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.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 27 out of 40

My mom’s notebooks read “add flour to the right consistency” and I have shied away from that way of baking for decades. How would I know how much flour? Not until I mess up a few times and figure out what the flour needs.

Baking with intuition is bringing ourselves, ingredients, skills, ideas and time together to make bread that is a snapshot of life. It is also a process of opening us up as we open ourselves up to the outcome of what bread is and can be. 

Many people seem to be trying to make their best breads, and I find myself trying to figure out how to “mess up” and still get bread that reflects my life. I started working on this idea of #rethinkingperfect when I traveled to Pantanal in Brazil and took only my sourdough starter with me. I got to make bread at our friend’s guest house with the cook that worked there. As I was baking, I realized I had everything I needed to make bread, a simpler way, for many the only way they have ever known — we have flour, we add water, we make some bread. As I was telling our friend Vicente and he started singing the song Meio De Campo by Gilberto Gil:

 “Dear friend Afonsinho 

I’m still here improving the imperfect

Giving time, finding a way, brushing aside perfection …

Without fear of “the perfect” …  

We become open to all the opportunities bread allows us to see.

Intuitive Sourdough Bread without a recipe

If you would like to make an #storycookingfreestyle bread or #intuitiveloaf with me, here my steps:

Add a thin layer of leaven (fed starter) to cover the bottom of your bowl. If you don’t have sourdough starter, add a few pinches of commercial yeast.

Add about an inch of liquid to the bowl with the leaven (include vegetable purees here is using)

Add 4-5 grabs of salt to taste (like the ocean)

Add flour (porridge, seeds, nuts, etc) until you are able to form a ball.

Keep mixing until the dough “cleans” or releases itself from the bowl.

After mixing, develop the dough however you like: fold, slap, claw or give it time – the dough will still rise

Shape sourdough. Place in a bowl or loaf and let it rise again. On the counter (faster) or in the fridge (slower).


1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 26 out of 40

Cora Coralina — ‘Recreate your life, always, always. Remove the stones, plant rose bushes and make sweets. Begin again.’

Cora Coralina was a writer and poet from the state where I am from in Brazil. I love her work and loved every minute visiting her house, now a museum and seeing her kitchen where she made and sold sweets to support herself. Often I think of her and her words when I make sweets in my own kitchen…

Translation by Rosaliene Bacchus

I don’t know… If life is short
or too long for us.
But I know that nothing we endure
makes sense, if we don’t touch people’s hearts.

Most times it’s enough to be:
the receptive shoulder
enveloping arm
comforting word
respectful silence
infectious joy
flowing tears
caressing look
gratifying wish
encouraging love.

And this is not something from another world.
It’s what gives meaning to life.
It’s what makes life
neither short
nor too long.
But it would be intense
true, pure…
While it lasts.

Sourdough Cocoa Fudge Cookies

1 cup of cocoa powder

1 to 1.5 cups of sugar, we often use 1 cup

1/2 cup butter

4 eggs

2 tablespoons of sourdough starter

2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Mix all ingredients and let it ferment in the fridge for at least one day.

Bake 350F for 10-12 minutes

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 25 out of 40

I was home alone today. These is not a one-off experience. There have been countless days, between moves, between states and even countries, that my sourdough starter was the one constant friend I had in the kitchen. During COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, many came to appreciate a bond with their sourdough starter.

My sourdough starter is the kind of friend that listens to me, helps feed me, plays with me, and keeps me company. It responds to my touch, welcomes the wild yeasts from my home and gives me joy.

My kids are always telling me I talk to my sourdough and I know I do. It  keeps me company as I pray, clean, sing, work and carry on with life. It meets me when I want to try something different. It survived being dried, starved, being very cold and very hot. It has been fed scraps and kids leftover cereals. It has drank tree sap and beet juice. 

Sourdough is also a teacher, showing me that there are many ways to breads and the breads I make with the help of my starter are one of a kind. Each loaf can hold a path, a story, a lesson, a connection with our community or just some butter!

These Sourdough buns were made with a leaven fed with milk and was in the fridge for 5 days! (not intended but I am glad it waited for me.) The recipe is Amy Halloran adaptation of Olia Hercules Pampushky Ukrainian garlic bread we have been making as part of #cookforukraine #bakeforukraine classes we have been teaching together. Today I used sifted wheat, whole wheat and rye flours, 52% preferment, about 30% eggs, 45% liquid, 10% butter plus sugar and salt. If my math is correct. But sourdough forgives bad math as well.

The next Connect and Cook for Ukraine fundraising online event is with Honest Weight Food Co-op March 28 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT and I hope you can join us.

1/2 cup of sourdough

24 out of 40

My mom always made bread chips for the family. Commercial potato chips were a luxury item. When she visits from Brazil she still makes them for us, any old bread will do. Back then, she used mostly the leftovers from small French style white bread we often eat for breakfast that dries up by the next day. I try to keep the bread chips going until we see her again. Her recipes sustain us, specially when we have “saudade.”

Saudade is a Portuguese word that is hard to translate directly into English. It is not just to miss someone or something, but Saudade is a nostalgic or profound melancholic feeling of longing for something or someone we care for.

Sourdough Bread Chips

We use the bread we have – sourdough. Cut into triangles, drizzle with lots of olive oil (could use butter), salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder and lot and lots of oregano. Bake in a 300F or 350F until the bread is dried and crunchy. It is impossible to stop eating them.


1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 23 out of 40

For me, aged sourdough bread is in a category of its own. I like to say aged not stale because I am always amazed how a piece of very old sourdough bread comes to life in a bowl of hot soup, in the toaster or when fried in a little bit of fat. We have chickens, but they don’t get to eat our leftover breads because we truly use it all. From kvass, bread chips to bread crumbs, there are so many ways to enjoy it.

I keep a bag of sourdough bread crumbs in the freezer. I make from bread hills and older slices from different loaves I keep in a container in the fridge. I sometimes make it from fresh sourdough bread as well if I am running out because it is such a handy ingredient. I make sourdough bread crumbs by pulsing the bread in the blender until fine. 

Sourdough bread crumb meatballs and white beans and kale soup

Sourdough breadcrumbs and meatballs 

1 lb meat or meat alternative of choice (sprouted lentils or cooked beans work well too)

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 large egg, beaten

½ cup to 1 cup of sourdough breadcrumbs

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Minced garlic

1 teaspoon oregano or spices of choice

Mix all ingredients well. Take one tablespoon of the mix and make the meatballs. Place the meatballs  in a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400F oven for 30-40 minutes. I like to double the recipe and freeze. 

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 22 out of 40

Engaging with fermentation is an exercise in hope. It transforms the product and the maker, the future and the now.

I started looking at time differently when I started working with sourdough and other cultures. I didn’t see fermentation as the process of breaking down but as an opportunity to build up. To work with microorganisms to create.  And building things takes time; not wasting time, but gaining. 

Sourdough Tortillas ( make 8 large for burritos or 12 smaller for tacos) 

3 cups of stone ground wheat flour 

1 cups of water

1/4 cup oil

2 tbsp of sourdough starter

Few pinches of salt

Knead for a few minutes. Let the dough ferment on the counter all day and then all night in the fridge if desired. If short on time, roll out and cook right away on both sides – little oil on a pan, on low fire.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 21 out of 40

This season, Mondays have become baking days for me. I get to bake for us and for friends. I start by checking the fridge and the freezer to see what needs to be used, what people would like to eat and finally maybe something I have been wanting to try.

Today was a day to work with what is in the freezer and I am using Rhubarb to make a simple fruit crisp. The fruit was a gift from my friend Cat Morrow. Preserved food has a way to lasso us back into pick season and brightness of flavors.

Sourdough Fruit Crisp

Fill a 9×9 pan with 5-6 cups of chopped fruit. I used rhubarb today.

Mix 3/4 cup of sourdough starter with 3/4 cup of oats. Add a pinch or salt, 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 of raw sugar or to taste. Spread over the fruit. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup of cubbed butter.

Bake 375F for 45-50 minutes.

1/2 cup of sourdough

Day 20 out of 40

The calendar marks the first day of Spring. Its arrival is more of a flow than a burst.

I am trying to appreciate the time in between – the work nature does behind the scenes, waking up or building up a new season.

That’s how I see the work of wild yeasts in slowly fermenting flour. At first it looks like nothing is happening.

I faithfully wait for the leaves, flowers and fruits.

Whole Rye and Whole Wheat Sourdough Pancakes

Makes about 18 4-inch griddle cakes 

Mix and let ferment for 4-8 hours or until it doubles:

1 cup rye meal

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup starter

1 cup liquid ( I used whey)

After the pre-ferment doubles, add:

4 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Pour ⅓ cup of the batter into a medium heat greased pan.