Road Trip!

Here’s another quick catch-up post about a fun trip I took this month.  I’m so lucky that my parents come visit me so often, and that they love to explore this huge, amazing state with me!  While it’s not actually in Alaska, I’ve always wanted to visit Dawson City, Yukon.  So this summer, we went!

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Here’s a shot from the Taylor Highway (Alaska side)… or maybe the Top of the World Highway (Canadian side).  It’s all so beautiful!  There was a lot of smoke from forest fires in this area so it was pretty hazy.

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The road to Dawson City is mostly dirt but it was in good shape for our trip.  The last leg of the trip was a quick ferry ride across the mighty Yukon River!

The day after we got to Dawson, we kept driving north!  We drove to Tombstone Territorial Park along the Dempster Highway.  The Dempster is another dirt highway that heads north past the arctic circle.

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The center mountain is Tombstone Mountain.
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Here’s the view from Midnight Dome– an overlook right over Dawson City (though this pic is in the opposite direction from the city).
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Wild sage between Dawson and Whitehorse

We were flexible with our plans and ended up heading south to Whitehorse instead of going back the way we came.

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Totem pole and forest fire smoke in Whitehorse

We made it to Whitehorse in time to take the brewery tour at Yukon Brewery!  They have great beer!  We checked out Miles Canyon and the next day we headed back north… to Alaska!

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We saw a bear on the side of the highway!
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fireweed at Kluane Lake

It was a nice drive back.  I moved to Alaska in March and I have driven to Haines in the fall, but I’ve never been on the Alaska Highway in the summer, so that was fun.

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WHITE fireweed!

We had read about fireweed in the Milepost and learned it comes in purple, pink and white.  It was then our mission to find this elusive WHITE FIREWEED and we did!  So pumped!  We also picked a few grocery bags worth of fireweed blossoms and mom made fireweed jelly when we got home.

It was such a fun trip and really great to spend time with Mom and Dad!

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It’s called fishing, not catching!

Well, I haven’t been making much of anything these days.  July is such a busy month up here.  I’ve had out-of-state visitors and vacations and sunshine and work and other things to do!  So I’m playing a little catch-up– this is about a quick little fishing trip I took earlier this month.

I had been fishing before, but wasn’t feeling confident enough to head out on my own.  So when my mom’s cousins invited me to crash a cabin they were renting on the Kenai river and go fishing, I jumped at the offer!  I found a fly rod and reel setup at Cabela’s (on sale!) and then found a pair of waders.  I had a bunch of other gear already so I dug it out of my closet and hit the road.

  That’s my second cousin, Allan, slaying ’em out there on the Kenai River!

  Here’s the fish I caught!  Just one.  I should have spent more time out there!  Right after this pic I got some personal fish cleaning lessons!  Sure is nice to have a little fish in the freezer AND feel like I can tie my own knots and clean my own fish!  Gonna be looking for some silver salmon this year too!

Seems like most of Anchorage headed down to the Kenai peninsula and fish and dipnet so I hit a lot of traffic coming back.  Not a bad day to be stuck in a beautiful place though!

And Bentley was so excited to be home and in her own yard!

Sourdough Resources

I first read about sourdough starters in my Cooking Alaskan cook book.  The cookbook said: don’t worry about making something from your starter every day.  Sometimes you just have to throw away the discarded starter and you shouldn’t feel bad about it.  So I don’t!

In case you’re not familiar, sourdough is a wild strain of yeast that is kept alive with regular feedings of flour and water and kept under control by a symbiotic relationship with a strain of bacteria (lactobacilli).  King Arthur Flour has a lot of great info about sourdough.  (You’ll find that every source tells you different things!  Pick and choose and find a system that works for you and don’t worry too much about finding a “right” way.  Similarly, what I’m posting here is what has worked for me– I’m not claiming to be an expert on sourdough starters, but I have done a lot of research!)

I first started the starter with commercial yeast.  (I know!  Sacrilege!)  The thing about sourdoughs is even if you have a starter from, say, San Francisco, eventually the wild yeasts in your area will win out anyway.  So it’s cool to say your starter has been around for many many years and maybe over time they develop some extra depth of flavor…  but it’s really not a big deal to start your own.

I was feeding my starter and taking care of it and all of a sudden it just stopped being bubbly.  I have a couple theories: 1) I was feeding it according to my schedule and refrigerating it and not really understanding what was going on and 2) Perhaps the commercial yeast died off and the wild yeast wasn’t quite strong enough to take over.

Then I came across the Sourdough Start-along on Serious Eats.  It’s got really great info mixed in with all the steps!  The biggest takeaways I got from this site:

  • Weigh your ingredients.  I’m getting really consistent results with 1 oz of water and 1 oz of flour.
  • Stir it!  Especially if you suspect it’s sick.
  • My bread recipe! (Day 9 and Day 10)
  • No real reason to discard unless you just have too much starter.

Even if you get your starter from someone, the starter-along is worth reading.  The only thing I don’t think they’re clear about is the importance of feeding the starter enough– they instruct you to just keep feeding it until you run out of room.  But if you have 8 oz of starter and you’re feeding it just 1 oz flour, 1 oz water, you’re starving the starter.  You can smell this– the starter starts smelling acidy and less yeasty and bready.

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Here’s my starter enjoying his evening meal. I use a dough whisk because I’m fancy.

I took my “sick” starter and started following some of the principles (weighing my ingredients and more stirring!)… and it was bubbling away in just a few days.  Anyway, a few months and mishaps later and I’m still keeping my starter alive!  I’ll gather my favorite recipes, experiences with refrigeration and drying starter and share those in separate posts.  There’s so much to write about!  GOOD LUCK and have fun!

 

Sourdough Excitement!

Let me tell you a tale about how I really screwed up my sourdough starter…

First of all, I’m planning on gathering my sources and writing up a more in-depth post about sourdough and my starter, but I think that will have to wait.  I was thinking of that more in-depth post when I snapped a few shots of my sourdough starter:

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Let me tell you, there are few things LESS exciting to photograph than sourdough starter.  You can see it has risen and sunk back down– ready for another meal of flour and water!   I usually keep it out on my counter under that (*lucky*) towel.

My Mom and Dad came up to visit recently and I couldn’t wait for them to taste my sourdough bread and my sourdough pancakes.  In fact, I was so excited that I made pancakes with ALL THE STARTER.  I know everyone says you can start a starter with what’s left on the spoon or bowl, but I was nervous about the eggs and sugar and everything…  My starter has only ever been flour and water!  Plus, I had a tiny bit of dried starter that I had put away a few weeks ago, so that seemed like the better solution.  We were going out of town so I mixed up the dried starter with a little water and flour, put it in the fridge before we left and hoped for the best.

Nothing happened while we were gone!  I was n.e.r.v.o.u.s!  Alas, this story has a happy ending.  I took it out of the fridge and fed it and the next day it was bubbling away again!  And in a few short days I was even able to pack up a little starter for Mom to take home and play with!

Happy sourdough-ing!  I’m making a loaf of bread tonight!