Wanderings and Alchemy

Lately, on the western coast there has been a lot of mornings that look like this. For the last month I have been in a dough frenzy.  It would seem easy to attribute it to the time of year, but this has been going on since Halloween.  Halloween, when I first decided I would master the croissant.  After 4 recipes and a class where people may not have gotten perfect croissants but certainly got their frustrations out.  Beginners with rolling pins in hand…the dough never stood a chance.  But that is the beauty of baking.  Despite all the science, careful wording, and numerous warnings in most cookbooks and recipes, dough can take it. In fact dough can withstand the majority of mistakes the novice inflicts upon it, more likely it’s the novice who gives up before the dough does.

Needless to say there have been a lot of days where this is my purse and everyone I come across in my day gets a pastry.  The crusade for the perfect croissant culminated in Thanksgiving dinner, and since then I have moved onto a new obsession.  Bread.  Wild Yeasted.  Sour and Tangy.  Nothing but flour, water and air.  Pure Alchemy.  There are  currently 3 batches of stinky starters in the fridge, a step down from the last two weeks in which there were 5 starters and 3 doughs waiting for the oven.  The people I run into on the street are becoming extremely well fed.  Why so many starters?  With the glut of information available, tips and tricks that can be added together but more often then not contradict each other, I am forced to be a scientist.  So the kitchen is turning into a real chemistry lab, full of experiments, as I try to get the tangiest and heartiest yeast out of venice beach.

Part of the problem is that there is very little info on baking by the beach.  And much less on baking by the beach in a windy December.  So I am becoming my own expert.  I figure if I can become an expert on the occult in Africa while I was working for a pro bono law firm in law school, I can certainly handle Sourdough.  Bring it.  And in the regular 6-8 hour downtime between kneadings and foldings when the doughy magic really happens, I take walks with the Hubs and the pup.  The winter seems to be bringing all the artists back into the streets and I am the luckier for it.

I am also the colder for it.  Most people laugh at how cold I get in California.  I am most recently from the East Coast.  Where winter is defined by news updates of “today it  hailed, slushed, sometimes snowed, mostly freezing rained all at once”,  especially in wet wet wet Washington D.C..  But before that I was from Florida, the Sunshine State and Ecuador, love child of the equator.  hmm yummy sunshine.  What can I say,  I never got over the heat of my youth.    So it is December in Southern California.  And I am feeling the chill.  We have had the Santa Ana winds howling over the land at 100 mph for the last couple of days.  Coupled with the cold pacific near by….you better believe my winter coat has come out Mr. Flip Flops.  It’s all worth it to see all of  California’s winter colors.  Color never fails to do me a world of good.

Also, I am very much in love with this house.  There is no way anything but happy souls live inside it’s walls.  Especially happy souls.  It reminds of Spain, Barcelona in particular.  Perhaps a less extravagant Gaudi but certainly no less whimsical.  Color just fills me with joy.  Now, back to the bread.


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