starters and stirrings:

Greetings from the land of Dough.  By now all of you have hopefully tried some of the latest breads; It could have been Maple Autumn Rye or Walnut Sage (all the sage came from free pick from Earthbound Farms herb garden) or the White Rye sour toasted sunflower seed.    I have been loving my new baking book called BIEN CUIT (well baked) The baker is Zachary Golper from Brooklyn.. his love is  leaving the doughs for up to 24 hours in the fridge .. then baking them right from the fridge at high temperatures which  results in a burnished.. the “almost but not quite burnt look”  and  simply put: the longer a bread has a chance to sit.. big chains of molecules break down into smaller ones producing amylose, maltose into glucose.. proteins into amino acids and we get to taste AMAZING FLAVOR!!    This baker has me making pumpkin flour out of pumpkin seeds, finding white rye,  using maple syrup with rye.. he is pushing the dough into unchartered territory and I am pushing it or gently folding it into your hands.

Some of you may know that I bake in a $99 oster table top oven.. You are right. IT IS NOT ABOUT THE OVEN.  its about good ingredients, a bakers temperament, and a very healthy sourdough starter and then you have a fighting chance at good sourdough.  I also use a quarry tile set on the base rack of the oven which holds the heat better and helps with getting good even color on the bread.

I am getting closer and closer to achieving what are called the “Ears”.. that beautiful way the top of the bread opens… creating a flap or an overhand on one side.. It is just so tricky. it involves timing, a light touch with the lame (this razor on a stick gizmo that slashes bread) and proper angling of the wrist.. Yes. It turns out to be one of the most elusive parts of this whole baking process.. Just take it from me.. I cannot wait to bake another bread just to see if I can get the proper opening on the top of the bread again.. Yes it is an endless quest.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT:   I wrote a piece that will be published in Edible Monterey Bay  in September about  a long correspondence in letters I had with a wonderful food writer named MFK FISHER  culminating in a chance to meet her at her  Glen Ellen Ranch in 1989.. suffice it to say along with the piece, there are photos and you will see pictures of my little bakery on the hill here in the highlands.

MISE EN PLACE: (everything in its place)

As we have swung out of summer and are now falling into fall.. there have been graduations and weddings, birthdays, funerals and anniversaries.. many milestones in peoples lives. In my life my mama turned 90!  I remember when Paul simon sang: “how terribly strange to be 70.. and now we are entering the bold new 90’s.. talk about unchartered territory. I have a patient turning 100 this week and lucky for her she can afford help!!  What will happen to the rest of us living way beyond what we ever thought possible?

I had one brief shining moment of great insurance coverage thanks to that long ago great missed president: Barack Obama.  It was called the Affordable Care Act.. Now I heard from my insurance that “do to the uncertain times” we are living in (translation: due to the greed and wrath and corruption of Trump) Anthem will have to pull out of providing subsidies so that I will no longer be getting affordable insurance.. yes for me obama was a  kind of  Camelot.. especially as a single part time working woman in America.  He was looking out for me.. oy.

I am profoundly greatful for the Osio Cinema back again here in Monterey.. because where else could I see great independant movies (even if its is just me and a friend in the theatre)   like Paterson and I, Daniel Blake… both miraculous movies.

PLEASE STRETCH your bodies..  as a physical therapist… I cannot tell you how important it is to keep those muscles like rubber bands..  not like strips of leather… as we age.. it makes getting up and sitting down not hurt half so much..   Raise you arms to the sky and breathe at least 3x a day …


Lastly:    I am looking forward to  baking new breads and still hope for better “ears on the tops,  to more dancing,   to traveling to possibly Cuba or Greece or elsewhere, to looking up at the moon and to watching the sun go down. to digging in the dirt.. and communing with my  friends..


pink ladies





You could say: “Well so many flours,, so little time”  or.. “its a political act against WHITE BREAD AMERICA”   or.. “when food supply dwindles.. its good to know how to make your own stuff.”  These are a few of the responses i was thinking about after my mom asked me: “Why I love to bake bread so much?”     She then said that she thinks of it as my  poetic gesture to the world and that she wonders if I am making any money on it. I assured her again that I break even but it made me want to write down all the reasons I continue to bake bread for my small but growing community supported bread club which I call YeOldeHighlandsBakeryShoppe.. of which my jingle is: gluten shmuten… just eat good bread.      Think about this statement below first:

Bread has been a food staple since the beginning of recorded time. The ancient Egyptians baked bread before the 20th century B.C. Fragments of unleavened bread have been unearthed among the ruins of the Swiss Lake Dwellers in the earliest civilized communities of Europe. There were public ovens in the Republic of Rome and the bakers of Greece were world famous. Bread has been referred to as the staff of life. It has been written that a substance called manna was sent down from Heaven to feed the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness. “And it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made of honey.” Bread was made at home or in small bakeries until the end of the 19th century.

Something that was so good it was sent down from heaven.. and who could argue with that?

So aside from the obvious reasons of just wanting to learn the craft of making a really good loaf of bread… now more than ever.. the quest to make something with my own two hands and give it to another community member makes me truly feel part of a tribe.    When I do what is called the” hand off”  meeting up with someone to deliver bread.. We get to reconnect for a brief second… we do what “breaking bread together” was meant to do…  get together.. commiserate.. catch up.. see how the family is.. talk about this months bread flavors.. where it comes from.. why I chose it.. how did you like the last one…. I even remember when my dear father was alive.. he was talking to the conductor for the summer Bach Festival event and casually mentioned that his daughter loved sourdough rye caraway bread.. “Oh.” the conductor said.I am missing that bread   so my dad immediately told me that the conductor for the Bach Festival needs to have his rye bread and my father went to his recital and walked up to him after he was taking his bows and got him his bread.  On another instance.. a woman from Bulgaria mentioned to me that she had not tasted Pumpernickle from her native land and although it was probably not quite the same as the one she had been dreaming of.. I baked her Pumpernickle every month till she died a few years ago at 92… Before preservatives and shelf life and pretty packaging and shipping determined how bread was to look and taste.. bread was defined by place.. by the bakers who lived in place and by the grains that grew in place..

I bake bread because  there is a rhythm that is relaxing..  making the sourdough starter.. letting it ferment overnight.. seeing it get bubbly and know that this is the stuff that will make the bread have oven spring.. Making the dough and getting my hands wet and mushy and mixing it up… seeing it morph from shapeless puddle of mush into a cohesive balloonlike shape over a 12 hour period is downright comforting..  that is all there is to it.. Not to mention the smells and flavors that come at you after the 45 minute oven bake and if you are lucky…  the crackle and snaps of the air  bubbles popping.

I bake because it is an act against what BIG AG wants you to believe is too “time consuming”  it is against the idea that things need to become “more efficient in order to be better.”  Against when food became a commodity to be packaged a certain way in order to make more money.. instead of truly tasting and savoring the magnificence of what great bread is:  a sensual experience.. yes I said it.. a sensuous experience.

I bake because I think the next food wave will be the taste of ancient grains:   people will demand to have their taste buds back.. They will be tasting emmer, kamut, amaranth, spelt, buckwheat, teff. einkhorn..  Imagine all the grains that have been left off the table.

I bake because it is meditative..

I bake because It  involves being connected to the elements.. hot and cold.. damp or dry.

I bake because there is always an extra loaf that i can give to someone that probably will never have the opportunity to taste a freshly baked home made loaf.  I try to give one or two away every week to someone that it is hungry.

I bake because I get to hear peoples stories.. their history.. from where they come.. their ancestry.. Many tell me who their grandmother was and what she liked to bake.

I bake because I connect to the farmers who grow the wheat and the bakers who bake the bread.

I bake because I want to slow way down.. and force myself to leave the world of point and click.

and Yes I bake because there is nothing like knowing my hunger will be assuaged by a slice of bread and butter.

until the next loaf..

I must have my own bread license..


have changed my mind according to what I feel constitutes a great bread for you all. So  forgive me if I use my “bread license” a bit openly here.. (Poets have Poetic license right) so bakers must have a bread license.. I think that allows me to change my mind.. So that is why you may have noticed I have gone from roasted potato/garlic,, to squaw bread to english muffin bread to your next January bread which is called Thom Leonards country  French bread..

I want to champion the recipes from bakers who are experimenting with bringing back the flavors of wheat as they were supposed to be tasted.. not the flavors that are homogenized to fit the needs of the industrial wheat growers.. so I will be experimenting with kamut, emmer, einkhorn and spelt in the next few breads.. The bread for January is Thom Leonard’s standard county batard(torpedo) shape..This bread  features a very small bit of starter to which is added  bread flour and water for a 24 hour set… It then is mixed in the mixer because of the heaviness of this dough. and then sits another 18 hours..  Start putting the butter at room temperature because it is all about the bread and butter.