Loving the Sourdough

fourth and success

Here it is, so beautiful!  The crust is crispy, the crumb is well structured but not gummy or stiff.  This morning it was the same, no overnight morphing to tough leather like the last loaf.  I think my recipe is solid, but will do it a few more times to make sure.

Toast this morning was only one slice (instead of my usual two) and the crust baked under the oven broiler to a light crispy, interior of bread was heated through but not hard.  Lovely!

I can’t believe how satisfying one slice of bread can be.  I’m sure it’s the sourdough difference.  I feel nourished and full with only half the amount.

There have been times when I’ve been lazy.  I would go through phases of  just picking up a loaf of bread at the store – just trying to get the best I could afford without going crazy.  I always read labels and could not accept high fructose corn syrup.  Other than that, I just tried for being able to pronounce ingredients.  The most remarkable thing about using commercial bread is that, for me, I could go through a loaf in two days – by myself!  Not only that, I would still feel hungry.  What is going on with commercial bread?

At least making my own bread gave me a pause.  It has been more filling than any commercial bread, but I still eat too much of it – my body searching for nutrition.  It’s like being thirsty and trying to slake that thirst with fizzy drinks.  Doesn’t work, does it.  You just end up more thirsty.

Now, with sourdough, I’m finding a serene satisfaction.  A half slice with a tablespoon of mascarpone and that can be lunch.  Hunger is gone for an appropriate amount of time.

Sourdough is touted to break down flour and make the nutrients available to human bodies in a way that commercial yeast home bread-making cannot do or does very incompletely.  Certainly the mysterious process of commercially baked bread with all its chemical dough conditioners and such and the for $ profit emphasis of those selling such bread is not even worth the time it would take to read the label.   Sourdough – worth a try, I said to myself.  The long run will tell, but it looks promising.  So far I’m loving the sourdough for everything it brings to the table.

I’m in love with the basic sourdough bread, but I’m an experimenter.  So, onward.


Free Range Yeasties

third sourdough

This is my third try.  A bit dense, but great flavor and crust texture.   A little chunk of heaven with butter on it.  After cooling this loaf down for an hour, I sliced off the end piece and buttered it.  The crust was delicate and crispy, the bread was tender and springy and it made me happy to chew it.

But, still work to do.  The next morning the crust was a bit less crispy and the loaf was an exertion to slice.  Looking at a lighter loaf,  I adjusted the recipe in two ways – one by accident and one by plan.

As i weighed the starter, 150g became 178g.  I thought, divine intervention!  Then I thought, uh oh, this will make the dough too wet.  So,  I adjusted the water by half the difference.  Explaining – starter is roughly half water and half flour (in my inexperienced estimation), so reducing the 250g of water by 14g might work to keep the moisture level right.  This all remains to be seen.

The intentional planned adjustment was as follows: instead of 250g of white flour and 250g of whole wheat flour I added 15g of gluten, 135g of whole wheat, and 350g of white flour.  I always think I need to put at least a little whole wheat in a loaf of bread; otherwise, it’s just cake.  I’m hoping this will lighten the loaf a bit.  It is proofing now;  I’ll give it an hour then drop it into my cast iron dutch oven, give it a small slice on top and put it in my 450degree oven with the lid on.

So, now you’re wondering why is this post called “Free Range Yeasties” anyway?  Well,  this morning as I reached on top of the fridge to get my starter, I found a huge overflow of the wonderful stuff having a big ol’ time across the front corner of the appliance.  I’m not sure why, but I felt exhilarated as I gathered the starter up onto my dough scraper and rinsed it down the sink.  I think it just felt like success knowing how happily bubbling and frothy my starter had become.  I need a bigger glass jar or decide to ask it to live in the fridge instead of on top of the fridge.  It sounds weird, even to me, to think that I’m going to make the starter less happy if it has to be subdued.  I think I’ll go in favor of give it more room to roam – my free range yeasties.




Feeeed Me, Seymour, Feed Me!


Sorry.  When I saw the loaf of bread, my second try, that slash in the center reminded me strongly of Audrey II in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Seymour texture

This loaf is dense, chewy, very heavy, not as risen as I hoped.  Not very much like my commercial yeast loaves.  It did smell great as it baked and it does taste pretty good.  But, My third try is autolysing as I write this.

So, what happened here?  I did not follow the suggested, very precise recipe amounts.  After all, I’ve been making bread for a very long time;  I know what a bread dough is supposed to look like.  Right?  Well, this was humbling.  I went back to the internet for more tutoring.  Ah, I didn’t scroll down far enough.  There it is, the perfect combo in grams of everything to put in the bowl first.  Yay!  I’ll give it a try.

I like to learn new things and especially things that transfer to learning other new things or perfecting skills that I’ve only half learned to that point and so on.  For example:  learning patience as I perfected my glass-working skill sets (subtle and profound) became a skill (yes, for me , patience was and continues to be a learned skill) that transfers to many other aspects of my life.  Come to think of it, patience is included in just about every skill set I’ve acquired in my life – customer service, natural and cultural history interpretation, cooking eggs and so on.

Preparing and baking sourdough bread is all about the bread.  There may be transferable skills that are being learned in acquiring the skill set of making sourdough bread (I will know them in the fullness of time), but what I am seeing most strongly is that I need to apply universal skills that have been learned in other ways to reach the desired level of expertise I am seeking.  Maybe that’s what my unwitting mentors mean when they say sourdough bread is the “holy grail” of bread-making.  Maybe what I will learn is that there is only the making of sourdough bread and no further to go, nothing that is transferred to other tasks.   Uh oh, there’s the Buddha floating in light above my eyes as I feel my mortality looming just ahead.  Enlightenment is a perfect loaf of sourdough bread.

Mending My Bread-Maker Ways

My first effort at sourdough baking.  Looks very flat, but tastes good.  It can only get better (I hope).

My first effort at sourdough baking. Looks very flat, but tastes good. It can only get better (I hope).

I’ve baked bread for 37 years and always used commercial yeast for leavening. I make lovely, high-rise, whole wheat loaves that have great texture and slice well for sandwiches.

Then, one day, I stumble on a series on food history by Michael Pollan called “Cooked.” I am astonished that the bread I’ve been making for years has no hope of providing health and vitality. Not only that (if it weren’t enough of a jolt), it, by my own calculations knowing a bit about the role of sugar in obesity, has probably played a part in my own struggle with extra pounds. The bread I have made is only the home-made version of balloon bread. Sure, it doesn’t contain the chemical soup of commercial food-like substances, but it misses one crucial process required to break out the nutritional value of wheat and make it available to human bodies – fermentation.

Not one to dwell (very much), I am on a new bread-making path. This is a story that I’d like to share not only because of the importance of spreading the enlightenment I’ve stumbled upon, but also to encourage anyone looking on. I read somewhere on the internet that sourdough bread-making is not for beginning bakers. But, I disagree. If one is to bake bread, one must start doing it correctly from the beginning. Or else what’s the point?

On to my next try. With my first try, one of the mistakes I made (which my second try will bear out I hope) is that I worked the dough too close to baking time. I got impatient with the process, decided to change the shape of the dough, then, as soon as the oven was hot, I put the dough in the oven. Result: it stayed flat, spread out a bit, baked to a hard flat “paddle” shape (as you see above).

Sal Ammoniac

[So many question have come up about this product and its use that it seems wise to give this piece an encore printing.  I hope this gives you more knowledge to put in your stained glass toolbox.]


Sal ammoniac (ammonium chloride), briefly, is a flux used for iron and steel.  This statement nearly tells the whole story of why a sal ammoniac block is used to tin (or re-tin) the working end of a soldering iron.  Most soldering iron tips are iron or steel clad copper. 

            Generally, the action of any flux paired with its corresponding metal is to remove the build-up of scale, rust, and oxides (the dark crusts) that begin to form on the surface of metal when it is exposed to even a few seconds of air.  Soldering iron tips are no different than copper foil when it comes to attracting and reacting to pollutants in the air.  Heat speeds the build-up of oxides.  (The fluxes used to clean copper foil and zinc in preparation for soldering are a suspension of zinc chloride. Historically, tallow and palm oil were used as a flux for lead soldering.  Oleic acid has replaced tallow.)

            So, how does it work?  Placing the heated metal on the sal ammoniac bar melts and partially decomposes the layer of flux (remember, sal ammoniac is a flux) in contact with the hot metal (the soldering iron tip and a drop of solder).  As the sal ammoniac “sublimes”(creating that nasty smelling white smoke), the hydrochloric acid part of the compound is liberated.  The hydrochloric acid is what dissolves the oxides from the metal surface of the iron and enables tinning.  More science than you wanted with your coffee today I bet!

A few warnings about using the sal ammoniac bar:


  1. Use adequate ventilation during this process.


  1. Sal ammoniac is abrasive and excessive use can wear away the iron cladding.


A few tips on tip care:

• Keep your tip clean with a wet sponge while working,   but  avoid constant wiping which will cause the temperature to rise and   fall dramatically causing metal fatigue

• At the end of a soldering session wipe the tip clean, “flood” with solder, then wipe again and unplug the iron.

 • Don’t allow the iron to “idle” at operating temperatures for extended periods.


With good care a good soldering iron and tip

should give years of service. However, there are

soldering irons out there that do not meet even

minimal standards of quality. So, buyer beware

– it’s a good rule of thumb.



Using the sal ammoniac bar requires some patience; it is not actually working until you see (and smell) the white smoke.  When tinning your soldering iron tip with the aid of sal ammoniac, make sure the iron is very hot.  Come in to Jones Creek Glassworks for a demonstration (my soldering iron tip can usually benefit from a good tinning).

Dalle De Verre Church Window Completed

The Dalle deVerre church window restoration is finally finished and re-installed.  The color of the matrix is somewhat different, but still in the background and not even noticeable in the sanctuary lighting.


I mixed 4 epoxy resin pour sections in the whole window; the first pour section was light on hardener, so needed to be removed and re-poured.  There is not the “cold joint” problem one might encounter with concrete, thank goodness, so, everything stuck where it was supposed to stick for the “replacement” pour – just a slight ridge in the surface of the matrix at the interface of pour sections.


I got a lot of great advice and encouragement from friends who had used epoxy resin in some form which I remembered when things went a little different than I expected.  Thanks to Dave and Karl, I was prepared for whatever might happen during the pour.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of functionality of my scale. 


I planned to tare the milk carton and pour in the epoxy resin, take the weight of the epoxy and calculate how much hardener was needed exactly.  I had a 100:1 ratio, simple math.  The plan was to tare the carton with the epoxy and take the scale up to the exact weight of the hardener only.  Well, the scale would not tare so much weight and it flustered me at first.  The first pour eventually needed to be replaced (as mentioned) because I “guesstimated” wrong on the hardener needed.  After that, everything went fine.  I just got a tare on the carton, added epoxy, and wrote down the weight of the total epoxy for my calculation of the hardener required.   Put the carton back on the scale with epoxy inside, wrote down the total weight, added the weight of the hardener to that total and then poured in the hardener until the scale read the sum.  No problems after that on calculating the mix.


I first tried pouring from the corner of the milk carton.  The texture of the epoxy resin with hardener is a little like peanut butter thinned with really sticky honey, but the way it “moves” is something I had not encountered, sort of reminded me of liquid-y silly putty.  The stuff got all over the dalles, so I moved into the more open sections of the panel since I thought the pour would be going off in about 20 minutes which would leave me little time to clean the epoxy off the dalles before it hardened.  A little nerve wracking, but it was not a good time for freaking out.  I got as much as possible poured from the carton and did a little mental reassessment of the plan.


What I ended up using for the actual “spreading” of the epoxy resin for the balance of three pours was gallon size plastic storage bags which I filled from the milk carton I used to mix.  Just cut a small hole in the corner of the bag to accommodate the narrow “channels” between the dalles and instead of squeezing (like you might do while decorating a cake), I just let the epoxy resin “fall” out of the hole as I moved it around the glass.  Piece of cake . . .


I waited 15 minutes after each pour and sprinkled clean sand over the surface.  There was one place where I didn’t wait long enough before sprinkling the sand and it sunk into the epoxy resin a bit; doesn’t look perfect, but not too bad.


The matrix began to harden very quickly (except for the bad first pour), and I left it on the work bench until the following Monday (2 days).  The following Friday, I removed the matrix that didn’t harden and poured it again.  The following Monday, February 1, I called the church to make arrangements for the time to reinstall the panel.  Saturday, February 6, Kirby and I prepared the panel for transport to the church and he installed the panel.


The only really nervous moment for me was when he had to adjust the panel during the dry fit with a skill saw using a masonry blade.  I had to go inside the sanctuary and calm my mind with meditation while he was taking a power saw to my work.  But, it all went pretty well.  See photos.


I learned a lot doing this project and plan to do more Dalle de Verre.  I need to acquire more skill in shaping and faceting the glass.  I have no fear of mixing epoxy resin now.  I need to find a more effective way to smooth the aggregate around the dalles to get a nice flat matrix surface on the bottom as well as the top.  I’m sure that will all come with practice like with any skill set. 


Learning anything requires the willingness to say yes when an opportunity arises.  So, my dear reader, go forward without fear and learn.  If you are interested in learning Dalle de Verre, there is a valuable booklet from The Stained Glass Association of America which is Chapter 10 of the Reference and Technical Manual, Second Edition.  It is available from SGAA, Raytown, MO, 1-800-438-9581.  

Inside the sanctuary, the panel on the left is the restoration.

Inside the sanctuary, the panel on the left is the restoration.

Kirby, my husband, is adjusting the panel for the dry fit.

Kirby, my husband, is adjusting the panel for the dry fit.

Waiting for the masonry blade . . .yikes!

Waiting for the masonry blade . . .yikes!

Dalle De Verre Church Window

Pieces stuck down to pattern with glue dots, clean sand (aggregate layer) between dalles, needs fine tuning before epoxy resin pour.

Pieces stuck down to pattern with glue dots, clean sand (aggregate layer) between dalles, needs fine tuning before epoxy resin pour.

It’s the big day.  I’m going in this morning to finish up prep and do the epoxy resin pour.  I know I’ve been over-thinking this (thus creating a huge nervous knot in my stomach over it) so, I’m switching gears.  The process is down cold in my head, all my reference materials are close by.  The only prep I have left is to dam up the deep facets with clay so they won’t flood during the pour and to make sure the sand base is as close to even throughout at 1/4 inch.  The actual pour should take less than 20 minutes to 1/2 hour, then the final sanding (top layer of aggregate).  Wish me luck.

Update on Paper Mache Aided Lamp Repair

Just word on paper mache mold – while it could be useful in some cases, I ended up abandoning the idea in favor of simply cutting, adjusting the shape (with grinder), foiling, and tack soldering the replacement pieces in place.  Seventeen of the upper grid of the lamp were broken.  Now, I am searching for a good replacement for the mangled vase cap, one that will do justice to the gorgeous patina of the original (still intact) finial.  I don’t want to use one of those flimsy lace-cut brass caps on this lamp.

Lamp Repair with Paper Mache

Prep for Paper Mache ApplicationWaiting to Dry 
With something resembling a dough crust speckling my hands, I’m reporting on an experiment.  I am commissioned to repair a very pretty and large-ish lamp shade. 

Most of the lamps that I have repaired ( in my short career of repairing anything) have been panel lamps or some variation of a panel lamp.  So, to make things easier for the process, I thought it would be nice to have a form in the size and shape of this lamp to work with.  Then, like a flash, the idea of trying paper mache popped into my head.

I’ve done paper mache before, in the 4th grade, and, since my mother has no award ribbons or trophys to remind us all of my paper mache success, I have to assume that I was pretty mediocre at best in the medium.  So, I went online and found a little help from a grown-up who still does paper mache.  Turns out it’s pretty simple: water, flour (in a wide range of ratios), and torn newspapers.

So, now I’m waiting for it to dry.  Thank goodness I have other projects in the shop to amuse me.  Check back later for progress reports.

PS – I’m still waiting for the dalles to arrive from Blenko so I can continue on the church window repair.