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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Alaskan Sourdough (Revisited)

After a couple of adjustments (failures) since my last sourdough post, I think I’ve finally found a reliable and consistent way to make and bake bread in a wood stove. Here’s some things I’ve learned:
1.   It’s not as easy as some internet sites claim. Making a loaf of sourdough bread is not hard, but it’s not easy either. Expect to fail…many times.
2.   Don’t be afraid to experiment. Eventually you’ll find the right amount of ingredients.
3.   The starter is on its own schedule. When “its” ready, that’s when you bake…not the other way around.
4.   Kneading is not required. Just mix the ingredients, cover and let it rise.
5.   Place the dough in the oven and leave it alone! Find something to do and forget about the bread until it’s done. Don’t be tempted to peek. Every time the wood stove is opened, precious heat is lost. Unless another fire is started, you just lessened the chances of a successful loaf.
6.   Baking bread is really frustrating. Make sure the starter is active, the brand of flour is the “good stuff”, keep the proper wood stove temperature (450F), acquire some knowledge of the starter (when to feed, rise times, when to bake), have a patient spouse (you’ll waste a lot of flour).

As I write this post, I’m eating the best bread I have ever tasted. Isn’t that worth the frustration? You bet it is…yummmmm.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

We're up and running!!

"Most" of the calibrations are completed. The imaging train is robust and reliable. CCD Inspector shows that collimation is required, but almost no tilt exists in the imaging train. The Edge optics are providing a nice flat field. Seeing has not been very good and trying to lower FWHM has proven to be a challenge. I believe after collimation the numbers will improve. However, that will have to wait as the dome gets very cold at night this time of year. 

I have been imaging Caldwell C30 for a couple of nights. The darks, bias, and flats have been integrated in PixInsight. Stay tuned for a first image along with a description of the target.

I’m having some trouble with getting LUM flats that aren’t distorted. I’m using a light box and the RGB flats are acceptable. The QSI CCD requires flats that are approximately 35700 ADU’s. I’ll need to get this worked out before I can move forward with the processing.

Sorry for all the technical jargon, but every once in a while I’ll throw in a post like this to interest the astrophotographers reading the blog. Believe it or not, there are quite a few of them lurking out there. Your comments are always welcomed!            George

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fun Weekend

We enjoyed having guests stay at our home over the weekend. It was a pleasure to have the house filled with laughter and conversation. I want to thank everyone for coming!

Two boys experienced riding a tandem for the first time. The tandem was quite a spectacle in this village. Tandems are very rare in Japan. I was exhausted after two laps around Tsukahara.

Pizza for the dinner...10 pizzas to be exact. The girls are learning how to roll pizza dough.

Everyone had a chance to toss pizza dough and add toppings to their pizzas.

Playing darts was a big hit with the kids. They put plenty of new holes in the wall!!

Mr. Ito, a successful business owner, enjoyed making crepes. He's really good at it! We also had waffles and real maple syrup.

The kids tried to beat Lucky at playing soccer. The youngest, Daichi, played better than all of the senior high school kids.

Only Lucky was supposed to hitch a ride, but the "city" kids were tired of walking. The adults ended up walking with Kiley around Tsukahara.

Chi-chan helped Erika with preparing breakfast early in the morning. Thank you Chi-chan! 
Note: Erika did the editing of the photos.

The boys ate a lot.

It was a great time! The kids experienced an overnight stay with us and we hope it was memorable. Hopefully, everyone learned something!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Six years to make a loaf of bread?

The title of the blog sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. My hygienist in Washington gave me some sour dough starter as a going away present. Debbie, my hygienist, knew that I wanted to make sour dough bread in Japan. She gave me some of her own starter that was handed down from generation to generation. The starter came from Alaska. Alaska starter is well known to be flavorful and hearty.

I have been taking care of the starter for the past six years. Every few weeks I discard half of the mix and add more flour and water. I then stir the starter and keep it refrigerated.

I was hoping to have an oven by now, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, I decided to try baking a loaf in the wood stove. I have discovered that baking in a wood stove is fun, but controlling the temperature is tricky.

Baking sour dough requires an oven that is around 200C (400F). The temperature needs to remain constant for about an hour. That sounds easy enough, but I soon learned with my first loaf that bread turns into charcoal quickly…oops!

The second loaf was better and the flavor and texture were wonderful. I didn't get the rise I was hoping for. No problem! I love eating my rejects!! The starter needs another week of feeding and it should be ready to go. I also need to be more patient with the oven temperature.

I'm looking forward to baking more bread and incorporating the sour dough into pizza crust. Stay tuned...                               George