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Did you know Mike sends out a newsletter (almost) every week? It's filled with news about bread or whatever Mike is excited about this time. It's "Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips"!

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Mike's Bread Blog, 2011

A preface... WHAT? ONLY 3 BLOG ENTRIES? ALL YEAR? Yeah, afraid so. Between The New Burgundians and Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips, the breadblog has gotten short shrift. I'll try to do better in 2012. Partly by copying the best of Mike's (more or less weekly) Baking Tips here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - a new cool tool, and a spreadsheet update Not too long ago Michael Taylor of Brød and The folding proofer, folded Taylor asked if I'd be interested in looking at their new folding proofer. I was very interested in the idea, and did look at it. It is a nice piece of design and engineering, which makes controlling the temperature at which you raise dough very easy. It can also be used for yogurt culturing and tempering chocolate - anything that needs a controlled warm temperature, say from 70 to 120F. I think many home bakers will be putting one of these on their Christmas wish lists. I wrote up a review of the folding proofer, and you can read it here.

In the last update to this sporadically updated blog, I commented that I was taking some spreadsheets off the web page, at least for the time being. The next day I found a newer version of the spreadsheet that resolved most of my issues, and yours, with the spreadsheet. I am working on another spreadsheet that will help make the mathematically inclined baker's life easier. With luck, they'll be in the site in time to be Christmas presents to you from Sourdough Home.

Monday, November 7, 2011 - An apology or three - I've been putting enough time and effort into a new web page, the New Burgundians and Mike's Weekly Baking Tips mailing list that this page has gotten short shrift. With luck, the long stalled conversion will start in motion again real soon now.

On a sadder note, I removed my converter spreadsheet from the downloads page. I haven't touched, or used, it since 2003. It has lots of problems. I've looked at it a time or two and never get far enough into it to really address its issues. It was fairly complex, and it would take about a week for me to really get back into it. In looking at it, I see a lot of things that I no longer do, and that I no longer encourage others to do. I do have some other spreadsheets, but they were intended for my own use as we ran the bakery. I don't think they are suitable for general hobbyist use. In the end, I realized I should either fix the spreadsheet or remove it from the site. It's gone. At least for now, and probably for longer than that.

If you are trying to convert a recipe from yeast to sourdough, it's not that hard. About a cup, or 280 grams, of starter for each package of dry yeast should be a good starting point. Adjust the flour and water in the recipe to compensate for the amount in the starter. And then adjust the recipe to please you. I discuss this at the Converting a Recipe to Sourdough page.

Monday, March 14, 2011 - Some Lenten Thoughts - This is a note that I sent to Mike's Weekly Baking Tips Newsletter yesterday. Maybe I should have put it here instead.

Originally, I'd planned on writing another note based on the baguette class from a few weeks ago. Instead, I've been having Lenten thoughts.

If you're not religious, you might want to think of this as "he's doing the right thing for an irrelevant (or even wrong) reason." I hope you won't tune out.

Maria, a coworker, is very Catholic and told me she was giving up bread and soda for Lent. Last year, I think she gave up alcohol and she didn't seem inclined to repeat that mistake. I gave up anger last year. At least, I promised to try to give up anger over Lent last year.

My understanding of the idea of "giving something up for Lent" is that it isn't so much to perform a penance as to move oneself to a better place. To improve oneself. And to offer that improvement in the memory of Jesus, to honor Him and remember the sacrifices He made for us. Once the offer is made in sincerity, it has the weight of a religious vow. It's WAY more serious than a New Years resolution.

Last year's effort on my part was pretty successful. My goal wasn't to stop being snarky, to stop acting out when someone did something to hurt me, or did something stupid. My goal was to not be angry. To get at the source. I think I am still earning dividends on my effort.

Back to bread. You knew where this was going as soon as you saw Maria was giving up bread, didn't you?

When a baker hears someone is giving up bread, it really makes them.... oops... I'm still working on the anger thing.

My next thought was, I can see giving up BAD bread, but not GOOD bread. About the only times I drink soda are when I am coming back inside from mowing the lawn in need of sugar and some cold beverage or when I mix up Rum and Coca-Cola. Soda I can take or leave. But BREAD? Bread has been the cornerstone of human diet for most of the last 6,500 years. And it wasn't until the last 50 or so that we ran into the troubles bread is being blamed for. I think a return to GOOD bread would be a very healthy thing.

Still..... there are times when my relationship with food is less than healthy. To paraphrase Othello, I have dined well but not always wisely.

All too often, I find myself eating at the computer. Eating without noticing what, or how much, I am eating. It is a waste. It is a waste of the good food God or Providence blessed us with. It is a waste of the joy that could, and should, have come from the food. And it is waste of the health of the person who eats negligently.

So, for Lent, I am trying to eat mindfully and with awareness. To pay attention to what I am eating. Where it came from. How it was prepared. What it tastes like. Whether it is building me or damaging me. Whether it is sustainable, and whether it sustains me.

The difference between dining and eating doesn't seem all that great. Truly, when you dine you are eating. But most of us eat without dining. The difference is the mindfulness we bring to the project. So, at least until Lent is over, I shall try to eat with increasing mindfulness, I shall try to dine with appreciation, joy and thankfulness.

I think this Lent's offering will bring me long lasting gains, like last year's did.

-Mike