Le Pain d'Aix Sourdough Bread

Another French bread that I tried a few years ago. If you follow my blog you can find it under Pain d'Aix post.
In particular, back then, I find it to be a very good looking bread and once again, with this bake it was confirmed.

What I didn't know back then was that people are seeing similarities between the shape of this bread with nothing else than woman breasts. It has a funny sense and honestly I was not convinced until I photographed the bread from different angles and I found myself laughing behind the camera. They are right...

La Tabatière du Jura Sourdough Bread

I've made a similar recipe of this bread 6 years ago and posted it on my blog at La tabatière du Jura, so I am quite familiar with it.

This is a classic French regional bread, coming from the East of France, from Jura. The recipe itself is not specific, usually, this is made from white bread flour sometimes with a small inclusion of rye or wholemeal wheat flour. But what is specific for this bread is the shape. It has a flap that raises nicely when you bake the loaf.

Unlike my classical bread, for this one, I do not do a cold retard overnight in the fridge. There is a reason for this: the longer it stays, the bigger the chances for the flap to stick to the main boule. So, the final fermentation is only 1-hour while maintaining the dough temperature at 26ºC.

Berry Tart

From all the fruits, I like the most the berry fruits. Each with its own taste and when you combine them it becomes a cocktail of aromas. 
This time I went for a bigger raspberry layer and I do not regret it at all.
I usually do this tart in steps. The crust I bake the day before and put it in the fridge. The curd follows and the decoration is just for fun and diversity when the tart is totally settled.
I have to recognise that I struggled with the raspberry juice. I usually strain the juice by hand, using a strainer but this time I wanted to use a forgotten extension of my standing mixer specially made for extracting juice, Oh, what a disaster. I made a mess and little to no juice went out. I went then back to my old fashion way to extract the juice with a strainer. It took me a while but I managed.
The decoration part was pure relaxation. I didn't match the perfect rows from the start so I had to move some pieces around. But for that, the already jellied layer of raspberries helped a lot. 
The tart of course can be served with no decoration, and in this case, the gelatin sheets are optional. But you have to recognise that the visual impact is quite big when fruits are covering a flat red layer.

The Sun Tart (with mango and kumquat)

My journey with decorated tarts continues.

For this one, the filling is similar to the previous one I made, Mango-kiwi tart but the decoration is with the little orange fruits called kumquat.


Mango - kiwi tart

I never tried this combination of exotic fruits in this way. A curd from mango and fresh kiwi make a wonderful match. Put all this into a pie shell, add some decoration and a bit of love and you'll impress anyone with such a tart.

55% Hydration Sourdough Bread

If you wonder why you should bake bread at such low hydration, I can tell you that testing the extremes comes with a lot of lessons learned. Learning how the dough behaves in extreme conditions provide you with the knowledge to apply the appropriate techniques when needed for other recipes.

I challenged myself to bake bread using the same great flour at different hydrations:

- at 85%, the dough was tricky but managed to get a good result

- at 75%, I felt being the most comfortable and the loaf turned as expected.

- at 65%, I've got a bit out of my preferred hydration range but I was totally impressed by the capabilities of the flour to relax.

I continued the challenge, at 55% hydration. This is way out of my comfort zone and it is far from being a preferred way of doing bread. 

Testing it was an interesting experience and these are my observations:

- after the initial mixing, the dough was that stiff that I could certainly break a window with it

- after the saltolyse, it became manageable and I've reached a great windowpane test

- relaxation time between steps is essential for such hydration

- at the shaping phase, although at 75% increased volume, the dough felt slightly under proofed in my hands so, I left it to grow to 100% after shaping. I used an aliquot jar to measure the increase. 

- shaping needs to be kept minimal to preserve the bubbles inside.

- dough didn't have a huge oven spring, although it was not surprising for such low hydration. However, even if it wasn't a real open crumb, I found it very fluffy and delicious.

- adding a lot of steam in the oven (ice cubes in my case) helped to avoid a hard crust, that on top of the improved oven spring. I knew this from previous bakes but such a thirsty dough I think it benefits more from extra steaming. The downside of extra steaming is that the flour on top tends to disappear. Stencilling works for me with only one ice cube in the Dutch Oven to preserve the pattern. For 2+ cubes, the flour absorbs the steamed water and only scoring can be used as design.

Zucchini tart

I promised myself that I would make more tarts. But not all tarts are sweet. This one for example is with zucchini and feta cheese. What do you think? Would you like to try it?

Angel Food Cake

I do not know why I didn't try this cake before this year. I did however some angel food muffins in the past but this cake, in full format, I have not test it before.
But one day, I decided to change this and I bought a specific pan for this cake that I put on a shelf for its turn. With all the crazy daily things that I do, I almost forgot about this pan on the shelf and found it back only half a year later. Does it sounds familiar to you as well?
Well, there are several reasons why I did not adventure myself in making this cake:
  • it requires only egg whites and a lot of them. I always have a problem in splitting the egg yolks from the whites and conserve one ore another in the fridge because is rarely that I bake 2 cakes on the same day. If I put them in the fridge, in most of the cases I forget about them.
    I had then to find a pair of recipes that work together with this recipe. I did find one good pair. Recently, I suddenly felt that I want to bake more tarts. For tarts, I need a curd, and for curds, I need yolks. Problem solved.
  • it is requires a special pan. The special pan is there for a reason. This cake needs to stick to the walls. Yes, unlike other cakes, this one benefits from sticking. It also has to cool upside down so it does not fall during this time.
  • it is a difficult cake. I found plenty of recipes with this cake and the variation in the proportions between ingredients was quite big. Which one to pick? Wich one would work for me?
  • it contains a lot of sugar. My struggle with cakes is to reduce the amount of sugar. Why? For healthy reasons. Yes, I have a sweet tooth but I have my favourites sweets when I am craving sugar. A sponge cake with a lot of sugar in it is not between them. Unfortunately, like meringues, the structure of this cake is also sustained by sugar. Lowering the amount will result in a cake failure. I had then to find a recipe that would work for me. I picked one from the web and I was disappointed with the result. Instead of just picking up another recipe, I started looking for some principles: how much flour, egg and sugar and what proportion between them. I then went to build my own recipe.
This cake does not rise much in the oven but conserves a beautiful airy structure made during the egg white foaming. This cake keeps its shape while cooling, it is very soft and delicious.
My children simple fell in love with it and I had then to repeat it several times.
Although sweet, it is not extremely sweet.

65% Hydration Sourdough Bread

Last week I baked a 75% hydration dough. Some time ago, I baked an 85% hydration dough. But for this bake, I tried 65%. This is very good hydration for easy dough handling. This makes it appropriate for any beginner to try it. As long as you read the signs the dough is giving to you, you'll know to bake at any hydration. Of course, this depends on the flour. A good quality flour will be very flexible at different levels of hydration. It will however have sweet spot hydration where it will perform at its best but this is for you to try. I find that the flour I used for these 3 bakes performs great between 65-75% hydration. 

I do not make a lot of bread at 65% hydration because I like better the 70-75% interval. This, of course, depends on the type of flour.

It is with pleasant surprise that I managed to bake a loaf at such low hydration and get a loaf with such an open crumb. For these loaves, I let the dough ferment to the extreme rise of 80% (maybe even +80%) and it was indeed a very risky job. But in the end, it performed exemplarily and I am very happy with the result.

Binary Tart


When I first heard about the binary code, I remember being totally fascinated. To be able to transform any number in just a succession of 0 and 1, was for me absolutely incredible. 
Soon, I was about to find out that, for any computer, at the very lowest level, everything is transformed in 0 and 1. 
My fascination with the binary code, lead me to chose a career in IT.  Now, a bit more than 30 years after, I am still impressed by how these 2 numbers stay behind all the computers, tablets phones or any electronic device.
The new generation that grew up swiping on the tablets, playing sophisticated games, browse on the web or watch movies take this for granted. Do they know that everything is reduced to 0 and 1?
Probably not and actually, they do not need to know all the details behind it. We are just users and thankfully there were other great minds who simplified our digital life and brought the user interface close to a more human natural response.
I grew up with numbers, I grew up with binary code and hexadecimal code. I've learned about assembly code, programming languages and sophisticated algorithms, but still, the base of any computer is just 0 and 1.
But I am not here to talk about IT, I do this every day in my full-time job.  I am here to show you a tart that I made, in a binary style, to honour these 2 numbers and what they mean to us.

It is a fruit tart with berry filling while the digits are slices of mango.
The idea of such a design came to me after seeing the beautiful tarts of a very talented baker @lokohitchen. Thank you, Lauren, you opened a new "door" for me.

The tart is not very sweet but is super delicious. I was also happy to use my new crust recipe based on discarded sourdough. The filling is based on all sorts of berries and has a smooth consistency. I love the texture and taste.
Bellow is the recipe.

Shortcrust pastry with discarded sourdough

Yesterday was the π day (03.14). I found out about this just late in the evening, but during the day, guess what I baked? Of course, a pie. Is this a sign for me from up there? Who knows...

I see myself baking much more bread than pies but I do enjoy making pies also, sometimes simple, sometimes more complex. What bread has to do with pies? Well, probably not a lot, except that I made a pie crust using discarded sourdough. I simply love to reuse discarded sourdough and now I use it in a pie crust.

What is more difficult with pie crusts is that they do not have to expand in the oven and they need to keep their shape. Sourdough has exactly the opposite property, to grow the dough. But if you use discarded sourdough, chances are little as the sourdough bacteria already consumed a lot of sugars from the flour.

In fact, I used my good old recipe of shortcrust pastry and transformed it, reusing the discarded sourdough. The 80g of milk I replaced with water (from the sourdough). Water is 50% in sourdough. I then had to deduct the same quantity from the flour. Butter quantity was kept the same but for the sourdough, I felt I could add a bit more. This is how I ended up with this recipe.

I had big help from my son mixing the ingredients by hand. While he was fascinated by the flour that stuck to his hands, I took advantage of his distraction to put together the ingredients in a ball.

I tested it in the oven and I was surprised that the shape was kept perfectly. The rise of the tart crust was minimal and I actually found it perfect. 

This crust looks solid but when you try to cut it with a spoon, it is breaking easily. It holds very well the filling and I will definitely use this recipe many times in the future.

How the tart has ended? It will come soon... but for now, let's look at the crust recipe.

75% Hydration Sourdough Bread

It took me a lot of time to understand how much the quality of flour influences bread making. The protein content is an important factor and you can feel the difference only by testing it. Then comes hydration. Every flour is different at the same hydration level. This is why, when you are so motivated to replicate a recipe you saw in a video or read in a book, you put it into practice and you end up with a disappointing bread. Yes, indeed, you followed the exact quantity of ingredients, yes, you followed the steps very carefully, but your resulting bread is a kind of failure. 

The quality of flour is of huge importance. This does not mean that high protein flours are the best in the class. High proteins = high gluten but do not mean quality gluten. You might have nice experiences with medium or even low protein content flours that behaves extraordinarily. 

Near the flour quality, there are other important things to consider: time, temperature and not the last, the baker's skills. All these and others as well may influence how great your bread will be.

Bakers skills may influence how the bread turns out to be in the end. A skilled baker would recognise early if the dough goes off track and might have the right tools at hand to save a dough from failures.

A dough of 75% is at the limit between medium to high hydration for bread. For a beginner, 75% hydration is hell, while for an experienced baker is too low to achieve certain objectives.

For me, 75% hydration is just the perfect high hydration dough when working with strong bread flour. For a weak flour, it is too much. You need to adapt the hydration to the flour you are using to get the best out of the flour qualities.

I baked before 85% hydration. It was a target I set for myself and I managed to do it how I liked it. But handling that dough was putting me nervous. Maybe indeed it requires practice but my preferred hydration for a high hydration dough is 75%.

I invite you to watch me doing this bread on the video I made for this recipe.


Every 9th of March of my childhood, my mother was preparing a special dish: a kind of sweet soup with pasta made in the shape of 8. 
I recall that a few days before this date, I was helping her creating these 8s and they were sitting on the table until fully dried. It was a joy for me to play with the dough as my mother was quickly bored with this repetitive work.
Then, on the exact day of the 9th of March, my mother was boiling them with some magical ingredients and the whole house was invaded by an unforgettable pleasant smell.
I moved from my parent's house and somehow, I left behind this tradition, although my mother was asking me every year if I did the "mucenici". And no, shamefully, in the last 14 years, I did not do them at all. 
Two or three years ago, when visiting my mom, I asked her if she can make them for my daughter to taste. Although it was not the 9th of March, she made them for me and my daughter. My daughter didn't really like them, but for me... it was like a travel back to time. I asked my mother to pass me the famous T shaped tool used for making these 8s and promised to do them myself. Last year, with all the craziness before the lockdown, I skipped it again.
This year, I couldn't miss it anymore. Exactly like me with my mother, years ago, I sat with my children around the table and shaped the 8s. My daughter shaped them until the very end, exactly like I was doing back then. And, I was preparing and stretching the dough like my mother was doing it for me.
This is how the tradition is passed from generation to generation, right?
When boiled, well, none of my children was crazy about them, although the sweet taste made them eat some of them.
This is my story with this dish. It is in fact a traditional dish made in Romania for the 9th of March to commemorates the 40 Martyrs killed in Sebaste.
The story behind the 40 Martyrs I found later: a group of 40 Christian Roman soldiers were forced to enter the frozen lake of Sabaste as they refused to change their religion.
It is said that the 8s represent the human forms and the water in which the "mucenici" are boiled represents the lake.

However, on other sides of the country, these 8s are not boiled but baked from a similar dough used for cozonac. But that is another recipe....

Wrapped sourdough bread

I sometimes start from an idea and launch myself in bread experiments. 
When doing the Pane Incamiciato it crossed my mind to make the wrap dough separately and with something that I have always at hand: discarded sourdough. I ran few tests and I understood the advantages and disadvantages of using it in the dough for a wrap. While for this kind of wrap it was tricky, for other types od bread decorations it might work great. The testing of this idea is far from being finished. As long as you know what to expect. you also know how to use it to your advantage.
I am very much aware that these loaves are not perfect, but they are still wonderful loaves. Every experiment comes with a bunch of lessons learned that are so valuable in my baking experience.

I filmed the entire bread experiment and I can present it to you now in this video, with all the issues encountered and all the lessons I've leant:

Raspberry mousse cake


I have been challenged by my daughter to make a cake that she would really like. I've baked many types of cakes but she is very selective with all of them: one has too much chocolate, another one has a cream she doesn't like and so on. After a conversation with her, she told me she would prefer much more a cake without a sponge. I said fine, let me come up with a mouse sort of cake that she can put a verdict on.
I knew she is very fond of meringues so I had in mind to put them on top. She likes also raspberries as well, and the pink color of the cake is her favourite.
With all these set up, the occasion to make a cake came almost flying: my birthday!

This cake is actually quite simple but requires some time for the layers to set in place. One layer of biscuit, one layer of raspberry mousse and one top glazing layer of raspberry syrup. On top, I went for fresh raspberries and little meringues.

I made it when she was not at home to surprise her. In the evening, the whole family got together to sing me the famous Happy Birthday! The little ones blew the candles and I was the one cutting a slice for each member of the family. At the end of this little family event, all plates where empty. I was satisfied to see that they liked my cake.
Part of the cake I froze and just recently I got it out. Exactly like then, I cut a slice for each member of the family and all plates where empty except one that had left the mousse and the glaze layer. Of course it was the plate of my daughter :). Well, with her I'll try my luck again next time or just accept that festive cakes are not her favourites.
Regardless my daughter picky taste, I'll tell you how I found this cake. It is a very light and low sugar cake.
Easy to eat with a strong raspberry flavour.  I personally liked it very much, especially also for the little time that I had to invest in it to make it. 
What about you? How would you like this cake?

43% Durum Sourdough Bread

I have been challenged by some awesome bakers from The Fresh Loaf to make in the Community Bake of this month a durum sourdough bread.
The idea came perfectly as I had some durum flour left at the bottom of a bag. I do not know since when I have that flour but the only thing I remember is that last time I tried it was a complete failure. I do not even remember what went wrong back then but the feeling of not touching that flour again stayed with me. Well, a challenge is a challenge, so I prepared myself psychologically to bake something with that flour.
With my first test, I wanted to play on safe ground and went for a 65% hydration. But in my hands, the dough was extremely stiff. Did I forget that durum flour is very absorbent? I certainly did. So the next test (which is this one) I raised the hydration to 70%. I recognise that I felt that there was room for even more hydration but as I liked the result I stopped the tests here. For sure, one day I'll try to push the limits even more.
This particular bread has really something special in it. It has a sweet flavour, a more yellowish colour.

Its particularity comes from the durum wheat. Durum wheat is a spring hard wheat. Its name comes from "durum" that in Latin means hard. 
Durum wheat is coarsely ground into semolina. Semolina is generally used for pasta or couscous. Further, when semolina is re-milled, it becomes durum flour (semola rimacinata) which is more appropriate for bread baking. 
This flour is high in proteins (~12%) but with a weak and less extensible gluten. Its yellowish colour is due to extra carotenoid pigments.

With this second bake, I emptied the bag of durum flour. If initially I just wanted to get rid of it, now I feel that I need to purchase more. I have in mind to try even more types of bread with durum flour in the future. It is just irresistible.
But for the moment, let's enjoy these ones:

Pane incamiciato

 Pane incamiciato means literally bread in a shirt. It is a dressed bread or a wrapped bread. It has a beautiful design and in the oven, it opens up like a flower. Ideas about how to score and decorate this bread are unlimited. 
The bread follows the classic approach but the dough of each loaf is split in 2: one (~30%) is the wrap and the rest is the main dough. The separation between the layers has to be done using oil and seeds to ensure that they do not stick together.
The scoring has to be very carefully done, only on the wrap layer without cutting the main dough.

The bake is made at 230ºC and no more as the oil on the top will darken very quickly in the oven. For a whiter crust, you can even reduce the temperature to 220ºC but check that the centre of the bread has well reached 90ºC. The petals will dry out in the oven and will detach from the main boule.
The crumb instead is soft and simply melts into your mouth. 
The taste is also a special one. The dough being brushed with oil, makes me think of focaccia. The roasted seeds give the extra flavour of this amazing bread. All in one, it is an impressive bread from many points of view.

It is not probably the first bread you want to try if you are a beginner baker but it is definitely a bread with an outstanding look. 
The most difficult part of this bread is to cut it. It is like a beauty that you cannot touch. Well, bread is not made just to be admired but is made to be eaten. Luckily, my children love cracking the petal so they help me with the difficult task of cutting such a beautiful piece of bread.

Whey Sourdough Bread

If you think you can replace water with another liquid in making sourdough bread, think twice. 

I do yoghurt at home and sometimes it makes whey. As this is such a great ingredient with high protein content, I wanted to use it for bread.

Yoghurt whey (also known as sour whey) is much more acidic then cheese whey (sweet whey).
The general recommendation is not to go over 20-30% the quantity of whey in the total liquid for sourdough bread. But I am using 44% liquid coming from sour whey for this recipe. 

The acidic environment of whey and its foreign protein affected the dough of this bread and some extra effort was needed to rescue this dough.

This is an interesting experience to bake bread. More than following a recipe, it is very important to read the dough. When I noticed that things were not OK, I had to adjust my steps and my techniques to correct the dough.

The adventure in making this bread is recorded here:

What I like the most with bread experiences is that you get a lot of lessons learned out of them. For example, this is what I learned by making this bread:

1. Sour whey does affect the dough by weakening the gluten development.

2. More sour whey in bread liquid requires extra handling and may lead to inconsistent baking.

3. You may keep higher whey quantities but use sweet whey, that is less acidic.

4.  For an easier bread, reduce the hydration in this recipe by lowering the whey quantity (with 50g, let's say).

Although tricky, I am happy with these loaves: crunchy crust, soft crumb and what a flavour ...

100% Whole Grain Rye Sourdough Bread

Rye flour is clearly different than wheat flour. It has weak gluten that is not capable to form a gluten network and when mixed in a dough develops almost no elasticity. It looks like a viscous paste and is breaking quickly at an attempt to stretch it. Rye flour does not benefit from autolyse either, so forget this technique when baking bread with a high percentage of rye flour.

Kneading a rye dough has no effect because the gluten in rye is not capable to form an elastic dough. Rye dough relies on pentosans to be formed. If you do not like to knead the dough, then this bread is for you.

When baked in a loaf, it gives to the bread a dark crumb and a lower volume should be expected. The crumb is denser, you won't get big alveoli but rather smaller holes. Expect then a loaf with a dense crumb with small holes.

Instead, rye bread is more nutritious than wheat bread because it contains more bran. When ground, it is more difficult to separate the bran from the flour, so the content of bran is much higher in rye flour. But if you use whole grain (dark) rye flour you'll get the entire bran as it was not sifted out. 

Here is the video with the recipe and description for this special rye bread:

Compared to wheat flour, rye flour absorbs much more water and makes the bread last longer.

Rye bread tastes better 24 hours after baking and actually improves with age. It will stay moist inside for a week.

Rye bread is known for its specific aroma and taste and is very popular in North European countries.

A slice of 100% whole grain rye sourdough bread is a perfect match for cheese, pâté, salmon, eggs and I let you discover other ones.

So, are you ready to bake and taste this bread?

Cheese crisps with discarded rye sourdough

If you are like me, baking with sourdough and keeping the sourdough at room temperature you understand that it is very easy to end up with a lot of discarded sourdough in the fridge. I feed my sourdough twice a day, and with every feed, I get ~50g discard. This makes about 100g a day and 700g a week. That is a lot but there is no way that I through away such an incredible ingredient. I simply store it in my fridge, and every week or every other week I do something with it. It can be crackers, pancakes, anything. Sometimes I use it as such for making pizza dough. It is incredibly useful and healthy ingredient so I am happy to use it.
This time I made crisp crackers with it and its secret ingredient is cheese. There is no trace of sourness inside remaining from the sourdough. My kids are crazy about them and it is a great healthy snack that I can sneak into their schoolbag.

This recipe is using a lot of discarded sourdough and this is what I was, in fact, looking for. If you do not have sourdough or you do not have enough, I think you can easily replace the sourdough with half quantity of rye flour and half quantity of water. But for me, the main purpose was to use the discarded sourdough for this recipe. Eggs will help them stay together while butter will help at cooking and make them melt in your mouth.
I simply invented this recipe myself, by trying and adjusting it to fit my taste. This version is the best I achieved so far and I am very happy with it. The composition is extremely easy to make, what is taking a bit more time is cooking them. But with an alarm set at every 2 and a half minutes you can enjoy doing other things in between without worrying that they'll get burned.
What I love the most about them is the taste of the crisp cheese that it is browned just enough to give a lovely texture and taste.

Let's see how to do them.