1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 37 out of 40

As I baked some cookies this afternoon I noticed they are getting bigger, adjusting to my kids’ hands.  

I have made a lot of tiny foods the past 15 years – hand pies, mini cupcakes, cut out cookies, dumplings, grilled cheese sandwich triangles to name a few.

Our bodies, especially our hands, are tools in the kitchen for a more intuitive approach in baking. We use our hands to mix, to portion, to shape, to feel, to transfer wild yeast. From Ancient Egypt to modern times, we still use our hands for measuring – ”There are 4 inches in a hand (unit).” In school, if we didn’t have a ruler, we estimated our hand span was about 20 cm, almost 8 inches.

Some recipes still encourage us to add “a pinch of salt” or a “handful of greens.”  My mom taught me that a handful of raw rice is one serving. She was taught when she learned to cook for the workers at the farm when she was a child.

I love making foods that fit in our hands. It says “take me with you.” 

Sourdough Soft Sugar cookies with Rye Squash Leaven

  • 10 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of sourdough starter or pre ferment. I used the same from yesterday, a preferment fed with roasted squash puree and rye.
  • 1  egg
  • 2 cups wheat flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1⁄4 tsp coarse salt
  • For the topping a mixture of sugar and cinnamon or
  • “doce de leite” , dulce the Leche short cut: add condensed milk to a mason jar. Put the lid on and cook under water in a slow cooker on low or high to desired color and thickness. I like hours on low for 6-8 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prep cookie sheets with a baking mat, parchment paper, or lightly grease.
  • In a bowl, by hand or with a mixer, cream butter and sugar.
  • Add egg and beat well.
  • Add sourdough and mix well.
  • Add flour, baking powder, salt to the butter mixture and mix.
  • Chill the dough before shaping.
  • Take about one tablespoon of dough and flatten to a disk.
  • Roll into cinnamon sugar
  • Transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheet and bake 350℉ for 10 minutes.
  • Let cookies cool completely

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 36 out of 40

What all these home baked goods that I have been posting the past month have in common besides wild yeast, local flour and salt?

Me. 

Even if we were all using the same ingredients, we have journeys of our own. We have internalized recipes and methods we don’t even think about. Maybe some of them have been passed down to us in our DNA, I like to believe. Most of us are comfortable working with and trusting our five senses when we cook and bake.

I have been thinking about our “sixth sense,” as some describe proprioception –  the sense of self-movement and body position, our awareness of movement and rhythm while we cook and bake. We trust we can learn to drive, paint, and play instruments…I trust with some practice, I can feel when I need to add more water to the corn flour when making a loaf of bread. 

Recipes are a starting point for me, but I am often guided by rhythm, experimentation, garden bounty and limitations. I have learned most about bread during non ideal conditions, when I have bread that is rising too fast or too slow;  when I am too tired and have to pause or I have leftovers I need to use.

In the article “The Silent Sixth Sense,” Brian Resnick writes :

“What’s amazing is how every muscle in your body is sending out this information all the time. Your nervous system somehow processes that massive amount of data without any conscious work on our part. How could it possibly be conscious? You’d go wild from information overload.”

I can see that baking without exact recipes can be stressful for some and recipes are wonderful road maps. It is just as wonderful to take a side road of discovery and butterflies in our stomachs knowing we can trust our internal GPS system.  We are not totally lost.  

Sourdough Cornmeal and Rye Boule

This was also a loaf I mixed on Monday for April Flour talk with Amy Halloran and Cultures.Group taking my chances and excitement with low hydration and whole grains. I talked about how we grew Flint corn in our garden last year and how this grain is easier to be processed small scale at home – garden to bread. It turned out delicious and I am enjoying with a drizzle of honey. Inspired by beautiful sourdough broa by IG Patricia the breadhead .

1 part of rye leaven + 1 part of water + 2 parts of flour (mix of mostly wholemeal rye and cornmeal and small amount of wheat) and salt to taste. Same day rise. Baked dutch oven method 450F for 25 minutes with the lid on and another 20 without the lid.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 35 out of 40

“Sing a Song of Sixpence” is a well-known English nursery rhyme. I often think of it when I bake pie with rye. Or I think of it because I like the idea that in some interpretations, the birds are not just the pie filling, but represent the numbers of hours in a day… My pies are also holding my day and feelings.

Often my baking starts in my head connected with ingredients that may need to be used, seasonal gifts from our garden, or inspired by a conversation with a friend…it can take me the whole day to put it together. I build on the ideas, piece by piece.

Today’s pie started this morning, as I prepared for the “April Flour” talk that my friend Amy Halloran and I did with Cultures.Group . I mixed the rye starter I have been posting about with some leftover roasted squash puree and more rye flour and water to make a pre-ferment or leaven to a thick paste, no recipe. I let it ferment all day and tonight I used in the pie crust.

“Sing a song of sixpence,

A pocket full of rye,

Four and twenty blackbirds,

Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened

The birds began to sing;

Wasn’t that a dainty dish,

To set before the king?

The king was in his counting house,

Counting out his money;

The queen was in the parlour

Eating bread and honey…”

Sourdough Whole Grain Pie Crust

This single crust can go sweet or savory 

1 1/4 cup of whole grain flour ( today I used ½ cup of barley and ¾ cup of wheat)

1/2 cup butter 

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar (optinal)

6 tbsp of sourdough starter or fermented flour  (today I used rye ferment I made during the April Flour kick off talk)

For quiche filling mix: 4 eggs, 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup of milk, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 cup of cheese and 1/2 cup of cooked kale. Some sliced shallots as topping.

Cut butter into flour, sugar, salt mix.  You can use your hands or food processor. Add sourdough discard or fermented flour until it comes together. Press into a disc. Cut the disc into 4 parts, stack them and press again back into disc for a rough lamination. Wrap and chill dough for 2 hours up to 3 days or freeze. If you are using sourdough starter it will continue to ferment in the fridge. When ready to use the dough, let it come to room temperature a bit and roll it out. I often use my tortilla press if I am making small pies. I keep the dough cold while I assemble the other pie ingredients. After the pie is assembled, I chill the pie before baking in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Then I bake hot in a metal pie pan!

For the quiche, I brushed the crust with egg yolk and partially blind baked at 425F for about 10 minutes. I poked with a fork and did not use any weights, just poked the crust down as needed but I didn’t have to today. I added the filling, reduced the temperature to 375F and baked for another 30 minutes ( or 400F for another 20 minutes depending in the filling you are using works well too)

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 34 out of 40

Yesterday I posted how I make Rye Sourdough starter using a scraping from my sourdough mother.

Then I mixed this sourdough seeded rye bread with dried fruits and baked it today. I used a recipe I wrote September 2018 when my friend Laurie gave us a big bag of Rye flour. I am quite motivated by food gifts. I am constantly writing recipes and notes down of what I make. I write how I make things because I do not want to forget. I want to have a record and keep them alive.

I can’t imagine what it is like to leave my home and country because of a war. I left my home and country when I was 19 years old. I moved to the United States to go to school. It was hard, but it was a happy occasion and I had a sense that I was entering a whole world of discovery and opportunities. Still I was leaving Brazil with two suitcases. I would return, many times, family could come, but that first departure was like no other.

I could not bring food or grandma’s cast iron bean pot with me, but I copied my mom’s recipe into a notebook — my heirloom. The same recipes I had copied many times that said “add flour until right” or “use 3-5 egg.” It was my job to rewrite them as a child when mom’s notebooks pages would start to follow apart. It was my connection home. I was preserving them for eternity or at least for generations to come.

The hope is that when we have to leave our homes, recipes are with us, they are part of us. We know we have them in us, in our heads and in our hearts.

Tomorrow I will join Amy Halloran and Chef Ken Fornataro for April Flours to benefit humanitarian work in Ukraine. We will explore what happens when we feel the rhythm of fermentation. We invite you to be with bread, and figure out your connections to baking in a loosely held community. We will meet at the beginning of the month and map a way to extract all the fuel we can from our stores; we’ll meet again at the end of the month and discuss our journeys.

The pass is $45 to support @wckitchen . Recording available and some great content is already up and it includes my sourdough primer . 

Opening session is free:

April Flours: History of Baking and Milling and the Significance of Sourdough in America – (Amy Halloran and Ellie Markovitch)
Apr 4, 2022 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88428193637
Meeting ID: 884 2819 3637
Passcode: AEFlours

I

Sourdough Seeded Rye with dried fruit

Sourdough Seeded Rye with dried fruit

I started by refreshing making a rye starter from scraping and then feeing it at 100% hydration to mix this bread, which means I fed it equal parts of water and flour. I like ratios as you know, easy to remember: 1 part leaven : 3 parts water: 3 parts flour.

Make a pre-ferment or leaven

57g of starter seed (wheat or rye I used rye)

57g of rye flour 

57g of water

For the loaf:

170g of rye pre-ferment (fed and bubbly from above) 

510g water room temperature

510g of wholemeal rye flour

10 g of salt (2% of the flour amount) 

2 cups total of a mix of seeds and dried fruits (mix and match what you have I used flax, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, roasted buckwheat groats, raisins and dried fig and dried prune. 

  1. Mix the pre-ferment
  2. Mix water, rye flour, salt and seeds (it will be stiff paste ) and let it all soak together while your pre-ferment rises
  3. When your pre-ferment has doubled and is bubbly , 4-6 hours later, depending on the temperature of your house, add too the flour/water/seed mixture and mix very well.
  4. Pour into a greased 9 5/8 x 5 1/2 x 2 3/4 loaf pan or a 13x 4 loaf pan and let it rise for 3-4 hours til it reaches the top. Another option is to put in the fridge for an overnight rise (what I did today) because I was not around to watch the dough and rye can ferment fast. 
  5. Baked in 475F for 45 minutes, internal temp 200F. You can add a pan with hot water in the oven to create steam. 
  6. Wait 24 hours to slice the bread. I do when I can. I cut it hot and it was delicious.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 33 out of 40

I can’t remember my mom or dad making loaves of bread. There were lots of homemade breads in our table, they just had different shapes. There were tapiocas ( flat breads made with yuca starch) and slices of cuscuz and broas made of cornmeal and breakfast cakes and biscuits of all kinds. But we bought “Pão Francês” for breakfast (Brazilian bread rolls) and “Pão de Forma” loaves for grilled ham sandwiches “misto-quente” (“hot mix” in literal translation).

When I married a person who’s bread had different shapes, grains, stories and expressions, I was so excited to embrace them. I felt in love with the process of making boules and loaves.

Everyday we have a chance to write our own bread story. When I stop by the second hand store and find a new loaf pan I wonder if my kids will talk about our long bricks of seeded rye bread. Will they remember the jars of starter that have been part of their whole lives tucked in the fridge, displayed in window seals, and traveled in our suitcases on vacation?

I don’t keep a rye sourdough starter, instead, I take a little scraping  of my wheat starter, feed it rye flour and water. I may keep that going for a few weeks but I know I can always restart the process from my original sourdough mother.  

We can adopt, make up and start traditions of our own at any time, and they will be ours, like the culture will make a home in the rye flour as it did in in the wheat.

How to create Rye Sourdough Starter from Wheat starter

Take a scrapping from your wheat starter and feed it some rye flour and water to create a paste. Or you can feed by weight according to your recipes and baking routine. If you wish to keep a rye starter, keep feeding it rye flour. I always keep my original mother fed whole wheat as well.

Within a few feedings, the starter should be converted to the new flour and it will become rye sourdough starter. Monitor to see that is happy, with bubble and about double and it is ready to use.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 32 out of 40

Cake Time! I was reading about cake on  Food Timeline website

and how cake is consumed these days “at all significant times in the cycle of life.”

So true. We add our best wishes and our best ingredients into a mold and make an offering.

We have made cake eating a practice in our home. Snack cakes have are a weekly fair as my mom made them on Friday nights, when she would turn the oven on and do all her baking. I am trying to keep the tradition. Sometimes we make frosted cakes just because. But because it is a way to celebrate the everyday. Finishing the work week and welcoming the weekend with the family is a reason for cake.

I uses my dried starter “flour” to make my favorite frosting: flour buttercream or Ermine frosting

Ermine Frosting, using ground dried sourdough starter 

1 cup sugar, granulated, raw or demerara

5 tbsp of flour (today I used the dried starter)

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, whisk together flour, milk, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook until it is thick and smooth like pudding for 2-3 minutes. After cooking, pass the roux through a sieve to catch small bits of flour and place in a bowl or plate. 

Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the roux to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside to cool completely to room temperature.

In a bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy 4-5 minutes. Stop halfway to scrap the bowl. Add vanilla and the prepared roux a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. Beat an extra 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Pipe or frost as desired.

If when you incorporate the roux it separates, a quick fix is to warm up the bowl a bit, by placing it over a pot with warm water and re-whip. If you refrigerate or freeze the icing, re-whip before using. It keeps in the fridge for a week and at least one month in the freezer.

For the Whole Grain Sponge

3-5 eggs ( I used 3 today)

½ cup to ¾ cup of maple syrup or sugar ( I used ½ cup of sugar today)

1 cup of stone ground flour or you can use what you have, sifted wheat works too.

¼ tsp salt

1. Pre-heat oven 350F

2. Beat eggs until it triples in volume, about 7 minutes

3. Incorporate maple syrup, one tablespoon at time, beating for another 2 minutes

4. Stir and fold in flour being careful not to break all the bubbles

5. Bake in a oiled and floured 8 1/2 inch pan for 23 to 25 minutes

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 31 out of 40

The days are getting longer and the tasks are filling the days. We wait and wait for Spring to get here and run towards it. I am walking slowly as possible, even though it is hard to fight the impulse of doing one more thing when the sun is warming the dirt, the trees, the air and us. When we are busy I still bake bread. I have one recipe that allows me to mix a dough and decide later how I want to shape.

What’s your daily bread?
Flatbread, English muffins, loaf, boule, bagel, pita, cinnamon rolls, pizza, bread chips? Ours often start with my #multipurposesourdough recipe . These days we have been making lots of sandwich loafs and I add 1-2 eggs to my basic recipe. It is a simple recipe or approach – make one dough that allows us to make the bread we would like and we can customize with ingredients we have at home. Today our bread was mixed in the afternoon, the levain had pass its peak, but for breadsticks would do just fine. And dipped in garlic, chili and sesame seeds is beyond fine.

Sourdough breadsticks, my multipurpose sourdough recipe in cups:

Next week Amy Halloran and I will be joining bakers and cultures.group for “April Flours” a benefit for Ukraine.

1 cup starter or ¼ tsp yeast
1 cup liquid ( today I used 1 medium roasted beet blended with water ) and I also added an egg 
3 – 3 1/2 cups flour. (If you are using all whole grains, some flours are thirsty so add a few extra splashes of liquid. If you are using yeast and omitting the sourdough starter, reduce the flour to about 3 cups)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp honey or sugar (optional)
3 tbsp of oil 
1) In the morning, mix all ingredients until the liquid and flour is well incorporated. No need to knead, but you can for 2-3 minutes to help develop the gluten if you would like. Let it rise until it nearly double

Roll the dough into a rectangle. Slice the rectangle into 8 logs and twist into breadsticks. Transfer to a greased or lined baking sheet leaving a bit of space between each one. Let them rise for a couple of hours until puffed, Brush with egg wash if desired. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 30 out of 40

The flour that became sourdough starter, that became flour.

Today I had fun making flour from my dehydrated sourdough starter and baking a cookie with it. It feels like working with time – pausing and restarting a process.

I think of time as a magical ingredient that I sometimes use a lot, but sometimes I can get by with less.

Dehydrated Sourdough Starter Flour Cookie

recipe test:

4 tbsp of salted butter

4 tbsp sugar

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup of Dehydrated Sourdough Starter Flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

Fennel Pollen to taste

Mixed with a fork, baked 375F for 8-10 minutes.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 29 out of 40

Tonight I was reading about cook, caterer and entrepreneur Annie “Knowles” Fisher and her “beaten biscuits” and how extraordinary she was (is). I am having trouble reading about her in the past tense as she is inspiring me right now thought Verna Laboy’s work to keep this black woman baker story alive. Fisher became famous with her dish of biscuits and ham. They were called “beaten” because before food processors and baking powder the biscuits were beaten for 15 minutes. Later she created her own tools as she scaled her business and became very wealthy.

“Fisher’s recipe included 1 quart of sifted flour, 1/3 cup of pure lard, 1/3 cup of butter, 1 cup of sweetened water, and salt to taste. Ingredients are mixed thoroughly and beaten for 15 minutes to make biscuits light and fluffy. Fisher said beating the biscuits was meant to, “put life into them.”

I will continue reading about Fisher and leave you with the sourdough biscuits I made for tonight’s dinner. I didn’t

Sourdough Whole Grain Biscuit

1 3/4 cup of whole grain flour (mixing with sifted flour makes a light biscuit. For variation use some cornmeal, rye, buckwheat or barley, is so delicious)

1 tablespoon of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 teaspoon of sugar (optional)

1/2 cup of fat (I used butter)

3/4 cup of fermented flour or discard

2 tablespoon of milk kefir or yogurt

  • Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  • Combine flours and all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Add diced cold butter and mix into flour with hands to make pea sized butter bits in the flour
  • Add fermented flour (discard) with the milk kefir or yogurt and blend till mixed and dough comes together.
  • Turn dough out onto a floured surface, cut into 4 sections, flatten each section into a square, stack onto each other, flatten again, stack again.
  • Flatten into a square and cut into squares or rounds.
  • Tray of cut biscuits can be put into the freezer for 15 minutes to harden butter.
  • Place on a parchment covered cookie sheet or cast iron skillet and bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 28 out of 40

A little piece of dough inside a glass of water makes a nice sourdough clock.

After I mix my sourdough bread, I take a littel piece of it and add it to a jar with water. It is a test for judging when bulk fermentation and/or proof is done (first rise is done) and then we can shape the bread. We just want to know or don’t want to miss the time to shape the bread. Temperature, flour, how the dough was mixed, how much starter we used, all effects how long it takes for the dough to ferment.

Another way to monitor is to use a rubber band on your container and see when the dough doubles.

You can see on this picture, my #multipurposesourdough that it doubled and the little piece of dough went from the bottom of the jar to floating.

This is not a float test we do before we mix bread to check if our leaven is at peak and ready to mix bread. I found out some call “Water-Proofed sourdough bread

I could not remember where I saw it, sometimes information is filed until we have a question. I was talking to a friend about the bread float and I wanted to look for it. I found a couple posts referring to to an 1860 Russian cookbook. One from the thefreshloaf.com and another from leaandjay.wordpress.com/tag/water-dough-rise/ (with lovely recipe) that states:

[In the book “Bread Matters”. Andrew Whitly states that “an original method of judging proof is given in a famous Russian Cookbook and household manual from the 1860’s called “A Gift to Young Housewives” by Elena Molohkovets.” She wrote:

“After molding the dough made with fine flour, you may put the loaves in a bucket of water (the temperature of a river in summer) where they will lie on the bottom until they are fully proofed. When they float to the surface, put them straight into the oven…..Incidentally if you are proofing bread on the table, you can put a small test piece of dough into cold water; when it rises to the surface, you can put all your loaves into the oven.”]

I wrote a few weeks back about the peak moment of the sourdough starter and it is also true with the main dough. Sometimes we miss and we can still use the fermented dough and make delicious and nutritious breads for example. I love making paratha and other flat breads if my dough overproof.

When we bake by touch, intuition or are using new flours or recipes, sometimes it feels like we are baking in  the dark. This little piece of dough in water could be a little window into what may be going on with the dough and if people are new to sourdough, may guide the timing.