Right now, these moments are not stories

the sweetest wait 11

We are welcoming a baby bear next year.

One day we will remember the story of wishing, growing and welcoming a baby into our lives. From an overly dreamer like me, it might feel different from the way it enter our feelings right now. I am sure I will fantasize it even more! But that is why I love to write about all the things I make (almost all the things) on this blog. It captures the essence of my experiences, feelings, learning progress and the way I see it right in the moment. It might change, but it reminds me the motivations that boosted me to get something done. That is why I call them stories: they might seem different from one person to another. But at least they try to capture my point of view.

These moments will all be stories one day

These moments we are living now will all be stories one day: our bodies matching together in a hug with a bump in the middle, the excitement in our eyes when you start to think about it, the complicity of something that is really shared, the air touching our skin when you know a secret, our voices and kisses trying to go inside, the finest nerves of our hands touching my bump expecting to be sensitive enough for something so tiny, the kicks that recall us, every single day, that there is someone inside. The urge to know him, the will to savoring him the closest he will be to us ever.

preserving moments
preserving moments
preserving moments

But right now, these moments are not stories

But right now, these moments are not stories. This is happening and I could swear, we are infinite. We are right in the moment. 

I wish I had the answer to capture it for the future. But no words seem right, I don’t seem eloquent to express, I don’t think I can even express it all with my body and face. I just keep getting more and more impressed with our human nature. Not even photos can capture everything. But we try, we always try to preserve things, even the things we know are invisible. That is what makes us humans. So I hope words, sounds, textures and images can gather something in the way. At least they can give us a hint to remember fully. 

Preserving moments

These photos were taken by Monica from @madlyyoursphotography on Instagram, on one of our special places to go and admire. There is a role to play from both sides: we don’t really know what to do to express it on a picture but we try to be ourselves. She, might do it everyday, but I think that you must enter in a fantasy world to fully capture other peoples intimate moments. 

preserving moments
preserving moments
preserving moments
preserving moments

One day, these pictures will become those old photographs

The photos were so much fun to take, and it gives me the best chills thinking that, one day, these pictures will become old photographs. I am living the moment, as much as I can, but something on these pictures makes me so fond of getting old and remember the days we were expecting our baby bear into our lives. 

Note: It might be controversial welcoming a bear into a rabbit’s hole. You see, that’s all part of the dream. 

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My ultimate sourdough bread recipe

sourdough bread daily recipe

I have tried a number of sourdough bread recipes with success (sometimes more, sometimes less success) and the thing I noticed, is that all have some degree of flexibility to meet the characteristics of our starter, our time to make bread, our know how, and our nutritional and flavor goals.

My starter goes especially well with a recipe that was adapted from a set of other recipes. A step from one, a different time from other one, a particular proportion of ingredients, etc. In the end I found myself with a very distinctive recipe and procedure that I recommend you try. But again, it is the recipe that works best for me, which can vary greatly from person to person. I confess that it was enough to do it in another place and at a different time of year to have different results. But with a few adjustments, by the second time, I got my usual sourdough bread.

With these particularities aside, the recipe itself is very simple. It requires a bit of planning and is a bit time consuming, as are all sourdough bread recipes (that’s part of it: if you want a super quick bread, you don’t want to venture into sourdough, it’s as simple as that!) But it’s actually a recipe made up of short, simple steps interspersed with waiting times, and it works every single time. Overall it’s very rewarding and, surprise surprise: no kneading required!

sourdough bread daily recipe
sourdough bread daily recipe
sourdough bread daily recipe

Get ready!

The planning part is actually very simple: we have to have an active starter to begin. That forces us to feed our starter about 8-12 hours before we start making sourdough bread. Depending on the temperature conditions, the flour used in the feeding, etc somewhere during this period of time the starter will grow and start to shrink. This is when it is active and ready to be used. 

Mix and rise

To start making this sourdough bread simply add all the ingredients in a bowl except the salt. Mix until uniform and let it rest for 30 min. Add the salt by wrapping it in the dough with a series of “stretch and fold. That means stretch the dough with one hand, fold it over on itself, turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat the process about 10 times. Let it rest for 30 min. Repeat the “stretch and fold” series and rest time another 3-4 times, every 30 min.

Shape the sourdough bread for the final rising. Place the dough on a smooth surface dusted with flour. Stretch the dough a little with your fingers to form a rectangle, circle or square and fold the corners over the center to form a ball. Turn the “seam” formed by the corners downward. Bring the loaf towards you by dragging the dough with your hands or with the help of a spatula. Repeat until the surface of the dough is very smooth and small bubbles start to appear. In a bowl lined with a clean cloth dusted with flour (you can use a banneton) place the dough with the “seam” facing up and cover it with the edges of the cloth. Let rise about 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

Bake

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius. Chose the baking pan you will use and place it in the oven: it can be a “pyrex” pan, a “dutch oven” or a simple tray. If you use a tray, I advise you to add a container of water underneath to create steam inside the oven. Pyrex pans or the dutch oven don’t need it because they can be covered with the lid to trap the steam from the dough.

Turn the dough with the seam side down onto a sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle with a little flour and, using a razor blade or a very, very sharp knife, score the dough. Scoring is making cuts in the surface of the dough that allow for steam to release and growth during baking. I recommend making a long, deep cut (1 cm deep) and, if you wish, other shallow decorative cuts.

With the help of the baking paper place your dough immediately in the oven, inside the pans (don’t forget to put the lid on) or on the tray. Lower the oven temperature to 195-200 degrees.

Bake your sourdough bread covered (or with the water container if you are baking on a tray) for about 30 minutes. After this period the bread should have risen almost completely. Remove the lid from the pan or your container of water and bake until the sourdough bread is golden brown (about 20-30 min). Remove the bread from the oven and let cool. When removing it from the oven, the base of the sourdough bread should be firm and have a hollow sound when tapped with the hand.

sourdough bread daily recipe
sourdough bread daily recipe
sourdough bread daily recipe

Timings

Now I share my favorite timings for making this bread! On friday morning, before going to work I feed my starter (if I have kept it inactive in the fridge I try to reactivate it a few days earlier). When I get home, while I’m making, eating and packing up dinner, I put the ingredients together and do the stretch and fold sessions every 30 minutes. Then, before sleep I shape my sourdough bread for the final rising and leave it to rise overnight in the refrigerator. 

On Saturday morning I score my sourdough bread immediately after taking the dough out of the refrigerator (the dough is firmer and the blade works much better!) and bake the bread in a very hot oven!

Check the image below for the full recipe.

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White Chocolate & Raspberry Sourdough Bread

My journey into sourdough bread started a few years ago. But, as you know, it was in 2020 that half the planet started making bread and I went back to my adventures into the sourdough world. 

The main reason why my first experiments, about 4 years ago, were not successful was because I used the method of starting a sourdough starter with the same book from which I got this recipe for a White Chocolate and Raspberry Sourdough Bread! It’s ironic but, it wasn’t until later that I realized what the main problems of my starter were, and that Paul Hollywood’s Bread book doesn’t address. Now that I’ve had an active sourdough starter for 2 years I feel confident in picking the book up again and test some of its sourdough starter recipes.

While I wouldn’t recommend it as a reference for establishing a sourdough starter from scratch, I do recognize a lot of value in the general methods for making bread and the recipes, or recipe ideas, described in the book. 

Can sourdough make sweet breads?

Although the connotation of sourdough is to make a sour bread (hence the name), a flavor that is actually very characteristic and close to many of the artisan breads we have in Portugal, this dough makes very interesting sweet breads. I’ve already experienced some and I can assure you that they are sublime!

So, as the first sample of my adventures into the sourdough world I present you a very original bread with white chocolate and raspberry that will open your horizons to the possibilities of this ancient way of making bread.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Sourdough Bread
White Chocolate and Raspberry Sourdough Bread

This sourdough bread is an excellent alternative to a tea cake, and is worth it on its own but also toasted with a small touch of a very good butter. The key is to use fresh raspberries… which unfortunately are not in season at the moment (but they were when I photographed this bread) because frozen raspberries bring a lot of water to the bread dough. Happily (or unfortunately), you can buy fresh raspberries almost any time of the year these days. 

White Chocolate and Raspberry Sourdough Bread
White Chocolate and Raspberry Sourdough Bread

There are lots of “basic” artisan sourdough bread recipes out there but I recognize the interest in sharing mine in an upcoming post as well as my adventures in creating a starter from scratch, maintaining it, and the most incredible secret recipes it allows! Sounds to me like we have a new line of posts here. Anyone else interested?

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Constellation quilt tips and materials

haptic lab constellation quilt

My progress on the haptic lab constellation quilt


My haptic lab constellation quilt has been is a work in progress since mid-2020. It began as a long-term project from which I have learned a lot! Luckily I ended up doing it during the challenging year of 2020 and the first months of 2021. It was a reflection project that valued the routine and supported some challenging moments.

After introducing you to my handmade quilt here, I made the sandwich of the top, batting and bottom layer. This is something that is usually done almost last in a normal quilting project. To this Sandwich I also added the constellation quilt pattern on paper over the top layer. This was the basis for embroidering the stars. I think it is no longer possible to buy this paper version. But I admit that it was a blessing to still be able to get it!

Guidelines machine stitching


As a matter of consistency of this constellation quilt, I chose to machine stitch the pattern guidelines. This allowed me to dedicate the effort of hand embroidery only to the constellations. It also allowed me to manage expectations and be creative in the use of materials while reinforcing the stability of the quilt.


After stitching the guidelines I dedicated most of the time to the most fun, yet repetitive part of this project: embroidering. I searched for many possible material options for each element. I though about making everything in the same color, about the proposed stitches, and I came to the following conclusion. Since I preferred the guidelines to go unnoticed, I stitched them using a thread of the same color as the top layer. Thus, I was able to give more emphasis to the stars and relax the complexity of the design.

Embroidering the constellations


Regarding the constellations, I must say that the process was somewhat revealing. In one hand I didn’t know how the materials were going to work because the final effect was hidden below the paper pattern. So, I embraced my imagination to predict the final effect and trusted the process!

For the stars I used a 6 strand silver embroidery thread. I separated 3 strands to use each time. This thread was a headache to work because the metallic thread wears out quickly while embroidering. I learned to use smaller portions of thread to decrease the risk of tearing it too much. In spite of that, I was excited to use this thread! I think the 3 strands give the “bulcky” effect that I was looking for without the intensity of a perlé thread! In addition, I confess that metallic perlé thread is not my favorite at all.

For the connecting lines between the stars I used the same thread in a light gold. A light gold goes better with the rest of the color palette. I was undecided between an interrupted or uninterrupted line. But as I finished the first constellations, I found that the uninterrupted line created less visual clutter in the overall design.

Names and the Milky Way


Two more groups of information were missing: the names of the constellations and the stars of the Milky Way. To make them I went for a soft perlé in two shades of blue. I used the lightest for the milky way stars, and the “not so dark” blue for the names of the constellations.

In the case of the milky way stars, I had to make an important decision. I found many references saying that the French knot stitch that the pattern suggested created some problems when tearing out the paper pattern. Many stitches fall apart at that time, even if the process is done carefully. In addition, the French knot is a delicate stitch, especially if the quilt is handled a lot. Now, those who know the headache of making French knots as many times as the project calls can imagine what it is like to have to redo them over and over. So I left my perfectionism aside (or did I actually embrace it …?) and replaced the French knots with a very delicate cross stitch.

Tearing off my constellation quilt!


The embroidery part of my haptic lab constellation quilt is finally finished! Now I have already started to tear and carefully remove the paper pattern to reveal the constellations. I still have to add some details as well as trim the edges and make the binding. So I will save a final revelation, full of good photos, for a next post! For now I show you this “sneak peak” of the satisfying moments of removing the paper quilt pattern that hid the embroidery of my haptic lab constellation quilt!

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