This post was originally published on November, 2009 and updated today, April 16, 2020.
Thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, people stuck at home have been asking about sourdough. Most sourdough recipes sound quite complicated, but it really isn’t hard to make your own starter. You can then move on to pancakes, muffins, and even bread. My favorite recipes are below, but please feel free to add tried and tested recipes in the comments.
A couple of years ago my baking reached a new level when I began using sourdough. Sourdough encourages the natural yeast spores in the air and flour, encouraging them to multiply in any kind of batter.
Once you have made a sourdough starter from flour and water, you can use it in two different ways:
As with any kind of bread (or cooking) there is a bit of a learning curve. If you are used to making bread with commercial yeast, you will notice a few differences. First of all, you need to allow more time for rising. But the timing is more flexible. An extra hour often doesn’t make a noticeable difference. If you are not going to be home when the dough needs attention, you can slow down the process by keeping it in the refrigerator.
Sourdough breads can have different degrees of tanginess, depending on the rising time and other factors. As you experiment you will figure out what you prefer and how long a rising time is required.
Before starting to work with sourdough, you need to prepare the sourdough starter itself. It can take three days to a week or more. If you live in a warm climate or if you generally do a lot of baking, the environment in your kitchen will be more favorable.
While you are making the starter you will need to give it attention every day. After it’s ready, you should try to use and refresh it at least once a week. But I find that mine is still happy after a month.
Please see this post for pictures of the starter at different stages:
Sourdough Starter Recipe:
*Why do most recipes recommend throwing out part of the starter? If we want a high proportion of fresh flour compared to the original starter, it would eventually take over the kitchen. But large additions aren’t really necessary.
If you have more questions, ask in the comments or check out the Facebook Page for CookingManager.Com. There’s a discussion entitled Sourdough Starter Party. You can also join via the widget on the right sidebar of the blog. That particular discussion has died down but feel free to start it up again.
Thanks to Mimi for comments and corrections on this post.
This post is featured in the Friday Free for All over at Cooking at Cafe D.
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Hello again lovely readers. I know this is a cooking website, but I have a special place in my heart for appliances. My friend recently told me about her daughter’s joy at getting new school shirts, because the other children made fun of her over the state of her clothes.
I assure you that no one consults with me about removing stains or keeping whites white. But I know enough about machines to give my friend a lesson, and I want to share that with you too. After all, we use washing machines for dishtowels, tablecloths, and other cloth items found in the kitchen.
In my post on thermostats, I pointed out that ovens and air conditioners are pretty simple machines. They are either off or on, and what makes them smart is knowing how long to be on before things get too hot or cold. Washing machines can handle a few functions other than temperature. But each of these functions is also simple.
The key to understanding washing machine settings is that you are usually choosing between cleaner clothes, and wear and tear on your clothes. To get your clothes clean, the machines have to be harder on your clothes. Your machine will work hard too. The best choice is a gentle cycle that will still get your clothes reasonably clean. Gentler cycles, especially a slow spin cycle, means less ironing as well.
Fortunately for us, machines are getting better at cleaning clothes with less water and detergent. Gentler (and shorter) cycles are often good enough in the vast majority of cases. For example, the “pre-wash” option, essentially an additional wash and rinse, is usually not necessary, even for cloth diapers.
Here are the main functions of washing machines:
To review, the following settings wear out clothes the fastest, but get them cleanest: Wash in the hottest water, in a “normal” or “cotton” cycle, for as long as possible, and spin at the highest number of rotations per minutes.
And these are the settings that are gentlest, but might not get your clothes as clean—although in many cases they are clean enough: Wash clothes in cold water, with the shortest, “delicate” cycle, at the lowest spin setting, and include more soaking time. If you like, read the manual to see how to stop the machine from executing the final spin. In this case, the machine will spin just enough to remove the excess water from the machine, leaving the clothes dripping wet. My friend has a garden, so she liked the idea of hanging clothes outside for the benefit of the plants.
In the machines of my parents’ time, you could choose hot/warm/cold, delicate or normal, and how many minutes you wanted the cycle to run, The multiple combinations of the above options make machines more complicated. Because most machines are computerized, the manufacturers can choose from all the variables, to recommend the best option for each type of load. Of course, we usually put a variety of types of clothes in a single load so it can be hard to choose. But that is for another day.
Another factor to take into consideration is speed. If it’s important for you to get your clothes drying quickly, choose a shorter cycle. But if you are not home anyway, it doesn’t matter. Some cycles use much more water than others. I found the information about cycle length in the manual that came with the machine. Many machines can automatically choose the correct amounts of water according to the weight of the clothes, but it still varies according to cycles.
My philosophy is to start with the coldest, most delicate cycle and see if that is effective for your clothes. With more delicate cycles, the machine shouldn’t be too full so that the clothes can move around easily. I also find that after a regular or “cottons” cycle for my clothes, especially towels, they start to get holes. Machines today has settings that are so delicate they are equivalent to hand-washing.
In the machine pictured above, for linens and most casual clothes, I choose the “Mix” cycle that takes about 45 minutes, including heating up the water to 40° C. If I like I can use the “Eco” feature that includes more soaking time. If some of the clothes are delicate or I want to avoid wrinkles, I set the spin cycle to a lower speed, or click on the “Easy iron” option.
One last tip: Use a minimal amount of detergent. Your clothes shouldn’t end up with a strong smell of fragrance. Excess detergent (and softener) can clog your machine after a while, and doesn’t help your clothes either. But don’t use laundry balls, that purport to clean clothes without detergent. They are no better than washing without detergent.
Was this post useful? Let me know in the comments.
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Happy New Year! This is an update of a post originally published December 23, 2011.
A friend was wondering whether it was bad to eat soy patties for lunch every day. This led to a discussion of ingredient lists on packages and concerns about processed food.
We’ve all been told to choose home-cooked foods over convenience foods.
But my friend wanted to know why processed foods are bad. Can’t we just check the list of ingredients? If there are too many chemicals that we’ve never heard of, we are wary. But maybe if the ingredients listed on a label are natural, the processing isn’t such a big deal.
Or is it?
My friend pointed out, correctly, that processing is often a good thing:
So a certain amount of processing can work in our favor, although these benefits may also come with lower nutritional value. Still, the real problem is when foods get over-processed.
But there are also negative consequences when processing foods. Here are some examples:
Many these concerns also apply to foods we buy in their natural state, to prepare at home. However, it’s much easier to research one ingredient than those from a long list, especially when you can examine the food for yourself. And even if you cook with white flour and soy oil, you still avoid many of the “extras” in convenience foods.
The main concern of a food manufacturer is profit. So it will aim for a product with cheap ingredients, a uniform taste that appeals to many (sugar/salt/fats), and long shelf life (processed foods last longer than fresh, even without the added preservatives).
As for labels, food producers only share whatever makes them look good. Whether the food is healthy or not interests them only as far as their marketing department. They will brag that a food contains no food coloring, while not mentioning that sugar is the main ingredient.
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When my friend Efrat asked on Facebook about the best tools for making bread, most people replied that they use their hands or a mixer. It seems that many people still see a food processor as a tool for slicing and chopping and the occasional cake. But if used correctly, the food processor excels at mixing and kneading all kinds of dough and batter.
More posts on food processors:
Hello, dear readers! I am reviving the website with two Ethiopian recipes that my 20-year-old son tried over the weekend. After the recipes, I’ll share a short review of a few new products from a company called Yoffi.
After high school, my son spent a year volunteering in a town where he interacted with many immigrants from Ethiopia. He’s been wanting to making traditional Ethiopian food, so he consulted with his friends and the internet.
First we have injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread made from the grain teff. He found teff in a store specializing in Ethiopian products, but it is available (at a higher price) in most grocery store chains in Israel.
If you have ever worked with sourdough or any other type of fermentation, injera is a cinch. Even if not, it is fairly simple. “It’s high in protein and calcium, super-nutritious,” my son told me.
The teff sat in our freezer for a few weeks until he came home for long enough to complete the fermenting process. One recipe recommended only one day of fermentation, but most suggest three or four. After 24 hours we decided to let it sit for another 24. I’ve read that fermentation happens more quickly if you do it often, and your kitchen environment is full of wild yeast. This may or may not be true, but 48 hours was more than enough.
Fermentating the teff:
Place a half a kilogram (about a pound) of teff in a large bowl. This amount made six or seven pita-shaped loaves. Keep some extra teff on hand, as you may need it. Add cold water and stir until you get a thick batter. Don’t worry too much about the texture, as you can adjust it later. Cover with a damp cloth or use Marcy Goldman’s trick of wrapping the entire bowl in a clean garbage bag, and tying it. The batter won’t expand much.
Check the mixture the next day. We found a layer of dark, watery liquid on the top (hooch). We kept it, but you can discard it carefully if you like, trying not to spill the thicker part of the batter. Add some warm water and stir, then cover again. You can add more teff if you feel it’s too thin.
Check again the next day (after 48 hours or so). The batter should have a rich, beer-like smell and lots of small bubbles. Here’s how ours looked before cooking.
The batter should be loose and pourable, like a pancake.
Heat up a frying pan. We used a non-stick pan, but if you don’t have one, brush with a little oil. Cover the bottom of the pan with batter. Keeping the heat high, wait until about two-thirds of the pancake has visible bubbles. Then cover the pan for another minute until the pancake is firm. Remove to a plate. The bottom will be crisp. If you’ve ever made crepes, it’s the same idea.
Here’s how it looked when it was done, with the top no longer shiny.
We used the injera to scoop up this simple, spicy lentil stew.
Wot (lentil dip) with chou spice
My son also improvised a wot, or lentil dip, getting the recipe from one of his Ethiopian friends. The defining ingredient, also sold in specialty Ethiopian stores, is a red hot-pepper-based spice mixture. Each store’s mixture is slightly different. I think this must be a version of berbere.
We were quite pleased with the result, and definitely plan to make this again. “It’s the kind of food you like,” my son concluded.
Review of Yoffi products
Vad, a representative of Yoffi, an online company selling kosher Israeli products, contacted me to review samples. I asked him to surprise me, so we received chocolate tahini (sesame) spread with hazelnut, sage tea, and silan (date spread). The company takes care to have attractive packaging, especially the red tea tin. My son loved the spread, which lasted about half an hour. We concluded that people who like halva would most enjoy it and if you don’t like halva, don’t bother. It’s rather sweet, but we would buy it again. The sage tea consists of loose, dried sage leaves, and we are enjoying it. We haven’t actually tried the silan yet. While my son likes to cook with it, I don’t, so it is still sitting here. The company is taking Passover gift orders now.
I received no compensation for this review.