This started out a simple cheese sandwich: bread, butter, cheese. That's it. 

But then I kept seeing fried onions and an egg seemed like a good idea too and it was all downhill from there, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. So a BLT then, with egg, onion, and cheese. 


Step 1 Wheat

a)  plow land and sow a field of wheat
b)  tend wheat field to maturation
c)  harvest, thresh, ensile wheat
d)  mill wheat


No, SRSLY. Step One of making a sandwich around here is to bake a loaf of bread. 

We baker types have words for everything, every phase of dough and yeast activity and fermentation -- a whole vocabulary unique to baking that amounts to another language. Sponge is such a word. Sponge is an early and wet phase of dough with an active yeast culture that lacks salt and the final addition of flour that will stiffen a sponge to a proper dough. 

But wait, there's more! 

This sponge contains 1/2 cup foreign material. 1/2 cup of dry small red beans were milled to a powder using a small household coffee bean mill. This is a small amount of bean powder relative to the amount of all purpose flour, an estimated 5 cups, possibly even so many as 6 cups, so 1/10 or 1/12 total dry ingredients. The milled bean will not contribute to the gluten matrix that is formed by wheat and that makes bread leavening possible by yeast. The bean powder is dead weight, as it were. It will also absorb twice its weight in water. The funny thing is, the yeast loves this bean powder and gobbles it up like there is no tomorrow. There is also 1 tablespoon of Lyle's Golden Syrup, because I do no not know why, I was going for the honey and saw the Golden Syrup first. 


This is an excellent sponge. The yeast is really going like mad in there. The sponge has non yeasty, non spongy things in it like milk, butter, and egg, all things that you wouldn't think would contribute to perfect yeast environment. Butter and egg also interfere with gluten web formation. But the sponge also has things that yeast thrive on, sugar, flour, bean powder, warm liquid environment. 

So the sponge proofs for a period, as a semi dough free of buffering salt and rife with an active yeast culture eager to maximize its mostly advantageous environment. 

The sponge visibly expands. It develops an odor of fermentation. 

Fine! Now the full amount of salt and the remainder of flour is added without any appreciable salt-buffering effect on the highly active and newly fed yeast culture. 

Working in the final cup of flour into the dough on the work surface, the baker can feel the dough tighten up by the addition of salt and stiffen with each pass picking up additional flour until a suitably sturdy dough is attained. 

You know how bread instructions say to punch down the dough and form into a loaf? 

This is where we are different. Yeast loves a liquid environment. By keeping the environment wet as a sponge we gave the yeast what it needs to reproduce the best. It has done that magnificently as a sponge and not as dough. We will not punch down our sponge but we will process it down as the salt and the final amount of flour are finally added. The violently redistributed yeast culture is now at maximum activity and freshly fed. The second period of proofing at room temperature is even faster than the first. 

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