Sourdough Bread

I made a couple loaves of bread a couple weeks ago, based on a recipe in this book Sarah asked for, Josie Baker Bread. It was good, but actually not as good as when Sarah makes bread out of the book. Mine was not mixed uniformly (the two types of flour were a little noticeable in the end product), and it was saltier than it should have been. When Sarah makes bread from these recipes, it comes out amazing. Like, I’ve eaten half a loaf immediately and only stopped because sense eventually creeped into my head again. It’s great bread.

I’ve always been interested in the raise-your-own-yeast thing. Whether for bread, beer, or whiskey, yeast is the magical ingredient that invents flavors and alcohol and texture out of biological process and chemistry alone. That’s pretty awesome.

So, my goal by reading this guy’s book was to make good sourdough. Besides being interested in growing yeast, I also love sourdough. Like, strong sourdough. When you move around frequently, it’s not easy to keep finding a good sourdough source. Trader Joe’s is pretty great though…

Anyway, I’m making sourdough in this post.

I started a starter a couple weeks ago. Basically, mix 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (all flour here is King Arthur brand) and 1/2 cup cool water together in a jar with lid askew on your counter. Let it sit. Every two days throw out all but about 1 Tbsp, then mix in that same flour and water. After a day we had bacterial and yeast growth, evidenced by the growth of the mix. After a week the mix stopped smelling like fart fruit. A little longer and it smelled like yeast-y acetone.

3 May, 0600: fed the starter in anticipation of doing pre-ferment this night.

1930: setup bread pre-ferment based on book’s first sourdough recipe.

4 May, 0800: mixed dough first step, using bread flour. The pre-ferment was acetone-smelling, which may mean I let it sit too long, and the yeast consumed all the food. Maybe this is fine though, and will produce a particularly strong sourdough. I was careful about mixing well, for uniformity. Also, I measured salt fairly carefully. Salt was just Morton’s iodized, though, we’re out of sea salt. We gotta get more sea salt from Costco.

0845: did the dough folding technique. Will do four more times or so, at 30 minute increments. Dough smelled good this first time.

1015: did fourth and last folding. Now will let it sit for several hours doing bulk rise. In the meantime we’re going to walk the dog, then go hiking near DC.

1530: put it in the bread pan!

2010: put it in the oven… It’s not as risen as it should be. I think I missed the peak of rising and it fell while we were out.

2110: it wasn’t as risen as it should be. The result was a little too dense, but still good. The sour-ness was not quite where I wanted it, but pretty good still…

I think next time I need to watch the rises and catch them at the peak. Still tasty bread.


This is lamb weekend. Some folks call it Easter weekend. I’m doing two legs of lamb – right leg and left leg. Both are about 4.7 lbs, $5.99 per pound. Today, Saturday, I’m going to smoke one based on this recipe, and tomorrow I’m going to Sous Vide one based on the same recipe I’ve used in the past. Sarah likes meat more well-done than I do, and with lamb I don’t mind that much, so my target is medium-well.

1520 Saturday: late start on marinading the lamb for the smoker.

1600: putting the lamb on at 250℉, aiming for internal temperature of 160-165℉.

1700: internal temperature is 76℉.

1800: internal temperature is 126℉. I’d really like to eat around 1900, so I’m going to crank the temperature up to 275℉ to keep this party going.

1900: temperature is at 157℉, we’re gonna make it!

1930: took the lamb off the smoker, it was at 167℉.

The result was great, the lamb was nice and smoky. It was well done, and Sarah thought that was perfect. Not the best lamb I’ve had, I thought the crust was not quite the perfect complement to the lamb and the smoke, but I’d still definitely make this again, I liked it a lot.

With the sous vide one, I used the same recipe as previously, but forgot to not add extra salt with the olives. Oh well.

1330 Sunday: meat is prepped and immersed, sous vide set to 165℉ to get a doneness that Sarah likes, like the smoked meat. I’ve set it for 10 hours, but it won’t take that long. We plan to go for a motorcycle ride and then come back. It should be done any time between 3 and 6 hours from now.

1900: took out the lamb and dropped it in a hot cast iron skillet for a few minutes, rotating it regularly. Quite a bit of water got into the bag, so I had to reduce the sauce for a good 20 minutes. No problem.

I actually liked the sous vide version a little better, Sarah preferred the smoked. I think she got a cool rubbery piece of lamb by the time she tasted the sous vide version. I warned her to heat it up, but no dice. I thought the smoked version might be better if I chose a different coating for the outside. Next time I sous vide the lamb I should take it out earlier, and use a bag that won’t get water in it.

Pork Butt for Friends

We’ve got some of Sarah’s best friends in town, and some of their family is coming over Sunday, so I’m busting out the smoker to feed everybody. Time for some pulled pork!

2030, Friday: salted the 15 lbs butt with 2.5 Tbsp salt. It’s in the fridge now until Saturday night, when I’ll put 1 cup rub on and start it smoking at 225℉.

2215, Saturday: put the butt on the smoker at 225℉, after putting the rub on.

0820, Sunday: temperatures are 166℉ (top) and 162℉.

1015: temperatures are 167℉ and 163℉. We’re deep in the stall now…

1100: turned up the smoker to 275℉.

1330: meat is at 190℉ and 181℉.

1500: meat is at 197℉ and 188℉. Pork butt really takes a long time.

1510: took the top one off at 198℉.

1700 or so: took the second off at 203℉.

It came out awesome! Note that 20 hours would not have been enough time without cranking the temperature. Next time, just plan on cranking the temperature.

Smoked Steaks

One of my best buddies got us some steaks for our wedding, and now it’s time to smoke a couple of them! Four of the steaks are half pound fillet mignons, so I’m smoking two. I’m wrapping two slices of applewood bacon around each steak, putting 1/4 tsp salt on each, and smoking them at 225℉. I’ll use the thermometers, smoking them to 130℉, then searing top and bottom on cast iron.

1645: Steaks on! Initial internal temperature, 60℉.

1710: Steak at 90℉.

1725: Steak at 114℉.

1745: Steak at 133℉, taking it off to get a sear.

The result is fantastic, buttery, delicious, medium rare, smoky. Next time I would leave Sarah’s on until medium well, this time I just microwaved it gently for her. Ideally, next time I would put it on the grill towards the end, to crisp the bacon like she likes it. Also, each fillet only needed one strip of bacon.

More Jerky!

Alright, time for more beef jerky. This time I found top round roast for $3.99 per pound. I’m using the same recipe as last time, but it’s 3.5 lbs so I multiplied the marinade by about 1.5. I sliced the meat more along the grain than last time, and also slightly thicker.

1530: Meat is in the marinade.

1020 Sunday: Meat is on the smoker, 175℉, vents half open this time cause why not, that’s what I normally do.

1430: I took all but the fatty pieces of jerky off, leaving those on with temperature increased to 225℉. They were glistening still, and I’d like them to dry out more before taking them off. I’m skeptical about the slightly thicker cuts. They’re definitely done, but will they stay good to eat as long as the thinner stuff did… Did they get dessicated enough to last? Some of the chunks are very much like smoked beef… We’ll see as time passes and I start to eat it… I’m thinking I’ll leave the fatty stuff for another hour.

1540: looks done enough… Taking off the last of it.

Fatty parts got much drier, but still not like the other pieces. I think next time I should start by cutting off all fat. This time I would’ve had to start by slicing the meat along the thin internal fat layer it had, then peeling of that fat. It would’ve left one thin layer of meat and one thick, but that would’ve been ok.