1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 49

This year I have been reflecting on time and sourdough. I have been fermenting baked goods in ways I have not done before – to see what happens when I let different ingredients linger a little or a lot. 

Each kitchen and cook has a rhythm. As I work, I often wonder if recipes and methods are born when we try to meet our needs, our tasks or when they meet us. In my kitchen, both. 

I’ve learned that when I am focused on what I can do during a particular “time slot,” I am focused on a particular outcome. But the beauty of fermentation and working with microorganisms is that they remind me that time is relative and fluid. Time is the ingredient that can develop a project into a new story. 

The pathways are not set. And as we humans pass through times, we may not remember or be able to hold on to lessons from previous generations. Since progress, whatever that is, is happening, earlier lessons probably wouldn’t  even fit us anymore. However, some of the microorganisms we don’t see may remember everything for us.  We can relearn from them, or learn with them.

When I ferment, I give myself permission to be, not just to do. I can observe, accept or reject and work with the outcomes. The open formulas I use are not product-oriented. Instead of perfection, I seek connection with the process, and try to link myself to the opportunities for growth that my ingredients hold. 

Here the fermented wild apples rye bars sheltering the last blueberries and grapes of the season.

Fermented Wild Apples Rye Fruit Filled Bars

Mix all ingredients and let ferment on the counter for the day. If longer fermentation is desired, continue fermenting in the fridge for several days. 

2 cups flour ( wholemeal rye, wheat or we love all cornmeal or a mix of flours. For GF version, use GF starter or just ferment your favorite flour with milk kefir. )

½ teaspoon of salt

1 stick of butter, softened

¼ cup sugar

2 eggs

¼ cup of sourdough

About 1 cup of grated wild apples, if desired

2 tablespoons of milk kefir or whipping cream.

Split the dough into 4 pieces.

After fermenting, divide the dough into 4 parts.

Press a thin layer of dough into two loaf pans, lined with parchment paper, or greased with fat.

Fill the bars with jam or fruit preserves and cover with more dough. I use us my fingers to flat 2 inches pieces and lay over the fruit. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar and bake. It will even out in the oven as it bakes.

Bake 350F for 35 minutes until golden. Let it cool completely before cutting into bars.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 48

August  23, 22

I am taking a break from writing my syllabus to bake a cake, a simple “bolo.” This is what you might call a snack cake. Or is it a muffin baked in a bundt pan? A bread if I bake in a loaf pan?

For me it is a zucchini bolo #bolodeabobrinha . I can’t quite translate and unpack all the meaning of this simple action. It feels like a reflex. In many ways it represents the way I cook and bake, feed my family, and share food. My bolos started as I watched my mom and ate her bolos. She always puts whatever she has into the blender and adds, as she says, “one tablespoon of baking powder, and you have cake.” It was like magic! How humble ingredients can come together to create something so tall and golden, savory or sweet, always appealing. We could smell it everywhere in the house. How does some squash skin, sour milk, leftover bread, and banana peels end up looking so appetizing on the plate? 

That statement has fueled my baking journey. She gave me a license to use what I have without fear of messing up. Well, there is fear, especially in the sense of wasting precious resources, from ingredients to time, but I feel like my mother gave me a magic powder, one that makes random food into gold.

Armed with her confidence, I survey what I have: Vegetables or fruits? Which fat? What flours would be nice to use? Anything about to go bad? Yes, if you are baking from the garden or able to enjoy summer’s bounty, you may be answering zucchini or summer squash but there may be a forgotten brown banana on the counter or half eaten peach from the kids, each will add sweetness and variety. 

Back to work now, I try to apply my mother’s assurance. I consider how to mix and bake up my syllabi. I hope my excitement and love of teaching will work like this recipe!

A note on fermenting cakes and cookies. I have been exploring during this #halfcupsourdough series. I have been mixing all ingredients including eggs, baking powder and baking soda if using and letting it all ferment on the counter for several hours or overnight in the fridge and then baking. 

For the sourdough starter I am also using what I have at the moment. Both fed (ripe) or unfed (discard) from the fridge will ferment cakes and cookies. But you can also add the starter as an ingredient, for flavor, to use up the discard from feeding the starter or because you like to add more fermented flour to your diet. 

Sourdough Zucchini Bolo

Today’s bolo went like this:

Mix:

2 cups of grated zucchini ( I used the rest for dinner)

½ cup of  sourdough starter 

½ cup of sugar (extra ¼ if you like more of a treat)

3 eggs (they were from food barter from a farmer and different sizes)

⅓ cup of fat 

Stir in:

1 ⅓ cup of whole grain flours (I did a mix of wheat and rye meal) (extra few tablespoons if you are not using whole grains)

2 teaspoons of  baking powder

½ teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt 

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Stir in ½ cup of chocolate chips

Pour into a greased pan and bake 350F for 55-60 minutes.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 47

I took the tortilla press this afternoon, the heart stamp and made some egg white sugar glaze. I wet my hands and pull chunks of the cold sticky fermented rye dough. I place between plastic sheets and press into a thin layer. I cut some squares with a cookie cutter and sandwich with peach leather, goiabada (guava paste) and cassis (black currant) jam. I repeat and repeat. Maybe these are not all the fillings one would think to add to Pryaniki, but in our family, American, Latin and Estern European flavors mash is a thing. And we often celebrate our “thing” with food. 

Fermentation can serve as a metaphor for so many instances in life. I  am grateful my husband and I have been fermenting this one together. We were a couple for a long while and then added kids to the mix. Recipes don’t work and advice doesn’t fit. Transformation is at the essence. Best to taste and adjust as we go. 

This weekend I baked many thank yous for Father’s day to this batch of Pryaniki. I added my heart to each one. 

This is one of my husband’s childhood cookies. Pryaniki, or “Spiced Cookies” are traditionally made with rye. Dmitri helped me research, translate and taste test as we adapted the recipe to use local wholemeal rye.  The recipe is part of the #12grainsofChristmas 2021 booklet. I like to also ferment these cookies as some historical recipes suggest. We make several variations of Pryaniki in our home. I like to ferment them with honey, milk kefir, but for this version, I used ½ cup of sourdough starter. I let all ingredients ferment on the counter for half a day and then move to the fridge for several weeks. 

Fermented Rye Pryaniki 

3 ½ cups of Maine Grains Rye meal 

½  tsp coarse salt

½ cup sugar 

½ cup water 

½ cup honey 

6 tbsp butter 

½ tsp baking soda 

¼ tsp vinegar

Add 1 egg (or 2 yolks and save the whites for the glaze)

Add ½ cup of sourdough, optional if you would like to ferment these cookies)

Dry perfume (spices) : 1 tsp of each: coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, anise start, nutmeg… or other desired combinations

Dry fruit or jam to fill the cookies

Glaze 1 : 1 egg while, 1 cup of conf sugar and 1tsp lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220C) and prep trays with a baking mat, parchment paper, or lightly greased.
  2. Mix flour and salt.
  3. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, mix sugar, water, honey, 6 tbsp butter and cook to caramelize and bubbly.
  4.  Mix in all of “dry perfume” spice mix 
  5. Add ½ tsp of baking soda mixed with ¼ tsp vinegar.
  6. Turn heat off and stir 2 cups of the flour mix into hot liquid and stir.
  7. Add 1 egg and the rest of the flour and knead the dough with a wood spoon. 
  8. When cool, add sourdough starter if using and mix well.
  9. Chill the dough at least 4 hours best overnight. If fermenting, let ferment for several weeks in the fridge if desired. 
  10. Flour the mold, press a layer of cookie dough, fill with jam, we liked orange peel candy and dark chocolate squares. Then another layer. 
  11. Or roll out and stamp shapes
  12. Bake 425℉ for 10 minutes for 3 inch-rounds or 3 inch square cookies.
  13. Let the cookies cool completely before glazing.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 46

Walking and standing

Afternoon walk, picking up some feelings as we go. 

We freeze frames of moments and hold them in the corner of our eyes as our bodies stretch and move forward.

The waters stand.

The trees stand.

The bushes and flowers stand.

But not just. They hold place and take a stance. It is enough. I am affirming or am I asking? 

Maybe it is a way that a standing world can grow and expand. Right there where it is.

Because it bears witness. 

When we walked today, we saw some “zemlyanika” or wild strawberries on the side of our walking path. D. told me the zemlyanika name in Russian ​roughly translates “close to the Earth” 

We name them so we will remember them. The mushrooms that grow by the birch, the berries that are blue… and they travel with us. 

I can’t stop thinking about being rooted. When we are young we want to break free.

My mom texted me about mothers wrestling, reckoning and reconciling with the fact that “her kids can find their own path.” She is writing in another language and I can’t find the exact word to match how she estimates this feeling of letting go.

Maybe she is saying I am, she was like a maple tree, watching her seeds. Some may grow next to her —to me—but some will fly away. But seeds are magical and we can’t see  all they will become, and trust that stories will survive without our tending.

The sourdough batter from the blender cup gets poured into the heated cast iron and into a circle. It knows how to expand. 

Thank you Amy Halloran for your encouragement and support in all things food and stories since the beginning for story cooking!

Sourdough Crepes

1 cup of flour (mix of wheat and rye) or all buckwheat

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup eggs (3 eggs)

1 cup liquid (milk or a mix of milk of milk and water for example)

½ cup of sourdough starter (for  GF version use Brown rice starter)

3 TBSP melted fat, like butter

Blend all  ingredients by hand or I like to use the blender for this job. Let it ferment on the  counter and/or in the fridge. Use 1-3 tbsp of water to thin if needed. Cook on a low heat cast iron skillet on both slides. It makes about 15 6.5 inch rounds and freezes very well. 

Enjoy with some summer fruit, favorite jam or savory filling.

Strawberries grown by my husband we got to taste this week.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 45

One turtle came to our backyard on this beautiful rainy day!

We spotted it near the chicken coop. It stayed around all day, maybe looking for a nest spot. I went to see the turtle and found one daisy growing near the garden beds. That one flower made me think of a few quotes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, one of my favorite books growing up:

“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.” 

I was wondering what else to make for the Baking Barter Box I put together every week for my friend. She said her grandmother made coffee cake with lots of cinnamon. I followed that one thought.

Sourdough Coffee Cake

For the cake

Mix:

1/2 cup fat, I used butter, softened

2 eggs

½ cup of yogurt (could use sour cream or milk kefir)

½ cup of sourdough starter

Add:

1 cup sugar (1 used one, but you can add more if you are looking for a sweeter dessert )

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

1  tsp salt

1  cup of chocolate chip cookies, optional

For the Filling: Cinnamon sugar or could use your favorite jam or seasonal fruits

4 tbsp of sugar  

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

For the Streusel Crumble Topping

½   cup light brown sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup flour

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

To Assemble:

  1. Grease 9×9 for taller cake or 9×11 or 8×10 pan
  2. Spread half of the batter (you will not be able to pour)
  3. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar filling or jam
  4. Top with the rest of the batter, again it is a little tick, but spread across
  5. Cover with the  crumble topping
  6. Bake 350F for 35 minutes

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 44

After long winters and slow arriving Spring here in Maine, there is a moment when it feels like we have turned the corner towards warm days. We hear the peepers and birds announcing the new season. The light floods the screen porches in our home and it hangs around past dinner time. The chives, sorrel and the  rhubarb came back in the raised beds. The muddy ground is firm again.  Soon, we dare to hope that we will slice fresh tomatoes from the garden and eat on a slice of sourdough bread. And there will be birthday cake requests to celebrate the Summer births in our family. 

We rely on our memories to see us through to the next season. Or someone else’s memories feed us the possibilities. We have faith that those tiny tree buds will open into leaves and when they open up, they will color and adorn the trees. And it will smell so amazing to walk by them we think. It will also smell so amazing to take the chocolate cake out of the oven and add a layer of frosting.

But we need not to wait for that season for cake. The daily everything in our lives is a cause to celebrate with cake. So I made the Depression Era Cake (wacky cake some call) to perfume our house. I used “aged sourdough starter (discard) from the fridge and there is no need to use the 1 tbsp of vinegar (but you can) as the secret ingredient that makes this cake that doesn’t use eggs, butter or milk so fluffy. The fermented flour is sour and when we add the baking soda, it does the trick! The sourdough starter in baked goods tenderizes, flavor and extends the cake shelf life. 

Sourdough Depression Era Cake ( sourdough wacky cake)

1) Combine Dry Ingredients:

1 cup of flour

1 cup of sugar

¼ cup of cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

½  tsp salt

2) Combine Wet Ingredients:

½ cup of  fermented flour (sourdough  discard)

½ cup of water, coffee, or desired liquid

⅓ cup of oil or melted fat of choice

1 tbsp of vinegar (optional)

3) Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined.

4) Bake  350F for 30-35 minutes for 9×9 or divide the batter between two 8 inch circle pans for a layer cake.

For  cupcake size,  bake 18-20 minutes. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

For regular Wachy cake and some variations:

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 43

Food is a language that can feel so full of meaning but sometimes it leaves us without words. When the world is spinning mad or our lives are too, talking about food feels like an indulgent escape. Why does speaking about food seem like we are diminishing problems? As if by elevating food language – referring to ingredients or sourcing or nutrition concerns, then we can talk about cookies when we are hurting. Or we apologize for talking about the cookies.

Food is one of the most intimate things we share with each other. Maybe that’s why we look for cooking metaphors to soften our exchanges, to help digest, so to speak, our experiences.

But we don’t need to digest anything – not our thoughts or actions. We don’t have to wrap food in words. We can present someone with a cookie as we give a hug and that is enough. We can let food speak for itself. Can we listen? I mean, can we receive? 

Listening to someone’s care for us is hard. In our society, which is so individualistic, I feel we only learn the art of receiving when we need to, when we have to. Giving suits us. It is easier.

Either way, food speaks. Food gives us agency. The closest person in my life, my mom, spoke one language – food. I watched my mother, who had only 4th grade education to make sense of the world, articulate and connect not with articles, poetry, debate, but with a slice of “bolo,” cake. Her cooking contains the bridge, lessons, the meaning.

I wonder if that is why my mom would watch us eat our meals. Not only her, but my aunts as well. Her message was understood when I took that bite. The attention was not on what was said but how we ate, how we came back for more, how we received the next dish. 

The world is full of tragedies and crimes. Our lives are spinning, but when we break bread, or open a jar of cinnamon. We stop and pay attention. 

We should not apologize for “speaking food” to each other when we are hurting. It may feel trivial but food as a language, as a vocabulary of emotions and contact, is universal.

Spiced Sourdough Wholemeal Rye Cookies 

for ice cream sandwiches as requested from my oldest child

Mix: 

1 stick of butter room temperature

½ cup of raw sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 egg

½ cup of sourdough starter

Add:

2 cups of wholemeal rye

1 tsp of salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp cloves

Ferment on the counter half a day and/or several days in the fridge. 

Bake 375F for 12 minutes or a few extra minutes if you like crunchy.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 42

I am missing corn.

Maybe because it smelled like summer yesterday. Our porch thermometer showed 100F, not a comfortable thought in mid May in Maine. Many places in the world are registering record heat temperatures right now as well. Several of my friends texted me asking if I was happy and letting me know they were thinking of me. Oh they know how I love the heat. I don’t mind the kitchen work and the oven on. How could it not be a good day for cornbread?

But what a privilege it is to have this day to bask in the sun and have all kinds of summer corn dreams; to be able to take shelter and feel safe to open the windows. Hopefully soon my own corn seeds will go into the ground. This morning at church I had a connection with a friend who also played at her grandparent’s cornfields growing up. My game was to run as fast and as far as I could and hide in plain sight with corn plants as playmates. I held her leaves and danced with her stalks. I looked up and her tassel was touching the sky. Her ears of corn were like dolls with fancy hair smiling at me. 

Sourdough Cornbread

Mix dry ingredients:

1 ½ cups of cornmeal

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Mix wet ingredients:

½ cup of sourdough starter

1 egg

1 cup of milk

Melt 3 tablespoons of fat (I used butter today) in an 8×8 cast iron skillet or other high heat oven safe pan

Add wet ingredients to dry, mix well and pour into the greased cast iron skillet

Bake 450F for 20-25 minutes

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 41

We hear that we should balance our time, lives, diet, investments, work-life… but as we enter the 5th month of the year and today being Mother’s Day, I reflect on how my days are tipping the scales. 

I have watched women in my life who are total givers of time. I have been and am blessed by them. More often I am answering to a moment’s need. Some days I bake bread for my family, others days are spent driving them. There are also races from the work computer to the laundry machine. I have been talking with friends (even if it’s on the phone) while cooking dinner and it feels like I am bringing back a lost art. 

This time of the year my body is also negotiating outside time and inside time. It is too cold still here in Maine for me to run barefoot to the garden or wander around the lot. I have no choice but to be patient. Patient with nature’s timing and with myself. I am like the bugs that become more active as the temperatures rise. 

If I was a sourdough starter living up North, I would have counted on the kindness of people like miners and settlers in Alaska (nicknamed sourdough) to protect me during the coldest months by keeping me close to their bodies.  

Like my sourdough culture, I do my best work between 70°F & 85°F and then glowing after spending some time in a hot chamber! 

One of my first cooking memories was outside, barefooted. I cooked under the not so guided and not so supervised watch of my grandma Hilda. I was small and remembered following her to the back of the farm house with my brother and cousins. She had a little pot covered in soot, with some rice and water inside. She balanced the pot on a 3-stone cooking fire and left us to tend it.

For the Sourdough Biscotti you can use a cold (old ferment/discard from the fridge) or room temperature (fed and bubbly) sourdough starter. I worked on this recipe for my friend Sarah, with extra eggs and fermented flour.

Sourdough Biscotti

1 cup of sourdough starter

4 eggs 

¼ cup of butter room temperature

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of wholemeal rye

2 ½ cups wheat flour

¾ tsp salt 

1 tbsp of baking powder

Melted chocolate for dipping.

1 cup of chopped nuts if desired to  mix in or to press on top of the logs. Of course you can use seeds or anything you would like for flavor and texture.

In a bowl cream butter and sugar until light.

Add the eggs and the starter and mix.

Add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until all well combined. You can let this ferment for a few hours if you would like.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or baking mat. Shape the dough into logs right into the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes on a 375F oven until  golden.

Using serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal slices. Place the slices back in the cookie sheet and Bake 10  minutes on each side at 300F oven until biscottis are dried.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 40 out of 40

It is hard to believe it is day 40. Thank you for following along. I have been trying to show what I cook daily and how I incorporate a culture to ferment the grains we use. I feel like I didn’t even get to talk about fermenting seeds, my pot luck loaf, freezing bread from a rainy day, our lunch boxes… I was trying not to make something special to post, but show our rhythm, what we make and eat and share with friends this time of the year. I use other cultures. I specially love milk kefir, but I did focus on sourdough this time around. I think of early Spring as a time of transition. One day is cold in the kitchen and the bread rise slowly; another day got warm and the sourdough over proofed. I want to take it all in. I am not done eating the last squashes or the green beans we preserved from last year’s garden. I don’t want to hurry, but savor the time when we can notice the sprouting potatoes, appreciate the last tub of pesto and drink birch sap.

I look at my cooking as non linear daily living stories. Maybe because I see as opportunities to rearrange and break the timeline. We can take an ingredient and dream it in different dishes in different ways in a different time frame. We get to choose the path that the narrative will go and learn from each other.

Yesterday I started the process of making bread kvass, today I mixed all the ingredients and now I will wait. Transition. Time. Transformation.

Bread Kvass adapted from many places, this time of the year I like to use birch sap and wait for spontaneous fermentation, but today I mixed with one tablespoon of sourdough starter.

  1. Boil 4-5 cups of water and pour over a few slices of rye and other whole grain breads (toasted or roasted to very dark.) Cover and let it sit a day or so.
  2. Strain and add: 3 tbsp of raw honey, a couple pieces of dried fruit, a heaping tbsp of sourdough starter (some people use commercial yeast) and fill with water to complete the 2 quart jar.
  3. Now wait a few days. I will taste and monitor fermentation. If you are in a warm place can be a couple days.
  4. To create a bubbly drink, I will strain, maybe add a teaspoon of honey, maybe spices and add to air tight bottles, burping daily to desired taste. Then I will move to the fridge to slowdown the fermentation.

PS: Another process is after we add boiled water to the bread, let it cool and add all the other ingredients right away and let it ferment then strain. You can also add flavors at that point as well. Then strain and bottle for carbonation.