La Couronne Bordelaise / Bordeaux Crown Sourdough Bread

I wanted to try this loaf from the moment I first saw it. I though to be a complicated one but I manage to get it from the first attempt. The special thing about this bread is not the crumb, not the rise but the shape. It is about rising a thin piece of dough on top of the bread to achieve the look of a crown.
This bread is called La couronne bordelaise (translated as the Crown of Bordeaux) and of course, it is a French regional bread that you will for sure remember. 
The crumb is expected to be dense and soft with a crunchy crumb, especially the "crown" part. 
When raising in the oven, to me it looked like a blooming flower, such an impressive sequence to see in a speed up video.
The look of this bread is simply wow. It has a simple recipe, traditionally made with white flour and a small part of rye or whole wheat. It is also traditional that this bread is based on sourdough.
The stencil decoration of this bread is optional, but I think it gives a big effect to the final look of the loaf.

To see how I made it, the best is to watch the video. If a photo says a thousands words, a video says a million.

I introduce now a new thing in my baking because this Christmas, Santa came to me with a geeky tool, a PH meter. Since then, I started to test the dough at every step and note everything down. I've read a lot about baking based on the PH rather than the volume increase in an aliquot jar or by eye and currently I am in the learning process with this new toy. As soon I will have some conclusions I'll happily share them with you. But so far, I experiment. That's why, I included in the recipes some notes, and here it is how they need to be read: PH - the PH of the dough measured before the step. DT: the dough temperature at the time of the measurement. (eg:[PH:4.54; DT:23.8ºC])

One first lesson I learned is that the temperature that I set for my bread proofer is usually higher than the dough temperature. It is not an unexpected discovery, I measured the dough temperature before and I knew that. But this time, I have measurements at each step. It is interesting to see how the temperature fluctuates through different steps because of the dough manipulation at room temperature (usually 20-21ºC during the cold seasons). 

This loaf I baked it when the PH was 4.2. Seeing the crumb, I feel it could have been proofed more. No, this bread is not underproved because the crumb should be on purpose closed and soft. Then, due to the particularities of this bread of rising the disk on top of the bread, staying close to the under proofing limit I think it is a good idea. But I will test this assumption with my next loaf.

I still have much to learn about PH, and for the moment I just keep track of the measurements and make notes.

Turmeric Marbled Sourdough Bread

There was a type of bread that I wanted to bake and it was  time to try it. The marbled bread.
This bread has the particularity that the crumb has swirls of colours coming from combined dough with different colours. The recipe is a classic one, with a high hydration dough to get a more open crumb. It is just about colouring a part of the dough (preferably in a healthy way) and layering it over the rest of the dough in the lamination phase to obtain a distinct combination of colours. The swirls come from the manipulation of dough after the lamination, more exactly during the coil folds. There is a trick about them and I will explain.
For these loaves, I used turmeric as food colouring and this one has the tendency to tint the rest of the dough as well. To avoid this, it is better to keep the coloured dough in a smaller proportion than the white one, that will be about 25-35% from the total dough. Then, I performed 3 coil folds during the bulk fermentation, after I integrating the 2 coloured pieces of dough. More than 3 would make the crumb completely yellow. Two coil folds would be better in order to see the distinct swirls but you'll lose on the bread structure side as the hydration of this dough is high. So, 2-3 coil folds are the right number, but also be careful when you perform the coil folds themselves to avoid doing it multiple times. Keep the movements simple and do not overdo it.
All the rest of the steps are exactly the same as for a classic sourdough bread.

This bread is more about the visual aspect of the crumb rather than the taste or bread fermentation technicalities. I find that the turmeric addition did not changed the overall taste of the bread so this ingredient is kind of neutral for the taste. 
To get the open crumb, I recommend fermenting the dough up until the aliquot jar indicates 100% volume increase.
I invite you to watch the video above for all the detailed steps of this recipe and method of making bread.


Cheese turnovers with discarded sourdough

I have done these turnovers in many ways and my children are crazy about them. In French they are called "chaussons". Usually I do not use a special turnover mould and I do them manually, by packing the cheese inside like in an envelope. Then, I bake them using a sandwich machine.
But these ones, I wanted to be more good-looking and I used a butterfly mould forgotten on a top shelf of my pantry. 
This is a great way to get rid of a big quantity of discarded sourdough. They taste so well in combination with the feta cheese and, although I have not tried other types of cheese, I think it would taste great too if you replace the feta with some melting cheese inside.
They are super easy to make and I warn you, they fly super fast from the plate.

Christmas Savoury Tart

I made this tart really in a hurry and because I had broccoli and zucchini sitting in my fridge. You do not have to follow fancy recipes and buy dedicated ingredients. Sometimes, it is enough to throw into a tart whatever ingredients you have available in the fridge. Just be carefully to combine them wisely to obtain a dedicated taste.

Here you have a little video about how I made this tart.

Black Sesame Sourdough Bread

Making sourdough bread is such a rewarding activity even if you make it just as a hobby. I know many of you are making sourdough because of its health benefits but the pleasure to do it, to put your hands in dough, to watch it growing during the proofing, to score it or stencilling it, to wait in front of your oven watching it blooming and then waiting impatiently for it to cool before taking a bite is another level of accomplishment. Baking and cooking, in general, could be seen as such a witchcraft: combine individual ingredients in a certain way in a pot, baking it and coming up with a gorgeous result that taste heavenly, isn't this looking like a sorcery? Just kidding, let's put the feet on the floor and talk about this bread.

Though, there is something magic about this bread and its about the combination of sourdough with seeds. The seeds bring a nutty flavour that combined with the mild sourness of the sourdough bread are making from this bread an exceptionally tasty one.

I found this recipe being close to perfection in terms of taste and crumb, however the dough handling is not for a beginner. The dough is wet and the addition of rye and spelt makes the dough sticky. I do not want to discourage you from making this recipe but I want you to be prepared about what kind of dough to expect. Having a bit of skills in reading and handling the dough will definitely help and reach you to success from the first attempt.

I did this recipe 4 times in a row, to test changing little variables, to observe the results. Some changes were good, some were less good. Now I can conclude that my perfect formula for this recipe is: 10% rye, 10% spelt (the rest strong bread flour), 77% hydration and 70% dough increase (in the aliquot jar) before the fridge retard.

Here they are, 2 fantastic loaves. You'll hardly see an ear for this loaf (I've got half of an ear twice from 8 loaves) but the crumb.... oh this crumb looks to me perfect. Opened at the perfect size, not over open crumb, and for sure not a dense one. This is for me the crumb to satisfy all the wishes.