SJB Gilmour Writes

…and rants and ruminates…

Month: February, 2015

It’s A Dough Thing…

A little while back, I began experimenting with making my own sourdough bread.  My aim was to somehow reproduce the type of bread Superwife knew as child in Poland; a heavy yet moist caraway rye.  It’s taken quite a while, let me tell you.  I’m up to my third Walter** (That’s the name we’ve given the live yeast starter I keep bubbling away in the kitchen,) and the recipe mix, baking temperature and times have varied quite a lot.

Finally, I’ve come up with this.



It’s got a great crust, is just the right flavour, and being both moist and heavy, keeps very well.  The best bit is Miss8 likes it and wants in her school lunch instead of the Abbott’s/Helga’s stuff we get from the supermarket.

If you want to give it a go yourself, and don’t blame me if it doesn’t work – a helluva lot depends on your yeast starter – if that’s not right, it can all go ass-up and backwards, here’s the recipe.  It’s in metric.  Sorry about that.  I’m sure you’re all smart cookies and can work out the equivalent.


1 1/2 cups rye flour

1/2 cup wholemeal flour

3 cups plain flour

2 heaped teaspoons salt

3 heaped teaspoons caraway seeds



3 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 – 1 1/4 cups warm water*

1 – 1 1/4 cups starter*

*These depend on how the dough feels.  Mix up the full 1 1/2 cups of each, but only pour in 2 cup’s worth to begin.  If it needs more moisture, add a bit at a time.


Mix, in a mixer with a dough hook, then knead on a floured bench for about ten minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled ceramic bowl & cover with cling film, also oiled.  Let sit in a warm spot for 8 – 12 hours.  It should double in size at least.

Next, turn it out onto a floured bench and knead again for a few minutes.  Put it into the container of your choice.  I use a semi-cylindrical ceramic crock pot, which I line with cornflour.  Let rise again for another 8 – 12 hours.  Bake at around 180 C with lid on for about 20 mins, then remove lid.  Bake for another 15 mins or so.  Tap the top with a bread knife every so often.  When it sounds hollow, you’re done.  Take it out, tip onto a wire rack and let cool.


** Just a note about the starter.  You can go the full traditional way, of using a bit of flour and water in a container near a window, adding (or “feeding”) more every day until a culture begins, or you can cheat.  I cheated for this batch, but I have succeeded with a natural one as well.  To cheat, your local artisan bakery will probably sell little cakes of live yeast.  I bought some for about $1.15.  I only needed about half a teaspoon of the stuff.  The rest is tucked away nice and safe in the fridge till I need it next time.

To make your starter the cheats way, in a tall plastic container, or jar with a plastic lid, mix a cup of flour with about 2 cups of water and mash in half a teaspoon of live yeast “cake” with a fork.  Leave on the bench overnight with the lid semi-closed.  In the morning, you’ll have a little bubbling container of goo that smells like old beer.  Tada!  You have a Walter.




Class of ’88

A funny thing happened yesterday.  I was away from work for a couple of hours, and when I returned, I found on my desk my old yearbook from 1988.  Apparently my father had found it. I’d long considered it gone, along with many memories of high school.

Oh, it was fun to browse the pages and shudder at my own awful hair, only to find relief in seeing I wasn’t the only one who had such terrible coiffure.  As for the acne…  Oh man.  I’m glad I’m not a teenager any more.


However, flicking through that book brought a lot of memories back.  It was quite an experience.  I think tumultuous  describes the sensation best.  I recognised and remembered faces of people I’d forgotten.

I remembered girls I’d had crushes on throughout the final years of my schooling.  There were surprising few, actually, which is kind of a relief.  I remembered some others, who, thinking back to that period, might have had crushes on me but I was too dumb or arrogant or (insert adjective here), to do anything about.  I remembered all the awkward insecurities, the misguided overconfidence only a teenager can have,  and the bafflement of being somewhere I felt I truly did not belong.

I remembered friends with whom I should have stayed in contact.  Also, I remembered those people who weren’t friends that I was glad to leave behind.  I remembered the bullies and the teasers, who made it their business to remind me I didn’t belong whenever they had the chance.  I remembered being less than perfect.

Doubt came in.  Was I bully too?   I know I was a jerk at times, but hopefully no more than everyone else whose delightful mugshots I perused in that purple-bound tome.  Do other graduates see my photo and shudder?  I hope not, but I’m sorry if that’s the case.

Then I brought the book home.  Together, Superwife, The Wonderkids and I went through it.  Something inside went “click!”  I’m glad life turned out the way it did for me.  I’m happy now.  I’m happy and in love with Superwife.  The Wonderkids make me feel better than any drug could possibly do.  I may not have fitted in or belonged at high school, but in House Gilmour, I do.



Feeding Miss Minty

Here it is folks.  As promised, I took a video of us feeding Minty, our Stimson’s Python.

I can’t post the video, so you’ll just have to click on this link:







Miss Minty Update – (Herpetophobes Look Away Now!)

Some of you may remember we added a new member to the House Gilmour family recently.  Her name is Minty, the Stimson’s Python.  She went back to her previous owners for a little holiday while I was overseas for the day-job and Superwife and The Wonderkids were interstate.  It was just as well, because the dear little thing (she’s only about 40 cm long) wasn’t eating.

Just a note to all those who aren’t too keen on snakes or may fear we’ve unleashed a terrible monster who will one day swallow my children whole, fear not.  She’s about half-grown, and by the time she is fully grown, Miss8 (who by then will be Miss9 or 10, and is already waaay too big fo Minty to swallow), she’ll only reach about 85 – 95 cm.  Here she is in the loving hands of Miss8.


Well, this Saturday just gone, she came home.  We let her rest up in her enclosure for a few days, and last night we tried feeding her.  Wow!  That little lady has a fast strike.  I just waved the little fuzzy mouse – freshly defrosted, warmed in water, and patted dry – for a few seconds, and snap!  She grabbed it, curled up about it, and then proceeded to swallow it.

Miss4 and Miss8, whose room she shares with Minty, were both ecstatic. I was pretty relieved too.  And, now we know she’s happy to feed from us, the next time, probably Monday or Tuesday next week, I’ll film the whole thing and post it for you all.


Walter The Farting Yeast

Cooking in House Gilmour can be rewarding.  It can also be messy, smelly, and occasionally very, very funny.  The eight or so readers of this blog might know I’ve been experimenting with sourdough bread. My latest effort, proofed twice over a 24 hour period, then baked, turned out like this.


This loaf came out of the oven on Saturday evening, and we’re still eating it today (Monday morning,).  In fact, Miss8, who when asked if she’d like a store-bought roll, store-bought sandwich loaf, or House Gilmour loaf in her lunch, chose the HG loaf.  It’s a heavy, moist, wholemeal rye, with a chewy crust and a distinctively sourdough, yeasty flavour.  But that’s not the funny part,

Miss8’s younger sister, Miss4, asked how I made it, and I explained about the sourdough starter I’ve had bubbling away in the kitchen.  It’s a simple mix of flour, water, and yeast.  It smells like week-old stale beer, and looks kinda gross, but it works a treat.  My explanation went something like this.

Miss4, scrunching up her nose:  ‘Ew!’

Me:  ‘No, not “ew!”.  It’s great.  This stuff is alive.  Don’t hurt it’s feelings.’  Me, after thinking a bit.  ‘Should we give it a name?’

Miss4:  ‘It’s alive???’

Me:  ‘Yep.  It’s yeast.  A living organism.  It lives in the water, eats the flour, and farts out the gas that gives you the bubbles in the container and also the bubbles in the bread.’

Miss4:  ‘Like Walter The Farting Dog!’

Much hilarity ensued.  I’d have picked a different name, but now it’s too late.  Friends, let me introduce to you, the latest addition to House Gilmour, Walter, The Farting Yeast.



I’ve pretty much settled on the bread recipe, but I have played about with the flours I feed WTFY.  I’ve given him plain.  I’ve spooned in a mix of rye, wholemeal and plain.  I’ve even dumped a cup of rye on its own into his container.  Each loaf that has come out has been different.  The best so far has been when WTFY has been fed on the mix of wholemeal, rye and plain flour, and also given plenty to drink so he’s quite runny.  I’ll post another update about WTFY and his output in a week or so.   Till then, toodle pip!




PS:  I’m well aware of the copyright laws, and that I could get in a lot of trouble if I plagiarise any part of the books written by William Kotzwinkle, and Glenn Murray, and illustrated by Audrey Colman.  The chances of me ever making any money out of my yeast starter have to be a million to one at least, and then even if I do, I sure as hell won’t be calling it Walter, The Farting Yeast, so please don’t sue me!