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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 ...