Sunday, March 3, 2013

starts and stirrings...
Here I am at the 6 month marker of my voyage into the wild wonderful world of bread.The more I know, the more I want to know... THAT IS THE ONLY ONE THING i Can say for sure.
My kitchen  has been taken over by canisters of rye flour, whole wheat, cornmeal, spelt, pumpernickel;  various sourdough sponges in different stages of fermentation,  and the two foot wide marble bread board that now sits permanently on the counter.
I feel like that Christmas Carol.. On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me.. except that I sing: “On the first day of baking,  I gave myself some bread.. but then.. on the second day of baking, I gave  myself some  more bread and a new quarry tile...and on the third and fourth and now it is up to the sixth month of baking.. and what have I given myself all for the sake of the glorious crust, crumb and chew???  
THE TOOLS:  I have bought 4 bread books,  linen cloths(so that dough does not stick after it has risen) baskets in oval, round, rectangular shapes. (better aeration for the dough when it rises) dutch oven (for creating the steam for therackly fissured crusts,  serrated small knife ( for better precise scoring the tops of the breads) kitchen aid mixer( to save your arms and wrists)
 Learned a new vocabulary: autolyse,  pre ferment,  poolish, biga (all words for sponge) oven spring,  hydration percentage(the source of endless online chatting)  
The Joys:  Getting my hands on the dough has become somewhat of a daily ritual.. It might take me back to the time when I first remember how much fun it was to mix water and earth and make a mud pie!  We played make believe and served up several meals sloshing around this pasty concoction.   The suspense of creating a risen dough rather than one that sits heavy like the mud paste is each and every time thrilling.    The smells and colors of baked bread. period.  The sense of slowing down... watching something go thru a  complete cycle is very calming.   What is the temperature?  How does your sour starter look today?  Do you want an open crumb or a closed crumb?  How come the oven did not get hot enough?  Get the picture?  There are variables that make the bread good, better  and the best!  Not to mention the mood of the baker..
The pain-in-the-butt stuff:   Dishes, dishes, dishes,   flour flour everywhere, it gets trapped in your hair, on your clothes, on the walls,    in and on your shoes,  
The tradition of bread in all cultures:   Naan, french sourdough, italian ciabatta, russian rye, jewish seeded rye,  Finnish rye, Danish rye,   arabic pita,   mexican bolillo,  Boston brown bread,
How did these traditions arrive?  What are the wheats like grown in different regions of the world that create these flavors designated to a specific origins?
The voyage continues.   Thanks for coming along on this journey with me.
Keep in touch.  anina

Monday, January 28, 2013


It all started simply enough.  My brother in law said: "How come I cannot find a good hearty rye bread anymore.  Why can't I find those flavors anymore.. the super chewy, sour crusts?"

Yeah  and why do I feel I have to pay the 7 or 8 bucks to buy those  breads when   maybe I could learn to make them myself.  Its the sour taste I love and  crave in many old world breads.

I had never made a sourdough starter before.  The truth is, after 4 months of experimenting with sours or prefement, as some bakers call it,     it is like everything else... you have to know what to look for and watch for before you can throw away all recipes and rely on your own judgement.  But ah... the quest to know what it is you want.. that is the kick, the joy, the fun,  the adventure.

What are the flours like?  What kind of yeast is best?   Should you store starter in plastic, ceramic, glass?  What does "smelling like beer and baked apples" mean to you?  

What I love about making a sourdough starter is that you are working with the natural fermentation process and just trying to coax it along to achieve a flavor that is right balance of sour and sweet.. kind of like wine making and cheese making.  All you need is air, moisture, flour and salt..  and you end up with SOURDOUGH BREAD!

Monday, January 21, 2013


As you hit 80s years old and the great beyond,  chances are you have found that one chair,… 
the favorite chair; it just might be this one, as it is for most of my patients , The Lazy boy. 

This is the one where the mechanical controls are conveniently placed at your fingertips;  Press a button and the chair tilts you up to almost perfectly vertical. Press another button and down you go, and another button;  your lower limbs are lifted up and within seconds you are in a full recline or a modified lying down mode. The next step is most always the lazy-ing around mode.

 Your needs by your trusty “strong” side:  remote control, medications, a beverage,  and a caregiver who will bring you lunch on a TV Tray.
 Then…one day  BINGO, …you are down for the count. You are no longer just relaxing….no it is worse, you have become part of the furniture. That ubiquitous Lazy boy recliner has done it once again: expedited Natures Gravitational pull to NOT GETTING UP... The recliner has seduced you in all its soft upholstered splendor.

When Lazy boy created this chair in the early 70’s its motto was: “Nature’s way of Relaxing.”  As a physical therapist trying to help people maintain  muscle mass, mobility   strength and independence for as long as possible; I say: “Boy oh boy Nature’s way of leaving your body so relaxed it can quickly turn to mush.

Please understand I have nothing against comfort. Remember the three bears?  We all know when someone has been sleeping in OUR bed… our bed alone that cradles  our own bodies smooth curves and rough ridges. 

I am talking about daytime beds!  I am saying DO NOT USE this mechanized chair till you absolutely cannot scoot forward, till you absolutely cannot bend forward, till you absolutely cannot use your arms to push off from a seated position, till you absolutely cannot weight bear too long on either of your legs, till your pain from any number of ailments has left you dependent.

I have become good at the quick scan of the furniture landscape of my patients homes. The fall risks are everywhere.  Is it the all- too- low sofas that nobody can get up from anymore, is it the chairs without arms still surrounding the dining room table, the too high bed or the need for rails by the bed, the toilet seat with no grab bars nearby. 
Many folks  end up living surrounded by the desert of abandoned furniture. But, there in the middle of a livingroom or bedroom is the almightly Lazy Boy to save the day. The kingpin of seating. “

“Lets start by seeing how you get up” I say. The patient takes a ride up as the chair perches forward to the sound of its electronic murmur until it comes to a vertical halt.

“Very good. Now lets try this again using your very own motor power: your arms and legs.”

I take them thru the paces that was once so automatic and yet now they are hanging on my every word:

“Scoot  forward in the chair as  far as possible, hold both hands on the arms of the chair,,, now lean forward and get your nose over your toes, now push off, straighten your knees and look up.. you are UP! Now breathe.”

When we are babies, everything in our motor cortex is conspiring to get us up.  From rolling to crawling to kneeling, to the final triumphant standing and walking. Its the autonomic  nervous system creating billions of neural pathways to get us going. 
In our elder years, It is our memory we have to re-awaken to relearn to stand, to sit, to walk, to turn around, to climb a stair, the many basic patterns of movement  this time with slight revisions.

Next time you are in the furniture store, Do the physical therapist a favor. Buy yourself what is comfortable, but please bypass the Lazy Boy.  I will be the first to cheer you onward and upward  when you can stand alone.