Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rip It and some more

I had a wonderful idea for a new sock pattern.  At least in my mind, it was a wonderful idea.  In reality, I've ripped it out at least four times and re-charted it at least a dozen times.  Well, that maybe a wee lie about the charting.  I re-charted it at least six or seven times on paper, trying different stitch counts.  I've also lay awake at night charting it in my head.  At one time, I totally gave up and told myself to try a different design.  At least, I was able to go sleep after that!

The next morning, however, I decided to try the original idea one more try.  I sat down with a blank sheet of graph paper and charted it one more time.  All of a sudden, I saw the mistake I'd made in my first chart.  It was so obvious; yet, I hadn't seen it before.  Corrected the mistake and the chart looks right.  I started knitting and it looks right--like it looked in my head when I first envisioned it.  If it works, I'll post a picture soon.  The yarn is especially yummy--Pigeonroof Studios Siren 2 sock in a one of a kind color called Pomegranate and deserves an equally yummy design.

In an effort to reach more knitters, I've set up an Etsy shop.  Right now, you can purchase copies of Indigo Waves, Slipstream and the Basic Shaped Arch Socks pattern there.  I will be adding more patterns soon.  I also hope to use this shop to sell items such as felt and silk scarves.  Stay tuned!

In other news, I've been training for a cycling event which takes place on March 31.  It's an all women's ride called the Cinderella Classic and Challenge.  Last year, I rode the Classic, which is 65 miles.  I am aiming to ride the Challenge at 95 miles this year.  Most events like this are dominated by men so it is really quite a sight to see over 2,000 women riding together--well, kind of together since the large group breaks into smaller groups riding at different paces.  I'm feeling really great about my chances of having a good ride.  I'm hoping for good, meaning no rain, weather that day!

Friday, March 02, 2012


It's crazy that I want to bake bread.  After all, I live in an area rich with incredibly great bread.  Yet, I want to bake bread.  And, not just any bread.  Sourdough. 

Years ago when my daughter was very young, I baked bread every weekend.  And every weekend I baked sourdough bread.  You see, I have this starter that my mother has had since I was a kid.  It was given to her by this old man in Placerville in the mid-1960s.  As he told my mother, it was already a really old starter.  I was about 8 years old at the time and believed that meant it was starter from a 49er, as in Gold Rush, as in 1849.  My mom made bread with that starter sometimes.  Sometimes she made sourdough chocolate cake.  The best things she made with that starter was biscuits.  I, however, cannot make sourdough biscuits.  Mine are like hockey pucks.  Smell wonderful, total inedible.  The dog seems to like them though.

So earlier this week, I hauled out the starter that lives in my fridge.  It was nasty looking. Gray water with heavy sludge in the bottom of the jar.  Opening the jar emitted a powerful whiff of alcohol.  No wonder it's claimed somewhere that the 49ers drank the watery stuff when better alcoholic beverages were in short supply.  The smell like to knock me over and I wondered if I'd neglected my ancient starter too long.

I was determined to bring it back to life.  I left the jar out on the counter overnight so the poor starter could get warm.  Or at least warmer than it is in the fridge.  Although, I was certain at the time that my kitchen was just as cold as the fridge since we were having a rare cold snap in the Bay Area.  The next day I dumped it in a bowl gave it a wee amount of water and flour to start it's feeding.  Yes, you feed a sourdough starter.  It's kind of like having a baby that needs to eat every few hours.  Then I fed it again and then one more time that day.  It had some life!

The next day I fed it two more times and left it overnight.  The next morning it was lively.  It had small bubbles that are characteristic of sourdough starter.  It had a lovely smell.  It poured from a ladle like silk.  It was beautiful.

The time had come to make bread.  I decided on mixing half white and half whole wheat flours since my boyfriend is partial to wheat bread.  Using all whole wheat flour produces a loaf which is heavy and dense and has a texture that I can't abide.  The actual physical effort involved in making bread is pretty slim.  You spend a whole lot of time waiting for the yeast to do it's thing, which is quite magical when you really think about.  The yeast give the bread its lightness and flavor.  You spend a couple of days waiting for sourdough yeast to do its magic.  It ferments in a bowl after mixing and kneading.  You punch it down and let it ferment again.  This takes four to six hours depending on the temperature.  You then take it out of the bowl and slap it on your board.  (At this point, I kneaded in some olives into half the dough.)  Then it's roughly shaped and allowed to rest.  After its nap, you shape it into its desired shape. 

I use willow baskets that are made for proofing bread, so I put the loaves in there.  They proof at room temperature for about an hour and then go into the fridge overnight to retard.  Retarding slows down the yeast and allows for more flavor to develop. 

This morning I pulled the dough out of the fridge and let it come to about room temperature while still in their baskets.  After that, the loaves were removed from their baskets, docked, and placed in a very hot oven on a baking stone.  I didn't get the docking quite right and ended up with a heavy lip of crust on the slash.

Anyway, I made bread.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

In honor of winter finally arriving

Winter has finally arrived in Northern California and in honor of it's late arrival, all patterns in my shop are 20% off through March.