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

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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.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 39 out of 40

My cooking is a patchwork. Each day smaller irregular and improvised pieces join a larger design. I connect the pieces by hand or with the help of a machine. I try to make them fit. I want them to fit my designs, my ideas, my taste and preferences. But it is not by force, it is with patience and flexibility. We can make pieces fit in a variety of ways, in a variety of unexpected ways. I look at a quilt or a dish as non linear living daily stories.

Sheet-pan Sourdough Whole grain crust 

This single crust can go sweet or savory 

1 1/4 cup whole grain (today I used half wholemeal rye and half barley)

1/2 cup butter 

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar (optional)

6 tbsp sourdough starter fed or aged ( today I used  2 tbsp starter,  2 tbsp milk kefir + 1 egg

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 (or mix of other liquids if using) Press into a disc. Cut the disc into 4 parts, stack them and press again back into a disc for a rough lamination. Wrap and chill dough for 2 hours up to 3 days or freeze. If you are using a 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 blinded baked sheet-pan crust. Bake 425 F for 15-20 minutes. Add ¾ cup of chocolate to the warm crust and the heat will soften the chocolate. Then use a spatula or the back of a spoon and spread it over the crust

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 38 out of 40

When I forgot to feed my starter last night, my friend and flour sister Amy Halloran is the proxy who makes sourdough bread for us. She is in New York and I am in Maine, but we keep the conversation going.

On a call this afternoon she told me she had mixed sourdough buns with beet water. My heart swells with gratitude. It is a joy to see how our exchanges become paths that become rhythms. We feed each other when we share our knowledge. 

People and time are ingredients, like flour and water, that keeps a culture nourished and thriving. This is how we feed a community and a community feeds us back.  


On the topic of baking liquids, in-lieu-of of water I often use eggs, milk, whey, vegetable juice, coffee, vegetable puree, cooked cereals, and cooking  water from vegetables and beans. Let your taste be your guide, and think of dough as being thirsty for the delicious leftovers from other cooking projects.

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

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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.