Still Workin’

Some days things take longer than others. You know those times, when the internet lags, but all the work you need to do is online with approaching deadlines and then the power goes out. Yep, that’s how these days can feel. Some folks complain about the weather being too hot. Some folks give their opinions over politics. Some of us just keep on truckin’. I find that I’m still working on some ideas and projects that never seem to end. 2020 holds that theme of never-ending. When will Covid-19 “end”? When will the political banter “end”?

The Neverending Story

Perhaps we all need a winsome Luck Dragon like Falkor to take us away from all the woes of the world. OR maybe we can use some creative outlets to break the tension, anxiety and uncertainties. Then, those outlets might allow us to think more clearly and solve the quandaries of today with less quarrel. I allow my creative outlets to produce results that hopefully inspire our readers. Whether in the garden, kitchen, studio, or makerspace, it is my goal to keep us positively motivated. We are all in this time together. Let’s make the best of it!

Seize the Season

One way to make the best of life is to use that which is at hand. BLUEBERRIES are now at hand, or should I say in season at this very moment. I made a beeline to Peek-a-Blueberry Farm in Bath, NY to get my hands full of these azure colored gems. Since our most local berry farm in town is closed due to Covid-19, I had to do some research. If you have never picked your own fruit, promise that you will put this on your bucket list. That sweet farm I found even provides a picking bucket and I overfilled it. With all that abundance I tested a scrumptious Blueberry Lemon Loaf recipe from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. If you are local to the Southern Tier Library System, please check out the book for all the vegan inspiration. If you are a reader from a far-off universe, test this recipe from V is for Vegetables. This recipe far surpasses the old adage of making lemonade from life’s lemons.

Masks are Lemons

If you read Work with Whatcha Got, this mask was in progress. It certainly has become a Lemony Snicket! I wanted to test a different pattern in an extra large size to compare it to our Face Mask Pattern and Tutorial. I wanted a slouchy effect that felt more like a bandana tied around my head than a close-fitting face mask. This tutorial is one of the most popular on YouTube, so I wanted to give it a whirl. The pattern size is slightly larger than the one Tangled Hangers provided, but after a few tweaks and retries, I struggle with the design. It’s just too big on my face. Dastardly Device! Luckily, the majority of my Work with Whatcha Got ensemble is complete and ready to reveal.

The headband I created out of the excess fabric from the skirt hem. It fits very well and holds down those stray hairs on a hot day. To make a similar one, follow this tutorial and share your creation in the comments. I wanted to accent the tank top with some fabric from the skirt to tie the two together. There was a sheet of paper towel closest at hand, so it became my pattern paper. I creased the paper in the seam gap on the shoulder strap and cut out an abstract shape. The pattern was traced onto the fabric, then pinned in place on the shirt. I decided to alter the shape just before the final application.

Tell me what you think of my work. I enjoy this comfortably cool “new” addition to my wardrobe as much as I enjoyed the journey of upcycling the “lemons” from my closet. Although some parts of the project took longer than expected, it feels great to meet my goal. While we can’t control what comes at us tomorrow, we can Keep Calm and Create.

I’m still working on creating new programs for the (dare I say) Fall season. In the meantime, I have to return to this free (until August 31) Anti-racism Training. There is a lot of work ahead of us. The work begins with you. The work begins with me.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll check you on the flip side!

Fascinating Fermentation

Way back on March 18…

It’s funny to think how far in the past just two weeks feels since self-isolating started in New York to #flattenthecurve. The homestead projects I had started out of curiosity now seem to be a lifeline to normalcy. As we each proverbially sit and stew in our collective homes, I have the need to ferment. Behold the magic of sourdough.

Starter, Seed Culture, Barm- the magic begins

Ironically, I had this need to work with fermentation as a 2020 New Year’s resolution. I sourced a starter from a friend and fed the batch with little progress toward baking. I was learning the process and ingesting lots of hours of YouTube tutorials, but never finding the time to make progress. Then I stumbled into this warped reality we all have found, where Covid-19 has us all hunkered down at home. The time I want to experiment with myriad techniques in the kitchen and art studio is now. I find we are all embracing the primal need to make food. This is the time to befriend The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. Enjoy a little culinary literacy.

Flour + Water + Time = Natural Yeast Magic

The starter or mother culture passed on to me was fed with equal parts of flour and water to double the original quantity. That fermented for four hours and doubled in size as you see in ball jars above. The next step to begin a Basic Sourdough Bread is to build a Firm Starter. Mixing roughly 1 cup of the starter, otherwise known as barm, one cup of flour, and enough water to form the dough into a ball. Lightly oil a bowl and the ball of dough, cover and allow to ferment at room temperature for 4 hours. Since time has no meaning for me now, I’m game, but recognize that over 8 hours have been spent coddling this culture. Several makers name their starter to give it more character- just like a pet. By this point, we agree that this barm is Sweet Melissa and she will lead us through this epidemic.

Build the Final Dough

After the four-hour ferment is complete, cut the dough into ten segments, place on a lightly greased pan and allow to rest for 1 hour. Time to shine the light on my Unicorn, the Kitchen Aid mixer workhorse extraordinaire. I am lazy when it comes to mixing dough, so my Unicorn takes all of the hard chores off my list. I measured 20 ounces of flour into the bowl, added 2 teaspoons of salt and started to mix each segment of the firm starter into the bowl to achieve a the final dough mixture. This run on a low setting with a dough hook for 4 minutes.

Final Dough, ’bout to be be bread in my belly.

The Final Dough is finally achieved. It has the appearance of a French Bread Dough, smooth, yet sticky surface and an internal temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a bowl and the dough with oil, cover and let this ferment for an additional 4 hours. That’s right, it’s a good thing I’m not leaving my house. Sweet Melissa needs me–or I knead her!

The Final Ferment Countdown

Once the final dough has fermented an additional 4 hours, it is time to split the dough in half and form into the final shape that will result in the baked loaf. For a beginner, Chef Reinhart advises to gently shape the dough into boules. This basically means, form them into two balls and, guess what. Let those babies proof for 3 more hours! Since I was so invested in this project, baking bread after midnight was simply part of the game.

Score!

The fun part of baking bread is scoring the dough before it hits the heat of the oven. These score marks allow gases to expand and stretch the dough versus bubble and deform the shape. I prepared the oven with a baking stone on a low rack and an iron skillet on the upper rack. These items were heated up to 550 degrees. I heated a cup of water to boiling, then placed the pan of bread directly on the baking stone. The cup of water was poured into the iron skillet to help produce a steam bath for the development of crust in the oven. After 30 seconds, I sprayed the oven walls with a water bottle. I repeated this process twice in the hopes of finding a crust similar to that of my favorite bakery breads.

Behold the Beauty

Although the entire process takes an entire day of care, the results are amazing! After just 15 minutes of baking in the oven, all of that flour, water and time produced two fabulous loaves of bread, truly made with LOVE.

Have a Slice

Once the baking time was complete, I allowed the bread to rest on a rack for 45 minutes. A few slices were gobbled in moments once they were cooled. So much for a labor of love. Let the late night smorgas-bread commence! If you find this helpful, let me know your experience. We are all in this together. Get creative and cook happy ❤