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Sourdough Love

Doesn’t she look grand?

It’s complicated, my relationship with Bettina.

When she’s smelling sweet, I’m in love! When she doesn’t smell right, I worry what’s wrong. Is it something I said? Something I forgot to do? Sometimes she’ll be smelling good, but she doesn’t rise, or her bubbles just don’t look right. She doesn’t use her words very well, so we have to communicate on the unspoken level.

She doesn’t like flowers. Reading her poetry doesn’t work … well, she doesn’t talk, so she won’t tell me if she prefers Shakespeare or Dante. I read her poems that sing, Keats and Shelley sing, and sometimes Dylan Thomas for something more pungent.

Bettina’s my sourdough starter. So I follow her signs, and hope she responds.

Sourdough is the keystone

The stakes are high, because she’s the keystone of the Happy Monk Baking Company. She props everything up, makes our loaves lofty, airy, crusty. She makes them taste delicious and makes everything she is a part of nutritious. So no wonder I pay a lot of attention to Bettina!

Sourdough starter is the wild-yeast, the fermenting culture of whole rye flour (in my case) and water that forms the leaven of my bread making enterprise. It is the leavening force and the flavour of sourdough bread and it is cultivated, nurtured and fed by a baker. It’s alive!

Bettina is nearly eight years old. She spends much of her time chilling in a jar in the fridge. When it’s time to make bread, I take her out of the fridge and begin feeding her new flour and water, building her up to the quantity I’m going to need for the week. I smell her every time I open the jar, taste her. I respond with whatever it takes to get her moving … including singing.

It’s magic, but you’ve got to work for it

Flour and water that ferments all by itself and does so much! It’s magic, yes, but it doesn’t happen by itself.

The magic starts when flour and water are combined, starting a reaction that activates the amylase enzyme. Amylase breaks down the starch in flour into sugars, which sourdough’s natural yeast can metabolize. With sufficient time, temperature, and refreshments with new or fresh dough, the mixture develops a stable culture.

This culture gives rise to a dough if the gluten has been developed sufficiently. The bacteria ferment maltose that the yeast cannot metabolize, and the byproducts are metabolized by the yeast which produces carbon dioxide gas, leavening the dough,

The yeast in sourdough is not as vigorous as commercial bakers yeast. Sourdough takes longer to rise. That’s not to say it’s less effective. Some sourdough yeasts can produce twice as much carbon dioxide as baker’s yeast. The acidic conditions in sourdough, along with the bacteria also producing enzymes that break down proteins, result in weaker gluten and may produce a denser finished product.

To make or donate?

I have been asked by people if I could give them some sourdough starter to save them the trouble of making their own. It would be the easiest thing in the world to do. But I know that nine times out of ten, the starter will die.

Before I give in to the request, I try to convince people to make their own. It’s not that difficult, it’s kind of fun and you’ll fall in love. I mean it … you’ll create a connection to the sourdough that will go a long way to ensuring its survival. If you spark it into life, you’ll want to keep it alive. You’ll feed it, you’ll learn about how it smells, how it expands and drops, how to bring it to life, how to store it.

And all the while, you’ll be getting delicious bread from it.

If you’re a bread machine user, good on you. The bread that comes out your machine is better than 90 percent of store bought bread. Sourdough is on a different level. And the love you put into your starter will deliver bread that is sublime, delicious, healthy … and so satisfying.


Go Ahead, Make Your Dough!

The internet is loaded with videos, blog posts and how-tos on making your own sourdough starter. Almost all of them will yield results and then tell you how to maintain your active starter. The one I point to most often is at The Perfect Loaf, a comprehensive bread baker’s site that’s got something for new bakers and experienced.

To make your own, here’s the one I recommend: 7 Easy Steps to Making an Incredible Sourdough Starter From Scratch

If you’re better with visual cues, this video by Alex The French Guy is informative and fun: A Frenchman’s Guide to Making Sourdough Starter.

For lots of detail, telling you WHY you’re taking each step to make a starter, Chad Robertson’s two Tartine books, Tartine Bread and Tartine No. 3, are the best if you ask me. They’re classics, and I’ve darn near baked my way right through the formulas and recipes.

The signature of a real wood-fired oven, written o The signature of a real wood-fired oven, written on the backside of a Salish Sourdough loaf from last week. You can see the rectangular impressions of the hearth firebricks. This is as good as a certificate of authenticity, made by Mildrith and the Happy Monk, South Pender Island!😃 you won’t see it in pan loaves, though. Look for it next time you open up a bag of HM bread! 
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany

The signature of a real wood-fired oven, written on the backside of a Salish Sourdough loaf from last week. You can see the rectangular impressions of the hearth firebricks. This is as good as a certificate of authenticity, made by Mildrith and the Happy Monk, South Pender Island!😃 you won’t see it in pan loaves, though. Look for it next time you open up a bag of HM bread!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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Sourdough Pan Loaf raised on a pedestal.
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #sandwichloaf #panloaf #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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Olive Loaf, with a couple of Kalamatas winking at Olive Loaf, with a couple of Kalamatas winking at you from the crust. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #olives #olivebread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany

Olive Loaf, with a couple of Kalamatas winking at you from the crust. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #olives #olivebread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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Inside Mildrith yesterday morning, 11 Salish Sourd Inside Mildrith yesterday morning, 11 Salish Sourdoughs risen and baked exuberantly to a luscious golden colour. The oven had baked two loads previously and it’s still just shy of 500ºF in there. She’s my inanimate love with a soul!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany

Inside Mildrith yesterday morning, 11 Salish Sourdoughs risen and baked exuberantly to a luscious golden colour. The oven had baked two loads previously and it’s still just shy of 500ºF in there. She’s my inanimate love with a soul!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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100% Rye with Currants, a happy loaf to enjoy on t 100% Rye with Currants, a happy loaf to enjoy on this day of rest. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #sourdough #sourdoughbaking #sourdoughbread #rye #ryebread #ryebaking #ryecurrantbread #southpender #southpenderisland #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbc #penderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery #bbga

100% Rye with Currants, a happy loaf to enjoy on this day of rest. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #sourdough #sourdoughbaking #sourdoughbread #rye #ryebread #ryebaking #ryecurrantbread #southpender #southpenderisland #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbc #penderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery #bbga
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Rye Currant Sourdough coming out of the oven ... t Rye Currant Sourdough coming out of the oven ... this one worked. No curses because it’s Sunday.
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredbread #coboven #cobovenbaking #cobovenbread #ryebread #ryecurrantbread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #southpenderisland #southpender #penderisland #penderislandbc #southerngulfislands #happymonkbakery #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany

Rye Currant Sourdough coming out of the oven ... this one worked. No curses because it’s Sunday.
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredbread #coboven #cobovenbaking #cobovenbread #ryebread #ryecurrantbread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #southpenderisland #southpender #penderisland #penderislandbc #southerngulfislands #happymonkbakery #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany
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This time lapse from a couple of weeks ago makes i This time lapse from a couple of weeks ago makes it look like I really know what I’m doing. All the mistakes and pauses and curses go by so fast you miss them. Just get a load of that efficiency and intention! Just what you want to see in a baker! 🤣🤣😎

This time lapse from a couple of weeks ago makes it look like I really know what I’m doing. All the mistakes and pauses and curses go by so fast you miss them. Just get a load of that efficiency and intention! Just what you want to see in a baker! 🤣🤣😎 ...

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Happy Monk Blog: Sad Monk, Happy Monk - [ See link Happy Monk Blog: Sad Monk, Happy Monk - [ See link in profile ]

Happy Monk Blog: Sad Monk, Happy Monk - [ See link in profile ] ...

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Einkorn ... Number one on the bread hit parade for Einkorn ... Number one on the bread hit parade for 10,000 years! ☝️ 🤟
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#einkornsourdough #einkorn #einkornbread #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredbread #bbga #tartinebread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #sourdoughlove #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakery #southpender #southpenderheaven

Einkorn ... Number one on the bread hit parade for 10,000 years! ☝️ 🤟
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#einkornsourdough #einkorn #einkornbread #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredbread #bbga #tartinebread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #sourdoughlove #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakery #southpender #southpenderheaven
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The Happy Monk Baking Company - Baker's Choice this week: Einkorn; Blog: Rise Up Podcast for early morning listening - [ See link in profile ] ...

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The Baker’s Life: what would you rather do at 3a The Baker’s Life: what would you rather do at 3am waiting for the wood-fired oven to cool down? Stamp paper bags?  Work on the Excel ordersheet? Write a blog?  Sometimes the prow just calls me down to the water and I watch the night sky, flashing red lights on Orcas Island, listen to the water lapping against the rocks. It’s gonna get busy soon! Nice to have a little pause ...
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#orcasisland #bakerslife #happymonkbakingcompany #southpenderisland #bakery #gulfislands #gulfislandsnationalseashore

The Baker’s Life: what would you rather do at 3am waiting for the wood-fired oven to cool down? Stamp paper bags? Work on the Excel ordersheet? Write a blog? Sometimes the prow just calls me down to the water and I watch the night sky, flashing red lights on Orcas Island, listen to the water lapping against the rocks. It’s gonna get busy soon! Nice to have a little pause ...
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#orcasisland #bakerslife #happymonkbakingcompany #southpenderisland #bakery #gulfislands #gulfislandsnationalseashore
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“And who are you?" she sternly spoke
To the one beneath the smoke
"Why, I'm fire, " he replied
"And I love your solitude, and I love your pride." "Well then, fire, make your body cold
I'm gonna give you mine to hold. "
And saying this, she climbed inside
To be his one, to be his only bride. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredbread #fire #bread #leonardcohen #joanofarc #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery
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Happy Monk Tidings - Baker’s Choice: Hearty Seed Happy Monk Tidings - Baker’s Choice: Hearty Seeded Rye Bread – Blog: Make your own yeast! [ See Link in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - Baker’s Choice: Hearty Seeded Rye Bread – Blog: Make your own yeast! [ See Link in profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings: Baker's Choice - Cinnamon Rais Happy Monk Tidings: Baker's Choice - Cinnamon Raisin Bread; Happy Monk Blog - Bread: The Great Leveler; New Bread Delivery schedules; FolkLife Magazine and more! [See link in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings: Baker's Choice - Cinnamon Raisin Bread; Happy Monk Blog - Bread: The Great Leveler; New Bread Delivery schedules; FolkLife Magazine and more! [See link in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - Blog Post: The Approachable A Happy Monk Tidings - Blog Post: The Approachable Again - News: Mildrith is Back and Beautiful [ See link in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - Blog Post: The Approachable Again - News: Mildrith is Back and Beautiful [ See link in profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings: BREAD DAY SATURDAY instead of Happy Monk Tidings: BREAD DAY SATURDAY instead of Friday; Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye Bread; Blog: Mildrith Emerged Radiant [ See link in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings: BREAD DAY SATURDAY instead of Friday; Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye Bread; Blog: Mildrith Emerged Radiant [ See link in profile ] ...

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Struan Bread is supposed to be the best toasting b Struan Bread is supposed to be the best toasting bread in the world! This version is leavened with 100% sourdough and 30% whole spelt and I would agree with the claim 130%. Bakers Choice this week!
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#struan #struanbread #peterreinhart #sourdough #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery

Struan Bread is supposed to be the best toasting bread in the world! This version is leavened with 100% sourdough and 30% whole spelt and I would agree with the claim 130%. Bakers Choice this week!
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#struan #struanbread #peterreinhart #sourdough #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery
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Happy Monk Tidings - Blog: The France Factor-Rhythms and Life around a small village boulangerie; Baker's Choice: Eminently Toastable Struan Bread; News: Mildrith gets an upgrade! - News: Mildrith gets an upgrade! [ See link in Profile ] ...

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