sourdough loaf with black olive, parsley, and kefir

I wanted to bake a sourdough that was not tried before and I think I managed to do so.

I present you the sourdough loaf with kefir, parsley, and black olive 🙂

Smells like sea! Enjoy!

 

 

adventures with kefir

I have had the excitement of owning kefir grains in the last one month 🙂

At first I left the kefir grains+milk mixture in a jar on the counter with only the top/lid being covered by a clean piece of cloth (secured with elastic band). I replaced milk everyday, directly from fridge. It did not get thick (that is, curdy) but tasted tangy and salty in 24 hours. I kept it that way for a week or so. 

Then I decided to wrap it with a kitchen towel and hoped that it warmed it and helped with fermentation. It did not make a huge difference in fermentation/texture/taste I would say.

Then I decided to put it in a cabinet and wrap with a thicker towel, away from sunlight. Again, there was no significant change.

Then, my sister convinced me to use warm milk; basically I put the fresh milk in a clean jar, covered the top, and put it in hot water bed for 10-15 min to warm it up. I then added the grains in warmed milk and also covered it with a thicker blanket. I replaced the milk everyday, and then started to change it every two days. These changes occurred last weekend (June 3-4). There was some thickening of the milk (curd) around the grains and there was some kind of mucus-like thing going on around the grains, but again there was not significant change in the texture. 

Then my best friend gave me the idea to warm up the thick blanket in the dryer to help fermentation. I did this starting this weekend – 3-4 min in dryer is enough. I did this whenever I changed the milk.

And a couple of day later, yesterday to be exact, I have had the kefir fermented in 12 hours! 🙂

I have removed the grains, fed them with fresh milk (which nicely gave me another batch of kefir today), and left the fermented kefir at room temperature away from sunlight (not covered by anything, except the lid) yesterday. This is called “second fermentation” by sources in internet. It started to separate (the curd and whey) a few hours after that and this evening I planned to make cheese/spread out of it (total of 24 hours of second fermentation). 

It was very easy.

It turns out if you leave it like that, the curd naturally moves up and it almost drains itself of the liquid part (i.e. whey). When used the spoon, I was surprised by how solid it felt 🙂 the bottom part where the curd touches the whey is naturally a little bit wet, but one can strain/drain this using a strainer (I did not this time, but I am planning next time). I added some salt, chili flakes, and dried dill to my first ever kefir spread! Yum 🙂

A couple of notes: I noticed that if I warm up the milk and the blanket, the jar/grains keeps warm for quite some time (for hours) and it is especially important to keep it warm where the grains are; my grains are always on the surface so covering the top/lid of the jar really good with a clean piece of cloth first and then with warm, thick blanket is a good idea.

Also, the fermentation temperature seems to make a difference; when it is colder temps, then it is more sour/tangy. However when it is fermented in a warmer environment, then it is not. There must be some bacteria that like colder temps and produce the tangy taste.

I used 2% or homogenized milk. I am not sure whether skim milk would yield such robust kefir grains. I must also say that there has not been significant change in the size or numbers of the kefir grains since I adopted them a month ago.

Overall, I am very excited and would love to try a cheese or two using the kefir curd. Here is one recipe that makes it sound really easy. Hope I can succeed in this 🙂

can dough be forgiving?

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milky bread – is it not gorgeous? 🙂

I have been experimenting with bread making for some time and I can say I am still on the way to reach a perfect loaf.

For some reason I am not interested in following a recipe and I rather improvise. While this is exciting (each dough and bread feels like an “experiment”), the end results are usually not great.

This week I tried two loafs; one sourdough and one loaf with milk and commercial yeast.

The sourdough was miserable and did not forgive being poked, adding too much flour and then too much water. The dough was the weirdest I have ever made and I guess I should pay more attention to it 🙂

This being said, the loaf with the milk turned out to be the best ever! The oven spring was obvious, it was soft and incredibly tasty. Next time I should be using a little bit more yeast to make it really fluffy and with large air pockets 🙂

Milky bread recipe:

Add 1 cup warm skim milk, 3/4 tbs sugar, 3/4 tbs dry yeast. Mix well, cover with a kitchen towel, and rest for 10 min until the yeast forms the foams on top

Add 2.5 cups of bread flour, 3/4 tbs salt and mix with hands and knead for 4-5 min

Place in a container brushed with vegetable oil, flip the dough to make sure it gets oil all over

Let rest at room temperature 30 min and then and stretch and fold (total of 3 times; 30 min apart)

*I am not good at kneading, or at stretching and folding. So this time I tried to do a little bit of both of them to see whether I could get a nice, well formed dough

Rest in the fridge over-night – it should get fluffy and risen a little bit

In the morning, take it out to room temperature and let rest for 3.5 hours (only because my kitchen was cold today and I had to go out to shop. In a warmer environment, this time could be much shorter)

Gently de-gas, shape, and let proof for 1.5 hours

Score the surface, place in a pre-heated roaster, and bake at 400 F (oven is pre-heated too)

Enjoy 🙂

 

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this is my sourdough (50% whole wheat and 50% bread flour) 😦 just a little bit better than a brick 😦

 

 

how to bake the perfect bread?

Well; the best way to learn how to bake the perfect loaf is learning through trial and error.

This is the best way for me. No matter how many books or blogs I read, my own experiences with baking bread are the best teachers for me.

More than that, I am an experimenter. I would love to follow recipes, but to tell you the truth, I like improvising better; observing the thickness of the dough, the rise of the dough, the oven-spring of the loaf, the crust, taste, and crumb, and all the conditions (warmth while rising/proofing, minutes/hours of waits/rise/baking, amount of ingredients, etc.). And then coming up with conclusions to bake a better bread next time. That is priceless 🙂

So, last week I decided to try an over-night dough recipe – I have got the idea from internet (there are many useful sites out there). They say that while the fridge will slow down the activity of the yeast, the long fermentation (in the fridge) does enrich the taste of the bread. Intrigued, I decided to go for it 🙂

I must say it has been a great learning experience:

  • Now I know how to handle a very sticky/batter like dough better
  • Now I know that over-night fermentation of the dough is okay and, as they said, may even be better for the texture of the bread
  • Now I know that the sticky/high-hydration dough should not be proofed/baked on cookie sheets – loaf pans/oven dishes that support the dough are a lot better (they support the dough and prevent from spreading/expanding to the sides to form a rather flat-type of loaf that I observed with my trial today.)
  • Now I know that proofing may be extended to 1.5 hours (rather than 1 hour), which yielded a better rise for this dough today
  • Now I know that I will try some other varieties (e.g. with olives) using this dough some other time. The most bubbles I have ever seen in a dough 🙂

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Recipe (1 dessert spoon = 0.8 table spoon)

This dough could have been a great flat bread or a pizza dough; crunchy outside, soft and crumby inside – highly recommended 🙂

1. warm 100 ml water and mix with 1 dessert spoon of sugar; mix well. Add 1/3 dessert spoon of yeast – let stand for 15 min. Yeast will start smelling but not necessarily form a foam (only because its quantity is less than regular yeast mixtures. For a same-day bread, I would have used a full dessert spoon of dry yeast)

2. add 2 cups of flour, 75 ml of water, and the yeast mixture – make a very sticky dough (almost like a batter).

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3. let rest for 35 min at room temperature (cover the bowl with a kitchen towel)

4. use a dough cutter (or your hands) and stretch and fold it onto itself (repeat for 3-4 min – the dough will be still sticky). This is supposed to help the gluten form and give a structure to the dough. Note the absence of kneading in this recipe.

5. grease a large pot/bowl (with 1.5 table spoon of vegetable oil) and put the dough in. Stretch and fold again to make sure it gets oil all over. Close the lid of the pot or cover it with cling film.

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6. keep it in the fridge overnight.

7. the next morning (after 19 hours in the fridge): the dough/batter looks healthy and flattened itself out. It smells great:) There are noticeable bubbles in it.

after over-night rest at the fridgeIMG_8612

8. add 1 table spoon of salt and stretch and fold 7-8 times. Transfer into a clean pot sprinkled with flour. The dough is coherent and sticky, and prior to the stretch and fold there were large bubbles in it:) (they are removed during the stretch and fold procedure). Sprinkle flour on top, close the lid of the pot, place over a kitchen towel and rest at room temperature for 1.5 hours (to help it reach the room temperature)

9. transfer the dough on a clean surface sprinkled with flour, stretch and fold a couple of times, and form a baton shaped loaf. You may flour the hands and the surface as required, but do not be tempted to add too much flour.

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bubbles 🙂

10. bench rest for 10 min (covered)

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after 10 min of bench rest – the loaf certainly does not keep its shape and has a tendency to flatten…

11. Place the dough in an oven dish sprinkled with a generous amount of cornmeal, [if using cookie sheet like myself; support the loaf on both sides by stretch film-covered long boxes (stretch films better be greased). I would rather recommend using a deep oven dish for this dough if you are aiming for a tall bread…], place everything in a big shopping bag, loosely tie the bag, and put it in a warm oven (warmed to 100 F with lights on), and proof for 1.5 hour.

 

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this is how the dough looked like after 1 hour of proofing

12. Apply whole egg wash gently without deflating the dough, sprinkle with generous amount of sesame seeds, and score the surface. Remove the supports from the sheet

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this is how it looked right before I put it in the oven. when the supports on both sides are removed, naturally it expanded to the sides. I guess this will be one nice flat bread! 🙂

13. Place 2 cups of boiling water in an oven-safe dish and place in the lower shelf. Bake for 35 min (375F the first 15 min, and then 400 F)

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the best crumb ever!

 

Bon appetite! 🙂

 

 

 

plain bread – a success story

My next door neighbours are great people. She brought me some hand-made clothes; she said she loves knitting them and they are very useful. I was touched and decided to take advantage of being home early and bake a loaf of bread or two for them.

I am still not confident about baking bread. But it is a lot of fun! So, I decided to experiment to bake a loaf that can taste and look good. I prepared one dough and prepared 2 small loafs; one round, one baton (aka “francala”) shaped. The baton bread went to my neighbour and I kept the round one.

The crust of the round loaf was amazing (and crunch), so was the taste! I did not have large holes in the round bread but I hope there were some in the baton  – it rose better than the round loaf:)

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“baton bread” that I gave to my neighbour. This little beast looked amazing and I hope it tasted so, too 🙂
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this loaf is mine – I loved it 🙂

Recipe (1 dessert spoon = 0.8 table spoon)

1. Warm up 200 ml of water and add 1 dessert spoon of sugar – mix well until all sugar dissolves. Add 1 dessert spoon of dry yeast. Do NOT mix yeast. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 min.

2. Add the yeast mixture to 3 cups of all purpose flour. Add 2/3 cups (150 ml) of water and mix with spoon or with your hands until it forms a somewhat sticky but coherent dough.

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right before the autolyse step – smelling nice and yeasty 🙂

3. Cover the top of the container (I used a pot and its lid for this purpose), wrap with a kitchen towel and rest for 20 min to autolyse at room temperature.

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right after the 20 min autolyse step. The dough is a little bit sticky (just like I wanted it), looks plumpy and risen a little bit. Looks pretty rested to me 🙂

4. Add 1 table spoon of salt and lightly knead the dough while still in the container (no flour is needed at this step as I aim it to be a soft and not a hearty bread). I noticed that dough become “fragmented” as soon as salt is added – but do not worry; it fixes itself during the process. Work on the dough and give it a round shape.

5. Add 1 table spoon of vegetable oil to a clean pot, spread it around, and put the dough in; then flip the dough over to make sure it gets oil on both sides  (top and bottom). Close the lid and put in an oven warmed up to 100 F (I covered the pot with also a kitchen towel).

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ready to rest and rise 🙂 I noticed that as soon as salt is added, the dough lost its structure and get “fragmented”. I am hoping this will fix during the rise

6. Let rise for 30 min and then stretch and fold 4-5 times and then turn the dough upside down and repeat stretching and folding. Let it rise in the warm oven for another 30 min and stretch and fold again. Put the dough back in the oven and let rise for an additional 30 min.

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at the end of 1st 30 min of rise – the dough has risen and conserved its plumpy and sticky nature. I could see the bubbles when I took it out of the warm oven, which is pleasing. The oil seems to help dough keep its moisture – but I wonder whether I applied too much oil. Something to think about. As long as it does not affect the taste, I am okay with this – in my experience the dough with a little bit oil in or around it rises pretty quickly.
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after stretch and fold at the end of the 30 min rise. Dough has lost some of its plumpiness but I am certain it will continue to rise 🙂
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after the 2nd 30 min rise – dough looks good and moist (because of the vegetable oil I used to cover the container). Folding and stretching was not particularly easy as if pulled a lot, the dough breaks. Not sure whether this is a good or bad thing. the final product will tell 🙂
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right after the 2nd stretch and fold. let it rest and rise for one last time 🙂
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at the end of the 3rd 30 min rise – looking good 🙂

 

7. Cut the dough into two (only because I wanted to have two small loafs) on a flour-sprinkled surface. Try not to add more flour and gently shape. Gently press down the bubbles (I had some). Shape, cover with a bowl or kitchen towel and let rest for 10 min.

 

 

8. Gently shape again and put in floured dishes for proofing upside-down. Sprinkle some flour on top, wrap loosely with cling film, and cover with a thick blanket on stove (I slightly warmed up the stove to help provide some warmth to dough). Let proof for 45 min

 

9. Apply egg wash – that is, whisk one egg and brush over the loafs. On one of them I also added sesame seeds. Score carefully using a sharp knife. Place in oven dishes sprinkled with corn meal.

 

11. boil 1.5 cups of water and place in the lower shelf of the oven in an oven-safe dish (to provide humidity during the bake)

10. bake at a pre-heated oven (400 F) for 45 min. At 30 min I took them out and sprinkled a generous amount of water on top. The round one needed to bake an additional 5 min (its bottom did not get brownish at 45 min)

11. Apply butter on the surface when taken out of the oven and enjoy!

Bon appetite! 🙂

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I cannot see much of a hole in the bread. I guess I needed to rise it a little bit longer. But the recipe is okay and I am excited that I made this beauty! 🙂

 

 

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