Monthly Archives: September 2008

Bread Experiment 3: Rye, oatmeal and walnut bread

Yesterday, I made my next foray into my new bread book.  At the request of my husband I went looking for a rye bread recipe.  For better or worse, there was only a recipe for rye and oat bread.  So I began the mixing and rising sequences. This bread was almost entirely rye and wheat flour which makes it very healthy and good for you.  All went smoothly – I remembered how to do most of it and went back to the longer descriptions for the parts I was hazy on.

My father has taken over the bread making for my parents and he has been putting dried fruits and nuts into his breads to rave reviews.  My husband and I just love walnuts so I decided that I should also add some in just for fun. 🙂 They have to be added in at the last kneading when you are shaping the dough into loaves so that it can rise one last time and then you get to cook it.  I got out the walnuts and began to break them up into the bread.  I would knead for a bit and then add some walnuts and then knead again.  I was quite surprised at how hard it was to knead the walnuts in.  They seemed to keep pushing their way to the outer edges of the bread and refused to stay in the middle where I wanted them!  The walnuts made the bread a bit lumpier and not as smooth on top, but they are super yummy once the bread was cooked.

My parents and I are also currently waiting on a sourdough starter should be ready tomorrow morning for use.  I can’t wait to try it out and see how the bread comes out. 🙂

The Next Bread Making Adventure

Last week I set off with the intent to make some rye bread as the request of my wonderful husband.  I went through my cookbooks and couldn’t seem to find anything that seemed to be what I was looking for.  So I asked a good friend and fellow baker for her favorite recipe and she recommended a book, The Tassajara Bread Book.  I received it in the mail and immediately liked it.  It was a small book, but with a hippie looking cover and pages that just felt nice.  My mother taught me to make bread when I was a child and she did a very good job of giving me a base of understanding of how to do it. However, I was wanting a bit more information so that I could branch out and make more complicated bread.  This book seemed to be just the thing to do it.  I sat down on the couch and eagerly started reading.

The book is wonderful – it talked about the different types of flours and the qualities of each one.  Then it laid out step by step very detailed instructions on how to make a basic whole wheat bread.  Most of these I was acquanited with, but it offered a bit more detail.  For instance, I always wondered why you needed to let the bread rise several times and then you took all the fun out of the rising by punching it down.  It just never seemed to make sense.  It turns out that you are fostering the growth of the yeast to give you good bread.  The yeast releases a waste product when it grows, air, which causes the bread to rise.  Then you punch it down to release the waste of the yeast and allow it to continue to grow.  It just makes so much more sense now!

Yesterday, I worked my way through their basic whole wheat recipe.  There was a lot more rising and punching down and rising and punching down than I was used to, but I followed all of the instructions just to get a sense of how to do it.  Sure enough, last night I pulled two gorgeous looking loaves of bread out of the oven.  My husband and I even ran to the local grocery store to get some jam for the warm bread.  I let them cool and then cut into them.  It was delicious!  It was such a hit that my husband toasted some this morning for breakfast.  I can’t wait to try the other recipes!

To Shivasna or not to Shivasna?

In DC I was blessed with a wonderful yoga teacher.  She was energetic and just full of so much positive emotion that I couldn’t help but feel uplifted after each one of her classes.  She encouraged me and was always there with praise when I finally was able to do something new.  In short, any teacher that followed would never measure up in my mind.

I recently moved to California and began the hunt for a new place to practice my yoga.  California seemed like the promised land for yoga.  So when I arrived, I began the googling and the yelping to see what studios were nearby me.  I found two that offered classes when I needed them and were relatively close by.  I went to the first studio and tried Ashtanga, which was new to me.  The class was early in the morning and I enjoyed stretching myself out of my sleepiness.  However, it was also a self-led class.  Everyone was dong their own level of yoga and completely different things.  The teacher came around and helped each student, but I missed the community feeling of the energy of the class coming together as we all worked to hold a particularly difficult pose or flowed through a vinyassa.  Also the students came and went on their own schedule so there wasn’t a chance to get to know others in the class.

So it was on to the next studio.  This one had the added bonus of being close enough for me to bike to (yeah for no carbon!).  It was hot yoga, but more of a vinyassa flow studio.  I had once had a particularly bad experience with bikeram yoga and so I came equipped with lots of water and told myself that I could stop at any time.  The class was much more what I used to and I seemed to tolerate the heat just fine.  However, there was no shivasna at the end of the class!  I left the class feeling like my yoga practice for the day was somehow incomplete.  Shivasna to me is the one time all day when I can feel completely justified in just laying there and doing absolutely nothing.  It is a time to reflect on my practice that day and my yoga teacher says “seal in the benefits of the practice.”  I come out of it feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the rest of my day.

I have since been back the second studio and decided to get a month pass to try it out more because it seemed to be more on my level yoga wise.  The other teachers have given a short shivasna, but I always feel a bit cheated and like to come home and take a proper shivasna.  What about you?  Is shivasna an integral part of your practice or not?

Bread Experiment Week 1: Sourdough

The other half of this blog is supposed to be dedicated to baking and as I haven’t actually posted something I thought I best get on it! 🙂  Other than my yoga aspirations, I also have dreams of opening a bakery/coffee shop someday.  Right now I actually have the ability to go work in a bakery for a couple of months so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see if I even actually like baking in a more professional setting.  So while I search for that job, I thought I would brush up on my skills.  Specificially, I have never made much bread so I am hoping to get a wee better at it.

Sourdough bread has always been the holy grail of bread making to me.  When I was growing up I baked your basic white and wheat bread, but sourdough bread required a starter and therefore was way beyond my capabilities.  But you see the thing is, I love sourdough bread – the tangy softness of the inside combined with the chewy crusty outside.  It is so lovely with just a bit of butter or jam on it.

However, recently I decided that I was just going to do it – it can’t actually be that hard right?  I found a simple looking recipe in my cookbook and started reading it over.  Silly me – it seemed a starter simply required some flour, yeast, warm water and about two days.  This is what I had been afraid of all this time?  I was still a bit suspicious, surely there must be something else required.  I reread the recipe and nope that was it.  So I mixed it all up and put it in a warm sunny place and waited the required two days.

On the second day, I woke up excited about making the bread.  I put all the rest of the ingredients into the cuisinart and mixed them up.  Then I slowly poured the starter into the mixture.  The dough firmed up nicely.  I pulled it out of the cuisinart and started kneading it with my hands.  The dough was unusually soft beneath my fingers.  I let it rise and then it was time for the moment of truth – baking it.  Would it turn out good or not?  I heated up the oven, cooked it for the prescribed time and pulled it out.  It looked just like I imagined that sourdough bread should look.  Nice and crusty on the outside with the insides peeking through the slashes on the top.  I was running out the door so I let it cool overnight.  The next morning I cut into it.  It looked nice and soft inside.  Time to spread a bit of butter on it and see if it tasted as good as it looked.  It did – it was a little salty, but other than that it was just as I imagined it would be.

Next:  Pumpernickel – requested by my husband. 🙂

Yoga in Unusual Places

Galveston, Texas: Flattened in 1905 by a massive hurricane, home to the University of Texas Medical Branch and your basic south Texas beach town.  Not the type of place you would look for yoga.

But I was in Galveston and I found myself wandering around downtown towards my favorite coffee shop, Mod. I found myself at loose ends because I was there to visit my sister and she was at lab working on finishing up her thesis.  I noticed that right next to Mod was a new place that looked oddly like a yoga studio.  I knocked on the door and a lady opened the door.

“Are you Sharon?”

“Nope, I am not, but do you offer yoga in addition to pilates?”

“I am afraid not, but just down the street at Market is Yoga Haven and they have the best yoga on the island. If you would like a schedule Mod has them.”

I walked off to get my coffee with a big smile on my face.  I grabbed the flyer at Mod and ordered my coffee and sat down to study the schedule.  There was a class at 10 a.m. the next day.  The next morning it was pouring.  As I drove to yoga, I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much.  I was just hoping for a chance to stretch out and just be at bit. As I waited in my car for a break in the rain, I peered through the rain to study the building in front of me.  Galveston was once a very prosperous port town, but since the big hurricane of 1905 it has been a bit empty.  In certain parts of the island, I always feel like I am wandering through a ghost town of empty buildings where people once lived and dreamed.  The yoga studio was on one of these such empty blocks with many big building lined up side by side.

The rain finally broke and I ran out of the car and across the street.  I opened the door and the scent of incense met my nose.  I stepped further in and looked around.  The inside was warm and inviting with high ceilings and a large expanse of wood floor beckoned from the studio further in. An older gentleman came up to me,

“Are you new here?”

“Yes,” I replied.  “I am in town for the week and saw your flyer at Mod.”

“How you have a regular yoga practice at home?”

I told him that I did and we talked more about where I was in developing my yoga practice and previous injuries.  He was warm and genuinely seemed to want to know my yoga related history so that he could help me with the class he would lead.  As I talked to him and the other students, I remembered just what can be good about Texas and Texans: they lack the need to be “busy and important” as so many on the East Coast do, but instead are straight forward, honest and are just enjoying the here and now of what this particular moment in life has to offer.  I went into class feeling warm inside and protected.  The teacher led us through a class that seemed to just fit what I needed that particular day.  I left with that lovely calm grounding feeling that yoga leaves in me: that there was good in the world and that I had a piece in it.