Tag Archives: bread

Sourdough Simplified!

Sourdough Bread with Kalamata Olives and Italian Seasoning

Back when the pandemic started and people were talking about sourdough, I decided to give it a go. How hard could it be? Kajsa and I did a sourdough course a few years ago and it seemed quite doable.

I read up on it and got my starter going. I followed the instructions from King Arthur Flour to the letter and was really bothered by the waste in throwing our half of the starter every day, feeding it, then doing the same thing and wasting so much again the next day for a full week. Once the starter was ready and I’d played with the method, I came up with a simplified strategy with NO WASTE!

Sourdough Starter

In order to “wake” up your starter after bringing it to room temperature out of the fridge, increase the volume of the starter, or to replace what you’ve used, the formula is simple: 2 parts flour to 1 part lukewarm water. A trick that I use is that I mix it separately (it will be very thick and hard to incorporate all the flour) and then add it to whatever starter you have. Leave it out at room temperature until it is bubbling and vibrant again, then cover it and put it back in the fridge until you’re ready for it again. I just added flour and water to my starter which had been in the fridge for over three weeks, untouched, and it came back to life right away. No need to throw out “discard” as the experts tell you to keep the starter alive.

Sourdough Bread

The basic recipe, which makes a beautiful large Dutch oven (mine is an antique No. 8 cast iron) round loaf is as follows:

In a large mixing bowl, add 5 cups flour (you can use half whole wheat or other flour if you wish) and one heaping tbsp. of salt (I prefer sea salt, but kosher salt can be used as well).

Here’s where it gets creative. At this point, you can add flavorings and added ingredients like:

-Cheddar cheese with or without pickled jalapeños

-Cinnamon and raisins

-Walnut and cranberry

-Roasted garlic cloves with Italian seasoning

-Chopped olives (Kalamatas are great for this but any olive is fine) with or without any type of cubed cheese and/or Italian or Greek spices

-Sunflower or pepita seeds

The sky’s the limit – have fun.

Plain Sourdough Bread

Add the extra ingredients to the flour and salt and mix well. In a 2-cup measuring cup or equivalent, measure 1 ½ cups of the starter. Add lukewarm water to the 2-cup measure and stir to mix well. Add this to your flour mixture. The dough will be very dry yet but add approximately 1 additional cup of warm water (add in small increments and combine until you have a loaf that holds together – you’ll have to use your hand to mix at some point). Get all the flour and dough from the sides and bottom of the bowl, form a perfect round loaf shape and let rise, covered with a lid, plastic wrap or, better yet, a shower cap (thanks, Denise!) for 2 to 3 hours or until the loaf has risen to 1 ½ times its original size.

After the first rise, fold the loaf over itself several times so that all the loaf has been “punched down”. Form another perfect loaf, cover and let rise for another 2 to 3 hours or until the loaf has risen to 1 ½ times its original size.

After the second rise, repeat the fold procedure, cover and put in the refrigerator to “proof” overnight. Instead of leaving it in the mixing bowl, I now put it in the cast iron pot I will be cooking it in which has been lined with parchment paper. Cover and it’s ready to take out, warm up and bake the next day without having to handle the dough again.

The next day, take your bread out of the refrigerator and let it warm up and rise again which will take 2 to 3 hours. When the loaf has risen and you’re ready to bake (you’ve got the loaf in the Dutch oven lined with parchment paper), preheat over to 450F. I like to brush olive oil on top and, if it’s a savory loaf, I sprinkle with “Everything But The Bagel” seasoning or sesame seeds. For raisin bread I sprinkle cinnamon, etc. Again, use your imagination!

Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Bread

Bake the covered loaf for ~40 minutes, then remove the lid and let it brown for another 13 to 15 minutes. Voila!

We learned that you absolutely have to cut two opposing crusts off to fit it in a large Zip-Lock bag, so the best time to do that is when the bread comes out fresh from the oven and slathered with butter or dipped in great olive oil!

Another trick we’ve learned is to cover the bread in the Dutch oven overnight and slice it in the morning. The crust is really difficult to cut when fresh and the moisture in the pot overnight makes it a breeze to cut the next day. We put half in the fridge and the other half in the freezer and take it out as needed. Cut the loaf in half, put the cut half on the cutting board, then slice with a bread knife into whatever thickness of slice you like.

I tried making a half-batch of whole wheat at Mom’s when I first got there and baked it in a loaf pan for a reduced amount of time. It turned out just fine.

Sourdough Ideas

A fabulous website for recipes and ideas is www.kingarthurbaking.com and some of the things we’ve tried and really enjoyed are Classic Sourdough Pancakes and Waffles, Sourdough Pizza Crust, Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Bread, Sourdough Crumpets, Sourdough English Muffins, Sourdough Focaccia, Sourdough Hamburger Buns, High-Fiber Sourdough Waffles, and Sourdough Crackers.

Sourdough Hamburger Buns

Contact Information

Feel free to contact me (760.880.0067 or [email protected]) if you have any questions. I hope you have as much fun baking bread for yourselves and others as I have and that you’ll share your starter with others as well. This method is SO much easier than others I’ve read about – I hope you enjoy the shortcuts!

Touring The Washington State Wine Region – Day Two

Touring The Washington State Wine Region – Day Two

We headed to downtown Walla Walla mid-day, parked the car and started to wander and explore more of the town. As we had read that K Vintners of the Walla Walla Valley had produced, according to Wine Spectator, the #31 wine in 2015, their 2012 wine called “The Creator”, we were curious and wanted to do a tasting at Charles Smith Wines/K Vintners. Ron and I shared a tasting of six red wines, starting from lighter to more complex. A couple of the wines were fine, but none of the six impressed either of us enough to make a purchase.

A few of the more than 15 plus mass-produced wines from K Vintners/Charles Smith Wines

A few of the more than 15 plus mass-produced wines from K Vintners/Charles Smith Wines

After our tasting, we went looking for a hot bowl of soup on a very cold afternoon.  Our new friend, Terry, recommended the Walla Walla Bread Company right across the street from him at the Fort Walla Walla Cellars Tasting Room. We sat up at the bar to warm up as it was directly in front of their very impressive wood-fired oven. We ordered one of each of their soups of the day: Smoked Turkey Lentil and Broccoli Cheddar. Both soups were delicious but the Smoked Turkey Lentil soup was the winner – full of flavor and goodness.

Some of the artistanal breads made at the Walla Walla Bread Company (photo courtesy of http://www.w2breadco.com/#home)

Some of the artistanal breads made at the Walla Walla Bread Company (photo courtesy of http://www.w2breadco.com/#home)

We ordered a glass of Balboa Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon which our server, Ashlee, highly recommended. We then shared a Pork Torta (pork shoulder, purple pickled cabbage, salsa verde, feta and avocado, served in a delicious torta) that was served with two sides: JoJo’s (wood-fire oven roasted potatoes with garlic, paprika and thyme) and Panzanella (Italian bread salad).

Our meal was excellent as was the wine and Ashlee’s service. One of the other servers was just finished work and generously offered her recommendations on our choices as well. We especially enjoyed watching Raymond prepare the food to be cooked in the wood-fired oven and then plating the lunch dishes as they were ready to be served. The breads in this restaurant/bakery looked AMAZING and we will definitely be back when we’re next in the area.

Taking a short break!

Taking a short break!

It was Halloween and it is a BIG event in Walla Walla. Main Street is closed off to all vehicular traffic for almost 3 hours and the store owners and businesses pass out candy to a never-ending parade of trick-or-treaters, both young and old.

The never-ending line of trick-or-treaters

The never-ending line of trick-or-treaters

We had learned about this special Halloween tradition from our new friends, Terry, Pat and Shelley at the Fort Walla Walla Cellars Tasting Room the day before, and they invited us by to check it out.

The Cookie Monster!

What a great idea to keep the kids off the streets and safe and a wonderful opportunity for the store and business owners to do something really nice for the children and the community.

Pat dishing out candy to the masses!

Pat dishing out candy to the masses!

Fort Walla Walla Cellars went through thousands of pieces of candy. Pat’s arm was getting tired, so I jumped in to help him for a short while until Shelley and her granddaughter arrived to take over. It was such a lot of fun!

The cutest baby elephant!

The cutest baby elephant!

Terry and Pat then generously invited Ron and I to join them for the Industry Night at the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel. Monday nights are Industry Nights at this beautiful hotel and it is a tradition for people in the wine industry to bring a bottle or two to taste and share with others. Terry brought three fabulous bottles for us to taste (from Fort Walla Walla Cellars and Watermill Winery) and, what was left over, he left for the staff to taste and enjoy.

The historic Marcus Whitman Hotel in the background on the right

The historic Marcus Whitman Hotel on the right in the background

The four of us shared Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms and Calamari with our wine tasting – both appetizers were delicious but the wine was absolutely amazing. We felt so honored to be included in the evening and to sample these beautiful wines. We all ordered a Burger and the four of us finished by sharing an Apple Cobbler.

Our last night in Walla Walla was so special and we look forward to coming back to this area one day. The wines and food in the area are truly fabulous, but we are most grateful for the new friendships we’ve formed and the memories we’ve made on this trip. We’ve learned in our travels that it’s not so much about where you go and what you do, but rather the people you meet on the journey.

Some great and creativec costumes!

Some great and creative costumes – a Halloween to remember!





On The Road To San Diego

We shared a lovely dinner and stayed overnight with David and his gorgeous girlfriend, Jake, at his newly and beautifully renovated home in Santa Barbara on our way south. When we got back to David’s after a delicious dinner downtown, we found a note on our car that had been left by one of his elderly neighbors to apologize for hitting and damaging the front end of our car which we had left parked on the street. Ironically, we had just had body work done on the BMW convertible in New York and the car was in perfect condition when we started our road trip. We were leaving early the next morning for San Diego, so Ron had to get a repair estimate as quickly as he possibly could before we left the area.

David and Jake

David and Jake

We had picked up a new used car (a 2002 Lincoln LS sedan) in Santa Clara to drive down to ensure that my Mom would be as comfortable as possible as she’d been having recent back issues and we knew there was no way for the three of us and all our “stuff” to comfortably fit and travel in our little BMW. The Lincoln needed a new air conditioning compressor, which our friend, Stretch, had ordered and it was to be waiting for us to pick up in San Diego.


Ron and I fired up our walkie talkies and got our damaged little caravan on the road to San Diego as soon as he was able to get a repair estimate in Santa Barbara. I was really anxious to ensure we got to the airport on time as my amazing little 83 year-old Mom was making her first solo trip – flying from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to meet us in San Diego to drive the Baja to Cabo San Lucas.

Mom Matthie

Mom Matthie

We got to the airport a little late and I was panicked. Ron found parking first and went in to find her at the luggage carousel while I found my way back to the airport and eventually secured parking. Ron found her there, as calm as could be, after having made friends with the airline escort who took her by wheelchair to the carousel area and, of course, several other people. Whew!

Ron needed to pick up the part for the Lincoln, so we took Mom to a nearby park and had an impromptu picnic (with the delicious sandwiches and food that we had prepared at Ron’s Mom’s home) and Mom and I had a chance to catch up while Ron was gone. We found a well-kept and clean motel for us, the Best Western Seven Seas (http://www.bw7seas.com), that had adjoining rooms for peace of mind. We had originally planned on crossing the border that day, but Mom seemed a bit tired, so we thought it best to let her get a good rest and we’d go into Mexico the following day.

Mom wasn’t terribly hungry that night, so we got her some soup and brought it back to her room for her. Ron and I headed to Old Town in search of Italian food as both of us had been craving it for some time. We wandered around to check out the sights and settled on Jack & Giulio’s Italian Restaurant (www.jackandgiulios.com) for dinner. The meal (we split Angel Hair Mediterraneo and Scampi Alla Giulio) and the bottle of 2009 Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico were great, but the absolute stand out of the meal was the basil orange vinaigrette they used on the salad we started with: an Insalati Cuere di Palma with hearts of palm, greens, tomato, and avocado. We almost licked the plate it was so good (Ron actually ordered more bread to sop up every drop of the dressing). Here is the closest re-creation of that dressing that I have been able to come up with so far:

Basil Orange Pesto Vinaigrette

½ cup fresh basil
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ cup olive oil

Add first 7 ingredients to your blender and pulse to chop and blend. Gradually pour in olive oil from the small opening at the top of the blender lid until mixture is completely blended. Chill 2 hours in the refrigerator and serve over greens or use as a dipping sauce for seared scallops or grilled shrimp.

We were really sorry that Mom hadn’t joined us for such a great meal, but she needed her rest after her first solo trip ever and all the excitement of the day. We shared many more great meals with her in the month she spent with us, however, and made some wonderful memories with her.

Mother Mary

Our next stop was to stop to visit Ron’s amazing mother who lives in northern California. At ninety-three years of age (and very soon to be ninety-four at the time of this writing), she is an absolute inspiration! She still lives in the family home of over sixty years, drives extremely well (by anyone’s standards!) and takes great care of herself, her younger siblings and her friend and neighbor, also a Mary, who lives across the street.

Although her back is giving Mary some pain and trouble now and she uses a cane for stability if walking far, she is in amazingly good health. She attributes it to fueling her body all these years with great food, of which I’ll talk more about shortly. Her mind is razor sharp and she has a better memory than both Ron and I combined. Her skin is beautiful and she looks twenty years younger than her actual age.


Mary drives a great distance to do her shopping at many different stores as she knows which markets carry the best lamb stew meat (which is a different butcher than the one who carries the best leg of lamb, by the way!) and which carry the best organic product (this is all that she buys and uses and is, assuredly, what has kept her and the people she loves in such good health). Her preparation of the food she buys and cooks is representative of the care she takes in all things – “anything worth doing is worth doing right”.

Mary is Portuguesa with both her parents emigrating to the Silicon Valley area (when it was all still farming, orchards and dairy operations) before their children were born from the Azores, a group of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and is located about 1,360 km west of Portugal, 1,510 km northwest of Morocco, and about 1,925 km southeast of Newfoundland. Ron and I visited the Azores and the west coast of Portugal two years ago and were very taken with the beauty, tradition and majesty of this part of the world.

Mary is a FABULOUS cook: the food she selects and prepares is her way of expressing love and you can taste the care she takes in every bite. Her food is simple, with very little spice, but her use of the very best ingredients and her preparation makes each meal memorable. Some of the dishes that we have savored and enjoyed in her home are French toast (made with Trader Joe’s cracked wheat sour dough bread and cooked in olive oil – delicious!), rack of lamb, lamb stew, what Mary calls “boiled dinner” (corned beef with boiled onions, potatoes, carrots and cabbage), kale soup, chicken soup, vegetable soup, Portuguese omelet (made with onions, potatoes and parsley) and so many more! I’m starting to take notes and write down her recipes because one day she won’t be here any longer and it would be a tragedy to lose her recipes and reminders of such a great lady. Here’s Mary’s recipe for her famous and delicious roast beef:

Start with a center chuck roast and ensure that there is lots of fat on it for tenderness. Cut slits into the meat and insert chunks of halved garlic cloves. Heat olive oil in an electric fry pan and sear all surfaces of the meat.

Remove roast from pan and deglaze with burgundy wine. Add 6 whole allspice cloves, two smashed cloves of garlic and two bay leaves, add roast and cover with sliced onion (use two onions and let some of the onion cook in the gravy). Cook at a low, steady simmer (~275 to 300F) for 1 ½ hours. Turn the roast, add more burgundy as required and continue cooking. Keep covered to keep all of the moisture in the pan and to add additional moisture to the gravy.

Remove roast, bay leaves, smashed garlic and allspice cloves. Add a tsp. or two of ketchup (only add more to taste) to cut the acid and thicken with arrowroot (buy at a health food store).

Serve with mashed potatoes, green peas or French style green beans and boiled carrots. Simple, but absolutely delicious!

Mary is very particular about how things are done and there is an absolute right way (hers!) and many wrong ways to do things. I had to laugh when I went to cut potatoes when Mary was once on the phone, only to realize that I had done it incorrectly (by Mary’s standard!). It’s that strength that has kept her so healthy and strong all these years – I can only hope to be enjoying life as she is in forty more years myself!

We stop to see Mary to and from New York and try to spend as much precious time with her as possible. Ron is her first-born child of six and she so loves to spoil him and he so loves to be spoiled by her. I’m just grateful to spend as much time with her as possible. We love her very much.

“Fire” Extinguishers

Hot food is usually served in small quantities with foods that cool the palate. If you’re new to hot foods and hot sauces, start slowly.  Always start with a small amount and add more to taste as desired.  Your tolerance for heat will increase the more often you indulge in fiery foods!

Because capsaicin, the chemical that created the heat in chiles and peppers, is an oil based substance, the worst thing you can do is to drink water or beer when your mouth is on fire.  They just spread the pain even more!  Instead, try some bread, rice, beans, yogurt, sour cream, milk or cheese as they will help absorb the oil and take away the burn.