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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 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 a 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 flavor 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 breads 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 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 for 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 in 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 for 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, is arrives to 450g of butter per cake. Still waaaay 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 if 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. As during the day I have other duties, I spread the work in 3 days. First day was the sponge cakes baking. You can well do this in advance, if you keep it in the fridge. 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 :) ) 

The 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 matter 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.
Mmmmmniam.
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.


Enjoy!

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.


Enjoy!


21% Buckwheat sourdough bread

Making this bread was a real challenge. I have tried 4 different options to bake this bread to raise higher. Every time I was reaching almost the same result. Adding the buckwheat flour was not very favorable for this but it worth every single minute spent. The buckwheat flour does not contain gluten and this is why I have challenged myself to get the best of it.
Buckwheat has an incredible earthy flavor. It is enough to add a small quantity and the entire aroma of the bread is completely changed. I am crazy about its smell and taste, and I can prove it with some recipes that I did in the past:
Now, I have the big pleasure to announce my second video on Youtube about making this bread:

Finally, this was the best buckwheat bread I have ever done. Not simple but amazing.

I let you enjoy watching the video and enjoy the bread.

Chocolate glazed simple cupcakes



"- Mommy, it's been a while since you have done some muffins or cupcakes.
- Indeed my dear, I would search for a nice recipe and we can do it together.
- You do not have to, I want very simple cupcakes with nothing special inside, and you do not have to search for a recipe.
- Hmmm???
- Just use the sponge cake recipe and that's it. We'll use muffin shells"

This was the dialog that put me to make these cupcakes. Requirements were clear: simple, sponge cake recipe, no need to search for a recipe.

I took then the recipe of my last sponge cake and get to work. Not alone, with some help, but not the help of my daughter, with the help of my 3yo son. Quickly cooked and later, my daughter came to decorate them. She wanted on top of these simple muffins hard chocolate glaze so she could take them to school without getting dirty. 
With the chocolate melted, we topped them with it and sprinkle some other decorations.

Here they are, a very simple recipe with a bit of decoration and I made my kids happy and involved in the preparation process.

A bread with a hat - open crumb sourdough bread


I have been asked many times how I do my bread. I've tried to explain with words but I was not always successful in making myself clear. I always felt that I missed the action. The image was in my head but it was difficult for me to make others see the same image. I am then happy to announce that I pushed myself to make a video. An educational video about how I knead and proof my bread. Making videos is not my top passion or skill but if I manage to pass the message much better in this way then maybe I'll do more videos in the future.



 About this bread.... oh, how can I describe it better. The previous week I adventured myself with the same recipe but with 80% hydration. Hmm ... that was indeed a challenge, but you know what... even that the dough was very wet, the final bread raised surprisingly in the oven and even opened an ear to me. This week I went to correct the hydration to 76% and get out the best from this amazing flour. Dough was a pleasure to work with and you can see in the video the easiness of handling it.
As for baking, I used a Dutch oven. Actually 2 of them. I love baking in Dutch ovens but I always struggled to fit 2 of them in my oven. Recently I bought one that was not that high as my old one and the miracle happened, I fit 2 of them inside my electric oven. I even managed to raise the bottom of the one under so it did not get burn. Of course, you can always bake one bread after another but to me, this sounds not very efficient in terms of time or consumption of electricity /gas. So yes, I managed to bake both in the same time.
And the result... well for this, I let you look.Two breads with two royal hats.
Although the look of the breads was perfect, more than perfect was the taste and the aroma. Soft and elastic crumb, golden crust.... uh, it just make your mind jump somewhere in a remote country side in a summer evening after a tiring day when you are hungry and you enjoy your dinner with a feta cheese, fresh tomatoes and a gorgeous piece of bread.

Enjoy!

35% whole wheat sourdough bread

To make this bread was a real pleasure. After applying this new way of preparing the bread it looked to me like I discovered a new world. It looked like the dough was talking to me. It was telling me knead me more or stretch me more. It was the first time when I simply new when to stop as the dough was indicating that one stretch or coil fold was enough. It is amazing how I simply stepped away from using an automatic mixer in order to knead the bread manually just because it gives me more indications on what to do. 
 With every bread I do I learn new things. I know now just after the first mixing if my bread will be a wow one or a mediocre one. This entire learning process it brings so much satisfaction.
Comparing to my last bread, I reduced the quantity of whole wheat flour. The reasons behind this was to reduce the amount of crumble in the final loaf. 
Although I am simply in love with this airy bread I need to recognize the single disadvantage it has, and that is when you put some butter on (due to the big holes). I eat this only sometimes but I can understand the comments of some people on this aspect. For me this is the perfect bread and I am convinced that from now on, this is my style. For butter, you need a kind of brick milk loaf. I did many in the past but they are not on my top choices.
I would like to continue to challenge myself in baking bread with different quantities of different flours. But this, it will be continued in future posts.

42% whole wheat sourdough bread

 Next step in my own challenge with bread was to make a whole wheat bread following the same method of my successful previous bread. I started from that exact recipe and change the type of flour used. I also had to adapt hydration as the needs for whole wheat flour are different. I used a bread calculator website to adjust the quantities but the same can be done of course using a simple calculator. My point was to reach a bread at around 75% hydration while using an important amount of whole wheat flour. This flour has less gluten to expand, so the expectations in terms of gas captured inside the loaf should be lower, of course comparing to the white wheat or bread flour. 
When baking, it was more suitable to me to bake this bread in the fire wood oven rather than the conventional one as I had some other baking planned the same day. With this oven the challenges are even bigger as I didn't find yet a good way to make inside that steam that is so needed during the oven spring. Nevertheless, this bread, following the same method as my previous one proved to be excellent. With experience, I noticed also that due to the high heat of the floor of the wood fired oven, the bread has the tendency to open underneath rather than on top.  The flexibility of baking bread in this kind of oven is then limited due to the lack of control of some of the factors but on the other side, it comes with an advantage, and that is the aroma of smoke coming from the burnt wood. Also, it is much more economic as with one fire I easily can cook 2-3 dishes. As a conclusion, for the aspect, maybe this bread would have had a better oven spring in a conventional oven but I cannot complain either on the result I had in the wood fired oven.
I made this recipe twice, and the first time I was tricked by the initial look of the dough and I added 100g of water more. Also, I was tricked about the weather as the room temperature was much higher than usually that day due to a heat wave. Keeping the dough outside to ferment for 5-6 hours is enough for the first fermentation, so the shape needs to be done immediately. With my first bake, I made the shape the next day as it was in the previous bread recipe but for this last bake I made the shape after finishing the coil fold sessions. This reduced the time of bulk proofing with one day. Needless to say that the first trial of the whole wheat bread was over proofed. I made the correction and this bread was perfectly proofed. 
Another trick I learnt was that the bran from the whole wheat needs more time to hidrate than the flour itself. I then sifted the flour and hydrate the bran the day before. An extra step but it worth the effort when targeting more difficult breads.

Now lets see the recipe.

Open crumb basic sourdough bread

When I started to bake bread I had no idea how much science and technique is behind. I had a simple desire like: I would like to be able to make a beautiful and tasty bread myself.  In the last 6 years of my sourdough journey I've experienced a lot of failures but I have never thrown away a bread that I did myself. Of course, I made breads spreads completely in my oven, I made dense breads, I made not so good looking breads but all of them were perfectly eatable. What I love about baking bread is that you cannot fail. You might only have disappointments or extraordinary experiences. I've leaned a lot with every single bread I made. I've learned about flours of any type, I've learned to know my sourdough, I've learned to play with the environment to target specific improvements for baking wonderful loaves.
Baking great bread comes only with a journey. I doubt that there is somebody who made such bread with his/her first try. There is a lot of science behind to understand how each variable influence what and at which step. There is a lot of physics and chemistry behind. There is also mathematics behind calculating the proportions of ingredients. Am I just speaking of just our basic daily bread? Yes, it is exactly what I am speaking about.
My experience with bread started even before Maya (this is how my sourdough is called) appeared into my life.  I was making bread in a bread machine for some years already but there was something that pushed me to step further from this. Bread made in a breadmaker  was always the same. Same shape, same taste (or tasteless), same tons of crumbs on the table. On the other side it was very practical to thrown away all ingredients and come back after 4 hours to get out my warm bread. I remember that when I first time read that the bread can take 4 hours in the bread machine to be ready I thought that it was a huuuge amount of time. Now I do breads that are spread over couple of days only to get a specific flavor.
The sourdough journey was with up and downs in terms of look but always the result was an incredible tasty bread. And I don't know how, it fit even in my crazy weekly schedule. I didn't have much time for other things, but for bread, I was always making time.
Although in the last 6 years I baked bread almost weekly, at a certain moment in time I stopped photographing them as to me they were looking all the same. Great but not wow. Now with the lock down I had a desire to upgrade to a new level, to test different variables in my bread making to achieve a better looking. I've changed recipes, I've  changed flour sources, I've read dozens of blogs and watch hundreds of hours of instructions videos to find the secrets of an open crumb bread.
I've then made a plan: stick to one recipe that you trust, stick with the same flour and try small changes. And this is exactly what I did. I've made this recipe 4 times with the same ingredients and quantities and slightly modifying other variables.
I was watching others how they were handling the dough but mine was not looking like theirs. What I was doing wrong? It was a question that troubled me for days. Could their flour have being so different than the one I had access to? How was this possible? And then again, was it me handling something wrong?
First 3 trials were almost the same.  For the last one I changed couple of things.
First it was the autolyse. I've changed the one hour autolyse (with sourdough included) to 6 hours of autolyse of just flour and water. This in fact changed everything from the start to me, because the dough was behaving in an incredibly good way. For the first time I felt that my dough was looking as it should.
The second thing I've changed was the technique in the handling of the dough. I knew well my old good style but I wanted to change to something much better. This new handling improved so much the structure of my dough.
Third thing was the scoring of the loaves. With a good bread structure you need a deep scoring. Before I was scoring superficially at let's say 0.5cm, but now I discovered that a 1 to 2 cm scoring is delivering incredible results.
Putting these 3 together I reached to an incredible bread although there were the exact same ingredients and quantities as before. OMG, what a difference. I've made a complete description of this technique bellow. Just a little disclaimer, for me these were the improvement to get a gorgeous bread, to you might be others.
For me this bread put me on another level of my journey. Discovering these secrets is like raising the experience level from amateur to profesionist. The satisfaction to bake this bread was huge. I jumped for joy like a child telling, Yesss I did it! It worked! The other members of the family were looking weird to me, wondering if I lost my minds in this lock down period. Who didn't struggled with sourdough bread could not understand this joy.
This bread is not just about having an ear on top, is also about having an airy structure inside with gorgeous bubbles. It is the success of a long experience. It is for me like to highest level of baking bread. I just knocked on the door of this level and I hope that from now one I can experience even more incredibly good looking breads.
This recipe is to be made in 3 days if you have all ingredients available. But if you are like me and you keep a small amount of sourdough in the fridge you add 3 days more to have a enough and strong starter. I picked this recipe, from a blog that I admire very much (see at the end). I picked it also because it can be done anytime in the week, it is flexible and it fits perfectly the classic schedule of daily 9 to 5 worker. Before, I had to do my bread only on weekends, but this recipe is conceived to work on it only during the evening and it is giving you quite a big interval so you can fit it into your schedule. I made an example of the schedule in order to have the bread cooked for lunch on Sunday. But if you wish to bake it for Sunday evening there is no risk to have it over proofed.


Let's see the details of my best bread ever (so far) ...

Strawberry cake

Three years ago my life changed completely. More difficult and more beautiful in the same time.

To celebrate, of course, I could only bake a cake. I should have done a big party but the current lock-down situation doesn't allow me.

This cake as the last week one (also for another celebration), I've made it in 3 days. The Dark chocolate sour cherry festive cake of last week was heavy, in the sense that you couldn't eat too much and a small portion was more than enough. This is how I arrived with some chocolate cake slices in the fridge while starting a new one. This one, had to be on the opposite side. It should have been a light one and absolutely with strawberry. At least this was the desire of my daughter.
First day was the sponge. The more sponges I do, the more experience I get and I feel quite confortable making them. This was probably the best I've done this year. A new recipe (of course customized) but a great success. Although there was no top (as I learnt how to bake a nice flat sponge cake), I had to cut a top as my kids were asking to eat it. This is a nice irony of life, but then, I better keep my kids happy than targeting for the ever best cake of my life.
The strawberry sauce was a bit of a mess. I put it then in the fridge overnight hoping that the next day I'll do something to fix it. In fact, I followed a recipe that didn't turn at all the way it was described, so I corrected it myself by adding some gelatine. This costed me the next day half an hour more rest  (per each layer) in the fridge for the strawberry layer to harden.
The white cream was the most simple to do and there I was for the decoration. A total invention on the spot. I had in mind some strawberry cakes with nice patterns but I simply followed my instinct and it turned as you can see.
Being a light cake, it was eaten in less time than the cooking one. Not so sweet and with such a spring fruity flavor inspired by strawberries. Needless to say what a perfect taste it had... you'll have to try it to be convinced.

Happy Birthday, my sweet son!

Dark chocolate sour cherry festive cake

I was having a look on different festive chocolate cake recipes when I got stuck on one that was looking incredibly nice. I had a quick look, made my inventory of ingredients and decided that that would be the one. But I didn't look carefully of the quantity of ingredients. My heart stopped for a second when I saw that in that cake, there were 1250g of sugar. No way! This is neither healthy or normal. I haven't seen a cake before with such a big amount of sugar inside. Even for such a big cake of almost 3kg, to have 1/3 of sugar was for me no option.
I then had to trust my experience in baking and I went to adapt this recipe, reducing drastically the sugar inside. The sugar in the biscuit I reduced it from 650g to 100g. Yes, more than 6 times lower. The resulting biscuit didn't taste sweet almost at all but this was mainly due to the fact the the quantity of cocoa powder was also very high. If I do this cake again, it would definitively worth trying replacing a part of the cocoa powder with flour. Nevertheless, I do not like the biscuit to be too sweet because this is mainly the role of the filling cream for a cake for me. I baked 2 pans of biscuits with the quantity made. One of them was not raising enough, probably also because the 2 pans were different and because they were baked one on top of the oven and one under. The idea was to cut each biscuit in 2 to have a 4 layers biscuit cake. Well, because one of the cake was not really raising so much I ended up with 3 layers and a half. That half was devoured immediately by my kids, even if it looked not sweet at all.
As the biscuit was prepared in the evening, I left them in the fridge over night and continued the cake the next day.
For the cream, even for a sweet one, of course 600g of sugar inside was out of question. I initially put only 100g of powdered sugar but that was not enough and after tasting it, there was place for more. I went then to 200g and that was just perfect. That would be anyway a 1/3 proportion of the quantity in the original recipe.
Decoration went straight and the cake went quickly into the fridge for the butter to get its good shape.

I chose to add something extra to the initial recipe and that was the defrosted sour cherry fruits. This was mainly because my husband loves them very much. It was not just to make him a pleasure, it was mainly because this was ment to be his birthday cake.

Happy birthday my dear husband!

Homemade waffle cones

I bought once some waffle cones from the supermarket in order to serve my ice-cream. First time, they served me well, but next time, my children asked only for the waffle cones to eat them as simple biscuits. I arrived in this way to buy them quite regularly. They were light, sweet and crunchy, no wonder that they were so much loved by my children.
That situation challenged me to make my own waffle cones. In fact they are just simple dry waffles rolled in a cone shape to hold the ice-cream.
With my dry waffle iron I baked the waffles. With a special wood cone, I rolled them up. I had to be very quick as they were drying very fast after removing them from the iron. But I learnt to make them very easily.
Guess what? They didn't arrive to be filled with ice-cream as they were eaten by my kids before. Now I need to do another batch....

Cinnamon bath bombs

It has been a while since I've done some homemade cosmetics.
This time, it was my daughter wish to make some bath bombs to fizzle in the bath. Cinnamon essential oil was at hand, so why not make this recipe.
From this quantity you arrive with three big bath bombs, but what a pleasure...

Fruit tart

This is that kind of dessert that you work for 3 days to have it and it is eaten almost instantly.
I was very used to buy tart fruits. I tried to make them many times, but they were not as good looking as the ones already made in a pastry shop. Other times I was simply giving up on doing them as I found them too time consuming.
Yes, they are not quick to make but when you put the effort to do them, it worth every single minute invested.

I did the tart crusts in one day, I made the pastry cream in another day and I combined and decorated them in the next day. I do not know how many of you are keen to make a cake in 3 days. This is not sourdough bread is just a fruit cake. The good thing is that you can do a bit today, a bit in another day. The bad thing is that, when I want a cake I want it now not in 3 days.
If you wonder what I did with my tart crusts, well... here you find the answer.

When you look at them, you'd better put them in a glass case and preserve them just to admire rather then eating them. But you can close your eyes and take a bite... let me tell you, the taste is even higher than the look.Yes, they are my perfect fruit tarts. I don't do them very often, but when I do them I just know that they will be just perfect.

 

Tomato and pepper soup

What I hate the most in making a tomato soup is peeling the tomatoes. After the boiling, tomatoes are hot and waiting until they are enough cool to touch them is simply a waste of time. I even tried to not peel the tomatoes but even after blending there are small unappealing tomato skins in my soup. I like the tomato soup to be clean so I needed to find a way to remove the skin without spending to much time and without burning constantly my fingers when removing the skin. What I found useful was to cut the tomatoes in 4. In this way they are easier to be removed. Then, the best is not to touch them directly with your fingers. For this soup I used just 2 chopped sticks. With a fork it would be easy also.
This trick saved me, as tomato soup is one of my favorite, if not, my most favorite soup.
Tomato soup combined with pasta and lovage is an incredible combination. Lovage is another favorite of mine in terms of flavoring the savory food. I brought it back from Romania and I have it in my garden since few years. It dries during the winter but grows back in the early spring. It is not demanding at all and offers you so many tasty pleasures.
This tomato and pepper soup looks more like a classic tomato soup. However, adding some other vegetables enrich the dish quite a lot in terms of nutrition. It does not change the taste too much, although the pepper is very delicately felt.

Tart crust

One of my ambitions was to succeed perfect tart crusts like these. I actually didn't count how many times I tried it without being satisfied about the results. There were times when the dough was stretched back in the oven and the crust was unusable to hold any pastry cream inside. However, when this happened, my kids were happy as they just ate them as biscuits. Sometimes the stretch was just a little, but still it was not what I was looking for. I changed also the recipes many times hoping to find a finally a good one.
Another aspect in my trials was to find a good recipe. For me, using 6 egg yolks just for tart crust was not a good idea as I had to do something else with the whites. Another constant issue was the amount of sugar. I saw recipes with 250g of sugar only in the crust and this for me is definitively unacceptable. I could add sugar in the filling of the tart but the tart itself I prefer to have light amount of sugar.
With so many restrictions and so many expectations, one day I found this incredible recipe. Not too much sugar, only 1 egg used and.... perfect shape after baking.
With time I also though that my failures were due to wrong tools and this proved to be partially true. I purchased special perforated tart rings, special perforated silicone mat and special perforated tray only to increase my chances of success. But when trying them the first time, I was again disappointing. It was clear to me then that the problem was the recipe I used and not only the tools. But the next recipe I tried turned out as I so long wished. So yes, tools might help. A lot. But it's not only about the tools. Nevertheless, I intend to bake more tart crusts not only using these tart rings but also other types. We shall see about this in the future.

Until then, I cannot wait to fill in these crust with some pastry cream before my kids discovering them and eating them as they are.

Quiche Lorraine with French cheese

I love many types of French cheeses and I treat myself from time to time with a piece. Many times, I take a byte, pack it back and I put it in the fridge. Today with this type, tomorrow with that type and sometimes I simply forget them in the fridge for days. 
This is exactly what happened to me these days. I found an opened box of Camembert and a package of Brie opened. They do not alterate, they simply dry. Being that dry they do not look so appealing to eat them as they are. But these cheeses are too good to be thrown away, so I gave them a second life into a quiche lorraine where they melt while spreading their special taste.
What I love about quiches is that you can use almost any vegetable or cheese and they will still taste exceptionally.
I used for this quiche a big oven proof glass pan. It has around 30cm of diameter, so this is a really big savory tart. For a smaller version, for sure you'll need to reduce the amount of each ingredient. Or, maybe you want to simply try your own version with what you find in your fridge. This recipe is so flexible.... as long as you bind the vegetables and/or meat with the egg+milk and sour cream.

Enjoy.

Chocolate tartelettes

Now that we are staying home and cooking more, I asked my daughter what kind of cake she would like. She was very quick to answer, a chocolate cake. Ooook, then a chocolate cake should be.
I quickly grabbed an old good book and showed her some pictures. She picked of course the best looking one.
There were on that page 2 chocolate cakes, one more firm and one with a melted core. She wanted the firm one. I started to mix ingredients and when almost done I realized that I actually looked on the wrong recipe. Ups... nooo... I made the wrong one. But, when I looked what were the differences between the 2 cake recipes I was pleasantly surprised to see that the only difference between them were only 25g of flour. And of course a shorter baking time. It was easy then to fix my mistake.

As I baked in small ceramic pans of course the baking time needed to be reduced.
After that, my biggest challenge was to keep 3 of them just as long as I needed to photograph them.
After that moment... forget about them... they were eaten very quickly :)