This weekend I’m babysitting some soon-to-be sourdough starter (at least, I hope it’ll work out). In school we are studying Europe, and my science tie-in is bread, which seems to have gotten its start in Egypt and entered Europe via ancient Greece. Fascinating, right? I think so too. Anyway, there’s a lot of chemistry when it comes to bread – on Thursday we looked at the different effects on dough of yeast, baking powder and baking soda. We investigated what each rising agent needed to create bubbles in the dough/batter. And, of course, we played with flour and water to make a dough so kids could see how the gluten develops as you knead it. Next week we will actually bake breads from different European countries (like, focaccia from Italy, etc.)
For me, the most exciting part was also the simplest part. After explaining how yeast lives and dies in our dough, I mixed some flour and water and put it in a tupperware container. If it all works out, the "wild yeast" living in the air and flour will create a sourdough starter we can use to make one of our loaves. This is meant to show the kids that back in the day people didn’t have packages of yeast and still managed to bake bread. Also, there’s a magical component to making something out of what appears to be thin air. I took home the starter for the weekend, as it needs daily care and feeding. Unfortunately, we don’t have the optimum conditions for its growth. All my sources tell me to keep it in a warm place, and my house is pretty darn cold at the moment. During the day today I kept it out in the car, where the sun helped incubate it. At the moment, it’s sitting on a pan of water warmed on the stove. But by midnight the temperature will fall below freezing outdoors, and below 60F indoors (we haven’t turned on the furnace yet, but we’re getting mighty close to doing it!), and I think our little starter will slooooow down!
When you have a blog, the hope is to share one’s exciting life with the world, or at least with your loved ones. I have no such exciting life, but hoped to have an exciting day today when I went to the sneak peek / open house for the new "Willy West" – the Middleton location of the Willy Street Food Coop. I even brought my camera! Unfortunately, the space was still empty (although there were refrigerator and freezer cases hanging around), there were a few tables of samples but not much I’d eat (bread, meat, cheese, dairy-chocolate, yogurt, cookies). (I ate the bread, and sampled some mustards from the National Mustard Museum, two blocks away – formerly the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum – traitors!) So I came home and took a three mile walk in the last of the sunny day. We’ve had a stretch of what used to be termed "Indian Summer," and who knows what it’s called now? But I’ll take it – temperatures are steadily dropping daily, but still nice enough during the days. I’d include some photos but am not on the right computer.