adventures in sourdough

Let the adventures of dabbling in sourdough begin! I was poking around websites last night and just reading about bread trying to understand what this process of yeast and fermentation was all about. In a nutshell, or at least what I understood is that its a process of yeast “burping and farting”. Let  me elaborate…(this is my non science mind understanding the science behind it)

Flour and water is mixed together to make a starter. Starter? So, the enzymes in the flour (lactic acid bacteria aka lactobacillus) break down the starches into sugar aka glucose. Yeast likes glucose, and there are wild yeast spores in the air that be harvested right in your kitchen. Yeast eats the sugars in the flour and releases carbon dioxide bubbles as a byproduct which help the bread rise. That would be called fermentation. The enzymes are what produce the sourness of the bread because they release lactic acid. The lactic acid lowers the acidity of the starter creating a habitat in which other bacteria cannot thrive. Yeast however, can handle it.

In the days before store bought yeast, this is how bakers captured the spores to make bread. Based on where you live, there are different strains in the air which is why sourdough may taste differently from place to place. San Francisco is famous for the delicious yeast spores. mmmm….taste the air!

Anyways, enough of that. I want to start making my own sourdough, but often starting a culture from scratch for a first time baker (well, I have baked bread before but always with store bought yeast) can be a little risky and tricky to get it started. So how is one to begin? The best way is to get a tiny bit of already started starter and feed it some flour and water and let the baking begin. So, thats exactly what I did! Carl’s Starter from Oregon Trail Sourdough gives away free starter for the cost of a self addressed, stamped, envelope.

Basically, someone named Carl (who has passed away) had been nurturing and using the same starter for about 165 years (since 1847). He would often give it away, and so to preserve his legacy, it is still being shipped across the world for anyone who wants it. Its really exciting to think that what I will be using to bake bread not only is extraordinarily old, but how many people are connected through spores of yeast and flour and water. I mean, yes the original start is probably highly diluted by now, but there is always a teeny tiny bit of it left which is now spread through the world into peoples homes all over.

‘stache

One my ride back from the marina, I stumbled upon this lovely sign. Its a matter of stache.

And the newest addition to my collection of mustache themed things, is this lovely mug, curtesy of a dear friend.

Coffee tastes way better out of this mug, especially when the coffee itself looks like this:

frigid bike ride adventure

It was rather cold outside, but after a little persuasion I decided to head out on my bike towards the marina. Possibly not the wisest decision as my throat is somewhat sore and swollen today and I feel a bit on the sickish side. However, upon smelling something quite delicious, we decided to follow our noses and find out what it was.

“that smells good”
“its coming from here!”
“lets find out what it is”
“you wanna?!”
“ok!”
“ok!”

So what was this place? It is called Vik’s Chaat and Market. It is an Indian food store with a cafeteria style restaurant cafe attached serving authentic Indian Street Food. I was please to find both Marmite and Vegemite in the shop in the mini-british foods section which I found rather ironic but not random given British and Indian History. Anyhow, they also had nuts and dried fruit, lots of spices and grains, assortments of chutneys and curries and breads and sweets. And all fairly prices.

Walking through the corridor leads towards the cafeteria looking place where they menu is posted in chalk above the order counter, but there is also a picture menu aka Indian food for Dummies (which yes, I looked at). Its got pictures, descriptions, and also deciphers the Vegan options, of which there are plenty. Around the perimeter of the room is where the cooking stations are and after you order you wait for your name to be called. Of course they have drinks such as chai and lassi, along with a sweets case.

I ordered Paratha, an Indian breakfast type food which was a massive pancake looking type thing with cauliflower filling and lots of spices. It came with a side of spiced/pickled vegetables (called achar, I believe?) Anyhow, it was hot and delicious, slightly crispy on the outside and steaming warm as I pulled it apart with my hands. I needed a tissue as my nose began to water from the spice combination, not because it was hot-spicy but because it was spiced-spicy. My friend got some burrito looking thing with chicken, and some hot chai. Despite being milk based, I tasted the chai and holy guacamole was it tasty. To bad there is no soy option. Anyways, I am eager to go back and try the other delights and delicacies that this place offers and to buy some stuff at the shop.

It is funny how I have passed by this place SO MANY times while riding but never bothered to stop because its just a small door in a warehouse looking building. But now that I know what lies behind the door…nothing will ever be the same.

last day of summer [break]

it is indeed the last day of summer break, and tomorrow the beginning of the end starts. That is, its the start of my final year as an undergraduate! woohoo! I could not be more excited. Well, actually, I could be more excited but I know how stressful times can get. But so it goes. My books are bought, my notebooks are blank and ready, my pens are filled. My brain is empty and somewhat soggy.

I have been filling my last few days of freedom in Berkeley with very good and very simple things that I enjoy doing. For example, laundry and cleaning my room. Kidding, I don’t enjoy all those things, but I did do them.
I had some much needed conversations with several friends and family.
I went to caltopia to get some free stuff. My best score was probably a shirt.

I rode my bike. I decided to go down to Oakland to Tip Top Bike Shop and Remedy Coffee, my favorite cafe in the area. At the Bike Shop, my plan was to simply fill air in my tires. However, upon speaking with one of the dudes at the shop and asking him about the crack in my tires, I had decided to go ahead and simply replace them. I could have gone a few more months on my old tires, but that was running the risk of explosion and then having to replace my tube along with my tire when the time came. I did not feel like dealing with this catastrophe during the school year; replacement felt like a good precautionary measure. After fixing my bike, I rode down to Remedy. Or, what used to be Remedy and is now an empty storefront with a “for lease” sign in the window. WHAT?!?!?! I was devastated. Asking a few locals in the area as to why they shut down, no one knew, but everyone was upset. It was (apparently) an overnight type thing.
Well, about a block away is Arbor Coffee, which had been on my summer list and I wanted to try. I hobbled over there to read for a bit and sip some coffee which was french press and pretty good. The atmosphere at Arbor is great. They have an assortment of mismatched furniture, everything from comfy couches, to large communal tables, to smaller single person worktables. The space is big and even when crowded with people it doesn’t feel like someone is breathing down your back. They’ve got a food menu too, with soups and salads and sandwiches.

I finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns in about 2 days with snot dribbling down my chin and tears streaking my cheeks. That being said, might I recommend this book? It takes place in Afghanistan and follows the stories of 2 women as they grow up. Eventually, the 2 tales intersect during a time of war and turmoil. It reveals the human side and the human stories which the media often fails to acknowledge when they speak of Afghanistan and the terrorists.

I also did some cooking and baking over the last two days, knowing that time for extravagance will run out very shortly.
First off, a pasta dish. I sauteed 2 cloves of garlic in a bit of olive oil to brown them. I then added about 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of brown sugar to make a reduction. It simmered for 25ish minutes until it became nice and syrup-like. I then added 2 chopped heirloom tomatoes and cooked them just slightly. I added this sauce to the cooked pasta, along with some fresh salad greens from the farmers market. The heat from the pasta and sauce wilted them ever so slightly.

I then made [veg] Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles, recipe courtesy of the PPK. Chewy, chocolatey, with a kick from chipotle and extra cinnamon. Definitely an addicting cookie. It would be delicious turned into a sandwich cookie with creme filling. 

The roommate’s bananas were going very brown and about to be chucked. They had to be rescued and transformed into banana bread with some pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts, and a bit of silken tofu to retain moisture. It turned out very delicious. Its quite unfortunate the bananas had to meet their fateful end in this manner.

Because I have actually kept up this blog for a year or so, I want to somehow revamp it, and maybe start sorting and tagging posts into reviews, recipes, random thoughts, etc. I am still not quite sure how to sort them and how to make it work, but I have tagged this one with “food” and “reviews” and “excursions”. I just feel like all my posts would be tagged with the same thing, as generally those are the three things I write about. Maybe that means I need more specificity in my tags. 

"to do" list, revisited

Summer break is coming to an end, so I thought I would repost my “to do” list from June. I managed to get a fair bit of it done, which makes me very happy. Although I didn’t get through it all, i did a lot of stuff that was not even on it…thats a good balance. 

Berkeley
organize old papers and assignments from this past year, chucking out old stuff that no longer holds any importance
plant seeds that I got from the seed bank
-poke around the ashby flea market (for planters?)
-bike or walk along the golden gate
-bike around the embarcadero
-explore san pablo ave, specifically some of the ethnic food stores and random boutiques
-explore Solano avenue and maybe a bit of Albany
explore 4th street by the marina
rent electric bikes and ride around
-go to ACME bread
-go to the kingfish bar
go to babette coffee and read
go to arbor café and read
berkeley art museum
-eli’s mile high club
jack london square adventure in oakland
eat at homeroom mac+cheese
-go to star meats and buy eggs from soul food farms
eat at souley vegan
-crixa cakes
-masse’s pastry [went in, but didn’t buy anything, so it half counts]
get ice cream from ici
-walk along the pier
chocolatier blue
-edible love chocolates
-farmers market
LA
eat at kind crème
visit café gratitude for a compare and contrast between the berkeley location
-learn how to drive stick shift [tried it, but I am far from being able to do so on my own]
-drag races
-go to Eagle Rock Brewery’s Sunday tour and tasting
-see a show at the upright citizens brigade (saw 2!)
-go to Cinespia [missed it]
scoops ice cream parlor
-silverlake usuals: farmers market, intelligentsia, flore vegan, grassy knoll, the thirsty crow, tiki ti, pazzo gelato, lark cupcakes, 4100 bar, berlincurrywurst
eat at food+lab [i got food to go, that still counts]
try heywood grilled cheese shoppe
have coffee at handsome coffee roasters new coffee bar
visit my old starbucks store
-sunset beer company
-see people
Misc
-clear and sort and organize emails/my inbox
-which leads to organize computer/delete files from this semester
read and find food articles for next year
-learn about whiskey
-learn about beer
-learn about and bake artisan bread
make pasta from scratch
-make marzipan
-make vegan cheese
-learn canning techniques and how to make jam and pickles from my dad
-press flowers
-go scavenging for goods at yard sales
-possibly watch a few movies (note: this will most likely have to be forced upon me, or a film that I have been dying to see)
-read non-school related books and/or magazines and/or newspapers

THINGS I DID THAT WERE NOT ON MY LIST: made pies, cookies, pudding, salads, bbq sauce, tofu dishes, hosted a party, went to drag races, went bar hopping in downtown, rode the merry go round in griffith park, swam at the standard hotel, did a photo shoot, made vegan mac and cheese, discovered new music, went into SF for bi-rite and dolores park, went to golden gate park and the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit, watched olympics, cooked with kids, and had a blast at camp. 

I was so excited to be back in Berkeley, I really like living here and being here in the area and the friends that I made and the life I have created over the past year. I am a little bit in denial that classes start on Thursday. However, I did buy my books and I am feeling a twinge of excitement about classes starting and reading, but I also have a tendency to romanticize school. My goal for this semester is to incorporate more hobbies and leisure between academics. Obviously, there will be times where that is not possible (ie midterms and finals) but during the weeks between I would like to carve out time to bake or bike. This means that the obligation I feel to always be studying or reading even if I don’t really have to has to be somehow tempered down. I think a good way to start going about this is studying in places other than my room so when I am home it is my time. So, I shall see how this goes during the semester. I want to enjoy being in berkeley because I have no idea where I will be living next year…

…speaking of next year, many people are planning and pontificating what they will be doing, because after all, one is supposed to enter the real world after college. As for me, I have no idea what I want to do next year. That is, I know what I want to do, but it is not professional career track stuff by any means. I would like to work at camp again next summer and then 
a) either stay in berkeley and work at a cafe or bakery or vegan restaurant. 
b) move back to LA and work at a cafe or bakery or vegan restaurant. 
living in berkeley allows me to live on my own in a city I love
living in LA allows me to save money so I can go travel Europe.
I am leaning more towards option B because now would be the best time to travel, not being tied down to anything. 

Another option is to apply for americorps or other stipend type programs for 1 or 2 years. I may apply because now would be the year to do that, but even the application process is not something I really feel like dealing with because I really want to enter the foodservice industry somehow (hence working somewhere that serves and bakes food to learn the trade and eventually go to culinary school and open a bakery) Berkeley should offer a Culinary Arts program. 

I am surprisingly ok with my post undergrad aspirations (or lack thereof) because I know I would be completely miserable going right into grad school or a job that requires a lot of responsibilities at this point in my life. I want work to be a means to an end, not an end in and of itself that comes home with me in a nagging manner at the end of each day. 

HOT-ness

Its been crazily hot in LA which is a little bit upsetting because when its in the mid 90’s the last thing I want to do is walk around silverlake even though I really want to walk around silverlake during my last few days here. I also do not feel like cooking or baking because turning on the stove or oven is not conducive to staying cool. Instead I find myself drooped over a couch in front of a fan haphazardly gazing at a book. or the closing olympic ceremony. or a netflix movie. I suppose I need to get as much of this in as possible before thursday. Whats Thursday? I drive up to Berkeley.

Saturday was our Epic Multipurpose Party! What did it celebrate? A housewarming, my early birthday, my sisters going to college, end of summer aannnndddd my friends got engaged so we toasted to that too. I like to think the party was a success, but please, correct me if I am wrong. We had about 80-some odd people here through the night between the hours of 5 pm and 2 am. My sister’s band played at 8:30 which was our hour of peak attendance. There was food and drink, potluck style, so the spread was pretty glorious. Among the goodies were, of course, homemade hummus by my dad (beans soaked and cooked from scratch which gave the hummus an underlying sweetness).

He made 2 giant bowls which were gone within the first 2 hours. There was also: lentil salad, tomato and fig salad, mac and cheese, potato perogi, potato salad, teriyaki chicken, a beautiful veggie platter, fruit salad, chips, salsa, guacamole, cookies, cheesecake, chocolate cake, champagne, wine, beer, and vodka watermelon. nom nom nom.

The backyard was decorated with lazers, twinkly lights, and tiki torches. Party favor pins were also part of the production, with funny sayings ie: I got drunk, I blacked out, I learned hebrew, I became a jew, I lost my matzoh balls, I lost my yarmulke…at the Avraham’s house party

It was really funny to see people (my parents friends) that knew me as a small child and who I have not seen for several years. Hosting is not a simple task (despite being fun) because of having to mingle with all the assorted groups and making sure that everyone is happy and doing alright. I guess it is an exercise in time management. 
After reading the hunger games books in 4 or 5 days, I went to see the movie at the 3 dollar theater. I am happy I saw it there, otherwise I would have been really upset spending more money on a ticket. Its not that the movie was bad, but the books were so detail filled and of course the movie could not portray that. This resulted in some rather tacky moments. But I liked the cinematography and the costumes, especially those in the capitol. I probably wont go out of my way to see the future movies but I might catch them again at the 3 dollar theater if time allows. When and if they come out. 
My new musical discovery (well, I didn’t discover it, rather I was introduced to it) is a band called Rome. Reminds me of Leonard Cohen (maybe its the voice) but with more instrumentation resulting in a larger sound. Anyways, if you have read until this point in my blog and have several more minutes to spare, spare a few more minutes and listen to this. 

LA Ventures

Several adventures have been had over the past…week or so.

1) a photo shoot in downtown LA with a friend of mine. Under a sketch bridge and in front of the Disney hall

2) Seeing some art in downtown at a cool little Gallery and then hobbling over to the varnish and las perlas where I indulged in handcrafted deliciousness. at The Varnish I ordered “bartenders choice” with whiskey so it allowed the cocktail crafting expertise to shine through. The resulting drink was whiskey with lemon, honey and ginger garnished with mint and a huuuuge ice cube. “spicy daisy” at las perlas was a mescal concoction consisting of cucumber juice, mint, agave and some chile for spice and was the drink I had been preoccupied with getting my hands on for some time now. It was delicious.

3) Finally made it over to Heywood Grilled Cheese Shoppe in Silverlake which just opened a few (maybe one) month ago. They make grilled cheese (duh) with a selection from small dairies from around the world. plus side: grass fed small farm cheeses. downside: costs and fuel associated with shipping. They also have add ins such as pesto and tomato and avocado and onions etc. And any sandwich can be made vegan, with vegan cheese which for some reason costs 2$ more than whatever the original sandwich price is. hmmmm….Anyways, I had a vegan Heywood: Sourdough bread, cheeze and caramelized onions grilled to crunchy perfection. It was delicious, yet a bit to greasy for my taste and I think thats why I was left a little uncomfortable for the rest of the day. I would go there again yes, but the food is a tad overpriced for what it is.

4) The merry-go-round in griffith park was probably the best 2$ I spent in my life. Ok, maybe not, but it was very fun and took a lot of restrain on my part not to go running towards it as I heard the organ music blasting through the park. And then I had to prevent myself from purchasing a twirly little souvenir that would just lie there after a few days. The merry-go-round is 75 years old, the horses are vintage with some paint chipping, but its remarkably well kept and goes fasssstttttt. Once the ride ended, I wanted to yell “again, again” and just stay on it for longer. After, we drove through the park to The Trails Cafe, tiny, quant, and nestled in between some trees where they are known for the pies and quiche. They’ve also got coffee, scones etc. I had a cold brewed iced coffee from Stumptown coffee roasters. Paired with a Vegan Cherry pie and I was giddy with excitement, sugar, and caffeine.

5) My friend and I have the same birthday. We decided to celebrate it together one month early because we wont be in the same city come september. We started the day in Santa Monica where I wanted to check out Planet Raw, one of the first raw restaurants in LA. Being in Santa Monica, or course it was the trendy LA scene, but the food is all organic and raw (not vegan as they use raw honey and raw cheese in some dishes but it is clearly marked). It was pricey and I came mainly to try the dessert. So I ordered coconut cheesecake, which I assume was cashew based. It came garnished with mint, apple and strawberries and was oh-so-delicous, and creamy with just the right touch of coconut.

Our adventure continued with Happy Hour Hopping in Downtown LA. The happy hours are legit…who can complain about 5 or 6 dollar drinks that usually cost 10-13?!?! My favorite concoction of yesterday was at The Falls, where I had a Bloodhound. Whiskey plus strawberry rhubarb syrup was the perfect combination of sweet and tart-ness. We also went to the Standard, mostly for the view, but this has opened up an opportunity for a new adventure: using their rooftop pool which is open to the public and not very crowded on weekday noons. 
6) I finished reading the Hunger Games series. And now I understand the obsession which surrounded the books and the movie. I was deeply absorbed and could not not the books down. I too want to see the movie. And I would recommend everyone reads them as they speak so much about our current society but filtered through a sci-fi fantasy lens. 

Its a bit sad that I only have a week or so left in LA. I am excited to head back up to Berkeley, but I not the least bit in school mode. I hope that once I get there some excitement kicks in but there is not one once of myself that wants to be sitting and reading and thinking and writing stuff. poopers.