It’s good to meet new people and try new things. When my husband and I moved our son into college housing, we met his girlfriends’ parents. They live in Southern California. You meet the nicest people through your kids.
What we have in common besides our kids is, we both enjoy a quick “395” vacation. Hwy 395 cuts across the “back” of California, hitting some of the most incredible natural wonders in the state. No matter how many trips we make, we always find something new. We look at the map and old tour books, and sometimes we just wander. We find stuff that has been lost down old roads, forgotten. We follow signs that sound interesting, like “Punch Bowl” (an abandoned open pit pumice mine) and “Obsidian Dome” (one in a chain of “modern” volcanic eruptions). Once we pulled over to have lunch and found ourselves in an old dump – six Ford Model T’s stood in a row, their chassis rusting into the ground.
Tracy and Jim like the fishing. Hwy 395 boasts some great fishing holes, right along the road. They also like to try something new every time they drive up, so they pulled over in Bishop and checked out Schat’s Bakery. The menu is hard to resist. Besides sandwiches, they have a very nice selection of cookies and other baked goods. They sell mixes too. Having heard I liked to make my own bread, Tracy picked me up a bag of Schat’s special sheepherder’s mix.
I get into a rut sometimes. I been making my bread a specific way, having a routine that starts the day before with grinding wheat berries and feeding the starter. I try to bake a fresh loaf about every three days – when my son was home, it was every other day. With the heat of Summer, I have been getting up about 5am to get the bread done by 9am – it has to sit for about an hour and a half. Oftentimes I wake up with my hands in the dough, wondering if I did everything right. It always turns out okay, but some loaves turn out so much better than others I can’t help but wonder.
So this mix just seemed too good to be true – just add water?
But I trusted Schat, so I went for it. You will never get anywhere if you don’t try something new once in a while. The recipe was different in several ways, starting with, pour the warm water in the bowl and then dump in the mix. Usually I start with my wet starter “sponge”, adding flour and water in portions. But I try to follow instructions the first time I do something. So, I took it slow, stirring in the flour – luckily the instructions said it would be a dry dough, it was really hard to knead at first. “variable” is an important word – when I didn’t think I could get the dough together I started wetting my hands with warm water until it got sticky enough to stay together. It was a dry ball, but I could feel it was alive and rubbery, starting to fight back as I struggled to push it together. Within five minutes of kneading my arms were done and I laid it out for half an hour with a plastic bag over the top of the bowl.
It didn’t rise like my dough, but I could see it was pushing itself into a little dome. After half hour I formed it into a round loaf and set it aside again for an hour and a half. This time it pushed itself up into a little peak, raring to get into the oven. It was fun watching it take shape – it was definitely alive.
The outside was very hard, and the loaf was very heavy. That kind of worried me, but it looked and smelled fantastic. All we could do was let it cool and see what we got.
The crust was chewy and delicious, the inside soft and rubbery, full of tiny holes. Perfect! I usually use some whole wheat in my bread, so this was different – I couldn’t wait to try peanut butter and jelly! It toasted perfect, the crust very crispy. We ate it down to the last heal, and today I’ll make croutons out of that.
And then I’ll feed my starter and get ready to do another loaf of my own bread. It’s nice to have a routine, but it’s nice to bust out of it once in a while.