Baking two kinds of sourdough bread at one time


Sourdough is very flexible bread-baking medium. Most of the time, I bake Dan’s sandwich bread and my whole wheat bread on separate days, but periodically I need to bake them on the same day. I do a little compromising on the flour mixture and then separate the starter into two separate bowls. For the first evening feeding, I feed the starter 5 oz each whole wheat flour and water. For the second feeding, I use 5 oz each unbleached wheat flour and water. In the morning, I scoop 10 oz starter into its own bowl and add 5 oz each unbleached flour and water to make 20 oz starter for Dan’s bread. To the remaining starter I add about 2.5 oz each whole flour and water, which makes about 28 oz start, 20 oz for my bread and 8 oz to put back into the sourdough starter storage jar.

I try to have the breads bake as close as possible to one another to save energy by having the oven turned on for a short a time as possible. Because Dan’s loaf is bigger and contains cracked grains, which are heavy, I knead that dough first and put it in a warm place to rise. My loaf rises much faster so I let it rise in a cooler location. I use timers to track the rising and baking, one for each loaf. Both are baked at 375°F, the large loaf for 50 minutes and the smaller loaf for 40 minutes.

Adapted from Wild Bread: Handbaked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen.

A winter day in the life of an urban homesteader

I started my day by feeding my sourdough starter. I did some knitting. At 9:00 a.m. the outdoor temperature was around 22°F. I opened the solar oven to preheat it. After breakfast I put the beans in the solar cooker; the cooker reached 300°F at its hottest point an hour or so later; the daily high temperature was around 40°F. The snow on the ground reflected extra sunlight into the cooker. The air temperature had very little effect on the cooker temperature; the low angle January sunlight had a bigger effect on lowering the temperature.

After breakfast, I ground whole wheat flour by hand for 15 minutes (amount pictured) and fed the starter for the third time. I kneaded my bread dough, stopping to grind more flour as needed (a full loaf contains 16 oz of flour, including the flour in the starter). I left the loaf to rise for a couple of hours. When the bread was risen, I baked it at 375°F. I removed the cooked beans from the solar oven around 2 p.m. I let the bread and beans cool down on my kitchen counter.

In the afternoon, I spent some time weaving cloth and doing miscellaneous chores. I added the cooked beans to a stew with winter vegetables for dinner. I used my pressure cooker to make the stew. A pressure cooker is an enormous time saver at 7,000 feet; pressure cookers also save a lot of stovetop time, and therefore fossil fuels, too.

No knead sourdough breads

While flatbreads like pancakes, crêpes and focaccia are easy to make, you can even make no-knead loaf breads. No knead doughs can be artisan doughs or sweet doughs.

Blog posts of mine on no knead breads:

Other posts in this series:

Look up “solar bread” or “gluten free” or “pizza” or any other type of bread in my search box to find even more posts, dated earlier and later than this post.

Photo of cover of Wild Bread book small

Sourdough specialty breads

I made the English muffins and calzones/samosas/turnovers pictured here with lean artisan dough (flour, water, salt, sourdough starter), but some specialty breads are made from sweet doughs. Other specialty breads I have recipes for in my book include bagels, pretzels, bread sticks, crackers, waffles, soup dumplings, doughnuts, sopapillas, Hungarian lángos, Native American frybread, and more. (The last two photos show a frybread booth at the Coconino County Fair. Here in northern Arizona, frybread is used as the base for Navajo tacos, with toppings of refried beans, chopped tomatoes, and other taco fillings/toppings.)

Here are links to sourdough specialty bread posts I’ve done:

Other posts in this series:

Look up “solar bread” or “gluten free bread” or “pizza” or any other type of bread in my search box to find even more posts, dated earlier and later than this post.

Photo of cover of Wild Bread book small


Sourdough sweet doughs

Sweet doughs contain sweetener and fat. They have a softer crumb than artisan breads and often include fillings and toppings. And yes, you can make excellent sweet doughs with sourdough starter whole wheat or other whole grains.

Other posts in this series:

Doughnuts are also sweet doughs. Look up “solar bread” or any other type of bread in my search box to find even more posts, dated earlier and later than this post.

Photo of cover of Wild Bread book small


Homemade chocolate soy milk

What goes together better than a snowy day and a steaming mug of hot chocolate? We make our hot chocolate with homemade organic soy milk. The secret ingredient is the high quality cocoa we buy through our natural foods buying club, Frontier Natural Products organic, fair trade Dutch cocoa powder.

A few years ago I was teaching a vegan baking class at our local community college. The woman who ran the non-credit workshop program was required to purchase the ingredients for me. She bought a popular name brand cocoa for the double chocolate cookies I planned to make (they had cocoa and chocolate chips in the dough). The cookies sucked (seriously). I apologized to my students, explaining that this was not how the cookies were supposed to taste, that they had little of the rich chocolate flavor they normally had because of the low quality cocoa. That’s when I realized that organic, fair trade products are not just more ethical, but often taste best as well.

My natural foods buying club

Part of my life as an environmentally conscious, vegan urban homesteader is picking up my monthly natural foods buying club order. Retail rents are too expensive in Flagstaff to have a viable natural foods retail cooperative (people have tried many times). While we do have three natural foods grocery chains in town, some of us prefer to buy natural foods in bulk for a cheaper price through the Harvest Club. I buy as much as possible through the Club. The Club orders products through United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), the main natural foods wholesaler in the U.S.—-the same place most natural food stores buy from. UNFI sells dry goods, frozen and refrigerated products, supplements, non-food products like toothpaste, pet food, and more.

The Harvest Club combines its orders with those of Canyon Explorations, a river rafting company that brings tourists through the Grand Canyon and other spectacular regional river scenery, like the San Juan River. The second photograph shows Harvest Club owner John Bifano (right) and my friend Nitish in front of Nitish’s and his wife’s monthly order. Nitish  picked up 25 lb bags of organic rolled oats, amaranth and quinoa, organic nuts, and bulk green tea. You can see someone else’s order to their left in front of the shelves. On the shelves are Canyon Explorations food and equipment.

This month, I bought a 25 lb bag of organic hard red wheat for grinding into flour to make my sourdough bread, a case of 12 tempeh packages, cat food, a 5 lb bag of raisins, a case of toilet paper, a gallon of liquid soap, and more. Last month I picked up a 1 gallon/9 lb bucket of peanut butter and a 25 lb bag of unbleached flour, among other items. Next month I need to order a 25 lb bag of organic, U.S.-grown soybeans for making our own soymilk and a 25 lb bag of fair trade, organic unbleached sugar (evaporated cane juice).

Sourdough flatbreads, baked on oven tiles or on the stove top

 Sourdough flatbreads were the world’s first breads and continue to be highly popular. They are made from artisan doughs, sweet doughs, no-knead batters, and can contain fillings and toppings. From pizza to pancakes, flatbreads are eternally popular and especially easy to make. Here are some blog posts I have done on sourdough flatbread recipes:

Other posts in this series:

Look up “solar bread” or any other type of bread in my search box to find even more posts, dated earlier and later than this post.

Photo of cover of Wild Bread book small


I pruned my fig tree

I used a hack saw to cut off the top of the fig tree. Figs only grow on new branches. Heavy pruning stimulates new branch growth. The new leaves on the lower branches and the buds just below where I sawed off the upper part of the tree will become the new fruit-bearing branches. I also want to keep the tree compact rather than gangly for easier transport.

I’ve left a self-seeded catnip plant in the fig’s pot. I have been removing branches as soon as they grow to six inches tall or so so that the plant does not take over the pot and harm the fig tree’s growth. The cats think it’s cool.

Adapted from Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains:  A guide to high-altitude, semi-arid home permaculture gardens.

Make nut, soy & grain milks, raw juice, vegetable purees & porridge

Our old Soyajoy milk maker motor finally died after years of heavy use. We bought the newest model to replace it. This machine combines a blender with a heating mechanism that heats the milk or porridge to exactly 180°F. The liquid/porridge therefore cannot burn or foam over the edge of the stainless steel container. In addition, the low cooking temperature retains more vitamins and other phytochemicals than boiling does.

The Soyajoy allows us to buy organic, GMO-free, U.S.-grown soybeans from our natural foods buying club inexpensively in 25 lb bags. We also avoid having to throw away Tetra Paks and other non-recyclable containers used to sell commercial milks. After soaking the soybeans for about eight hours, we fill the container with water up to the indicator lines, add the soaked beans, put on the top of the machine, plug it in and push “Soaked Beans.” In less than 20 minutes, the milk is ready to filter through a strainer that came with the machine. I flavor the milk after it is made with a little vanilla and sweetener. The new Soyajoy makes 1.7 liters of milk. Most non-dairy milk makers on the market make 1.5 liters of milk.

Okara (Oh-kar’-ah) is the Japanese word for soy fiber pulp left over after making soymilk and tofu. One recipe of soymilk produces 1 1/3 cup of okara. Okara is as high in protein as wheat. I developed a vegan chocolate chip peppermint cookie recipe that replaces some of the flour and fat with okara. I even bake these cookies in my solar oven. Sometimes I also use the milk to make my own tofu.