Rethinking Perfect


I have been making naturally leavened breads for several years. I was gifted a sourdough starter from my friend Phyllis and I have learned from a very generous community.  I use to look at beautiful pictures of breads and think “oh I hope I can make something like that…”

Now my idea of the “perfect” bread is the one that reflects my life, my family and the food choices we are able to make, which means “imperfect,” but truly wonderful. Each loaf is different and carries the intentions of this humble baker: sustenance, personal aesthetic, community, faith and family.

When I moved to Brazil last year, I took my starter with me on our journey. I didn’t know where we would be and when I would get our belongings out of storage. So I set out to find a simple recipe I could make using flour and water on any kitchen or using any kind of oven.

I started wondering if there was a formula, a way to find a rhythm so that I could make bread part of my family’s life. I read Flo Makanai formula  and couldn’t wait to try. I love that the math comes easy and I can use what I have. I have made 100% whole grain using this formula and also egg bread (eggs, fats and liquids measured as 2 parts).  I have used this formula to make stem buns and focaccia.

Please see some of my notes bellow

1 2 3 sourdough formula

1 part leaven, 2 parts water, 3 parts flour (in weight)

2% salt

Let’s say we will start with 50g

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I want my hands and my heart leading the way I bake. Many times it's about trusting what I have learned but mostly is about not being affraid of taking a chance. Baking with #wildyeast is embracing all the things I can't control or don't know like different flours, change in the weather or events in my life. Each loaf will be different and will have a different story. How exciting! #rethinkingperfect . Here is my wildyeast from a jar that I keep in the fridge. I am planning to make bread so I am going to wake it up by feeding a portion of it water and flour. I do use a scale but I have made the #123sourdoughformula bread ( for how-to follow this hashtag) just by looking at the amount. I added 50g of unfed #wildyeast from the fridge to a container and the same amount of flour and water (100% hydration). So I will end up with 150g . Some Recipes will ask for 30g others 300g of #levain (fed starter) … In warm weather the #levain can be bubbly in a few hours. It gets confusing as we all internalize a process that works for us, but that is one way I do it. For this formula, I will then add 300g of water and 450g of flour (which half whole grain can be a nice place to start) Mix for 6 minutes by hand Do some streach and folds every 30 minutes repeating 3 times. Then make a boule, a round and put the #sourdough in the fridge overnight in a covered container until you are ready to bake. When ready to bake, take it out, shape and let it rise 2-3 hrs and bake. #storycooking #FloMakanaiSourdoughFormula @flourambassador #sourdoughseptember #readwritecook2017

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Before going to bed make leaven:

3 tbsp (50g) starter from the fridge

6 tbsp (50g) flour

1/4 cup (50g) of water

Mix well, cover and let it ferment overnight. In the morning the starter will be bubbly. This is the leaven we will use to make bread.


In the morning, for the bread, mix 6 minutes:

150g leaven fed and bubbly

1 1/4 cup (300g) water

3 cups (450g ) flour (mix as you would like, for example 200g unbleached white, 200g While whole wheat, 50g rye)

2 tsp salt

Let it double, first rise.

During the first rise I often stretch and fold 3 or 4 times every 30 minutes (on a  shape of an envelope. (see videos bellow or hashtag on instagram: #123sourdgouhformula )  to help develop and strengthen the gluten. Then let it rise until almost double at room temperature.

Shape into a boule, round. Place in a floured fabric inside a bowl, covered.

Let it rise about a third in the fridge until you can bake, 8 to 24 hrs.

Score bread

Bake 450F for 30 minutes

or in a Dutch oven covered 25 minutes and uncovered another 25.

To store and keep the starter going, I feed it the same way I make leaven and put it back in the fridge until I am ready to make bread again.

I hope bread making makes you happy, like listening to a favorite song

Hello Maine

Thank you for following Story Cooking (elliemarkovitch) on Instagram this past year. I hope you enjoyed the photos and recipes under the hashtag #readwritecook2017. It has been a blessed year. I had the opportunity to reconnect while in Brazil ( #storycookingbrazil ) . I took my sourdough every where I went and baked lots of bread. I celebrated cake with family and friends, ate tropical fruits every day and traveled. Now we are back in the Northeast and excited to experience Maine!



What do you want more of in 2017? We want to take 20 minutes every day to
connect with food and words. Join us. Share your stories of reading, writing and
cooking and hashtag them #ReadWriteCook2017 #take20minutes

Do you want to bake your own bread? Cook more at home? Set up regular times
for reading? Cultivating habits is easier with friends, so we invite you to join our

Decide what goal you want to focus on, state it in your first post, and show us
again and again how you are creating patterns in your life.
Show us your flour. Snap a shot of the page you’re reading. Show us your
ingredients. People you are sharing meals with.
The rules? None. The suggestions: set aside 20 minutes a day. Choose one
goal. Switch focus after a week, a month, a year – whenever you want to guide
your attentions to another area.

This idea comes from two friends who want to bridge the gap between Brazil and upstate New York, where they used to inspire each other in cooking, writing and photography projects. Photojournalist @Ellie Markovitch ( is
pushing the reset button, returning to her home country, starting a kitchen from
scratch in Rio de Janeiro. Writer @Amy.Halloran, @flourambassador ( wants to set a tone for growth, and develop a social structure to support it past the first weeks of the new year.

And talking about friends, here some of the faces of my continued inspiration and support:2016-inspiration

My hubby and daughters, Phyllis, my fellow pea in the pod, Liz a photographer, Celeste my mother, Katrin a chef, Justine a farmer and Amy a writer.

The Year in Review


Thank you everyone for checking in and following #storycooking and #storycookingbrazil .

The past year was very intense with many changes for our little family. As you know, we moved to Brazil. We had a lot of celebrations that included good byes, welcomes and a lot of cake! I also got to travel with my husband to Peru and celebrated our birthdays with awesome hikes.

Now we are ready to settle in Rio de Janeiro, the kids spent time with grandma and brushed up on their Portuguese. We ate a lot of tropical fruits and I was able to keep cooking with friends, relatives and local schools. You can find recipes with the photos on my Instagram feed @elliemarkovitch . Yes, you can see above, my #beetlove still strong.




A Arte da Fermentação na Gastronomia


It’s an honor to lead this #CulinarySalon at Espaço Culturama.

É uma honra liderar este salão de culinária no Espaço Culturama.

Curso: A Arte da Fermentação na Gastronomia
Datas: 28 e 30 de novembro e 01 de dezembro
Horário: 19h às 22h
Duração: 09 h/aula


Explorar e resgatar a arte de produzir alimentos usando processos fermentativos, ricos em bactérias benéficas e enzimas alimentares, essenciais para a produção de alimentos como #chucrute (em alemão: Sauerkraut), #KefirdeAgua e #Kombucha e Pão de Fermentação Natural (#levain). Demonstrar o que é a fermentação e como incorporar alimentos e bebidas probióticas na alimentação diária, por meio de #OficinasParticipativas e vivenciais com degustação.

Informações e inscrições: 3924-1917

Go-to-Sweet Rolls


One of my favorite egg bread, sweet roll recipe is  King Arthur Cinna Buns recipe . I adapted and have used whole grain flours as well maple syrup  or honey for sweetener. I have cut the sugar in half and other times used oil for the butter and water for the milk. This egg dough makes pretty braided bread too. I have made with fresh and dried fruits. I have added nuts and chocolate chips. I have also used wild yeast! I use this recipe as my go-to sweet roll.

I like to bake half of the recipe right away and freeze the other half. When ready for sweet rolls, I let them thaw overnight in the fridge and bake the next morning. For the icing, when we use, a thin drizzle of cream cheese frosting goes long ways and I often have that in my freezer too, ready to go. But a spoon of homemade yogurt it is just perfect on them too.

Go-to Sweet Roll

adapted from King Arthur Cinna Buns recipe

1 cup lukewarm milk or other liquid like whey, water, coconut milk
1/3 cup (75 grams) butter, cut up or oil
1  teaspoons salt (if using unsalted butter)
1/4 to 1/2 cup  sugar, maple syrup, honey, muscovado
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour or a mix of whole grain and all purposeFor the filling, make a paste: 1/3 cup butter, softened, 1 cup muscovado sugar, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the dough, mix together all ingredients and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make s smooth, soft dough. I mix for about 10- 12 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough rise until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough in half. Open each half into a rectangle and spread half the filling paste over each half. Roll the dough into a log and cut it into 14-18 slices.

Place the rolls in 2 lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pans. Cover the pan with a towel and let the rolls rise until they’re nearly doubled. Or at this point, transfer to the fridge for slow rise or freeze to bake later. Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake them on a preheated  oven until they’re golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. I usually take them out of the fridge and let the rolls sit on the counter for about 1 hour before baking them.





When life gives us papayas that are perfectly ripe and full of flavor,
we make time to savor them.


Savor | Definition of Savor by Merriam-Webster

transitive verb. 1 : to give flavor to : season.

2 a : to have experience of : taste

   b : to taste or smell with pleasure : relish

   c : to delight in : enjoy <savoring the moment>

“You only think of food?” said my mother this morning in a exclamatory question.

Savoring Food is a way I savor life. Another way is trough photography. It may look like a simple way. And it is. I am truly happy to dwell in my kitchen, with my camera. There I go to work. There I am myself and I have fun. There I am joined by friends and loved ones. Most of the time, my family is my only audience.

My friend Nancy Weber said joking: “you have one track mind!” when I asked about the edible flowers on her bouquet. And this week my friend Amy Haloran comment on one of my  street fruit tree photos: “You see food everywhere!”


One of the main reasons I savor is to share. I have had the privileged to witness, in my garden and in the city, the journey seeds take before it reaches my plate and I call it food or nourishment.  I also have witness food insecurity in several countries including the United States and Brazil. I believe all of us can be involved with food rescuing from our kitchens to our communities. Individually, collectively and creatively, we can do a lot to preserve food’s beauty and nutrition.

I have learned to appreciate many aspects of food preparation. When I worked with my friend katrin Haldeman at her cafe, she called it KitchenZen. I am always ready to celebrate a family recipe or excited for a new discovery in the kitchen because I relish! I savor!

Bellow a cart of papayas I rescued from my neighborhood grocery store and the recipes I made.


(photos of papayas rescued from a local grocery store).

Papaya Jam da Celeste
3 to 4 pounds of papaya, seeds and skin removed,
1 to 2 cups of sugar
6 clovers
Juice of 2 lemons

1) Blend papaya without adding water

2) Add papaya to a sauce pan with sugar and clovers and cook on low, stirring until it reduces. To check, hold spoon over the pot. When the jam forms a thick drop that does not run off (or candy thermometer 220°F) the jam is ready.
Turn off the stove and stir in juice of 2 lemons. Let the jam cool down completely.
If not canning, freeze or keep refrigerated
Bom Apetite!

Story Cooking Brazil

Hello world. We landed in Brazil last month. My husband got an exciting job in Rio de Janeiro and we are trilled to bring our girls to my home country. It has been a busy month, making the move, getting kids to school, and the best part — catching up with family and friends.

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#ipanema #familywalk #apoador #storycookingbrazil

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It was so so difficult to say goodbye and to move within 6 weeks. There was so much to do but our church family and our dear friends and community came to our aid and helped. We are leaving a life behind, that no doubt, we will miss terribly. We are leaving our dog Kora with a beautiful family, who we trust completely, until we can be reunited. We have made big moves before, when we went to live in France. We did not have kids, but still, this feels different. I left Brazil to immigrate to America when I was 19 years old. I got married in 2006… lots of math… anyway, I am living my home to reconnect with my other home. There are no simple ways I can explain in one post. Hope more words will come and more pictures that will fill in the blank.

Thank you for the memories and love Troy, NY! I hope we have thanked everyone, but we may have not. Thank you for the love, beautiful words, cards, gifts,  movies and good bye parties…

with friends at Nine Mile Farm in Delmar


With our church family.


I feel humbled and blessed. At times sad, happy, excited and homesick. We have had wonderful conversations  with our girls about change and how it can be hard. We appreciate the makeup of our diverse family and this opportunity to be here.

What does one pack for this kind of journey? I left almost everything behind that did not fit in my 2 bags quota; just like the first time I came to the USA. But I packed my cultures: sourdough starter, water kefir grains and Kombucha scoby 🙂 I also packed a few of my favorite kitchen utensils and one recipe notebook and a blank one I intend to fill. I also packed a couple of cameras, bible, and a couple inspirational books. Special blue ink pens I got from my friend Mary Baldwin.  I am happy to report they all cleared customs and are doing very well.

ellie-girls-rioWe arrived in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics and that was very memorable and fun. Ok, it was also very expensive, so we left. We will be back in January to fix residence. Our first day in town, we got up to a wonderful farmer’s market happening right outside the  apartment we were staying in Copacabana. We could not get enough of all the tropical fruits and wonderful smells. We wanted to eat everything: papayas, guavas, coconuts and mangos… but wait, this time we have time.

And what’s happening with StoryCooking?

You may have noticed a new hashtag #storycookingbrazil on my recent posts on Instagram and here on the blog. I will continue posting recipes and stories and hope you will check it out and join the journey. I am ready to learn, experience and share the art of life. There is so much wisdom and oral history in all kitchens. At the moment, we are living with my mother in Goiania and there is not a day that she does not surprise us with  a new story, method or ingredient. Stay tuned!



StoryCooking Summer Classes

StoryCooking Classes with Ellie Markovitch

Summer in Upstate New York is a beautiful time of the year to cook and to connect. I am really excited to team up with ASA and the Arts Center for Farms Food Photography Bootcamp for Adults with ASA  .  This farm-to-table camp is StoryCooking. It combines my love and my art.  We are never too old to go to camp, make new friends, explore beautiful Washington and Rensselaer counties and have a great time! Students will be expected to meet me at the farms, farmer market and the digital lab.  We will have a tour, meet the farmers, cook together, document the day, reflect on the role of farms and food in our lives. And yes, have a blast! Don’t forget to bring your camera! Please see the list of the beautiful farms we will be visiting bellow.

Stable Gate barn and Vineyards, Wednesday July 13th

Dennison Farm, Thursday July 14th

Lant Hill Farm, Friday July 15th

Troy Farmer’s Market, Saturday July 16th

Arts Center Digital Lab, Sunday July 17th



Sunset at Lant Hill. Photo by Ellie Markovitch

I am also teaching how to ferment the garden bounty and how to make sourdough bread at Cafe Dali Mamma. Farms Food Photography Camp for Pre-teens with Agricultural Stewardship Association is on it’s 4th year! We will also cook with kids at Oakwood Community Center or  you can sign them up for culinary camp at Arts Center of the Capital Region.

Please see the date and how to sign up bellow:

June 2, 2016 Soul Cafe Kids Kitchen at Oakwood Community Center

June 7, 2016 Sauerkraut and Fermented Salsa Class at Cafe Dali Mamma

June 14, 2016 Intro to Sourdough bread making at Cafe Dali Mamma

June 27 – August 1, 2016 Farms Food and Photography Camp with ASA Pre-Teens

July 5 – August 8, 2016 In the Kitchen with Ellie Big Kids entering 4th & 5th grade

July 13 – 17, 2016 Farms Food and Photography with ASA Adult Bootcamp


Vertuty with Sveta

In many of my strong food memories, I am watching someone cook. Among my favorites are my maternal grandmother Antonia making tapioca biscuits on an earth oven in the State of Bahia in Brazil. I also loved watching my grandfather Amelio make rapadura growing up. I am a visual person and through the visual language is how I learn best. Cooking with my family, friends and in my community is the love fuel that runs in my veins.


A couple of weeks ago I had a date with my friend Sveta Sandul to make her family recipe for Vertuty, Moldovan cuisine.  Vertuty is a like strudel, a layered bread.  Sveta makes this bread, pastry, every week in her home. They extended the invitation to my  whole family and as always, we had a wonderful time and beautiful and delicious dinner.
Sveta had her dough ready and told me to just add water to the flour until I get the consistency of the dough she was showing me. I kept my eyes on her, on her fast moving hands as she stretched each ball of dough. She opened first with the rolling pan then transferred to her hands and continued opening the dough that looked as thin as paper.
Sveta learned from her mother, who she said made big round ones. She learned to open the dough in a fabric to make it easy to roll.

“After rolling, spray or brush the dough with a little oil or butter before baking.” she said.

With the same dough, she made Plachindy, a fried version, open not as thin, filled with a mixture of  Farmer’s cheese (Tvorog) and an egg and fried in vegetable oil.

When I was ready to make Vertuty this week, I texted her and asked for the recipe.

” I never bother to measure everything and write it down…but you know the dough consistency,” she said.

So I gave my best try and it was super fun to go deep in my memory of watching her and cooking with her.  Please see in the video how she transfer the dough!

Sveta’s Vertuty

About 4 potatoes and 1 medium onion cut into a small dice, seasoned with salt and pepper
a mixture of half  butter and half olive oil to drizzle on the dough before adding the topping and on top of the filling before rolling.

Mix 1 cup of flour with 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of warm water. Mix until all the liquid was absorbed and knead the dough until a nice soft ball. It will be a little sticky, soft and elastic.  Place the dough on a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest 15 minutes.


Cover your working area with kitchen cloth/large kitchen towel, dust it with flour and rub some flour into your hands and rolling pan. Then using your hands, gently stretch and pull the dough. She said if the dough tears, don’t worry because you are going to roll over that area anyway.
Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of oil/butter mixture with a spoon over the dough (see video)
Spread the potato onion filling evenly on the dough. Then drizzle another 2 tablespoons of oil/butter (I think, who was counting? )
Lift the tablecloth and make motion forward so the dough roll and looks like strudel pastry.
Carry the Vertuty on the cloth to transfer it over to a baking sheet.  Sveta made logs, sprayed with oil and baked convention oven 375 for 20 minutes. (Or bake 400 regular oven)
Enjoy out of the oven. We sure did.

Here my first try – delicious.


Thank you Sveta!