Category Archives: Recipes

Lucy’s Amaretti

My friend Rocca likes to bake cookies. Because she’s Italian and the women in her family have  taught her well, she will stare at you something evil if you decline any of her food offerings. Most don’t dare say no. Those who oblige are always glad they did.

Rocca understands flavor and the dynamics at play when you combine lots of sugar, butter and chocolate. She’ll practice a recipe with the tenacity of a terrier until she gets it just right. Rocca’s chocolate almond biscotti and her sea salt, chocolate and pistachio sablés are unparalleled, in both taste and appearance.

Maybe she was Japanese in a past life, for Rocca cares about good packaging, nesting her deep brown cookies into turquoise tin boxes that show off these treats in signature fashion. Just a glimpse of a turquoise box starts most of us Rocca-cookie-lovers salivating. We’re the same ones who hasten to return her tins the moment they are empty, ever hopeful for a refill.

My late husband Don – not a baker – always said, “Food tastes better when someone else makes it.” He was a consummate sweet talker, a salesman even, and he inspired the bread baker in me. Don’s sage words were ringing in my ears today as I tested Rocca’s amaretti recipe.

It just didn’t taste as good as when Rocca made it.

IMG_3290Full disclosure: I have a thing for amaretti. They are classic among Italian sweets and like most classic things, vary wildly from cook to cook, region to region. I’d made it my calling to sample them all, be it fresh from a bakery or ripped out of a  supermarket package. Yet all the recipes I’d baked were abysmal. I was resigned to never finding my dream amaretti recipe until that fateful day in Rocca’s kitchen.

“What? You’ve been hiding these?” I sputtered on a mouthful of hot espresso and frothy milk combined with crunchy-almond-amazingness.  Seconds earlier, Rocca had pushed a plate of amaretti in my direction.  This cookie was consummate:  awash in almondy, chewy goodness here was a pudgy, crackled morsel crowned with a whole almond dimple.

“Aren’t these great? They’re my sister Lucy’s.”

“She made them?”

“Nope, it’s her recipe and I made them.”

I had to have The Recipe.

Amaretti recipeRocca delivered it the next day in a text, taking a photo of Lucy’s typewritten recipe.  It was short and sweet.  Only five lines of ingredients and a very brief sentence of instruction below. The title read “Almond Cookies.”

But to this tried-and-true recipe tester and developer, it looked deceptively simple.

“Four eggs. No flour.  And a whole lot of ground almonds. That’s it?” I asked. “No leavener?’

IMG_3285“Oh, throw in a teaspoon of baking powder,” said Rocca flippantly. Were these Puglian sisters in collusion?! What other ingredients were somehow missing in this recipe meant for mangiacake me?

IMG_3283“Be careful,” said Rocca, relieving my paranoia slightly. “The almond flour is not cheap.  I was so shocked the first time I bought it: Fourteen dollars! And don’t buy blanched flour.  Whole almond flour tastes best.”

Two more ingredients needed examination: cocoa powder and that entire bottle of almond extract. Suddenly it became apparent why Rocca’s father likes to carry a little snort of Grappa in a recycled extract bottle. Lucy must use dozens of these in the course of a baking year and rather than toss them into the garbage, they went the way of her father who likes to tuck one of these discreet yet convenient mickeys into his Speedo bathing suit when strolling the beach in Mexico.

IMG_3751As to the cocoa powder, the taste is negligible.  The cookie batter is dark but bakes out into a light brown cookie.  This single teaspoon seems to counter that entire bottle of extract.

But taste is a mysterious thing and a cookie infatuation can derange even the most reasonable of people. Like my friend Ling.

“I like them too much,” she admitted recently after I gave her a gift package of Lucy’s amaretti.  “So I hid them.”

“Huh?” I wondered how that worked.

“My memory so bad,” she laughed, “Now I only eat five a day. When I can find them.”

Amaretti

Lucy’s Amaretti

I’ve cut Lucy’s recipe in half to reduce the sticker shock on the pricy almond flour. Plus, you’ll have some almond extract leftover for your next batch.  This makes plenty!

3                          large eggs, beaten

3/4 lb/ 12 oz      almond flour, whole not blanched

2 tbsp                 almond extract

2/3 cup               granulated sugar

1  tsp                   cocoa powder

1  tsp                   baking powder

Raw almonds

Icing sugar

Combine eggs, almond flour, almond extract, sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder into a batter. Scoop two teaspoons, dredge in a little icing sugar and roll into a small ball, place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and top with a whole, raw almond. Bake at 350 F for 8-10 min.

amaretti

Chinese Braised Pork Belly

It was a cold, rainy day at the Duncan Farmers’ Market but luckily, no lineup at Yesteryear Meats. I waited hopefully as the owner riffled through all of his four freezers searching for my request.

“Here it is,” he said, passing me a two pound chunk of Berkshire pork belly. “All that fat is good for you, full of CLAs” he said in his gruff, Aussie accent. “But not everyone appreciates it.”

He kept staring at me, looking long and hard, trying to cess out my pork-belly-loving-nature, before he passed the treasure to my outstretched hands.

“What will you do with it?”

“I’ll cook it real slow, Chinese-style,” I replied.  “I’ll braise it so that the fat stays in big fat, snowy chunks.”

I knew by the way he cocked his head and narrowed his eyes he hadn’t tasted this before.

But I had.

In China – pork belly capital of the world – they kowtow to pork fat and praise its culinary worth. They’re simply astounded that so many Western diners carve away fat and push it to the side of their plates.  My uncle, Hsiung Shu Shu adored the stuff and was faster with his  kuaizi (chopsticks) than myself or Auntie Di.  He’d spear the largest, fattiest morsel  and wail “Ai yo!” before the pork met his mouth, his eyes rolling in ecstasy.

Standing in the misty rain at the outdoor market, I held my two-pound frozen parcel close to my chest, regretting that I hadn’t spent more time in Auntie Di’s Yong He kitchen decades ago. I could see her smiling and braising her pork belly long and slow in a covered clay pot, nestled inside a bamboo steamer basket.  She’d calibrate a braising liquid of soy, stock, ginger, star anise and Shaoxing wine… but how many tablespoons, how many cups, I never bothered to learn the specifics.

My aunt made everything, except bao.  All the steamed buns we ate came out of a cart pushed through the Yong He alleyways by an old woman who wailed out “maaaaaaaaaaaaaan tou!”  plying her yeasty morsels day and night. Besides, Taipei in the 80s didn’t serve pork belly in a bun, the way David Chang at Momofuku has made famous.

Instead, Auntie Di would bring the clay pot to the table, along with four or five other dishes and politely say to our little family of three, “Mei you cai” which literally means “There’s no food”.

Ironic and understated, that was the cultural norm. Auntie Di spent most of every day cooking and preparing a generous buffet of foods for Hsiung Shu Shu and me to feast on.

Oh, how I wish I’d just stood there in her kitchen, observing and learning by osmosis. I have never mastered the cleaver like she who sliced a myriad different shapes, chopping ceaselessly upon a six-inch thick board, cut from a tree trunk. Why hadn’t I watched her prepare the wok, heat the bamboo steamers, clean the fish or stir up the scallion pancake batter?

Now, almost 40 years later, I must rely on the hundreds of taste memories stored in my palate to retrieve and recreate this braise. I know this belly is 90 per cent fat and needs to be browned at high heat to create a beckoning, caramelized surface.  After that, my instinct is to allow the simple passage of time and slow, low-heat cooking. Many classic Chinese braising sauces are too heavy-handed with soy, so I add only enough. I snap a cinnamon bark in half, toss in little stars of anise, pour over the golden elixir that is homemade chicken stock.  Instead of a clay pot and steamer, I turn to my enamelled cast iron Cuisinart and a 275 F oven.  Just before I cover it, I press down a big sheet of parchment paper over the surface to prevent evaporation. Every single drop of this unctuous braise is precious.

I won’t serve it with rice or bring it to the table and pronounce I have nothing to show. My husband David is already salivating in the kitchen, lurking over the turquoise Cuisinart, offering to pull the belly’s buttery strands apart.  While he prepares the meat, I take off the steamer’s lid and a cloud of sweet steam kisses my face.  I can’t stop smiling at these fluffy white buns which open up easily without complaint, ready to receive snowy chunks of fat and tender juicy pork.

At the table, we dig in, our lips and cheeks smattered with the salty-sweet hoisin slipped around the meat, slipped around the spongy bun.  Chef Chang will be proud of me.  I have recreated his pork belly bao all the while remembering the premier Chinese chef in my life: Auntie Di.

Plus, I just heard someone call out  “Ai yo”!

David is guaranteed seconds.

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Chinese Braised Pork Belly

The most difficult part about this recipe is sourcing some quality pork –  I recommend Berkshire pork raised naturally so that you are dining on healthy, fine fat.

2 tbsp              organic canola oil

2 lbs                pork belly

4 cups             chicken stock

2 tbsp              soy sauce

2 tbsp             Shaoxing wine or cooking Sherry

2 tbsp             granulated sugar

1                      stick cinnamon, broken in half

2                      whole star anise

3                      garlic cloves, smashed

2                      green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths

2                      dried red chillies, chopped

1 tsp                ground Sichuan peppercorn

Preheat oven to 275 F. Heat oil at medium-high in enamelled cast iron pot and brown pork belly on all sides. Add stock, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, cinnamon, star anise, garlic, green onion, chillies and Sichuan peppercorn. Bring to a boil.  Cover with parchment paper and lid and place in the middle of the oven.  Cook for 2 hours or until meltingly tender.

To serve on steamed bao, place a chunk or shredded mound of pork belly inside, drizzle with hoisin sauce and garnish with freshly chopped coriander and peanuts.

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Steamed Bao Buns

This is a simple dough that’s easy to make.  You’ll be thrilled with the sight of these soft and fluffy bao once they are steamed. (T&T or any large Asian supermarket will have plenty in the frozen section if you aren’t up for the task.)

1 tsp          instant yeast

2 tbsp                 granulated sugar

Pinch                  salt

1/4 tsp                 baking powder

1/4 tsp                 baking soda

1 cup                  warm water

2 1/3 cups   all-purpose flour

Canola oil

In mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour and water and mix with dough hook for 3-4 min.  Let dough rest at room temperature in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap, for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.

Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces, shaping each into a ball. Roll a ball into a 6 inch x 2 inch piece, baste lightly with oil, lay a chopstick vertically in the middle and gently lift the top of the dough over the bottom, pulling out the chopstick to leave a small tunnel. Arrange on a parchment paper covered baking sheet and cover with a clean tea towel.  Repeat with remaining balls. Let dough rest 30 min to double in size.

Cut the parchment paper around each bun and place into a hot, covered steamer for 12 minutes. (Buns can be frozen once cooled and steamed to defrost).

All about eggs

It wasn’t until I was 18 and had declared myself a vegetarian that I learned to love eggs. They were cheap and they were easy. Besides, my mother had gifted me a handy little omelette pan with a Teflon surface and a hinge down the middle. With a little butter, a bowlful of beaten eggs and some grated cheddar, I became a master omelette maker.  You couldn’t really screw up.  I’d cook both sides of the pan until the eggs set, grab the handle and flip right over left to create a covered semi-circle pan with a perfect omelette hidden inside. Voila!

Once I moved to a real omelette pan, without the help of my hinged pan crutch, I discovered the complexity of omelette making. It was the fillings and my overwhelming greed for them, that was my ruin. The more onions, bacon, sausage, veggies and cheese I piled inside, the harder it became to make The Flip.

IMG_2092Truth be told, my problem was the eggs.  I really didn’t like them plain. If I’d practiced with a bowlful of very frothy, very beaten eggs, and had let them slide into a buttery, perfectly heated cast iron pan, they might have had a chance. They just needed time and singularity, so their eggy selves could focus on setting rather than accommodating all those interlopers.

But no.  I wasn’t liking that.

So I moved on to the frittata, which requires no flip and invites a lot of flavour pairings. Tomatoes, basil and goat cheese. Onions, potatoes and gruyere.  Spinach and feta.  Chorizo, sage and fingerling potatoes. The list is endless.  But still, we’re talking eggs which are either perfectly cooked or instantly ruined. The time between the two is a millisecond. I’ve made many a loaded frittata enwrapped in dry, rubbery, unappealing eggs. Ick.

IMG_2088So I moved over to poaching. Again, I was saved by a gizmo.  This time it was my grandmother Nonnie’s poaching pan, a lovely deep, copper bottom saucepan fitted with a rack in which four egg saucers nestle inside.  One fills the pan with water, covers with the egg rack and follows with a lid. Once the water comes to a boil, the hot little saucers are ready to be buttered and loaded with a freshly cracked egg.

Sensible cooks turn off the heat to manage this feat, but I preferred to dab a bit of butter inside each poaching, steaming cup, pick it up and swirl. I’d burnt my fingers doing this for serial years, swearing profuse profanities, believing all short order cookers made similar sacrifices.

egg shot_1_EDIT

Credit: Nick Nausbaum

Then a plumber set me straight.

He had just repaired a toilet upstairs and was passing through my kitchen during a particularly raucous swearing and poaching event. He shook his head and asked,  “You don’t like to use a fork, huh?”

I shot him such a mean look of incomprehension, I’m not sure why he bothered… but he did.

“Here’s how ya do it,” he said, taking a fork and placing the middle two tines into the slot above each flat lifting surface. Woa, the fork became a handle. This mechanical feature had eluded me my entire poaching career with this pan!

egg shot_3_EDIT!!!!

Credit: Nick Nausbaum

“I like my  yolks well done,” he said as he waved the hot poaching cup perilously close   to my face.

I, too, used to like my yolks dry and thoroughly cooked, encased by a jiggly, gelatinous white. But real egg lovers like their yolks runny, seduced by that golden, buttery elixir as it spreads over toast, rice or potatoes.

Thus, the hash.  Nick told me about his recipe the other day. It’s a hearty start to the day and makes great leftovers.  Besides, the pan is loaded with everything but eggs until the last five minutes.  Nick’s Hash needs a big, oven-safe skillet to take on all the ingredients. It must include potatoes to get dubbed a hash and doesn’t have to rely on sausage, bacon or ham. Plus, it stars black beans which call out for other southwest flavours like hot peppers, cilantro and even avocado.

Best of all, the egg cooking portion is a no-brainer. Make room in this hash for eggs by making little wells that can contain their roundness but are forgiving if it’s a bad break.  The eggs will commence cooking the minute they nestle into their wells but they will all come to the finish line at the same time thanks to your preheated oven. Just three to five minutes at 400 F promotes even egg cooking as the cheese bubbles up and turns golden brown.  Because it’s not all about the eggs, is it?

hash tag_EDIT

Nick's Hash

It’s always a challenge to cook eggs for a crowd. Here’s a filling take on brunch that’s easy to assemble and finish in the oven. Sliced avocados are nice on the side.

2 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 roasted Yukon gold organic potatoes, skins on, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped

10 grape tomatoes, quartered

½ tsp each ground roasted cumin, smoked paprika

1 cup grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar

2 cups black beans

4-6 eggs

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh coriander, finely chopped

Avocado, sliced or cubed

Preheat oven 400 F.

In a cast iron or oven-safe skillet heat oil, sauté onions, bell pepper, potatoes, jalapeno, cumin and smoked paprika for 5 min. or until potatoes are browned. Add tomatoes and sauté until the tomato juices release. Turn off heat. Distribute  cheese and black beans evenly over the surface. With a spoon, create a well for eggs and crack them in. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until eggs have set.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve garnished with fresh coriander and sliced avocado.

Heavenly Thai lamb curry

There are certain foods that just have to be cooked in coconut milk and spiked with chillies.  Lamb is one of them.  It’s a meat that not every carnivore adores, but those who do, wax rhapsodic when imagining lamb braised slowly alongside coconut milk infused with Thai curry paste.  I choose a yellow oneIMG_6523 for this because it contains lamb-loving turmeric and other warm spices like cinnamon and cloves.  This is a curry that must include potatoes and I was happy to toss in three different organic varieties, starring a dark, red-skinned beauty with deep purple flesh. Lots of green herbs should swim through every Thai curry.  I always keep a stash of lime leaves in my freezer and wished I had fresh Thai basil to toss in, too.  I improvised with half a frozen cube of homemade basil pesto and was happy with the results.

I like to braise this curry slowly in my enamelled, cast iron Cuisinart Dutch oven with a IMG_6522layer of parchment paper tucked over the curry before it is lidded.  The parchment paper layer prevents any drop of fragrant moisture from leaving this slow-cooked beauty. Just before serving, I brighten these heavy flavours  with tamarind paste, fresh mint and coriander.  Cooking time varies depending on the cut of lamb and whether it contains bones or not. Don’t stop braising until the meat is fork tender.  Enjoy!

 

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Thai Lamb and Potato Yellow Curry

This is a rich and unctuous curry with lamb swimming in a turmeric-tinged sea of coconut milk and potato chunks.

2 tbsp canola oil

5 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1/4 cup Thai yellow curry paste

2 jalapeno peppers (seeds included) , chopped

2 lbs boneless lamb shoulder

1 can coconut milk

1 sprig fresh basil or 1 tbsp basil pesto, frozen

3 tbsp fish sauce

6 kaffir lime leaves

5-6 medium organic potatoes, red, yellow and purple, sliced in half, skin on

2 red bell peppers, sliced

¼ cup tamarind paste

¼ cup chopped mint

¼ cup chopped coriander

In a large dutch oven  heat oil on high. Cook garlic and onion 2-3 minutes or until softened, add curry paste and stir fry until oil starts to exude from the paste.  Add jalapenos and lamb and stir-fry until browned, add coconut milk, basil/pesto, fish sauce, and 6 kaffir lime leaves.  Bring to simmer.  Cover with parchment and lid and braise in 300 F oven for 1 hr, add potatoes and red bell peppers, cook another hour with parchment and lid or until meat is tender and juicy.

 

A marmalade is born

I was starting to lose hope that I’d ever make a good jelly. All those loose and liquid results with fresh-from-the-orchard plums and cherries were getting me down. That is, until the Pilates Girls started to talk about marmalade – in the heat of summer, no less.  They started to swoon over tales of Seville marmalade, rolling their eyes in ecstasy remembering every slurp and mouthful, every stolen spoonful.

IMG_6465So very British of them, I thought in disdain, but their marmalade reverie was so very infectious, slipping deep into my flavour brain.

I took another look at the big fragrant box of Sungold cherry tomatoes I had ripening in the cellar under layers of paper bags. I’d harvested them on the vine – neon green – a good month ago. Now, their colour was like a pale sunrise, a little yellow, a little orange. They just weren’t their seductive, deep pumpkin orange selves, so sweet-as-sin in the heat of summer.

IMG_5723Here they were, half-ripened in my dark, unfinished basement and I could not ignore them. Nor could I forget that bag of organic lemons I’d bought recently…

I scanned the internet and was smitten with the cinnamon and saffron one author had added to her ridiculously difficult and multi-stepped recipe.  I stole the flavour combination and started to pluck the green stem ends clinging to every SunGold.

I had to make this easy. I reached for my  heavy, turquoise Cuisinart enamelled cast-iron pot that has braised heavenly concoctions all spring and summer in my oven, closed shut with the extra guarantee of a sheet of parchment paper.

I sensed this beast was up for the task. No lid. It had one hell of a thick base and a wide rim perfect for boiling off fruit into gelled perfection.

IMG_6274I had three and a half pounds of SunGolds the size of marbles. They looked so dainty and pretty  as they tumbled into the pot alongside cups of sliced lemons. I cranked the gas up high. In just a minute, liquid started to form in the base. After a short, five minutes the mixture was sloshing about. I dumped in the organic sugar and all that fruity sweetness shimmered to a gloss.

Promising, dared I hope.

I brought it to a boil and the skins made an orange line around the perimeter. I stirred occasionally, not continuously, and it wasn’t sticking or burning to the bottom. It made quick work of the liquid, reducing it down by a third. The orange line was a full inch above the liquid’s surface and it thickened and hardened.  I slid a knife under it and realized the line had gelled.

At first my wooden spoon dripped like fast falling rain when I tipped a maiden spoonful out and over the surface.  But in 20 minutes it was starting to cling, clump and sheet. All the little drops left in my spoon-resting dish started to sparkle and reflect.

IMG_6469I ventured into this recipe carrying the baggage of a failed gel-maker. After the first ten minutes, I pulled out the Pomona’s Universal Pectin. I even filled a small bowl with sugar, ready to mix with the pectin powder to prevent that nasty clumping and frothing. I started to calculate, figuring this batch would need four teaspoons each of Pomona’s calcium water and pectin.

But just as carrying an umbrella stops the rain from falling, so did the appearance of that pectin box. It started up the natural gelling – instantly. Turning the spoon through this golden elixir took the push of oatmeal porridge. It was thick.  It would gel.

And, it smelt exotic. The earthy tomatoes had collapsed into skins swirling in a shiny syrup littered with tomato seeds. Lemon skins turned translucent, limping seductively on the spoon.  The cinnamon stick I’d cracked in half was swelling up like a wine cork. I waited for the final moment to gingerly tap the saffron bottle and let a few strands fall into the mixture to bleed their gorgeous tint. A marmalade was born.

Whether you pair this with cheese or slather on toast, this savoury-sweet marmalade will dance on your tongue. The lemon cuts the sweetness and the saffron slightly perfumes. A dollop on grilled fish offers delicious contrast and just a smidgen is the right condiment for dhal and rice.  With any luck and lots of gelling, this marmalade will make you swoon just like those Pilates Girls.

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SunGold Tomato Saffron Marmalade

  • Servings: 7.5 250 ml jars
  • Print

3 ½ lbs green sungold cherry tomatoes, ripened in basement in paper to a yellow-orange OR ripe red grape tomatoes

2 lbs organic lemons, seeded, quartered and sliced thinly

4 ½ cups organic white sugar

1 stick cinnamon, broken in half

Pinch saffron

In large, very wide and heavy enamelled caste iron pot heat tomatoes and lemons (without any liquid) until they sweat and emit liquid.  Add sugar and cinnamon and cook on high, stirring for 40 min.  Add saffron, check for gelling point. Process in sterilized jars with ¼ inch headspace for 10 minutes.

Time to get started. Sourdough!

I get asked about sourdough starters a lot and am happy to give some of my starter away to any aspiring baker. Often these people look really anxious when they take their baby starter away from my kitchen. They know this is a big step in their Bread Life and for many, a challenging one.

Not everyone is as obsessed with sourdough bread as I am. But I’m always willing to share my passion and grow more sourdough bakers.   IMG_4946

Last week it was my friend Alana from Food Bloggers Canada.  She asked for a starter recipe in a simple text and had no idea I would send back a two-page email.  But she’s going to give it a go and I hope you, dear reader, might try making your own starter, from ground zero, following these instructions.

Why have a starter? Well, without one you simply can’t make sourdough bread and  taste all of its deliciousness made with your own two hands. Like any living ingredient, if you starve or neglect it, it will die. It needs your nurturing to start your bread.

Why do you want to eat sourdough? Bread made slowly over the course of a few days has rich, layered flavours, tastes completely better than industrial, high-yeast, high-gluten bread and is often easier to digest.

If you follow my Instagram feed, you may want to bake sourdough because it’s such a looker  with its scored golden crust and large open crumb. But practice makes perfect.  I still get excited each and every time I open up my oven and see a well-risen loaf.  I still make mistakes, too. I love the mystery of bread-baking and its complexity. Good baked bread depends on many variables: timing, flour quality, temperature and the ripeness of your starter—to name a few.  The only way to get to know these principles is to dive in and flour up your hands.IMG_4302

Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipesis my bible. Here’s his five-day “liquid levain culture” – bakers’ speak for sourdough starter.  I recommend that you go the extra mile and stretch this out to an eight-day process for best results.  Once you have this basic culture or starter, you can keep it alive for many years… but not decades!

When I attended the San Francisco Baking Institute in 2015, master baker Didier Rosada laughed in disdain when I bragged about the number of years I’d kept my starter alive.  After attending the course, I made a new starter to replace my teenaged one and did not regret the flavour-filled results.  Now, three years later, it is time for me to start afresh again.

Before you make your initial starter mix, consider what time works best to refresh (a.k.a. nurture) morning and night.  I like the 7pm/7am time frame.

Day One: Initial Mix

4.8 oz              organic whole rye flour

6 oz                 spring or distilled water

.2 oz                honey

Mix the ingredients well in a glass bowl and cover with plastic. Let stand in a warm area (75F to 80F) for 24 hrs. (This will look stiff and hard with very tiny bubbles on the underside after the first 12 hrs.)

Day Two: Two Feedings

5.5 oz              Initial mix (use half of Day One and throw out the remainder)

1.2 oz              organic whole rye flour

1.2 oz              organic, unbleached hard white flour

3 oz                 90F spring or distilled water

Mix the ingredients well in a glass bowl and cover with plastic. Let stand in a warm area (75F to 80F) for 12 hrs. Repeat (or refresh, in bakers’ speak)  in 12 hrs. Yes, you will have to throw out half of each mixture when you refresh. (After each feeding, you will watch it transform and grow, doubling, even tripling in size and smelling very sour.)

Day Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven : Two Feedings per day, every 12 hrs

5.5 oz              Initial mix (half of your last batch, throwing out the remainder)

2.4  oz              organic, unbleached hard white flour

3 oz                 spring or distilled water

Mix the ingredients well in a glass bowl and cover with plastic. Let stand in a warm area (75F to 80F) for 12 hrs. Repeat (or refresh, in bakers’ speak)  in 12 hrs. This white starter will bubble up and grow faster every day and night and should be ready to bake with by Day Seven.

Okay, now you’ve got your starter, but how are you going to keep it alive?  You’ve got to feed it,   once a week. Here’s how:

3.5 oz initial mix/mature starter

3.5 oz organic, unbleached hard white flour

3.5 oz spring or distilled water

Mix the ingredients well in a glass bowl and cover with plastic. Let stand in a warm area (75F to 80F) for 12 hrs. Refrigerate and refresh once a week.IMG_4753

How do serious bakers keep their sourdough starter alive?  They bake every day.  After they build a bread’s initial levain, they remove about an ounce and use that to start the next dough. All you need is an ounce or two to kick-start a bread! The most powerful, active and flavourful starters are those that are refreshed or used every day or two.

Before you get started, make sure you have a scale because serious bakers weigh all their ingredients. I like to use this Zyliss version found at Canadian Tire for $20 or less. You need a scale that can “tare”. That means you can put an empty bowl on the scale, reset to “O” (or tare) then weigh your rye flour, tare again to 0 then pour in and weigh the right amount of water. Tare away!

Local Sourdough

Whether you call it  Herd Rd Sourdough, Toronto Sourdough or Katmandu Sourdough,  its flavours and ingredients will entirely depend on where you bake it. (Adapted from page 153 of Bread: A baker’s book of technique and recipe)

Levain Build

4.8 oz              organic, unbleached, hard white flour

6 oz                 spring or distilled water

1.3 oz              ripe, mature starter (refreshed in the past 24 hrs)

Combine in a medium glass bowl 12-16 hrs before you make the final dough. Make sure the bowl is large enough for the levain to triple in size as it grows and bubbles up. Keep covered at room temperature. (I like to make this late at night, right before I fall asleep.)

Final Dough

1 lb 8 oz           organic, unbleached, hard white flour

3.2 oz              organic whole rye flour

14.8 oz            spring or distilled water

Levain Build minus 1.3 ounceto be reserved in fridge for tomorrow or the next day’s bread

Step one: Autolyse

Add all the final dough ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix on first speed until it forms a shaggy mass.  Cover with plastic and let stand 20-60 min.

Step two

Add .6 ounce/1 tbsp sea salt to the autolyzed dough and mix 1-2 minutes with a dough hook

Step three:  Bulk Fermentation at room temperatureIMG_3401

Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl or oiled tub and cover for 1 hr 15 min

Stretch and fold the dough four times, lifting the dough to its longest extension, folding and pressing it back down,  repeat three times, turning it by a quarter each time.

Cover and leave at room temp for 1 hr 15 min

Step four: Shape two loaves, place in well-floured bannetons and cover with shower caps.  Refrigerate 12-24 hrs. Gently flip each loaf on to a parchment paper-covered tray, score and slide into preheated  Lodge pans or Dutch ovens.  Bake covered at 500 F for 20 min, carefully remove lids, reduce heat to 460 F and bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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