Recipes, sourdough

“Cheater” Sourdough Bread

Image may contain: food and indoor

I have not posted to the blog for nearly a year because I need surgery on my severely arthritic and deformed fingers, and it is painful to type.  Because of the COVID-19 virus, my surgery scheduled for April was cancelled to help preserve resources and minimize spread of the virus.  I’m fine with that, except my fingers hurt!

I call this bread “Cheater” Sourdough, because, like my “Cheater” Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, I use discard from feeding my sourdough starters for long-fermented sourdough bread in addition to yeast to create a loaf that has a sourdough tang but doesn’t require that 12 hour fermentation period of true sourdough. This is a very active dough; it rises very quickly and bakes up a beautiful loaf of bread suitable for slicing for sandwiches, toast, or anything else you want to do with it.  My husband prefers it to true sourdough because it is softer and has a light crumb, more like store-bought bread. That is partly because this is an enriched dough, which means it contains things like egg, milk, oil, and a bit of sugar, that long-fermented sourdough usually doesn’t contain.  And it’s fast.

“Cheater” Sourdough Bread

2 cups of sourdough starter discard (it doesn’t have to be freshly fed because you will also add yeast)

½ cup milk or milk kefir (I use milk kefir if I’m going to eat the bread because I’m lactose-intolerant, but you can also use store-bought or homemade buttermilk to help “sour” this bread a little more)

1 egg, beaten

2 teaspoons of sugar

¼ cup of cooking/baking oil (mild-flavored)

1 teaspoon of salt

3—3 ½ cups of bread flour (plus more to knead in for shaping the loaf if needed; all purpose flour can be used, but you may have to knead more to develop enough gluten to get decent structure–I recommend bread flour with its higher gluten content for best structure)

1 1/2 teaspoons of instant or bread yeast (quick rising or any other yeast can also be used; if directions on yeast say to activate it or proof it first, you can add it to the milk, warmed, with the sugar, mix together, let sit until it starts to bubble, but I never do).

For bread machines:  add ingredients in order listed, and use the lesser amount of flour.  Most bread machine recipes require the liquids on the bottom, dry ingredients on top, with the yeast added last.  Check the instructions for your bread machine.  Set to dough function, which means that the machine will mix and knead your dough, let it rise, and then you will turn it out to punch it down and shape it into a loaf.  Warning:  Do not let the loaf bake in the machine.  It must be turned out to shape. Please note:  I haven’t tried this in the bread machine because I don’t own one any longer.  I created this recipe mostly for my sister, who wanted to make an easy sour loaf in her bread machine, and then her machine broke! The plan was for her to test the recipe in the bread machine and report back to me her results, but that went by the wayside.  If anyone does try this in a bread machine, please let me know how it works, if you think the dough needs more or less flour, etc., and I can alter instructions to suit.

My mixing method:  I use a stand mixer with a dough hook to save my hands.  Mix the liquids together thoroughly in the bowl, mix the salt and yeast into a cup of the flour, mix that into the liquids, and begin adding the rest of the flour half a cup at a time while mixing on low, until a ball of dough forms.  When the ball of dough is mostly cleaning the bowl, turn the mixer up a couple of speeds and mix for at least five minutes.  The dough should slap around the bowl a little, and because of the egg, oil, and sugar, it will probably be a little sticky.

(If you don’t have a stand mixer, use your hands.  Most bakers recommend this anyway because you get a better feel for the dough.  Use a wooden spoon to mix the liquids and first cup or two of flour–don’t forget the yeast and salt–into a batter.  Then get your hands in there and mix the rest of the flour into the batter until it becomes a dough, probably sticky, but that’s okay, it will firm up as you knead it. If you think it is still way too loose to knead, add more flour a little at a time.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, adding flour to the board as needed to keep the dough from sticking, about 5 more minutes (it’ll take 10 minutes of hand kneading if you didn’t use the stand mixer and dough hook for 5 minutes).  Shape into a ball and poke your knuckle into the center.  If the dimple rises and smooths out quickly, your dough has developed enough gluten to hold good structure when shaped and baked.


Lightly oil a bowl or covered container and place the dough ball into the container, turning to coat the top lightly with oil.  Cover with tight lid or plastic wrap, and leave in warm place (about 70 degrees is fine) to rise.  Check the dough after an hour.  If it has doubled, it is ready to shape.  If not, leave until doubled, usually not more than another half hour.  This dough rises very quickly because of the yeast added to the sourdough discard, so keep an eye on it.

Image may contain: food

When the dough is ready to shape, you can either form it in a boule shape by cupping your hands around the mound of dough and turning and tucking the sides under until it forms a smooth, round ball; or a freeform loaf shape, which requires stretching and patting the dough into a rectangle and then folding in thirds and tucking and pinching the seam and the ends under, or rolling and sealing the crease and tucking and pinching the ends under.  Your shaped loaf can be placed on a greased cookie sheet or into a greased bread pan for its second rise. I like to form my loaves in a French bread shape, and I oil my cookie sheet with avocado oil for high-temp baking and sprinkle the pan with cornmeal, which also helps keep the loaf from sticking if in rising it exceeds the oil I’ve brushed on the pan in the shape of the loaf.  I also brush the top of the loaf with a little oil, whatever is left on the brush from oiling the pan.  If you use a loaf pan, I recommend using shortening so the bread doesn’t stick to the pan.

Image may contain: food and indoor

Cover your shaped loaf with plastic wrap.  Warning:  if you don’t oil the top of the loaf, the plastic wrap will stick.  Plastic wrap keeps the dough from drying out while it is rising.  Again, place in warm place (70 degrees is about right) and allow to rise until double again.  This may only take a half hour.  It might take longer if the room or place is a little cooler, but I’ve never had it take longer than an hour to double because of the yeast plus sourdough discard.

Image may contain: food

When your loaf has doubled, it’s ready to bake.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  When the oven is up to baking temperature, remove the plastic from your loaf and use a bread lame, a single edged razor blade, a very sharp knife, or a large pair of kitchen shears to slash your loaf.  You can do one lengthwise slash down the middle of the loaf, no deeper than ¼ inch, or a series of five or so crosswise slashes, again only ¼ inch deep.  (Use the lengthwise slash for bread loaf pans.) This allows steam to escape and keeps your bread from blowing out the side as it bakes.

Bake your loaf for 30-35 minutes for French bread and boule shapes, or until they are browned and sound hollow when tapped.  For loaf pans, which I don’t use, bake 30 minutes and then check to see if the bread is pulling slightly away from the top edge of the pan.  Pans may take longer or shorter depending on what kind of pan you use.

When done, lift or turn the bread onto a rack for cooking.  When baked on a cookie sheet in boule or French loaf shape, use spatulas to lift the loaf onto the rack.  They should slide free of the cookie sheet easily.  If your loaves don’t come free of the bread pans easily, they might need a little more baking time.  However, you can also run the tip of a sharp knife around the top edge of the pan to see if that helps the loaf come free.  If it doesn’t, it’s probably underbaked.

Now, this is the hard part.  Let the loaf cool completely before slicing!  If you don’t, your bread will be hard to cut and will dry out very quickly.  On the other hand, if you just want to gorge on warm, homemade bread, dig in and eat the whole thing!

Image may contain: food

This bread, properly cooled, slices easily with a bread knife.  I like to cool my loaves overnight and then slice and freeze them in Ziploc bags so we always have bread available.

Image may contain: food



Inverness to Perth, Perth to Glasgow

Yesterday, we drove from Inverness to Perth. Part of our route was along the Old Military Road through the Cairngorms National Park. What a beautiful area. Starkly beautiful on the heights, where little grows but heather, pastorally beautiful in the glens, where there’s pasture for sheep, the occasional cow, and red deer. I saw two by a stream, but didn’t have a chance for a photo.

We spent the night in Perth in another lodge, more spacious than Skye Lodges (but with so weak a wifi signal it only allowed messages), so we hauled in all our luggage and repacked for the trip home. Of course, there was an opportunity for more shopping today, so we had a porter help bring our bags up to our room to rearrange once again.

The shopping opportunity came at Scone Palace today. We elected to just tour the grounds, not the palace itself. I’m convinced that was because this gave us access to the gift shops. (These girls can shop!) We had said at the outset of the trip that we would try to find rings, matching or similar, to commemorate the trip. We  found them at Scone Palace, the last full day of the trip.

We wandered the gardens, took tons of flower pictures, got lost in the maze, had a picnic on some steps on the  grounds, were harrassed by tame peacocks who wanted our lunch, and before we left, we had tea and scones. It was a lovely, relaxing afternoon.

Then we hit rush hour traffic around Glasgow, there was a stoppage because of an accident ahead of us, and by the time we reached our hotel near the airport, medicinal gin was required.

The girls have discovered Scottish gin, in particular, a violet gin. Yes, made with violets. And elderflower gin, which we just had with strawberries and lime. I’d love to spell the maker’s name correctly here, but my phone won’t let me. But it’s Boe, with the two little dots over the e. I think that’s called an umlaut, but I’ve had an elderflower G & T, so what do I know!

It’s been a wonderful trip with two of my most favorite people in the world. But we’re all ready to get home to our loved ones, own beds, and our own bathrooms with washcloths!

Highlight pics from yesterday and today might appear on my Jean L. French Facebook page if the hotel wifi signal will send them. Signing off from Scotland.


The Best Laid Plans

We were planning to do a Loch Ness loop drive today, but we decided to go see a Pictish stone at ruined Elgin cathedral, and we saw a sign for a Pictish fort and decided to go there too. And then we found a beach. The day had turned warm and sunny, so we decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. We stayed at the beach. Amy did yoga, and DeAnna and I walked to a WWII pillbox. There are hundreds of them along the beach, we were told. We could see three of them. Then we rock-hounded our way back to the parking lot. It was a beautiful day.

Some pics of the day might show up on my Jean L. French Facebook page after  this posts if my eyelids can stay open long enough.


Culloden, Clava Cairns, Sueno’s Stone, the Witch’s Stone

We had a full day. Amy and I had been to Culloden but DeAnna hadn’t, so we spent three hours there this morning, soaking in the history of the ’45 uprising.  It is a very  emotional place for me. I find it so poignant as an American whose country won its war for freedom to visit the place where so many Highlanders died in that same quest which failed.

From Culloden, we went to a place called Brodie Country Fayre, where we ate and shopped. We were looking in particular for the work of an artist that Niall had had hanging in the Byre, and we found it. All three of us now own Jonathan Wheeler prints.

From Brodie we went into Forres, looking for the Witch’s Stone. DeAnna had read about it in her sacred Scotland guide book. We had a hard time finding it, and in the search, we ran across Sueno’s Stone, a Pictish standing stone we hadn’t heard about. Amazing.

We did find the Witch’s Stone, eventually. The story goes that a witch was burned at the stone at the foot of Cluny Hill. Years later, someone broke up the stone to use in building a house. The house owner became ill, and the house was seen as cursed because of the stone. So the house was torn down, and the stone was replaced in its original spot. It had to be put back together with iron bands, presumably to break the curse.

From Forres, we headed back toward Culloden to the Clava Cairns, a set of ringed structures thousands of years old. They are as stunning in their own way as Stonehenge. Amy and I had been there before, but we wanted to go back and for DeAnna to see it. The sun came out like a blessing, the wood doves or pigeons were cooing and sparrows singing in the trees, and it was a perfect end to a full day.

There should be a few pictures of these places on my Jean L. French Facebook page, if my phone battery holds up.


Farewell to Skye, Hello to Inverness

We left the Isle of Skye this morning and drove to Inverness. The last part of our journey ran along Loch Ness, and we stopped at Nessieland for souvenirs and goofy pics.

Tomorrow, we’ll visit Culloden Field and Clava Cairns again, and we plan some other sight-seeing at new places.

Some pics from today will be on my Jean L. French Facebook page.



On Skye!

We reached the Isle of Skye yesterday evening via the Skye Bridge. Our accommodation is a tiny “lodge”/hut in a newly-cleared woody area up on the mountainside. There are wee beasties here called midges, which bite your ears, neck, and hands and like to fly up your nose. Our hut has a bathroom and 4 bunks, and just enough room for 3 small suitcases in the entry. And it’s full of midges.

So tonight, after our minibus tour of the  northern end of Skye today (more about that when my phone isn’t about to die), we are sitting in a bar with pots of tea to warm us up. We’ll eat dinner here, and go back to our hut later to kill more midges. Midgies, we call them. We even have a video of them on the backup camera of the rental car, but I can’t post it here.

Skye is starkly beautiful. No crops are grown here commercially. Sheep and cattle are raised. The primary industries are fishing, fish farming, and tourism. What there’s a lot of are tourists, tour buses, water–both fresh and sea–and mountains. The northern part of Skye is pulling away from the southern part of the island at the rate of a millimeter a year. I’ll try to post some pictures on my Jean L. French Facebook page. If my battery lasts long enough!


Leaving Corachie Farm in Scotland

We left the farm this morning where we stayed two nights. We loved it! We stayed in a cottage called The Byre, which was converted from two small stone crofts to a very comfortable guest house.

The Byre was our base for exploring the Oban-Glencoe-Taynuilt loop, through the Great Glen and the pass where the MacDonalds were massacred, and down through Rannoch Moor. It was a full day, and we enjoyed all the  sights.

A few pictures will be on my Jean L. French Facebook page when this posts.


Stone Circles and a Castle

We saw two of the main things on our list today, Machrie Moor stone circles and Lochranza Castle. Both were wonderful in a different way.

Stone circles are prehistoric sites of ritual and cultural significance. Nobody seems to know exactly what the significance was, but whatever the reason they were built, they still bring a sense of awe and wonder to those of us who are interested in such things. And we are. These circles are on the west side of the island, which we reached on a B road across the interior called The String. That might give you a mental picture of a straight string. Think a string you’ve untangled from a ball, and you’ll be  closer.

We ate lunch, sandwiches we bought at the store last night, in the shelter of a ruined farmhouse, byre, and stone sheep pens. I enjoyed that almost as much as the stone circles, but in a different way.

After our wander around Machrie Moor in howling wind and rain showers, we drove north on the coast road (think two lane traffic on a single lane space hanging off the edge of a cliff) to the north end of the island to Lochranza Castle, a 13th-16th century ruin. We were able to go inside, and even up to the second story in one place.

Then we had to hightail it south down the coast road, on the east side of the island, back to Brodick by 6 o’clock for our dinner reservation.  We’ve had three lovely meals here at local restaurants. We’ve also been enjoying cocktails made with the local gin distilled here. I haven’t taken any pictures of the drinks but Amy and DeAnna have.

Tomorrow morning, we board the ferry again to head  back to the mainland and drive north along the coast and then east. We’ll be staying on a farm in a cottage that once a byre. Lots more to see and do!

There will be a few pictures of our adventures today on my Jean L. French Facebook page.


The Bluebells of Scotland

Today, we did a first for Amy. She drove the rental car onto the ferry to the Isle of Arran, off Scotland’s west coast . It’s tricker than it seems, especially when the guys guiding you on get impatient and you’re driving on the wrong side of everything! But she did great. It was raining, so the pictures aren’t that great, but I have a funny video.

When we landed on Arran at Brodick, where we’re staying, we had a little time to kill, so we went shopping on the high street. Yes, we bought things. I’m coming home with a Scottish Gardens 2020 calendar and a new purse backpack, a gift from Amy, Amy bought some lovely sweaters, and DeAnna found several things, including a cute blouse. Oh, and I had to buy a pair of gloves, because I forgot mine.

It was good that I had the gloves because they kept my hands warm even when they got wet. We’d planned to go see Brodick Castle this afternoon, but by the time our self-catering flat was ready, we’d unloaded and shopped and had lunch, it was getting late, and the castle was only going to be open another half hour. It was a bit pricey for so little time, as the kind woman at the gate warned us, so we decided to skip the castle and try to find a spot we’d heard about and seen pictures of, Glen Rosa Falls.

After some U-turns and a little cursing at SatNav, we found the cart track to the parking area. It was raining steadily, but we had rain jackets and good boots and shoes. We thought we’d be fine. There were lots of other hikers returning from their hikes up the river or up on Goatfell, and we asked some knowledgeable-looking men about tge falls. They didn’t have a clue. But we were sure, so we set off on the muddy track in the only direction we could go. We’d gone about a half-mile when we met another couple of returning hikers who told us we were on the right path, and we were about a mile away. We’d been enjoying a lovely meander up to that point, photographing wild bluebells, foxglove, flowering trees, shrubs, berries, moss, ferns, lichen, rocks, the river, the mountain, pretty much everything in sight, and getting soaked. I mean WET.

So, a mile farther. DeAnna said, “Hey, we’ve come this far, and we’re already wet. We might as well go on.” And we were so glad we did, although we were thoroughly soggy, actually dripping, when we made it back to the car, and the flat is draped with half-dried jackets, jeans, hats, gloves, and boots. We hope they’re dried by morning, because we plan another hike to Machrie Moor stone circles. It’ll be about the same length, maybe a bit shorter than the one today. I had my walking sticks, and they helped me do three miles today, which is really good for me. My knee is telling me about it, and my neck aches from the pull of my  sodden backpack, but my back is no worse than usual.

Rain is forecast for tomorrow.  But we are getting a real taste of Scotland, and we love it. The destination of our hike in the rain today, Glen Rosa Falls, was worth the drenching

I still haven’t figured out how to post photos from my phone here, so there will be some on my Jean L. French Facebook page in the comments of the link to the blog post.


Glasgow and Ardrossan

As usual when I travel, it’s the people of a place as much as the place itself that captures my heart. My special assistant at the Glasgow airport, George, was so sweet and kind, we almost brought him with us to Ardrossan. It was a beautiful day when we landed, and when I commented on the weather, he said. “Scotland has 10 months of bad weather every year. And then it’s winter.” He made me laugh, and he enjoyed my laughter. He told me that Jeanie is a very Scottish name! Yep, I fell for George.

Amy got us safely to Ardrossan, about a 45 minute drive from the airport. We have a diesel Volvo with SatNav for our rental car. We weren’t supposed to have SatNav, but the Lord provided, and we didn’t pay extra! The Hertz rental car people were very nice and helped Amy get comfortable in the car.

I couldn’t get any good pictures from the moving car, but it was beautiful on our drive west to the coast.

Our hosts at Burnfoot House B & B in Ardrossan are wonderful, so kind and helpful. We definitely landed in a good spot!

On our way to dinner, a sign caught my eye. I still haven’t figured out how to post pictures here from my phone, so I’ll post them in comments when the blog posts on my Jean L French Facebook page.

We have a big adventure planned for tomorrow! For now, it’s time to sleep .