Sticking To The Sourdough


Have you ever seen something on the Internet and thought “Oh, I’m going to try that!”?

I expect it would be something of an occupational hazard for a blogger as he/she flits about other blogs and sees places to travel, food to cook, crafts to make, crazy ideas to try. Even a case of “Oh, I like the way you did that, I’m going to use that in my next post.” would keep one busy.

One of the things that flitted across my screen on a regular basis from more than one blogger last year was sourdough.

It always looked delicious and I kept thinking, “Oh, I want to bake sourdough.” But even a tentative investigation revealed a time commitment for such an activity that was daunting to someone cramming in a year full of stuff.

Then, suddenly, it was the summer holidays, there wasn’t much I could do with slowly recovering broken ribs and there was a post from Elaine at foodbod about her year of sourdough.

“Right. Now is the time.” I thought.

So I set off to make a sourdough starter. Because I will never do things the easy way and just go and buy one.

I used this recipe but without the malt. And I just used tap water not spring water. And I didn’t measure the temperature of the water.


You can already see where this is going, right?

My first loaf attempt looked like a cow pat. Fortunately, having three teenage boys, it still got eaten.

My second loaf attempt looked like an elephant pat. It also got eaten. But it wasn’t ideal.

I felt defeated and wrote this comment on Elaine’s post:

sourdough comment 1

Elaine was disappointed it had not worked out but urged me not to give up.

So I didn’t. It’s not really in my nature to easily let something defeat me anyway. Giving up because I’m bored, yes, but that’s on my terms.

For the next attempt, out of some desperation, I cheated and added a little dried yeast. It gave me a bigger loaf but it wasn’t really sourdough. Pedant Me was unhappy.

With further encouragement and advice from Elaine, I pushed on.

And I started to notice a change in my starter. There were more bubbles.

And then one day, my dough finally rose properly. Unfortunately, I had a busy social day and what I thought was going to be a 25C day turned into a 32C day and it over-proved. The loaf didn’t pop up the top like it should but at least it was the size of a sandwich loaf.

I was getting closer. And by accident, I discovered that leaving my starter out of the fridge and feeding it for two days rather than one gave me what I needed.


Not just bubbly but frothy!

The next loaf was better but smaller than I intended because I got impatient and cooked it before it had risen enough.

And then, here’s what I managed yesterday:

Evolution of a Sourdough Fruit Loaf


I had a piece toasted this morning for breakfast. It was delicious.

Now I’m completely obsessed with making sourdough. (I don’t think I’ll ever go on a No Carbs diet…)

So, thank you, Elaine, for encouraging me not to give up and for all your assistance. I’m sure the boys are equally grateful!


Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Rising. Get it? Bread….. rising…..

Sigh. Gosh, I’m hilarious.

And I can make sourdough.



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Killing Herman

Killing Herman

It has to end. I just can’t care for him any longer. When he first came to us, I was vigilant about feeding him, looking after him, helping him reach his potential. But it’s been a month now and I just don’t think I can do it any more.

I could blame it on my busy life. Already caring for five males (one husband, three sons and a ginger cat), it would be reasonable to say I don’t have room in my life for another.

I could blame the injury. A fall at work last week left me on crutches for a day and my scraped right hand is still giving me gyp. It doesn’t need another task to undertake each day.

But if I were to be truly honest, I would have to admit that it’s most probably because I am bored. He’s had a pretty good life with us, three times longer than we were expected to keep him, but he’s starting to outstay his welcome.

I almost killed him over the weekend. He should have been fed on Friday. I remembered on Monday. He’s hanging in there but it doesn’t seem right to subject him to such neglect.

So it’s time to lay Herman to rest.


Herman – Surviving rather than thriving

Herman is a chain-letter cake. Okay, so technically he’s Herman the German Friendship Cake but when it comes right down to it, he’s really just an edible version of those annoying chain letters that do the rounds. I’m not much of a fan of chain-anythings but in this case, at least we got cake. Multiple cakes, in fact.

The theory, having been given Herman by a ‘friend’ (see aforementioned opinion of chain letters and suchlike), is to look after and grow Herman until he is able to give of himself and to then pass him on to three friends while keeping one portion for yourself to bake into a cake. I thought it was clever to give away two portions, make a cake with one and then keep the last one to start all over again. Herman has been prolific in his sharing. I thought we’d be together longer. Others have lived for 25 years. It’s a romantic idea but impractical in a barely-managing household of teenagers and working parents.

I’m sorry, Herman.

At least you can cater for your own wake.

Herman Cake

Still giving.




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Cheese Pies And Shortbread – A Christmas Tradition

For some it’s Grandma’s traditional plum pudding. For others it’s Dad’s secret roast turkey recipe. Maybe for you it’s Great Aunt Maude’s famous fruitcake.

Christmas food traditions are as much a part of the celebration as the tree and the gifts.

In my family it has always been cheese pies and shortbread.

The shortbread makes sense. Descended from Glaswegians on both sides, the Scottish favourite is a given.


It was always made into petticoat tails when I was growing up but I’m rather partial to a cookie cutter.

But cheese pies? I’ve no idea. They’ve just always appeared at Christmas time. Childhood memories of helping to make them are not only mine but belong also to my nephews and sons.

The Christmas baking bug finally bit last week. The Eldest Son had received his final year results, everyone was happy and relieved and it was finally time to focus on the upcoming festivities.

Blessed with a cool day and with Christmas music blaring, four batches of cheese pies and two lots of shortbread were churned out.

The smell of fresh-baked cheese pies conjured memories of Christmas past, bringing peace in the grief of Christmas present.



EDIT: If you have come looking for the Cheese Pies recipe, I am afraid it has had to be removed for personal reasons. You’ll just have to drool over the photograph.



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The Great Bread-Making Adventure


The Great Bread Making Adventure

This was the great bread-making adventure of the century. Would you believe decade? Well, would you believe year? October?

Yes, okay, so it was the great bread-making adventure of Thursday morning…

I was sent the “Perfect Bread” recipe some time ago by my friend M-R, but I had thus far failed to undertake the task because:

a. It required a 2.5 litre lidded casserole dish that I do not possess.

b. It required an ability to plan in advance that I do not possess.

This, of course, was viewed very dimly by the great Margaret-Rose and through the usual haranguing and audible (all the way from Sydney) frustrated sighing, I found myself on Wednesday afternoon with a bowl and the necessary ingredients, inexplicably mixing up the first ever batch. In double quantity because the only receptacle I had was significantly larger than the required measurement.

And thus began the process of “baking by email” as I sent off panicked emails.

“Is it supposed to be lumpy???”


Does this look lumpy to you?

Apparently not. But then, just as I was launching into my first nervous breakdown, I received the news that M-R was undertaking the bread-making herself to try and understand what on earth I was talking about. It turned out that these were not ‘lumps’. I’m still mystified as to what they were but I was assured all was well. Just put the lid on and leave it. Yes, ma’am.


Put the lid on and walk away for 12 hours. Like I said, Advanced Planning required.

And it did look better in the morning.

Not lumpy, just holey.

Not lumpy, just holey.

But then, in the process of baking, confusion ensued.

“Is it 250 degrees Celsius?” This was not stipulated in the instructions but my question was treated with scorn. Of course it was Celsius – that’s what we use, right?

“Would it be quicker to put the pot in the oven as it’s heating up, do you think?” As opposed to putting it in the heated oven for 25 minutes. I was instructed to get that pot in the oven toot sweet. (I already had, on a hunch.) Of course it should be put in there while the oven heated up. Why would I ask such a question?

It was not my fault. There was a wayward comma in the instructions.

Kids, proper punctuation is important.


Baking Stage 1 completed.

Now, it is worth pointing out that while all this was going on, I was still required to complete the usual tasks related to getting three children to school.

Yeah, I don’t know why I chose to undertake this on a school night/morning either.

Plus, it was the Eldest Son’s last day at school so let’s throw in a costume requirement and a need to be at school early for breakfast, shall we? Well, because I am basically insane.


Baking Stage 2 completed.

Then the phone rang. As a casual relief teacher this is a sound that strikes both joy and annoyance in the heart. I was required at work.

So my poor freshly baked loaf spent the day cooling its heels on the kitchen bench, all alone, while the rest of us were busy with, you know, life and stuff.


The finished product.


Darling, that is not your best angle…

It survived. And forgave us by still being a delicious accompaniment to a hurriedly prepared dish of pumpkin soup. Hurriedly because [points to self] parent of children with after-school activities.


The lumps disappeared and left behind all these holes.


Let me assure you that this will not last long in this house.

Through it all, there was dear M-R on the end of a virtual line, giving me tips, reassuring my nerves and dispelling my doubts. And carrying on her own baking extravaganza in her own tiny kitchen at the same time. Go check out her post about the adventure. It’s undoubtedly funnier and tastier than mine!

And one last thing. Because I am really probably completely insane, I figured since I was undertaking this delayed-gratification baking exercise with the bread, I might as well try out my friend Barbara Pyett’s ginger nuts recipe while I was at it.

Which just meant another bowl of something I couldn’t do anything with in the morning. They had to wait until after dinner. They also survived.


Biscuits made for redheaded boys. Ginger nuts.

And I survived. Perhaps not with my sanity intact but then I’m not sure it wasn’t a bit shredded to begin with.



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Anti-Zombie Brownies (Brainies) – The Recipe

When I posted about inventing Anti-Zombie Brownies (otherwise known as Brainies) in preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse, I failed to include the recipe. That is because I was making it up as I went along and I wasn’t confident a repeat performance would be a success (assuming I could even remember what I did).

It has, since then, been weighing heavily on my mind that my friends will, as a consequence, be inadequately prepared when it comes to dealing with the zombie horde and that any subsequent death or injury would be on my head.

So, here – as best I can remember it – is the recipe for Anti-Zombie Brownies. (Yes, okay, Distract-The-Zombie Brownies then. Pedant.)

I would recommend testing them on a substitute zombie before confronting the real thing. Teenage boys dragged out of bed early in the morning make the best test subjects.

Anti-Zombie Brownies (Brainies)

100g butter, chopped
200g white chocolate, broken into pieces
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour
1 cup frozen raspberries
100g white chocolate, chopped roughly
pink and red food colouring

1. Preheat oven to 170°C or 150°C fan-forced. Grease and line a baking tray approx 18cmx27cmx3cm.

2. Place butter and 200g white chocolate in a large saucepan and stir over low heat until melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

3. In a bowl, combine flours, raspberries and 100g chopped white chocolate.

4. Add 1/2 tsp of pink food colouring to the melted butter and chocolate mixture and stir until evenly coloured.

5. Add eggs and vanilla to chocolate mixture and stir to combine.

6. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and stir to combine.

7. Press mixture into baking tray.

8. Dip a toothpick into red food colouring and run swirly lines in the mixture in a criss-cross pattern (you’ll need to recoat the toothpick several times). Then smooth top with back of spoon.

9. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool in tin.

10. Cut into zombie-suitable sized pieces.

Check out the calcification in that brain.


Disclaimer: I have not been game to re-test this recipe so you undertake the task at your own risk.



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Preparing For The Apocalypse – Anti-Zombie Brownies

I’m a Jack of All Trades (in case you’re new to this blog and didn’t read my tagline). In a recent post in which I was evaluating the benefits or otherwise of being not very good at lots of things versus being spectacularly talented at one thing, fellow blogger and wise Canadian Maggie Wilson made the following astoundingly astute comment:

“Here’s something to consider: it’s the end of days… the zombies are just over the hill… who would you rather have on your team? – someone who rocked them at the opera house, or someone who knows a bit about just about anything needed to deal with the crisis.”

This has become my new mantra. Every random whim new important skill I feel called to pursue now has noble reasons behind it. So even though I haven’t yet learned to play that banjo I bought last year, I really must now have a ukulele because I am preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. “How is that going to help?” Oh, well, I’m not sure right now but I know by the time the hordes are advancing I’ll have worked that out. Truly.


The zombies returned to the discussion in my last post but when I tried to talk to Maggie about it, she was momentarily distracted by the mention of brownies by the talented bikerchick57. This gave me the idea that maybe brownies could be a good way to distract zombies.

So Chef Me decided to have a crack at making Anti-Zombie Brownies today. (If you’re new here, you’ll soon get to know the many Mes that make up a Jack of All Trades. I can introduce you to quite a few here.)

I went with the theory that maybe if the brownie looked like a bit of brain, you could distract the zombie long enough to get away. Like throwing a piece of meat to a rampaging lion, right?

Of course, the resident Pedant (clearly more versed in zombie lore than I) pointed out that if I was going to call them Anti-Zombie Brownies then they should affect one of their weaknesses such as containing massive quantities of salt or somehow making the zombie catch on fire. Okay, so they’re more like Distract-The-Zombie Brownies.

Now, please bear in mind that I am a Jack of All Trades and therefore a Master of None (yet) so don’t expect the wow factor. (Also, there is no Photographer Me.)

Here’s the finished product:

A whole brownie brain.

A whole brownie brain.


An adequate supply for a small zombie attack.

An adequate supply for a small zombie attack.


Check out the calcification in that brain.

Check out the calcification in that brain.


Maggie offered to be taste tester which I thought was quite sacrificial of her – offering to taste something cooked by a Jack of All Trades is a deed worthy of an award for bravery. Probably she is now grateful that she lives in the wrong a different hemisphere and is therefore not handy for taste-testing.

But someone has to check them for zombie suitability (also if they can double as food supply while waiting for the apocalypse*).

Now, where are those boys of mine??

*Do you have a word that no matter how many times you write/type it, it takes about four tries to get it right? That’s mine.



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