This is Mr Stiffy.
He is a sourdough starter, a ball of dough named for his texture, and I can't take responsibility for his name as it came with him from Phil, gifter of sourdough starter and moonlighting artisan baker.
Now, I'd never made my own bread before. My Ma did, when I was a kid, and I sometimes kneaded it for her, but as far as ingredients go I didn't pay any attention beyond noticing that the yeast came in a packet and sometimes it was too old to make the bread rise.
With the arrival of Mr Stiffy, I learned that a sourdough starter contains all the yeasty fermenting beasties required to make bread rise, with the particular type of beasties giving sourdough bread it's distinctive taste. The beasties eat gluten, and will chew through all of the flour fed to them in about 24 hours at Brisbane winter room temperature. Being fed causes Mr Stiffy to rise - expand and fill with lots of little bubbles. Once all the gluten is eaten, he starts to slump as the bubbles disappear and if he were not fed again, the yeasty beasties would die. So, Mr Stiffy requires maintenance in the form of daily cleaning, feeding and kneading. And to avoid ending up with a ball of dough so large it will engulf your kitchen? Make bread, of course!
So, I just made Mr Stiffy into loaves. I fed him using the ratio given to me by Phil (which is, for the record, 1 part sourdough starter to 1.2 parts water to 2 parts flour) before bedtime, and by the morning he'd risen enough to fill a small mixmaster bowl. I then divided him in two and fed each piece again, kneading and forming them into loaves. In about 4 hours they'd risen to a respectable loafy size, so I popped them in the oven for about half an hour.
May I add here that I'm finding the process of kneading bread dough a thoroughly wonderful thing to do. It's so... basic. When I do it I feel connected to everyone who's ever made bread since the dawn of time. We've all made the same motions with our hands, and we've all touched a ball of dough with our fingers thinking 'That's enough.' and nothing about that process has changed!
The result was a lovely pair of loaves, slightly sour, bulky enough to make toasted sandwiches from, and with a much lighter texture than the previous two.
The best-smelling kitchen in the world!