Sourdough Secrets by Liz ~

Welcome to ‘The Willowbrook Word’ ~

For those of you who are new readers, I’m Terry, owner and caretaker of Willowbrook Manor English Teahouse and Farm Stay.

You are getting this email because you either signed up for this newsletter, made a reservation at Willowbrook Manor, are a friend of mine, or are a follower of my mother, author Liz Adair, who has her own corner here in The Willowbrook Word. There is a giveaway at the end of each newsletter so make sure to read to the end.

Story Time ~

“What in the world am I doing!”

That is what my brain screamed at me. I was about to open the door to welcome the very first tea guests to Willowbrook Manor. It was the first day of Tea and Tulips and I was ready. However, this was my home and I had two of my six children still under my roof. Now total strangers would be walking in to sit down for English tea!

My hand rested on the door handle as my mind whirled. I took a deep breath and opened the door.

Smiling, I welcomed my first tea guest. They were a darling couple from Palmer, Alaska who had came to tea as part of their 40th wedding anniversary celebration.

My mother went to Palmer High School! (I still have her letter sweater.) In fact, my mom wrote a booklet called The Alaska Years, and I pulled it out for my new-found friends to look through. They stayed long after the tea was gone, commenting on the pictures from the 1950s, what had changed and what was still the same.

Remembering my panic before I opened the door, I marveled at the common ground we shared. This couple was a gift to me. I felt that with them came a quiet promise that opening my home as a teahouse was going to be a good thing.

That was almost five years ago. The ‘promise’ has come to fruition. The workings of Willowbrook have been a blessing to me.

What’s Going on at Willowbrook?

The Wishing Well Garden is under construction! Lavender will be planted this week. My vision is a formal English garden right where the kids’ trampoline, summer pool, sandbox and volleyball net used to be. (Don’t worry, I’m keeping the zipline.) When you come for Tea and Tulips, you will see the transformation.

Earl and Gray ~

Goose-gates and fences have been installed to keep Earl and Gray from camping out in front of the sliding glass door.

They find their way around or over the fences and tap on the glass to get my attention. (I call this the ‘poop deck’.)

Goodbye to Glamping ~

High Camp and Cottage Camp give me so much joy. It was fun to provide such a unique overnight experience for summer travelers. Now that I am hosting overnight stays inside the manor I’ve decided not to set up these two Glamping sites this year. In fact, I have them listed for sale. So if you live in the Pacific Northwest, have some land, and would like to host overnight guests, I have the glamping setup for you right down to sheets and dishes. Airbnb brings the people to you. Click HERE for info on High Camp and HERE for Cottage Camp. Questions? Click HERE to email me.

Valentine ~

e-Gift Card Certificates!

Valentines Day is just around the corner! Give a Willowbrook gift certificate to your favorite valentine this year. Nothing says yummy-luv like the gift of tea! Click HERE to order.

Fundraiser for The Friendship House ~

Friendship Seeding & Tea, Saturday, March 11, 2023

Our annual fundraising event to benefit the Skagit Friendship House is coming up March 11th. Seating is very limited so make sure to make your reservation soon and support our local shelter for women and children. Click HERE for more information.

Tea and Tulips ~

Tea & Tulips at Willowbrook Manor English Tea House

Tea and Tulips begins the last day of March and lasts until the end of April. Saturdays are always sold out so don’t wait to make your reservation. Click HERE to save your table.

Mothers Tea ~

Mothers Tea: May 12 and 13, 2023

Mothers tea is probably my favorite. It is heartwarming to see family traits passed from mother to daughter and so on. Book your table to celebrate this special weekend. Click HERE to make a reservation.

Mom-time ~

Speaking of family traits being passed down, I like this picture of me and my mom. It was taken mother’s day weekend several years ago. We both have more wrinkles now.

It is fun to work on this newsletter with my mom, and this month I asked her to share her secrets of making sourdough bread.

So here is Liz:

Liz Sez ~

Though I’ve been baking bread since I was twelve and have a wonderful recipe that makes delicious loaves, cinnamon rolls, and pizza crust, until two years ago I was unacquainted with the sourdough process. I thought mine was the true breadmaking way, and I raised an eyebrow when people claimed the only ingredients in sourdough bread were flour, water, and salt. What about yeast, sugar, and oil?

I always thought sourdough bread was like my recipe but with an added ingredient that gave it that distinctive taste and texture. I had heard that bakers used steam to create artisan bread’s crusty, chewy outside, so I once tried opening the oven door while baking a loaf of French bread and spraying water in. I was never able to create a loaf with a sourdough-esque crust.

My son Clay and almost-son-in-law Jim both went through a sourdough phase, and Jim even sent me a loaf from Washington. It was so wonderful that I thought I might try my hand at it. When I talked to Jim about it, I still had the yeast-dough mindset. He said you don’t knead the sourdough, and I thought, Really? How is that possible? I wasn’t yet a believer.

Sourdough uses an ancient method of capturing wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria and culturing them to leaven the bread. This culture is called your start, and as with anything alive that is used by man, it needs to be tended. If you take care of it, it will outlive you. Each time you use it, you reserve a bit as seeds for a new start. The organisms will grow and multiply, thus ensuring that you’ll be able to bake your next batch of bread.

Jim had a start that was brought to America cradled in the warm bosom of an Italian immigrant at the turn of the twentieth century. That may not be exactly the story, but I definitely remember a bosom and Italian immigrant being involved. At this writing, after two years of baking sourdough bread, I understand this woman. I carried my start to Atlanta and back when we traveled there this last Christmas. I kept it in the refrigerator of our travel trailer rather than my bosom, but you can be sure I kept track of it. If you lose your start or if it dies, getting a new one is a long process.

To me, making sourdough bread is a spiritual undertaking. It ties me to women through the millennia who provided food for their families this way. In the Bible, Jesus talks about how putting leaven in a measure of meal leavens the whole. Reading that passage you might think about the baking powder you buy at the store or the dry yeast granules in the little sealed packets in the cupboard. But no. He was speaking of something akin to the sourdough process.

After making bread this way for a while, you’ll understand what Jesus was talking about. You’ll also find a new understanding of Exodus 12:34

And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.

With my regular bread recipe, using the new instant yeast, I can have a loaf of beautiful bread in about an hour. Sourdough, on the other hand goes on for two days. You make the dough one day and bake it on the next. I understand those women in Exodus, caught halfway in the bread-making process.

Though the Jewish world celebrates unleavened bread at Passover, it sounds to me like the women found a way to carry on the process on the move. My reading of this passage is that they carried the dough in their kneading troughs on their shoulders while it did its slow work. I put a grocery bag over my dough while it proofs. They used their cloaks.

Those women knew, as you shall find, that to keep your start alive, you have to use it or refrigerate it. They only had one choice.

I’m including the recipe and directions for making a sourdough start and sourdough bread in the “Recipes” section of my memoir, coming out in early summer. If you can’t wait for it and have time and the inclination to try your hand at sourdough, I’ll be glad to send you a how-to. Click HERE to request my recipe.

You can find a video I made about the process on Youtube. Click HERE to view. If you would like to read that newsletter about our trip to Atlanta last Christmas click HERE.

Back to Terry…

Giveaway ~

The winners of last month’s giveaway of signed copies of my mom’s murder mystery Trouble at Red Pueblo are: DeniseMarie S from Colorado Springs, CO, Linda H from Lodi, CA, and Lisa G fro Auburn WA. Congratulations!

Enter to Win ~

I inadvertently ordered an extra set of these super groovy screw on lids that convert a wide-mouth mason jar into a pitcher. I use them for iced tea and for chilled water in the guest rooms. I have six all total. Click HERE to enter to win. Make sure to include a little note to let me know how you are doing.

Thank you for being part of my newsletter family and support group. I’m excited to share the progress of The Wishing Well Garden with you when you come for tea this spring! For those of you who can’t come I will share pictures of the progress.

Earl and Gray are my constant work companions.
Much love,

My Post Script are some pictures of the Wishing Well Garden’s progress: