My Most Important Baking Implement

So I’ve a question… “What do you think is my most important baking implement?”

I’ve asked that particular question to a number of folks over the years and I’ve heard answers from my convection oven, my mixer, dutch ovens, various pans or knives. All of these answers, while important to me are not the one I’m thinking of when I pose the question.

Never has anyone ever responded “a pencil” (or the modern equivalent of my computer).

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

I take copious notes (and pictures) of my bakes. I write down my variables and try to control and repeat what works. I download pics of other bakers’ bakes and take notes on their methods. A couple of years ago I started following the Great British Baking Show with Paul Hollywood and Mary Barry. As a result I began to use the British-method of measuring by gram weight rather than volume for my recipes. Recently I was watching #Masterclass of #DominiqueAnsel on his method for making Sourdough Croissants. In the lesson he described how daily he has his head bakers from each of his restaurants world-wide text him a picture of their croissant cross-sections as a method of quality-control.

Note-taking is important to me for learning and getting better.

Since I began being serious about my note-taking I’ve iteratively and incrementally improved my bakes. My notes and pictures (and recently Facebook’s “Your Memory from 4 Years Ago” notifications) bear this out to be true. I have learned, become better and (more importantly) consistent in my bakes.

I’ve a long way to go. Perfecting Sourdough Bread, Croissants and Pastries I’ve come to realize will be a rest of my life journey…. But what a tasty one to embark on!

Feeding Your Sourdough Starter

One of the things I’ve found out about sourdough and baking is that there is a cadence and rhythm to baking.

One of those cadence and rhythms is the feeding of my sourdough starter each morning.

Here’s how I maintain my starter.

First I remove about 100g of starter from my crock. I do this by putting my cross on the scale and taring it out (making the scale say 0g).

Next I scoop out 100g of starter (scale now reads -100g).

Then I add 50g of water (I use filtered water from my fridge that I have in a bottle that is now at room temperature).

I then add 50g of my feeder flour (50/50 mix of #kingarthur Whole Wheat flour and Bread Flour) which brings my scale back to 0g.

Sometimes I’ll add the starter that I just removed to another bowl and use it to start a levain or poolish for making a recipe. Other times I’ll add it to pancake batter; sometimes it’s discarded and just a “cost of doing sourdough”.

I’m making sourdough bread frequently enough that I’m not bothered by the discard. I’ve another cold technique I’ll share that I also still follow. I used that technique exclusively when I traveled extensively prior to COVID-19.

More on that in a later post!

Let Me Introduce Myself

My name is Jim… or you can call me “Bear”.

Bear was my callsign when I flew F-4’s and F-15E’s in the USAF.

  • I like to cook and have recently been really focusing on my baking.
  • I’m on a quest to perfect sourdough bread, croissants and pastries.

My intent is to share my love of baking and my journey to becoming a better baker.

Someday I’m going to not have a “job” and I will be able to devote much more time and attention to my baking than I currently am able to dedicate. When that time comes I’d like to possibly start a business. Until that time you’re welcome to come along on my journey of discovery. I’ll share my ups and downs as I go; both triumphs and those “Well, THAT was a learning experience!” moments!

Feel free to connect with me. I love to connect with folks that share my love of baking, that are learning and experimenting and that don’t mind sharing their experience(s).

My hope is that in a year or so I will have made new friends, learned how to be a better baker and brought smiles to those who I’ve had the privilege to walk this journey alongside.

Bourbon Cherries

OK… I’ve started a blog about baking and perfecting sourdough and my very first post after introducing myself is about Bourbon Cherries!

Why do this?

  • It’s the height of cherry season
  • I made a batch yesterday
  • They go GREAT with cheesecake (which I made earlier this week).

INGREDIENTS (per pint jar)

  • Cherries (300g)
  • Bourbon (240ml)
  • Sugar (60g)
  • Cinnamon Stick
  • Orange Peel


  1. Mix the bourbon and sugar together and heat on the stove to fully dissolve the sugar
  2. While they are heating add a cinnamon stick and the peel of an orange
  3. When the mixture is heated and sugar is dissolved (I go to about 140oF) add the cherries and cook for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. At the same time sterilize pint jars in boiling water bath along with their Mason Jar lids
  5. Using a strainer pull out about 12-13 cherries and add them to your sterilized pint jars
  6. Add a new cinnamon stick and some of the orange peel that you have in your mixture
  7. Fill up the remainder of the jar with cherries. You should be able to get 25+ cherries in each jar
  8. Fill the jar with the bourbon liquid making sure that you cover all the cherries
  9. Wipe the top of the jar to remove any liquid, top with the Mason lid and screw on the ring finger-tight

NOTICE: This method is NOT canning!

The lids will seal as the jars cool. Refrigerate and store until ready to use. I made some this last year and the last of my jars from last summer went on cheesecake this past Saturday. Delicious and yes… boozy! Enjoy!!

Cheesy Sourdough

The other day I decided that I’d like to make some cheesy sourdough.

I’ve been experimenting with my technique for bulk fermenting as well as looking at how to make more dough at the same time in my kitchen.

This was a follow-on experiment I’d done with making four loaves at the same time. Two of the loaves were Batards and the other Boules. Each of them used a different technique for bulk-fermenting. One set I used a 24-hour retarded bulk ferment and the other a 6-hour ferment at 74oF.

Anyway…. fast forward and I used the 6-hour method for the dough for all four loaves and THIS time decided that two of the loaves would be regular sourdough and the others would be “cheesy”.

The first was a Cheddar-Jalapeno and the second Asiago.

I folded in the add-in at the end of the bulk ferment. Wasn’t a bad idea … just think that maybe folding in the ingredients during the bulk would have been a better idea. THAT would have meant dividing the dough during the bulk-ferment (or deciding on a single flavor).

The bread was delicious though! Very pleased with the flavor profiles, mouth-feel, crumb structure etc. I’m going to continue experimenting with “cheesy” sourdough for sure!