Temp Check

I take my temperature every day, literally and figuratively.  It’s how I cope, how I breathe in and out, and how I determine the way that I’m going to care for myself over the course of the new day. Sometimes self-care is staying in bed all day, sometimes it’s a bath, sometimes it’s a run. Yesterday’s self-care looked like organizing the blog’s press and finessing the coding (with significant assistance from my code-literate fiancé — first time I’ve used that word on here… 🥰).

So how are you doing? What’s your temperature?  Today mine is normal, although I have a slight cough that’s likely a result of the change of season I’m witnessing from my window. I’m worried about my family. My parents are both in high-risk groups and both essential personnel, meaning they haven’t stopped going to work. My mother, brother, and sister-in-law are in medicine and on the front-lines of Covid-19. My niece is less than four months old, I think about her every day.

I’ve prioritized pausing and allowing myself to feel everything that I am feeling. Despite being on day 45 of quarantine it is not ‘business as usual’. Nothing about this situation is usual. Letting myself feel concerned is part of how I am caring for myself.

A few things that are helping …

 

Pickling: Red Onions & Peppercorns

 

Pickling is possibly the easiest and fastest way to transform your foods. This method, in particular, for pickling red onions takes about 10 minutes (of work) for crunchy, acidic, and sweet onions that will last up to a month in the refrigerator.

The best part about pickling is that, unlike canning, you don’t need to sterilize your glass jar or worry tremendously about bacterial growth (as you’ll be storing these in the refrigerator). You also don’t need to worry so much about the science and mechanisms taking place behind the scenes, as you do with fermentation or baking. Because unlike those two things, you aren’t relying on a chemical reaction for the end product and you can shift the ratios to best satiate your palate.

Personally, I would suggest keeping a 2:1 vinegar to water ratio, but playing around with salt and sugar levels, adding in a habanero pepper, using szechuan peppercorns, …  is up to you!

 

 

Pickled Red Onions

Gather [materials]:

  • chef’s knife or mandoline
  • canning jar

Gather [ingredients]:

  • 2 medium red onions
  • 1 c apple cider vinegar (optional: substitute with white vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c water
  • optional: 1/2 tsp black peppercorns

 

Instructions:

Prep the onions: Thinly slice onions according to personal preference. I prefer to cut the onion in half, length-wise, slicing through the root. Taking one half I, with a chef’s knife snip off the root and tunic ends. Then, slicing perpendicular to the root and tunic removal cuts, I slice from tunic to root. This creates even slices and allows for better control as I move through slicing. Control = even-sized slices = uniform pickling.

Pack onions into jar. The jar should be full, but not overwhelmed by the amount of onion.

For the brine: Add apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, water, and optional peppercorns to a small saucepan. Simmer gently, until all sugar and salt are dissolved.

Pour the saucepan brine into the jar and over the prepped onions. If using a canning jar, put on the lid and give the jar a quick shake to ensure all onions are covered. Unscrew lid and allow to cool, uncovered. Once cool, transfer to the refrigerator for long term storage.

For quick pickling, wait 45-60 minutes.

For more vigorous pickling, allow several days.

 

Pickled Red Onions

  • 2 red onions (medium)
  • 1 c apple cider vinegar ((optional: substitute with white vinegar))
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns ((optional))
  1. Prep the onions: Thinly slice onions according to personal preference.

  2. Pack onions into jar. The jar should be full, but not overwhelmed by the amount of onion.

  3. For the brine: Add apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, water, and optional peppercorns to a small saucepan. Simmer gently, until all sugar and salt are dissolved.

  4. Pour the saucepan brine into the jar and over the prepped onions. If using a canning jar, put on the lid and give the jar a quick shake to ensure all onions are covered. Unscrew lid and allow to cool, uncovered. Once cool, transfer to the refrigerator for long term storage.

For quick pickling, wait 45-60 minutes.

For more vigorous pickling, allow several days.

Store, refrigerated, for up to one month.

 

Natural Cycles: Hormone-free Birth Control

I don’t know that I ever anticipated being as open about my contraception use as I am. But after over a decade of using one method or another (and feeling a bit like a guinea pig along the way) I decided to stop all hormonal birth control back in 2017. I had my IUD removed, I didn’t fulfill a prescription for birth control pills (that I hadn’t asked for, my doc just wrote the script assuming I would want them).

A few months after said removal I downloaded Natural Cycles, a birth control app that tracks my cycle and ovulation through daily BBT analysis. Truthfully, I’m not sure what I anticipated, but what I did know if that I wanted to let my body come back to its homeostasis. I started hormonal birth control when I was 16, which means that I started at a time when my body was still figuring out its hormonal levels. I wanted to start to work with my body again, to know who she really was and what it felt like to ride my menstrual ebbs and flows with her.

After two years, I know my body better than I ever have. I listen to her and what she tells me. Regardless of the calendar, I can anticipate the moment I will get my period, down to the hour. I know exactly how long my PMS cramps will last, and when they will end. I know when I’m ovulating and that my right ovary tends to be more active than my left. All based on feel.

Transitioning into hormone-free birth control was the best move I ever made. While it did come with an adjustment period (read: teenage-style acne for a few months) I wouldn’t go back for anything. I wanted to share this with all of you because, as womxn, it’s important that we embrace this dialogue — with ourselves, our care teams, our partners, and each other — so we can learn from each other and about what will make us feel most empowered and nourished in our bodies. The more we know, the more we know.

Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use for ages 18+ and doesn’t protect against STIs.

 

#DifferentKindOfBirthcontrol #NaturalCycles

The Long Walk to Our Social [Distancing] Club

The only time I am venturing outside of my apartment lately is for trips to the grocery store. I pick moments when there are the fewest number of people out, wear my face mask, and embrace the moment of fresh air.

This past weekend I extended my outside-of-the-apartment-time by two blocks in order to ‘visit’ with friends. I buzzed their apartment, left gifts of sourdough starter and a half loaf of freshly baked bread on their stoop, and stood over six feet away when waving hello and exchanging pleasantries.

The meeting lasted only a few moments before walking back to my own apartment and another three days of lockdown (until the next grocery trip), but was a reminder of the normalcy that still exists out in the world. Covid-19 has been incredibly isolating, but seeing friends, albeit not seeing their faces, has made for a few moments of comradery and feeling like there is an end in sight.

 

A Perfectly Simple Country White Loaf

As a sourdough enthusiast and avid bread baker, I have absolutely adored seeing the bread boom of the past month. King Arthur Flour (my go-to) reported sending more flour in three weeks of March than in their entire holiday baking season (October-December) of 2019. That’s massive. With the baking boom does come a bit of a selfish downside for me… It’s been impossible to get bread flour. I’ve been hoarding the last 500g I have and recently found some on Etsy (I believe the last bags on the internet) and paid nearly $60 for 10 lbs of flour. I don’t pretend that my baking habits fall within the realm of “normal”.

With everyone buying up bread flour and stores mostly restocking with AP flour I decided to try my hand at a country white loaf using 100% AP flour. The goal was simply “edible”. AP flour has a lower protein content than BF or whole wheat flour which can make it tricky to work with (according to online forums) and with absolutely no personal experience I was just hoping for something that could be eaten. I dialed the hydration way back as AP flour isn’t nearly as thirsty as BF or WW flour and used a much longer and modified autolyse.

What I ended up with was a soft loaf with a perfectly crusty exterior. It was perfect for sandwiches and passed my “squish” test (when I pinch a little of the bread between my fingers to judge its spring-back). This loaf was incredibly practical. It was a very different process than my typical sourdough, but ultimately less work. The bread itself was more of a typical loaf you’d reach for, opposed to my WW loaves that feel more artisan.

So if you’ve got a pantry of AP flour and are looking for something to do with it, here’s your answer!

 

SIMPLE COUNTRY WHITE LOAF

Grams & Percentages

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 290 g water (58% hydration)
  • 177 g levain (35% inoculation)
  • 8 g salt (1.6%)

 

Timeline

  • 2:00 pm — fed starter (115 g levain + 118 g water + 120 g flour)
  • 8:00 pm — start modified autolyse (117 g FED levain + 300 g flour + water)
  • 8:30 pm — start bulk fermentation (refrigerated overnight)
  • 8:30 am — add remaining flour (200 g) to autolyse, rest
  • 9:00 am — add salt
  • 10:00 am — counter lamination
  • 11:00 am — coil fold #1
  • 12:00 pm — shape loaf and place in banneton for 2h room-temp rise
  • 1:00 pm — preheat oven 450°
  • 1:40 pm — bake, lid on, 25m
  • 2:05 pm — remove loaf from cast iron
  • 2:50 pm — turn oven off, leave loaf in spoon-cracked [off] oven to dry out for 60m

 

Simple Country White Loaf

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 177 g levain (sourdough starter) (fed, ripe)
  • 290 g water (lukewarm)
  • 8 g salt (non-iodine)

Starter

  1. Fed starter approximately 4-6 hours prior to beginning your autolyse. The starter should be doubled in size before using and pass the 'float test'.

  2. For the float test take a dollop of starter and lightly place it into a cup of water. The starter should easily float on top and be buoyant. This is your indication that the starter is ready to be used. With practice, you'll be able to time this 'readiness' with the ending of your autolyse.

Modified Autolyse

  1. Once your starter is ready to be used mix a portion of flour (300 g) with 117 g FED levain and water in a large bowl. The water should be lukewarm to the touch. If you dip your fingers in the water and cannot detect it being hot or cold it is the right temperature (the same temperature as you). This is a process that will cut down on ‘knead’ time later and allow your dough to fully hydrate and gluten structures to begin forming.

  2. Cover dough and set in refridgerator overnight (approximately 12 hours).

Mix the dough

  1. Add remaining flour (200 g) to autolyse and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

  2. Add salt and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Bulk Fermentation

  1. Perform a counter lamination. Gently stretch the dough over the counter (being careful to stretch from the center of the dough and not the edge to avoid tearing). The result should be a large rectangle. Fold the left side in two-third across the dough. Fold the right side over it to make one skinny rectangle, with the dough tripled over itself. Beginning at the top fold down approximately halfway and repeat until the dough had become bundled. Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour.

  2. Perform 1-3 coil folds (seperated by 45-60m) until the passes the poke test and windowpane test. 

  3. The poke test indicates that the dough is proofed and ready. Using an oiled finger gentle press into the dough. The dough should spring back, but leave an indentation. If the dough springs back completely the dough is not proof enough. If the dough does not spring back the dough is overproofed.

  4. For the windowpane test take a small piece of dough and stretch it between your thumb and first finger. The dough should hold its form and create a sheer 'windowpane'. If the dough tears the gluten structure is not strong enough and it will need more stretching.

Shaping the dough

  1. Shape loaf and place in banneton for 2h room-temp rise.

  2. Option 1, flour directly in front of the dough and flip the dough away from you (onto the flour). Tug out the top of the dough and fold it onto itself. Repeat with the side and bottom. Cup dough and gently pull it toward you, creating a neat loaf with tension across the top. Allow the dough to rest, seam-side down, for 10 minutes. Place the dough into a floured and prepared banneton, seam-side up. Flour the exposed dough, cover with a clean towel.

  3. Option 2, using the outer edge of lightly flour hands circle the dough, gently tucking it under itself with the rotation, to form a tight, round boule. Allow the dough to rest, seam-side down, for 10 minutes. Place the dough into a floured and prepared banneton, seam-side up. Flour the exposed dough, cover with a clean towel.

Prepping your dough for baking

  1. Preheat your oven as high is it will go (500°) and place your dutch oven into the bottom of the oven. Leave for one hour. Cut a parchment round the approximate size of your dough, adding a small radius to give you a 'handle' for moving the dough later.

  2. Once the oven is up to temperature (after an hour) turn the dough out onto the parchment paper. Flour liberally and rub the flour into the dough. This will give a smooth contrast to your scores after the bread is baked.

  3. Using the corner of a lame or a sharp razor blade score deeply into the loaf (1/4 to 1/2 inch), cutting through the surface tension.

Baking

  1. Lift the dough (by the parchment paper handles) into the dutch over. Cover and bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. This will create steam that keeps that outer edge of the bread from setting too quickly. If the outer edge sets too quickly it will inhibit the oven spring, resulting in a dense crumb. Oven spring final burst of yeast activity and gas expansion (rising) just before the crust hardens.

  2. Uncover and bake until the top is deep golden and the bottom knocks hollow.

  3. Turn off oven and leave loaf in spoon-cracked [off] oven to dry out for 60m.

Bread Baking: Terms & Techniques

Getting into bread baking more and more involved learning a lot of gargon and (unsurprisingly) a lot of French. I found the more that I write about baking, bread, sourdough, etc I end up repeating myself or that I need to pause a train of thought to ‘decode’ paragraphs for readers.

Below is a list of the most common term and techniques I find myself explaining on IG and through articles here on the blog. If you find something is missing or you’d like more information on a term please let me know in the comments. Happy baking! -M

 

  • AP — the abbreviation for all-purpose flour
  • Autolyse — the process of mixing all the flour and water (before adding levain) that allows for more complete hydration of the starches, gluten structures to begin forming, and dough becomes more extensible
  • Banneton — bread basket used for shaping
  • Bulk Fermentation (BF) — the dough’s first proof where it ferments as one mass before you divide and shape it into loaves
  • Boule — the French word for “ball”, round loaf of bread
  • Cold Fermentation (CF) — the process of refrigeration dough to slow fermentation which creates more flavor through alpha-amylase action which converts starches to sugars (another term for “Retard”)
  • Coil Fold — a method of strengthening and developing gluten in the dough during BF
    • Lift the dough from the middle with both hands. The four fingers have to be below the dough and only the thumbs above the dough. Lift the dough until the top of the dough releases from the BF container and curls underneath. Turn the BF container 180° and repeat with the bottom (now top) of the dough, lifting from the middle with both hands until the dough releases from the BF container and curls underneath. Turn 90° and repeat with the left side. Turn 180° and repeat with the right side.
  • Elasticity — measure of how well the dough recovers its original form after being stretched (see “Poke Test”)
  • Extensibility — measure of how well the dough will stretch and achieved through a process when a naturally-occurring enzyme, called protease breaks some of the long gluten bonds (see “Windowpane Test”)
  • Float Test — test to determine if levain is ready to be baked with
    • Take a dollop of starter and lightly place it into a cup of water. The levain should easily float on top and be buoyant.
  • Gluten — the molecular structure that is responsible for trapping and holding air in your bread
    • Made up of gliadin (which gives bread the ability to rise during baking) and glutenin (which is responsible for dough’s elasticity)
  • Lamination — a gentle method used to rapidly build gluten structure after mixing and before BF
    • Gently stretch the dough over the counter (being careful to stretch from the center of the dough and not the edge to avoid tearing). The result should be a large rectangle. Fold the left side in two-third across the dough. Fold the right side over it to make one skinny rectangle, with the dough tripled over itself. Beginning at the top fold down approximately halfway and repeat until the dough had become bundled.
  • Levain — the French word for “starter”, they can be used interchangeably
  • Oven Spring — the final burst of yeast activity and gas expansion (rising) just before the crust hardens
  • Poke Test — test to determine elasticity of the dough and if it proofed and ready to be baked
    • Using an oiled finger gentle press into the dough. The dough should spring back, but leave an indentation. If the dough springs back completely the dough is not proof enough. If the dough does not spring back the dough is over-proofed.
  • Retard — the French term for “delay” and used to describe the process of refrigerating dough to slow fermentation (see “Cold Fermentation”)
  • Score / Scoring — a method of cutting 1/4-inch deep slashing into the dough to control where the steam will release and dough will expand during oven spring
  • Slap and Fold — a method of rapidly build gluten structure by lifting and throwing down the dough after mixing
    • Turn the dough out onto an unfloured surface. It will have an ununiform ‘blob’ shapelessness. Lift the dough up and throw it down repeatedly, allowing it to fold over onto itself. Repeat this for 5-7 minutes, until the dough has a more cohesive shape and holds itself together more firmly.
  • Windowpane Test — test to determine extensibility of the dough and check that gluten structure is well developed
    • Take a small piece of dough and stretch it between your thumb and first finger. The dough should hold its form and create a sheer ‘windowpane’. If the dough tears the gluten structure is not strong enough and it will need more stretching.
  • WW — the abbreviation for whole wheat flour

 

Sourdough (Discard) Flakey Biscuits

You’ll notice in the photos that there are five biscuits, while this recipe makes six. That is because I am someone who lacks the self-control to wait until after photos to snack and, frankly, I hope that never changes.

This recipe was born of necessity. Cultivating and maintaining sourdough starter is an absolute joy. Throwing out half of it during every feed? Less so. I started saving my discard starter and using it in recipes for flavor, more than for its ‘spring’. This recipe is a melding of a few biscuit recipes I truly enjoy, but substitutes discard sourdough starter for the acidity you would typically get from buttermilk.

Having discard starter sitting in the refrigerator means that I’m always 30 minutes away from these beauties. Which also means that, if patterns hold true, my waking up about an hour before the rest of my home gives me a quiet moment of baking and solitude before he stumbles in, sees what I’ve made and excitedly whispers, “biscuits”.

 

Sourdough (Discard) Flakey Biscuits

Gather [materials]:

  • 1 mixing bowl
  • baking sheet

Gather [ingredients]:

  • 1 c all-purpose flour (+ bench flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (for savory biscuits, increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tsp sugar (for savory biscuits, substitute 1/2 teaspoon black pepper)
  • 1/2 c butter (cold, unsalted)
  • 1 c sourdough starter (unfed, discard)
  • buttermilk or whole milk

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425° and prepare a baking sheet (either lined with parchment or greased).

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar (or black pepper) until well incorporated. Breaking the butter with a fork, gently incorporate it until mixture is crumbly and not quite ‘dough-like’.

Tossing mixture with a fork, drizzle in starter and continue to mix. Add a drizzle of buttermilk or whole milk if dough is too dry.

Lightly knead dough in the bowl, careful not to over-work, until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it into a 1″-thick square. Using a chef’s knife or bench scraper, cut the dough in half lengthwise and crosswise so you have four evenly sized squares. Stack the squares, placing scraps of dough in between layers, to form a tower, and then compress, laminating the dough. Pat into a 1″-thick rectangle and cut into six pieces using a 2×3 grid.

Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart.

Freeze biscuits for 10-15 minutes if the dough has come to room temperature. If your discard was stored in the refrigerator, keeping the dough cold, skip this step.

Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and place in oven.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until biscuit tops are golden brown and crispy to the touch. Optional: When biscuits are done, turn off oven and, with the door held ajar by a wooden spoon, leave the biscuits in oven for an additional 10 minutes to fully dry out.

Sourdough (Discard) Flakey Biscuits

  • 1 c all-purpose flour (+ bench flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c butter (cold, unsalted)
  • 1 c sourdough starter (unfed, discard)
  • buttermilk or whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425° and prepare a baking sheet (either lined with parchment or greased).

  2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar (or black pepper) until well incorporated. Breaking the butter with a fork, gently incorporate it until mixture is crumbly and not quite 'dough-like'.

  3. Tossing mixture with a fork, drizzle in starter and continue to mix. Add a drizzle of buttermilk or whole milk if dough is too dry.

  4. Lightly knead dough in the bowl, careful not to over-work, until a shaggy dough forms.

  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it into a 1"-thick square. Using a chef's knife or bench scraper, cut the dough in half lengthwise and crosswise so you have four evenly sized squares. Stack the squares, placing scraps of dough in between layers, to form a tower, and then compress, laminating the dough. Pat into a 1"-thick rectangle and cut into six pieces using a 2×3 grid.

  6. Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart.

  7. Freeze biscuits for 10-15 minutes if the dough has come to room temperature. If your discard was stored in the refrigerator, keeping the dough cold, skip this step.

  8. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and place in oven.

  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until biscuit tops are golden brown and crispy to the touch. Optional: When biscuits are done, turn off oven and, with the door held ajar by a wooden spoon, leave the biscuits in oven for an additional 10 minutes to fully dry out.

For savory biscuits, substitute 1/2 teaspoon black pepper for sugar and increase salt to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

 

Weekly Loaf

 

Grams & Percentages

  • 500 g flour (275 g bread, 175 g WW, 50 g spelt)
  • 400 g water (80% hydration)
  • 100 g levain (20% inoculation)
  • 10 g salt (2%)

 

Timeline

  • 7:30 am — fed starter
  • 12:30 pm — start autolyse
  • 2:00 pm — add levain (1:30h autolyse + 6:30h starter)
  • 2:30 pm — add salt
  • 3:00 pm — counter lamination
  • 4:00 pm — coil fold #1
  • 4:45 pm — coil fold #2
  • 5:30 pm — coil fold #3
  • 6:00 pm — shape loaf and place in banneton for 2h retard
  • 7:00 pm — preheat oven 450°
  • 8:00 pm — bake, lid on, 25m
  • 9:00 pm — remove loaf from cast iron, turn oven off, leave loaf in spoon-cracked [off] oven to dry out for 30m

 

Notes

  • The goal for this week’s loaf was a very open crumb, which I’m overall happy with. I would like to see more evenness, but I’m happy that all the airiness isn’t on the top/side of the loaf.
  • 80% hydration makes an incredibly manageable and reliable dough. It’s a perfect hydration to begin learning to bake by feel, letting the dough be your guide.
  • Very happy with the little ear action. Increasing the steam time (from 15m to 25m) aided this.
  • The loaf itself was tender, with a nice chew and relatively blonde crust (easily could have done another 10-20 in the oven).
  • Flavor was pretty profound, considering the retard was so much shorter than I typically do.
  • Thank you to Dan Larn for the scoring tutelage.  And thank you to Kristen for the lamination technique.

 

Sustainable Wears: 12 High Quality, Slow Fashion Brands

I want my closet to be an externalization of my internal beliefs. If you don’t believe in child labour and poor working conditions, if you fight for social justice in your country, how can you justify wearing a brand that exploits people in other countries? If you use a metal straw and are a diligent recycler, how can you shop at a store that abuses the environment through unsustainable practices?

I decided to start voting and speaking with my dollars several years ago and no longer patronize fast fashion brands. I haven’t shopped at H&M, ASOS, etc in years and I honestly don’t remember the last time I was in a Target or Walmart. These fast fashion superhouses have a revolving door of new trends, a concept in itself that I am not a fan of. The thought of these places gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’ve studied the ethics of fast fashion several times over, personally and in an academic setting. I’ve read and written papers about the harms of fast fashion brands since 2008. My college senior thesis was entitled The Importance of Authentic Interaction with Nature and over 40 of its pages were dedicated to dismantling the fast fashion companies we, as a society, seem to adore.

When researching chic and minimal brands in the early 2010s, Everlane came into my world like a breath of fresh air. I didn’t know there were brands out there actually doing what Everlane was doing, transparent pricing and a responsible business model. For several years I was naïve to any other brands with similar models. However, since then, I’ve met several other brands with high ethical values and am sharing them below.

 


 

Everlane

{California, USA based; they reveal their true cost to consumers and share detailed production information, including an option to view the factory}

Ethics utilizes radical transparency and ethical production processes
Product Line men’s & women’s attire, outerwear, accessories,  shoes
Size Range XXS–XL
Investment $$

 

Vetta

{made in the USA; utilizes a capsule wardrobe structure made of five pieces that translate into a month+ worth of looks}

Ethics utilizes deadstock or eco textiles (including buttons & elastic); ships in recycled packaging; ethical production practices
Product Line women’s attire, outwear
Size Range XS–XL
Investment $$

 

Christy Dawn

{Los Angeles, USA based; crafted from a woman’s perspective}

Ethics utilizes deadstock textiles; handmade pieces made in small batches
Product Line women’s attire, outerwear, maternity, bridal
Size Range XS–XL
Investment $$$

 

ABLE

{Tennesee, USA based company with production transpiring all over the world; ABLE hires women who have overcome extraordinary circumstances and ensure they are fairly paid}

Ethics B-Corp; Fair-Labour practices
Product Line women’s attire, accessories, shoes
Size Range XS–XL
Investment $-$$

 

United By Blue

{Pennsylvania, USA based; for each product sold United By Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans & waterways}

Ethics B-Corp; uses recycled & organic materials; champions environmental preservation
Product Line men’s & women’s attire, children’s attire, outerwear, accessories, pet accessories
Size Range XS–XL
Investment $$

 

Patagonia

{California, USA based; dedicated toward ethical production and created a denim production process that uses 84% less water, 30% less energy and emit 25% less CO2}

Ethics Fair Trade Certified; organic cotton; champions environmental sustainability
Product Line men’s & women’s attire, children’s attire; outwear, swimwear
Size Range XXS–XXL
Investment $$

 

Nisolo

{provides fair wages & full-time employment to their artisans; high-quality shoes that will last years, if not decades; also has an ethical marketplace that showcases other like-minded ethical brands}

Ethics Fair Trade Certified; transparent production practices
Product Line women’s & men’s shoes, accessories
Size Range women’s 6–10, men’s 8–13
Investment $$–$$$

 

Elizabeth Suzann

{Tennesee, USA based; minimalist styles with timeless silhouettes; a true embodiment of slow fashion}

Ethics made in USA; utilizes natural fibers; inclusive sizing
Product Line women’s
Size Range XXS-4X; offers petite & plus sizes
Investment $$$

 

Eileen Fisher

{New York, USA based; working toward 100% organic cotton & linen fibers, environmentally responsible dyes, carbon positive operations, and no-waste facilities by 2020; an industry leader in sustainable fashion}

Ethics Fair Trade Certified; utilizes sustainable materials & practices; inclusive sizing
Product Line women’s attire, accessories, shoes
Size Range XXS-3X; offers petite & plus sizes
Investment $$$

 

Hackwith Design House

{Minnesota, USA based; many products are made-to-order and intended to be year-round basics; perfect minimalist investment pieces}

Ethics made in USA; made to order; inclusive sizing
Product Line women’s attire, swimwear, accessories
Size Range XS–4X; offers plus sizes
Investment $$$

 

Reformation

{upcycled materials produced in a fair wage environment; each product comes with an outline of its environmental footprint; mainstream and trendier styles}

Ethics utilizes sustainable fabrics, offsets carbon emissions, pays living wages
Product Line women’s attire, outerwear, bridal
Size Range XXS-3X; offers plus sizes
Investment $$$

 

People Tree

{London, UK based; a pioneer in sustainable fashion and in the business for over 20 years; offering everything from work-wear to yoga-wear}

Ethics Fair Trade Certified; utilizes organic cotton and biodegradable materials
Product Line women’s attire, accessories
Size Range US 2-14
Investment $-$$

On Why: Sourdough Starter Issues & FAQs

 

Several weeks ago I posted this article, to better familiarize you all with starters and *hopefully* show that creating and owning a starter is fun, rewarding, and not nearly as difficult as it may seem at face value. Since posting I’ve been getting a lot of troubleshooting questions on Instagram and I wanted to put all the answers in one place to make life a little easier for you all. If you have a question that isn’t answered below drop it in the comments or shoot me a note on IG and I’ll get it added for you!

A few things to note:

  • A mature sourdough starter is a workhorse. It will be difficult to kill and easier to revive. I have forgotten my starter for over a month and brought it back to peak activity in a handful of feedings.
  • If you see any orange or pink streaks or tinges to your starter throw it out.
  • If you see mold, throw it out.

 

‘Nothing is happening.’

Your starter is like a toddler. It’s developing and hitting milestones at its own rate. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, but there are common factors: time, temperature, flour type, flour to water ratio, frequency.

Unless you have subjected your starter to very high (think oven) temperatures, something is happening. If you have an immature starter or have recently increased feeds it may seem like your starter isn’t doing anything,  but this is simply because your starter needs to catch up to the amount of food available. Keep your starter in a warm place (cold will slow down the yeast) and skip feeding for a few days. Wait until there is a little water separated on top (a sign your starter is hungry) and give it a small feeding: 50 g starter, 50 g flour, 50 g water. Wait until it shows signs of activity before feeding again.

 

‘Do I need to add sugar to reactive my starter?’

Adding sugar to a starter is a big ‘no-no’ within the sourdough community. Because a starter is a SCOBY, or a Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeast, you want to be sure you don’t add in an additional factor that could upset that balance. Sugar will alter the acidity of your starter and could result in a microbial imbalance. The beauty of a starter is this unadulterated, natural leavening agent. Adding sugar to rush the process is counterproductive in the long-term. (This goes for adding commercial yeast or honey as well).

 

‘My starter smells weird…’

Your starter is fermenting, it will smell a little different than most of what’s in your kitchen. There are very few ‘red flag’ smells when it comes to starters. If it smells acidic, vinegary, like acetone, or sweaty, your starter needs to be fed. This happens to my fridge starters if I forget to feed them for 2-3 weeks. I put it on a regular feeding schedule (once a day) for 3-4 days until it starts smelling like its normal self: fresh, fruity, yeasty.

 

‘What should I store my starter in?’

A glass jar (my personal favorite), food-safe plastic, or a crock are the most popular options. Personally, I love a glass jar because it makes seeing the activity much easier as you can see bubbles forming on the sides.

 

‘Does it need to be stored in an airtight jar?’

Airtight or not is a personal preference. Personally, because a starter is an active community of wild yeast and bacteria in the air, I like to leave the jar loosely covered when it’s on the counter. When I’m long-term storing my starter in the fridge I will screw the lid on completely.

 

‘My starter has dark brown liquid on top of it. Is it dead?’

Nope! It’s just hungry. Hooch, that dark brown liquid (sometimes grey or black), is an indicator that your starter needs to be fed. Pour the hooch off and feed the starter as you normally would.

 

‘What do I do if there’s mold in my starter?’

You throw it out and start over. We don’t mess around with mold. Mold can have microscopic threads that weave throughout your entire jar of starter, meaning that just because you scrape out what you can see doesn’t mean that the mold is gone.

 

‘Can I feed my starter gluten-free flour?’

No. Unless you have a GF starter you will need to feed it flour that contains gluten. A good rule of thumb is to feed your starter what it’s origin flour is. This is a rule you can definitely break, but most sourdough enthusiasts (myself included) suggest keeping the feeding flour the same.

 

‘My starter was super active, but now it seems like nothing is happening.’

With a new starter, there is an adjustment period around the time that you begin two-a-day feeds, in order to mature it. As long as you are discarding half the starter with each feeding you are developing the yeast in your starter (it may just take a few days to see activity). Don’t be discouraged! Patience in the name of the game.