Breaking Bad in Kathmandu

Sorry, the title was suppose to be “Baking Bread in Kathmandu,” but the typo is a lot more catchy.

Each Monday, my boss asks “Did you have a good weekend? What did you do?” Probably because we both came from jobs that occupied our weekend space, the novelty of weekends is still new to us.

My response is usually, “Went to the market, and baked bread.”

That leaves room for lots of other activities such as exploring Kathmandu, or binge watching “A Handmaid’s Tale”.

Bread making is not labor intensive. It does not require a bread machine, lots of kneading, or lots of time. From start to finish it only takes about 14 hours! Most of the time however is waiting around for the little sourdough beasties to do their job.

I’ve written before about making Sourdough bread in California. This is a little bit better guide from Kathmandu.

I use a sourdough starter that originally came from Breadtopia via Amazon.com. For a couple of years now it has been cultivated here, so it may have acquired some characteristics of the locale.

I store the starter in the fridge in a closed Rubbermaid container. Glass in not a good idea if you have the container sealed as it could crack the glass container. The microbes in the dough thrive in the cold. Here’s what it looks like when I open the container:

Hot mess of primordial bread gooeyness

After stirring the starter it looks more harmless:

Note the viscosity. Not that it is important… just note it.

My recipe calls for a quarter cup of starter. It is not a chemistry class, to paraphrase Jack Sparrow, a recipe is a “guideline, not a rule.”

I pour the starter into one and a half cups of water.

Today I am making two loaves, so I repeated the process for each cup of water and then stirred the water/sourdough mixture.

Now it is time to feed the starter. For each loaf I am making, I add back to the starter one fourth cup of water and one third cup of flour.

Then mix and seal it back up and store it in the fridge.

Now it is time to mix the bread ingredients.

3 cups of flour.

One half cup of whole wheat flour.

One and a half teaspoons of salt:

One third cup of cracked wheat (bulgar is a-ok):

Then I whisked it all together:

Then I added the starter-water mix to the dry ingredients:

I spooned it together and then got my hands dirty making sure it is all mixed together.

 

If I have some dry ingredients not joining the rest of the mess, I might add a few drops of water, which I did it this case:

 

Without too much effort it will look like this:

 

Then it time to throw them into the garbage (just kidding).

I put the bowls into garbage bags and stored them overnight.

The next morning the dough has doubled in size (It’s a live!) and I spread it out on a floured board:

 

I then folded the dough and let it rest (covered) for 15 minutes.

While the dough is resting, I got ready the “proofing” basket. This is where it will do a final rise before baking. I used a colander. I sprayed it with vegetable oil and added sesame seeds to it:

I rolled up the bread after it was done resting. I then added more sesame seeds to the outside of the dough:

Then I added it to the proofing basket:

Then covered:

I set a timer for 90 minutes and played a computer game with my brother.

After 90 minutes, I started up the oven and put in our Dutch oven. There is no temperature gauge on the oven, but if it went to 10, I would set it to eleven. It should be hot.

I set the timer for another 30 minutes.

At the end of that time, I dumped (literally) the dough into the Dutch oven. Covered the pot and put it back into the oven. The heat of the oven caused the dough to rise again.

After 30 minutes, it is time to remove the lid and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, it was time to dump the bread onto the cooling rack:

Time to Eat!

Recipe:

1/4 cup of sourdough starter added to 1 and half cups of water
3 cups of unbleached bread flour
half a cup of whole wheat bread flour.
a third cup of cracked wheat
1 and half teaspoons of salt
Mix the water and starter together.
Then mix the dry ingredients
Then mix the wet and dry ingredients together. The mixture should be damp. Add water or flour as needed.

In the Hood

Spring had arrived and it was a sunny day. Great time for a walk in the neighborhood. I put on my tourist look: shorts, The Exorcist ball-cap my daughter gave me, and my camera with a giant telephoto lens bouncing on my gut that in some cultures would appear as an obvious phlallic display.

One of the first things I noticed was a “weed” growing against our wall. I wondered how tall it would get?

Two years ago this month, this dirt park was filled with make-shift tents when people abandoned their houses after the big earthquake.

My sister and brother. Camp Anza was a WWII mobilization center. You can still see the barracks if you drive down Cypress Avenue in Riverside today.

Really a step-up from where I grew up in Camp Anza (now Riverside, CA). Our ballpark was a corner of the parking lot of a nearby factory. It was only dirt, with a fence backstop. It was also used by the factory workers for softball games that could send hard-hit balls into the toxic waste drain that bordered the field.

Finally after an earthquake, then followed by an economic blockade, construction is in full swing around the valley, including in our neighborhood.

Need a wrench? The window of a hardware store.

 

The next time you complain about your job, think about this poor guy with the load of cane on his back. He probably has the same worries you do. You know, like where is going to sleep tonight and what will he eat, then again, maybe you don’t have those worries.

Here is some trivia for you. What famous movie featured a Lifebuoy quote?

Answer: A Christmas Story – After his mother washes his mouth out with Lifebuoy for swearing, Ralphie dreams that he is blinded and his father cries out, “I told you not to use Lifebuoy!”

Below the min-bus conductor looks for more riders, though I have no idea where he could put one. During the embargo, you would see riders on the roof, no longer though.

Lots of traffic on the road and lots of ways of getting around.

Water tankers are very common as running water is still a pipe dream.

Sometimes it is easy to only see the dust, the pollution and the chaos of life in the valley, but it is also colorful and full of life. Cheers to looking for the later.

My favorite photo of the walk.

 

An Indecent Proposal While Exploring a Tourist Hot Spot

This has been a stay-at-home spring break for us which is easy to do when you live in the middle of a mix of fascinating cultures.

We went shopping in Thamel, the tourist heart of Kathmandu. While Linda bargained with vendors I wandered the streets with my camera. The tourists have returned and the shops were generally busy.

Signs of prosperity

We had lunch at the RoadHouse Pizza where the featured product is baked in a wood oven.

Hot work

On our way back, our driver suggested we stop at a nearby area where a large chariot was being prepared to celebrate the upcoming rains (amongst other things) called Rato Machendranath Jatra. The chariot will be moved to various sacred spots in the city during the next month.

The chariot is that very large “tree-like” structure.

The chariot will be pulled by human power.

Cable service may be disrupted

The yoke of the wagon.

Kids on the chariot. When we were there, no one was climbing up and down the structure. Two years ago, just before the giant earthquake, two people were crushed under the wheels as it was being moved.

While waiting at the intersection a man approached me from behind “Want a massage? Ultimate end, you decided. Great sex.” No, this is not one of those Paul Theroux stories where I will go on to describe in detail a sexual encounter with a prostitute. Nope, not my thing. There are many stories of Nepali girls sold into labor only to end up in prostitution, a sad result of poverty and a lack of respect for humanity. However, I shared the story with someone and they suggested that the guy may have been the masseur, not the pimp! Good point. What a sad life, nothing great about it at all.

Masseur or Pimp?

 

 

Rampaging Gang Invades Our Home in Kathmandu

A loud crash on the patio announced their arrival.

 

We ran to the windows and looked out. We were surrounded! There were at least 8 of them. But not to worry, this is a daily happening for us. The “gang” is a large family of Rhesus Macaque, the temple monkeys of Nepal (and India).

Can you spot the youngster eating the trumpet flowers?
A large adult is watching the young one
Snapdragons are yummy too

Before we moved to Kathmandu I had dreams of growing fruit trees much like Southern California. The climate is very similar. It seems that anything you thrown into the soil here will sprout. But the first time I saw the monkeys demolish our papaya tree I realized dreams of fruit trees at our Kathmandu home would be fool’s errand.

Not every home in Kathmandu is like this, but we seem to be on daily migration route of this particular troop of monkeys. Some say they are part of this group: Gangs of Swayambhu

Years ago when they attacked the papaya tree, I went outside banging a pot and yelling at them. The largest one only paused a moment and barred his teeth at me. At that moment I did not think I was such a great ape and retreated inside.

You can see what effect my growl had on the monkeys who were ripping the branches off our pine tree yesterday.