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Nuts and raisins muffins

Something very quick to grab in your bag and run for school or office.
On top of the nuts and raisins there is a secret ingredient inside that makes this muffin wanted: a cube of Turkish delight.

Lavender soap

I had in mind for a while to make a lavender soap. As I have some extra essential oil that I brought from Province, I was thinking to preserve it better in a soap rather than in a bottle.
Everything went smooth with no major failure except the coloring. I had a violet powder color and I wanted to make the soap with nice shades of violet. I read the label and it was clearly indicated to be used in other types of cosmetics but not in soap. But I had no other similar colors so I gave it a try anyway. In the end, maybe not surprisingly after reading the label, the color turned into brown. Although it was not the color I wished for, the soap got nice shades of brown and I am happy the way it is. It is not made to be sold anyway, so being just for my own use or for a gift to my closest friends, the color is more related to the artistic part.
Otherwise, there is smell of lavender all over the house after doing this soap.... ohhhh how relaxing ... 

Durum sourdough bread

   
After 8 months of exercising to bake bread in the a wood fired oven, I finally arrived to have a good looking bread. I have tried many options in my desire to reach to a bread that is opening its heart to me. I was close sometimes but far from having a perfect good looking bread. Each time, the breads were eaten completely and never thrown away no matter how good looking they were.
When I bought the wood fired oven I expected to be a bit more difficult to bake bread but 8 months seemed ridiculously long. I've had all kind of experiences: overbaked breads, burned breads, dried breads, underbaked breads, flat breads strange shaped breads and I may say that each bread is a challenge in itself.
How I reached to have this one? Well ... I do not know exactly as my lately breads were quite similar. I guess that the durum flour had some magic in achieving this.
I hope I am able to reproduce the same results with other types of breads as well, but we shall see.

Ingredients:
  • 733ml water (room temperature)
  • 283 liquid sourdough (100% hydration)
  • 750g durum flour
  • 50g white sesame
  • 14g gluten
  • 15g salt


Directions:
  1. Day 1: 18:30 Mix all ingredients using a standing mixer.for 15 minutes.
  2. Day 1, 18:45, cover the bowl with lid and put the bowl outside, at winter temperatures 5-10ºC. If the weather outside is colder or warmer than that, use the fridge that usually is around 4ºC.
  3. Day 2, 8:00AM, bring the bowl with the dough inside and keep it in a warm place inside your house.
  4. Day 2, 10:00AM, remove the dough from the bowl and put in on a board. Divide and shape 3 oblong loaves and place them in 3 floured bannetons.
  5. Day 2, 10:15AM Do the final fermentation, by letting the loaves covered with a linen towel to raise nicely before the bake.
  6. Day 2, 13:00, reverse the bannetons on a pizza peel and score the breads with a sharp blade. Slide the breads into the hot wood fired oven (~300ºC) and bake for 25 minutes. You may check if the breads are uniformly cooked at half of the interval and if not, rotate them in the oven and keep them for 10 minutes more.


Charcoal pine soap

Not far from my house there is a pine forest. From time to time, we leave the house to have a relaxing walk in the forest. The smell of pine is touching our noses, our minds and we came back home fully relaxed and filled with energy. We make these little trips when usually there is a nice weather outside, meaning that during the winter these kind of trips are rare. I kindly miss them during the cold season.
I tried to find a way to bring into my home the pine smell and the memories and feelings associated with those nice walks. It crossed my mind to buy some pine essential oil and use it in the house to diffuse and to make some soap with. While rarely I have time to look and enjoy a candle that heats an essential oil to diffuse it in the room, I do wash my hands several times a day. That smell reaches me in an instant. It is a wave of freshness that brings the spring into my mind no matter how the weather is. The spring will come at its time, but until then, the smell of pine is filling our minds with joy and energy. My mood is boosted and any sign of fatigue rests behind.

Not to forget that the pine essential oil is very well known as being a natural antiseptic, circulatory, antiviral, restorative and anti-inflammatory.
In addition, combined with the active charcoal is fighting against a range of problematic skins (acne, burns, eczema, wounds, itching...)

All this with just a pine soap, used regularly to wash your hands or face. It cleans and heals your body and mind.

Multigrain sourdough bread

Together with this batch of bread I baked another one, the Multigrain bread. They are 2 breads with almost similar ingredients but the raising agent is different: one made with sourdough and one made with yeast. The breads were baked together, at the same temperature in the wood fire oven. My oven is not that big and I usually bake only 3 breads inside, but this time I managed to squeeze 5 breads inside: 2 rounds and 3 oblongs. I have already told the story about the burning breads experience I had when I put the first loaves based on yeast. These ones were not yet put in the oven as I have noticed that the first load went on fire, so I waited. But you can see, my patience was challenged and I put these breads also too soon in the oven and in the end I've got a dark brown color of the crust. However, they were not burnt.
So, 2 breads, same conditions, similar recipes but different raising agent and of course different timing. I was not expecting such a difference in the end results but yes, it is a big difference.
The yeast based bread is nicely raised with distributed holes. The sourdough based bread instead got a chewy crumb, unequal holes and an incredible texture and taste. Guess now which one I prefer? My preference is by far the one based on sourdough. It gets my golden medal from all the points: look, taste, smell, structure, holes.
Although I knew it from the start that the sourdough bread is superior to yeast bread, this experiment was just to confirm once again, if still needed, that this is true.
Looking at the timing, the yeast bread is raised in 3h30" before being baked while the sourdough bread is raised in 19h30" with the first fermentation done at low temperatures 5-10ºC. This long fermentation transforms the qualities of bread from good to incredible/outstanding.

Let me ask you, if you have these 2 slices on the table, which one would you pick first?
(on the left, it is a slice of the oblong sourdough based bread and on the right it is a round yeast based bread slice)

Multigrain bread

With many people in my house for the holidays, the bread was quickly gone these days. I usually bake one batch of bread per week, but when we are many, I have to bake more, at least double. I had then the idea to raise 2 type of breads in parallel with similar but not identical recipes. One with sourdough, put to raise the evening before and the second, a straight dough with yeast. This is the one with yeast. The other one I'll post soon, together with an interesting comparison between the 2. I baked them both in the same time, although it was a bit difficult to squeeze 5 breads in my wood fire oven.
It was an experiment so it couldn't end up without adventures. This is the first bread I have ever baked that was on fire ... properly speaking. I was in a hurry to bake them and I didn't realize that my oven was too hot, way too hot to bake bread. Of course, I was also lazy to take the laser thermometer and measure the temperature inside the oven, so, I have just slip them inside, one after another.  The fire of course was put on the side but when the breads have "felt" that high temperature, they started to burn on top with flames. My breads were on fire! Hi hi, without wanting, I arrived to make "pain flambé" :) :) :)
You can imagine that my first reaction was to immediately remove them from the oven and blow off the fire. It worked, but the top became completely black. I waited then for another half an hour until the temperature in the oven decreased to 250ºC and put the breads back in the oven for the next 30 minutes.
They finally were well cooked but totally burned on top for a thin layer.
I let them cool and with a grater we have removed the burned top. As you can see in the photo, the bread was perfectly eatable and didn't taste bad at all. Huh ... what an experience ... but it is nice that I learn every day something new, even if this is the hard way ;)