Baking Bread: Sourdough French Bread

Making bread is fun!

That is certainly not what I used to think though! Working with yeast scared me. And working with sticky dough even more!

Today’s bake is a sourdough french bread that I could use to make garlic bread.

I found a recipe for Sourdough french bread at Taste of Home.

I owe a lot to Taste of Home magazine. Reading through this magazine and then trying the recipes that looked interesting (and a few of its fellow magazines like Simple and Delicious and Light and Tasty) is how I learned to cook.

I had no idea how to cook when I got married 14 years ago. Yes, you should feel bad for Josh. I had many disasters!

We’ve come a long way since then. And even Josh knows how to cook now. He’s been busy working overtime for the past week though so I’ve been trying to make yummy dinners for him when he gets home. Not today though. Today we are going to our nephew’s birthday party! And we are bringing garlic bread.

I started my dough around 10:30 AM today.

My dough is all ready to rise for the next hour and a half.

This is about 20 minutes into rising time. I turned my oven on to 250 degrees F for about 5 minutes so that the dough would have a happy place to rise.

This is my dough after an hour and a half. This is a beautiful thing to see!

The dough was a little bit sticky but not impossible to work with once I got it out of the bowl.

I’m still learning about how slashing dough works. I might not have slashed these deep enough. Also, the lower loaf is a bit odd-looking. Since the dough was a little sticky, I had a hard time shaping it the way I wanted.
One thing I learned that I definitely need: a bench knife.  The crinkle cutter just doesn’t get all the dough off the wooden table I use for making bread.

I ended up with gorgeous-looking loaves anyway! Instead of using a cornstarch wash as the recipe states, I just brushed the tops of the loaves with egg white.

This looks like a good crumb.
I think I was finished with the loaves by around 1:30 to 2 PM. Not too bad on time.

My boys were actually disappointed that I was turning these loaves into garlic bread! They wanted to eat it just like it was. In fact, they kept trying to finagle more slices to “taste test.”

This pic doesn’t show how soft these loaves are. After I sliced them in half, I wanted to pillow my head on them!
I spread on some butter and sprinkled garlic salt and grated parmesan on each half loaf. Hopefully, I didn’t go overboard with the garlic salt. I probably should have just gone with garlic powder! Two of my middle children didn’t mind the garlic salt though. They loved it. My oldest told me it was too salty. As long as the kids eat the bread, I’ll be happy. There will be 12 children (all family) at the party after all! That’s a lot of little mouths! That many children makes for a lot of fun. 🙂



Homeschooling Post – Pros and Cons

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and think it all out! Finally, I decided to just write this post as a draft, save it, and then come back and modify it until I think it is ready to be published.

Our curriculum: BJU Press Online, streaming video

Equipment: One Ipad, one laptop, and one desktop computer

Grades: 6th grade, 3rd grade, 1st grade

Extra-curricular: Piano lessons (all), flute lessons/band (6th grader), computer programming/video game design (6th grader), computer programming (3rd grader), art (1st grader, 3rd grader), recorder (3rd grader)

Pros to Homeschooling:

  1. Flexibility: I tend not to be very flexible, but our schedule does allow for going out for lunch with family, or taking a day off here and there for fun outings.
  2. Hot lunch: At school, my boys hardly ate anything at lunchtime. At home, they get a hot lunch every day (unless it’s peanut butter and jelly 🙂
  3. Bathroom breaks: My boys can go use the bathroom whenever they want. This is their favorite perk to homeschooling.
  4. Extra-curricular: We have time for fun stuff in the afternoon. Examples: Art, Lego Mindstorms (robotics and building), Computer programming, Board games, Puzzles, and Building Blocks
  5. Work at their own pace: There is very little dead time. Once they are done with one subject, they move on to the next one.
  6. No uniforms: Shorts and a T-shirt is their usual dress. 🙂
  7. Cost: Homeschooling is definitely cheaper than private school.

Cons to Homeschooling:

  1. The paperwork: I usually have paperwork coming out my ears.
  2. Small house: Six people stuck inside all the time all together in a small living area.
  3. The Toddler and The Preschooler: Yes, the two youngest are a con. lol They are very, very distracting to my 1st grader if they don’t feel like watching his classes.
  4. Socializing: I do miss seeing the other parents at school events. A lot of them are my friends, and their kids are my kids’ friends. Most of the time, we only see them at church.

Our schooling history:

I love our church-school and it has improved greatly since I went to school there! My oldest son went there until 4th grade. Tuition is not that expensive compared to other Christian schools in the area but about three years ago, I realized that we just could not afford to send 3 kids there at once. So homeschooling was our next choice. I was not too thrilled about this, and there are days when I wish they were going to the school (usually when I am grading papers and I feel like my kids might not be learning as much or as well as they should be). I have never felt like I would be a good teacher and actually taught 4th grade Science and Spelling at our church’s school in the afternoons for one semester. That was very difficult for me because I am not particularly fond of public speaking! One of the main reasons I like the streaming video classes is that I am not my kids’ teacher. If they have questions though, I can usually help them.

Our usual day:

Since 3 of my boys are taking piano lessons, we try to get music practice out of the way first. Practice takes about an hour and a half. We don’t start school most days until 9:30.

Before we start classes, we say the Pledge of Allegiance and pray that God gives us a good school day.

Lunch and recess are any time between 11 AM and 1 PM. Both together take up about an hour. Most days my boys are finished with their videos and worktexts around 2:30 PM. The early days are very nice. They can go play outside, or we can be ready to go somewhere as soon as Josh gets home from work.


We don’t usually let the kids watch television or play video/computer games (unless it is part of their computer programming classes) on weekdays. If it’s a weekday pizza night or the boys are done with daily chores early, we may let them. So my kids really, really look forward to Friday!

There are still many things that I feel like I need to work on. For example, how do I grade papers, do laundry, entertain the two youngest kids, and still get to the baking/cooking in the kitchen? And when do I go to the grocery store?

I have to admit that most of the time the grading ends up not done and the laundry is clean but not folded. I find ways to get out to the grocery store. It is a good thing that my boys are mostly self-motivated and get their work done without too much prodding from me. It also helps that we are all in the same room and it is easy for me to tell what they are doing.

So there are pros and cons to homeschooling just like everything else in life. I do know that we are doing what is best for our kids right now. And this is the most important thing: my kids enjoy homeschooling!


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Chocolate Cream Tart

I think I am in love with pastry cream (or creme patisserie 🙂 and I wanted to try making it again. But this time, I went with chocolate! I also have a new tart pan that has been sitting around waiting for me to use it! The poor thing has been here since before Christmas!

All the recipes I used are from my Baking: From my home to yours cookbook by Dorie Greenspan. Josh bought me this cookbook for Christmas and it has seen a lot of use!


This was a pat-into-the-pan tart crust. I know I made this crust a little too thick at the bottom of the fluted edge, but this was my first tart crust. I used a sweet tart crust recipe.


Here is my tart crust after baking. It ended up a little darker than I wanted. But I have a good reason for missing the timer on the oven for this!

I was outside with 4 of my kids, my mother-in-law, and 2 of my nephews and we were chasing two chickens!  We have about 7 neighbors whose yards touch our property. One particular neighbor has a LOT of chickens. Their yard used to slope down to a fence that borders our side yard. Then they leveled their backyard and built a high retaining wall and then put another fence on top of that. The retaining wall is incredibly ugly and blocks out the sun, but there isn’t much we can do about it. Anyway, when they did all that work, we thought that our chicken problems were over. But no, somehow their chickens were still finding a way to escape into our yard! Yesterday, two of their chickens were in our yard and couldn’t find a way back to their home. My kids and nephews had a great time trying to chase them out of the yard but it didn’t work. There was no where for them to go! Since I was outside, I didn’t hear the timer beep when my crust was done.

Josh talked to the neighbor last night and they said they would come around to pick up their chickens. I’m not sure if they did or not.


I didn’t get any pictures of my custard as I was making it but here is the assembled tart. I used a recipe for chocolate pastry cream. I did have to push the custard through a sieve before I refrigerated it. This cream wasn’t quite as smooth as the vanilla pastry cream I made a few weeks ago.

The spatula I used to smooth the custard into the tart crust was full of chocolaty goodness after I was done. My oldest son and I almost had a fight over the spatula. He won.

The custard was divine. Pudding from a box just doesn’t have the same oomph as this stuff!


I tried to make an Italian meringue frosting two days ago but it didn’t turn out quite like I wanted. My kids didn’t seem to mind it though and were eating it by itself. I used the frosting to make Marshmallow Fluff Brownies, but I had a lot of it left over! So I decided to use it on this tart as decoration along with some cocoa powder. Whipped cream would have been better, I think. I didn’t like the texture of the frosting.

You can see that my crust wasn’t thin enough along the fluted edge. I will definitely need to work on that!
My dislike for the frosting didn’t stop me from eating my slice though! I told Josh that eating this tart made me want to kiss him. He just looked at me like I was crazy. lol


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Lego Challenge Tuesday – Build a Maze (Labyrinthe)

Source: Lego Challenge Tuesday – Build a Maze (Labyrinthe)

Many thanks to gather love grow for another Lego Challenge.  This challenge was one that really interested our boys.  Each of them came up with something different, and mostly they worked out.


This is the maze made by our 11 year old.  It is pretty simple, and that pretty much fits him right now.  The made was easy to get through, but it did have the Lego man waiting to catch the marble.


This is what our 8 year old came up with.  He is much more detail oriented and likes to try out new things.  His is totally covered and has two paths.  One of the paths dead ends, so the only way through the maze is to shake the marble around until it pops out of the end.


Our 6 year old attempted to copy his brother.  His only has one path thought it is covered.  That makes it pretty simple, but he did want to try something harder.

I am looking forward to what next weeks Lego Challenge will be.








Baking Bread: Pretzel Buns

I have been wanting to make pretzel buns for ages! I’m glad I finally got to, and I used a fabulous recipe from A_boleyn’s website. The dough was so easy to work with. My kids were very excited when I told them I was making pretzel buns. We have only had pretzel rolls twice from a bakery. Once from Bread and Cie in Hillcrest that were wonderful, and the other time from Vons that were okay (my boys still ate them up). Josh has also made pretzel buns before. They tasted great but ended up a little flat. My pretzel buns actually ended up a little flatter than I wanted but they were still slice-able (is that a word?)

My dough after proofing for about an hour.
I loved playing with this dough! I will be making it again. 🙂
My dough balls weren’t perfect. I might have to weigh my dough balls next time so that I end up with more uniform sizes.
The hardest part was poaching the buns in the boiling water and baking soda solution. I had not floured my baking sheet very well so the buns were sticking to the surface. My buns deflated a bit on the way to the pot. Next time, I will probably add more flour to the dough at the first knead to get the right consistency. I think I will also make my dough balls smaller! The small buns baked up the nicest and roundest.
My buns baked a bit unevenly but they were still good. We used the buns to make ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Thank you to A_boleyn for sharing her recipe with me! I am very happy with this bake. Any issues I had with it were due to my inexperience. I will know better what to do for next time!


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Baking Bread: Brazilian Cheese Bread

I have been borrowing cookbooks like crazy from the library. One of my recent borrows is the cookbook, Simply Nigella by Nigella Lawson. I’ve taken to placing post-it notes at each recipe that I want to try and one of them was her recipe for Brazilian Cheese Bread. I was able to make this bread on Friday, but I haven’t had a chance to post about it until now. I do have a few bakes scheduled for today, but before I go tackle those, I wanted to post about these little puff balls of chewiness.

Here is a recipe for Brazilian Cheese Bread at Simply Recipes. I haven’t tried this particular cheese bread recipe but I probably will soon. I love anything I have made from Simply Recipes.

I can’t seem to find the actual recipe I used online anywhere. This is probably because it is from a published cookbook.

Some issues I had with the recipe from Simply Nigella:

  1. The batter was really, really runny. I think this might be because I didn’t bring the milk up to enough of a boil before adding it to the tapioca flour.
  2. I had one child who did not like the cheese bread. I think for him it was a texture thing.
  3. I ended up making about 90 of these breads instead of just 50 like the recipe said.
  4. I don’t think the breads puffed up as much as they should have.


I have quite a few bags of gluten-free flours in my fridge. Tapioca flour is a lot like cornstarch!

Josh and I went on a gluten-free diet for about a month sometime last year. So I had to buy gluten-free flours. Once we were off the diet though, I was left with flours that I don’t use very much taking up space in my fridge! This is one reason I made the macarons a few weeks ago. My goal for the next month or two is to use up these flours. Who knows though; I may end up buying a few of these flours regularly!



This is the consistency of my cheese bread batter before I added the milk mixture from the stove.


This is after I added the milk. It was very, very runny!


The cheese bread on the baking sheet and in the oven.


My cheese breads all puffed up after baking. But… some of them didn’t stay that way. Some of them went flat after baking!

The texture of these was a little odd and took a bit of getting used to (very chewy!), but they were kind of addicting! In fact, I had little people (and one big son who is taller than I am) coming into the kitchen every few minutes to take one or two to snack on. I think they lasted maybe two days. They were really, really chewy the next day, but that didn’t bother my kids any. They still ate them up with lunch or as a snack. The cheese bread also toasted up decently in the toaster oven and regained its crispy exterior.

I will definitely make these again! I will try a different cheese next time and use a different recipe. I also need a recipe that doesn’t make quite so many!


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Sourdough Pizza Crust – 3rd time!

I had two bowls of sourdough starter taking up space in my fridge, plus it is Friday! So what do I decide to make? Sourdough pizza crust using one bowl of sourdough starter!

Number one, I probably will not do this again when my oldest son has band practice (he plays the flute). It was at the wrong time of afternoon and I had to put off getting the crust into the pans because of it. Dinner ended up being at 6:30! That’s a little too late for us.

Number two, I don’t know why, but my family ate this crust up. There were no leftovers! The last time I made this crust there were leftovers.

I used the same recipe I did the last time: King Arthur Flour Sourdough Pizza Crust.

The things I changed:

  1. I used my own Pizza Dough seasoning.
  2. I doubled the recipe.

Pizza Dough seasoning

Pizza Dough Seasoning

Note: I used Penzey’s spices.

2 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle

1/4 Tbsp roasted garlic seasoning

1/4 Tbsp toasted granulated onion

1/4 Tbsp Tuscan Sunset


This is my happy sourdough starter. I had an extra bowl of it in the fridge for when I wanted to make pizza crust again. I have to double the recipe for the pizza crust to feed all of us and that takes 2 cups of starter. If I used my main starter for this, I would have no starter left!


Because of the larger amount of pizza dough, I wasn’t able to use my KitchenAid mixer to knead the dough for me. I ended up kneading the dough by hand for about 15 minutes. I’m still not sure that was long enough either! It probably could have used another 5-10 minutes. I got a good arm workout today.


My pizza dough proofed for a VERY long time. Probably too long! I just was not able to get the dough into the pan when I wanted to. I started the dough around 10 and had it in the bowl to rise by about 11. I was going to try and get the dough into the pan around 2:45 to 3 but that didn’t work out (band practice was at 2:15). I had to wait until almost 4 to prepare the pans.


One of the pans of pizza dough ready to be baked. I pre-baked the crust for 8 minutes at 450 degrees F after brushing it with olive oil.

pizzaslice pizzawhole

After the pre-bake, I put the toppings on: pizza sauce, bacon, salami, provolone, mozzarella, and purple kale. Yes, kale! The pizza needed some green (and some purple too!) and that was all the green I had in the fridge that would work.

My suspicions on why these pizzas disappeared and my last ones didn’t:

  1. Everything tastes better with bacon. This is a fact.
  2. The kale? No, that can’t be it.
  3. The pizza dough seasoning?

I think I might have gone overboard with the garlic. The roasted garlic seasoning I used is VERY strong. I probably could have used half what I did.

The crust didn’t rise in the pans as much as I would have liked, but that’s okay. Since there were no leftovers, I guess the crust was good!

I was REALLY surprised that there were no complaints about the kale. At least, no complaints that I heard. My youngest son did ask “what are these black things?” though. He did eat it even after picking it off. I actually liked the kale on the pizza. It provided some leafy crispiness.

My pizza must always have bacon on it from now on. Always.


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