Monday, February 12, 2018

Sourdough Hokkaido Milk Bread

I've been on a bread making kick this year. My favorite bread is a sourdough wheat walnut bread and I'm working on my own version, but after six loaves in a row, I decided to take a break and try making a different bread. I saw an amazing photo of soft Hokkaido Milk Bread and used the accompanying recipe.

Hokkaido Milk Bread is supposed to be a very soft sweet fluffy bread. The recipe I followed used a sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast and omitted the tangzhong, a roux-like paste, that seems to be used by most recipes. This was my first time working with a very wet rich dough, enriched with butter, sugar, milk, cream and egg whites. It was so sticky and wet! Most recipes seem to use a stand mixer so I had difficulty figuring out how to develop the gluten by hand. I tried to rest the dough then do stretch and folds like I've been doing with my normal sourdough bread, but the dough refused to behave and was still ridiculously shaggy. I gave up and added a bunch of extra flour, but though the dough got stiffer, it was still so sticky and the gluten wasn't developing. Finally I found this video on kneading rich dough by hand. After probably 45 minutes of slapping the dough down, stretching and folding, the gluten structure finally started developing and the dough came together. Now I know what to do next time.

The proofing loaf rose slowly but steadily. Then in the fridge overnight, it got super tall. Unfortunately, that was mostly due to a ginormous air bubble. Slightly strange shape and I'm not sure it rose as much as it was supposed to, but the crumb is soft and deliciously sweet with a slight sour tang. I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks when I make it again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


I went to a memorial this past weekend for an amazing person. I only knew him by sight, but many of my friends were close to him. I might not have gone but I was asked to play on a song, and I'm so glad to have been there. It was incredible to see how many people came from near and far on such short notice.

I've been in Davis fifteen years now. I remember getting here and buying a bed frame on Craigslist from a couple whose children had all left for college. Seeing that we only had a car, they helped us by bringing the frame over in their van and even reassembling it. Coming from Los Angeles where my mother raised us with a healthy paranoia about strangers, it was refreshing to be in a place where people are kind and talking to strangers can lead to new friendships. And coming from Los Angeles where at any given location, it's easier to run across a celebrity than a friend, I love being in this town where walking around, I'm pretty much guaranteed to run into at least a half dozen people I know.

The man who died was only 34, my little brother's age, and he died in his sleep of natural causes. It's tragic and sobering that someone so young and fiercely full of life can be gone in a night. Being at the memorial was sad and beautiful -- hugging friends, getting overheated in the sun, watching the kids run around and chase hoops, seeing people who have left Davis and come back and left again and came back for this, all of these people who are this town to me, our community.

It reminded me how important it is to spend time and cultivate friendships with people you love or find interesting or are just getting to know. It's good that I interact with lots of folks at work because left to my own devices, I tend to hide away and work on my projects by myself. Seeing the web of friendships brought together by this man makes me determined to spend more time with other people. But after the memorial, I met up with Charlie and while he worked on the forge, I worked on this sculpture, thinking about the beauty and delicacy of life, its intricate connections and balance.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

More goats

Having goats is an interesting experience in that they are livestock, but ours are also pets. Our five are fiber goats which already qualifies as a "job" but I keep wanting them to be useful in other ways as well. Our friends who offered us their open pasture, partially were happy to have animals there to help keep the weeds down, but we've found our spoiled picky goats are not as good at eating the pasture down as the horses. We've been trying to take the goats on "walks" outside the pasture to help eat down some of the weeds there, but it's more fun than useful.

In talking with an avid gardening neighbor, I was convinced to give the goats' brush clearing prowess another try. I only have a little car, so can only fit one large crate in to transport goats. Harvey was the "lucky" goat I decided to bring on our first field trip to my house in town.

Goats are amazingly easy to load up into the crate. I opened the crate in the back seat of my car and led the goats to it, waving treats in front of their noses, and they're all pretty much willing to jump in. Since previously I've only put the goats in my car when I've taken them to get disbudded and castrated, why they think it's a good idea to jump in, I don't know, but I'm very glad of it. Strangely, they all don't like getting out, whether we're at the pasture or at my house. 

He was greeted by angry cats. Apparently Buddy not only hates dogs, he also hates goats. As in wrrrrowwwww warnings followed by stalking menacingly towards them. Harvey was already nervous being away from his herd, and this was even more frightening. Meep was nicer but also cautious and had to give a few warning growls to show his discomfiture.
Meep and Harvey eventually came within a couple of feet of each other without incident.

But Harvey still needed a lot of reassurance. He nervously nibbled a little of the ivy I was hoping he'd help clear, but everything was scary, even the chickens, so we took him home.

I tried again a few days later with the twin girls. They're the smallest so can fit together into the crate. The terrible twosome had much more fun figuring out what they could jump on.

They checked out the chickens:

 And even ate some (a very little) ivy and cleavers.
 Mostly they explored and were good company while I cleared the ivy.
Tierra found a leftover volunteer squash hybrid and ate it with gusto. She was very proud of herself. Glinda took longer to find it but enjoyed it too.

 Back at the pasture, we've taken down the fence separating the horses from the goats and had a week of feeding everyone together. The horses are very nice about having goats underfoot. Galaxy tolerates them and I think Chester actually likes them. We've seen Chester and Harvey nuzzling each other. And Hattie was even wagging her tail when I saw Chester nudge her.

Still, it's better not to have the goats eating off the ground and getting in the horses way, so I tried a new feeder design. This is the fourth goat feeder I've made with the ever elusive goal of minimizing waste. I have high hopes for this one so far.

It's made after Harvey Considine's design which elevates a feeding tray and makes the goats put their heads through angled slats. The idea is that they pick through the hay in the tray and eat over it because they don't want to keep pulling their heads through the slats and flicking their ears. This is supposed to keep them from just pulling out large wads of hay and dropping a bunch on the ground which was a problem with the last feeder. Look how orderly they all look!

But someone is missing from this shot. Harvey wanted to eat with the big boys and though he could easily go around and into their stall, it's more fun to stretch his face through the bars.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I've been lazy about are goat photos from the past year. We kept all the kids. Ashley's girls we named Glinda and Tierra (some people call her Elphaba) and Hattie's boy was named Harvey. This first photo is of him in May. He's a wether so will hopefully be less aggressive than his father. The photos aren't quite in order, but you can see their fleeces growing out. At the end are some photos in the middle of shearing and post-shearing. Beautiful fleeces--now we just need time to process them.


Friday, February 28, 2014


We have kids! Or Ashley had her kids. Born February 25, 2014, two adorable doelings.