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Hawaiian Sourdough….


I have been in Hawaii about a week now. My initial impressions are …awe. This place is so beautiful and varied. The picture above shows the main road near where we are living. We are living on a Macadamia Nut farm. Our family was offered a chance to run a Mac nut farm and we leapt at the chance. The farm is in a remote corner of the big island of Hawaii near Kapoho. The town of Kapoho was wiped out by a lava flow in the 1960’s. The people living in much of this area are not on the grid. We don’t have electricity and everyone on the island pretty much has catchment water, rain that is collected and stored for use. There is free drinking water available all over the island. For power we use solar with battery backup, a generator and propane, so the living isn’t too rough. Most of the areas near us are on the grid, but I think the back roads to the farms are pretty rough and until they are paved, they probably won’t be able to get on the grid. This seems to be a low year for the Mac farm. The former caretaker was ill for three years and passed away this spring. The farm has fallen into neglect and needs some work to get it up and producing well again.

Even though I have shut down my internet sourdough store for now, I am hoping to keep up my blog and experiments with sourdough baking. My first bake day was just to see how the flour performed, get used to my propane oven, and try to figure out fermentation in a warm climate. The results of the first bake:



As you can see by the pictures of the bread(on a banana leaf), the flour needs some diastatic malt, less fermentation, or both. I decided for my second batch to go for the less fermentation. Instead of six hours bulk ferment, I did four hours. I then shaped the dough and put it into my propane refrigerator. I checked it at bedtime and it was ready to bake! Yikes! So I took it back out and reshaped the dough and put it back into the refrigerator. I need to ferment and then chill the dough down in bulk before shaping. The second batch came out better, but still showed signs of sugar lack… whitish cast, crackery, thickish crust and a certain smell like corn or popcorn. but I didn’t get a picture as my hungry kids ate it up too quick. So my next batch will have less ferment time, probably by half, a cool down of the dough before shaping and diastatic malt added to the dough during mixing. The propane oven is doing a good job, although it is small, I can actually fit a roasting pan over the dough.

It is interesting to me that I am again going through what new sourdough bakers have to go through to get a great loaf of sourdough. I have to relearn the language of the dough. I am out of my usual element and it is strange that I can’t just bake a terrific loaf of bread! There are so many unknowns, the flour, the water, the oven, the timing etc. Even when you follow someone else’s instructions, there are so many things that will be different that you have to make adjustments for. I even have a new baking stone that is different. I know if I plug along however, it will all come together and I will be turning out my favorite sourdoughs again (maybe I will finally get that outdoor oven made… from lava rock!)

The scene from my backdoor:


There are Papaya trees in the foreground and Macadamia nut trees in the background. We also have banana trees, pineapple, and mountain apples in the side yard:

The scene from the side window:


 If there is interest in warm climate baking, I will continue to post my experiments and recipes. I also hope to be able to offer a Hawaiian sourdough starter in the future and even some Macadamia nuts right from this farm we are caring for.

You might have noticed that I put a donation button on my site and blog( I was’t allowed to put a button on my blog, but instructions are on the top of the front page on the right). I can’t get the internet here without going into town to an internet café. We won’t make any income until after harvest in October. I hoped that you would help me get connected to the satellite internet and help me keep this blog and my site going. The set up fee and monthly fees will equal about 1000.00 dollars a year. I also have hosting fees on my site. Since I can’t fund it from my store anymore, I am asking for donations to keep it going. I appreciate any contribution you can make.


As far as the Macadamia nuts go…

The shells are so thick that they are very hard to crack and you need a hammer to get them open. Roll each nut in a piece of fabric first to keep the shell pieces from flying. I take the nuts outside and crack them open between two volcanic rocks. They make a great conversation piece if you leave them uncracked in a pretty bowl. Here is a picture of them in the different stages between a green Mac nut with a hull and an opened nut.


 A raw unroasted Mac nut tastes very much like a coconut. The Mac nuts are falling even now, but won’t come in strong until around October at which time the machinery will be set up to dehull and crack the nuts.

I thought it would be fun to have a little contest on this post. So anyone who makes a comment will be entered into a drawing to win a pound of unshelled Macadamia nuts. There will be two winners chosen at random after a week. Aloha!

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  1. September 13, 2009    

    What a great adventure! I am a new sourdough baker. I am experienced with yeast breads but this is new and every time I bake I learn. I have yet to make that perfect loaf. I am working with rye which I just read is very hard, but it the taste that I want.
    I wish I could contribute. We just have reduced our income severely. From my fat full time nursing at the hospital salary to my husbands SS check. BIG adjustment. Since I am in a hot humid climate your experiments would benefit my learning immensely. An outdoor oven would be a fine thing wouldn’t it?

  2. Sam Wong Sam Wong
    August 25, 2009    

    The Big Island is a great place. We have a timeshare there and visit every other year. I wish I can convince my wife to move there. We love the HUGE avocados and all ther varieties of fresh fruits.

    We usually buy a bag of mac nuts and crack them open using a bench vise – no flying shells. We like them raw better than roasted.

    Thanks for the tip on using a roasting pan lid. Spares me the need to spray repeatedly in the fist few minutes.

    Good luck with your new adventure.

  3. July 14, 2009    

    Wow!!! what beautiful pictures. I remember the beauty of Hawaii. I loved those Mac. nuts. They are awsome but as you said hard to crack. There is no telling what you will learn to make from them. I know it will be awsome. Living without the grid will be a challenge but the remarkable thing about us is that we can adapt to almost anything if we really want to. Looks like you all have your work cut out for you with the farm. How many of your family members went to Hawaii with you and your husband? Do take care and God Bless you and your family in your new home in HAWAII!!!!

  4. Patty Patty
    July 14, 2009    

    Me again–the donation button isn’t working.

  5. Patty Patty
    July 14, 2009    

    Hi Teresa!

    Thanks for the very informative post. I love your photos–you have great talent there too. Can you answer this question: why should we know that your bread needs diastatic malt &/or less fermentation? I looks good to me! Maybe because I live in a warm, though dry, climate my bread looks like that and needs one or the other too. Thanks if you can make the time to provide an answer. I understand, though, if not and thank you again for staying in touch with all of us.

  6. Amanda Amanda
    July 12, 2009    

    What an incredible opportunity! Can’t wait to hear more about the baking AND the farming!

  7. Ice Ice
    July 10, 2009    


    I think the donate button on the NWS site is missing a link.


  8. Ice Ice
    July 10, 2009    

    Hi Teresa,

    Lucky you live Hawaii!

    My island is smaller and colder and we have no nuts. Well, none that grow on trees!


  9. July 10, 2009    

    Hi Teresa,
    Great to hear from you again – you are living everyone’s dream! And I’ll bet that, even though it’s a challenge to re-learn all your sourdough lessons, it’s also got to be a ton of fun and interesting as well – and don’t forget to take notes – there’s a new book in all this!

    All my best wishes,

  10. July 9, 2009    

    Hi Teresa, Great to hear from you again!

    We have a farm two hours from where we live and on the farm there are a few macadamia trees and avocado trees. It’s always great fun for our kids to pick the mac. nuts and to climb up the avocado trees to get the avocados. It is a challenge to crack the mac. nuts open but there are a few gadgets available here as Australia is also the land of macadamia!

    It always takes time to set up the place as you want it but it will be rewarding. We’ve had many international moves during the last 15 years (to this date we’ve still had boxes not yet opened!).


  11. Janknitz Janknitz
    July 9, 2009    

    Ahhh, you bring back memories of our time living on the Big Island just past the town of Keauu in the Puna district. I baked bread all the time there, and it was a challenge because of the heat, the humidity, and the native yeasts, bacterias and molds. But the results were wonderful and much enjoyed at the ubiquitous potlucks.

    Hang in there living off tthe grid, it’s a challenging and lovely place to live. The people are wonderful and you will quickly learn that nothing happens there without the help of neighbors and friends. Sharing your lovely breads is a great way to get to know people.

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