US Navy beach master turns gourmet.

The prize that helped fund my Baking Blind world tour commemorates James Holman who, like me, was blinded while serving in the royal Navy – but about 200 years apart.  So the naval theme has been important throughout and meeting up with a retired Commanding Officer from the US Navy was a special treat.  Even more so as he proved to be a passionate cook, mine of information and kitchen gadget enthusiast.  We started with his home sourdough bread (

Retired beach master, Rich, resplendent in his own commemorative apron, had started his bread at the ungodly hour of 0500 but it had already risen enough to split the plastic wrap cover by the time I joined him.  While he’s enthusiastic about using glass bread pans to reduce cooking temperatures, he was less happy when that day’s outstanding rise proved just too much for the pans:  once cooked, removal without major surgery was impossible.  It just shows how temperature and atmospheric variations completely change how bread responds.

Rich was also a champion of the King Arthur flour recipes for bread ( and shared some excellent tips with me: bread needs to reach 190C (375F) to be cooked through.  And I’ll try adding dried milk to my own favourite bread recipe.  He cooked his bread at 400F in a fan oven or 400F conventional oven for 28 minutes.

He had been perfecting his own sourdough starter recipe ( for over seven months and it was good to try out this bread in a domestic setting after the somewhat daunting professional approach of the Cheeseboard Collective (

I am even keener to try sourdough at home now that I know that you don’t have to waste all the spare starter every time it is fed (

My only disappointment from our time together was the knife sharpener.  Rich had shown me an amazing example of springs and sharpening edges that was more suited to a Bowie knife or machete than humble kitchen utensils.  I was rather inspired by its obvious links to the American backwoods man life style but the company was in administration  so no chance of buying.  Probably safer!  Before it seemed just such a waste of good flour  (


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