Honey beeswax soap

The Ancient Egyptians and Greeks were well aware about the benefits of honey. Our ancestors used it for medicine purpose and it is considered one of oldest wound healer. Cleopatra used it together with milk in her beauty skin treatments.
I do not think I should search more in the history to be convinced that honey is an amazing product for skin. Using it as an ingredient in soap in combination with beeswax can only make wonders.
So, let's try it!

Rosemary beewax soap

Rosemary is one of those plants that you can find everywhere. You find it dried or fresh in the supermarket or in private gardens as a herb to use with your dishes. You even find it as a decorative plant.
Its smell is, although very popular, amazingly fresh and strong all the time.
Rosemary is well known to ease your stress, to help increasing your focus, or to help with cough, cold and flu. It is also a mosquito repellent.

On the skin, it has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, gives you a natural glowing skin and reduces blemishes.

As I like the smell of rosemary so much I created a dedicated soap for it. In one soap, I have combined all these amazing health benefits with an unmistakable scent.

Black sesame sourdough bread

I have developed lately a passion for black sesame. I add it in salads, in yogurt, in honey and why not in bread?
I love its pronounced taste so let's give it a try in a sandwich white bread.

Spelt durum sourdough bread

When time for making bread is limited, I usually go for the easiest version. This for me means to put the dough straight into baking pans. This option has 2 advantages: first it is related to handling the dough less, as it is already set in pans and second is that you get the exact right size for a sandwich.
I need to admit that although it is easy, this is not my preferred method to bake bread. I would vote for raising the bread in banetons and  leave the shape of the bread to develop in a natural way. Nevertheless, using pans is easier and it is the best compromise I have when time is an issue.

I like to mix flours. This increase the taste and aroma of the breads. Extra seeds added to the dough create an interesting texture. Mix them all and every bread you make following basic instructions will turn out to be exceptional.

I make bread every week but I change the recipe most of the time. I like to experiment. I like to try new tastes. I like to see the cause-effect for each added ingredient. I learn from every bread I make. And what is amazing, although sometimes I do the exact recipe, the results are never the same. Why is this? Simply because some environmental factors are influencing the process (like temperature, time, heating in the fire wood oven, type of wood, humidity and so on). In a controlled environment like bakeries, I can understand that breads are similar, but in my house, I rarely have control of all these factors. In the end, this is the reason why I never get bored of baking bread. Every time is different. Every time I get curious how the bread will look like. Sometimes it is better, sometimes it is not. Although it is only an eye appreciation, what I know for sure is that every single bread I bake will be eaten until the last crumb. So it is a trial with no chance of failure.

Let's see now the recipe of this bread...

Charcoal soap

I made charcoal soap before but this time I wanted to go more to the extreme and focus mainly on the properties of this ingredient.
I had in mind a soap dedicated for cleaning the face and activated charcoal is well known for this. In addition, instead of using pure water as liquid, I used chamomile tea combined with aloe vera. Chamomile tea is recognized as being anti-inflammatory and anti-septic and helps fading spots. The same, aloe vera gel has heealing and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce skin inflammation.
What else would you like for a face soap ?
The lavender essential oil brings a relaxing mood and also contributes to killing bacteria.

Here it is...

Baked doughnuts (version 2)

I want doughnuts! This is what I heard quite often lately from my daughter, so here I am.
I have a sandwich maker that knows to make also nice doughnuts and this is the way I did these ones. A healthier way compared to frying them in hot oil. But if you do not have such a device, frying them is an alternative.
My daughter wanted absolutely to decorate them and instead of making a glaze and she was so happy to play with sugar paste. The decoration is exclusively made by her and I can only be proud of her skills.
If you do not decorate them, you might increase the quantity of sugar up to 250g, but as I knew that the decoration was sugar paste I preferred to make the dough less sweet.

Rye sourdough bread (version 2)

I like very much the sourdough breads that contains some rye flour inside and I tried so many variants that I cannot count anymore.
This version is a sister of the Rye Sourdough Bread. Differences for the quantities are minor and the timing is a bit shorter for this one. Both have incredible taste but I let you decide which one is the favorite.

Almond chocolate waffles

Mommy, I want chocolate waffles! This is what I heard constantly in the last days. Well, when your daughter is asking you to do some sweets, you need do them no matter how busy you are. And, when she is contributing too, it is not only about making a recipe but also about sharing and spending a beautiful time together.
This is how I ended up Sunday afternoon with a bake of chocolate waffles made in collaboration with my daughter. Adding ingredients one by one and mixing is like adding them in a big witch pot from children stories. Everything is magic with kids... how the composition come together and how, in the end, they take a waffle shape. Cooking is magic... but also the pleasure of eating should not be ignored.

Poppy seeds spelt bread

I have made different tests with this recipe: I tried the straight method (raised during the day) or with retard in the fridge, I tried a less wet dough, I tried to bake it directly on the stone, but finally I chose to make a more wet dough and to bake it in pans.
The pans helped to sustain the runny dough and to give an uniform shape. The taste of all the different option was of course the same but the structure was different. As for the fermentation, I preferred the dough to raise over night outside the house. Although it is summer, the nights are cold enough to not over proof my dough. I mixed it late at night and in the morning I gave it a shape. The bread was warm and ready to eat for the lunch. The smell of bread was everywhere and the mood of feeling home was definitely increased.

Natural stick deodorant

This was my first deodorant made by myself. I can call it a successful experience that will be for sure repeated.
Long time ago when deo sticks didn't exist and soap and water was the only solution, I have learned about sodium bicarbonate as an option. Using just sodium bicarbonate helped keeping me fresh on hot days but wearing it was a mess for the clothes and not at all comfortable due to its grainy structure. When creamy deo sticks made their way to the marked, sodium bicarbonate was way obsolete. But later, when deo sticks revealed all their side effects due to all chemicals used, a question mark was raised.
As always... when you have to do a step backward to keep your health in good shape, you go back to basics. Sodium bicarbonate has proved its qualities but, to overpass its down sides, a combination with other natural ingredients could have been the solution. I then decided to go this way. Creamy from the butters, solid from the bee wax, scented from the essential oils. That's my combination for a perfect deo stick.
I used it now for some months already and I am very happy with the results.
There is however something that I would change next time and that is related to consistency. I would put half of the bee wax quantity as I find the texture a bit too solid. Other than this, I wouldn't change anything to this recipe.
If you want to be purist, you can even keep the alum powder out. I had some and I wanted to use it, otherwise it won't make any big difference.

Rye Sourdough Bread (with retard)

It is difficult sometimes to have some extra minutes to photograph and write a post about the food I make. Caught between the incredible busy routine and spending some quality time with my kids, there is so little time to dedicate to my passions.
Despite of all this, one Sunday, I baked my bread that turned out so spectacular that almost forced me to photograph it.
I took the bread out of the oven and brought it in the kitchen to cool it a bit before the photo session. I didn't even finished to organize my props and when returning into the kitchen I found my beautiful bread broken in pieces by my daughter who couldn't resist the smell that was spread around the house. Should I have been upset? My best beautiful piece of bread was gone, so no option to photograph it... but the reason was more noble than a photo on a post: my daughter has devoured the bread and there is no "like" in this world more important for me.
I took then the other 2 pieces of bread and made a quick photo before they would disappear too :)
After the photo, 2 weeks has passed to find some time to post the photo, the recipe and some words about it ...

As for the bread, in the recent time I only do retarded bread. The advantage is that the bread is raising for the first fermentation during the night, and depending on the temperature over the night, I can bake the bread between the morning to the afternoon instead of baking it in the evening if the bread is started in the same day in the morning.

This bread is made with a lot of rye. Yes, it has a very sticky dough but the taste is outstanding and as seen, it raised quite nicely.

Chamomile natural shampoo

When I made my first shampoo bar I didn't know what to expect. Would my hair like it? Would it be as good as the classical bought shampoo? These are normal questions when you make a radical change from store bought shampoos to homemade ones. I have now months since I completely change to use only my homemade shampoo. Although the feeling is totally different, I am very satisfied with the results and I do not have any reason to go back.
More, in my last holiday I packed one bar of shampoo. It replaced a soap, a face soap, a shower gel and a bottle of shampoo that I used to take with me. All of these into one single bar. No leaking and less space in my luggage.
Some of the bars from my previous batch I gave them to 2 of my friends. One of them seemed to like it a lot, so I have decided then that I should do my next round sooner then expected. Here it is. Same healthy and nourishing properties but different aroma and colors.

The chamomile tea brings extra benefits like reducing dandruff, helping with hair growth, preventing split ends and making your hair to shine.
Beside the chamomile tea, the rest of ingredients come also with their incredible benefits: tea tree essential oil to fight against dandruff, lavender essential oil for hair growth, cedar wood essential oil to avoid hair loss; the jojoba oil to control your hair, prevent hair loss and dandruff, the sweet almond oil and vitamin E for long shiny hair and control hair loss, the cocoa butter to repair damaged hair and I won't add all the benefits of the remaining oils as I assume they are very popular.
This mix of ingredients is a miracle for your hair. Just give it a try it ...

Simple lemon tart

I find myself lately quite often opening the door of a fast food shop for the lunch break. This is mainly due to the lack of time to cook at home for the lunch as well. Fast food indeed, but not any shop, I chose mainly the ones with organic and fresh food.
One day, after picking a salad or a sandwich, my eyes were falling on a tart, strategically placed near the queue formed before the pay. As you can imagine, I am talking about a lemon tart. That day I picked one piece. The next day, the story repeated. I was a bit frustrated that such a simple tart would cost so much in an organic shop so I said, oooook... my next cooked desert at home would be this one.
So, the lemon tart appeared on my to do list during the weekend.

I baked it and my daughter didn't want to even look at it. Hmmm.... I was confused because she usually doesn't refuse deserts and she likes very much everything that has a sour taste, including raw lemons. Then, I was looking at my tart for a moment thinking that this one would be almost fully mine. The next moment I realized that my daughter didn't know exactly on what she was saying no so I made her taste it. She took a bite, almost forced, like it was the most disgusting food, but when she had it on her tongue she looked at me and she said: "I want the whole slice!". Forget about having my own lemon tart :):):) ...

Pizza in a wood fired oven

My adventure with pizza is not really new at all. 20 years ago I remember my mother trying to make pizza at home at my request. It was a dough bought from the bakery, on top of which we were laying some yellow cheese and ham. Everything was baked in the oven and we were adding a lot of ketchup on top to give it a taste. Oh... what a fake pizza we were eating back then ....
Later, when I had my own bread machine I was so excited to revisit the pizza recipe. I learned in the meantime that for pizza not every cheese is good, and the must have ingredient was mozzarella. Then, for a good pizza you need high temperatures, so I put my oven at the maximum it could manage, meaning 275ºC .With this improvements, my pizza started to have a taste and it could have been called easily an OK homemade home pizza.
Next improvement came with the pizza stone that I was using for bread baking. I wanted a pizza that could be hold in your hands with a sturdy dough. Baking the pizza in a tray will never lead you to such strong dough. The pizza stone fulfilled my dream. There was however another problem.... the whole mess that the flour was doing to my oven and to my kitchen when sliding it to the hot stone. Due to all these issues, pizza was not a regular recipe done in my house.

BUT, everything changed last year when I had my wood fired oven. With the same old dough recipe and almost the same set of ingredients, a pizza baked in this oven is incomparable to any bake I tried in a conventional oven.
First of all, the pizza can go in the wood fired oven at a very high temperature. I usually bake my pizza when the oven is at 400-500ºC. No way you could reach this high temperature with a conventional oven. With this temperature, it takes less then 2 minutes to have 2 pizzas baked in the same time. As I normally bake 4 pizzas, the next set probably takes 5 minutes as the temperature goes down a bit.
And when my 4 pizzas are ready, also my oven gets the right temperature to bake the loaves of bread.
This is how I arrived to make pizza every week, together with my weekly bread.
The big secret of this pizza is the taste. Compared to the same pizza baked 15 minutes in a conventional oven at the highest possible temperature, the one baked in the wood fired oven for less than 2 minutes has a smokey flavor that changes the whole thing. The bread baked in a wood fire oven is definitely more tasty than the conventional one but the pizza is having a huge difference. That's the reason why, we simply cannot stop making pizza every week together with the bread.
It is by far the best pizza I have ever eat in any restaurant so far, also because you can choose what toppings to add and how much of each.

I reached perfection in terms of pizza and I am so happy that after all the adventure it took to arrive to it, I can proudly call it a success.

The toppings, I usually change them based on what I have at hand, but there are some that needs to be there: mozzarella, concentrated tomato sauce and ham.
As for the dough, I use the same quick recipe. I wonder if changing the recipe to a more fancy one, with sourdough for example, this would have an impact in taste. Is there a better best? That is something to try in the future.

Multigrain durum sourdough bread

Rustic round bread freshly baked in an wood fire oven. Anybody comes with the butter?

This is another type of bread raised over night in order to be baked the next day during the daylight (considering that we are in the winter and the days are shorter). Keeping the dough outside or in the fridge for the first fermentation helps with saving some time in the baking day.

As most of the times, this bread is made with sourdough, my preferred way to do raise a bread.

Black sesame seed bread

I have find out about the benefits of the black sesame quite recently. Besides that has a stronger aroma, the black sesame has higher nutritional properties than the the normal white sesame.
A good friend of mine was telling me that she was eating black sesame with any food. Another friend of mine was advertising it as a miracle ingredient to improve the immune system. Well, I am usually skeptical when it comes to new ingredients that comes and go in fashion these days. However, as I knew that during the winter the probability to get a cold is very high I decided to give it a try.
It is not bread that I am talking about, but a mixture between grounded black sesame and honey from which I take a half of teaspoon every morning straight after waking up. I do not know if it is just a pure coincidence or this really works but so far the cold avoided me this winter. For a mother with a young baby who often wakes up during the night, keeping a good immune system is essential.
Following the current success of this recipe I was thinking to include the black sesame also in bread so here it is what I managed to bake.

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.

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

  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 it 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 nicely rise before the bake.
  6. Day 2, 13:00, reverse the bannetons on a pizza peel and score the bread with a sharp blade. Slide the loaves into the hot wood-fired oven (~275ºC) and bake for 25 minutes. You may check if the bread is 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 ;)