Monthly Archives: August 2013

Various breads

No time really to bake so some random bits of baking

ImageHamelman’s raisin cinnamon loaf with some wholewheat flour and oatmeal. You can find useful scaled measurements converted to grams here. I also added the zest of one orange and left out the sugar entirely. Image

Funny how the top detached itself like the straps of a handbag:) Apparently it can be caused by too much egg white wash on the dough before the rolling up.Image

A basic sourdough loaf, but is there anything ever so nice as a St Nectaire, especially in spring/summer. This was a particularly superb one.



An almost 100% kamut flour sourdough with the kamut flour I lugged back from Italy. Never baked with kamut before, so I used this TFLer’s formula. Loved the taste and the bright yellow color. The crust was especially delicious.

Olive oil sage cake

ImageA long time ago, I made this cake. I loved it. So did my aunt. I swore I would have to make it for her again. But birthdays, so many, with their attendant cakes to make, celebrations, occasions, distractions, other people and their needs/wants/threats, got in the way. Like her all-time favourite carrot cake and her apple pie, it got filed away, never to be remade in that ever-changing rotation of cake priorities. It always makes me sad. Even if the other party couldn’t give a toss. Or even has an inkling of my unuttered intentions. In an ideal world, I would have my favourite people close to me, and they would be fed their favourite food, one by one, day by day. Now, on another continent, with herbs in the backyard (by some miracle, they are not dead), but aunt-less, here is a sage version.

I adapted this recipe, which is from Mario Batali, to use less sugar. It really isn’t sweet, which is what I like, but people who like their sweets sweet might want to increase the sugar. Also because there is less sugar, it is slightly drier and bakes faster. Mine was done at the half-hr mark, though I left it for an extra five mins, just to be sure.

My ingredients in grams:
190g     T55 flour (or all-purpose)
1 TBS    baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 TBS    fresh sage leaves chopped up finely

Mix all this evenly in a bowl. What I do is to give it a few whisks with the same whisk I’ll use to beat the eggs – one less thing to wash!

4     large eggs
140g    white sugar
150g    olive oil

In a big bowl, whisk eggs briefly. Add sugar and beat till lightened and increased in volume. Drizzle olive oil in while continuing to whisk. (I wish I could have shown you how the metal bowl gained a momentum of its own and spun round like a whirling dervish while the greenish oil trickled down. I’m lucky it didn’t spin off the counter altogether.) Resist the urge to dip into the thickened but still somehow light and somewhat frothy mix. Add flour mix and just fold in gently till everything is one. Bake. For aunts or otherwise.


If you know me, you know I love pizza—a major understatement. When I was in Japan, I even sacrificed one meal, one opportunity to indulge in fabulous Japanese food, to seek out some Japanese prize-winning pizzaiolo in a suburb. Yes, I turned my back on  Japanese food to chug along on a train to queue up (the pizzaiolo had acquired quite a reputation since he came back from Naples) under the hot sun to eat pizza. In Japan. Where I cried that I had to whittle down my list of places to eat. (For the record, it was not bad, only thing was because we were one of the first customers, I suspect the oven was not as hot as it should have been, and the crust did not cook as quickly as it should have and wilted somewhat under the sauce.) But I digress.

For me, not surprisingly, it’s all about the crust, the base. It’s hard to come by something that you really like, but when you do, it just sticks in your memory. In the meantime, you suffer the ersatz pizzas. And maybe even enjoy them for what they are.

While I know I can never get that sort of pizza in my home oven, I still would like to get a home-decent one. I’ll have to reconcile myself to the fact that my current oven will not heat up as well as my old one. It takes 15 mins (!!!!) to make a pizza. In the meantime I can still get excited about flours, can’t I?

When I first got hold of Tipo 00 flour, I thought I was on my way to better pizza. I quickly found out that Tipo 00 means nothing – just like an APF labelling. Then I heard about specialised flours for pizza with strength and elasticity and the ability to support long fermentation, indicated (if at all) by W, ranging anywhere from 250–300. Over here, there’s also something called farine de gruau, which is usually used for enriched dough like brioches. I’ve tried this flour from one source but didn’t like it. It didn’t feel as strong as the Canadian strong flour I’ve used before, it didn’t bake up into something strong and strandy and airy, the flour was dry, and when I used it for pizza, in spite of an overnight fermentation, the crust was flat-tasting.

On a recent trip to Italy, I lugged back Molino Rossetto Manitoba Tip 0 flour. The ‘W’ strength was not indicated, but I recognised the Manitoba wheat. I quite liked this flour! It was strong and elastic, you could feel it immediately. And when pizza night was postponed, it stood up very well to the almost 48-hr wait in the fridge. It also stood up to my usual clumsy attempts at stretching the dough balls. It didn’t tear at all, and I think, had I taken the dough out of the fridge earlier to thaw, I could have gone thinner.Image

Very airy, bubbly dough after almost 48 hrs in the fridge

I was thinking of how to get more peaches in (other than, you know, just eating them one after another over the sink), when I thought of pizza. Bob snorted. But the last laugh was on him when he admitted it was delicious. It was quite terrible. From the time I hit on this idea, grilled peach on pizza was all I could think of,  and when we had to postpone the pizza, I just had to do it to get it out of the system!

peach pizza 2

Pecorino, caramelised red onions, peach slices, mozza and basil  – in that order.

I’ve since made a salad with bulgur, panfried courgette (bad idea), wonderful sweet tomatoes, peaches and basil and a light vinaigrette. Must ditch courgette. Must replace with avocados and cucumbers. Must make while peaches are with us.


Fig goat's cheese pizzaMozza, lightly grilled fennel, figs, goat’s cheese and fresh fennel. Imagined figs melting and oozing into the pizza so I popped them in towards the end, but mistake— they turned out rubbery and dried instead. Could be jazzed up with mustard? balsamic vinegar? But I loved the taste of the fennel.

Sometimes, just occasionally, I think I deserve a pat on the back for self-restraint in random food purchases. For a whole year now, I’ve managed to resist buying at the Turkish epicerie, that jar of Oncu red pepper spread beckoning me. I didn’t know what it was for, or even what it was, but sitting beside, as it did, a giant VAT of the same sauce (they must supply restaurants as well), I would have liked to buy baby jar, if not giant vat. What would that dark crimson sauce taste like? Was it purely pepper? Was it spicy? Sometimes I like not being able to read labels, taking a stab in the dark. For one (!) whole (!) year i managed to resist, only to, quite anti-climatically, just slip it into my shopping basket the other day. So I thought of lahmajuns (or is it lahmacuns?). Bypassing the is it Armenian or Turkish or ?? quarrel, I remembered seeing an Anissa Helou recipe involving sumac, another spice I like. So it was simply: red pepper paste (turned out to be too salty) and diced tomatoes spread across base, minced beef marinated with cumin, coriander, sumac, salt and pepper, garlic and onions, then garnished with parsley. Lahmajun prep


Not the right sort of dough of course—too doughy and thick to be rolled up, but what I like about lahmajuns is the spice, the meat spread thin, and the crunch from abundant onions and tomatoes and fresh herbs.

For the pizza dough, I used a recipe from Bonci, which you can find anywhere on the Internet:
500g      flour (I used Molino Rosetto Manitoba Tipo 0)
350g      water
20g       olive oil
10g       salt
3.5g      instant yeast

Mix well, fold a couple of times over one-two hours, pop into fridge for a day (I did two days).

I saw the man himself at the Salone del Gusto in Turin last year. He was quite the superstar. He couldn’t go anywhere without people tugging at him and wanting to take pictures with him—all of which he patiently indulged although he looked absolutely knackered. I imagine it’s like Jamie Oliver showing up at a food fair. I managed to try the famous Bonci pizza there. I went at off-peak hours so the pizza wasn’t at its ideal temperature, but the base was tasty and I had an interesting fresh tuna on a white bean hummus-like spread.

Water kefir sourdough hazelnut sage bread, Take II

water kefir sourdough sage hazelnut

Whew, that was a mouthful. I started an experiment feeding my leaven with water kefir—it’s turned out to be a hungry, active, fruity little creature. More about water kefirs and water kefir leaven later, but here’s a second take. More tinkering ahead.

Water kefir sourdough with hazelnuts and sage
240g          100% hydration water kefir leaven
150g           water
200g           T65 bis flour (slightly less refined than T65, could use bread flour)
40g             buckwheat flour
40g            whole rye flour
7g            salt
75g            hazelnuts
5g            sage leaves, torn (or more??)

1. Take your leaven through as many feeds as necessary to get it nice and active.
2. Mix leaven, flours and water. Autolyse for 1 hr.
3. Add salt and fold in sage leaves and hazelnuts.
4. Use whichever mixing or folding method you are comfortable with, adjusting to your dough and conditions. I did two folds in about two hours. The dough is sticky but has strength.
5. Shape and proof. I had difficulty shaping this one as it’s very wet and sticky.
6.Watch your dough! This one has a tendency to proof very fast. It was ready in less than one-and-a-half hours. Preheat oven to 250 degrees (my oven is not that hot, so I turn it on to its maximum, knowing it’s not really 250).
7. Bake with steam in initial 10 minutes; turn oven down to 230 etc, as you see fit.
NB: my kitchen was about 23/24 degrees celsius.

A word about the water kefir leaven:
* It’s really just substituting water kefir (the fermented liquid drained of water kefir grains) with the water that you would ordinarily feed your leaven with. I find that with water kefir, the leaven ferments more quickly than with water. The leaven is bubbly and fruity-smelling and mild in taste. It also seems to maintain better in the fridge, i.e., doesn’t go sour as quickly as ordinary leaven does.

* Since I refrigerate leavens in between baking, I usually take it through two feeds before use.

* For the last bake with water kefir, I even used water kefir in place of water in the final dough. Everything was faster – fermentation, proofing. The dough was stickier too. I was caught by surprise for the final proof. It had doubled in barely an hour!! I’ve never had a pure sourdough loaf rise so quickly. You can try to slow things down by using fridge-cold water kefir. I wonder how it would take to overnight retardation, so perhaps the next things to try is an overnight proof?

As for the add-ons, I wanted to make it for a friend who sees no point in dried fruits in her breads so l left out the dried pears from the last time. But it would certainly not be remiss. I definitely upped the qty of sage this time, but I think it could do with even more. The fragrance of sage as it bakes is enticing, but the flavour is not really there unless you bite into one. The qty of hazelnuts is all right though. I wonder too how lemon would do in it???? Anyone’s ever baked with lemon zest?? There’s something about sage that brings to my mind lemon, but I wonder how that bakes up…

Result? This is the second water kefir loaf, and I can definitely say it makes for a lighter, milder loaf with a certain sweetness. I’m almost missing my usual sourdough tang. More proof of the ‘leavening’ quality of water kefir: I usually make pancakes with my surplus leaven. Using some rather old water kefir leaven, I added water kefir (in place of water), whole rye and buckwheat flours AND a whole lot of a muesli mix consisting of rye flakes, einkorn flakes, linseeds, oatmeal, pumpkin and sesame seeds—confession: it was an accident involving the muesli canister—and yet I got the lightest, fluffiest pancakes ever, considering all the heavy flours and bits and bobs. There was also this lovely mild sweetness that made any sugar or honey etc. quite unnecessary.

Black bean chocolate cake


So I was contemplating between olive oil & sage cake or a peach cornmeal cake, when I was faced with butter beans overcooked to mush. And I mean mush. Baby food texture, except there are no babies on the premises. Then I remembered this black bean chocolate cake. Not a drop of oil/butter in this?? Really??? I was skeptical but isn’t that even more reason to try it out. Plus, hey, it’s hard to argue against a one-bowl cake.

It was also a chance to try out these silicon muffin/cupcake thingamajigs that I bought recently at a sale. I thought they were nifty cos unlike other silicon things, which tend to be floppy, these could stand on their own (for now at least). They are also reusable, unlike paper liners, which I don’t even own.

These turned out fine, like fudgy brownies. I’ve made your beetroot/ zucchini/ sweet potato choc cakes before and the vegetable taste was always totally subdued by the chocolate etc., but in this one, I could detect some bean. Bob also gave me a look and said “there’s something in it, isn’t it”, but it didn’t stop him from eating it. Could it be because I used butter beans instead of black beans? Is there an affinity between chocolate and black beans?

So thanks to blogger Josephine! My changes were: butter beans (accidentally or otherwise) cooked to death instead of black beans; 90g of sugar in all, including 20g of brown sugar; I omitted the orange zest and juice, adding instead just a drop more of rhum-y vanilla bean steeping liquid-on-its-way-to-becoming-essence and one tablespoon of water keffir, just because it was on the counter. No problem with moistness whatsoever, even if I had left these out I think. It made 10 tiny ones.