The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Sour dough starter.

Nanna Chel got me started with sour dough. I was really hesitant at first.  But now I think it is so easy and such a huge asset.  Once you are up and running you just eliminated ever having to buy yeast again.  I find I have much more success now... I never was very good on baking with yeast.  Now I make bread, rolls, focaccia, scrolls, buns, Naan bread pizza bases and each week I seem to learn something else.  If you have hungry tummies in your family and lunch boxes to fill this is for you!  The savings are immense.

Sticky Buns.

Cheese and Bacon Scrolls.

This weekend I woke my starter up and made up a tray of Vegemite scrolls. For the US ladies think of making bacon and cheese scrolls, pizza flavoured schools, cheese and onion or whatever combinations your family might like.
I saw that these vegemite scrolls were $4 each in the local bakery.  So that is $48 for twelve.  I think they are only costing me a few dollars to make and therefore I am saving over $40 with just this one thing.  Added to that the fact that I send Andy's lunches to work and I know that this saves so much per week!  Yeast products all seem to freeze very well and then re heat as if they have just come out of the oven which is another very handy bonus.

Cheese and Vegemite Scrolls.

I often say that each time we learn a new skill we increase our preparedness.  I love something that will save money and benefit all round. This really seems to be one of those things.  So here is a little tutorial on how to get started.

First of all I know nothing at all about making starter from scratch. My starter came in a dry form from Nanna Chel.  I have, in turn, dried some of mine and sent it on to some of you and have seen some very big successes!

Dried starter. It doesnt look like much! 

I am no expert at this and it seems to me it is a bit art and a bit science. So I don't think there is a right and wrong way.  This is just how I have learned to do it and it works for me.

First some basics you need to know.  I avoided using metal bowls and spoons as I heard not to use them...  I have heard heavily chlorinated water is not so good.  You use bread flour (or bakers flour) as this is higher protein and the starter apparently loves protein.

So lets assume you have some dry starter.  You take that and add it to a third or a cup of water and a third of a cup of bread flour. Stir.  Let it sit on the bench somewhere.  In about eight hours feed it the same quantities again and stir. Keep it covered so dust won't get in but so that it can breathe.  I use a paper towel or a cloth. Jane made me some beautiful cloth covers, they look like shower caps and work perfectly.
Repeat this process. Eventually you notice a couple of little bubbles. This is when it has woken up!  Keep feeding!  Sooner or later you will get lots of bubbles!  Now you have an active starter!
You have to give it a name.  That's a rule apparently!

Happy starter! 

I would keep feeding your starter. One you have larger quantities you can be adding more flour and water at a time... i.e. half a cup of flour and half a cup of water. The water to flour ratio will always be the same.

If starter is out of the fridge you will need to feed it a couple of times a day. If you want to put it to sleep you put it in the fridge. It needs to be covered but be able to breather. I cover with glad wrap and poke a hole in that.  In the fridge it will sleep for a week. But once a week to you need to get it out and let it wake up to be fed and nurtured!   It will wake up when it is out and comes back to room temperature. Then you need to feed it!   It is kind of like having a pet.

This all sounds mysterious and ridiculous until you do it. You soon get the idea as it tells you what it needs.

When it is mildly bubbly think of it as happy.
When it is REALLY bubbly (you can get to the stage you have bubbles large and small and kind of on top of each other) think of your starter as hungry!  

Hungry starter! This is also how your sponge should look.

Once you have really active starter that gets bubbly quickly after feeding your re ready to get cooking.
Overall, bubbly like above is what you want to get your starter to.  Once you have this you really are set. 

I like to have at least a cup and preferable a cup and a half or so of starter to start a recipe.  You need enough that you are also going to reserve some to keep going for the future. 
I use two bowls.  I put about half a cup of starter into one bowl and feed that.  This will be kept. Set it aside. 
The rest (which is at least a cup full) you make a sponge. The sponge is the fist stage of baking.  To make your sponge feed it a whole cup of flour and a whole cup of water and stir.  Let it sit and become very bubbly.  Hungry bubbly!  
I will normally take my starter out of the fridge the night before I want to cook.  I will give it a feed once or twice. 
The next morning it will be good and bubbly!  So I will make my sponge when I get up in the morning.
After a couple of hours I will make my dough.
The recipe I use is based on a recipe from a blog I followed called Gully Grove.  
To your sponge add a dash of salt. I don't like salt so I use a pinch.  A small spoon of honey.  A few globs of olive oil.  Then about three cups of bread flour.  Mix and knead or put this in your mixer.
As your amount of starter will vary so will the flour. I retain a bit of flour and add it in as I can see if the dough is to wet or too dry.  You soon get to know what dough should feel like.  It is smooth and stretchy.  
This is all very forgiving. If you think it's too dry add a little water, if it's too wet add a little flour. 

When you are happy with your dough sit is somewhere warmish and cover it. Let it more or less double in size.  Usually I let it sit for most of the day in my lounge room window.  If the weather is cold I would warm the dish first, sit it on a hot pack or some other method to keep it a little bit warm. 
Then you want to shape your dough.  Yesterday I rolled it out to make scrolls. 

 I covered it in vegemite and sprinkled it with cheese to make scrolls.  You can make a load of bread, a flat bread, rolls, a free from loaf... whatever you want really.  Whatever you are making form it as you want then let it all rise again.  As yeast loves warmth I try to get warmth into my baking tins and dishes.  While Im forming my dough I might have my dish warming in the oven, or I might fill it with hot water and let it sit.  Then I will dry it and pop in my dough and wrap it up to keep the warmth in.  You could sit it in the car or in a window.   Once again you sigh will double.  Then you are ready to cook!  

My vegemite scrolls after rising. The pan went from sparse to full! 

As a loaf of bread it is going to take about 20 mins to half an hour to cook in a fairly hot oven.  If it looks cooked and sounds hollow it is probably good. If in doubt a few more minutes won't hurt. I always pre heat the oven.  Keep an eye on things, you will soon learn your cooking times. 

The starter I retained is still on the bench.  I will feed it and sometimes keep it out and feed it up to increase the volume. Then I put it in the fridge until I want to make something else.  Overall I will try to always feed it and end up with at least a couple of cups of  so I can always make something and have enough to retain some.  So you have an endless cycle!  Remember to get your starter out of the fridge at least once a week!
Some people throw starter out as they feed theirs and do not want to make anything. I don't know why, I don't, I am glad to have more!  If I end up with heaps I will just make something! 

In my index I have a sourdough section. So far I have posted the recipes and methods to scrolls, sticky buns, bread and Naan bread.  They have mostly been based on the recipe I just explained. 
You can find recipes for sour dough easily. I don't bother I just use any yeast recipe and use my sour dough instead. You will just need to allow for the flour and moisture in your starter... usually it will mean I add a bit more flour to the recipe or a bit less liquid. It is easy to know what a dough should feel like.... just go ahead and use any recipe and add what you need to get your dough lovely and smooth. So far everything has worked so well.  Always remember to make your sponge first then make your recipe! 

My next recipe I want to make is Fruit loaf or fruit buns.  As I try new things I will just keep adding them to the Sourdough section.
I really thought this was all very complicated until I tried it and saw the amazing results.  The savings are huge.  I look at the prices in the stores and see wholegrain loaves for $8!  ONE bun is $4 and you can make a dozen for that!  I can make 12 Naan breads for less than the price of a packet of two.  Actually it is the fancy breads like focaccia, turkish,  wholegrain rolls etc that you save so much as they are so cheap to make but the shops charge so much for them.

If you are a participating Bluebird and would like some starter I will be glad to send you some and glad to send it anywhere in the world!  If I don't get too many requests I will offer again in a couple of weeks to others who do not comment.   I hope that sounds fair.  I am grateful for all my readers but Bluebirds has become a little community of help and support due to the ladies that comment, add tips, offer prayers and encouragement and answer questions.  I am so grateful for everyone who does that.
I appreciate it more than you could know! Thank you!

email me at

My last week of working on my preparedness has been interesting!  I am looking at my new bathroom space and shelves as a big help. All my supplies of shampoo, soaps etc will be organised and we will also have a cabinet for medications and over the counter type stuff.   This will be a big improvement.  All my towels will also be in the bathroom and free up my linen cupboard so I will be able to re organise that as well.  It is all progress I guess!  Progress is good!

Have a very good new week!  xxx


  1. I am sorry about the size of the font! I don't know what is causing it but after a few tries to fix it I gave up! xxx

    1. Oh my this has happened to me so many times. Sometimes I put it on small then back to large and that helps. Sometimes I give up like you Annabelle. This is a great tutorial on sourdough. It all looks delicious!

    2. Hi Annabel, I thought the font made reading even more interesting and artistic! I loved your tutorial. It's so easy to understand. Someday when life slows down I may take you up on the starter. Thank you for all the things you share and teach us.
      Melody in OR ❤️

  2. Dear Annabel,
    This is a very helpful post on sourdough. Thank you for sharing the information.
    All of your baked goods look delicious. I am off to find a snack (lol), as I got hungry looking at those yummy rolls.
    Love and hugs to you,

    1. Thank you Glenda! I feel like making sticky buns but regrettably its late at night, I should have looked at the picture! xxx

  3. Annabel, your dough looks good and the pictures of the baked goods make you want to just reach in and help yourself!!!! I haven't made anything with Prudence (my sourdough starter) yet so I'm not sure if it took or not. I hope to get around to that later this week.

    1. Dear Patsy, You will know by the bubbles. Although I have woken up starter and had no bubbles and then worried... but then fed it and soon there were masses of bubbles. Then you are up and running. Soon you can compare methods which will be interesting! With love,

  4. Dear Annabel!

    Never mind the font size! It made the piece more interesting! Ha ha!!

    Now that is a very useful description of the sourdough process, which I am gleaning from! It was all clear, and made good sense - 'happy starter', 'hungry starter' and so on!! I have my own lemon juice and wild sorrel starter trials to run, and intend to apply your tips! Thank you!!!!!

    Have you filled your new bath with olives yet? Ha ha!

    Warm regards,
    Rachel Holt

    1. Dear Rachel, I think the same principals would apply for any starter when up and running.... but do let me know as I am interested!
      I filled my bath with myself if that counts! Olives will have to go in the laundry sink or in buckets... I only get out of the bath at present if I absolutely have to! I just thought... you could make olive pull apart bread... and utilise your dogs and your olives together!
      I hope your week is going well! I now have bathroom shelves and a cupboard! Progress! With love

  5. Hi Annabel your sourdough journey ended up with me coming along for the ride as well. I had never done much in breadmaking so it was all new to me. I now love the breads that I can make.
    I use about half of whatever starter I have on the go when I make my breads. This then leads to differences in the amount of dough I end up with. I have started to make a high top loaf that we can then halve. There are weeks where we go through the bread quickly and weeks where we do not. In the 'not' weeks half of a large loaf goes in the freezer. Otherwise I make a smaller loaf and a pull apart, which is really six smaller scrolls cooked in a round cake tin.
    I have enjoyed the encouragement that I have received on the learning journey. I have gone from some dreadful disasters to knowing I am going to get a good loaf each time the starter goes on the bench.
    I love how this process is slow and not something that happens in a rush. It suits the way I like to work, which is to do a little bit here and a little bit there.
    Life is good.

    1. Dear Jane, It has been really fun sharing this with you! I think a high top loaf is the hardest thing to make. I haven't even got a bread tin but Im going to get one. I would slice and freeze also.
      Your creations keep looking amazing. I like the pull apart bread you did....
      This is an asset. I enjoy it too, it is lovely! The other day I had dough so smooth I was pestering Andy just to feel what I meant... it was silky! Tonight we had some of the Naan bread from the freezer with a curry... so handy! Well, I think we will have lots of new sour dough enthusiasts as I have a heap of requests already! With lots of love

  6. Hi Annabel,

    I love all of your baked goodies and am felling very peckish, now. That is a very generous offer of the sourdough starter and I'm very tempted, but don't think I have the skills (not a good cook here, I'm afraid) and not sure on the patience level either. It will be good to see what others make.
    Have a great day,


    1. Ha ha, Janine! You can knit socks, can't you?

    2. hahaha Rachel has a good point! Well I am going to ask everyone who gets starter to post photos or comment at least on how they went! I am going to be busy drying starter for a couple of weeks! Have a very good week! With love Annabel.xx

  7. Annabel who thought that Gertrude would become so famous and have so many children. LOL! I think the main thing is to find a way and method to fit sourdough baking into your routine. I bake once a week and freeze my two sliced loaves for toasted sandwiches. I don't have any lunchboxes to fill like other families. That works for us and daily baking might work for someone else in which case the starter could be left on the bench and not refrigerated. I try not to eat too much bread or I would end up like the side of a house at my age as it seems to be easier to put on weight when you get older. Our Simple Living Toowoomba workshop by Chris from Gully Grove was one of our most popular ones last year.

    1. Dear Nanna Chel, I tried a few sour dough blogs but I got on best with Chris and I could understand her tutorials. She was a big help.
      Gertrude is going world wide! I should keep track of where she has been posted!
      Mainly like you we do once a week. That produces a lot for us. If we have visitors then it might be more. This week is raisin bread for raisin toast, in theory at least! Thanks so much! With love Annabel.xxxx

  8. Dear Annabel,that was a detailed tutorial on Nana Chel's ever growing starter.Id love some of the starter but not sure that I could keep up with it and then feel guilty for not doing so.Plus im not sure if its okay to send to here .
    So I will happily follow along here seeing all your delicious looking creations.
    Looking forward to seeing your finished bathroom :-)
    Love Maria xxx

    1. Dear Maria, Nana Chels starter is going global! I need a tracker!
      Think about it... it would only need attention once a week... and with little ones that will soon turn into big hungry ones this could produce trays of scroll and buns for school lunches and such things... I am sure I can post it over ok.
      Our bathroom is in and working... I just have some painting to do and then organising and decorating. I am so grateful to have a bath! I have had a couple of serious soaks! Have a good week Maria! With love,

    2. Thank you Annabel for your encouragement, I think I'll accept your offer ,as it could be a twofold thing for me ie learn something new and discipline. Also good to do on these cold days we are having coming up to winter .
      Pleased your patience has been rewarded with some serious bath soaks , that did make me smile . Love Maria xxx

  9. Dear Annabel
    Everything looks delicious! Thank you for the very detailed tutorial. The way you've explained it makes it look easier than I thought. I was wondering if the starter could be frozen should one need to be away for a week or more or would you dry some ahead of time just to keep on hand? Blessings,Cookie

    1. Dear Cookie,
      I think extreme cold and extreme heat kill it off. I would dry some but also I would keep it in the fridge and before going away keep it out and feed it for a couple of days, refrigerate it then as soon as home get it out and feed it for a couple of days. If away for more than ten days I would get it baby sat! Don't laugh as I really would, someone would have to feed it for me! But I do have several back ups dried just incase of actual disaster. So far so good though. It actually seems pretty tough. It is so handy and once you're into it you barely think about it, its just part of the routine. This weekend I want to make raisin bread for raisin toast... thats the next thing! Have a good week Cookie! With love,

    2. Haha I love that you would have your starter babysat! I wouldn't have thought of that myself. Do you know how long the dried starter will last? I wonder if it would last for longer if you keep it in the refrigerator (the dried stuff, that is).

    3. Dear Chipmunk.... I have some in the cupboard and some in the fridge just to be on the safe side. Jane told me she is taking her starter on holidays and so it is going on a caravan trip! That beats being baby sat! Yes we can have someone over to feed the chooks and feed the starter and water the garden! haha! With love

  10. Wonderful tutorial! Looking forward to trying my hand at this.

    Do you have a recipe for the sausage rolls? Or is it just cooked sausage rolled up in dough and baked?

    1. Dear Laurie, I use a few different recipes.... google Jamie Oliver sausage rolls, I like that one. Cheats sausage rolls I love too! Just buy nice sausages, roll in pastry and bake, then slice as you wish. Kids love them! I also often add grated carrot to my mix. They are pretty versatile. And popular! With love

  11. Great tutorial! I love, love, love following your adventures!

  12. Annabel, where can I get recipe to start from scratch. Your baking looks yummy. Love homemade goodies. Love all the bluebirds ideas I get from here. Happy baking. Joyce

    1. Dear Joyce, I think you are meaning to make your own starter? If you google that you will find instructions, I just haven't tried that as Nana chess starter was so good and now I will store an endless supply. If you make your own let us know how you dd it and how it is going! With love

  13. Annabel
    Your instructions are just great! Everything looks so yummy and I know it saves a lot! It is also so kind of you to share with anyone who would like to give it a go. You are one of the most giving people I know!

  14. Thank you for all this helpful information. I am still gathering courage. :)

    1. Dear Lana,
      With all you've been through, this could be like a walk in the park, and very rewarding! You'll have good company and support here! Ha ha!! The courageous Bluebirds!

    2. I felt the same way Lana.... then I found it was really good fun... so I am sending you brave messages! xxx

  15. Hi Annabel! great tutorial! Can I just add for anyone doubting their ability to get this working for them that it truly is very easy, and fun too. Annabel sent me some starter, which I did not actually 'start' for a month! Then once I did, I fed it and fed it, and fed it some more, as I put off the next stage of making a sponge etc. To be honest, it was embarrassment that got me moving on the final stage, I had loads of starter, and nothing to report back to Annabel lol. My first attempt was vegemite and cheese scrolls, I made over thirty (I really did feed that starter a lot!), and my kids absolutely loved them. And I felt pretty happy with my efforts, and a bit ridiculous for having put off each stage for so long! I think the biggest thing is the timing, and figuring out what works best for you. Several times I have had to leave what I'm making to rise overnight because I didn't get my timing quite right. Not a biggie, but something I'm still trying to master.

    It's so generous of you to do this Annabel, I'm sure many people will take you up on this offer and be thrilled with the results.

    I'm still yet to make the sticky buns, bought walnuts today though so this week I think!

    Yay on the bathroom front too! How exciting.

    Have a lovely week
    Jen in NZ

    1. Hi Jen ,Ive been hoping to see you here as you asked about the crochet dress I made my grand daughter (I think, let me know if it wasnt you).I only saw your question later sorry .
      Anyhow if you google 'Children's French pop over smock/dress' click the bright pink dress with flower to one side of bodice , its at Knitting Paradise , which is misleading as it's a crocheted dress.
      Back to this threads topic, thanks for your comments above as I feel the same as you,and I didn't think Annabel's dry starter could be posted here so now i know something new haha.Thanks very much , love Maria x

    2. Dear Jen, I am laughing about the slow start and embarrassment forcing you on! I feel like the teacher with the big stick lol!
      ANYWAY the results you had straight up were very good and a hit! Those scrolls are $4 each here! Now I hope the sticky buns will be a hit. Served warm I think they will be. When cold there is a kind of toffee to peel off the baking paper with is yum!
      Also I have realised with the scrolls you can use just what you would in a pizza and roll them up.... kind of neater in lunch boxes than pizza and ok for breakfasts too!
      Many thanks Jen! With love, Annabel,xxx

    3. Thanks Maria, I found it! I think I might even understand the instructions?!

      Yes pizza scrolls would be great in lunchboxes :)

  16. Great photography of your scrumptious cooking Annabel. Does Andy know how lucky he is?????
    I look forward to giving the sourdough a go as well. Your descriptions were funny - hungry, angry etc.

    Have a great week. Fi xx

    1. Thank you Fiona! Well Andy likes my cooking. And he likes that I keep trying new things, to makes life interesting! When you have your new kitchen I will send starter if it will help you get going..... I cant wait to see your pantry! I feel your ain with renovating.... loved what you said about your temporary set up. Thats important as it could be for a little while! I hope it all goes smoothly! With love

  17. I wish I had the courage & the time to babysit some sourdough. I can make yeast dough goodies so I guess I'll stick with those. Someday when I'm retired, I'll try sourdough. Your tutorial was great. Very clear and the photos were a big help in deciphering waking up and very hungry starter. :)

    1. Thanks Kay, if you do well with dry yeast then keep going! I was hopeless! Thanks so much! Love

  18. Thank you for sharing this. I have been so inspired by your many photos in the last months. I plan to try sourdough now that school is out. That way I'll be able to work it into my routine.
    Love the photos of sweet Harper in your last post!
    P.S. You mentioned months ago that you painted your laundry room. Did I miss the pictures? I know you are busy w/ the bath.

    1. Dear Leslie, Thank you! I painted the laundry at the beginning of last year. It was dingy and I painted it soft lemon which brightened it up a lot. I don't think I posted photos as its not a very exciting room... but I put in a hanging drying rack which has been so useful and pots of yellow daisies!
      If you need any starter let me know! With lots of love,

  19. I make bread occasionally, but work full time, so it is a weekend thing, along with all the other weekend things. However, DH will be retiring in a month or so. I wonder if I could convince him that he could be a wonderful breadmaker?

  20. Annabel, it is so generous of you to not only share your time with writing such a good explanation, but also to offer to share your starter! I've enjoyed reading about your sourdough adventures and think I'll try to capture some wild yeast and make starter this summer. (I'm a teacher so do most of my fun experimenting in the summer.)
    Do you think I should allow some chlorinated tap water to set uncovered for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate? I've heard of people doing that for various reasons.
    Oh, we have two nests on our porch. I'm so glad to see the little babies' heads in one. There are five. They do make a mess however, so after 4 years of nests, I'm beginning to think that we need to encourage the mama birds to nest elsewhere. Maybe we should look into bird houses. I've never had those before.
    Thanks again for everything. I always look forward to your posts.

    1. Dear Amy, What kind of birds are on your porch! I would love it even though I know it is a mess as Mum gets swallows around her house.
      I am boiling my water and letting it cool... I really don't know if that helps with the chlorine but the sourdough has gone well so now I just keep doing that!
      Thank you so much for your kind commit! With love,

    2. My husband told me the birds are martins. Those five little beaks peaking out are precious!

  21. Sounds like I might have to try it! It seems to me from reading about it that sourdough takes longer to rise than yeast dough? Do you find that to be true?
    Thank you for all the great info on your blog!

    1. Dear Kathy,
      With all the stages yes I would say it takes longer. I feel like its similar to crockpot cooking where you get something started in the morning and then it is ready at dinner. So a few minutes here and there add up to amazing things... and you have to allow for your timing. It becomes a routine then. As for the rise itself.... I was veery bad at regular yeast to any rise at all was doubtful... but I would allow three hours of first rise and two of second at least... however I let mine go a lot longer usually. The beauty is it rises so much! I am amazed by it! Why I am better at this than dry yeast I am not sure but this seems a much stronger yeast if that makes sense!? Thank you so much! With love

  22. Thank you for the sourdough starter lesson, I hope to get to this in the not too distant future. You make it sound not too scary!


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