Sourdough ciabatta




First time I’ve made ciabatta without feeling like a total klutz and getting sticky dough on every possible surface. There was still an accident—in attempting to flip the first dough onto the board, the second (pictured above) flipped onto itself! So it was twice as thick! But taste was great, dough sweet and airy as they should be. I would like to get smaller, individual ciabattas but that will need much more practice. No crumb shot because we were too hungry!!

Sourdough ciabatta (recipe was clipped from a miller’s recipe book)
T65 flour               500g
Salt                         10g
Instant yeast             2g
Water                     350g
Leaven (100%)      125g
Olive oil                   30g

Autolyse of flour, water and leaven for almost 1.5hr. I accidentally left it longer than intended. In any case, with the mixer, I had no problem incorporating the water. Towards the end of the mix, I trickled in the olive oil.
Proof for 2-3 hours, with two folds.
Second proof was only 30–45 mins before it went into a hot oven with lots of steam.

Submitting this to Wildyeast.

Sourdough focaccia



I made this for Bob’s colleague’s daughter. When we had them over, I expected the little girls to make a beeline for the candies but she lingered around the focaccia instead! This is NOT typical focaccia – sourdough and half-whole wheat flour – which gives it a bit more chew. I don’t think ‘chew’ belongs in a focaccia, but it was delicious nonetheless. I did half rosemary, half sun-dried tomatoes in oil – but DON’T use sun-dried tomatoes! Or if you do, bury them well because with all their oil and sweetness, they burn and turn dark and bitter. After I pulled it out of the oven, I realized I’ve made this mistake a few times already. When will i learn…

I adapted an Amy’s Bread recipe to use my leaven, so here goes:

Sourdough focaccia (makes a big focaccia, approx. 40×20)
415g                 water
1/4-1/2 tsp       instant yeast
340g                 leaven, 100%-hydration
650g                 flour
42g                  milk
36g                  olive oil
12g                  salt
* your choice of toppings, more olive oil and salt flakes

Autolyse without the milk, olive oil and salt.
Add milk, olive oil and salt, mix till mostly silky.
Proof till nearly doubled, with two folds.
This is the part I like: line tin with parchment paper, pour olive oil and amply grease every corner (and incidentally your poor dried-out hands, if you’re like me). Then gently coax your puffy dough to spread out into tin. You’ll see it won’t protest too much – who would, swathed by all that dark green oil..

Preheat oven at 220 degrees celsius. Steam required or (see below)
When it’s doubled in height and ready to go into oven, dimple the dough with more olive oil (I always err on the side of conservative, but there’s no such thing, I think, as too much olive oil in a focaccia!), your choice of toppings and sea salt flakes, and watch the bubbles pop up here and there.
I mix some olive oil and water in a little bowl, and dimple and flicker this oil-water mixture over the dough. I find this provides plenty of steam. In fact, you’ll probably have to open the oven a few times during baking (watch out for hot steam!) to let out the steam, otherwise it won’t brown.


Be gentle with the bubbly dough!



Sourdough spelt & wheat bread


I hardly ever use spelt flour – the only time i baked spelt bread, I didn’t find it particularly different from wheat – but this might change. I used this recipe from Hefe und Mehr blogger, whose blog I like to peruse, fantasizing that all these wonderful breads (especially the German ones) are sitting on my kitchen counter. I added very little honey, but more importantly, I used only white spelt flour, while I think the recipe includes a bit of whole spelt flour, or semi-whole?? I thought of reducing the water slightly but went ahead anyway. I don’t know if it’s because of the hydration, or is it a characteristic of spelt, but although the dough was nice and light, it was floppy and bread strength was very weak. I did more folds than usual to try to give it some strength, but that didn’t help . Nonetheless, there was oven spring, it was delicious and we devoured it.

Curiously, this spelt bread filled us up much faster! I thought it was just me, but Bob uncharacteristically turned down my offer of more bread and scratched his head, perplexed that he should not want more bread that morning. So we stared forlornly at the delicious bread, crackly crust and sweet soft insides that would have happily taken on more butter – and saved it for the next day!

Does this happen to others, and how differently does the gluten in spelt behave, I wonder.


Olive oil sourdough brioche from Tartine


Olive oil brioche

And brioche for Sunday! Orange-scented sourdough and poolish brioche with olive oil and honey from Chad Robertson’s Tartine. The first time I made this, I had used a more neutral olive oil and couldn’t really pick up on the taste, apart from the fact that it was not butter. This time I went for a stronger olive oil and I could smell it in the dough, the peppery notes while it was baking and after it was baked, I felt the olive oil actually worked against the orange flavor in this case. So I would say pick your olive oil carefully.


I used Mulino Marino Manitoba strong flour lugged back from Italy, which I had been hoarding for panettonne. Sadly that did not materialize. This flour is organic and stone-ground and I was surprised by how snow white it was. The only flour I’ve seen this white is bleached flour. And even the bleached flour here isn’t always so purely white. Curious.


Olive oil orange-scented sourdough brioche, adapted from Tartine (scaled down to a fourth of original recipe)

Poolish            100g (50g flour, 50g water, a pinch of instant yeast)
Leaven              75g
Flour                 250g
Salt                      6g
Instant yeast        3g
Eggs                 125g (I used 2 large)
Milk                    60g
Honey                40g (I used buckwheat honey because it was what i had on hand, not the best combination!)
Orange blossom water 12g
Olive oil             112g (I used 100g)
(I also added the zest of one orange)

My method differed. It was everything in except for olive oil. Work the dough (thank god I have a mixer now) until at least medium gluten, then trickle olive oil in, in batches, working dough all the time. I stopped once or twice for a few minutes when I felt dough and machine were getting warm. If I had the time, I might have rested the dough a bit more in between. Aim for silky and strong dough.

Proof until puffy – i did three or four folds. (It’s wonderful how the dough becomes less of a sticky monster.) I didn’t have the time to refrigerate the dough before shaping so i just plopped it into the mould, but a cold dough is really much, much better to work with.

I refrigerated overnight and baked straight from fridge. This dough is a monster! It grew so much in the fridge that it overflowed my mould. On hindsight, I should have removed a little of the dough. I don’t know why but this time the motif of the mould didn’t show up.


The brioche was fluffy as they come, light, pull-apart fluffy. Bench notes to myself: try a fruity olive oil the next time and perhaps try adding orange essence, since I don’t have Fiori di Sicilia!

Submitting this to Wildyeast spotting


Maize bread




I can finally make bread!!!! We, no I, have all but finished our stash of frozen bread so I got to bake bread again. There’s an Italian maize bread in Dan Lepard’s Handmade Loaf that made me buy maize flour from Italy, but it doesn’t use leaven and I was too lazy to do the conversion, so I went with Susan’s sourdough corn bread.

I found the dough very dry so I added more water (50g more for two-thirds of her original recipe), but I was very tempted to add more. That, and the fact that I under-proofed the final dough and what with the polenta and maize flour, made for a tight crumb. But I liked the taste and the crunch the polenta gave. Also, for some reason, the crust was just really delicious.

Submitting this to Wildyeast spotting!



I haven’t been able to bake bread because Bob came back one day with four huge loaves of bread—no, I still haven’t penetrated the whys of this—and then one week later, two more big loaves from Germany. Then he went off bread for more than three weeks so I’ve been picking my way through the frozen loaves. sigh.

In the meantime, various experiments:



A very kind person gave me new kefir grains for which I’m ever so grateful. They are—cross my fingers—doing well and i was even able to make labneh from goat’s milk, which we had with various other mezze-ish dishes. It was delicious and I was thrilled to be able to finally make labneh from kefir, something I’ve long wanted to do. If you read this, thank you so much!!



No, this isn’t a miniature Halloween pumpkin but an attempt at orange and coffee liqueur, rum, cheap, awful, undrinkable rum in this case, as inspired by Carl Legge. Don’t you love the Internet and blogs for this? Across the world, people with funny ideas make you do funny things. And I love suddenly chancing upon an old experiment you’ve forgotten all about in the recesses of the cupboard or the basement, and uncorking it to see how it’s going. I made almond essence in summer with apricot kernels and every now and then, I open the bottle for a little sniff.



Yes, I know, all my cakes look alike, boring brown masses. I try to incorporate excess leaven or else fruit or vegetables, and since spices go so well with such cakes, that too. Surely I can’t be held responsible if they all turn out looking the same:) Anyhow it doesn’t matter because I’ve been eating and eating this, and I really like it. The idea was to make a cake for Bob that would keep one going (well, there was the banana, oat flour and chocolate cake before this, but that will need tweaking), so I ground some oats and tossed in all my remaining apple puree and hoped for the best. I’m lucky it turned out well: really moist, barely sweet but spiced. And it does get better with each day.

Apple Puree Cake (for 2 loaves)
Flour                 250g
Oat flour           130g
Baking soda     2 tsp
Salt                   1 tsp
Cinnamon         2 tsp
Other spices     2 tsp (I used a mix of ginger, nutmeg)
Apple puree      540g
Vegetable oil     130g
Honey                 40g
Maple syrup        40g
Brown sugar        10g
Eggs                   4 large

The usual dries + wets method.