Monthly Archives: July 2013

Kefirs and bread

Given the warm weather and my being able to stay home last week, I thought I should do the kefir experiment NOW rather than later. I wanted to be accurate and try this recipe again (minus the oil), using this time side-by-side: 1) an ordinary sourdough preferment, 2) a milk kefir preferment and 3) a water kefir preferment. The sourdough preferment being just a reference for tasting purposes. Didn’t work out as planned because the water kefir turned out to be far too weak to be used. So I proceeded with just 1) and 2).'sardine' focaccia and sage breadThis is the sourdough starter preferment one with a round focaccia, which I had to make just cos my  leaven was raring to go, and I had some sardine-flavoured oil leftover. [An aside on the focaccia: focaccias are  such warm-weather breads, i feel! Since I’m always making sourdough ones—which can be a bit too chewy—warm proofing temperatures make up for it, giving loft and airiness. This time, I deliberately went very light on the oil, just to see what it was like. It was still all right! Especially since the lack of oil can always be compensated for by dipping at the table.]sandwich

Sandwiches for Bob to take to work using the sourdough preferment bread: Chianina bresoala we got from Italy on a bed of parsley mayo, and cornichon cucumbers on seaweed butter. This Bordier seaweed butter is not only tasty, it’s also beautiful with red and green flakes, and the cornichon cukes are one of the things I look out for at my market come summer. Sometimes I think Bob doesn’t know how lucky he is. The last time anyone packed sandwiches for my lunch was my mum…when I was a kid. But to be honest, it was also cos we had too much bread at home!

milk kefir sourdoughThe milk kefir sourdough loaf. No crumb shot. We were halfway through breakfast when I remembered.

so all in all, didn’t quite carry out the experiment as I had wanted to. But took some things away nonetheless:
1. I am not liking the UHT milk we’re using now. Does the kefir? It ferments at an extraordinary speed. Thought it might be the hot kitchen, but even in the fridge it starts separating out in less than an hour, producing a very thin yet strongly fermented milk. It’s like having beer and milk with my muesli in the morning… Could that be a good hangover cure:) I bought some organic, gently pasteurised (is there such a thing?? It says “pasteurised in a bain marie”. What does that mean or change??) milk and we’ll give that a shot.
2. Even though it’s definitely fermented and active, when added to the flour, I’m still not getting a bubbly preferment. I’m not sure what’s wrong here. Is it the type of kefir??? Should I be more patient???  In the hot kitchen, even past the 12-hour mark, it was still watery and not puffy. It all seems rather thin. For example, I can’t imagine making cheese with the fermented milk kefir. It still leavens the bread all right. The bread proofed rather fast and I even did an overnight second proof in the fridge, but the preferment is just not what I recognize.
3.This time, there was more of a sourish tinge to the bread, either from the overnight proof or the warmer temp or the kefir or all of the above. When I asked ‘Objective Taster’ aka Bob about the bread, he said it’s a sweetish bread right? So the milkiness prevails.
4.I need to get the water kefir sorted out. They’ve been dormant since last summer so I’m not surprised that there is a lot of ‘flotsam’ among the active ones. I need perhaps to change the type of sugar as well. Back home they used to race up and down the jar, fizzling away like crazy. For fun, because I don’t have enough jars of strange growing things cluttering up the countertop, I decided to play at starting a water kefir leaven. i mixed equal quantities of the water kefir and flour. For the good part of the day, there was no sign of life, and then, in the evening, lo and behold, things were astir. Yesterday I fed it again in the morning, and when we got home much later than expected, it was as I had feared.IMG-20130721-WA0012

Pooling leaven that somehow managed to escape from a tightly lidded jar. Which, much to your disgust, I’ll admit I scraped off and tried. Quite yummy actually, fruity with a slightly beery (but in a nice way) taste. Once again, I find myself lurching towards another experiment when i’ve got tons of other things to try first. How goes a water kefir leaven? How will it evolve and how will it bake up? What type of critters lie within? Will the bacteria of the flour come to dominate in the end, such that it ends up much like an ordinary leaven? I’ve read that if one has different fermented stuff going on, they should be kept apart as the bacteria can circulate. Will the bacteria from the sourdough leaven hop across the pond, ‘contaminating’ and ultimately neutralizing and reducing everything to much the same thing?? How different is this from apple or other fruit yeast water? Now that is one path I’ve managed to resist going down. I have up till now steadfastly refused to read anything about apple yeast water, because I don’t want to get tempted to go start one!!!

must make sage

Ok, i’ve just eaten a third of the bread that’s fresh out of the oven and did not even have a chance to pose its browned bottom on the cooling rack. I know, I’m awful. What would the bread police say. Obviously it’ll have to be re-evaluated when the bread’s cooled down properly, but

1. Could I have guessed that sage smells so nice baking in a bread? no.
2. Why do I like walnut in bread so much? Rather, who in the right mind can refuse walnut in bread? Especially when in the same mouthful you get some caramelised crust too.
3. Why do I like buckwheat so much, that unmistakeable taste of buckwheat and that beautiful gritty grey, especially with some rye.
4. I’ve never had dried pear in bread (I think) and I like it! Looks like apricot but tastes more subtle.
5. What is it about bread baking in an oven that smells so good. It’s almost like torrefied wheat.
6. Why am I a compulsive bread eater, nibbler, tearer, when others can walk on by indifferent.

I had a hunch that sage in a pear-walnut number would be good, but now I must, must, not only remake this, but also, side by side: just sage (for full-on sage flavour!), sage and walnut (or hazelnut???) and sage-walnut/hazelnut-pear. Heck, i might even make sage and olive oil cake!

Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s Tomato & Herbs Sourdough


So my family came and went. Not that I didn’t cook or bake while they were around; I was just too busy serving/washing up/finding the radio station dad wanted while putting on the kettle for tea while running down to the basement to fetch the umpteenth load of laundry—you get the picture—to bother with photo-taking of any sort. I’ve got this one photo because this bread was actually baked the day before they arrived.

I wanted to bake some bread, to be able to give them something solid and reassuring when they sat at the table weary from the travel—too weary to eat, really, the irony of it. This bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou came to mind because it combines tomatoes and herbs, two of my favourite things about summer, although at that time summer was still straggling and not willing to come in fully through the door. Now summer’s here, and the bread’s long eaten, and the family gone…

I like this bread very much because it incorporates quite a bit of leaven, which is good because, amongst other things, I don’t have to put too much away for storage after all that feeding. There’s been no photoshop-ing; the crumb is this beautiful orange-red and I like the uneven washes of colour—due no doubt to my uneven mixing. If you want an even colour throughout, I would suggest you dissolve the tomato paste in the water, instead of adding the paste directly to the dough as I did. I actually succeeded in not substituting thyme for the rosemary and nigella called for, but the next time thyme it shall be. It smells as good as you can imagine tomato and herbs smell together and keeps moist for days after.