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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Managing Your Sourdough Starter

if you read our previous post on How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter, this post is to help you further down the road to success. if you haven't read it, why not? click the link above to get with the program!

so now, we'd like to lend you some tips on managing (feeding), expanding and storing your sourdough starter for lengths of time. unlike in the bakery, you probably aren't baking bread everyday, maybe not even once a week! there's ways around it. when we close for winter we have to keep our sourdough alive, and since no one wants to be feeding sourdough everyday for their day off. we store it for a couple weeks and feed it to keep it alive. depending on the length of storage you'll end up with different flavours and acid strengths that build up in your sourdough starter. so to 'revive' your starter to normal activity you'll need to adjust the feedings to make mellow any extra acid flavour.
hopefully this information doesn't confuse everyone! thats not the goal, if you have any questions about feeding your sourdough by all means ask! its a simple process once you've got to grips with it, all your doing is taking some starter away and replacing it with fresh flour and water. really, that's it.

How does sourdough bread rise?:

sourdough breads rise from gases that are emitted from the active yeasts present in sourdough. when we knead bread its to create a gluten protein network to help the bread stretch and hold in these gases, making the dough rise. its a really amazing process, and without wheat flour this couldn't happen, so love your wheat!

Feeding your sourdough starter:

sourdough yeasts that are colonizing your starter need to be fed regularly. a feeding is just additions of flour and water. the natural sugars present in the flour are what the yeast eats, and water just lubricates the whole process. in the bakery we keep a starter thats 100% hydration, half water and half flour, classed as a 'liquid levain'. below is a basic formula for feeding your home sourdough starter.

to feed your starter you first need to decide how much starter you need for your recipe. its probably not more than a tabelspoon or two, so really you can safely start with around 100g starter to this add: half its weight in flour (50g) and half water (another 50g). stir and let sit and bubble. you'll now have 200g of starter. use the starter that's left over for baking your bread, or if you aren't baking then discard the leftovers.

Expanding your sourdough starter

say you need to make a lot more bread than usual and need more sourdough. you'll need to increase the amount of starter you are keeping. to do this, you can double the amount of starter above by feeding your mature starter above (you know its mature when the starter has risen completely (around 8-12 hours) and started to sink slightly, it should smell pleasantly strong) so 200g of starter, fed with 100g flour and another 100g water. stir and let mature (8-12 hours), you'll now have 400g  sourdough starter.

For weekly bread baking:

after feeding your starter in the usual way. instead of storing at room temperature, place it in your fridge. this will keep your starter at a much more dormant activity.

to revive your starter for baking, give it two feedings 12 hours apart. then use it to make your bread starter for bread as your recipe recomends.

this method can be repeated weekly, if you don't intend on baking bread that week. just bring the starter out of the fridge and feed, then pop it back into the fridge for the next week.

For holiday storage:

you can store your sourdough starter for a whole month! yeah no feeding needed.  this requires a firmer mix, stored in the fridge (as above). after the month has elapsed you'll have a very acidic starter on your hands, with an alcoholic aroma. using this starter for bread will take a few extra feedings.

to store your starter take 100g of sourdough starter and mix with 100g flour and 50g water, and mix. you're trying to make a pretty firm dough. so if its still quite wet add more flour, knead the dough and leave in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.

to revive your holiday starter for baking, you'll need to start with less starter since its so strong.

to do this, use: 25g starter to 100g flour and 100g water. mix and let rise overnight. then feed  as usual 3 more times at 12 hour intervals. your starter should be ready for action! use for bread or feed once more and store for later use.

once again hopefully this info helps you on your way to baking sourdough breads. there are many many recipes out there on the web. we'll be posting
one to try out in the next coming weeks, so watch this space!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Majorcca- 10 days on a sunny island part2

the last leg of the trek to the top

Back for part2 of my Majorccan holiday!

Castell d'Alero
After 3 days of eating and drinking, we needed to get a little exercise in.  We decided to tackle this baby!  Castell d'Alero perches 800m above sea level, it is one of Majorcca's most popular mountain can drive a good bit of the way, until you reach a traditional Majorccan restaurant. There, you can park your car and make the rest of the journey by foot.  We soon discovered that there are a few people that like to drive this bit as well...the road is a bit rough, but if you are not feeling the fittest, then take your car t the next 'car park'.  We were feeling pretty good, and thought it was only another 1/2 hour walk to the castle...I really don't now what we were the journey was a total of 1 1\2- 2 hours. it was great! But I will say it was 30 degrees that day, thank god I wore a very light sundress!! The summit was well worth every bead of sweat that was dripping down my bust!We had a well deserved coke and a slice of cake at the cafe above.  We learned that they bring supplies by donkey once or twice a week.....

the view from the top!
After a short break, we made the journey back down the mountain.  As you can see from the picture, Majorcca is very mountainous, which is something that I didn't expect..
Once we made it back, we had a lovely lunch at the restaurant where our car was parked. Braised shoulder of lamb, chips and salad with the restaurant's own wine..simple but delicious...

a gorgeous lake, possibly reservoir, in a park that we drove through on our way to Pollença
As we made our way up to the north of the island, we drove through mountain roads with hairpin turns...and cyclists every where!  These Majorccan's love to keep fit..Our next stop was Pollença. A very popular spot with English and German tourists and retiree's.  We were unsuccessful in finding accommodation in the town within our budget, so we moved on to the next village, Acudia.  Found a bargain at 45 a night! Right in the center of this walled town.  That night, we drove back to Pollença, another beautiful walled town.  In fact, it looks like nothing is happening when you first drive in, but when you get to the town square, you feel as if you found a secret party... This place was super buzzy by night, with loads of narrow streets that had cafe's and shops.  We had a beautiful meal that night down a quiet lane with candle lit tables...

the beach at Cala Sant Vinceç

Litre's of sangria at bar Mallorca across from the beach

Now you're probably wondering, where is the seaside resort that I was talking about in part 1 of my Mallorcan holiday...
Well...this is the place we had been looking for...beautiful, not too tourist-y and a local feel.
We stayed at a great 'hostal' Hostal Pino, 64 euro a night including breakfast and our own large room with a shared verandah...the hostal was a few min. walk from the beach, with sea views.  There was even a pool for us to use.
We stayed here for 2 nights, and would have stayed longer if they hadn't been booked out.

Hostal Pino at Cala Sant Vinceç

The food served at Bar Mallorca, was great...fresh salads, seafood and litre pitchers of sangria.
Just a few yards away from the beach...perfect for taking a break from the mid day sun.. :)

We were getting into the last few days of our trip, and decided to keep heading north east.  About an hours drive from Cala Sant Vinceç we stumbled upon a cool village, Arta. Again as we drove through the narrow streets it looked like there wasn't much happening.  Until we hit the main street in the middle of the town.  This was another beauty! To top it off we found a great cafe, Cafe Parisien.
When you walk in, you feel as if you are in Paris...through the light and airy cafe there is a beautiful courtyard with a mature grape vine covered pergola.

The garden at cafe parisien

one of the outdoor menu's at the cafe..

Our bed for the next two nights was the most expensive, 91 a night.  What a lovely spot!
Casal d'Arta. At the top of the town, it was with in perfect walking distance to all of the beautiful shops and cafe in the heart of Arta. For us, this was one of the most luxurious places that we had stayed.
It has a beautiful rooftop garden, a massive german breakfast with fresh espresso.  Classicly decorated with attention to detail.

We stayed here for 2 nights, I would have liked to stay for our last night, but they were full...

The rooftop garden, with views to the castle of the town....

beautiful tiling in the smoking area....

the front of cafe Parisien

It's time for me to head to work....I have one more post to make about this little gem of an island...
for now, I will leave you with a few more pic's in and around Arta....

These lights are on all of the streets in Arta.....

Simple but tasty tapas.....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

in the beginning there was flour, water and native yeasts!

sourdough, sourdough! its been quite the buzz word for the past year, and a definate trend in irish baking: featuring its own category at the blas na hErearan awards. last year diva brought home a silver award for the seeded sourdough loaf, in the bread category. while being shortlisted in the new sourdough section, we left without a shiny medal. but  we're sending out a big congratulations to Cloughjordan Woodfired Bakery for taking home both silver and gold for their sourdough breads, as well as Billy's Bakery for their bronze! its great to see smaller producers taking home medals at such a big awards ceremony. for a full list of this year's winners click, here. and for a cute picture of shannen, kasia, and myself browse the photo album, here

so now we know sourdough is on the map, and its no question why: its mystical to see a bread rise with just flour and water, its healthier for you and has loads more flavour. the most natural way to make bread is with the natural local yeasts that live in sourdough starters. and anyone can make their own starter! its truly just flour and water.

i made my first sourdough starter while studying specialty desserts and breads at the Seattle Culinary Academy, in 2006. we learned from a master bread baker Don Ried, to feed our starters, make bread and how to keep the starters going for continous bread making. what a wonderful experince it was to make bread just from three ingredients: flour, water and salt. we made lots of other breads in the academy bakery, but the sourdoughs have stayed with me as the kings of breads.

at the bakery in Ballinspittle we make sourdough breads everyday, our range includes: the wheaten loaf (shorlisted this year in the Blas na hEireann), the seeded loaf (silver winner last year), the walnut loaf, the rustic rye, the polenta pumpkin seed, the fig and almond bread, the olive loaf and recently trying out a stinging nettle boule! there's a lot to choose from and what's more is our Ballinspittle Sourdough starter turned 2 years old this september! we celebrated by adding sourdough pancakes to the cafe menu. scrumptious!

baking with sourdough is a timely process but one that requires little hands on time. just patience. you will always have bread at the end of baking, but i would recomend letting your breads rise in their own time and try not to speed up the process, the longer the rise, the better the flavour. there are alternatives to fuller flavour breads using other 'preferment' style starters, click here for my blurb on preferments, back in 2012.

i started my own sourdough starter for this post to give you a blow by blow on the steps in creating a bubbly citrusy sourdough starter. my starter is in its second week of life and nearing its active maturity, with regular feedings (additions of flour and water) this starter will live and leaven breads for years to come! exciting isn't it? i hope its not just me!

in my next post i will be using this same starter to make a basic sourdough loaf for everyone to try at home. recipe included! so stay with us.

Sourdough Starter
recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's, The Bread Bible. a lovely and technical bread book, for the avid bread baker.

this is the recipe (it's really just an outline) i used to start our sourdough at the bakery. i'd like to think of the sourdough craft as a tradition, passed down from baker to baker. so im using the same recipe to pass along to the next baker. in many cultures friends and family share their own sourdough starters giving a little to the next person. to then, go on and create their own breads. bringing people together with through bread. its touching! some bakers use organic fruit like grapes in their starters, harbouring the natural yeasts on the fruits skins to culture and kickstart their activity. in this recipe we start with organic rye flour, rye is a fruit (of sorts) after all! rye flour has more natural sugars and consequently gives the start a good step up in the world. you can use whole wheat flour too, using normal flour can work, but it may take longer.

you'll need:
organic rye flour or organic whole wheat flour; bread flour; well water or bottled water

day 1
mix 1 cup or 120 grams rye or whole wheat flour with 1/2 cup (120grams) water, mix till moistend and a firm dough is made. place in a 1 liter container with a lid or cling film, i used a mason jar with a parchment lid and string, and store in a warm place for 48 hours

day 1, see top photo for the 'close up.'

day 2
you won't see much happening

day 3
the starter wil now look look like a loose batter and have tiny air pockets on the surface and side of container. spoon out half the mixture and discard it. then you will feed the your starter for the first time.

ready for first feeding
mixture has become loose, a sign its working!

To Feed: you should have around 1/2 a cup of mixture, to this add: 1/2 cup (60grams) bread flour and 1/4 cup (60grams/60mls) well water (or bottled water). cover again, and leave in a warm place for 24hours.

'feeding' is adding flour and water to your starter, for the native yeasts to eat, and release the gases needed for rising your bread! 
day 4
your starter will start to give off a citrusy aroma, if it doesn't don't worry yet. feed starter as above, cover and let rise for another 24 hours.

an active bubblin' sourdough starter, happily at work

day 5
if you have an active starter and its at the right temperature, your starter may have doubled in size by now, even tripled! if not keep feeding your starter till this happens.

i give mine 2 weeks of feeding every 24 hours to be sure its completely active. your starter can be used to leaven bread before then but it may be slower to rise. its a bit of a commitment to get going, but what isn't in life?

the good news is you can back down to once a week feedings, if your starter is fully active. to test this leave your starter out after feeding, if fully active it should double in volume in 6-8 hours. feed again and store in the fridge till needed.

before baking your bread from a refridgerated starter be sure to remove your starter 1- 2 days before you plan to bake your bread, so it can have time to refresh after two 12 hour feedings and become less acidic. more on this in the next post!

if you have any questions on making your own sourdough or this recipe, don't hesitate to comment below!

for the next episode of sourdough madness go to the next post: Managing Your Sourdough Starter


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Monday, October 1, 2012

Majorcca...10 days in a sunny island part 1

The last 6 weeks in the bakery and cafe have been filled with staff taking their long deserved holiday breaks... We had staff going to The Canary Islands, Electric Picnic, Barcelona.  Kasia and myself took our holidays in Majorcca, not together, she and her new husband went to the island a few weeks before me and said that she loved it!  Whew...I was a bit worried when I got a few curious looks when I let them know where my holiday destination was....having said that, I was very happy when a few of my friends exclaimed,"Ohhh, I love Majorcca!'

Majorcca was chosen for the direct flights from Cork on Ryanair, cheap and cheerful.  600 euro got us return flights and a 10 day car hire.  I say 600, but originally it was 525, when we went to collect our car we added the extra car insurance for 99 euro...well worth it!  I promptly scraped the side of the car while driving through the beautiful narrow streets of Deiá.

Right before we left Kinsale, I grabbed the Majorcca guide book from Lonely Planet.  Again another purchase that was well worth it.  We used the guide for every place that we had stayed on the island, they were pretty much all as described in the book!  All but one...not bad for 9 nights.

We arrived into Palma at 5 in the evening, had a quick drink on the waterfornt to celebrate the begining of our 10 days in the sun, the set off to find a place to sleep.  Palma is a beautiful city, and I would love to head back to spend more time there.  This trip was purely sun and sea! A more thorough investigation of the city will have to wait... One night here and then we were off to find a seaside paradise.  I must say we got very lucky...after ringing 4 hotels(that were in out budget, under 100) we struck gold!  I rang a 'hostal' in the book, it had said that they were undergoing renovations, but I took a chance anyhow, we needed a bed for the night!  We were in luck, because I had asked for a private room, if any of you have had the experience of sharing a 16 man dorm, you will appreciate this question.. She said it was private, and I was like, great we'll take it 75 euro for the night a bargin in Palma.  When we found the place, we were in shock! it was a 4 star boutique hotel, and since it was advertised as a 'hostal' we got the 'hostal' price...Total score!

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