Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How we change the (food) world


And with “we” I mean you and me. With every decision we make when shopping for food we have an impact on the way food is produced, marketed and sold. We can not afford to think that we are not part of it. The food world has producer, supplier and consumer. All three roles define the world of food as a product.

I would like to use the bakery business and the baking industry as an example. My example is located in Germany, the country where I was born and grew up. Don’t think this is far away and doesn’t affect us here. This is wrong, the situation the bakeries are in Germany is replicated around the world and all across the entire food industry.

Bakers and bakeries go back almost 8,000 years. The oldest remains of a bakery was found in Egypt and dates from 3,000 BC. The German Bakery Haeberlein-Metzger has its roots in 1492 and is still operating.

When I was a boy of 6 years of age we had many bakeries in the small village I grew up in. One bakery was across the school and made a whopping business with us kids. And after school I bought the bread and buns my mum wrote down on a piece of paper. There were about 5 different types of bread, maybe 4 - 5 different kinds of buns and rolls and cakes and Danish etc. Our village also had many other shops, two butchers, one or two grocery stores, a dairy shop where you got milk from the pump and loose cheese. There was no supermarket in sight.

10 years later, the landscape had changed. The village grew into a little town, supermarkets moved in, packaged bread became available but the bakeries were still there. Most of them. One or two gave up because the owner retired and the children didn’t’ have an interest in getting up at midnight and bake bread. They rather went to bed at midnight (or sometimes later). The bread range increased to about 10 - 15 different bread types, a lot of them with added grains. But we still had bakeries run by a baker.

Fast forward another 10 years. Many family owned bakeries have closed. The bread range is huge. Shelves are loaded with breads from all across Europe. 10 or so different types of rolls and buns. Baguette, Italian flat breads, wholegrain, white loaves, dark loaves, pumpernickel, sourdough, half wheat / half rye. Pretzels, buns with poppy seeds, buns with sesame, buns with oats, buns with a mix of grain, buns with sunflower seeds.  A number of bakeries jumped onto this bandwagon. Opened branches, grew bigger, had central bakeries and delivered their bread by truck to the number of branches they had all across the region. Franchising was the word.

Today? Bakeries are almost extinct. People buy their bread in Bakery Supermarkets like “Back-Werk” (BakeAndTake in the UK), Back-Factory and “Back-Koenig” who all have double figure growth rates. The range is huge, no small bakery can afford to offer 20 different types of breads, 10 - 20 different kinds of buns. The prices are below rock bottom.  Bread and buns and all other products are baked on site. But are they made on site?

No, a recent German documentary I watched (“Billige Broetchen” - Cheap Buns (Movie in German only)) shows how it works. Huge factories which look like oil refineries are located in low wage countries like Poland. They produce 1.5 Mill. buns a day, pre-baked, frozen, stored for up to 9 months and shipped around Europe, delivered to bakery-franchises, put in a bake-off oven and sold as fresh buns to customers. For a quarter of the price you would pay in a small family bakery. The owner of one of these bread-supermarkets interviewed in the documentary wasn’t even a baker, he was a gas and heating plumber. The ingredients are lab-tested and adjusted using artificial flavours and enhancers.

Digest these numbers: In the documentary a company owner was interviewed saying they sell 7 Mill. deep frozen buns per month alone in Berlin of one product. The company Diversi Foods in Poland has an immense range of breads. They produce 1.5 million buns a day. And that’s only one of their products. If you want to have a look inside, here is their company video: . Compare this with a village bakery and you understand the unbearable pressure small businesses are under.

The owner of Diversi foods blames the consumer (“Geiz ist Geil” - “Stinginess is Cool” a slogan under which many Germans currently live and consume) for the decline of the German bakery business.

German’s Bakeries are dying. This is a fact. They can’t find apprentices nor can they afford them. Most of them are reduced to husband and wife operations, often working 16 - 20 hours day in shifts. A pretzel selling for 0.50 EUR in a bakery is on offer for 0.08 EUR in a big franchise operation. The biggest food discounter Aldi recently introduced “Backstationen” Baking Stations. The shopper presses a button and out comes the bun or bread. And all for a price way below the material cost a conventional baker has. Many of my German countrymen and women think Aldi should open in New Zealand (they are already in Australia). I had some very heated discussions because I believe it would destroy the remainder of our food system. I think it is a very selfish dream to ask for food which is cheaper than anyone can produce it. That’s the concept of Aldi. You think the Warehouse is bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

So who really is to blame. Of course there are the producers and suppliers who want to make a profit. Why should they care about some small outdated family businesses? But what about us? What about the consumer? Aren’t we part of this, too? Aren’t we actually a big part of this? Does it make sense that we ask for cheaper and cheaper products? Do we actually care where our food comes from, who made it, who makes money with it? Or is all we care about what we can buy as cheap as possible. Are we aware that this is actually a self-contained system? You apply pressure at one end and pressure comes out the other end? Why are we surprised that we have so many food scandals. Why are we still surprised by the usage of 2.9 Mill. tons of antibiotics in the production of beef alone in the US? Why are we still wondering why Monsanto creates more and more Frankenfood? Why do we still get upset about chemicals in the milk? Do we all live in La-La -Land and think our actions won’t make a difference? Do we really believe it is all someone else’s fault? Do you really think you are not part of this? Do you really think you are the victim and not the villain?

And don’t make the mistake to believe this is all happening far far away from us. Here in Kaitaia our only butcher closed. The owner couldn’t find a successor. Nobody saw any potential for a small butchery while having the “Big Yellow Stick Man Monster” in town. All we have left now is pre-packaged meat from the shelf.

Will we all soon be fed from factories? We do have a choice. Buy local, buy from small suppliers. Every dollar you spend at a small local shop will help. Every dollar you spend at a big supermarket will be a lost opportunity. Let’s all save our local businesses.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What makes a bread? Flour!

It is like Milk and Cheese, like fruits and jam, like eggs and Pavlova. The flour dictates the bread. You need to chose the right type of flour for your bread. Try making a Ciabatta with a low-protein (low gluten) whole grain flour – Failure!

So where do you get your flour from? Well there the problem starts. I am still in the process of setting up my little farm bakery. Of course I use organic products. Of course I wouldn’t use anything else than local products. Yeah Right. Organic isn’t the problem, local is.

A while ago I read an article on Azelia’s Kitchen Blog titled "The broken relationship between farmer, miller and baker". Don’t let the blog title fool you. It sounds like Annabel Langbein or something from Women’s Weekly. But Azelia has a huge knowledge about flour, grains and the process of baking. If she does something she does it right meaning she has an almost scientific approach to everything.

Now the core message in her article is that the three roles – Farmer, Miller and Baker – need to be experts in their field but also need to talk the language of their customer. So the farmer has to understand what the miller says and the miller needs to know what the baker wants.

This made me realise one thing – and it came as a shock: we do not have millers in New Zealand! (I do exclude big flour factories like Champion and Weston on purpose. They don’t provide NZ Organic flour as far as I know) We have farmers who operate a grain mill. I am sure they understand everything about growing wheat etc. But they sadly don’t understand a lot about flour. And even worse, they do not understand what the baker wants. What the baker needs.

I contacted local organic flour companies and asked for a flour analysis. They can not tell me what type of flour they sell. They do not blend the flour. They can not provide a consistent quality. Imagine, baking a bread blindfolded, not knowing what is in your flour bin! Impossible!

On top of this, the flour is especially milled for my order. They even say it should be used in 4 weeks after receiving the shipment. This is proof that there isn’t a lot of knowledge around. Green flour is not the best flour. Flour needs to oxidise and is best after a couple of months after milling. In the case of flour, fresh isn’t best! If you want to read more, here is another excellent post from Azelia: "oxidising fresh flour"

This all sounds very harsh. Which is not my intention. The problem is that these companies do sell their flour to some bakeries. So the “Well other people don’t have this problem” argument might be used. But bakers I talked to confirmed to me that they would never even consider using a flour they don’t know anything about. So how does one make bread, organic healthy bread on a high level, from local flour? The answer: You can’t in NZ!

I meanwhile buy from a company who import flour from Italy and Turkey. Which drives me insane when I start thinking about food miles (which I try to avoid – the thinking and the food miles).Talking to them about the NZ local flour situation I was told that they would love to sell local organic flour but that their customers are not happy with the quality and the inconsistent variations of the quality. Every flour they sell has a fact sheet which lists the nutrients and most importantly the proteins. Even if the quality would change, at least I would know about it and would know how to adjust my recipes.

It fills me with sadness that I can’t use a New Zealand flour and still produce a high quality product.It actually took away a big part of my dream to create a local healthy food. So what is the solution? I only see one way and that is to have a milling culture in New Zealand. We would need small mills with flour experts who can produce local flour from local grain. We already grow the grain, but we don’t mill and blend it properly. But I don’t think there is a market for this. Or let me re-phrase this: I don’t think anyone sees the market for this. One baker in Auckland tells me he would love to use NZ Organic flour if it would be available in different types and blends. I would guess judging from the silos he gets from Champion or Weston that his demand would already use a big part of a local mill’s production. And thinking of bakeries like Paris Berlin, Zarbos, Olaf’s, Two Hands Bread, Matakana Bakery and The Loaf to just name the few I can list from the top of my head I wonder why there is nobody who sees the market. None of them seem to use NZ Organic flour.

Will we ever be able to bake New Zealand bread with New Zealand flour?


Coquo, ergo sum.

Baguette Rolls


This is a variation on the Pain a l’Ancienne theme. To be honest, I struggled with the Pain a l’Ancienne recently. I switched to another flour and it just couldn’t take the 79% water the recipe asked for. The dough was like liquid mud. It tasted great but the Baguette I made were flat. Not nice! So with this recipe I reduced the water to 65%. And hey presto, wonderful.


500 gm Bread Flour (organic) (100%)
10 gm Salt (2%)
3.5 gm Active Dry Yeast (0.7%)
325 gm Water – ice cold (65%)


Same as with the Pain a l’Ancienne, everything should be cold. I added ice cubes to the water, 30 minutes before I used it. But don’t get the ice cubes into your dough because the water wouldn’t get incorporated into the dough. If you can put the mixing bowl into the freezer and maybe the flour as well – even better. The colder you can get it the better. Put a bowl into the fridge you will use later to put the dough into. I love to use the 7 liter Clip-It containers from Systema. They are great for this.

This is really an easy and straight forward bread. Mix all ingredients for 2 minutes on low. Then increase the speed to medium and mix for 10 minutes. Take this as a guidance. The longer you mix the more the dough will take on temperature. And you want to keep it cold. A guidance that you might stop the mixer is when the dough gets off the sides of the bowl but still sticks to the bottom.

Spray the bowl from the fridge with cooking oil. Scrape the dough into the container and put it straight into the fridge. Leave for at least 10 – 12 hours. I prepare the dough in the evening and leave it over night in the fridge.

Take the dough out of the fridge and put at a warm place. I had it at 30 deg C (use a styro box or a chilly bin and add hot water in a bottle). Leave there for 2 –3 hours.

Make sure you heat your oven so that it is hot after the 2 – 3 hours period. Heat it to 240 deg C or hotter. As hot as possible.

Lightly flour a bench and tip out the dough onto the bench. For the rolls I cut 90 gm pieces and form them as little rolls or mini-batards. Don’t work the dough to much. You don’t want to deflate it more than necessary. Score (cut) them lengthwise with a sharp serrated knife or razor.

Put them straight into the oven and steam the oven with a steam pan or spray half-baked baguette rollssome water into the oven. Bake until they have a dark golden brown crust. I baked at 245 deg C for 15  -20 minutes (on a stone). I also baked some for only 10 minutes, packed them in plastic bags after they were cool and put them in the freezer for later finishing.


I was very pleased with the result. The cold fermentation brings out a huge amount of flavour. And with the reduced moisture the crumb was perfect as you can see below.


This whole process fits nicely into our current activities. I put them into the warm box before we start milking, set the oven on the timer and when we come up from milking it is just a 20 minute bake (and 10 minute cooling) and we have fresh rolls for breakfast. And I can make them in advance for later finishing. Haven’t tried it yet but I would think if I put them frozen into a cold oven, set at 200 deg C and bake until golden brown they should be just right.

Any feedback is more than welcome. Enjoy!


Coquo, ergo sum!

Is your food sterile?

I hope not. Because to me it then wouldn’t be food. Sterile food is e.g pink slime. It looks like food, they make it taste like food but is it really food?

Let me first tell you what inspired me to write this. A good friend of mine from way back when I studied Software Engineering in Germany made a comment on one of my blog posts. My friend meanwhile has a family, one son and lives in Germany. We both studied IT in Heidelberg as part of a retraining. Me retraining from a Gardener (who used to work with soil/dirt), him retraining from a baker who had a flour dust allergy. We both became software engineers. I am telling you this to give you a bit of a background. My friend was a baker with passion. On our weekend break he went home and worked at his old workplace, wearing goggles and a breathing mask. That’s how much he loved his work.

Now some 15 years later …. I moved to New Zealand and live a very much self-sufficient life, he is back in Germany and started a family. We couldn’t have changed more and moved apart more. I meanwhile slaughter animals, shoot pest/game, go fishing, bake bread, brew beer and wine and make cheese. I think cow shit actually has some sort of a nice smell to it. And the cheese making was what led to his comment. I posted something about an experiment I wanted to do to make a cheese the same way as it was done hundreds of years ago. I took the Swiss mountain shepherd and dairyman in the Swiss Alps called a “Senner” as an example who lived up in the mountains from beginning of spring until the dawn of fall. They had to be self-reliant. The next shop was a walking distance of one or more days away. They milked the cows and made cheese. This was the birth of Swiss cheese. But they didn’t had a web page where they could mail-order their freeze dried cheese cultures. They didn’t use any. They used the bacteria in the milk and in the air. That’s what made the Swiss cheese typical. So that was my experiment (which failed in its first stage and is delayed for now but this is not the point of this post).

Now the comment of my friend was something like:

“You can’t be serious! I am very worried about you and your health. You surely don’t want to eat this food which is loaded with bacteria. Baking is a different matter, baking with wild yeast at least uses heat as a steriliser. Do you really want to kill yourself?”

Now let’s look at this. There are two main ideas in this comment: 1st - Bacteria are bad and 2nd - food needs to be sterile.

We have 10 times more bacteria in our body than we have cells. We need bacteria for a healthy life. We even have E. Coli in our guts. Yes that’s right, E. coli which got all the bad press recently.

The modern food industry supported by government authorities tell us that bacteria are dangerous. The first thing what comes to people’s mind is “dirty”. Bacteria are a synonym for dirty, unsanitary conditions. And who really wants to eat dirty food? But our definition for clean and dirty has changed over the years. Clean was just this: naturally clean. Nowadays clean means sterile. One only has to watch TV commercials and you think we are under constant attack from germs and bacteria. I sometimes wonder how we survive out there.

When I was young, we lived a life outside. We ate disgusting things. We took fruit from trees without washing them first. We ate sugar beets we stole from the fields and broke open on a rock. We dared each other to eat earthworms and snails. I wonder how much sand and soil we involuntarily swallowed when we were rolling around on the ground (usually fighting with other boys). We cut our knees open and didn’t care about dirt in the wound. Nobody used antibiotic soap and disinfectant spray. We washed our hands with soap (if at all). We played with dogs and horses. We had hamsters and pet rabbits. So how did we survive? We had something called an immune-system. And boy was it strong! Because it was highly trained. It was hardened over time, right from the beginning. We sucked it in with our mother’s milk and strengthened it in the sandbox and on the playgrounds. And it was under attack a lot. But it was under attack from natural normal bacteria. Not under attack from antibiotics and antibacterial soap. We need to re-define our understanding of clean and dirty again. We need to bring it back to a normal, a natural level.

Now the second part is about “food has to be sterile”. Where does this come from? Food was never sterile. Everything based on fermentation is using yeast fungi. Bacteria are part of our food. Almost all dairy products are based on bacteria. But the real problem is, food which is alive is perishable. And this doesn’t fit into our modern food system which is based on Just-In-Time delivery, long term storage, filling demands, transportation and lean production systems. The only reason why our food is full of preservatives and chemicals is purely for profit. Why do you think do we have flavour enhancers? To make you more happy because it tastes better? Why do you think we have artificial flavours? To make you happier? Why do we (according to a cheese factory owner in NZ) pasteurize our yogurt after it was cultivated and then add some beneficial bacteria later on? To make it healthier for you? Why does the government put up a big fight and argument every time the raw milk discussion comes up? To protect you from harmful bacteria? There is only one answer to all these questions: It is to support the modern food production, to support the long term storage of food in warehouses, to support the long transport around the world - to make profit! This is the only true reason.

Are you happy to eat and drink all these additives and preservatives and colours and artificial flavours so that some food business can make more profit? I tell you one thing for sure, Goodman Fielder doesn’t want artisan bread which lasts only a week. They want pre packed bread, all in one size which fits nicely into a tray, which goes into a rack and gives an optimum of space usage in their trucks. Fonterra doesn’t want raw milk and raw milk dairy products. They want products which can be ripened in huge warehouses and carted around the country and overseas. They want yogurt made from milk powder because that stores way better than raw milk. Coca Cola doesn’t want fresh pressed fruit juice. They want fruit drinks based on apple juice concentrate which is freeze dried and pasteurized and can be stored in silos which are imported by ship from China.

Dead sterile food is profitable and manageable and needs additives to appear nourishing. Live food is perishable, seasonal and healthy. But sorry, food which is alive contains bacteria, fungi germs and the occasional snail shit! I can live with that. I actually want to live with that. What do you want?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pain a l'Ancienne - Baby its cold out there!

Thinking outside the box most of the time results in some pretty amazing things. The box in this case is "Dough needs temperature to rise". Which is true. But also "Dough needs time to develop flavour". Peter Reinhart is one who thinks outside the box. His passion is slow rise. He actually dedicated a whole book to it: Brother Juniper's Bread Book: Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Making Classic Breads with the Cutting-edge Techniques of a Bread MasterIn his other book (see on the left) he has a recipe for Pain a l'Ancienne which is used to make Baguette and can be used for other breads as well. Because it introduces a method rather than a specific recipe: cold fermentation. The secret is to keep your dough as cold as possible and maintain a cold temperature for a long time to develop maximum flavour.

In his recipe he states that the water should be at 4 deg Celsius. But since I use my new dough mixer and this mixer is quite efficient in doing its job I wanted to keep the friction temperature to a minimum. The idea is to put the stainless steel bowl and the dough hook for 30 minutes into the freezer as well. I meanwhile learned that people even put the flour in the fridge overnight before using it.

1000gm strong wheat flour (100%)
20 gm Salt (2%)
14 gm Instant Active Yeast (0.7%)
795 gm Water (79.5%) at 4 deg Celsius
Additional flour for dusting.

Dough mixer
Scoring knife
bowl or bin
Baking paper
baking trays (2)

This dough is very wet so it is recommended to use a machine for mixing. If you want to knead by hand I recommend to use a sturdy wooden spoon as long as possible. This will also keep the dough cooler as if you knead too long with warm hands (which will become cold anyway ;-) )

Mix flour, salt, yeast and water (leave some out for later adjustment) with a paddle on lowest speed for about 2 minutes r until all is combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 - 6 minutes on medium speed. The dough should come off the walls of the bowl but still stick to the bottom. If it is too water add some more of the water. If too wet add a little (!!!) flour.

Oil a large bowl or bin (I use the Systema Klip-It 7 litre storage container), scrape the dough into this container and put straight into the fridge (5 - 8 deg C). Leave at least overnight.

You dough should have now risen slightly but not too much. This is expected at these low temperatures. Get the bowl or container out of the fridge and leave for 2 -3 hours at room temperature (21 - 25 deg C).

Don't forget to preheat your oven. It need to be ready by the end of the 2 -3 hour period. Set it as hot as possible. Mine goes to 265 deg C. If you can get it to 290 even better. Add a steam pan at the bottom. Straight onto the floor of the oven.

If you want to bake on a stone, prepare a baking tray which is as wide as your oven, use it upside down and put a piece of baking paper on top. This will act as your oven peel. Sprinkle it with semolina and set aside. Otherwise line a tray with baking paper and sprinkle with semolina.

When the dough has doubled, scrape onto a well floured bench and sprinkle flour over the top of it. Be gentle. The less you degass the dough at this stage the better it will rise in the oven. Coat the dough with flour. At this stage you should use a lot of flour on your hands and on the bench etc. The dough will be almost liquid and will flow into a flat oblong shape. Try to steer it gently to get a wider oval shape.

Use a big dough scraper or bench scraper (plastic or steel) and pinch off strips of dough. Everything now has to be done gently and with feeling! Transfer the strip of dough onto your baking paper and stretch it gently to the length you want. Don't force it. If it doesn't want to stretch, leave it for 5 minutes to relax the gluten. Transfer other strips onto your tray, leave a 3 cm gap between the pieces.

I got 7 baguettes from the dough so I needed to bake in two batches. Cover the second tray with a tea towel and keep out of drought.

Score the bread using a razor blade. This can be a bit tricky because the dough is very soft. Peter Reinhart mentions to use some sharp scissors but  haven't tried this.

Put into the hot oven and pour a cup of ht water into the steam pan. Be careful to not burn yourself from the steam. Close the oven door as quick as possible to not loose to much heat. Bake for 10 - 20 minutes. Don't get too hung up on the times but rather the look of your baguettes. Bake them to a deep golden brown. Still stop the time how long it takes to know for the second batch how long to bake.

Let cool on a rack.

So that's it. Really simple. But the results, well taste it for yourself. With the organic wheat flour I use it comes out really delicious. You can taste the grains and some nutty-ness and maltiness. This is one of those breads where I actually don't want to eat anything on top. Maybe some homemade butter. I had it with smoked fish which was great. But I love to just eat it plain and enjoy the flavor of the bread without any distractions.


Coquo, ergo sum!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sauvignon Blanc Loaves - Drunk Grain

I do admit I have a lot of cooking books. I should have kept some statistics about how many recipes we made from each book. This would easily show what the good books are and the books we bought - well maybe because of their shiny pictures? Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Italy" and the two River Cafe cook books would be on top of the "most used" list it wouldn't be for the superstars of my cooking books: bread making books. I have never made so many recipes from books as I have made breads from my baking books. I might put up another book review post sometime later.

The Handmade Loaf But meanwhile, here is another one I made: Based on Dan Lepard's "Alsace loaf with rye" in his book "The handmade loaf" (I am still waiting for my own copy,!!! I still use the local library's one). I call it Sauvignon Blanc loaf because of the lack of Alsatian white wine here in New Zealand.

For the grains
200g whole rye grains
Water to cover
200g New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Buy a bottle, you will find something else to do with the remainder)

For the dough
100% Flour made up of:

  • 350 g strong white flour (70%)
  • 100g wholemeal flour (20%)
  • 50 g rye flour (10%)

325 g water (65%)
3/4 tsp fresh yeast or 7 g active instant yeast (1%)
25 g honey (5%)
150 g sourdough starter - rye (30%)
15 g salt (3%)
25 g melted butter (5%) or oil

The day before baking:
Put the rye grains into a small pot and cover with water. Let boil and turn down the heat to simmer for 45 minutes. You need to keep an eye on it because the grain soaks up the water. Refill every now and then with boiling water from your kettle to maintain the grain being covered with water.
After 45 minutes, drain the water from the grain (keep the water and use it for the dough) and let the grain cool. Once cool,cover the grain with Sauvignon Blanc and put in the fridge overnight.

Baking day:
Take the grains out of the fridge and give them time to warm up to room temperature. Try some,they are delicious. But don't eat too many!

Dan Lepard's recipes do not use a lot of kneading. It is an interesting deviation from your usual "knead and knock the shit out of it" technique. I quite like it and the results so far are very good. So here we go...

Mix the flours together in a bowl. In another bowl mix the water (use the water from the grains), the honey and your yest and leave for 10 minutes. Add the sourdough and the grains and mix well. Add this to your flour and mix with your fingers until all is combined. Leave for 10 minutes covered with a cloth. Out of any draft as usual.

Melt the butter and prepare the salt.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and spread it our a bit and pour the butter over it and add the salt. Knead. But not for longer than 10 - 15 seconds. Return to the bowl.

Leave for 30 minutes

Knead again for 10 - 15 seconds.

Leave for 30 minutes then fold. Meaning,put your dough onto a lightly floured surface, stretch it very gently (don't knock out the bubbles) to a slightly oval shape, fold the long edge opposite you in 1/3 and fold the edge nearest to you over the fold. Now do the same with the left and right edge of the dough. So you get layers of dough. Form gently (that's where yo need a feel. Treat the dough like your girl/boyfriend. Gosh I hope you are not one of these rough S&M people. Anyway, gently,soft, smooth, with feelings - these are the words which you should keep in mind when handling dough) - where was I? Ahh yes! - form the dough gently into a ball and put back into your bowl. By the way, good bakers clean the bowl between steps to avoid that dried dough will get into your loaf which will later show as hard floury parts in your bread. Not good!

Leave for another 30 minutes. And fold again.

Leave another 30 minutes.

Prepare a kitchen towel and flour it very well. Rub the flour into the towel. This will be used as a baker's couche (see the top picture on If you are good you can convince the person who does the laundry that a baker's couche aka "the tea towel" you use will NOT be washed. Then your bread doesn't taste like the latest creation of fabric softener.

Divide the dough into 250 g pieces using a dough cutter/scraper. Use a scale! I still have trouble to estimate dough weight when I cut it into pieces. I guess you need to do baking for 10 or so year to be able to do it without a scale. If you don't use a scale you will risk that some loaves are bigger and some are smaller. The smaller ones will be baked faster than the bigger ones.

I shaped the pieces like I would shape small baguette rolls. I shaped a ball, flattened it, folded in the long edges and then fold it together and press the ends together. Place the loaves seam side up into the folds of your couche. Cover with another cloth and let rest for 60 minutes. Which is about 1 hour.

Pre-heat your oven to 210 deg Celsius. I use a peel for most of my oven loading. You can also use a cutting board. Sprinkle the board with semolina, upturn one or more of the loaves onto the peel and score (cut/slash) the loaves diagonally about5 mm deep. Load them into the oven. And here comes one of my secrets. Well it isn't a secret,, many of you will do this or similar all the time. The secret to a nice crust is - steam! Lots of it but not too long. What does it do? It slows down the caramelizing process on the outside of the bread. The crust forms slower and becomes - well more crusty! So I load my oven and on the bottom of it I have a flat oven tray sitting. I filled this tray with those lava stones you use in your BBQ. They do increase the surface a lot. This is in my oven when I switch it on. SO the tray and the stones are hot. Before I load the oven I prepare a teapot with boiling water. Once all the loaves are in the oven, I fill the tray with the stone with boiling water. You need to work quick here to avoid losing too much heat while the door is open. I almost never spray using a pump bottle as recommended in many of my baking books. I think I lose too much heat if I open and spray and as some recommend after 30 seconds I open the oven again and spray. But a couple of warnings: Steam is hot! Yeah who would have thought, eh? Still, be careful. And another one: Water on a hot glass door is not a good idea. Same with water on a hot baking stone! This is why I boil my water when I use it. Honestly, I can be as careful as much as I want I almost always get some water either onto the glass door or onto my stone. It always scares the shit out of me. I cracked a coupe of stones (but I use cheap granite slabs from the stone masons)but I don't want to destroy the oven door glass.

Back to the fun.  Bake for 30 minutes and then let cool on a rack (Do I have to repeat that the cooling process IS PART OF THE BAKING!!!!!!!!!!! So take your fingers off those hot buns, my friend!)

The loaves came out very nice. The rye grains are a bit crunchy but I found the next day they have softened. I also found the sweet winy taste came more through the next morning (I made the loaves in the evening). Overall a nice chewy moist bun/loaf with some sweetness in it. I had them this morning with cream cheese and homemade strawberry jam. They should also go well with smoked salmon or any other fish.

Just got an idea, what if .... I would soak the rye in beer? Hmmmmm.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Knaeckebroed - Crunch! Crunch!

This is a flat crisp bread common in the Scandinavian countries. I make it from 100% Rye and it is a Sourdough/Yeast starter mix. My wife Lilo loves crisp bread instead of norm al bread from time to time. But the ones you can buy in the supermarkets in my opinion rather taste like cardboard than bread. It is like, crunchy and is a perfect snack for on the road. One variation I want to try is to shift the whole focus to northern Italy, add some spices and make a Vinschgauer which is a crisp bread the farmers took with them up the mountains. But that's another blog entry.

Original Recipe: "The handmade loaf" by Dan Lepard
The Handmade Loaf

200 gm Rye Flour (100%)
200 gm Water (100%)
100 gm Rye Sourdough Starter (50%)
2 gm active instant yeast (1%)
4 gm Salt (2%)

Mix the liquid ingredients and the yeast in a bowl.Mix the flour and salt in your mixing bowl. Add the liquid to the flour/salt and mix until you get an even batter. Put at a warm place and let rise for 3 hours.

Prepare sheets of baking paper as big as your baking tray. Put the batter onto the paper and flour heavily. One thing with this dough is you need to use a lot of flour for rolling it out. As soon as it becomes a bit sticky, use more flour. Don't worry this is intended. I know most of the time people say you shouldn't use to much flour when working the dough but with this bread it is different. Now roll out your dough on the baking paper very thin. About 5 mm thick. This takes a bit of practice but once you get the hang of it it is easy. Try to avoid to get the corners too thin because they will burn easier than the thicker middle part. You can also trim the corners if you want to create a more even square piece of rolled out dough and get rid of the thinner parts. Once rolled out, cover it with a tea towel and let it rest for 2 hours at a warm place with no draft.

Heat the oven to 225 deg Celsius.

Use the end of a wooden spoon or anything with a rounded tip and indent the dough slightly. Don't punch holes in it just do indentations. With a dough scraper or a knife (or a pizza wheel) cut the dough in pieces. I do approximate 10 x 10 cm but it is really up to you.

Bake for 30 minutes at 225 deg C. Now the original recipe I used said 40 - 50 minutes. I always follow the instructions when I do a recipe for the first time. But I ended up with burnt bread. I now bake for 30 minutes and that's perfect. I suggest you keep an eye on your oven. If it becomes golden brown and the edges start to darken it is ready. I want to try next time to maybe lower the temperature to 200 deg C and bake a bit longer.

Once finished baking put on a cooling grid and let cool. Let dry overnight or until really crisp. There shouldn't be any soft parts to the bread. It needs to be crisp all the way through.

This bread can be stored for a long time. As long as it is kept dry it won't go mouldy. This was the purpose of this bread. People used it for long time storage. It is light so they could take it with them when they went on a hunting trip.

Goes well with cream cheese.

May your dough always rise.

Coquo, ergo sum!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brioche - Eating Clouds

Brioche are from France, even though some baking books I had said they are from Italy. Doh! The brioche I make get their liquid only from the eggs. So you need lots of them! I wanted to start this recipe with "First you milk your cow, then you separate the cream and make butter. Once you finished the butter you go out and get some eggs from under the hens". The fresher the ingredients the better the brioche. So my ingredients can't get any fresher.

Ingredients (Bakers percent in brackets):
500 gm strong flour (100%)
350 gm Eggs (abut 6 - 7) (70%)
250 gm unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes (50%)
50 gm caster sugar (10%)
10 gm salt (2%)
7 gm active dry yeast (1.4%)

Mix flour, eggs, sugar yeast and salt in a bowl. The dough is very liquid. I mix in a machine using the paddle (or K-hook) for 2 minutes and then the dough hook for about 5. When it forms an even dough, slowly add the butter. Once the butter is incorporated completely into your dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and form a ball. You might need the help of a dough scraper dipped in water. Put the dough in a lightly floured bowl and let rest at room temperature (21 deg C) for 2 hours.

Dip out your dough onto a lightly floured bench (the word "lightly" should be taken literally!!!). Fold lengthwise into the middle from both sides and then fold then ends into the middle again from both sides. Form a ball again and put back into the bowl.

Let ferment overnight at around 10 - 12 deg C.

Next day put your bowl at room temperature for an hour to bring the dough back to room temp. Put the dough onto a lightly (!!!) floured surface and cut 70 gm pieces. Use a scale to get even sized pieces. Roll the pieces into balls. Use a bit of flour and roll the dough ball with the edge of your hand. Press down firmly but not too much to almost separate a smaller ball shape from the bigger part. But don't separate the two. So you will end up with a bigger ball and a smaller ball linked together. Flatten the bigger part and push a hole through the middel. Push the smaller ball shape through the whole. So you end up with a bigger ball and a small ball ontop. These are called Brioche a tete.

You can put them into a muffin pan (use a bigger one) or into a loaf tin. Or get some original Brioche moulds if you can find them. Let proof for 2 1/2 hours.

Heat your oven to 190 deg C and bake the brioche for 10 minutes. If you put them into a loaf tin bake them another 10 - 20 minutes at 180 deg C. They should have a golden brown crust.

Let cool completely on a rack. Brioche are best eaten fresh.

Happy baking

Coquo, ergo sum

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Am I a baking snob?

Ok following situation:

We visit Kaitaia's farmers market every Saturday. It is a social event for us because many friends have stalls. Two weeks ago I saw a new stall selling - Focaccia! Of course I was drawn to it and had to have a look. Well, let me tell you, these "baking goods" are as close to a Focaccia as our supermarket's Croissant are to a French Croissant. No hang on, actually the Supermarket's Croissants are closer. At least they resemble Croissants, they simulate flaky pastry and they have a sort of buttery taste. They follow basic rules. They are bad Croissants but they are still Croissants. But the Focaccia people sell something between a soggy overloaded pizza and a pita bread and call it Focaccia. Sorry, but this isn't Focaccia.

Now a friend who has a stall said last Saturday to me "Have you seen we now have a baker who sells Focaccia!". She was very excited because she knew I bake (she never tried my goods) and she was excited because they have this special Italian delicacy now available. Right.

I didn't know how to react. But unfortunately my face must have told the whole story. She immediately realized what I was thinking and started to bring up excuses etc.

So am I a baking snob? Honestly, it fills me with sadness if people look up a Focaccia recipe in the latest Alison Holst cook (?) book, then stuff it up (which is an achievement by itself) with their "creativity" (there is a Hawaiian Focaccia on offer, too!!! Aaarrghh!) I want to cry!

Yes I am a baking snob. If someone wants to sell Focaccia then I bloody hell expect they do their homework. They should understand what a Focaccia is. And if they don't make a Focaccia by not following the basic rules, then for heavens sake call it something else.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Wilde Cheese Experiment - The Idea

WARNING: Don't try this at home. Seriously, I do not endorse making cheese this way. This is an experiment! I want to see if it works and what I get when making cheese this way. There is a possibility that the cheese will not be fit for human consumption. 

The Idea:

Food as we know it doesn't resemble food as our forefathers and mothers and their forefathers and mothers and their ... you get the picture, knew it. A lot of food that was regarded as healthy in the past is now regarded as dangerous and in some cases life threatening. Raw milk and raw milk cheese is one of these foods.

Imagine living in Switzerland around the turn of the 19st century. You are a "Senner" which is a farmer who follows the traditional way of farming in Switzerland. Your Swiss cows live in a stable which is part of your house in winter. They are also your natural heating source when you are snowed in. In spring the cows are brought up to high altitude in the Swiss alps in big cattle drives. They lived there from early spring till early autumn. And you lived with them. Of course you had to eat. So you were self sufficient. Bread was often brought up from the village. Therefore the bread was hard and crisp and - light. You didn't want to carry 50 kg of bread up the mountain. Your diet was mainly bread, meat and dairy products. You milked the cows and made your own butter and cheese.

Now imagine the way you lived. A simple hut, usually one room where you slept and cooked and worked. Water was outside from a spring. You had some pots and pans, maybe a butter churn. So how did they make the cheese?

You brought in the milk in a bucket, still warm from the cow. Then you took the cheese culture for Swiss cheese out of the freezer .... hang on a minute. Nah, that's not how it was done.

Ok start again ...

They brought in the milk in a bucket, still warm from the cow. They covered it with a cloth and put it in a corner of the room. It gets quite warm in Switzerland in summer so the milk sat there at - I guess, 20 - 25 deg Celsius? Sometimes warmer. After milking you had other chores. Cutting hay, shifting cattle, fixing stuff etc. When you came in for breakfast you gave the milk a quick stir, covered it again and did the same when you had lunch and dinner.

The next day the milk was sour. Pleas read this sentence again, "The next day the milk was sour." It didn't go off. It wasn't spoiled. It was sour milk. (I actually grew up with sour milk.We bought it in the shops!) So what happened? Bacteria in the milk and in the air started consuming the lactose in the milk and produced lactic acid. Well isn't that what happens if I make cheese and add lactic bacteria? Exactly the same!

So next step is to add some rennet to curdle the sour milk. The rennet was either extracted from the stomach of calves slaughtered for your meat or they also used some plants.

The following steps are exactly the same as we do it nowadays when making cheese. Cutting the curd, putting it in some sort of a mold, pressing it and then storing it.

Here are my ingredients for this experiment:

A mad cheese maker who has already lived long enough that if he would kill himself by eating this cheese could still say "It was a great life. Oh and 'Thank you for the fish!'"

A bucket of fresh grass fed, happy Jersey cow's milk put through a strainer and covered with a cloth


A bottle of rennet.

I am going to make a cheese exactly like this. I will not use any culture except the ones floating around in the air or being already in the milk. It is very similar to a sourdough starter. I might fail after the first step. Who knows. I will obviously apply the best hygienic conditions. This might be one of the differences to how it was in the past. But I don't want to taint the result with some modern bacteria.

I will keep reporting about the progress. Obviously the cheese will be matured and it will be months from today when I eventually will taste the cheese. But it will be interesting to see what will happen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lavender Honey Loaf var. Orange

This is my absolute feel good bread.I don't know what it is.It must be the lavender. I know most people go "Uurggh! Lavender is in soap, not int food" I can only say to them "Ignoramuses!" But to be honest, I never had the idea to put lavender into food before a friend of mine brought some homemade lavender ice cream. Yummy. This bread to me is like a meditation. It relaxes me and makes me happy. It is like aromatherapy. I know - pathetic. Anyway, lets move on.....

I already love the smell when I work with the dough. Especially when I open my proofing box and a cloud of lavender and honey and orange makes me feel - uuuugghhhh!

Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread The recipe is from Richard Bertinet's book "Dough" in the brown dough section. It is an easy to make bread. The only challenge probably lies in the relative wetness of the dough.

The resulting loaf is relatively flat which comes from the free shaped loaf using a highly hydrated dough. But a good flour will add enough stability. If you are not too generous with the honey you will get a slightly sweetish bread. Because we have enough honey to last some years (we swapped a got kid for 15 kg of honey) I tend to use a bit more.

I love this bread with honey and goats milk yogurt, Camembert or home made Chevre. Any fresh soft cheese will do. Or just plain. It also toasts well which sets free a lot of the flavors. It keeps well, too. Not that it lasts too long.

I use

Brown Dough:
300 gm Organic whole wheat (I ground my own) (60%)
200 gm Organic wheat (40%)
7 gm instant active yeast (1.4%)
360 gm water (72%)
10 gm rock salt (2%)

1 heaped teaspoon fresh or dried Lavender flowers
1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey

For the Orange Variation, the grated zest of three big oranges

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix.

Knead until it forms a stretchable satiny dough (do a window pane test).

Shape into a ball and put into your (cleaned) floured bowl. Let rest for 45 minutes at 21 deg C.

Take it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface, stretch into an oval shape, fold lengthwise into the middle and fold the edges in and re-shape into a ball.

Put it back into your bowl and let rest another 45 minutes.

Put it onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a square (or oval), fold in all four corners and form a loaf.

Sprinkle some semolina onto a wooden board or tray. Place your loaf onto the tray and let rest at 21 deg C for 90 minutes.

Heat your oven to 220 deg C.

Cut a double cross into the top of your loaf. Bake the loaf on a stone or tray for 10 minutes.Then turn down the heat to 200 deg C and bake for another 20 - 30 minutes.

Let cool completely


Variation with Orange:
Grate the zest of three big oranges. Put the lavender flowers into a mortar and pestle and bruise them lightly to release the aroma. Add the honey and orange zest and mix well. Add this to the dough when mixing. But please be aware that the orange zest adds liquid and oil to your dough.I found the dough was just able to be handled. Maybe cut down with the water a bit to level out the moisture. But it also depends on your flour and the atmosphere and the moon phase. Well not really the moon phase, but yo know what I mean.

That sticky business making a 100% Rye Sourdough Loaf

Just one note before I start: I wouldn't recommend to start with a bread like this if you haven't done a couple of wheat or wheat/rye mix (not more than 20% rye) breads. Same as I wouldn't recommend to start your cheese making hobby with a Gruyere.

My friend Joa (short for the German name Joachim) is talking about his 100% Rye Sourdough a lot. And if you talk a lot about bread to me I eventually kick into action and switch on the oven. He did it again yesterday in his comment to this post about making a sourdough starter. So late yesterday evening (actually a bit too late) I switched on my new MyWeigh KD8000 (I can never wait long to play with a new toy) and threw together a 100 % Rye.

Let me tell you, forget all you ever thought you know about kneading a dough when you do a 100% Rye. That flour behaves totally different. First you need more moisture. This leads to more stickiness. You will never get a window pane test done with a 100% Rye sourdough. It rises very slowly. You don't get the stretchy-ness like with a wheat dough. Forming it into a ball resembles a blob of concrete. Honestly, I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy my other bread making. Its like kneading glue. And yes, I admit, I used the machine. But then I got most of the dough sticking to the side of the bowl. So I had to stop it again and again and remove the dough with a scraper form the side of the bowl. Once finished I did some kneading by hand. Or should I say I covered my hand completely with rye dough?

But is it worth it? Absolutely! 100 % Rye is so different to Wheat - Rye mix or 100% Wheat. The sourness comes through much more. The whole house is actually smelling of sourness right now. And the flavors are just - well completely different. You need to try it.

Ok lets get on with the recipe:

1000g Rye Flour (I actually milled my own) (100%)
650 gm Water (65%)
400 gm Rye Sourdough Starter (mine is 100% hydration) (40%)
25 gm rock salt (2.5%)

Add the flour and the sourdough starter in your mixing bowl. Rub together like you would do for crumbles.

Add salt and water and mix together.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes (I used the machine, 2 minutes on slow, 8 minutes on fast)

Form the dough into a ball (yeah right!), put back into the bowl, cover and let ferment at 21 deg C for one hour.

Remove from the bowl and fold over to degas. (Still sticky, eh?)

Let rest for another hour.

Remove from the bowl. (Sticky, sticky, sticky!)

Prepare two bannetons. Flour them thoroughly (remember the dough is sticky!). I use some spraying cooking oil and then flour them.
Bannetons covered with a stretchable cover

Split dough in half, form a (sticky)  ball and put seam-side up into the bannetons and cover with a wet cloth.

Let proof for 12 hours or overnight at 10 - 12 deg C.

Put the bannetons somewhere drought free and at room temperature (21 deg C) and let proof some more for not more than 2 hours. Do the proof test, poke a dent into the dough. If it springs out immediately you over-prooved (not much you can do, you bread will be flat) if it stays in it needs some more time. If it comes out slowly but not completely it is ready.
After proofing

Bake at 250 deg C for 20 minutes, rotate the loaves halfway through by 180 deg.

Bake another 10 minutes but switch the oven down to 200 deg C

Let cool for at least one hour (Important! Seriously, suppress the desire to cut a bread while still warm. The baking process with almost all bread has finished when the bread is cool. If you want a warm bread with butter running down your fingers, put it in a toaster!)

The dough was sticking to the side of the banneton a bit.As you can see on the side, it ripped the dough when tipping it out of the bannetons.
The bread has a nice hard crust, the crump is quite good but not as fluffy as with wheat. The oven rise also isn't that extensive so the bread stays a bit low (I wouldn't call it "flat" though). As expected the sourness is quite strong compared to a wheat or wheat/rye mix. The taste? Delicious!
100 % Rye Sourdough
Submitted to YeastSpotting

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Starting a Starter

Starter Culture
Sourdough starter, for many a mysterious thing. If people hear about sourdough starter they see bubbling jars, smelling clouds of fermentation, flies, overboiling foam, kitchen benches covered in  concrete-like blobs of glue and people who seem to be a bit on the nutty side by cuddling a jar of bubbling fermenting bacterial gunk. And to be honest, all of this is true. But it isn't that bad - most of the time.

Sourdough starter culture usually contains yeast (Saccharomyces exiguus as opposed to S. cerevisiae which is the commercial yeast), Lactobacillus and Acetobacillus (these two guys are responsible for the sourness). All three are floating around in our environment and sit on e.g. grapes, apples and - wheat and rye corn etc. To me there are two different approaches for a starter. You can either buy some culture usually freeze dried and start from there or you can start from scratch. There is culture available online (see below for some links) and you can get starter culture from all over the world. The most famous one is San Francisco sourdough. I tried to find out what actually will happen with these bacteria over time and found inconclusive reports.Some say the bacteria will stay true to the starter, some say over time the bacteria will get replaced by your local ones. I lean towards the latter group since I believe that the fact that you are feeding the starter with local wheat or rye you will add more and more of the local bacteria which will eventually replace the original starter. But my main driving force behind making my starter form scratch is that I have more fun of creating something local.

Ok this is how I did it (inspired by the "By Bread Alone" book):

You will need

  • Three apples, fresh and organic, best from your own tree (or the neighbors)
  • flour, preferably rye but wheat works, too (Rye flour gives a more active starter)
  • water 
  • A jar or container which can at least take 1.5 - 2 liters
  • a piece of (cheese) cloth and a rubber band
Sourdough Lavash
Juice the three apples. I just mashed them with a stick blender and strained them through some muslin cloth. Put the juice into the jar and cover with the cloth and put the rubber band around it. Leave at room temperature (which should be around 20 deg Celsius). Leave it somewhere where you can see it because at this stage the bonding process between you and your starter will form. That's quite important! Don't forget, all these bacteria and yeast cells are living creatures! And they work for you.So better treat them like family! Or better! 
After about 7 to 10 days, your juice turned into wine. Refrain from drinking it or you have to start again! The juice should look bubbly,smell slightly alcoholic but good and might have a bit of foam on the top. If it smells yuck, dump it. Trust your senses! What happened so far: The yeast in the air and on the skin of the apples have gorged on all the sugars from the apple, they had a big party and sorry to say, had a bit of a hanky-panky if you know what I mean. They created baby-yeast cells and the population has grown by quite a bit. And as you can imagine, they are now a bit hungover from all that alcohol they produced and they are - HUUUUNNNGGRYYYYYY! So please feed them!

First feed: Add 200 gm of good organic flour and 200 gm (I generally measure all ingredients by weight) of clean water (avoid water with chlorine or if that's all you have let it sit for some hours to get rid of the chlorine). Mix it all up so that it looks like a batter. By mixing it you also aerate it to add oxygen. That'll keep the guys happy and they go back to work. Eating sugars, peeing alcohol (sorry about that - "Burb!" - Excuse me) and doing hanky-panky. 

Next couple of days:
Each day discard half of the mixture and add another 200 gm of flour and 200gm of water. Repeat until the starter is obviously active.How you know? You will know,trust me. Seriously,if it starts bubbling and rising you have an active starter. Again, it should smell kinda nice (to a sourdough enthusiast, don't ask a person who buys plastic wrapped bread in the supermarket). It is normal if there is some brownish liquid on top. That's called Hooch and you can mix it back in. Keep the starter covered with the cloth so that no flies can get in (flies actually love sourdough which enhanced their reputation I had from them a tiny bit). I found out that the starter behaves better if it is open. If you close the jar, the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation seems to starve the bacteria from oxygen. Same as you sleeping with closed windows, uurrghh!

Sourdough is most active about 12 hours after feeding. That's when it is best to use it. So plan the feeding times in sync with your baking schedule. I often feed in the morning and bake in the evening. 

Now if you like me and are nuts about baking you won't ask this question, but others do: What if I don't want to throw away that much starter but don't want to bake everyday? Again, there are different opinions about this. I believe that a starter kept in the fridge will be different to a starter who never sees the inside of your frigidaire! But I do understand the predicament you're in. So here is the solution, keep the starter in the fridge, feed it every 5 days or more. Before feeding it take it out and let it get up to room temperature. Feed it,leave for an hour at room temperature and then put it back in the fridge. If yo want t use it, take it our of the fridge, let it warm up to room temp, fed it and let it at room temp for 12 hours. That's all I say about this. 

Ok what can go wrong? Anything! The problem as always is if the bullies get involved. Those are the wild guys hanging around all of us. I don't know them by name but I hate the look of them. Many are orange or blue or green or black. They gate crash and home invade your sourdough party, start drinking and smoking and are usually not as clean as your friendly S. exiguus or the lactobacillus and acetobacillus from next door. I even suspect they use drugs! So if your starter takes on any funny color and smells like someone was sniffing paint thinner all night and smoking French cigarettes, dump it! Wave it good bye. Down the toilet. Good bye bullies, have fun down there. I hope you rot in hell (which they probably find quite an attractive idea). One thing to avoid them is to make sure you don't keep your starter too warm. Around the 20 - 25 deg C is fine. Also too cold isn't good or if it is in a draft. Keep it nice and cosy and you should be fine. And it is common sense to not put any crap in there, don't use dirty spoons etc. But as I said - common sense, eh?

Sourdough Pain Au Levain
Once your starter seems to be active (rises up in the jar) use it for a first outing. But keep in mind it will develop over time. It will get stronger, it'll change a bit in flavor and will become overall a bit more stable. There are starters around which are 100 or even150 years old.

Also keep in mind that sourdough starter is somewhat slower than commercial yeast.

Another note: The starter I described above is a 100% hydrated starter. Meaning you feed it with the same amount of water and flour. There are other starters which are fed by volume meaning one cup flour and one cup water. They might have 166% hydration. You might have to adjust the amount of water in your bread recipe.

Ok, have fun and be nice to your starter! Oh and keep your partner and flat mates etc happy by cleaning all the spoons and stuff straight away. Sourdough  starter when dry becomes hard as rock. I always wondered if one could build a house from it.

May your dough always rise!


Sources for sourdough starter in New Zealand:
The Good people from sell starter here:

Koanga Gardens has starter.
And has a whole range of baking goodies and starter culture
Also checkout TradeMe