos Aires, and hiking at dizzying heights among snow-capped peaks. Writing about the things I had learned seemed a good coping mechanism, and the following list was soon published on Explore-Nation.com (Thanks to Tony Gatehouse for his support in this publication).

I feel like this is a good place to begin…  Here’s what I learnt:

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1. Things always work out – eventually. When your bus stops in the middle of Guadalajara, Colombia at 11pm in a scarcely-lit neighbourhood dotted with rabid dogs and drunk men, you just hold your head high and pretend you’re not a 20-something year old female, white foreigner with an 18kg backpack feeling vulnerable and exhausted after hiking through a tropical rainforest for most of the day. You just put those semesters of Spanish electives to good use and talk your way out of the situation. Harness that peace you felt tanning on the Caribbean beach earlier that day, put on your big girl shoes and find another damn bus, even if it takes you 3 hours and a couple tears. Things always work out.

2. Carrying a pocket-knife in your handbag might be illegal but it makes you feel more confidant in anxiety-provoking situations (see point 1) and it’s super handy when you want to take advantage of the abundant delish mangoes and avocados that you can’t afford when you’re at home.

3. Some of the things you’ll see are really, really old. Specifically, about 1500 years ago people were making ceramics and at some point after that they decided that erotic pottery should be a thing. Yes, sex pots are a thing that you can go and see (my highlight of Lima), which is super awesome if you like cool ceramics – or sex.

Travel South America | Women walking to markets - Chivay, Peru

Women walking to markets – Chivay, Peru.

4. Everyone is family. I’m from Australia – a beautiful country with beautiful people who unfortunately, are rarely connected to each other. The majority of us are blessed with privilege; we have access to nutritious and sustaining foods, around 95% are consistently employed, and even if we are on minimum wage or technically in poverty we have a roof over our head and plumbing under our feet. On a whole, we have our needs met, but most of us are missing a crucial element which is fundamental to our existence – and most of us don’t even know it. I’m talking about our sense of community. 
Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to connect with locals throughout Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and I quickly learnt that everyone is your brother, sister, aunt or uncle. Yes, you can trust the people around you, and yes you can ask for help. Yes, you can make eye-contact with people and treat them like an end, rather than a means to it. Yes, by being open and genuine, you can attract like-minded people – and the cruncher is that people are like-minded and genuine when treated like family. Having this mindset fosters that sense of community that is so lacking in our beautiful, developed, consumerist society with so much to offer.

5. There is nothing better than a fresh pressed orange juice and choripan when you are hung-over and/or heartbroken in Buenos Aires.

6. Remember to look up at the stars whenever you get a chance. Just look up. When you’re back home and the daily stresses of your consumerist life start to tax your energy and patience (and pockets), take a sec to breathe and just look up. You’ll feel all the better for it. Life be beautiful. It be full of pretty things: plants, colours, people to watch, romantic words, the moon, light, architecture, animals, landscapes, patterns. Take a moment to be all up in that.

7. You don’t need that coffee. Sure, you want it, but in South America you went without it (mostly because their coffee is actually not very good considering it’s where most of the world’s coffee is grown) and you totally didn’t die. You also don’t need that handbag, that addiction to social media, another slice of cake, milk (they seriously don’t even drink it over there), nor that iPad that disappeared mysteriously from your luggage.

8. You might even realise that the few things you really do need, and wanted while you were in some areas of South America (i.e., clean drinking water, nutritious food, comfortable bed, opportunity to educate yourself, financial assistance) are available at home, and you might even become a little more thankful for it.

That said, you don’t need alcohol, but make sure to guzzle an Amazon’s worth if you’re there because you’ll never get it so cheap again. I’m talking $1 for a six-pack man, I ain’t messing around.

Travel South America | Toddler in pink - Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Toddler in pink – Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

9. If you’re gluten-intolerant you’re gonna have a bad time – at like every meal. Seriously, it’s bread or cake for breakfast, crackers at morning tea and afternoon tea, crackers or bread at dinner, and you can be sure that any other meal will be rice or potato so I hope you’re okay with gaining 10+ kg. Also, start liking corn.

10. When you can’t possibly move forward, just take one more step. Your mind and body are capable of achieving amazing things, things greater than you are aware of. Just take one more step.

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The original article can be found here:
http://www.explore-nation.com/travel-south-america-learnt-3-months/