In My Kitchen, December 2018

The monthly series,¬†In My Kitchen, has become my record of seasonality. As November’s green crops and broad beans slowly disappear from the garden, making way for December’s zucchini and early tomatoes, so our meals begin to reflect the change in season and the kitchen sings with new excess. The annual garlic crop has been harvested and is hanging out to dry for a month, though a few young specimens have made their way into the kitchen. Organic Australian garlic tastes superb: it takes six months to mature in the garden: it is then gently cleaned, tied and hung for a few weeks to harden, then stripped of its outer casing. Some get plaited but most are stored in a dark spot for the season. This year’s harvest, over 300 bulbs, has been a labour of love, enough to keep the vampires away.

Christmas baking odours permeate my kitchen as dried fruits soak in brandy for a day or a week, followed by the slow baking of fruit cakes, evoking memories of an another time. It’s ironic to be dedicated to the Christmas traditions of the Northern hemisphere when our hot summer season brings such luscious and bountiful fresh fruits to the table. Our loganberries are in full flush, picking a kilo a day is enough at a time. The peaches are about to ripen while the netting of apples, nectarines and pears has come early this year. Meanwhile, the markets are full of mangoes, apricots and cherries. Lighter summer festive desserts based on summer fruits include Pavlova topped with mangoes and tropical fruit, alcohol laced trifles layered with berries and fresh peaches, or berry pur√©e¬†drizzled on anything at all, like yoghurt for breakfast, or vanilla ice cream for supper.

I’ve been expanding my sourdough recipe files lately, churning out new breads each week. Celia’s light rye was a favourite, followed by a heavier and darker rye from Breadtopia.¬†I’ve worked on two fruit breads, a fig and fennel sourdough based on a recipe by Maurizio at the Perfect Loaf, and the other, a more economical¬†raisin and fennel loaf. In between, I make my everyday sourdough loaves, using 20% wholemeal, also based on a recipe by Celia. I love the way my loaves take on individual characteristics when baking. Perfectly imperfect but always so tasty. One day, when my bread making routine didn’t coincide with our needs, I made a yeasted olive and rosemary loaf, based on a recipe by Maggie Beer, a quick 3 hour bread, unlike my slow 24 hour fermented breads. It’s a good standby.

Churning out the loaves. Some with happy smiles and crispy ears, others with a snarl.
Looking a lot like Tam O’Shanters, the most delicious bread ever, the fig and fennel festive sourdough

This lovely bunch of roses arrived to dress my kitchen table a few weeks ago, courtesy of my dear friend Diane, a rose aficionado and dedicated gardener. Pierre de Ronsard is a joy to behold. Your immediate inclination is to sniff a rose, but Pierre De Ronsard is not known for its sweet perfume. Its romance lies in the shape and delicate colour. Each bloom is said to hold 400 petals. I am determined to grow this lovely climber next year. It is named after Pierre de Ronsard, a poet in the court of Mary Queen of Scots and a keen gardener.¬†I love fresh flowers throughout the house: there’s always something to pick and enjoy, even though it may not be as dramatic or gorgeous as Di’s roses. A singular stem of a leek in flower, a bunch of flowering chives or mauve blossomed sage, herbs and weeds also look lovely.

Pierre de Ronsard

Thanks once again to Sherry for hosting this series. You can read her funny Christmas post at Sherry’s Pickings, read other bloggers entries, or join in yourself.

And finally, I must mention a food related link this month- a thought-provoking article from The Angry Chef.

https://angry-chef.com/blog/the-modern-chef-s-guide-to-being-angry

And a few links to my December IMK posts from past years. Same same but different?

https://almostitalian.blog/2017/12/06/in-my-kitchen-december-2017/

https://almostitalian.blog/2016/12/02/in-my-indian-kitchen-december-2016/

https://almostitalian.blog/2015/12/01/in-my-kitchen-december-2015/

The Baker and the Water Mills, Shaftesbury

One of the nice parts about travelling is catching up with old friends along the way.  Even though many years separate visits, our countries being a day away by air, conversation resumes from where we left off, as if the intervening years are a mere second in time. This was certainly the case when we stayed with our old friend Paul Merry and his partner, who live in a small village near Shaftesbury, Dorset. It was a pleasure to find them unchanged and well, but also especially wonderful that he had done a large bread bake the day before and had a few spare loaves. At last, some good bread, though good is hardly an apt word for his long fermented sourdough made from stoneground organic flour. Paul Merry is the doyen of artisan bread making in these parts.

Which one?

I don’t need to preach to you, dear reader, about the sad and sorry state of modern commercial bread, that awful product so nutritionally empty and bland, that chemicals need to be added to make it edible. You can either eat it or you can’t. I can’t. It makes me ill. So during my travels, I mostly go without bread, with only an occasional and regrettable lapse. Munching into Paul’s sourdough cob was a moment of ecstasy.¬†That first bite reminded me how nourishing and deeply satisfying good bread can be.

Paul at home with his sourdough cob

Paul is a master baker who runs bread making classes from his bakery, Panary, located inside an old working water-mill near Shaftesbury, Dorset. His classes have been operating from this site for more than 30 years. He also bakes a commercial batch weekly. Before moving to Britain, Paul built and then ran the famous St Andrews bakery on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. That lovely mud brick building with its antique wood fired oven was where Paul mastered his baking skills. His bread nourished our souls throughout the 1980s. His bread is even better today.

A familiar sight. Paul in baker’s uniform, attending to his craft.

Our first sourdough loaf lasted well and was still fresh and delicious after five days. Good wholesome bread, slow bread, made with nothing else but the best organic flour, water, salt, and plenty of time, Paul’s loaves are made with exceptional skill as well as passion for the craft.

Grinding stones at Cann Mills

The photos below show scenes taken around Cann Mills. Panary is located within the mill. The water-mill is still functioning and runs some days, along with other milling methods. Paul’s classes deal with a variety of techniques and many professional bakers hire Paul as a consultant. If you live nearby or are travelling in that beautiful country, not far from the Cotswolds, inquire about Paul’s one day classes. You can choose from topics including the basic beginners, British, flatbreads, French, Italian, Nordic Germanic, Patisserie/Viennoiserie, sourdough, and festive breads.(¬†see full details here.¬†)¬†¬†Or if you love breadmaking and can’t make it across the globe to attend his classes, take a look at his blog. There’s plenty to learn.¬†https://www.panary.co.uk/panary-blog/

Cann Mills, near Shaftesbury
Inside a working flour mill.
It all starts with great flour. Paul uses this one to add to his starter or levain.
Fresh flour, the staff of life.
Paul Merry at work.
Bread making classes at Panary

Panary at Cann Mills
Cann
Shaftesbury
Dorset
SP7 0BL

Panary’s¬† location and course information.¬†https://www.panary.co.uk/about/cann-mills/

The Hand Built Finn. My Sourdough Diaries.

The other day I ran out of bread. I can’t eat ‘white death’ or spongy packet bread of any colour, dosed with preservatives to make it last forever. Neither can I eat the fake sourdough marketed to look like the real thing sold in a well-known supermarket or the stuff from hot bread places. I perused the specialty bread section of the supermarket where racks of famous city bakers display their tempting loaves, ¬†Dench, Baker D Chirico, La Madre, Phillipa’s: there’s not much change from $10 for an ‘artisan’ loaf, rivalling the smashed avocado as the real cause of inner city hipster poverty. We went without bread that day.

Home made Finnish Rye. Just add smashed avocados.
Home made Finnish Rye. Just add smashed avocados.

I hurried home and hastened along my trusty starter, Sorella, another offspring of Celia’s Priscilla, a consistently reliable sourdough starter in any weather. ¬†It’s important, when baking your own loaves, to seek out variety in flavours and flour combinations. I often get stuck in a groove and make the same loaf over and over again, especially when I can make it on autopilot now.

hi hi
Overnight rise High Hydration loaves. Our regular loaves. 80% baker’s white, 20% wholemeal.

Recently I returned to the Finnish Rye loaf which I have written about before. Now that I’m hand building this loaf, thanks to the demise of my stand mixer, I’m finding it far more successful than before. For sourdough bread makers out there, I urge you to give this one a go. It stays moist for three days or more thanks to the linseed. Forget about my previous method- this one makes a superior loaf. Linseed is full of omega 3, so this loaf is healthy but doesn’t taste heavy at all. It is soft, earthy and easy to digest. You could live on it.

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The recipe makes two small batards

The Finnish Rye Loaf, recipe courtesy of Craig Gardiner, baker extraordinario.

The Ingredients

  • 288g white bakers flour
  • 144g wholemeal flour
  • 144g rye flour
  • 365g water ( filtered or tank water, not treated water)
  • 173g sourdough starter (100% hydration). Make sure it has been refreshed three times and is bubbly before use.
  • 60g molasses
  • 18g salt
  • 140g flaxseed ( linseed)
  • 154g water to soak flaxseed.

Mixing the Dough

  1. Begin by soaking the flaxseed in the soaking water for at least 30 minutes in the water. ( last two ingredients on list above)
  2. Put the starter, water and molasses together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the flours and bring the dough together by hand.
  4. Cover the dough and leave for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the salt, mix through the dough and let stand for 1 minute or so.
  6. Add the soaked flaxseed along with the soaking liquid and squelch through with your hands, making sure the liquid and all the seeds are distributed through the dough. The mixture will be very wet.

    The dough will look like this after the seeds and soaking water have been mixed in.
    The dough will look like this after the seeds and soaking water have been mixed in.

Resting and stretching

Let the dough stand for 30 minutes. Put a few drops of oil on your bread working surface and spread out with your fingers. ( I use a silicon mat which has been a great investment). Scrape out the wet dough using a pastry scraper, then stretch and fold the dough. Return dough to the bowl and cover.

Let the dough stand for another 20 minutes, repeat stretching and folding, returning dough to the bowl and covering.

Repeat steps one and two.

That’s four stretches in all. If you do two or three, the bread will not mind. I always have sticky hands and so have not been able to photograph this method. Where is Mr T when you need him? If you need a little visual version of this method, check Celia’s video here.

You will notice the dough tightening with each new stretch. Now cover the dough and leave in a warm spot for around 4-6 hours, depending on your room temperature. Basically it needs to double in size. Don’t overprove this bread.

Final shaping.

Scrape the contents of the bowl onto a floured surface, using a pastry scraper. It will be sticky so flour your surface well.

Now pull up one side of the dough and stretch it up as far you can and fold this long piece over the rest of the dough. Do this with the other side. Then top and bottom. All the surfaces will now be lightly dusted with flour and will not be so sticky. Cut the dough in half with a pastry scraper. Shape the loaves into round balls for another short prove. Cove the dough balls with a tea towel.

Turn oven on to 250c Fan Forced.

After 30 minutes or so, the oven should be ready and the loaves slightly risen. Now gently shape the loaves.  Do not overwork them at this point. treat them like soft babies. I like to make batard shapes. Place the loaves onto baking paper, then slash the tops well, using a serrated knife or a razor blade. Lift the paper with loaves into enamel baking tins and cover with lids.

Put the two roasters into the hot oven ( if your oven is large enough to take both) reducing the temperature to 220c. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lids, and bake for another 15-20 minutes at the same temperature. Usually the time here is 20 minutes but these loaves are a little smaller than the usual loaf size.

Cool on wire racks.

The Finn
The Finn

I am indebted to two baking mentors here- Craig for the original recipe, and Celia for the method and for the brilliant idea of using enamel bakers for a more consistent result in the home oven.

The Finn, a moist loaf.
The Finn, a moist loaf.

Pane al Formaggio: Italian Cheese Bread

This month I have returned to breads made with yeast, particularly those from one of my favourite reads, The Italian Baker, by Carol Field. Carol Field journeyed through villages and homes throughout the Italian countryside to collect recipes. They were then published in her original volume in 1985. This classic was revised in 2011. Few photos or glossy styled food shots adorn this book. It is a pleasure to read even if you never bake from it. It is often assumed, because of its title and appealing photo of ciabatta on the front cover, that it deals solely with bead: in fact, there are numerous chapters on cakes, biscuits and pastry, some of the latter collected from Nonne in remote villages, recipes that are tinged with nostalgia e memorie.

A traditional walnut cake made by the older folk in Vaireggio, Toscana
A traditional walnut cake made by the older folk in Viareggio, Toscana, Italia.

A good egg enriched cheese bread is not a daily offering but a special treat to go with a creamy soup, a celery velout√©,¬†for example. I followed Field’s recipe for this, but decided to make dinner rolls and a little b√Ętard with the final dough. The recipe is simple and precise, but next time, I might use all the little odds and ends of leftover cheese residing in boxes in the fridge.

The recipe includes details for making the bread by hand, by mixer and food processor. Each method is a little different. I am using a stand mixer, because I am lucky enough to have one: it gets a good workout every week and was a worthwhile investment.

Pane al Formaggio– Cheese bread.

  • 2¬Ĺ or 7 g active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons or 30 g olive oil
  • 3¬ĺ cups or 500 g unbleached bakers flour
  • 2 teaspoons or 10 g salt
  • ¬Ĺ cup or 75 g grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup or 50 g grated pecorino cheese
  • cornmeal
  • I large egg white, beaten, for glazing.

Method By Stand Mixer

Stir the yeast into the water in a mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Mix in the eggs and oil with the paddle, then the flour, salt and cheeses. Change to the dough hook and knead until firm, velvety and elastic, 3- 4 minutes. The texture may be slightly grainy from the cheeses.

First Rise.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Second Rise and shaping.

Punch the dough down on a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Cut the dough in half and shape each piece into a round loaf or bat√Ęrd shape. Place on a baking sheet or peel sprinkled with cornmeal, cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

six rolls and a batard, ready for the oven.
six rolls and a batard, ready for the oven.

Baking.

Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven with a baking stone ( if you have one)  to 220c. Just before baking,  baste the loaves with the egg white. Slash the long loaves with three parallel cuts. Sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and slide the loaves onto it. Bake for 40 minutes, spraying the oven three tines with water in the first 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Panini al formaggio.
Panini al formaggio.

The Italian Baker, revised. Carol Field, 2011. Ten Speed Press.

Another contribution to Leah’s Cookbook Guru, who is highlighting The Italian Baker this month.

 

 

 

In My Kitchen, October 2014

In My Kitchen, I am surrounded by things starting with the letter ‘B’. No, this is not an episode of Playschool or an eye spy game, although there have been¬†a few bambini hanging out in my kitchen lately. ¬†It all happened¬†by chance I promise you. And thanks to Celia, host of this monthly event and bread making enthusiast, I seem to have caught her bread making bug.

The ceiling is¬†beamed, the floor is¬†brick, and there’s a Breville on the bench.¬†Big bowls¬†are often left standing on the bench, waiting for some more bread dough, while my starter, who lives in the fridge, (who is affectionately known as Celia), begs to be fed. The ‘Feed Me’ instructions are left on the fridge door.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABread dough. I’m slowly learning about very wet doughs and hydration. This one looks too wet, but still made a reasonable loaf of bread. Thanks to Celia’s bead making tutorials, help is close at hand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABig Bucket. This empty plastic bucket turned up at the Whittlesea Monday market last week. I should have bought more: at $2.00 a piece, they are a steal. Large enough to store all the odd flours. The baker’s white flour has its own big bin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoys Art on the fridge. This arty stage doesn’t last long, so must be embraced. Hiding their iPad helps! Blink, and they’ve turned into teenagers.

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Books, old and new. The four oldies were found in a second-hand store and I once owned three of them. Talk about deja vu. For under $10.00 for four, it cost the same price as a new magazine! Now I am re-visiting my cooking past.

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Three new books:

Book 1, Local breads by Daniel Leader, purchased via the excellent book buying search engine, http://booko.com.au, which sorts books for sale throughout the world, listed by lowest price first, delivered.

Book 2, The Handmade Loaf by  Dan Lepard, bought from the  Book Grocer,  in Brunswick, a shop too hard to pass by.

And book 3, yet another Ottolenghi cookbook bought cheaply at Big W.

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Biscuits. School holidays means baking biscuits with the bambine and the little blokes. The girls made these last week and the simple recipe is here.

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The brandy was bought duty-free. Purely for medicinal purposes. It invariably ends up in all sorts of cakes and custards and so lives in the kitchen, unlike its other friends who have their own hiding place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll the ‘B’ veggies arrive in Spring. Some pickings here include beetroot, broad beans, brocolli and borage. If I include them by their Italian names, the¬†biete ( silver beet) and the barbabietola ( rhubarb) are in abundance too.

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Italian Wholemeal and Honey Bread / Pane Integrale

Simply annointed with young olive oil, the best  you can afford.
Italian bread, simply anointed with young olive oil, the best you can afford.

Bread has played a central role in the history of La Cucina Italiana and everyday life.: this is reflected in the endless array of expressions concerning Pane (bread) . Consider just a few of these,

  • Senza il pane tutto diventa orfano– without bread, everyone becomes an orphan.
  • Uscire di pane duro– to leave behind hard bread or to have a change for the better.
  • Essere pan e cacio- to be like bread and cheese, ie thick as thieves.
  • churigo come il pane, medico come il vino. Look for a surgeon who is like bread ( ie young) and a doctor like wine ( ie old).
  • E‚Äô buono come un pezzo di pane. He’ s like bread,¬†He‚Äôs a good person.
  • L‚Äôho comprato per un tozzo di pane.¬†I bought it for a piece of bread, (a bargain)
  • pane al pane e vino al vino¬†, to call a spade a spade.

But wait there’s more. I’ll spare you the rest.

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My most recent loaf, a wholesome, nutty Pane Integrale con Miele¬† ( wholemeal with honey) reminds me of a crusty loaf I bought years ago in a small Umbrian hill town. The crust is crunchy and dark, but not too much so, and the open textured bread is easy to digest, which is surprising for a loaf made of 100% wholemeal flour. I’ll admit that when it first emerged from the oven, I was a little concerned. Nothing worse than pane duro, hard bread.

Pane Integrale con Miele
Pane Integrale con Miele
Or with tomatoes and garlic, a simple bruschetta.
With tomatoes, garlic, and oregano, a simple bruschetta.

The secret is the long slow rising ‘biga’ or starter, made especially for this loaf, and the addition of honey. The recipe comes from my favourite cookbook, The Italian Baker, by Carol Field, and I offer this bread recipe to Leah, of the Cookbook Guru as further proof of this book’s worth.

Pane Integrale con Miele– Wholemeal Bread with honey. ( Ingredients are listed in grams, ounces, cups )

Starter

  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 160g/5.6 oz/2/3 cup warm water
  • 200 g/7 oz/1 1/2 cups minus 1 Tb unbleached white flour

Stir the yeast into the water in a mixing bowl and leave for 10 minutes. Stir in the flour with 100 strokes of a wooden spoon. Let rise, covered, for 6 to 24 hours.  Measure 1.4 cup of this starter and throw away the rest. ( NB. I used the rest in another recipe!)

Dough

  • 5 g/0.2 oz/13/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 35 g /1.2 oz/1 1/2 T of honey
  • 360 g/12oz/1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 500 g/17. 5 oz/3/3/4 cups whole wheat/wholemeal flour
  • 7.5 g/0.3 oz/1 1/2 t of salt

Method by stand mixer.

Stir the yeast and honey into the water in a mixer bow: let stand for about 10 minutes. Break up the starter and add to the bowl. Stir with the paddle until the stater is in shreds. Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Change to a dough hook and knead for 2 minutes at low speed and 2 minutes at medium speed. The dough should be fairly smooth and have lost most of its stickiness. Finish kneading by hand on a floured board.

dough after kneading
dough after kneading

First Rise. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise for about 2 hours or until doubled.

dough after first rise
dough after first rise

Shaping and second rise. Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and shape into a round loaf without punching the dough down. Place the loaf on a slightly oiled baking sheet or a peel sprinkled with cornmeal . Cover with waxed paper or a towel and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, around 45 minutes to one hour.

Baking. Preheat oven to 230 c/450 F. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the oven three times with water. Reduce the temperature to 200c/400F and bake 25 minutes longer. Cool completely on rack.

My notes. My dough spread quite widely and looked like a cartwheel loaf one buys in Italy. I slashed the top of mine in a tic-tac-toe pattern, causing some deflation before it entered the oven: next time, no slashing to see what happens.  I used course semolina on the trays. No need to waste the left over biga Рuse it in another loaf while the oven is hot. The book also gives instructions for making the loaf by hand or with a food processor. I have listed the method by kitchen stand mixer only.

Or workman style with a simple red wine, and a hunk of cheese.
A workman’s lunch. Pane e Vino.

 

Sourdough Diaries. Flaxseed and Oats.

Wait till it cools!
Wait till it cools!

Over the last year, the St Andrews Bakery was blessed with a gifted baker. His Finnish flaxseed¬†rye¬†sourdough loaf was ‘to die for’. I would buy a few loaves to freeze each week and was surprised how moist they remained once sliced open. He had studied bread making at the San Francisco Baking Institute and worked in that fine town for 12 years, before returning to Melbourne, and then to the famous authentic wood fired bakery of St Andrews. He left around last March, to pursue other fields or bakeries, and now I am left with a gaping need for his flaxseed sourdough bread. Come back here young man!

Enter Celia to the rescue with her excellent tutorials on sourdough bread making. ¬†After reading various articles about flaxseed ( linseed) I decided to incorporate it into a basic sourdough loaf with 30% wholemeal and 70% baker’s white flours.

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Flaxseed and Oat Sourdough Bread

Before retiring to bed, soak

  • ¬†2 tablespoons of¬†whole¬†flax seed ( linseed ) and
  • 1/4 cup of rolled oats in a small bowl

with just enough water to cover.

On the morning of baking, add the following to a large bowl:

  • 150g ripe starter
  • 250g water
  • 25 g olive oil
  • 170 g wholemeal flour
  • 330 g baker’s white flour
  • 10 g salt

Mix roughly to combine, then add the soaked ingredients and mix again with your hands.

Proceed with Celia’s instructions re short kneading, proving, shaping, second proving and baking.

Another proving station on the mantlepiece.
Another proving station on the mantelpiece.

Notes. If the dough is a little moist at the first kneading stage, add a bit more flour to the mix. Only your hands can tell.

Verdict. Very tasty, my favourite to date. Still eating well two days after. Next time, the same recipe but with rye flour and more flax seeds. Or maybe I’ll try ground flax seed as well.

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A little quote regarding the soaking of ¬†flaxseeds – “By soaking, enzyme inhibitors are neutralized, the beneficial enzymes are activated and the vitamin content increases. Soaking makes seeds, nuts and legumes easier to digest and the nutrients more easily absorbed.”

 

Sourdough Diaries. Wholemeal and Spelt.

It’s 6 degrees outside and¬†Kevin Bacon¬†springs to mind! An odd thought to start the day, I know. Any plans to garden or gather plants have been shelved in favour of baking. I am experiencing separation anxiety from my lonely¬†sourdough starter waiting for me at the back of the fridge. Time to light the fires and get ‘Celia’ into action.

50% wholemeal sourdough
50% wholemeal sourdough

Last week I made three different loaves using the basic foolproof tutorial provided by Fig¬†Jam and Lime Cordial. ¬†My first loaf was white and gorgeous. Loaf number two was more appealing, made with half baker’s white flour and half wholemeal flour. The third started as pizza dough, but as time ran out in the evening and the dough wasn’t fully risen, it became the next day’s spelt and white sourdough loaf. The latter contained a mixture of 20% spelt flour to 80% white baker’s flour. I am keen to increase the spelt content on this one.¬†The young visiting lads enjoyed the spelt loaf, eating all the crust, a good sign, and asking for more. This is the best compliment a bread can have. It is now two days old and while a little firm, is excellent grilled for bruschetta.

Some spelt added to the mix
Some spelt added to the mix

Now I am in search of some decent large packets of rye flour in Melbourne.  I found a large bag of Rye flour at Bas foods, Brunswick, but it contained added salt, sugar and oil and appeared to be a bread mix. The health food shops tend to pack things in tiny quantities and charge an arm and a leg. Any hints anyone?

20% spelt adds a nutty flavour.
20% spelt adds a nutty flavour.

The Secret Life of Celia, my Sourdough Starter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACelia is the name of my sourdough starter. She is the daughter of Priscilla, the sourdough starter sent to me by Celia, of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  Some readers may already know the real Celia, baker extraordinaire and all round generous and inspiring woman. Her online tutorials are easy to follow, thorough and are well supported with photos at every stage of the process. In fact there are around 367 bread making related posts on her site, as well as further information on bread making supplies and equipment. This, I believe, is a far better guide than any bread making book and a wonderful thing.

The following post is a test case diary of my first sourdough loaf. ¬†If¬†you wish to make sourdough bread too, just head straight to Celia’s instructive post¬†here¬†.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.

Celia , my starter, behaved as expected, just as her mother would have predicted. I began rehydrating her at 7.00 AM and, as instructed, added doses of flour and water at various times throughout the first day and evening.  On the second morning, she was alive, thick
and bubbly. ¬†Hooray. After incorporating the remaining bread ingredients and a pause of half an hour, the dough was very easy to knead. Then off she went to happily sit in a winter sunny spot on my ‘proving’ high chair.

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Hand made Australian high chair becomes a proving station.
Hand made Australian high chair becomes a proving station.

The dough proved for around four hours (winter in a warm room) and then looked ready to rock and roll. The second proving was a little harder to judge.

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The loaf was slashed, spritzed and baked as instructed. It came out looking great and once cool,  we hoovered a few slices with plain butter. It smelt and tasted very good.

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I may have erred somewhere as it sounded quite drum like when first removed, but the base sounded a little softer on cooling, yet it didn’t really affect the flavour or texture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACost per loaf, around $ 1.20 (500 g flour = 50cents/ salt and olive oil/ 20cents/ oven running cost of fan forced 90 cm wide oven at full heat, then reduced,  per hour- around 50 cents)

Cost for a quality sourdough loaf retail – around $7.00. The cost would reduce to 95 cents per loaf, if two were made at once, as well as saving power. Next time I will make two and freeze the spare.

Thanks to Celia, the mentor who inspired this post. Just click on Bread at the top of her home page to find out more.

http://figjamandlimecordial.com/