Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Sunday, 19 September 2004

I baked sourdough bread today.

Sourdough bread is very easy, as long as you don't have too strict a notion of just how the bread is supposed to turn out. If very consistent results are important, then store-bought yeast and careful attention to a recipe is the way to go. But if you'll be just as happy with bread whether it's light or heavy, sour or sweet, crusty or not, then sourdough is really easy.

I've written previously that I'm a fan of yeast. For our sourdough, we got our starter going with a packet of some fancy sourdough yeast. Not really necessary (although perhaps a little sourer). If you just use ordinary bakers yeast from the store, it will work fine. It will get a little sourer as time goes on (from picking up wild yeasts and acetobacters from the air).

If you know how to make bread with a sponge, you know how to make sourdough. The only additional step is, make an extra cup or two of sponge, the pour off the extra and put it the fridge. Next time you want to make bread, stir in an extra cup or two of water and flour, let the sponge sit overnight, and once again pour off the extra and refrigerate.

If you don't know how to make bread with a sponge, just google bread sponge for a hundred thousand recipes. Or email me and I'll send you my directions. My mom taught me how to do it. I lost the directions she gave me, but I remembered well enough to be able to come reasonably close.

Once you get started, you really have to make bread once a week or so, to keep the starter going. If you know you're not going to be able to, you can freeze the starter and it will usually survive. If not, just make a fresh starter from bakers yeast again. Or buy fancy sourdough starter.

I've been bicycling to work several days a week right through the summer. Friday we bicycled to the Fitness Center before work, something we'd done a few times over the summer, but not since before going to Boston. We were surprised to find that sunrise is already late enough to make that a little problematic. In just a matter of days, it will become unsafe.

Friday evening we went to see "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." It's just my sort of movie. I like movies that draw on pulp sensibilities, but I get annoyed with movies that do so to mock those sensibilities. Happily, Sky Captain treats its source material with respect. I wouldn't want to this set a big trend in making movies entirely with bluescreen and computer-generated scenery--I thought that worked only middling well--but it's good to have this excellent movie use the technique well. Future movies, perhaps, can mix real scenery and CGI scenery in a way that doesn't make the CGI stand out as fake.

My robot story doesn't have giant robots. Perhaps I'll have to write another robot story.

I'm still thinking about my robot story. The draft I've got is very thin, I now realize. It won't be possible to just punch it up with a couple of scenes, I'm going to have to write a substantial amount of new text. I'm getting psyched to do that, but there's still some thinking to do.

My copy of Neal Stephenson's The System of the World arrived on Friday as well. It's wonderful. Just like other Stephenson, only more so. Taken together, the first two books have provided a vast quantity of set-up. Now we get 900 pages of pay-off. Reading it is taking all my non-baking, non-StarCraft-playing time.


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