Monday, June 21, 2010

Recycled Grocery Bags

I woke up this morning with an inspiration for something to do with all those plastic grocery store bags that I feel guilty throwing away but can't possibly use for trash as fast as they come in with food. I've seen these beautiful market bags made from recycled plastic bags, with magazine pictures melted into them and other such exciting touches. I'm going to find out how to do it!

Etsy Labs has a great explanation of how to fuse multiple plastic bags together to form a sturdy plastic "fabric." Not quite what I had envisioned with the magazine picture idea, but it looked cool, too. And then when I was reading the comments, I saw that somebody was warning against the fumes, because it can cause birth deformities. Their solution: adequate ventilation.

I'm sorry, but that's not enough for my baby. Opening a window may keep me from being overpowered by fumes, but even with an open window, I'm still breathing the fumes that haven't made it to outside yet.

So I guess for now I'm stuck crocheting my market bags (which I already knew how to do, but didn't like doing very much, as the result isn't particularly sleek) for the next four months. After this child is out, though, I fully intend to set up an ironing board on my front porch and get to fusing plastic!

Oh, the uses I can imagine. Liners for baby bags... cloth diaper-friendly diaper bag equipment... farmer's market totes... mmmmm.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My sourdough is too sour!

I don't know what cooks ever did before the Google was there for them to search panicky things like "my sourdough is too sour!" at 5 in the morning.

I've been working on this bread thing, and had amazing success with the 5 minute artisan loaf, but I'm not satisfied. It's the principle of the thing. The five-minute recipe calls for yeast, and yeast is very expensive, and the widows in the Bible somehow had enough on hand to make bread if only they had enough flour for it. The very fact that there was a time in history when flour was expensive and yeast was FREE made me think that paying more for my little jar of yeast at the grocery store than for my whole bag of flour was terribly terribly wrong.

Again, it's the principle of the thing. I like sourdough, but I like many kinds of bread. I just don't believe I should ever have to pay for yeast. Sooo I started my sourdough.

Elsewhere on Mother Earth News, it says that you start a culture with 1c warm water, 1c flour, and a couple tablespoons of yeast. I've been using this starter for several weeks, and it has been making my bread rise. I just dump out all but 1/2 c of it into a bowl, add enough flour to make a decent bread texture (keeping in mind the lesson I learned from the five-minute recipe, that wetter doughs make more bubbles, and also keeping in mind that if it's as wet as banana nut bread it's too wet), let it rise all day while I'm at work, and when I come home it's ready to shape and bake. Easy cheesy.

Until my husband flat-out rejected my sourdough bread last night. It's "sour in a bad way." Now I know my starter hasn't died, and isn't growing anything dangerous, because I searched (yay the Google!) and basically found that if it smells alcoholic, isn't moldy, and makes bubbles, it's yeast. Well, mine definitely fits all those criteria, especially the smelling alcoholic part. However, we can't have our husbands buying Wonderbread because we're failing to make decent bread at home. I told him I'd throw out the starter, but somehow I can't bring myself to. They do take time to grow, after all, and I felt that I must be doing something else terribly wrong.

Hence I was on Google again this morning after he went to work, convinced that if I could make one decent loaf of bread with this starter, I wouldn't have to throw it out. The Fresh Loaf (what a resource!) informed me that I should be feeding it BEFORE I make it into dough, and that if I use it when it's un-bubbly and alcoholic (guilty as charged) it would be very tangy. The secret is to use it when it's not quite to the peak of rising, because then it will be sweetest. Also that I should let it rise in warm environment, because the warmer it is the more it kills the sour flavor. Hmm. So I've mixed my 2c starter with 1c each flour and water, and am trying to resist the amateur's desire to watch my sourdough to see if it's rising enough. It has bubbles, MC, give it a rest. It's not going to be almost peaked in the 30 minutes you'd like it to be.

However, I feel victim to the fatal blunder of Googling: searching after you've found your answer. And oh no, to my horror and chagrin, I find myself completely fascinated with the idea of wild yeast starter. The page is aptly called Sourdough, plain and simple, and has me sold. I haven't even made one loaf with this new method from The Fresh Loaf, and I already have visions of wild yeast dancing in my head.

And what I really need to be doing is packing the house up, not messing with this at all. Sigh. I convince myself that if it's productive enough, it's really not procrastination.