Monday, April 14, 2008

California Dreaming

There are things that you do when you're young that you look back on as an older, wiser person and say, "What the *%@# was I thinking??" One of those times in my past was The California Trip.

When I was a senior in high school our choir group traveled to Anaheim, California to sing at the National Music Educators Convention. It was an honor to sing for them and we were thrilled. But truly, more thrilled to have 4 days to play in Southern California. For many of us it was our first time ever to see Disneyland and all of the touristy sites.

Our motel was just across the street from Knott's Berry Farm. Two buddies and I were just leaving the park when a long, black limousine with smoked windows glided up next to us. We oggled. A real, honest to goodness limousine, right next to us! Were there stars inside? We tried to sneak a peek but couldn't make out any passengers. Then the driver rolled down his window and started a conversation with us. He told us he'd just dropped off Neil Diamond and his family inside the park, but we weren't allowed to go tell anyone. Wow!

We chatted for a bit and he, perhaps because he was amused by our naive, wide-eyed wonder, or perhaps to test our gullibility quotient, asked if we wanted to ride in a limousine. We conferred for a moment, decided there was safety in numbers, and said, "Yes!"

(SMACK! That's the sound of my adult hand hitting my adult forehead. Hellooo? Getting into a strange car with a strange man in a strange city? Not a brilliant plan by any standard.)

But, God is gracious. We weren't abducted or molested. We reclined in the back seat, playing with all the buttons while the chauffeur drove us around the block and dropped us off at our motel, lecturing us on how foolhardy is was to get into a car with a stranger.

Then he invited us out to dinner. Slow learners, we cheerfully agreed. (SMACK) He picked us up 2 hours later and drove us to a nice restaurant for steak. He was interested in what we were doing in Anaheim. When my pretty blonde friend with the fabulous voice confessed that she wanted to be a professional singer, he told us stories about what a cesspit show business is. Refusing to name names, he told us that you wouldn't believe what goes on in the back of a limousine.

He also gave me what I'll always cherish as my favorite compliment. "You know, your face is kind of pretty, if you look at it straight on." Yes, that made me feels lots better about my nose.

We gave him our phone numbers (SMACK) and parted ways. He called later to ask what we wanted for Christmas, which was when I finally told my parents what we'd done. My mother had very strong views about a 40 year old man calling a 17 year old girl, so after I received my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, I wrote him a polite thank you note and asked him not to call again.

So, what does this have to do with sourdough bread? Well, unlike getting into a stranger's car, making sourdough bread is something I encourage my daughter to do. She loves to use her hands to blend the starter with the water, then mix in the bread. I finish off the loaf, and when it comes out of the oven we beam with pride at our joint effort.

The starter I've got is a rather mild one, so this loaf is not overpoweringly sour. It has a tender crumb, a crackly crust, and is excellent, for eating with butter, dipping, or making sandwiches. Plus, it makes two loaves so you've got one to snork up warm and one to eat tomorrow.

California Sourdough Bread
- adapted from Bread: From Sourdough to Rye by Linda Collister

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups tepid water
1 pkg yeast
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt, preferably sea salt

2 baking sheets, greased

Put the starter and water into a large bowl and mix with your hand to make a soupy batter. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast, then gradually beat into the liquid with your hand until well mixed. The dough should feel soft but not sticky: if it feels too slack, work in extra flour, 1 Tbsp at a time: if it feels hard or dry, or there are crumbs left in the bottom of the bowl, work in extra water, 1 tbsp at a time.

Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead thoroughly to make a smooth, firm, very supple dough. Wash out the bowl and return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. For the best flavor, let rise slowly in a cool room until doubled in size, about 4 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator, which is what I prefer.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch down to deflate (if dough has been stored in the refrigerator, let it come back to room temperature before continuing, 1 1/2 - 2 hours).

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, cover with ; plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape each piece into a neat ball, handling the dough as little as possible. Put onto the prepared trays, then slide into a large plastic bag, slightly inflate, and close the end. Let rise at normal room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425. Put a roasting pan of water into the oven to heat; the steam created will help develop a good crust. Or you can put a shallow pan on the lowest rack of the oven and throw some ice cubes into it just before putting in the loaves.

Uncover the loaves and quickly slash the top in a diamond pattern using a small serrated knife or a razor blade. Put into the heated, steamy oven, giving a few shots of water with a squirter bottle, and bake for 30 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

Eat within 5 days. Can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Makes 2 medium loaves.


Chelsea said...

If I thought I could remember to take care of my starter I would be on top of this recipe, but as it is I am forgetful and busy so I will just drool over yours. I have definitely been itching to make some yeast breads lately. Maybe some cinnamon rolls this weekend. Mmmm...

Gigi said...

Lynn, I think this is recipe that going to push me over the edge and try to make sourdough bread.

LyB said...

I just love your stories, Lynn! I also love that you can bring sourdough bread into this and it makes sense! That photo with the bread slice covered in melting butter is making me wish I had a sourdough starter! :)

Mama Mia said...

hahah. I love your story. I'm born and raised a Anaheim, California native.Been to Disneyland 1,000 times. The California Adventure land has the Boudin Sourdough bakery inside where you get to see the machines make sourdough bread but yours looks so much more delish!

Anonymous said...

The bread looks gorgeous Lynn! Real beauties. The texture looks so good too.
Your story is charming and you are very brave to let your children hear of it. Every time they want to do something, it will raise it's risky head. Unless your children are not like my daughter would be. I just told her I was Mary Poppins...perfect in every way.

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Wow, talk about an adventurous (and slightly? dangerous) trip you took, back then!! Thank goodness you're okay, haha. I love the lesson attached to making the sourdough bread :0)

Peabody said...

Oh my, my father would have beat me down(retired police officer). Glad to hear nothing bad happened!
Baking bread however, is a great thing to do!

Chou said...

Fabulous story--especially since it all worked out well. What would life be if we didn't make crazy errors? Sane, perhaps. Hooray that your daughter is learning to make bread.

KayKat said...

Ahh ... sourdough. I really need to make some, this is the second post I've seen about it in a week - looks delicious!

Patricia Scarpin said...

If I start smacking my forehead for every stupid thing I did in my teenage years, Lynn, I'll be blue in no time. :)

I have yet to try my hand at sourdough bread.

Anne said...

what a beautiful loaf!

Aimée said...

Whew! I was hoping that your story didn't have a bad ending, and it didn't. I probably would have done the same thing!
Your loaf looks hearty and delicious, perfect for sandwiches.

patio said...

I've told several people that story along with one from Lee Anne where she did a similar thing with a group of girls, but in Mexico and no limousine.

Karen Baking Soda said...

I did the same stupid thing! (No limo, a car and boys in former Yugoslavia), fortunately I was lucky as well.
The bread looks great Lynn!

Stella said...

Thanks for dropping by Lynn!:)
Your blog is amazing, the food you cook makes me drool!
I've never tasted sourdough bread before, I wish I now, now that I read your recipe!

RecipeGirl said...

Thank god you were ok. What strange things we did as kids, huh?

I once tried to make a sourdough starter and it just didn't work out. Maybe I'll get the gumption to try the stuff again.

Neen said...

wow, that's a hellova story! I did something similar, not to my own credit, when I was the ripe old age of 20. I was running to catch a bus on one of the snowiest days of the Chicago winter, and just missed it. I was trying to get downtown quickly for a very important work-related reason, and it was freezing. A guy who saw me miss the bus pulled up and asked if I wanted a lift to catch the bus. This was the SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO, WHAT WAS I THINKING? I said yes, he drove me all the way downtown and gave me his card (turns out he owned a limo service...creepy resemblance to your story). I'm still appalled at myself.

On a different note, I really love your writing and your blogging style. I'm so glad we've found each other! I'll definitely be back!

Judy said...

I'm going to give this recipe a try -- I was just looking for another sourdough recipe as a matter of fact. I keep using the same one! I'll post my results.