Just putting it out there that I have started a Facebook Closed Group for anyone wanting to learn, share and chat about sourdough bread and other sourdough baked goods. I find that the big overseas groups are brilliant but it is difficult when ingredients and equipment they discuss are not available locally. Seasons and use of fahrenheit too is also a challenge, we are always arse about (or they are).
So anyway, I plan to try to post some weekly tips for anyone starting out, put some links for really good reliable information and have people share their baking results and ask questions. Although target audience is Australia and New Zealand, others are welcome to request to join. So, if you know of anyone who may be interested in learning more or sharing knowledge please pass on my link.
As regular followers know, I love playing with sourdough and making bread. It’s times like now, when I want to seriously play that I get incredibly frustrated with my limited oven capabilities. I have to keep reminding myself its nearing an end. I think knowing that makes it all the harder.
I started making bread at least 35 years ago. Back then it was all yeasted and things were done the hard way. Dough was beaten, bashed and kneaded for a good 10 minutes to get the gluten to develop, enabling the bread to have structure. These methods are still applicable at times, but the newer approaches such as stretching and folding the dough over a period of time has made things a lot easier and also offers you much more flexibility to schedule your baking.
I had dabbled with sourdough on and off over the years but about 5 years ago I got back into it seriously. I think we have only bought about 3 loaves of bread over the last couple of years and that’s usually when on holiday. I must admit that I’m a sucker for a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich on fluffy, white supermarket bread. This is diminishing too though ( I don’t want the plastic bag!).
There are millions of different people baking bread all over the world. All have different methods for making their breads, their starters, the flours they use and their baking regime, all are right, all give different results. This is why it can be really hard for beginners to know where to start. I’ve found now that I tend to stick to a basic recipe (Chad Roberston’s Country Loaf) that I know will give good results for everyday bread. I do however love experimenting and trying other concepts to see how they work, to compare the results and continue to learn more and more.
Today I baked a loaf based on a recipe I found on one of my favourite bread blogging sites. Maurizio has a blog called The Perfect Loaf, not only is it filled with great tips, advice, recipes and information, but you can feel the passion he has for this craft as he writes. To match this his photos are stunning. It’s worth having a look at his site if only for the photos. You may just come out wanting to bake bread!
My dough was 80% hydration not 86% as was his. I didn’t leave it to retard in the fridge for the 15-16 hours he suggested, mine only got about 8. I didn’t get a crumb that was as open as his (I’m a little heavy handed when it comes to shaping) but it isn’t too bad. This loaf tasted wonderful, really good crust and soft flavoursome crumb.
I’d wager that Maurizio’s looks so much prettier because he has an oven, a real oven that can bake above about 210 degrees celsius max. An oven he can create steam in with his ingenious tip of using lava rocks. I am using this,
don’t get me wrong, this little oven has done some amazing things over the last couple of years, but I am really looking forward to seeing what I can produce in a proper oven.
Thank you to all the wonderful people who share their wisdom and skills for others to benefit on this wonderful medium. Go and have a look at The Perfect Loaf, it’s a great site.
What a month it’s been! Open garden day which was a huge success. Our reno has officially begun (yes that means a kitchen is on the horizon), a wonderful day spent with friends on a walk and picnic at Morwell National Park. A new car because Mr ATMT had to hand in the company vehicle when he accepted an early retirement package. A trip to Greece and Turkey booked and a sensational weekend at Boonderoo farm doing a sourdough workshop. Bare with me, it could be long-winded! Thanks to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for helping everyone share their kitchens.
First In My Kitchen are some beautiful ginger nut biscuits I made from Glenda over at Passionfruit Garden’s recipe. They are wonderful, definitely eat with caution if your choppers are dodgy!These are presented on my new little Spode Italian serving plate. Great size for when there are just a couple of you. Big plate = big eating!
For the picnic we went on, I made a platter of Moroccan eggs (basically scotch eggs with some middle eastern spices), potato, kale, feta and chilli rolls, pork rillette, baguette and some nibbles. This went down very well.
The highlight for me this month was the opportunity to spend a weekend with some lovely, like-minded people at Boonderoo Farm on a sourdough bread making workshop. We worked hard for two full days, learned lots, got a bit antsy about understanding bakers percentages (well I did), ate the most amazing food and generally had a ball. Thomas & Gabi Moritz live on a 600 acre farm in the King Valley. They are self-sufficient, organic farmers, use permaculture practices, are completely off grid and make sourdough which is sold at several local markets. Thomas is a guru regarding wood fired ovens and has built many masonry ovens along with Alan Scott who is considered to be the doyen of brick masonry ovens. The hospitality they shared and the knowledge they imparted is impressive indeed. Thanks Thomas & Gabi, I appreciate you sharing your time and expertise immensely. Here is a sequence of a few things we covered.
A view to the rocky mountain from a mud brick hut.
Our first batch of 100% whole-wheat, freshly ground wheat dough.
Testing for the window pane in the dough. This tells whether or not kneading is sufficient to develop the gluten in the flour.
All hands on deck mixing dough here.
The first of our loaves out of the oven. Topped with poppy-seed and pumpkin seeds.
Sharing lunch outside.
Back to work, that’s a lot of baskets to fill!
Dinner Saturday night were some sensational pizzas.
Sourdough herb sticks with freshly picked herbs.
Thomas explaining how we should load the oven. Almost worked!
Some cheeky bugger stole my camera and took this shot! Peter?
Fresh pitta sourdough to go with the most amazing lunch prepared by Gabi, her daughter and some of their woofing friends. Stunning!
And of course, the obligatory group shot. Not sure what’s going on with me but that’s three times lately I’ve agreed to being in a photo!
This is a sample of some of the breads we brought home. The strudel with nashi pear, sultana soaked in rum and spices was a knockout!
Finally, in my kitchen is almost, an Italian. The lovely Francesca from Almost Italian was nice enough to call in on her way to the coast. What a delight it was meeting a fellow IMK blogger. We have lots of similarities including photos going onto our blogs. But here we are, both in my kitchen. I really think she was secretly a little bit jealous of my toy oven!
There’s nothing quite so frustrating as when you have a new toy and you don’t feel flash enough to play with it! This weekend has been a bit like that. I bought myself a new mixer, one that I have been ogling for years and due to the dropping value of our dollar, I decided to bite the bullet and buy, rather than wait until our kitchen was finished and I had somewhere to keep it. (well, that’s my justification!). I have bought an Ankarsrum assistant, made in Sweden and it is built like a workhorse. More about that in a separate post, when I feel a bit better. Even though I felt awful I wanted to run it through a few paces and get the feel for using it, as it is quite a different approach compared to traditional mixers. This is what she looks like.
I’m really looking forward to putting this machine to work over the next few months so I can get to understand it fully. My first play session was to make some hazelnut & date macaroons. I am not a fan of the brightly coloured, perfectly shaped macaroons you see everywhere these days. The ones I have tried don’t seem to have a great depth of flavour and are just a bit too perfectly formed for my liking. This Hazelnut and Date Macaroons recipe makes a chewy macaroon that tastes great. This is the macaroon mix on the ‘toy oven‘ tray. I had to bake in a couple of batches due to size limitations.
There was a bit of trouble communicating with my pizza oven yesterday. I think I just wasn’t up to it and kept taking shortcuts, consequently the chilli and feta baguettes I made (even though they tasted nice and had a good texture) looked like a train wreck and were burnt in spots. This is the best of the 3 I made and also a picture of the finished macaroons cooling.
This weeks “The Italian Baker” test bake.
My bake this week from the highly acclaimed Carol Field book, The Italian Baker, is Panmarino, or Italian Rosemary bread from the Ferrara region of northern Italy. One of the very first breads I made about 30 years ago was a complete failure and its only saving grace was that it was full of rosemary and made excellent toast. I smile and remember that bread every time I smell rosemary! I’m pleased to say that this attempt has been a far greater success. The story of how this bread came to be is that a moustached baker named Luciano Pancalde (meaning hot bread) recreated a bread he read had been served during the times of the d’Este family ruled Ferrara. ” The rosemary bread was served with a crust like sparkling diamonds……” . These diamonds are the result of sea salt being sprinkled over the star cut on the surface of the dough before baking. I baked one loaf in the ‘toy oven’ in a dutch oven, and another loaf in my ‘La Cloche‘ in the gas pizza oven. The pizza oven and I were on much better terms today!
I guess if you imagine hard enough and maybe have a couple of vinos, the salt could resemble diamonds!
None the less, this bread smelled magnificent as it baked and it does look impressive. I’m very happy with the recipes from this book turning out well with no unwanted surprises and quantites have all been spot on apart from some minor tweaking of water, which all bread bakers are used to. I have also found a few sites that assist with converting using dried yeast to using sourdough starter in these recipes. I have really noticed a difference using dried yeast again, nowhere near the depth of flavour as when using natural leavening.
Been a bit slow on posts recently, think the horrid weather has had a bit to do with this. I haven’t been outside much nor have I been doing a great amount inside. I have managed to read a few good books though!
Today we spent a bit of time marking out with chalk the intended design and placement of some equipment for the new kitchen. I am useless at reading plans and always complain that the finished result is not what I thought it was going to be and that nothing is where I expected it.
I dare say that even after doing this I will still get surprises!
Walhalla Road Trip
We took advantage of the lovely sunshiny day last Saturday and headed up to the historic township of Walhalla. This place just oozes history (and spookiness) and it was a great chance to spend some time with my son who now lives in Melbourne. He purchased a Land Rover a few months ago and does ‘weekend adventures’ visiting lots of interesting places.
I managed to throw together some small egg and bacon pies, kale, feta, chilli and potato rolls. A chocolate cake from the freezer and a few freshly picked oranges from our tree to have as picnic fare. This along with freshly boiled billy tea is about all you need I think!
While we were eating, there were a few different birds in the scrub and I noticed a green bird that I thought resembled a green cat bird which I know are more northern based . There was also a bowerbird with it so I wasn’t that surprised when I’d Googled to discover the green bird is a juvenile Satin Bowerbird. Check out those purple eyes!
Part of our extension/reno means we have to demolish a couple of the oldest parts of the property. We’ve tried but there is just no justifiable way we can preserve them. I believe these 2 rooms to be the old washhouse and would guess the woodstore. We are going to rebuild to be similar visually but they certainly won’t have the ‘charm’ of these old ones. We found a few interesting things behind the wall lining!
Several empty beer bottles tucked in her and there,
A couple old books, one a medical reference and the other a novel.
A pair of old boots, very old I’d guess! Hand cut leather and hand stitched.
There was also a few rat nests but I didn’t think you’d enjoy me sharing those with you!
This weekend’s Bread bake
Today I made baguettes using the gas pizza oven to bake. I was so impressed with the ‘before they went into the oven’ appearance, then promptly dropped the peel when transferring them to the oven. Never mind, still turned out well, albeit a little misshapen and a few holes lighter up one end. I also did a spelt/whole-wheat loaf. Have no idea what it is meant to be like but it smells great and looks like others I have Googled, so I’ll go with it’s pretty good! 🙂
Because they are bloody hard work! No, I’m pulling my own leg…. I LOVE them. This is the fourth week of having Monday off since I cut back my hours at work and it’s taking a bit of time to adjust. I’ve had this all consuming feeling that I have to pack as much into my Monday as possible to justify why I made the choice. Thankfully that’s diminishing somewhat, but I am I; I do like to make sure I get as much value as I can from any day. It did cross my mind once today that I could actually sit down and read a book but that just isn’t me unless the weather is foul and I can do it with a nice bottle of something while sitting in front of the fire. That’s probably overkill at 9.30m!
So here is the outline of what I did today, Monday mine number 4!
I baked 2 loaves of sourdough that had been bulk fermenting in the fridge since Saturday night.
Pretty happy with these. I rarely get to taste them fresh from the ‘Toy Oven”, but I could today. Wish I’d had some smoked salmon in the fridge, beautiful.
I ripped out a bit more of the kitchen. That is so satisfying!
For lunch I had a leftover pastie that I made last night. If anyone remembers an IMK post I did a couple of months ago, I bought an amazing rolling pin that measures 750ml end to end (I didn’t really take note of the size when ordering), I’ve named her Big Bertha. Well Bertha got her first workout last night making the lard pastry that the pasties were wrapped in. I’m in love with Big Bertha! My god, how much better is it working with a tool that is brilliant? I can see why massive rollers are used on roads, a pissy little one just wouldn’t work!
The pasties were lovely, standard filling of mince (just corrected auto spell of mice), carrot, turnip, swede, potato, onion etc and I added a couple of teaspoons of my Middle Eastern Spice Blend.
I started reno work on some of the beautiful cedar (Australian Red) door architrave. This poor old timber is a bit sad and sorry but it is amazing what a sand, some metho and a steel wool scrub can do. Followed by the first coat of Feast & Watson Tung oil to rejuvenate it. Pictures to follow!
When we went to Sydney a couple of months ago so I could participate in one of Herbies spice appreciation and blending classes, towards the end of the day we had to create a spice blend of our own. I quickly scribbled down what I included as I mixed my blend, (I’m impressed I found this scribble),
and have been waiting for a reason/opportunity to use it. I had defrosted a small pork shoulder at the weekend so I used the blend as a spice rub on the pork and thrown it into the slow cooker with a stubby of passata plus a sliced onion and 1/2 a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Smells wonderful, I’m not sure when we will eat it but I can’t wait. I’m hoping to make some flatbread from the Indian atta flour I bought last week at the Dandenong Market.
I really don’t not like Mondays, I think I had better start not liking Tuesdays too!
Have you cut back work hours? How have you changed what you do?
Dare I say it? I had never heard of Julia Child until recently and once I had, her name kept cropping up everywhere. Famous (apart to me) for being responsible for bringing classic french cuisine to Americans with her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My 2nd new friend is Ken Forkish an artisan baker from Portland Oregon USA. I’ve read many good reports about Ken’s breads from a range of different sources so I was interested to learn more. I had reserved both Julia’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Ken’s bread book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast at the local library and they were in, just in time to sample with this being a long weekend.
I quite like the look of Julia’s book and it seems like it would be handy as a reference for the technical understanding of food and basic techniques and fundamental recipes. I made 2 dishes from the book and I’m sorry to say either of them were anything special. I chose 2 that we often eat and that were a good comparison to what I usually serve. These were potato and leek soup and Carbonnade de Bouffe or beef in beer. I found both of these quite flavourless and we decided we preferred my way of making the dishes. Cudos to me!
This was Julia Child’s potato and leek soup served with bread made using Ken Forkish recipe for Harvest Bread which is a wholemeal yeasted loaf made using a poolish (preferment of part of the dough).
I am thoroughly enjoying reading Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast and will play with quite a few of the recipes. The toast above was from this loaf, not quite proved enough but it was OK.
I was also keen to try some of Richard Bertinet methods, Bertinet is an acclaimed French baker and he has quite a different style to kneading from the ‘stretch and fold’ method that I’ve been using. More like a slap and tickle approach and it was fun to try. The dough was beautiful and I will certainly research some more of his technique.
This is a crumb shot of the loaf. I served this grilled with garlic and olive oil to accompany our ‘Clean out the Fridge Soup’.
The beef in beer required about 6 cups of onions so I took the opportunity to make some slow cooker stock from the onion scraps, these plus what I had in the bag in the freezer collected over a couple of months and some of Mirboo Pastured Poultry’s chicken bones some celery, carrot and peppercorns and it was into the large slow cooker for an overnight simmer.
Thank goodness for the slow cooker! I don’t know how I would get by without the 2 that I have.
The Julia Child recipe for beef in beer was OK, but I prefer this Boeuf Carbonnade recipe. Julia’s just didn’t have much going for it, quite bland. I served it with mash, broad beans that had been cooked with olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper and some of the carrot from the stock pot. Photo not great but the mash and broad beans were good!
These are the 4 loaves from yesterday L to R Ken Forkish harvest loaf, 2 of my normal Chad Robertson artisan loves and the Richard Bertinet loaf in front. Not burnt, just well caramelised!
Some other weekend highlights.
The freeloading chooks have begun to earn their keep again, very welcome indeed.
Mr ATMT started repurposing some steel greenhouse shelves that I had tried to sell but had not luck doing so. We are creating a screen behind the mulberry tree so the shelves have been secured to make a curved screen and will be planted with a climber to create a green wall screening the utility area.
We had a delightful breakfast of sourdough pancakes with mushroom, bacon, egg and maple syrup. Yum, yum!
There is an area near the front fence that is rather spooky due to the large and overgrown camellias, sweet pittosporum and oleander. One camellia in particular is beautiful (white one) and has been smothered by the other growth, so I am thinning out the area and hopefully the star will be able to shine as a feature tree. I envisage we will plant a rosemary hedge along this front fence.
Quite a busy weekend and as I do this blog I am listening to howling winds whipping around everywhere. Hope all stays secure! How was your long weekend?
For years I have been working on mastering the perfect loaf of bread. While the search still continues, I am far more relaxed about the process than I used to be, happy as long as the end result is tasty and edible. I have even developed some pretty innovative ways of using up ‘dud’ results.
Last year I facilitated a bread making workshop through the Baw Baw Sustainability Network and I have attached the workshop notes at the bottom of this post.
The onion and rosemary bread I made croutons from tonight is really only the basic recipe from these notes with 2 onions that had been sliced and microwaved till soft and a couple of tablespoons of ground rosemary thrown in just before the final kneading. The flavour of the onion came through really well in the croutons.
I always seem to have run out of steam when its dinner time and I’ve had a busy day at work. I like to keep evening meals really simple to prepare, not taking up too much time to cook and to be relatively healthy. As usual I don’t really deal in measurements, it sort of evolves around how much is needed and adjusted accordingly. Too much and it ends up in a lunch box, too little and we can always have an extra treat after dinner! This was tonight’s fare.
Chicken ( cut into short strips), put into a bowl and pour enough sweet chilli sauce in to give chicken a thin coating, stir through and sit till ready to cook.
The other things I am adding to this salad tonight are some onion bread crouton, crunchy potatoes, cucumber, seared cherry tomatoes, beetroot, feta cheese and some fresh herbs. As my bok choy has bolted (if anyone has any solutions to this I’d welcome them), I am throwing in a few leaves and a few of the thin stems. I will quickly throw them in with the chicken for no more than the last minute or so. This changes according to what is available, which tonight isn’t all that much!
I had baked an onion and rosemary loaf of bread on the weekend so used a bit of that to make some crunchy croutons. Cut bread into whatever size you like, put into pan with smallest amount of olive oil and keep turning until they are nice and golden and very dry and crunchy. Put aside.
Spuds – Wash, peel and cut into small enough bits that they will mix through salad well. I just bunged them into the microwave (covered) for about 5 minutes, waited till steam had evaporated and put them into pan with a ‘plop’ of olive oil. Turn and stir until they have reached the colour you want. There is no reason why both the croutons and the spuds could not just go in the oven and do their thing in there while you prepare other items.
Toss the halved cherry tomatoes into pan that is still hot and cook until they just start to soften, don’t overdo it! Put them aside.
Add chicken to pan and start cooking it off, not too hot, not too cool. Stir occasionally. While cooking tear lettuce into pieces the size you like, slice up some beetroot, finely chop some herbs (tonight mint and oregano), crumble some feta or goat cheese, slice some cucumber and green capsicum and put with the croutons and spuds. I actually like to put everything into a bowl or plastic bag and swirl everything around to make sure flavours have combined well. When chicken is cooked add this and turn through the mix.
Looks a bit ordinary at this point!
Turn everything out onto serving platter, top with some more cheese, herbs and maybe some spring onion. Really does taste quite tasty!