A simple and delicious sourdough

Wouldn’t you love to be able to make a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread, but found the prospect  too complex, confusing and time consuming? This blog describes  a process for making sourdough bread that, if you follow it more or less correctly, will yield a rich, complex, nutty, flavourful sourdough each and every time.

I’m preparing this as an online accompaniment to a sourdough bread workshop I am preparing for my food coop. I’d like to see lots more people doing sourdough, and, I’m a teacher by profession. Even though I maybe far from an expert on bread, I can at least teach it.

This venture started when I wanted to find a way I could have fresh bread for breakfast. Was it too much  to ask? Additionally, I liked the idea of using a preferment as this makes the flavour much more complex due to the lengthy time the dough sits, slowly ferments and brings out the rich flavour complexities of the enzymes as it ages.

So here I am at a point now – beyond being the  newbie of two years ago – I’m teaching about it.

The Big Picture

First of all: the big picture. The sourdough cycle is basically this:

refresh starter >  preferment >  bulk rise > shape loaves/final rise > bake bread

Continue reading

The Food Chain

This is going to be one of those off the cuff blogs, quickly written, uploaded, and likely edited as time goes on and more ideas on the theme come along.

We usually think of the food chain as being the order that various critters in nature eat each other for their sustenance. Here its about what to do with food that gets left over. I’m not talking about how you take last night’s entre and reconstitute it for lunch the next day. I’m going beyond that.

I hope that readers can be inspired somewhat by this and contribute new ideas.

The sauce continuum

Begin with ….. roasted or BBQ vegetables. (BTW…. if you roast or BBQ veggies, stick a bulb of garlic in it. Put it in the fridge after, or use it – you will always have the essential ingredient for any ‘roast garlic….’ recipe). Back to the veggies: cut them up into quite small chunks. For every 200g or so add 5g salt, 35g vinegar, 200g tomato sauce/tomato paste (vary this to get the right consistency), herbs and spices: consider some of basil/oregano/thyme/ rosemary/cumin/mustard/hot pepper, that roasted garlic (to taste!), a handful of chopped olives. The result: a roast vegetable antipasto.

And next down the food chain? as in if the antipasto is not gobbled up in a day or 2? A sauce! Begin by pureeing what is left of the antipasto. Taste and consider its viscosity. The aim is to make a sauce that pours slowly but surely out of a narrow necked bottle. If anything it will be too thick. Here’s where you can have some fun. Get a vision of the kind of sauce you want to pour over a burger, on a sandwich, as a marinade over chicken or steak. Just keep in mind that you can add but you can’t remove. Here are the parameters to consider:

  • Salt – always a good one to begin with, and also one that can be overdone.
  • Vinegar – consider the type of vinegar, and only use a little at a time. Lemon/lime is part of the vinegar parameter
  • Heat – hot peppers, cayenne, hot sauce
  • Garlic – you likely already have this – do you want more?
  • Tomato: Since the antipasto had a tomato base, by definition its going to be a tomato based sauce. If you like the amount of tomato in the taste, and the vinegar continuum is right, but the sauce needs diluting,  then add water. If it can take more tomato then add tomato sauce. If it needs thickening, then tomato paste.

Finally  – choose a bottle. The food industry does an absolutely stellar job of inventing just the right size and shape of container for their products. So save a few glass sauce bottles for your own DIY stuff. Make sure it pours just right – bottle and label, in the fridge it goes. Whereas your original entre dish would be a science experiment after a week, the transformations, including the addition of vinegars and salts, mean that the resulting delicious sauce will be happy and likely used up over the next 2-3 weeks.

The sourdough continuum

All sourdough makers are aware of keeping their starter beefed up and active for the holy grail of sourdough – that perfect loaf of bread. Inevitably some starter is poured off. But instead of composting this, put it in a jar and pop it into the fridge. Here are some beginning ideas on what to do with this leftover starter.


Essentially cracker dough is a 60% hydration dough of flour, liquid (including up to 20% oil), 3-5% salt, and dry flavoring. The dough is rolled out – for super thin crackers, use a pasta roller. For the sourdough version the starter is used in part of the dough. Check my hydration table to help create your own sourdough crackers.


Pancakes are an easy way to use up starter. Although the starter helps the leavening, the main leavening comes with the addition of eggs and baking powder. Essentially the pancake mix is a very wet – 200% or so hydration mix of flour, liquid, eggs, oil, salt, sugar, and leaveners – baking soda/powder. I’ll refer you to Theresa Greenaway’s Discovering Sourdough  – my absolute authority on sourdough – for the original recipe. My hydration table (link still to come) functions as a kind of app that will guide you to making bigger or smaller amounts of mix.

Scones and hotcakes

I’ll refer you here again to  Theresa Greenaway’s Discovering Sourdough  book 1 which has lots of great hotcake recipes that can be done with leftover starter.

That’s it for now…… if you have other creative ideas for the ‘food chain’ please share them!


Cheeseless Lasagne

Cheeseless Lasagna

I should say a few words as to how this came about. Simply this – the dinner request was a lasagna and I knew that one guest, much as she loves cheese, inevitably suffers from eating it. SO I did what just about anyone does these days confronted with a new culinary challenge – go to the web and see what’s there. Who knows – maybe someone will even search this recipe out one day – though I doubt it given the lack of effort I put into publicizing this blog.

So the best recipe I came up with was at http://www.chow.com/recipes/29439-vegan-lasagna. Vegan? well almost. The trouble is that the lasagne noodle itself is likely made with egg and flour, a clear disqualification. Thus it is a ‘cheeseless’ and not a ‘vegan’ lasagne.

My version of the chowhound keeps the ricotta – tofu combo. The addition of lemon and lemon rind is a genius stroke. Although I have kept an eggplant layer, my preparation is quite different, and also I am something of a stickler on the issue of  sauteeing mushrooms, chard and onions.

This is a recipe where you strive to make each layer in the dish taste delicious and unique on its own. That is the only way this dish will survive the inevitable comparison to its wonderfully gooey, fatty, cheesy cousin.

So here goes – enjoy! The recipe makes one pan of lasagna but the photos here are for a double quantity because I know there will be a hue and cry if I do not.

Begin by lightly sauteeing about 800g of onions on a very low heat. Start on medium heat, add about a tbs of salt, and also olive oil. Once they are translucent, turn the heat down to the lowest and leave with the top on for another half hour or so, and once juices have begun to accumulate, take the lid off. Keep cooking on a very low heat – you should be seeing constant but slow, lazy bubbling. This allows some of the liquid to evaporate, concentrating the incredibly sweet and complex onion to use in other parts of the recipe. Do the chard part last (like about 2 hours after you have started to cook the onion) as this is the one that really benefits from the slow caramelization the onions are undergoing.  Once they are happily bubbling away turn your attention to the eggplant dish. Cheeseless Laagna (13)Cheeseless Laagna (10)

Eggplant layer

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • Salt as needed
  • half cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5-6 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 diced red pepper

Cheeseless Laagna (12)Heat oven to 450. Cut the eggplant(s) lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Place in a single layer on 2 baking sheets, overlapping slightly as needed, and sprinkle evenly with a little salt (a few sprinkles per slice). After little water bubbles appear (its the salt interacting with the eggplant and not really water) flip the eggplant and sprinkle with salt on the other side. (again not too much: you do not want it too salty); let sit until water beads form on the surface, at least 30 minutes. Brush olive oil over the slices generously, flip back and brush olive oil on the other side too. The olive oil should be fairly generous so it is actually baked in the olive oil. Cheeseless Laagna (11)Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, checking frequently after the 6-7 minute mark. You want them to be nicely cooked but not falling apart or burned. You could also bake at a lower heat for a longer time.Cheeseless Laagna (7)

While the eggplant cooks, place 2 tablespoons olive oil, parsley, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Transfer the seared eggplant to the oil-vinegar mixture and toss. Taste and season with additional salt as needed to make even the lowly eggplant delicious.

Sauce layer

I have it easy in this department. I use the tomato sauce I can at the end of August. Whatever you use, you need 1litre of basic tomato sauce.

  • 1 L tomato sauce
  • 3 Several tbs of the onion mix that has been gently sauteeing
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons capers

Sautee onions (with onions used in other layers)

Pour sauce, sauteed onions, capers in a bowl.

Ricotta analog

In a large food processor (it really needs to be a 12-14 cup size – or else do it in batches)

  • 2 packages tofu, drained (roughly cut them up, otherwise they will take a lot longer to grind.)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 125g olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest from about 1/2 medium lemons. Lemon confit would work well here also.
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed (from about 1/2 lemon). Since it all goes into the same food processor, I grate off the zest, cut the remaining lemon into slices only to remove the seeds, and put it all in the food processor.
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

Place the tofu, parsley, lemon zest/confit, lemon juice, and measured salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and process until smooth. Taste and season with more lemon juice, salt, pepper and/or olive oil as needed. Like with the eggplant, you are working to get this to taste truly excellent on its own. The texture should resemble ricotta cheese. Set aside

Noodle layer

1 package of lasagna noodles, uncooked. They will nicely absorb all of the extra liquid from the onions, mushrooms and tomato sauce.

Fresh flavor layer

The Chowhound recipe suggests a  cup of loosely packed basil leaves cut into 1/4-inch-thick ribbons. But fresh basil is not always available. If you are prepared to veer from the cheeseless, pesto works. I would also suggest thin sliced fresh red sweet peppers – uncooked. Another suggestion would be a single layer of whole pine nuts. This is one layer in the middle of the lasagna, a layer you know you are biting into from the little zap of taste pleasure it gives.

Mushroom layer

Cut 400g mushrooms (crimini – portobello, white mushrooms) in thin slices, and lightly sautee in olive oil. Turn them frequently over a slightly less than medium heat. Add a couple of pinches of fresh pepper and cook only until they are just cooked: the flesh has begun to sweat, they have acquired a cooked sweetness but are still crunchy. Remove from heat into a bowl and add some of the caramelizing onion sautee – to taste.Cheeseless Laagna (9)Cheeseless Laagna (8)

Chard layer

Begin with about half of the caremelizing onion sautee – put it in a wide pan. Cut 1 large bunch of washed chard as follows:

  1. separate the veins, and dice as fine as you can. Add to the onion, but DO NOT stir it in.
  2. Cut the remaining chard into thin ribbons, and add on top of the chard veins.  Cheeseless Laagna (6)Add a little thyme, basil, oregano. DO NOT mix in. Let them lie on top. Braise covered on the lowest setting until the chard is cooked  – about 40 minutes or so.
  3. Turn into a bowl, gently mix the 3 layers, and taste for salt, pepper. The sweetness of the onions should have premeated everything.

 Assembly (from bottom up) 

In the picture, the order is from right to left – counter clockwise.

Cheeseless Laagna (5)

  • Tomato sauce
  • tofu
  • noodles
  • tomato sauce
  • extra flavour  layer
  • eggplant
  • chard
  • mushroom
  • tofu
  • noodles
  • tomato sauceCheeseless Laagna (3)
  • extra flavour  layer
  • eggplant
  • chard
  • mushroom
  • tofu
  • noodles
  • tomato sauce

Cheeseless Laagna (2)

Add whatever other herbs and spices you wish – Basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary are good bets. Cover with a cookie tray upside down (or foil  – but the cookie tray is ideal as it is a rigid surface) and bake for 50 minutes at 375. Its important that the top of the lasagna does not come in contact with the underside of the cookie tray, otherwise the top layer of lasagne will stick to it. While it won’t ruin the taste the presentation…. suffers! Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.


Vegan chocolate chip and coconut-ginger cookies

The back story here

I’ve been making a bunch of cookies recently – and being aware that some of the potential audience for these cookies have a variety of food requirements. It means – following the culinary philosophy of my friend and occasional culinary partner in crime, Mia – that one might as well just go vegan. This has the added benefit of people feeling that because they are ingesting coconut oil and not butter, that it is somehow guilt free (LOL!!!)

So yesterday Toronto’s local cycling advocacy group, Cycle Toronto held a ‘tuneup Tuesday’ down the road from my place – so I went along, and brought a cookie tin of cookies with me, thinking that maybe if someone filled out our survey, signed onto a mailing list they could be rewarded with a cookie. It turns out that most of the takers were kids who enjoyed them  – and who knows maybe we’ve begun an initial bud of interest in cycling advocacy. The other volunteers also appreciated them, and would like the recipe. So a good excuse for a blog.

These 2 recipes are cobbled together from several different recipes. If as a general rule, if you want to go back to the dairy versions, substitute 1 egg per 50g of almond/coconut milk and an equal weight of butter for coconut oil. Or you can mix it up as you wish.

You will note my usual proclivity for using weight measurements. Occasionally I have the volume in there as well….. Get thee a weigh scale. I promise you won’t return it and begin using it for lots of other stuff.

A final caveat: I may still do some fine tuning on these recipes. If you try them and have suggestions, please make a comment and share them.

The recipes

coconut ginger snaps total vegan version

This recipe originally was based on the following recipe: http://picky-palate.com/2013/11/06/brown-butter-soft-batch-style-gingersnaps/


180g coconut oil

1 cup light brown sugar, packed 200g

1/4 cup molasses 80g

100ml coconut milk

2 cups all purpose Flour 280g

1 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tbs dried ginger (if you go to the trouble of finely dicing dried ginger your taste buds will be rewarded by the occasional zap of ginger in each cookie)

20g fresh ginger – finely minced or shredded. If you do not have the really strong dried ginger, increase this amount to 60g.

60g coconut

1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1/4 cup shredded coconut for rolling dough in before baking


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line 2 large baking sheets with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

Cream together  coconut oil and  brown sugar. Once creamed, add molasses and coconut milk, beating on medium until well combined.IMG-20140529-00292IMG-20140529-00293

In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, coconut, fresh and dried ginger. Mix until just combined.IMG-20140529-00294

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Knead until well combined. Form into small balls – about 2 tbs each. Roll dough balls in granulated sugar and shredded coconut mix and place onto prepared baking sheet. Place 1 inch apart to allow for spreading.IMG-20140529-00295

Bake for 15-16 minutes, until baked through. Remove and let cool on baking sheet for at least 15 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Serve room temperature or chilled.


Chocolate chip cookies totally vegan version

vegan cookies (3)

This recipe is a mashup of these two recipes: http://food52.com/recipes/25558-chocolate-chip-cookies and http://www.dailyrebecca.com/2013/03/the-best-vegan-chocolate-chip-cookies/

I should make a note on these: I’m not happy with this recipe, so yesterday I sat down with my occasional cullinary partner in crime, Mia, and discussed it. Mia is a great baker and though not vegan herself, has lots of friends who are and so knows this landscape.

We both agreed, there is too much oil. In the recipes, I replaced the butter for coconut oil, but coconut oil does not behave the same way – it doesn’t attach itself to the flour the way butter does. Also the ratio of oil to flour in this recipe is considerably different than in the ginger cookie recipe. Next time, I’ll reduce it so the ratio of flour to oil in the recipe is the same as the ginger cookies.

She also suggested replacing some of the flour with nut flour – filbert, almond, walnut. It would change up the texture and of course the taste, supplying some of the fat hit taken away by reducing the oil. On my next effort I’ll try replacing 1/3 of the flour with an equal weight of walnut flour – its what I have available to me right now.

If someone tries these, please make a comment and let me know what you did, how it turned up. My family can’t afford the resulting calories from extensive experimentation here.


Makes 24 cookies (2 ounces each)

270g all purpose flour

1teaspoon baking soda (5 g)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2teaspoon kosher salt (3g)

450g semi sweet chocolate  chips (I’ve used Camino semi-sweet chocolate chips)

1 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped 170g

180g coconut oil (this amount resolves the problem noted above.)

260g (1cup) light or dark brown sugar, tightly packed

130g 1/2cup white sugar (optional. You want it sweeter? do this.)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

100ml almond milk


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and line 2 large baking sheets with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.vegan cookies (15)

Mix together chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Set aside.vegan cookies (14)

All medium speed unless otherwise noted: In a standing mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the coconut oil and sugars until well mixed and light. Scrape down the sides.  Add almond milk and vanilla. Mix for 5 seconds. Scrape down the sides.vegan cookies (11)vegan cookies (10)

Add the sifted flour mixture in 3 batches, stopping before adding the final batch. Either hand mix, or if using a stand mixer use the lowest speed and mix until just combined at each stage.  When you get to the final batch of flour, add the chocolate chip/nut mixture.  Never over-mix.vegan cookies (9)

Spoon onto the cookie trays and bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes. Check them frequently to ensure they have hit their Goldilocks point: not too soft, not too hard. They will firm up once cooled down. vegan cookies (5) vegan cookies (4) vegan cookies (1)


I am inspired to  make marmalade.

I’ve resisted so far – its not exactly the healthiest jam out there – 9 lbs of sugar to 2 lbs of Seville oranges in the 1906 Reliable Cookery book.

Marmalade recipe  - Lawrie

A few weeks ago, Laura (Cottage Country North jams) came out with a whiskey marmalade that was truly wonderful. Traditional, yet the whiskey added wonderful body and complexity to it. That was one thing. It got me thinking about it.

Next, I was in at my food coop and saw they have Seville oranges! Ok. That did it.

But if I was going to do this, I was going to do it traditionally.  I was, however, not going to get myself into the bother that I remember my dad having, with huge muslin bags and the like. (Of course down below you will see that I was delighted to find I had such a bag.)

Next – a recipe: the one above is one option. I like the soak for a day part. I can see that as being like a slow soup. But what happens to the skins?

Lets fast forward to the present and see what the internet offers up: first – http://www.ladlesandjellyspoons.com/2012/01/my-best-traditional-marmalade-recipe/ a blogger who seems to have gone through a similar process I am now going through.

First on the google search is this one: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/type-of-dish/preserve/traditional-seville-orange-marmalade.html If I do this I will double it.

This too is interesting: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/4449033/A-more-traditional-marmalade-recipe.html

Finally a book I have around “Jams and Preserves” by Gina Steer: It also has the cheesecloth bag but more orange and less sugar than the old recipe.

I’ve sufficient jars for 4 litres of product.

Jan 22 2014:

I have now slotted the 5 recipes onto a spreadsheet to compare them. I’ve converted everything to a gram weight, as I want to see how the ratios differ one to the other.

Here is an image of my table for the 5 recipes:

oranges seville G 900 1 2000 1.0 908 1 908 1 1543 1
lemons G 0 0.0 680 0.3 170 0.2 340 0.4 340 0.2
other 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 400 0.4 0 0.0
water L 3000 3.3 4000 2.0 2250 2.5 3420 3.8 6000 3.9
sugar 1800 2.0 2725 1.4 1815 2.0 4086 4.5 2724 1.8
total weight before boiling 5700 9405 5143 9154 10607

They really are quite different – both in ratio (sugar to fruit) and in process – though all have a muslin bag for pips & pectin, all dissolve the sugar before it boils, all reduce the syrup, none use pectin beyond the natural pectin in the seeds, all have the same test for doneness. Canning in a water bath does not seem to be required either.

First lets deal with the proportion ratios. These go from oranges:sugar – 1:1.4 to 1:4.5. Taking the outliers out the range is between 1.8 – 2.0. I think I will settle for a ratio of 1 part seville orange to 2 parts sugar.

For the water, the ratios range from between 1:2 (orange to water) to 1:3.9. One of them says “enough water to cover them.” I’m inclined to go with a ratio of 2.5 parts water to one of oranges. One of the recipes    – http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/type-of-dish/preserve/traditional-seville-orange-marmalade.html uses this and also the 2:1 ratio. Its also the most detailed.  It also uses 1 lemon so I will try this too.

Looking at how many oranges I got, I should get about 8 litres! Yikes! (I’ve tried to account for the water being boiled away by a factor of a half, and that sugar shrinks considerably in volume.

Well  – lets be optimistic: 2l regular, 2l whisky, 2l brandy 2l….???? At least I ought to get more jars.

Next consideration: the fruit preparation. In all cases, the skin and pits are separated from the juice. I think on second thought, I will just do half the oranges. I’ll do a separate batch and hopefully learn from the first.

OK  – lets do this!!

So first…. quarter and peel the oranges – there are about 7 of them – 1480 grams.

Set up a bowl for peels, a bowl for seeds, a bowl for juice.



Next, I used the shredding blade on the food processor to shred the peels. These pics are from the first batch. For my second patch I just cut the peels into big chunks and threw them in the bag.  In the end, I do not believe it is necessary to even separate the seeds from the pulp. It can all go in the same bag. Cutting them into big chunks makes it easy to control for the amount and thickness of the pulp shards you put in the final product.


The juice was blended. Blending is important. It breaks up the more fibrous parts of the meat giving a silkier texture in the jam. IMG-20140122-00192

I found a great cheesecloth sleeve, tied one end of it and put all the peels in it. In a separate bag I put all the seeds.IMG-20140122-00194

Then I added the water  – 2.5 the weight of the oranges.


Now a long simmer without the sugar. It was something of an error in timing but what happened at this stage was that I had it on this long simmer for about 10 hours. It was NOT boiling  – there seemed to be very little activity, but at the end of the 10 hours, it had reduced considerably and I realized – “this is it!” IMG-20140122-00196

The idea of a very long slow barely simmer is mine. Partly in error, partly inspiration from the recipe advising it be soaked. Although its the only way I have tried it, I believe this is the reason that the final result is so wonderfully deep dark and complex.

The Fast Boil and reaching the sweet ‘set point’

Now time for the final boil and jarring. First step: remove the bags from the soup and squeeze out every last bit of juice. Next add the sugar.  My research suggested I use twice the weight of sugar per weight of whole oranges. So in that went. Now here is an important point. The sugar has to completely dissolve before the fast boil starts. So put the burner on low, stir it around until the sugar dissolves, and then…  and all recipes agree this is where you do a fast boil.

As it was boiling I checked the bag of skins as I wanted to get little shards of pulp to add texture to the final product. I did not want too much – just enough to announce their presence.

The marmalade has to boil until it reaches its set point. To ascertain this, take a plate and after about 10-15 minutes of fast boiling, put a spoonful on the plate. Drag the spoon through it and observe what happens. If the jam closes around the spoon, its not set. If it crinkles up and does not close the track the spoon makes, its at its set point, and can be placed in jars.IMG-20140124-00200 IMG-20140123-00198 


Making a flavored marmalade.

The final part in the process was the flavorings. I had earlier said I was initially excited about making this after tasting ‘Whiskey Jack’ marmalade. I also know from my other cooking adventures that often the taste you want to highlight in a recipe is added right at the end, otherwise it gets lost, especially in a long slow cook. Besides, its a lot easier to have one big batch all the same and siphon of smaller quantities for their special treatment.

So I went to the cupboard to see what struck my fancy: In addition to plain, ‘no extras’ ‘old fashioned’ marmalade, I decided to do scotch, bourbon, Grand Marnier, Tequila and ginger. But how much? I wanted enough so that it added body and complexity, yet not enough that the liquor could be tasted. Using a 500ml measuring cup, I scooped out half a litre, poured it in another pot, and added 50ml of whatever liquor, giving me a 10% mix. Tasted it. In the case of the scotch, it was too strong, so I added another 250ml of marmalade resulting in a 7.5% mix. Much better. In the end, the Tequila and Grand Marnier worked out well at 10%, while the scotch, and bourbon worked better at 7.5%.IMG-20140124-00199

As for the ginger, I made up a ginger syrup: a big chunk of thin sliced ginger, a couple pf pinches of salt, 2-3 heaping spoons of sugar. Let it sit for a couple of hours (yes this is to be done well ahead of the final boil!) until it yields a dark, sweet highly potent ginger syrup.


As for canning them, I did boil the jars, but I have not canned them. That amount of sugar is more likely to turn them to alcohol than to mold. Besides, I’ve had many a jar of what my parents used to make months after it had been opened, and it was all fine.  Many recipes suggest wax disks poured on top once they are cooled. The idea is to keep air from interacting. I will take my chances  – you do what you feel is best!

The final recipe:


Seville oranges (weight =y) Seville oranges weigh approximately 200g each. The final quantity of marmalade will be approximately 2.5 times in volume what the oranges weight in kilos. Thus for a 1.2 kilo weight of oranges (6 oranges), I made over 3L of marmalade.

Water (weight = 2.5y)

Sugar (weight= 2y)


  1. Peel the oranges, and separate seeds and peel from the juice. Cut the peel into big chunks.
  2. Place the seeds and peel in a cheesecloth bag.
  3. fill a large pot (10 litre pot for about 6 oranges is good) with the juices, orange meat, and water. Tie the cheesecloth bag inside the pot so it is infusing in the juice. Set on a stovetop at the lowest possible heat, with NO lid, overnight (or all  day).
  4. Once the stew has reduced by 1/3-1/2, turn it off and let it cool down for a few hours.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your jars. My preference is the 125ml and 250ml sizes. Either boil them or heat them in a 350 degree oven.
  6. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the cheesecloth bag into the juice.
  7. Add the sugar, turn the heat ro low and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn the heat to medium high. stir constantly, adjusting heat, stirring so it does not boil over. Take a plate and test for the set point every 10 minutes or so. Let the jam cool on the plate, then run the tip of your spoon through it. It is ‘set’ when the skin crinkles, and it does not backfill the track made by the spoon.
  8. Flavoring: your choice! Start at 10% (50ml flavour to 500ml marmalade). Once it is right, bring to a boil for a few seconds, take it off the boil and jar it.


Sourdough: Beyond newbieism

This is my second post about Sourdough. At the end of my first, I had gone from making sourdough bricks to making consistently decent loaves. I’d also graduated from always making Northwest Sourdough’s ‘first loaf’ to more involved recipes, specifically ones involving preferments.

In this series of posts, I’m trying to refine what will be my basic, infallible, go-to sourdough recipe. I’m basing it on Theresa Greenaway’s ‘Soft White Pan Sourdough’ on page 104 of book 1 “Discovering Sourdough.

What drew me to this recipe was that it had a preferment stage, something I wanted to know more thoroughly about, and that it was a pan loaf – what is most useful to my family for their basic bread.

What I didn’t like about the recipe were the odd numbers, and the amount of differing ingredients. I wanted my recipe simple, something I could easily remember without  referring back to a recipe.

When I make yeast bread, its is simple: 1 kilo of flour, 600g water (60% hydration), 30g (3%) yeast and 20g (2%) water.  I wanted something the same.  Somehow the length of time didn’t really bother me. Perhaps I know if I am really stuck and bread is called for before its ready, there is always a 2” heel in the freezer from an earlier batch.

I started looking at the quantities and their relative ratios in this recipe. I discovered that

  • The ratio of starter to preferment flour and water is 1:2
  • The final hydration once everything is said and done is 64%
  • The ratio of preferment to additional  water and flour is 11:10:4

I then looked more carefully at the charts and the flour/water ratios & quantities boil down as follows:

flour water hydration culminating hydration total weight












bulk rise












I then looked at the hydration and total weights and made them functions of the flour and water weights. So for the starter, the 166% hydration is the result of water divided by the flour times 100 (159/96*100).

From there I wanted to begin simplifying the quantities. The flour/water quantities for the starter don’t count, as the starter is considered as its own ingredient – its final weight only matters.

I then rounded out the flour and water additions in the preferment and bulk risings, ensuring that the overall hydration and weight were similar. The resulting chart looks like this:

flour water hydration culminating hydration total weight












bulk rise












The main difference is that the bulk rise is a little more hydrated – and that’s OK because it will be more pliable when I fold and turn it. In the end, it still all comes out to 64% hydration. My salt would follow a baker’s ratio  – 2% of the flour weight or 20g. The other change from the original recipe is that I’m not adding oil or butter, or a sugar.

Once this is all worked out,  you can mess around with it all you like. You can for example mix 975g of the variety of flours you want (I like a combination of Red Fife and white hard flour) as long as you distribute them as noted in the preferment and bulk rise. I add in extra grains etc. when I am folding them into loaves.  The more whole grain flour, likely the tighter and denser it will be.

On the issue of refrigeration – I’ve now tried refrigerating both the preferment and the bulk ferment. Both seem to work, though I want to investigate this further to see what is best. I have not tried refrigerating the readied loaves, though this should work too.

So…. What is the final recipe? Here goes – and significant parts of it come from the original “Discovering Sourdough” book:

  1. Add 255g of vigorous 166% starter to 275g flour and 225 g water. Mix and leave covered 6-8 hours.
  2. Once the preferment has risen (do the water test: a little bit of it should float in water) Mix in 700g flour and 300g water. Knead or mix for 2-3 minutes until the dough is well mixed.  (or let it stay in the fridge, and when you are ready take it out, and monitor it as it does its thing)
  3. Let sit for 20 minutes autolyse and then add 20g salt.
  4. Knead or mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 4-6 hours (or keep it in the fridge as long as you need to. When you take it out it will need a longer time – it has to come to room temperature, then rise. )  Stir the dough a couple of times to strengthen the gluten.
  5. Once the bulk ferment has doubled in size, shape the loaves using the pull and fold over technique. This quantity makes two loaves. You can put one back in the fridge and  bake it when you are ready, or use it for other purposes – rolls, buns, pita, pizza, baguettes.
  6. Let the loaves rise  – a shorter period  – about 2 or so hours.
  7. Heat the oven (450 – then after 10 minutes reduce to 400, or even 375), slash the top.  After 20-25 minutes and it has sprung , stopped rising and is getting brown, insert a meat thermometer – until you become familiar with your own conditions. Bread is ready when it hits 200F. You might also want to have a pan of hot water under it, and you may also wish to spritz it in the first 10 minutes.

And there you have it. The wonderful alchemy of only flour, water, and a little salt!

Oct 13 2013

On September 30, I was at our cottage, and in leaving, decided to do an experiment. On one hand I left about 150ml of the starter I had been using at the time in the fridge. On the other I set a bowl with 1cup of  water and 1 cup of flour on the counter, uncovered. The temperature varied between 14-15 degrees. Yesterday – 14 days later, I saw the results. True there was a dried crust with some mold on the top, but under it a wonderful bubbling sarter!

I scraped the mold crust off, at then I took out the older fridge starter. I refreshed them both – 1 cup of flour & water in each. I then put them side by side to see how they would react. Huge difference! The new starter was a lot more vigorous. In fact – I’ve now tossed the old one – I don’t need it any more.

This is important because of the element of self sufficiency this brings me. I no longer need to concern myself that my starter is like some magic passed down special elixir. I now know how to do it on my own. Not only that but it was so incredibly easy! No need for special ingredients, special processes,  just flour and water.

I’m curious now. I used our RO water for this. What would happen if I used lake water? There would be all kinds of micro organisms in that water (it is filtered and passes a UV light) that aren’t in the RO. What would happen if I changed the location? My basement for instance. How long is the ideal time? My limitations here is that I was not here. The 2 weeks was likely way too long. What would have been ideal? Note to self: we really need to get a wifi surveillance camera around here – I could see which animals break into my compost – or which birds come to the feeders when we’re not around – or to see the progression of a starter.

On other aspects of sourdough: I’m really pleased I’ve got down my basic loaf. Its wonderful, nutty, moist. he crumb is a little tight, but its got a good rise and makes an excellent all round loaf. My next bit to sort out is the ideal amount of dough for a loaf pan. I’m thinking it ought to come 3/4 of the way up the pan. I don’t want to have it rolling off the top if it rises too high above the pan. Along with this, I need to figure out the optimum period to do the final loaf rise. At this point the dough is near the end of its feeding, and if its left too long it won’t rise. I want the intense heat of the stove to ‘use up’ the remaining rise in the dough in the first part of the baking.

That is it for now….

Nov 3

In the last few weeks I’ve been trying out a yeast recipe, http://food52.com/recipes/23747-no-knead-sandwich-bread which is a derivative of Jim Lahey’s Sullivan St Bakery basic recipe. What is unusual about these is that they are low yeast, high hydration, and long rise. I saw a certain similarity between this and the sourdough work I’ve been doing recently – and so I’ve been going back and forth between them, and working in elements of each into each other.

Consequently, in the No Knead recipe, I’ve tossed in half a cup of sourdough starter. (and added some extra flour to adjust the hydration). In the sourdough I did yesterday I added a teaspoon of yeast  – you know  – to help it along.

I’m thinking that if one understands the underlying principles: you are essentially husbanding yeasts and this means that

  • in order for them to grow, they need food. That food is more flour and water.
  • Natural yeasts like TONS of food relativeto their weight – though there is an optimum ratio which  I still need to work out.
  • The warmer the temperature the faster the growth and food consumption
  • Its best to make the changes (starter to sponge, sponge to bulk rise, bulk rise to loaf) when the yeast is at its most vigorous.
  • The time can be slowed down through refrigeration.
  • The longer the rise, the more complex the taste

I’m finding both types of loaves are turning out similarly. In the sourdough there is more of a complex sourdough taste, but both have a nice chewey texture and a great  nutty taste. Both are wonderfully moist.

My next challenge is to get putting it in the oven after its final rise just right. So far I think I’ve left it too long. At this point I am thinking that turning on the oven after a 45 minute rise will work well. Like with what I experienced with fast yeast breads, I want it to have its final charge of rising in the oven. On the occasions where my oven spring has been disappointing, it was rising much too long.

The other thing I am working on is an excel sheet that will allow me to input certain variables (i.e. final dough weight, hydration, type of bread, or adding in dough that has been in the fridge and is being added to) and yield the remaining quantities for the preferment/bulk rise. I guess that is called an AP these days. I’m a little behind the times – or not in the MAC family…..

Nov 16

I believe I now have my essential go to bread process and recipe down. What’s nice is that its mostly my own stuff. Here is the BREAD CYCLE

  • take starter out of the fridge
  • mix 250g starter, 250g flour 250g water. Mix well and leave 6-8 hours at room temperature.
  • replenish the starter: 1 cup of old starter, 1 cup flour, 1 cup water (RO water). put back in fridge.
  • to the preferment, add 700g flour, 300g water.knead in mixer.
  • allow to autolyse 20 minutes and knead for about 4-5 minutes
  • cover with damp cloth and let rise 5 hours
  • form into loaves, bench rest 20 minutes, put into pans for 1hour.
  • put oven to 450 degrees convection, loaves in. Reduce to 425 convection after 10 minutes. after 20 minutes check temperature with a meat thermometer – should be 190-195.
  • remove, allow to cool

December 7 2013

Yesterday something rather remarkable happened.

I was doing the recipe noted above, but with a difference. Due to time constraints, I did not let the starter and preferment stages fully proof. The details of why aren’t important. It was all about time. But, the starter went into the preferment before it was fully risen and bubbling; the preferment was worked into a dough before it was fully proofed s well. There were no bubbles, and just hints of life. I knew though from this particular sourdough starter that this was because it was cool, and not because it had grown and depleted. It was still on its ascendancy.

I have to say I was worried about how it would all turn out, so when I added the flour for the main proofing, I did sprinkle a teaspoon of yeast on as well – and I do not know what the effect of this was.

The other difference I tried was to  slash the bread half way through its pan rise. I think this helped make it better rounded at the top.

So here for the record are the details:

  • 5:30PM removed starter from fridge. It was half frozen. there was about 350g in it, and I added my usual cup of flour cup of water. Then it went into a cooler as we were headed north.  It probably was at 40-50 degrees during this period.
  • 11:30 at our destination: The starter had not started to act, but I still prepared the preferment – following directions above. For 6 hours it was covered and in a 69 degree environment.
  • 5:30AM next morning: prepared the bulk rise(as above)
  • 11:30 AM shaped the loaves. At this point it had risen to about 3x its size and when I moved it it deflated. It was however nice and stringy. no oil on top as I usually do,
  • 12:30 Into the oven: I did my flatbreads and baguette first, then the loaf. Same temp settings as noted above – but NOT convection. As noted, I slashed it half way through the rise.
  • The result: it rose higher and more evenly than previous efforts. Taste is much the same. IMG-20131207-00120I

It was interesting moving to the next step before the yeasts have fully grown and working. I like to think, but I wonder if this contributes to a better loaf spring in the oven. I’m thinking so. I’ll look on the sourdough discussion forum for further information.

BBQ red pepper jelly

Red Pepper Jelly 2013

I know when its time. Organic red peppers are in my food coop. They are $11/kilo – enough to make me wonder if the price point is too much, but they are beautiful. Big, heavy, juicy – they will make amazing jelly.


I‘ve been working on this recipe for a couple of years now. Last year I just bbq’d them  – that was it. This year I am really playing with it – adding in smoked, and fresh (uncooked) slices into the mix – sort of like a pickle.

I feel as if I am still working on it. Between last year and this year I have become more aware of the effect of different vinegary acids  – wine, apple cider vinegar  – and how these mix with regular vinegar in a chutney or jelly. I’ve also been playing with the points at which one introduces a flavour into the mix.

Vinegar mix tasters

In exploring this relationship between different types of vinegars, and following on from a couple of earlier blogs this month, I’ve set myself up with a variety of taster bottles. The idea of these is that I can sample a variety of vinegar combinations ahead of time to see which might be best for the particular chutney/jelly I’m working on. Sugar is a constant – 100g per bottle – and the vinegar/wine  is added so there is 100g vinegar/whatever and 100g sugar in each taster. As of yesterday I now have 6 of these: white wine vinegar in 90/10, 75/25, 65/35 and 50/50; red wine vinegar 50/50 and apple cider vinegar 50/50. I’ll be putting more of the red wine and apple cider together shortly. Last year I tried 50/50 apple cider vinegar/white vinegar. This year I wound up using a 50/50 red wine mix – though in truth I didn’t quite have enough red wine so it was augmented with apple cider vinegar.

I used these tasters to figure my vinegar mix for this.

I used these tasters to figure my vinegar mix for this.

The basic mix

Here is the basic mix of this recipe:The weight of peppers is ‘1’.

  • Peppers and other ingredients: 1 (PLEASE NOTE: weigh the peppers for their ratio AFTER they have been processed!)
  • total vinegar:1
  • Sugar:1
  • salt 5%.
  • Other flavorings to taste.
  • In terms of the final total quantity, multiply the ‘1’ ratio  – however much it is – by 2.74 to determine the final volume of the whole batch. So, if you have 1 kilo of peppers and other ingredients, you will get 2.74L of final product.


This is for a 1kg final weight of peppers/garlic/onion. Adjust as needed.

  • 1kg total weight that includes BBQ’d red peppers, 1 roasted bulb of garlic, 1 roasted small – medium onion.
  • 500ml red wine
  • 500 ml white vinegar
  • 1kg brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinamon
  • 4 tsp corriander (Next year I would toast the whole seed, then crack them open so they appear as corriander chunks.)
  • 50g salt
  • Hot stuff: 4 tsp chillis/hot pickled peppers/cayenne to taste for hotness
  • Thickener: Although I used agar-agar yesterday, I would likely use Certo in the future, now that I have a better sense of this recipe. With Agar, you can make up the whole mix first; with Certo, you mix in the sugar near the end.


  1. Sort out peppers: keep one to julienne fresh, one to dry, the rest cut in half – try 1/3 of them to be smoked 2/3 roasted on bbq.
  2. Chop a fresh pepper into quite small ‘not quite diced’ pieces. (at least this is what I would do next year. This year I julienned them thin in the food processor, and they do not have that fresh crunch I was hoping for)
  3. Cut peppers in half & coat in olive oil, & herb mixture (coated in oil with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, cumin) 270271
  4. BBQ: Have a spritzer bottle of water ready! Use 2/3 of the coated peppers. Set up the BBQ smoker ( a small metal box with wood chips) under your grill. Fire the BBQ, and once hot, cook the 2/3 batch of peppers, a whole garlic bulb and the medium onion. These should be cooked before the smoker ignites and starts to smoke. Remove them from the bbq.  273
  5. When the BBQ reaches 450-500, place the 1/3 batch of pepper halves inside-down above the smoker.   Once the smoker starts to go (the wood chips are smoking) turn off the bbq. If it flames, spritz it. Leave the smoked peppers in the covered bbq for a couple of minutes until cooked, but not charred. (Hint to manufacturers: would be cool to have see through bbq lids! )274
  6. Peel the roasted garlic and onion
  7. Weigh the total pepper mix (bbq, smoked, fresh,) to establish your ‘1’ for the vinegar/sugar/salt syrop
  8. Puree 3/4 of the bbq/smoked peppers, the garlic and the onion and pour in your cooking pot.276
  9. Fine chop the rest of the peppers. You should now have a bowl of fresh peppers, a bowl of roasted pepper pieces, and a mash of roasted red pepper, garlic and onion.
  10. Boil 11-12 250 ml jars (based on the 2.74 factor noted earlier; put lids in colander to boil also.
  11. Add sugar (read pectin directions first – you may need to add this later), wine, vinegar, cinnamon, coriander, hot pepper and salt to the mash275
  12. Mise en scene at this point: syrup mix on the stove or bbq, bbq/smoked chopped peppers, julienned fresh peppers,   pectin,   250 ml jars in a  canning pot,  lids in a colander, canning tongs, oven mitts/dry cloths.
  13. Bring liquid mix to a boil
  14. Remove jars from hot water (or oven if you use this method)
  15. Distribute bbq/smoked peppers into jars277
  16. Spoon in fresh peppers
  17. Add pectin following pectin directions
  18. Pour syrup over peppers and place the lids on
  19. Can for 10 minutes

Utensils needed

canning tongs
Pot for jars
Pot for sauce
Stirring spoon
oven mits
Bread board
Paring knife
Measuring spoons
Weigh scale
Jars and lids
Small bowll
Measuring cups

Where to go from here

Next year I would make the following changes:

  • toast and crack the coriander, and perhaps reduce the amount
  • try a 75/25 red wine vinegar combination. I feel this version needs more calming, more body.
  • use Certo – as I’m sure about the sugar/vinegar ratio now
  • use half the amount of garlic, but crush it fresh into the jars before they are filled.