Sourdough Apple Bread and Completing My PhD

A special note I will treasure: My mom is brilliant and the most determined person I know! Successfully defended her dissertation today! Despite five moves to four different states, university changes, and other hurdles along the way she has completed her PhD. You are such an inspiration Mom, and we are all so proud of you. Congrats, soon-to-be, Dr Jacque Nyenhuis!

This message really humbled me. On the other hand, we all laughed when I told my kids that getting a PhD was thankfully more about my determination than brilliance.

My dissertation title is: Political Ideology, Beliefs and Values as a Framework for Nutrition Preferences.

A PhD is suppose to signify that I am now an expert at something. I thought about taking a poll to see what I am an expert at, but polls have been really off lately with the 2016 Presidential election so I decided to just think about it on my own. PhD’s are suppose to be able to do that really good, too!

Nothing shows my determination like a PhD unless it is sourdough that made it through every single one of those moves– 4 different states in 5 years. I carried my college backpack in one hand and my sourdough starter in the other. Can you imagine the determination of those pioneer women to keep their starter alive through their moves? Yep, that’s the kind of determination I am talking about.

Paige has some of that determination. She wanted to help her mommy bake and wanted to make sure she got in on the fun.

Paige was grabbing at the whisk, wanting to help out. The bread is going to be way better with her sweet touch.

So what am I an expert at. It is where I have put my passion. My kids and grandkids. Also, as a food scientist I am likely a bit obsessive compulsive about determining what works for sourdough. 50 years of bread baking and 1000’s of loaves later this is what I know for sure…..

Keep it simple.  Don’t stress. It always comes back to life. But we all need a little renewal:

I have spent hours and hours on a loaf. And I have spent 5 minutes on just as great a loaf. But it is all good. Even after months of neglect, add a teaspoon of cider vinegar and a tablespoon of instant potato flakes along with 1 cup of flour and a cup of water, and it is all good…. Let it sit on the counter, covered for at least several hours. It will float in water when it has the power to make a crusty, light loaf of bread. Ashley has proven this renewal works since she keeps a neglected bit in the frig that only sees a feeding when I visit several months later.

I have worked through every complicated sourdough process, I have tried every method known. More importantly, I visited with cooks across the country in their own kitchens to learn even more. Wow, this is starting to look like how I earned my PhD….I traveled across the country talking with people about food, nutrition and politics. That is another thing that I am good at. Talking to people and learning about food.

I am a foodie in a really down to earth kind of way. I love local dives. Expensive restaurants can’t hold a candle to a hole in the wall with great local cuisine.  I will go way out of my way to eat at one in just about any corner of the world. My kids have been known to say “We are not going to eat there, are we?”  But when Coulter’s deployment with the US Marines was completed he needed his truck. So I loaded up the F-150 and headed west. Through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. And no one was with me to refuse a stop at all of these amazing little nooks where some of the best cooks and chefs serve their food day in and day out.  I learn so much from all these folks, about cooking, about new foods and yes,  life too.

So, this is also how I learned about bread baking: Gram on the farm in Iowa taught me the sponge method. My mom taught me that some things like yeast bread can be done even when  when you have 6 kids, work full time and go to school. The native Alaskan women, stooped with age, first taught me  less flour is more. The North Dakotans  have such a long history of wheat bread baking that it was ingrained in their souls and they shared recipes handed down several generations. And then there was my experimentation.  I literally can not stop. I tell myself after the 20 loaves in as many days, to get on with my life. I then find myself back in the kitchen because in the middle of the night I woke up with one more experiment to try that meant another 20 loaves in the next  few days. OK, you get the picture.  And here is a fabulous apple bread to celebrate all this knowledge and expertise I have gained in sourdough baking and in working towards a PhD. It takes very little hands on time, about 5 minutes if you are fast and sloppy like me.  I make the bread between classes, work, playing with Carson and Paige and even between chapters of  a dissertation.

THis is one of my favorite things to do when the sourdough is taking its time to rise.
This is one of my favorite things to do when the sourdough is taking its time to rise. We were both full of laughter and love.


Other times we are working hard and sitting pretty.
Other times we are working hard and sitting pretty.


Sour Dough Apple Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup starter (it is perfect when a bit of it can float in water)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups fresh or dried apple pieces, dusted with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all the ingredients, adding more water or more flour to make a dough that is very wet but can still be a handled. Knead it for 5 minutes or until smooth. Place in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel and let stand in a very warm place if you want it in 3 hours or at room temperature 68° if overnight.

Go to work. Write a dissertation. Play with the kids. Go to sleep for the night…. ahh yes sleep. That is what I do. I mix it up right after supper and it proofs overnight on the counter.

After you are done with what you are doing and the bread is double. Form it into a loaf. Place it on parchment paper and gently place it in a bowl.  Cover with the lid, wet tea towel or plastic wrap.

Go to work. Take a walk with your sweetheart.  Spend the day with the grandkids.

As soon as I get home from work, I preheat the oven.

Preheat the oven to 550° with a cast iron pan and lid (or clay bread baker with lid) for one hour. Spray the top of the bread with water. Sprinkle with seeds.   Place bread on parchment in preheated cast iron pan.Slash a cool design on the top. Cover with preheated lid. Reduce oven temperature to 450°. Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on. Take the lid off and bake another 20 minutes or until a thermometer placed in the center of the loaf registers 200°.

Tip:   To bake in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, coat the loaf pan with cooking spray and place shaped dough in the loaf pan. Let rise until double and then bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until a thermometer placed in the center of the loaf registers 200°.

We had to climb to the top to find all of the best apples. No low hanging fruit for us.
We had to climb to the top to find all of the best apples. No low hanging fruit for us.






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