Making Sourdough Starter & The Story of Thanos

These days I am into making sourdough. For those who are not familiar with the process, the concept is surprisingly simple though the execution is more like an art than science. Whenever I feed my sourdough starter at night, I would imagine myself being Thanos. Hang in there. I will explain.

Today’s breakfast was omelet and sourdough with butter.

Sourdough Starter, What?!

Unlike making bread that uses industrial yeast, sourdough uses wild yeast. You can read more on the benefits of sourdough and the difference between yeast and mold through a Google search. Meanwhile, just take my words for now. Sourdough is a healthier option than bread. And yeast is not the same as mold.

To create wild yeast, you can ferment flour by adding an equal amount of water (by weight). Yeast and bacteria that occur naturally in flour (again, take my words and hence, don’t eat raw flour) and the environment around us. That mixture is called sourdough starter. There is an excellent article written on how to create one.

Every day, the sourdough starter that you cultivate would consume the flour and water you feed it with, grow in size, and fall back to the original size once it becomes hungry again. Each day, you feed your sourdough starter with more flour and water.

The rubber band shows the original size of sourdough starter before it grows as I feed it with flour and water.

Unless you bake every day, your sourdough starter would grow exponentially. Because as you add more flour and water each day, the population of wild yeast and bacteria will explode requiring double of what you feed the day before.

Unless …

… unless you do a Thanos on your sourdough starter. You discard half of them, into the bin or into the toilet. The portion that left behind, you feed them with the same amount of flour and water as yesterday.

In short, during each feeding interval, you wipe off half of the wild yeast and bacteria population randomly. The remaining part gets to live for another day. The part that doesn’t, vanishes from the kitchen and into oblivion.

Just like Thanos in the Avenger movie.

I made this sourdough with my own hands! Imagine, say, the first batch of viable wild yeast appeared on day 2. Since I baked this on day 12, only 0.1% of the original wild yeast survived as I discard half of the sourdough starter every day!

Baking Sourdough

I was so excited about my first sourdough so much so that I have stayed next to the oven throughout the entire one hour of baking. Making sourdough is a labor of love, for sure.

Mixing the ingredients is straightforward. No kneading is required. I followed a recipe that uses a sourdough starter (my creation muhahaha), warm water, olive oil, bread flour, and salt. Because wild yeast works so much slower than industrial yeast, the mixture took six hours to rise to a point that I could bake it. Each hour, I folded the mixture and left it alone for another hour. Each hour I observed its size and made a decision if I shall bake it or leave it alone for another hour.

How long does the whole process take?

It takes 12 hours after feeding the sourdough starter for it to attain its most active state. It takes 1 hour for autolyze to take place before rolling the mixture into a ball and another 5 hours to rise with folding to be done in an hourly interval. It takes 1 hour to bake and another hour to cool down.

Morale of the story? Do plan ahead when making sourdough.

I have been feeding you for 10 days. Thanks for making my sourdough rises. Time to go to the oven!

Was It A Success?

When I shared my sourdough making adventure with my friends and family, the first question would be, how does it taste?

Consider the fact that this is the first time I have done any baking, I would say the result is pretty decent. The texture seems right. It has this unique tangy sourdough taste. It isn’t too dry even though I have left it overnight covered with clothes. I am not a sourdough expert. But I am happy with the result.

In retrospect, I wish the sourdough starter could double in size every day instead of just expands for 20% in volume. I wish the sourdough could double in size during rising, although I must say, it was pretty close. I could make the top cut a bit deeper and perhaps, the sourdough may look prettier after baked. I may bake it a little bit longer and crack open the oven door toward the last 10 minutes of baking.

So, the sourdough starter is indeed active. It is just that for some reasons unknown to me, it doesn’t double its volume when it becomes most active in between the daily feed.

To that, I have decided to change the flour origin and give it another shot.

Stay tuned.

Look at the bubbles. My sourdough starter is indeed active!

Take You To The Moon / Wild Passion – Two Doodles

Towards the end of 2020, I have explored a different art direction. My interpretation of cubism, which requires precision. Hence, I have switched to papers for marker pens.

Somehow, I still miss the fine-grain heavyweight paper that I used to draw with. Sure, that consumes more ink and the paper is harsh to the marker pens. It costs more in the long run. It is harder to draw because of the ink feathers. But I prefer fine grain heavyweight paper.

Titled as “Take You To The Moon”

In a way, it is like when people tell me that I should use an acoustic guitar to play music instead of strumming using a classical guitar. It is probably ‘wrong’. But I have made it my own, going against the norm.

In another word, I create art for my own consumption. It doesn’t make sense, I know (Jason my guitarist used to remind me that songs have to be written for general consumption, just stick with the general expectation and we would be fine).

I think I am a rebel.

Take You To The Moon is my latest work that inspired me to write a song that I have recently published on YouTube. The objects I use are very recognizable when you examine my previous work. That is a deliberate effort as I intend to form my signatures on my drawings. That is to say, by looking at the drawings, one would relate to the style of an artist. The cat, the couple, the half-moon, and the thorns. The difference for this drawing is that instead of roses, I drew stars to better suit the theme.

Titled “Wild Passion”, which is the predecessor of “Take You To The Moon”

On New Year Day, I stayed up late having this urge to return to the previous paper type (as mentioned above). I wanted to draw something abstract, free form, and to inject a sense of freedom and urgency. Personally, I enjoyed drawing Wild Passion a lot. The end result may not be as refined as other drawings of mine. It was liberating. I suspect those who are into interpreting art may find Wild Passion more interesting.

And yes, Wild Passion is also the predecessor of Take You To The Moon. I may do more abstract art. Perhaps in a more controlled manner.

The Tale of Cats – A Doodle

Recently, I have read a short story from Folklore written by Italo Calvino. It is called The Tale of Cats. Long story short, a girl has discovered a cauliflower once lifted, there was a ladder leading to a world of cats. She went down, helped the cats, and was rewarded with a delicious dinner, a nice dress, and a ring.

When the stepmother heard of the girl’s story, she sent her daughter to the world of cats. Instead of working as the girl did, the daughter did nothing and didn’t get the same reward at all.

The ending was rather abrupt. Both the stepmother and her daughter died and the girl has found a nice man, a happily ever after.

Titled as “The Tale of Cats”

That story has inspired me to draw. There is cauliflower, the ladder, the cats, and the couple. I am thinking of using a Japanese theme. Hence, the Sake, inari sushi with prawn and avocado, salmon dumplings, and saba fish.

Looking at this drawing makes me happy. It brings back fond memories. It is good to be with someone you want to be with. I am happy for the girl.

Home-cooked Food – A Cubism Doodle

Modern-day photography and videography capture a snippet of life. The reality in its entirety often leaves little for our imagination. Call me old school. I still prefer words and drawings. Such artwork too captures a snippet of life yet leaves much for the imagination. An alternative reality within the realm of actuality. A private interpretation of the hidden messages forever imprints onto the likeminded ones. Book clubs. Painting appreciation. Call me old school. I have my preference.

A cubism doodle titled “Home-cooked food”

Covid-19 has changed the way we live and the way we socialize. Many friends of mine now cook at home. We were used to catching up during lunch. Now, during dinner. As for me, I prefer healthy home-cooked food to outside food. I know what goes into the cooking. I know how the food is being handled.

Onto this particular drawing, I further explore the construct of cubism, or rather my interpretation of cubism. My third attempt and it took me a lot longer to draw than most of my previous ones. I love Coste di Moro – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – an Italian red wine. And I would imagine, that bottle of wine would have been moved around. From the kitchen counter to the dining table. To various positions as it is poured onto the glasses.

I love salad these days. I think of avocado. Capsicum. Quinoa. Chicken breast. Salmon. Potato. Lettuce. Pickled onion.

An alternative reality. A parallel universe. A drawing that is no less than a photograph or a video clip.

Snails & Escargots – A Cubism Doodle

I remember Freddy. He was a fellow Hongkonger whom I have met back in my university days. It was his first year in the UK, still imbued with Hong Kong culture. While for me, I had been soaked in Western culture for two years ahead of him. Hanging out with him was an interesting experience. He reminded me of myself when I first arrived in the UK and faced a foreign culture. Though I must say, I embraced Western culture more readily than he did.

It is hard to say if I was really into Freddy. We got along well, in the sense that I was and still am an adaptable person. He was a scholar and I wasn’t (though after four years, we both graduated as first-class honor). Very smart. Those who didn’t know him may find him arrogant. I just recognized the fact that he saw this world in a very different way compared to the rest of us. We had common hobbies and interests. Or rather, I have learned to develop common hobbies and interests with new friends. That is what I do.

Titled “Escargots & Snails”

Freddy introduced me to Pink Floyd, for which I am eternally grateful. Pink Floyd has inspired my music creation journey. We would talk about Shine On You Crazy Diamond night after night and would listen to it non-stop. Pink Floyd was our thing. I would head to the gigantic Blackmores bookstore in Oxford to read their biography. I would browse the magazines at WH Smiths to read their latest news. In fact, I have attended Pink Floyd‘s live concert PLUSE in the UK. That could well be their last gig in a ‘full band’ setting.

Freddy has also introduced me to escargots. I vividly remembered the expression he gave when he described the dish … it was so delicious, so out of the world. Eyes rolled back, all white. Fingers near his mouth, breathing in deep.

Initially, I found the idea rather repulsive. I could not imagine myself eating snails, no matter how starved I am. Then, I have done some research. These are not regular snails. These are farmed snails. Very much like frogs, I guess. I ate frogs when I was in Hong Kong. Frogs taste like chicken, in case you are curious. They really do.

I cannot recall when was the first time I have eaten escargots or whom I was with. What I do recall though is that when I was in a business trip working in Paris, one of my favorite starter dishes would be escargots. Either that or the live oysters.

If I am asked to describe escargots, I would not have done that Freddy impression. What I would say is that with the melted butter, the herbs, and the unique chewy texture, escargots really go well with bread.

One French friend told me that the escargot meat doesn’t belong to the shell it comes from. The farms supply the meat without shells. And the restaurants reuse the shells. I do not know how true it is. He or she might have pulled my legs.

Fast forward to yesterday, Y had dinner. Instead of oysters, she had escargots the first time (both are my favorites). I don’t think she was thrilled. But, that has triggered all sorts of memories, Freddy and my Paris business trip. At the National Gallery of Singapore and in one of the exhibitions, there were framed photos of snails placed on top of sand and dirt on the floor. That also triggered my recent memory, when I walked back home and in my condo and especially on a rainy day, I often saw snails crossing the path. I would carefully pick them up and put them onto the grassland knowing very well that they are in fact pests. I hardly see snails in my condo these days. The management office must have done a good job of exterminating them.