Shoshiplatypus woyww 481 felt, crochet and sourdough

To add a bit of variety, I thought I’d do a few crochet embellishments as well, so after a quick search on Youtube I found some very nice flower patterns, which I haven’t started yet, and this delightful Dutch video on crochet butterflies – even though I don’t understand Dutch, the filming was so clear that I was able to follow everything, and I’ve written out a pattern that I can follow.

I decided this week to have another go with the sourdough, following the very good video I mentioned last week. Because my first attempt seemed very dry compared with the baker’s dough on the video, I thought I’d try increasing the hydration of the dough by 10 percent, which was a total disaster – when I turned the dough out onto the table towards the end of the process, and left it to rest, when I came back, it resembled a pancake and was practically flowing out of the door!!

There was nothing I could do about this and I was really fed up by this time, as it was the end of the day and I was tired, so I binned the lot.

The day before yesterday I had another go, this time reducing the hydration by 5 percent and the same thing happened. I thought it was a shame to waste good ingredients, although bread flour isn’t that expensive, so I scooped it all up, and decided to make it into sourdough crackers which are made of excess sourdough starter with some added flour, coconut oil, an egg and some additional salt. I can’t remember but I don’t think I added the egg, but I did add some coconut oil and another teaspoon of salt. The cracker recipe says you have to leave it to rest for several hours, and when I came back, the dough was rising all over the place so I thought, what the heck, I’ll bake it as bread and see what happens! I didn’t take that much care over the folding and shaping, so I didn’t expect stellar results, but it did produce a loaf, and as anticipated, the crumb was much more dense than that of true sourdough.

Initially the dough did resemble his much more – on my first attempt it was so dry, which I put down to the fact that the rye flour I mix in has a higher absorbency – I thought I could compensate for this by increasing the hydration but after two failed attempts, this obviously wasn’t going to work. This time it seemed a lot less stiff to start with, and I thought all was going to be well. However, with each folding session, it seemed to get more and more wet, until at the turning out onto the table stage, I knew it was going to spread again, and so it did. I was getting so desperate with it at this stage that I thought I couldn’t possibly waste any more dough, and I’d bake it anyway.

As happens every single time I bake sourdough, the final moulded dough sticks to the cloth and will not turn out cleanly onto the baking sheet or into the casserole I use as a Dutch oven. Pulling the cloth away destroys the integrity of the boule and spoils the top surface and because the skin of gluten that you work so assiduously to create is broken, there isn’t enough oven spring and the bread does not rise sufficiently in the oven. I have tried normal bread flour to dust the cloth (not recommended because it’s too high in gluten and sticks like glue), rice flour and semolina (both low in gluten) but everything sticks.

Yesterday’s effort was a total disaster. It stuck big time to the cloth despite copious amounts of semolina – there was only one small central area which didn’t stick. The trouble is, when you flour the cloth inside the bowl or banneton you use for the final proving, the flour won’t stick to the sloping sides but slides down to the bottom.

Worse was to come. I took the lid off the casserole half way through the baking as instructed, and when I came to take it out of the oven I noticed it was rather overdone. Then I couldn’t get it out of the casserole because it was stuck fast! The whole thing is terrifyingly hot so there wasn’t much I could do except leave it in there to cool off a bit. It is still completely stuck. I shall have to wreck the loaf to get it out. Grrrr and double grrrr! I don’t know what’s going on…

So I think the latest effort may end up being sourdough croutons!!! At least there are lots of variations in the sourdough universe, and whatever I do, and however unsightly it may be (crumb too dense, top looking like a lunar landscape, whole loaf looking like a squashed flying saucer, etc. etc.) at least one thing is consistent – the delicious flavour! I am so determined to get this right, though, and will NOT admit defeat!!

On Monday the three days required for the second fermentation of my first batch of kombucha (fermented tea) were up, so I put the bottles in the fridge. Cooling a carbonated liquid helps retain the gas in the liquid, so opening the bottles tends to be a somewhat less explosive experience than at room temperature. Yesterday I opened the first bottle, and released the wire clip very, very, veeerrrrry slowly, with the bottle in a bowl in the sink and my eyes tightly closed like a kid watching Doctor Who from behind the settee, and it was pretty lively even so! I strained the liquid into a bowl and saw that as the Youtube video had said could happen, it had grown a little baby Scoby (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts – the culture used to ferment tea into kombucha). (in the photo, you can see it on the surface of the mango one on the right, and in the raspberry one, it has got stuck in the neck of the bottle. Goodness… it will probably shoot out and get me in the eye when I open that one!!) Unfortunately I couldn’t keep this because it had flavouring in it (in this case, mango puree) but I had no conscience about putting it in the compost bin because Scobies make excellent compost to feed the garden. The man on the video said if you don’t strain it, swallowing a Scoby by mistake can be a bit of an unnerving experience (like drinking a jellyfish) but it won’t do you any harm – it’s full of gorgeous probiotic bacteria and goodness for your system. (You can feed them to animals who love them! Or you can cut them up and dry them to make dog treats. They need probiotics too.) Anyway, my first batch is delicious – I can’t taste too much mango, but it tastes rather like cider. I haven’t tasted the raspberry one yet. In addition to drinking it as is, I am also using it as an ingredient in a rehydration drink I am making as a change from St. Mark’s Solution (a rehydration drink designed by St. Mark’s Colorectal Hospital in London for ostomates) – I drink a litre of this every day. I’ve been making up the new recipe with the brine from my fermented apples until the kombucha was ready – all adds variety to the spice of life! I think it’s delicious, but when I offered my hubby a taste, he pulled a face!!

From being ultra teenagerish and stand-offish, suddenly Ruby wants cuddles all the time in the evening once they are in from the garden and have had supper. When not on my lap she likes sleeping on the back of the settee behind me. Last night Lily purloined her favourite spot and for a couple of hours they were happy up there together. Is this the new latest place? Lily seems to have abandoned the hammock!

I have done a blog about this in detail, but suffice it to say here that I saw my surgeon last Thursday, and the stoma nurse. It is possible that I have herniated again… I suspected this and told him, and after examining me, he couldn’t be sure so he’s booked me in for a CT scan (awaiting appointment for that). If I have got a hernia again this will be the biggest bore ever – it will mean I went through ALL THAT at the beginning of the year for nothing – further major surgery, followed by infected haematomas and the beginning of sepsis and coming close to death. It will be much more difficult to deal with now, because of the presence of the mesh, and also I have already had the hernia repaired twice. Oh grrrr… Anyway, I’m not going to worry, but wait and see what shows up, and if I have got a hernia, I think my surgeon will agree with me to leave well alone, get adequate support asap (stoma nurse arranging appointment with support garments lady – my existing ones now 18 months old and probably too stretched to work properly any more, in addition to my having lost weight), and hope against hope that it doesn’t cause another obstruction. They reckon that between 50 and 75 percent of ostomates will get a hernia and it’s a very difficult problem to deal with.