Romanian Sourdough Sweet Bread (Cozonac cu maia)

I do this sweet bread every year but it is just this winter that I tried the sourdough version. As always, once I try sourdough, I do not come back to yeast. It will be the case for this bread as well. It is true that it takes time to make it but it worth every minute of it. 

The difference is that the crumb is soft and fluffy. You can also break the crumb into straps. It conserves much better than the yeast one. I am simply impressed by it and I'd like to share with you how I've done it.

I published some versions with yeast before on my blog and you can find them here:

The filling that you chose for it is a personal option. I've put inside 3 of the most common ingredients, but you are free to pick only one, 2 or all. Or you can add others that you like.

I do this bread called "Cozonac" only for Christmas and Easter. Sweet bread is not my highest preference, but this one is a tradition that I know since childhood. I am continuing this tradition, especially for my kids, although I am now living in another country. The smell spread in the house when this cake is prepared for Christmas and Easter resides deep in my memories. I recall when my entire family was reunited a few days before Christmas at my grandparents to prepare all the traditional food. Those were special days. They were starting with children carols, when we were singing and knocking on the neighbour doors for pretzels and walnuts. Then it was the day for "cozonaci" and the day of pork meat preparations. Many of these are gone, and some traditions as well. But if I can bring something from those days into my house to keep alive the Christmas spirit I do it, no matter how much work is needed. This sweet bread is one of the few that I can continue, especially during this weird year.

My children love it, myself as well. My favourite version for me is with lokum because it is very sweet. My children also pick them from the slices, but I was doing the same as a child.

This is a sweet bread linked to traditions, memories, aroma and holidays. It is a treat to share with family and friends in joyful moments. It is also a delicious breakfast or dessert.

40% Rye Sourdough Bread

When you bake bread with a high content of rye flour expect to have a darker and denser crumb.  

I baked before another version of rye bread inspired by the same Hamelman's recipe "40% caraway rye". That version is on my blog 40% rye bread with sunflower seeds, posted more than 6 years ago. This time, I went for an improved version with no yeast, based exclusively on rye sourdough. None of these recipes includes caraway as I do not like it very much, but if you like it, please feel free to add it back, as in the original recipe.

Compared to the first recipe, the bread raised much higher and even got me an ear. The reason for this is the use of strong bread flour that had an autolyse before being combined with the rye preferment. This is essential mainly because rye flour has weak gluten that does not behave as the bread flour does. The strong bread flour adds strength to the dough structure and makes the bread to rise more.

This bread in any version is very rich in flavour and I find it outstanding in terms of taste. It has a moist and soft crumb that simply melts into your mouth.

Another advantage of this bread is that the bulk fermentation + final fermentation lasts only 3 ½ hours. On the other side, if you are up to get all the rye flavour, expect to let it cool for minimum 5 hours.

I am happy with this result and for sure I will revisit this recipe again, probably in another version :).

Merry Christmas!

Sour bran bread

Not so long ago I published a post about a Borch sourdough starter. As a coincidence (or not), just a few days after, it came to my ears that I could bake bread with it. In fact, it is obvious right? If you can make borsh out of sourdough starter you can also do the other way around, baking sourdough bread with borsh.

The idea looked fantastic! Why I didn't think of it before? I then took the nice advice of a very creative lady and tried it by myself. But my idea went a bit further. She suggested using the amazing borsh liquid to replace the water as an ingredient to the dough while I was thinking of using the remaining borsh starter that you are supposed to discard.

Let me be more clear what is this sour bran that I am referring to.

So, when you make the borsh you use the liquid. That is the borsh. To get the liquid, you strain the entire mixture and what it remains is a fermented mixture of wheat bran, cornflour and pieces of rye bread. 

This thick mixture is your new borsh starter, called husti in Romanian. But you'll only keep a jar of it for the next batch and the rest you can discard.

My dilemma was how to reuse this amazing thick mixture? Of course, you keep 500ml of wet mixture for the next round of borsh but you still remain with a big quantity. 

Most of the time, what remained, this sandy mixture of bran - corn flour was a good meal for my chickens. But what if, I was to add it in bread dough? Why should I through away such an amazing ingredient?

Romania has a tradition in using it for diets, traditional home medicine and even for beauty treatments. 

I had then to come up with a recipe and try it.

I started then thinking about what this mixture is and how it will affect my dough. First thought was on humidity. First, it needed to be squeezed well well. Even squeezed, but it will add humidity to my dough. So the amount of water added initially in the dough needs to be kept low.

Then, this is bran and cornflour. Bran is a barrier in gluten network development, so it should be added a bit later in the dough. The best moment for this is the lamination phase. Bran is also already hydrated so this is already good. The cornflour, with its grainy structure, has no gluten. The bran as well, it should be added in the dough at a later stage.

This mixture also contains sourdough bacteria. This means that when added in the dough it will increase its population.

With this in mind, I prepared a recipe using white strong wheat flour with hydration of ~70%. The moment of adding the sour bran was for sure no earlier than the lamination phase.

The plan was made, so it only remained to put it in practice.

When mixing the white flour with water, I had the feeling of not adding enough water in the dough. I knew this flour, it is an excellent one that accepts easily very high hydrations of 85%, and I was at only 70%. 

First stretch and fold... hmm very thick dough. But then the lamination phase came. The dough felt not so elastic at this hydration but I managed to stretch it and add the mixture inside. Folded back, it went for a nice rest. 

First coil fold.... hmm barely succeeded. Then, a long period of resting for all the water to be absorbed by the dough. A second coil fold and just then, I felt the difference! The dough was easier to coil fold and the texture was grainy. 

At the shaping step, the dough was behaving so strong like no other. A bit of rest after, and then put it to sleep in the fridge overnight.

Sandwich sourdough bread

This is a loaf of simple sourdough bread that can be done by anybody without prior bread baking experience. It is a one day bread, but if you want, of course, it can be retarded in the fridge during the final fermentation.

Sandwich bread is very popular as enriched with milk, butter, sugar. My recipe is not an enriched loaf. Is a simple sandwich bread made from the 3 basic bread ingredients: flour, water and salt.

The sandwich bread is different than an artisan bread. On a sandwich bread, you want to be able to spread butter, so bread with big holes is not prefered. The sandwich bread needs to have many small holes so it is exactly the opposite what you are targeting with artisan bread. 

For this bread, you need a pan. I have a Pullman pan style that is very big. It has 34x13.5x12cm. In this pan, I put 1.6kg of dough.

Most probably your pan doesn't have exactly my pan dimensions and then the most difficult part in planning this bread is to know exactly how much dough to put inside to reach the top of the pan and obtain a perfectly squared bread. If you do not use the lid to obtain the square bread, this is not a problem because the bread can rise upper with no issue.

Unfortunately, I do not have a magic formula to calculate how much dough needs to be in the pan to fill it completely with the closed lid. For me, it was a trial and error. The pan producer was indicating only 1kg of dough and that was way too less for such a big pan. Then I found some online calculators that indicated me 1.3 - 1.4kg of dough. After baking, this quantity of dough didn't arrive at the lid.  By letting it proof more maybe it would have worked but the intention of the sandwich bread is not to have an open crumb, but rather a spongy, regular structure with many alveoli of a small size.

I tried after 1.6kg of dough and that was my matching quantity. For a denser bread, I think the dough quantity can be increased and the proofing time cut a bit. But for me, this quantity gave the expected result.

The only advice I can give you here is to do some tests. It can be tricky because of the type of flour you use and the expected density of the crumb. I like it the way mine ended up even if there are some bigger alveoli here and there.

How to choose the right flour for bread baking?

Have you ever wondered how the quality of flour is influencing bread baking?

Let’s find out how to choose the right flour for the type of bread you want to bake.

This post is not about a recipe but about an ingredient.

The flour has the biggest proportion in a loaf and is the most important ingredient as it provides structure to the dough. Baking bread with the wrong flour can be frustrating, but if you understand its characteristics, you can choose the appropriate method, so in the end, you get a gorgeous loaf.

I put together a lot of information about the flour with the way is influencing the dough for bread baking in a new video on my youtube Hungry Shots channel. I hope this comes to clarify many of the flour mysteries.

What is flour? 

Flour comes from wheat berries. Wheat spikes hold the wheat berries. If you press a wheat spike with your fingers, you’ll notice that the wheat berries are popping out from the spikelets. If you blow away the chaff, the grains remain. 

Each wheat berry has 3 parts: 

  • The endosperm (83%) is the biggest part and contains starch granules, iron, B vitamins
  • The Bran (14.5%) - is the outer layer that contains fibres, proteins, B vitamins and trace minerals
  • The Germ (2.5%) - is the embryo of the seed, contains lipids, B vitamins and minerals

Flour is obtained through the reduction of the wheat berries into smaller particles. 
Through simple milling, we obtain what it is called whole wheat / wholemeal flour that includes all the 3 elements of a wheat berry.
To arrive at a white flour, the germ and the bran has to be removed through a sifting process.
With them, fibres, vitamins and minerals also go away. 
After milling, the white flour needs to age for at least a month in order to acquire good baking properties. Freshly milled flour, called green/immature flour,  will produce dough with poor elasticity that will result in bread with poor volume, thick crust and dense crumb texture. Through the ageing process, the flour gets oxidised due to the exposure to oxygen and its baking properties are improved.
However, if you mill the flour at home you can benefit from higher nutritional content and better flavour even though the elasticity of the dough is reduced.

Flour characteristics
When you choose a new flour, it is better that you look for certain characteristics. Unfortunately, not all these details you can obtain by just looking at the label on the package but understanding their importance can help you in the baking process. I’ll reveal to you these tricks further on. 
Even more, if you buy from a local farm you might not have access to many of these details and the only remaining option is to test the flour yourself. But generally, choosing organic flour has greater health benefits.

The protein content is probably the most important aspect to consider when you chose the flour to bake bread.
The higher the protein content of the flour, the higher performance of the bread. The percentage of protein content is usually marked on the package label. 

Based on the protein content, we can distinguish 3 categories of flour:
  • Cake flour or pastry flour is usually the lowest in protein content (7-9%) because, for cakes, gluten development is not a purpose. 
  • Then it comes, all-purpose flour (9-11%) who usually has a moderate protein content. 
  • On top is the bread and pizza flour (11-14%+) with the most protein percentage. 
In fact, there is no clear threshold between these categories and they may differ from producer to producer or from country to country. This means that you can easily find flour labelled as “bread flour” having 10% or 14% protein content. The best is to always look on the back of the package and spot the percentage of the protein content.

The protein content is directly linked with gluten. When flour is mixed with water, the gluten is formed. Gluten’s main function in baking bread is to strengthen your dough. Low protein content means weak gluten that results in a smaller volume of your dough due to the lack of structure.
Gluten, through its main 2 components (gliadin and glutenin) provide extensibility and elasticity to the dough. 
To measure this, some of the flour producers indicate values like P, L and W on the package. Let’s quickly see what they mean:
  • P - resistance of the dough to deformation
  • L - extensibility of the dough
  • a P/L index indicates the behaviour of the gluten...
  • W - [45 to 400] indicates the strength of the flour. The higher the W factor, the strongest the flour, so the better is for baking bread. While the protein content indicates you the quantity of gluten, the W index (although in direct relation with the protein content)  gives you more insides about the quality of the gluten. This means that the higher the W index, the more water absorbent the flour is.
Also the higher the protein content, the longer mixing time is needed to achieve dough consistency.

The protein content is a characteristic of flour that the baker can play with. An experienced baker can produce a beautiful bread even from a low protein flour applying advanced baking techniques. But using a basic method to 2 wheat flours may result in loaves that look drastically different.
I give you a trick: if your flour lacks gluten, you may add commercial gluten to improve its baking properties.

In the past, very white bread was associated with quality food while darker bread was seen as food for poors. Ironically, from a health perspective is exactly the opposite.
Naturally, flour has an off-white colour due to the presence of bran particles and the existence of carotenoids pigments.
A bright white colour of the flour is due to ageing or bleaching:
  • Ageing: With time, the colour of the flour fades away due to the exposure to oxygen. Aged flour also comes with consistency in making bread.
  • Bleaching: Bleaching solved the problem of the flour millers who needed to store their flour for at least a month to age naturally because proper storage costs money. The process consists in treating the flour with chemical agents, also called dough conditioners. Bleaching affects the colour by making the flour whiter in just a few days.
    But bleaching does more than just affect the colour:
    • It affects the texture by making it softer and finer
    • It affects the taste, making it slightly bitter
    • it affects the structure of proteins creating an easier to handle dough and 
    • It influences gluten development. 
So, of course, commercial bakers prefer a bleached flour as being more economical. 
Bleached flour works better for cakes, biscuits, cookies, pancakes/waffles or quick bread.

Moisture content
Moisture content is one of the characteristics rarely found on your package. If the moisture overpasses 16%, the flour is prone to naturally occurring organisms and may get an unpleasant taste or smell. Of course, the higher the moisture content the less water you need for the bread. That’s why the producers recommend storing your flour in a dry and aerated environment. This also means that the flour won’t give you consistent results if you store it in a humid pantry and you might need to add less water in your recipe due to high moisture content in the flour.

Ash content
The ash content refers to the mineral or inorganic material in the flour and indicates the purity of flour. It gives the degree of contamination of flour with bran and germ. In France, the ash content classifies the flours (a pure flour - T55 comes from 0.55% ash content while T150 (1.5%) is corresponding to the whole wheat flour. 
In Italy, 00 is the purest flour and 2 is the whole wheat). The purer the flour the less ash content indicator. While a more pure flour has great baking characteristics, one with more ash content has more minerals, so it is more healthy. The more ash content, the more water you’ll need to add in the dough.

The water absorption
The higher the protein content, the higher the water absorption of the flour. Adding gluten to the formula needs to come with an increased quantity of water.
The lower the moisture content, the higher water absorption.

A course flour will require less water as it has less damaged starch during the milling process.

There are many other indicators that producers may assess in the lab, but for a homebaker they are either inaccessible or more difficult to handle them.

What you need to understand is that even if you apply the exact same recipe and method from a book or from the web, the quality of the flour can be a big game changer.

In the end, when you chose a flour for bread baking, ask yourself the following:
For what purpose will you use the flour? If it is for artisan bread, pick a strong one (high W index) or with high protein content. 
What kind of bread crumb are you targeting? A very well raised loaf with an open crumb? Then go for higher protein content. But for a denser bread, medium strength flour may go as well.
Is the health aspect the main purpose for the bake? Then choose an organic whole wheat flour that contains also the minerals and vitamins from the bran and germ. You may also want to consider milling your own flour for an extra flavour, minerals and vitamins.


Romanian boeuf salad with chicken breast

"Maman, GATEAU!" - This is what my son said when he saw this salad. He was so excited to see it, so he quickly grabbed a small plate and a spoon. 

I put a little portion for him and watched him trying it for the first time. Such a disappointment on his face after the first bite... no sweet cake... this was a salad...

Decoration may trick your sight but not your taste buds. This is a salad, a very popular one in Romania. In my childhood, a New Year's Eve without boeuf salad was not a New Year celebration.

Almost all Romanian wives know how to do it, and everyone does its own version. But the boeuf salad should be on the table for the New Years's Eve!

The great part of making this salad is that it exists in a vegetarian version, in beef version, in a turkey version, in a chicken version and so on. If you are confused about the word BEOUF in the name, yes it is coming from French that means beef. But actually, it doesn't matter if you do it with chicken, turkey, beef or no meat at all, it is still called the beouf salad. 

It always includes boiled vegetables and pickles. There is no such thing as a beouf salad without pickles. The pickles are the most important ingredient that gives the specificity of this salad. The quantity of pickles should be substantial as it gives the taste. My mother was always including in this salad pickled cucumbers and pickled Romanian peppers. These peppers are specific to Romania and they are called "Gogosari". You can easily recognise them for their round shape. Unfortunately, here in Belgium, they do not exist, so I used just fresh red bell peppers instead.

Another interesting aspect is that the meat inside is there just to make it more nourishing but the taste is totally faded away by the vegetables.

The salad is also put together with mayonnaise. If there is one thing that I hate about the classic recipes for this salad, well that is the amount of mayonnaise that it is put inside. And yes, it is an important ingredient because it links together all the vegetables, it preserves it for some days in the fridge but this doesn't have to mean that I eat mayonnaise with vegetables ... I want to eat a salad with a minimum amount of mayonnaise. Therefore this is my version, not flooded in mayonnaise.

Sourdough Bread with EAR

Find out how to get an ear on sourdough bread by watching this video. The secrets of creating a sourdough bread with ear are revealed in details. Gluten development, dough strength, good oven spring, correct bread scoring, and other aspects are very important in getting a bread ear.


Car cake

When you realize that the name day of your son is tomorrow and you do not have a cake to celebrate with him what do you do? The quick solution is to buy a cake, but with this lockdown, it was not an option for me. I had then to postpone the celebration a bit and bake a cake for my little angel when I could.
Before starting, I showed my little son some cake designs for boys and he pointed me one that he liked. It was not an easy one but it was a challenge for me to try something new.
For the composition of the cake, I went for a simplified version of my previous Bunny cake. I knew then how to do it, so the steps were straightforward. What I didn't know, was how to make those cars, a plane, a road and a traffic light from sugar paste.
I did then my homework, find some shapes, and cut them in paper with an Exacto knife. I put those shapes over a stretched sheet of sugar paste and cut around with the same knife. Colors were of my own choice. Near me, of course, my son and my daughter were active participants. My daughter took the wheels of the cars in black sugar paste and she did them with the help of some coins or other round shapes. My son, well, he was extremely curious about what his mother and sister were doing. He was there to observe and to give a Wow, mommy, this is a car... it is a tractor, it is a bus... with an enthusiasm that you'll only find when you have his age. Of course, from time to time, a little piece of sugar paste was disappearing on his tongue but well... this was the whole fun right? 
In this way, we spend some beautiful hours on a Sunday afternoon and finally, the cake was ready. Almost ready, because mommy had to take a photo of it. And that time was felt way longer than the entire afternoon of doing all the decorations :D . 
The big moment arrived, we put 2 candles on the cake, sang the classic song, and let the kids blow the candles. After that, there was a small discussion about, who would eat the traffic light and who would eat the tree, who would eat the red car and who the blue one. When this problem was solved, the kids were quietly enjoying their piece of cake.
Yep, another beautiful day spent with kids has passed, and the image of the cake will remain in their memories. So yes, it worth every minute to do the cake... because happiness is not about the end result but it is about the journey.

Retarded sourdough bread

Knowing how to retard your bread, it offers you a lot of flexibility to spread these steps to fit your personal schedule. Baking bread at home should not be the main activity of your day but rather should fit between other main activities you have. 

Retarding the bread in the refrigerator is an interesting process. On one side, it gives more flavour to your bread. The flour releases its flavour at its maximum potential. On the other side, it helps the baker to easily score it and offers flexibility to bake it when you want. 

The risk of extending the regard is to get an over proved bread and a more sour taste. But this happens if you keep the dough too much in the fridge (over 3 days) or when your fridge is keeping a higher temperature than 4ºC. At this low temperature, the sourdough is dormant and won't be active to rise your bread.

But imagine that you knead and shape 3 loaves of bread, you put them in the fridge and the next 3 days you take out and bake one bread per day. This means that you'll have fresh bread every day. How does this sound?

Knowing all these details allows you to control the bread-making process.

Let's now see the recipe...

Classic country bread

I could have sworn I over proofed this bread because I forgot it twice over the planned schedule. I normally do not leave my breads that much to raise between the adding of the starter and placing it in the fridge. But this one stayed for 6 and a half hours at a temperature of 27ºC. I thought it was a lost cause, but when I removed the Dutch oven lid, I had a such a beautiful surprise. That made me wonder.... was I under proofing my breads before? A question that would haunt me for the next bakes for sure. Then, I need to test this new discovery to find the best timing in correctly proofing my bread. Join me in this journey and you'll find out too...

Borsch sourdough starter

If you are not from the est part of Europe, I am pretty sure you have no idea what borsh is. I know it from Romania where it is very popular between for housewives. My mother used to buy borsh from a neighbor and she was using it to sour the soups. My grandmother was making it herself. When I was a child, lemons were a luxury fruit to destroy it to sour your soup, so everybody was counting on this miraculous yellowish liquid called borsh.

When I moved in another country I found it very difficult to match the taste of my soup with the one I knew from home. Although the quality of the vegetables ripen by the sun in Romania is incomparable to the ones you find here in the supermarket, I was missing the secret ingredient: borsh. There was nowhere to buy this fantastic liquid. 

My mother in law even brought me some starter (not sourdough based but yeast based) from Romania but unfortunately I was not very experienced to know how to keep it. I had then to through it away as it got a strange smell. 

Two years ago I got stubborn and wanted to do my own starter, not in the way is traditionally made in Romania but from sourdough. I had this wonderful bacteria fed for my bread baking and it should have been a way to make borsh from it. The challenge was to find a recipe over the web with sourdough and there were not many listed. Finally I found one, applied it and it worked partially. Why partially? Because although I got a very nice borsh, it was not sour enough. I continued with it and used it for months even without the expected strong sourness. 

But recently, I was stubborn again. It must have been a way to get your borsh from sourdough starter that actually gets really sour. I found more recipes around but many of them had no sense. This bacteria is the key to achieve this sourness. Recipes that calls to pour boiling liquid over the sourdough starter were just crap as the idea is to keep this bacteria alive to do its job, meaning to get your liquid sour. But I found one that looked more interesting, respecting this principle. I adapted it a bit and practice it. In 24 hours I've got the borsh of my dreams!

But before presenting you the recipe, let me tell you that there is more to know about this sour liquid. It is not used just to sour soups, it has much more properties and usages. From childhood, I also remember that people were using it to wake up from dizziness caused by alcohol or to avoid the next day symptoms after a big drinking night :)

This sour liquid is rich in vitamins B, C, D, H, minerals, enzymes, chrome and other amazing elements. It is used in diets before lunches as a purifying agent. A lot of people are drinking it as such because of its probiotic properties to fortify the imune system, to improve the digestive system and so on. 

But look, I am not a doctor to confirm all these and I am sure there are many articles regarding the healthy benefits of the borsh. I am here to tell you about its taste and how to make a good one yourself.

I usually use it for soups and from time to time, to taste it in the morning before breakfast.

Here is my adapted recipe:

Pain de méteil

Méteil is the word that French speaking people are using to designate a mix of cereals. For bread, this is referring mainly to the mix of wheat and rye. Originally this word referred to crops of mixed grains with the target to benefit from the lands that were not rich enough. The weather influenced the development of one or another cereal guaranteeing in the end that at least one would have been successful. This practice lost its popularity with the technological progress and of course with the people preferences in choosing the white bread as a luxury one.

Pain de méteil was usually sold much cheaper as it was not reaching the qualities of the pure white wheat or pure rye bread. Little did they know back then that the healthiest bread was not made from white wheat flour.

With time, the word remained in the language and with the new wave of rediscovering our ancient flavors, it gets more and more popularity (maybe not in the sense of the crops mix but in the flour mix).

I saw a long time this braided bread and I had it on my wish list to make. When you say méteil, people now think of 50% wheat and 50% rye and I followed these proportions as well. Hydration of this bread can vary between 65% to 80% but keep in mind that due to the high content of rye, this bread is much denser. The gluten of the rye is very weak and does not mirror the properties of white strong wheat flour when it is kneaded/raised. The dough is rather a paste than a dough. You cannot stretch it properly and you can barely fold it. It deflates very easily when shaped in a more advance stage in proofing so better to handle the dough early in the fermentation.

You might notice a lot of disadvantages but wait... did I mention that for this bread I used only organic flours that make this bread very healthy? Did I mention that this bread combined the flavour of whole wheat with the one of rye? It might be denser but it is healthy and very tasty. The aroma of the rye is strong in this bread and despite the long known fame designating this bread as a low quality one,  what you get is a very rich bread.

Hard to describe the taste and aroma of this bread and as I do not sell the bread that I make, the only option for you it to make one yourself. ( unless you find a special boulangerie from where to buy it )

Here is the recipe...

Black sesame rye sourdough crackers

My kids love food that crunches between their teeth. I always have at hand for them some "cracotte", sticks or even dried bread.
As this pandemic time put me to stay at home, I launched myself into a more advanced bread journey and that means that I keep my starter at room temperature. Well, actually my starter stays on top of my wifi router because there I have constantly between 25-30ºC. I hope that the internet provider will not change soon the wifi router type otherwise I'll need to improvise another "home place" for my precious Maya sourdough :) . When keeping the sourdough out of the fridge you need to feed it. And mine is such a gourmand ! At the wifi router temperature it eats 3 times a day in proportions like 1:4:4. You can imagine then that every week I gather a lot of discarded sourdough starter that pushes me to bake something with it. I search for different recipes on the web, I adapt them and go to the kitchen to make them. This time, the source of inspiration was a recipe that I found on a brand that I love, although I never had the chance to have in my hand one of their famous flours.
As always, I bring to any recipe my personal touch, and my contribution for it was the rye sourdough starter and the black sesame seeds. These 2 come with a specific flavor.
I baked these crackers during the day when my kids were at school. When home, their eyes jumped straight on them. You can imagine that I lost the battle of convincing them to eat before crunching. But in the end, this is healthy homemade food, so why not.
When I saw the recipe I was thinking that it will take me some time to do it, but actually it was much quicker than expected. 
This is how, I am pretty sure that now I have a new recipe on my regular baking wish list of my kids.

Ready for a crunch session? Have a look on the recipe bellow.

Plum cake

I have the feeling that the plum becomes a forgotten fruit. During my childhood, my mother used to prepare this fruit in all sorts of ways. She was making compot, jam, cakes (ohhhh and I remember the famous plum dumplings... maybe I should try those ones as well) and we were eating them fresh as well many times. Nowadays, I do not see the same popularity for this fruit anymore and it is a real pity.

Because I miss so much seeing my parents during this pandemic times, a lot of memories are coming back to me and plum cakes is one of them. Before coming up with this recipe I consulted my mom to be sure that this is a similar recipe with the one she was doing when I was a child. In Romania, it is another type of plum that is most used. That type is smaller, bluer, sweeter and more oval. The one that I find here is big, round and red. Nevertheless, I tried my luck with this type in a very simple recipe.

Yes, it is the taste that I remember... these fruits leaves a lot of juice in the cake and make this simple cake a delicious dessert. Here it comes, my recipe for the plum cakes, exactly as I remember it from childhood.

Pain demi-gris

While visiting a local farm I saw an organic flour that was labeled as demis-gris. As I was curious about it and it looked so tempting, I bought a bag of 5kg to test it. I nicely placed it on a shelf and there it remained for couple of months. While cleaning the kitchen, I found it back and I was determined to give it a try.
I was oscillating to combine it with some strong flour but finally decided to use it in its pure form so I can see its behavior during handling the dough and later to see its original aroma.
Honestly, when I bought it, I had no clue what demi-gris is. With a bit of research afterwards, I understood that it's a combination of whole wheat flour and white wheat flour. I am still not 100% sure that this is what French and Belgian people call demi-gris, but if there is somebody to enlighten me about this type of flour s/he will be more then welcome to leave me a comment. No idea if it is a 50-50% proportion but the important aspect is that it is organic and this qualify the entire bread as being very healthy.

So, I started with low expectations as whole wheat flour is one of the most difficult type of flour to work with. I've done many breads before with the main ingredient being the whole wheat and I knew that whole wheat gives a more dense crumb. No matter how dense the resulting bread, it was always very tasty. With that said, airy or not, what I was ready to bake was a tasty and healthy anyway.
I followed my new method of baking that includes autolyse, lamination and coil folds. Because I knew the wheat flour requires more time to hydrate, I opted for an overnight autolyse. After kneading, the dough was less elastic than when using a strong white wheat flour, but this was not at all unexpected.

I was worried about the lamination phase. I didn't know if I would be able to stretch the dough and how much. Well, here I was actually surprised that I could laminate the dough nicely in just a bit smaller rectangle than usual. 

I baked the dough and I was satisfied with its outside looking. But the most impresive part was revealed after cutting. The crumb... oh the crumb was beyond any expectation: soft, airy, elastic and with such a mesmerizing aroma...

I put the bread on the table for dinner and sliced half of it. This sliced half was completely devoured by my children. Maybe I do not know exactly what this demi-gris flour is, but for sure there is something magical about it ...

Pumpkin Sourdough Bread

October is the month of the pumpkins. It is the time when you put some wood in the chimney and gather the family around the fire for the first time in the cold season. Autumn comes with small changes in the diet as your body requires more calories to keep itself worm. But autumn is well known for its specific fruits and vegetables and pumpkin is one of them. Orange or yellow, they start to pop up in every house on the table or just in front of the house as a decoration to prepare the classic Halloween holiday. We make pumpkin pies, pumpkin soup and why not, pumpkin breads.

This is a recipe for a sourdough bread made with pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds.
It is a very delicate bread, with soft crumb and combined aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon. It is not a cake but a delicious bread.

85% Hydration Sourdough Bread


This one is probably one of the most hydrated bread I have ever tried. I did it multiple times just to be sure that I was doing it the right way. I did it with a mixer or by hand, I baked it in the conventional oven or in the wood fired oven. Every time, the result was similar. Although very hydrated, I was impressed about how easy it was to work with the dough despite the high hydration. The challenging part of this bread was the dough structure. With so much water inside, it was difficult to create a dough that was standing by itself. I still need to practice this part but so far I am not ashamed of this result either. For sure, there are parts that I can improve but for the moment I am happy with what came out of my hands.
The taste, texture and flavor of this bread were every time outstanding and they convinced me that this is a great recipe. Not for beginners, as requires a bit of practice, but for sure I'll do a similar hydration in the future.

Here it is also the video of the recipe:

Sourdough waffles

This is the most efficient way to get rid of your discarded sourdough. It is quick and easy to make and it is only based on your discarded sourdough (meaning no extra flour is added). 

I keep my sourdough at room temperature and after 2 feeds daily at the end of the week I fill my jars with discarded sourdough in the fridge. I basically collect 120-150g of discarded sourdough every single day. By the end of the week I have a considerable amount and is out of question that I would through away such an amazing ingredient. 

Lately, I used this discarded sourdough for baking these waffles. I did this recipe multiplied by 2 or even 3 times, depending on the amount of discarded sourdough I have available in the fridge. But this is just the basic recipe and can be adapted to the quantity of the available sourdough.

The raise of the waffles is due to the baking powder and not due to the sourdough. The discarded sourdough has barely few activity in it when kept in the fridge. And more, this is discarded sourdough, meaning that the sourdough raised already at peak and the bacteria consumed the sugars from the starch already. You may try to bake waffles with fresh sourdough and without baking powder but my point here was to use the discarded sourdough, not to create sourdough especially for baking these waffles.

Every time I did this recipe, I saw the bottom of the plates very very quickly. They melt in your mouth and my children love them. The sugar in the composition is kept to minimum for healthy reasons, but if you like it more sweet, you are free to add more sugar.

Just give them a try if you have some discarded sourdough. If you do not have, just bare in mind that the sourdough (at 100% hydration) is 50% water and 50% flour and you can, at any time, replace sourdough with water and flour for this recipe.

The taste of these waffles is not sour as you might think when reading this recipe. The sourness disappears through the baking leaving you with a great taste and texture. 

Well, go to the kitchen, make this recipe, call the kids to eat them and let me know about their reactions :)

Bunny cake

When I have a special occasion I know I have to do a cake. There are a few days per year when I challenge myself to try a new type of cake. This time the occasion was a special one, my daughter turning 8 years old. When I asked her what kind of cake she would like, I somehow hoped that she would answer a doll cake, as I already did some similar ones before. But no, she decided on a bunny cake. No, it is not an Easter cake (although would it could fit also for this), it is a birthday cake. 
My challenge was then to do an animal cake for the first time in my life. Bunny she wished for, then bunny should be.
I went for a simple version, without complicated 3D layers for decoration. This is a big cake made from 2 sponge cakes that are cut in such a way that they look like a bunny. And when I say a big cake, I mean an almost 4kg cake that can be cut into at least 30 portions. 

During my baking cake experience over the years, I tried to avoid as much as I could to make very sweet cakes. But for this time, I wanted to try myself some classic recipes that I avoided so much over the years due to a high amount of sugar and butter inside. 
A simple calculation with the total amount of sugar is 150g of sugar for each sponge cake, 600g for the cream, and 1kg from the sugar paste. That is a total of 1900g of sugar! Yes, there are 2 cakes made here, so we should divide this by 2, meaning that the amount for one cake is 900g. As well, if you calculate the butter, it arrives to 450g of butter per cake. Still way to much sugar and butter in a cake for me. My daughter wanted absolutely a cake covered in sugar paste, but this is totally optional. The consistency of the cream is perfect to decorate the cake so, honestly (unless of a special request), the sugar paste is not needed.  Now well, my daughter is turning 8 only once in her life ... and such a sweet cake is not something that she eats regularly. 

Making this cake took some time. During the day I have other duties, I spread the work over 3 days. The first day was the sponge cakes baking. You can well do this in advance if you keep it in the fridge. The next day, was the preparation of the Swiss buttercream and the last day was for decoration activities.

Indeed, this might not be a healthy dessert but there are some interesting advantages for the one who is preparing it (meaning me :) ) 

Swiss buttercream is a real pleasure to work with. It is smooth, silky, consistent and I cannot describe it better. Its secret is the big amount of butter that enters inside, It is the butter that makes the cream so silky. This specific cream requires that you cook the egg whites in advance like you do for meringues. You need to cook them before they will be mixed with butter.

Needless to say that when I put it on the table for the birthday party of my daughter, her best friends were amazed and the atmosphere was full of woooows! When put on plates to be served, the sugar paste was eaten first. My daughter, who is very picky about the creams that I put between the layers of the cakes really appreciated the silky and sweet part of it. In the end, my daughter was happy with her birthday cake and that is what matters for me the most.

First easy sourdough bread

As I am very often asked how to start making bread with sourdough, I will show you how to make your first sourdough bread, explaining in detail the what, the how and the why of every step of the sourdough bread making.  

Let’s start first with, WHY to bake sourdough bread? Why is sourdough bread so special? The answer is simple, because it is healthy, tastes and smells incredibly.

Unlike the yeast bread, sourdough bread requires more time and its making spreads over several hours or even days. The sourdough bacteria needs time to eat the sugars in your flour and this works also in your advantage in order to develop amazing flavors and to make more digestible and healthier bread. 

Sourdough bread making has the following successive phases: 

  • First, is the flour hydration, in a phase called autolyse

  • Then, when the sourdough starter is added, starts another phase called bulk or first fermentation

  • Then it follows a second phase of fermentation, known also as final fermentation that starts after the bread is shaped.

  • Then is the baking and

  • In the end, you let the bread to cool at room temperature.

The entire process takes almost one day, starting, lets say, Saturday at 2pm and putting the bread on the table for the Sunday’s lunch. However, only 30 to 45 minutes in total you’ll need to effectively dedicate from your time to make this bread.

Sourdough focaccia

I made a lot of types of bread but foccaccia is one of them I haven't try so far. 
With the purpose to have fun with the kids, I gathered my son and daughter in the kitchen and start playing with ingredients. Of course, the dough was already prepared, so I gave them 2 trays and 2 dough. It was fun for them to deep the fingers into the dough that was really wet. Then, the artistic arrangement came naturally. No inspiration from somewhere else. I just explained them that we need to make a painting out of the ingredients and the imagination opened its wings.
First one, on the top, was done by my 3 years old son, with just a little help from my side. Second one was fully the work of art of my 7 years old daughter. The entire activity was so much fun and we spent such a great time together. In the meantime, my husband prepared the wood fire in the oven and, in the end, we baked the 2 focaccia inside. It was tricky to know how much time was needed for the baking but finally they turned out to be just perfectly cooked.
An experience that for sure I'll have to repeat.

White Sourdough Bread


When you target a high hydration loaf (and this one is 80% hydration) you need to have a bit of understanding about how the dough behaves and what you need to do. I did high hydration loaves before and they were a total mess. They almost all finished in a bread pan to avoid having a flat bread on my stone.
But the dough handling is a continuous learning process. You learn specific techniques and the dough behaves much better. These techniques must be applied by yourself many times in order to develop the right skills and the right eye.
Although I bake sourdough breads for more than 6 years, I still feel myself a novice. And yes, during these years I made tasty and beautiful breads. Did I take out the best flavors from the flours? Did I raised them to their maximum potentials? Probably not, but I learn with every single bake. And you know that feeling, you feel today smarter than yesterday.
Yes, this is an 80% hydration dough and I honestly say that I didn't feel this at all. With a good strong flour, with a proper autolyse, with the right kneading and folding techniques it looks like a piece of cake. This challenges me to try an even higher hydration dough, and I know that one day I will try again my limits.
For the moment I enjoy this lovely bread made with my own hands ....

Autolyse. How to make better sourdough bread ?


Today, is not about a recipe, it is about a technique used in bread baking. This is autolyse. I invite you to watch this video about why you should do an autolyse, what are the benefits and what is the science behind autolyse.


Sourdough pancakes

Since I am keeping my sourdough at room temperature I need to feed it twice a day. I remain with some quantities of discarded sourdough that I keep in the fridge in a closed pot. I do not like to through away flour so the discarded sourdough I use it in many recipes. I feed my sourdough in 1:2:2 proportions (sourdough:water:flour), more exactly 15g of sourdough + 30g of water + 30g of flour. This means that I remain with 60g of discarded sourdough at every feed. I use both white flour and whole wheat flour and the type of flour doesn't really matter if this discarded part arrives in a pancake composition.

This recipe uses exclusively the flour in the sourdough and no extra one is added. My sourdough is kept at 100% hydration, meaning that half is flour and half is water. It took me a while to perfect this recipe and I am happy that I finally found a good formula. The pancakes should not be cooked too much otherwise become crispy. If this is your style feel free to brown them well, but I prefer them soft, so I can roll them with a spoon of chocolate or jam. This means that immediately they turn brownish I turn them on the other side or remove them from the pan.

These are flat pancakes in the French style not on the American style. The difference is that the American ones are more thick and small, while the French ones are flat, thin and larger.

I give here the basic ingredients for 100g of sourdough. From this basic recipe you get about 3 pancakes of 22 cm. If you have more sourdough, just multiply the ingredients. What I like is that as soon as I have some left over sourdough I bake few pancakes to have them fresh in the morning. For this particular photo, I baked a huge quantity of pancakes from 1500g of sourdough that I gathered for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Olive Sourdough Bread

I baked bread for years with weak flour and always was a challenge to achieve good looking breads. I discovered later strong flours and a new era started for me. I am revisiting now some old recipes, with improved skills and higher knowledge and I continue to be surprised about baking bread. Baking bread is a continuous learning and experimentation. I feel that there is always something new to try and you cannot simply get bored.

Just because is easier to see in order to understand the steps, I made a video about how I made this bread, step by step. I hope that this idea of home bread baking is reaching more people so we all eat more healthy.

Today's recipe is about olive sourdough bread. 

I baked this bread before in other versions and I was never disappointed. This is a recipe that I revisit very often, make a small variation and see what I get:

Olive bread    
Olive bread (version 2)

This is a stiff dough. As a beginner I clearly preferred to a handle stiff dough. But not anymore. I tried so much getting the skills to handle wet dough that stiff dough looks now so strange to me.

This time I added some rye flour and adapted the hydration to 70%.  

I made the process easier by using a standing mixer so it can be at hand for anybody.