This very long post is an ode to Barney, my sourdough son, who turned four last week.
Random facts about Barney:
Date of Birth: 11 June 2011
Place of Birth: Darwin
Number of progeny: Unknown.. at least a hundred?
Places he lives in: every state & territory of Australia; Canada; USA; China; Italy
Number of near death experiences: 3 (fridge death in Darwin, war with Romanian yeast, and battle with white mould)
Barney was born in Darwin. I grew him on my kitchen bench. There were two strains to start with, Barney & Barnet - I fed them with different flours, and eventually they became one. This was his first home, before he moved to his current Dorito salsa jar.
The very first loaf Barney ever made, 24 June 2011. I always laugh when I see people on instagram with their "perfect" first loaves.
Over the last 4 years, I have eaten a LOT of pancakes... almost every week on the day that I feed Barney, I will have pancakes with the discard.
This loaf was made in September 2017 - 3 months in. Good progress, but still pretty messy!
This loaf was made about a year into baking, and I was understanding the sourdough process more. Probably the best resource and the best single change that I made was following the steps in Emilie Raffa's book - it is the best sourdough book I have found.
My first foray outside my comfortzone - I baked this camembert wheel for my (then very new) string quartet for our first Christmas together in 2018.
It was a hit! So I made them again as Christmas presents, in the form of small cranberry wreaths.
Travels with Barney...
I took him on a trip to Hungary and Romania where he picked up some exotic European yeasts. I thought cross pollinating my home Barney with the European Barney was a good idea - it was a disaster! He went flat and still with an awful smell. Dejected, I went to Sonoma and bought some bread there. The baker came out and encouraged me to keep feeding him - don't worry, it will come back! She said, and she was absolutely right.
One of the loaves I made in Hungary, incidentally one of the first times he rose super well - I think it's the excellent European flour!
Barney also went to Timor Leste as cheesymite scrolls for my homesick friend.
I will always associate Canadia with challah, as it became a bit of a tradition for me and Emily.
When in China, have Chinese style buns with sourdough!
Obsession with animals...
Now, I'm not sure how the idea started, but one day I baked a crocodile, which looked like a puppy - hence it was called a puppodile.
I made these adorable cat buns for my friend from Kim Joy's recipe.
And one day, I just had to take a lobster to work.
My favourite animals so far were these hippo brothers!
This traditional easter dove Colomba di Pasquale was made for the Italian celebration of easter this year, it was an extremely rich dough full of fruit!
More celebration-y food...
For the second year with my string quartet in 2019, I made this pesto and tomato Christmas tree.
And our third year together in 2020 was marked by this beautiful pesto and cheese star.
We also have Turkish style pides every year because our inaugural string quartet foundation was on Anzac day 2018.
And we usually have hot cross buns too for Easter!
Me and my brioche...
I love brioche-y things. This was my first attempt in 2018 with a pumpkin dough. The dough was so soft and hard to handle (I don't have a mixer) that I didn't try it again for ages!
This was Barney's birthday last year, a wonderfully rich challah.
My current obsession with wool bread - this one is vegan.
I just love plaiting dough, it's one of my favourite things in the universe.
I'm also learning how to make the brioche dough into Chinese style pull apart breads - these are made with tangzhong and extra soft. The plain ones stuffed with a salted coconut condensed milk filling, and the matcha ones stuffed with red bean.
Other things Barney has been...
Shanghai style moon cakes filled with pork
Rosemary focaccia, here on the boat of the cellist
A matcha scroll made for my friend's housewarming
And finally... Today's Barney
Wow, that was quite fun looking back over four years of photos! People who know me now think I've been a long term baker, but it's been just four years since I started using my oven not as a storage space but to bake! What a long way I have come. Barney continues to amaze me with his resilience and flexibility, so much we can learn from dough!
Most of my loaves look like this now - decent rise, excellent flavour and an open crumb.