Baking sourdough bread in SoCal

Sourdough bread has been around for a long time. Both beer and sourdough bread appeared around the same time in ancient Egypt. Two great uses for grains! Sourdough fermentation also changes how people digest grains. See

I started making sourdough loaves using the instructions from Breadtopia.com. They sell the starter through Amazon. It takes a few days to grow the starter from the small package to make enough to continue growing and give you the 1/4 cup you need to make the bread. There is a great “no knead” recipe and video on Breadtopia. Breadtopia’s recipe is simple:

  • 1/4 cup of starter
  • 1 and half cups of water
  • Two and half cups of bread flour
  • 1 cup of whole wheat
  • 1 and half teaspoons of salt

For my SoCal recipe:

  • 3 and a third cups of unbleached bread flour with a third cup of cracked wheat and no whole wheat (it was not in my cupboard!)
  • 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.

Covered the bowl with a plastic bag and let it sit from 8 to 12 hours. The longer you wait, the wetter the mixture gets. The mix will increase in size.

The mixture is dumped on to a floured surface and flattened and rolled (see video on Breadtopia.

The roll is allowed to rest for 15 minutes.

While it is resting for 15 minutes, prep the next surface. I use a colander. Oil it and add sesame seeds or wheat germ.
 Then take the roll of flour, ball it up and put it into the colander.
Leave it covered and turn on the timer to 60 minutes:
After 60 minutes, turn the oven up to 425F. My oven in SoCal burns very hot, so 425 is more like 500F. I set the timer for another 15 minutes. After lining the interior of the Dutch oven with parchment paper, it is put into the oven,  After another 15 minutes, the dough is ready to be dumped into the Dutch oven. The cover of the Dutch oven is removed after 30 minutes. 15 minutes later the bread is ready:
Now we have a loaf of bread to carry in our luggage to use in Kathmandu!
The last act for my sourdough starter is to preserve it for the next visit. The starter is spread-out on parchment paper and dried:
The flakes are stored in a baggie in the freezer, ready to be re-hydrated for our next visit.
5000 years after the first loaf, sourdough bread is still great to eat. Just don’t eat one that is that old!

Visiting Bangkok

I’m going to risk sounding like a jaded traveler, but here goes…. I really can’t remember how many times I’ve been to Bangkok in the last 32 years, though the first time was December, 1983. The most recent, was yesterday.

Bangkok is where we went for teacher conferences when working in Kuala Lumpur, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Bangkok is where my son and I had “that talk” about the birds and bees. It is where Angus and I had suits made, strutting around like the peacocks we were. It is the city I was sure would die under it’s weight of gridlock and pollution and be abandoned as it sank into mud below the river. It was city where my wife caught Typhus. It is where I first learned my father was dying. So I carried a lot of baggage on this journey.

Let me first start by saying that the Bangkok of today is amazing. I was not expecting to be impressed, but I was. In 1983, we traveled by tuk tuk, from one neighborhood to another, choking on car exhaust as we crawled along. You can still get stuck in traffic as you can see in my photo above, but some of those vehicles are Priuses, and the taxis and buses are running on natural gas. That is just another day on the road for this Southern California native. There is no longer that gray cloud that used to hang over the roads of Bangkok (and alas still hangs over the roads of Kathmandu). Drivers can also take one of the many elevated toll roads that now criss-cross the city.

Boat stop at the Jim Thompson House

Linda and I did not need a taxi except for the trip to and from the airport. The rest of the time we used either the elevated “SkyRail” metro system, or the Khlong Boats (canal boats).

As it turned out, many of our visits were close to the boat line. There may be times when the canal smells ripe, but not when we were there.

The ticket takers move up and down the sides of boat collecting fares.

The boats are not for the faint hearted. You step from the dock to the boat, without the benefit of steps, as the boat rocks back and forth against the tires protecting the dock. Ticket collecting is also a challenge. There are no aisles joining the rows. The ticket collector moves down the sides of the boat:

There are also splash guards that the passengers control with rings that will move the blue tarp up and down the side of the boat. The ticket takers have to also watch out for bridges. Notice in this next video as the roof of the boat is lowered:

We used the boats to visit the Jim Thompson House. Thompson was a former OSS officer in World War II who made a lot of money developing the Thai silk industry. He mysteriously disappeared in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. The house is actually a collection of traditional Thai houses that Thompson joined together. No photos allowed of the inside, but I could enjoy photographing the orchids in the garden:

20 March 2000

We traveled on boat to Sukhumvit Soi 15, and walked to Cabbages and Condoms. It is a restaurant we went to years ago with Andy’s second grade teacher and other friends.

At the time I had a lot of explaining to do with my son regarding the importance of condoms. It is more than just a name at the restaurant, it is a mission. The mission, as the name implies is family planning. The food is delicious. Their sense of humor is infectious.

Will you ever look at Santa’s beard the same way?

One of journeys on the SkyRail took us to the Weekend Market. But as we were getting off the train we stumbled upon the opening ceremonies of the Muaythai University World Cup. MuayThai, “The art of eight limbs” because just about any pointy part of your body can be used, also known as … Thai Boxing! It was held outdoors beside the National Stadium’s rail stop. We saw the prayers, warm-up, and opening round between Algeria and Iran (the music plays during the round). We know absolutely nothing about the sport, so please disregard our comments!

We continued to the Bangkok Weekend Market. It is huge! On a typical weekend 200,000 shopper wander the cramped aisles separating 8000 shops on 30+ acres. As horrible as that sounds, it was still fun! I’m not sure how many bargains were to be had, but it was fun for the photographer.
Our friends Susan and John recently moved to Bangkok. At dinner I asked Susan why they chose to live in Bangkok, when they could live anywhere in the world. Her answer: A great public transit system and a surprise each time she leaves her front door. I’ll have to say the same for this visit. It is a place memories are made and I look forward to our next journey to Bangkok.

Another Post about Eating

No, this is not an eating blog, it just looks that way. However life overseas and eating do seem to go together. It is part of the shared experience of a location. My brother’s family traveled with us in Bali. When we recall the trip, we may talk about the beaches, the rice paddies, wonderful people, or the exotic dancing, but for sure we will remember the fresh fruit drink that caused him grief for three days. If we run into people who have also lived in Malaysia, the conversation always turns to food. I was 135 pounds when we moved to Kuala Lumpur and put on 8lbs/yr during our stay. What can I say? The food was wonderful!

Today was International Day. Parents set up booths with foods representing many of the nationalities of our school.
It was appropriate to start off with mansaf, meat and rice cooked with yogurt. It is the dish of the Bedouin, the travelers of Arabia. Appropriate as we start this epicurean adventure, but also as this, our 21st year in Arabia, foreshadows our own journey from the land of the Jin in June.
Next was the falafel, a chickpea patty sandwich. A veggie dish appropriate for this time of year. According to Wikipedia, it was invented in Egypt and used as a meat substitute during Lent by the Coptic Christians. Good stuff!
The first trip Linda (Kathy, Astrid) and I took together was to Greece. We were welcomed into kitchens to see food as it was prepared. On the Isle of Corfu I helped the owner of the B&B gather in the fishing nets filled with our dinner from the bay. Warm food and warmer people. Here the Greek parents are preparing sandwiches.
Our honeymoon was in Paris. Here the French families have treats awaiting visitors.
I coached Girl’s JV basketball when we lived in Germany. When our away games took me to Vienna, I would always bring home a Sachertorte from the Sacher Hotel. Here the Austrian parents cut the first piece for Linda. They enjoyed the story!
The food in this region is incredibly good and fresh as seen at the Lebanese booth.
We will miss the food, and we will miss our friends,
as we travel to the land north of India.
However, we will no doubt have more food adventures.

Dinner on the way home

Nothing in the fridge and not in the mood for fast food, we have several choices for fine dining on the way home. One of our favorites is Jones the Grocer. Jones is a restaurant/gourmet grocery store.

We both chose the fish and chips.

We took dessert home with us.

Then across the driveway to our favorite coffee shop….

Our Eight Dollar Dinner

We typically enjoy one of Linda’s fine casseroles, or perhaps pesto salmon encrusted with fine slivers of almonds. On rarer occasions I make a spagetti with spicy Italian sausage.

However there are those days when we’ve been busy in the early evening and fast food beckons. Tonight was such a time as we had our first moving company visit to do a survey of our goods and it went longer than expected. By the time it was finished we were ready to eat.

Our building is between the American fast food staples Burger King and KFC, two very busy establishments. However in our twenty years in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and the UAE), we’ve become fond of the local fast food, the shwarma.

The skewer of meat is prepared by stacking slices of seasoned meat and fat. The meat in the picture is chicken and beef. The meat is slow roasted and the well done pieces are cut off and mixed with the veggies in the pan. Very hot work. The cooks can often be seen outside cooling off. The meat and veggies (tomatoes under the beef and fries under the chicken) are mixed with sauces and green veggies and wrapped in bread. In addition to these delicious sandwiches, we also order fattoush, a green salad mixed with toasted pieces of pita bread.

Dinner is served!