Showing posts with label sourdough. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sourdough. Show all posts

Friday, July 8, 2016

Soft Sourdough Pretzels

I've told you before that sometimes I get these sudden cravings for foods from "back home"...well the other day when I was refreshing my sourdough (yes I still have it and I'm happy to say that it's nice and strong!) I decided to try making some soft sourdough pretzels that I love and can't find here...especially Auntie Anne's.... Is Auntie Anne's only on the East Coast? Hmm.. anyways they make really good soft pretzels and after thinking about how much I miss them and how mouth watering delicious they are...I thought I might give it a try. 

They actually didn't turn out that bad I must say! Still not the same thing... but they tasted great! 


 - 1 cup sourdough (from the fridge)
 - 1 cup lukewarm water
 - 3 cups of bread flour
 - 1/4 cup of milk
 - 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
 - 1 tablespoon of sugar
 - 2 teaspoons of salt
 - 1 packet of active yeast

Add the above ingredients to your mixer and put it to work!

Here is the sourdough that I used.  I will always thank my friend Alessandra for introducing me to this wonderful ingredient. I wrote a couple posts about making sourdough from scratch. It takes time and patience but it is definitely worth it in my opinion. 

Once the dough detaches from the sides of the mixing bowl and is nice and smooth it's ready.

Form the dough into a ball and place covered in an area to rise for approximately 45 minutes. 

It will not have risen a lot but you can definitely see that it has grown some. 

Now the fun part... divide the dough into sections as pictured below. Each section will be rolled into a pretzel form. 

While making each pretzel, I put the pieces back into the covered container so that the dough wouldn't dry up. 

Now roll out a long string of dough and form your pretzel. My first pretzel turned out really bad lol but the last couple I did were pretty professional looking I must say... it gets easier as you go.... 

Keep a mixture of water and baking soda next to you which you can use to make things easier in the rolling out process if the dough get too dry. The baking soda gives the pretzel the nice brown color while baking. 

I don't know if this is the right way to do it or not but it worked out pretty well for me. 

Meet pretzel. 

Cute, no?

Now all that's left to do is place on a baking sheet, brush on the water/baking soda mixture, add some coarse salt and pop them in the oven for about 25 minutes at 375°. 

So that's how I satisfied my craving for sourdough pretzels. I mean...I didn't eat all of them. Just one..or two...

with lots of mustard on top... obviously!

Have a great weekend! 



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Panettone with Pasta Madre - Italian Fruit Cake with Sourdough Starter

My dear friends, I haven't written in a while because we had a long weekend and I was out of town. In Italy the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, is a national holiday so I had Monday off and therefore I was able to go visit some relatives. 

My dear friend Alessandra who I've talked about before encouraged me to try making a fruit cake with my sourdough because she is convinced, and now so am I, that it tastes so much better than a store bought panettone (Italian fruit cake). She told me to try this recipe from because she said that this is one of the better ones. 

I will start out by saying that making a home made Panettone with sourdough is a long procedure. It takes about 2 days to make and before serving it you must let it sit for at least 18 hours. I really was convinced that I would not have been able to make it and that it would turn out like crap but I can say for a fact that it was the best Panettone I have ever tasted in my life....literally. I have never eaten homemade Panettone and always bought them in stores. It has a completely different taste to it. It is much softer than the store bought stuff and tastes like a delicious brioche with pieces of dried fruit and raisins. 

The dough gets kneaded out and left to rise twice. This is why it takes about two days. Both leavening times take about 10-12 hours each. 

Ingredients for the 1st leavening:

 - 290 grams of bread flour
 - 160 grams of sourdough (pasta madre)
 - 3 egg yolks
 - 95 grams of water
 - 70 grams of white sugar
 - 75 grams of butter

Begin by melting the sourdough in the water, add the egg yolks, sugar, butter and little by little add the flour. Knead everything for a good 40 minutes (this is definitely easier done in a mixer). 

In the picture above I am breaking up the sourdough in the water. 

Mix in the flour with a spoon in the beginning and then once you add it all in, you can begin kneading. 

This is what the dough looked like after the first kneading. I left this to rise over night, so about 12 hours. 

This is what it looked like the following morning. At this point you will be kneading it again incorporating other ingredients. 

Ingredients for 2nd leavening:

 - 145 grams of bread flour
 - 25 grams of white sugar
 - 12 grams of powdered milk
 - 3 egg yolks
 - 45 grams of water
 - 5 grams of salt
 - 5 grams of honey
 - 5 grams of malt (I didn't have malt so I used maple syrup instead)
 - 75 grams of butter
 - 130 grams of raisins
 - 60 grams of dried cedar
 - 60 grams of dried orange
 - 1 tablespoon of rum
 - one teaspoon of vanilla flavoring

What I did was mix in a separate bowl the water, honey, syrup, yolks and rum.  I took the leavened dough and mixed it with the dry ingredients. Then little by little I added the wet mixture. Leave out the raisins and dried fruit until the dough has been kneaded for a good 50 minutes. 

Once the dough is nice and elastic (after 50 minutes of kneading it should be!) add the dried fruit and knead by hand into the dough mixture. 

At this point weigh your dough. Mine weighed 1.4 kilos. The form for the panettone that I used was for about 1 kilo of dough but I decided to put it all in there anyways and I was safe because luckily it didn't overflow....pheww!

I left this to rise covered lightly with a clean kitchen towel over night and at 7am this is what it looked like.

It had reached the top! How beautiful it was seeing it the next morning. I immediately called my friend Alessandra and she gave me instructions on what to do next. 

I made a cross on top of the dough and let it sit for another hour. 

I preheated the oven to 200°C and put the panettone in the oven with a small dish of water that created a more humid environment for the fruit cake so it won't dry out too much. I turned down the heat to 190°C and baked it for about 45 - 50 minutes. It should not be baked any longer than that.

This is what it looked like after it was done. It grew even more in the oven. I left it to sit out until dinner that evening and we tasted it for the first time. All that hard work and patience but let me tell you my was just heavenly!

I would like to thank my friend Alessandra for everything she has taught me about sourdough. She has such a passion for working with pasta madre and when I hear her talk about it she is so enthusiastic that she got me into it as well. She is a great friend and I thank God for having met her. She writes a cooking blog where she shares her bread making skills and the techniques that have worked best for her. 

When I got home yesterday from my long weekend I found this package at my front door. It was from Alessandra and this is what she sent me:

She sent me a bamboo tray for leavening bread and a container that is specifically used for rising dough. I am so appreciative of our new friendship. We have never met in person yet because she lives far away from me but this summer we are planning a trip to visit each other. Grazie di vero cuore Alessandra. 

Alessandra's blog: 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Contemplations - Christmas decorations in November and Homemade Goodies

Is it just me or does it seem like the stores break out the Christmas stuff a little earlier every year?  I went to the mall the other day (on November 1st...) and the sales people were packing Christmas merchandise on the shelves already.  Why are we always in such a rush??


I get that the economy is pretty crappy right now and Christmas is pretty much the only time of year that the stores do least here in Italy....but let's wait at least until after Thanksgiving. Maybe here the Christmas stuff is out because Thanksgiving isn't celebrated, but it's still way too early in my opinion.

I do love Christmas though! This year I want to try making Panettone  (Italian fruit cake) and Pandoro with my sourdough. These cakes are typically made for Christmas and New Years in Italy and originated in Milan. I'll have to ask my dear friend Alessandra how it's done. If you don't know what a Panettone or Pandoro is, I'll show you:


The Pandoro is on the left and the Panettone is on the right. I personally prefer the Pandoro...with a cappuccino...or a latte....or hot chocolate...SIMPLY DIVINE!
Panettone (on the right) is a sweet bread loaf with candied fruit and raisins in it. The Pandoro has no candied fruits and is softer. This year I would love to try making a Pandoro with a limoncello cream filling. Mmmmm...Ok now I'm talking about Christmas stuff in November.

Side note - I saw Cinderella (2015) the movie the other day and I really enjoyed it. I LOVED Maleficent as well. I think turning these Walt Disney Cartoon Classics into real movies is a great idea.  I'm a fan! - End Side Note

Last year and the year before, there was a huge scandal in Italy where the local police found many grocery stores that stored and sold expired Panettone and Pandoro. I'm not talking expired for months but these were fruit cakes that were sitting on the store shelves since 2008/2009... Just ridiculous and disgusting...

Hearing these things on the news is horrible because you just can't trust the foods you buy anymore. Home made stuff is so much better. It takes time and energy and passion for cooking but in the end it's worth all the extra effort put into it. No preservatives, no artificial flavoring or coloring, just plain simple whole ingredients...

I like to think of myself as a somewhat healthy eater. I'm not like obsessive compulsive about what I eat but I do make sure I get my veggies in and protein and so on. I also look at the ingredients listed on the foods that I buy and some of the ingredients I see listed I can't even pronounce....

I've been trying to avoid palm oil which is listed in a lot of foods. Apparently this type of oil is really cheap so many food manufacturers use it, for example I see it a lot in cookies, and crackers or cereal products and it's supposedly not very healthy or so they say... but regardless of whether it's healthy or not... homemade goodies are just an all around better option. That's my opinion and I'm stickin' to it!

and now...

Happy Friday Friends :-D

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sourdough starter - "Pasta Madre" Part 2

So I started the Part 1 post saying that I was dreading writing it because of how complicated it would be to explain. That post is one of the most popular posts on my blog.  Today I post Part 2 and am so happy because I'm proud to say that my sourdough is complete after a little over a month. 

The foto above is right after refreshing it. 

And this is my PM after 4 hours from the refresh. 

How did I know it was ready, you ask?  My "teacher" Alessandra (she's the expert by the way and the one who taught me everything) noticed. I would send her pictures before and after refreshing the dough every night and she told me that it was almost ready. One evening she told me to refresh the PM and instead of throwing away the remainder of the sourdough, try making a loaf of bread to see if it rises. So I followed step by step what she told me. I will give the details in another post but I basically mixed about 150gr of PM with a cup and a half of water, added about 500gr of bread flour and placed it covered in my oven (with only the light turned on) for the whole night. So it was left to rise from 11:30pm to 6:30am.

Here it was before leaving it to rise. When I woke up the next morning I went straight into the kitchen to see what had happened. Did it rise? Maybe my PM is not ready yet? What if it's no good? These were all questions that were running through my head before getting out of bed. Well friends, this is what I saw when coming into the kitchen...

The dough was overflowing!! It was sooo ready! I felt like a little girl on Christmas morning! I called my friend Alessandra at 7 am and sent her the pictures. She was even more surprised and happy than I was! Do you guys realize that there are no artificial yeasts here? There is nothing other than flour and water basically and the dough rose like this?!? It really is a magical thing. 

So I made my first sourdough bread. It's not the most wonderful bread to look at but ohhh the taste! 

Making the bread takes some practice and I will dedicate a whole post on that with a step by step tutorial but it turns out delicious I can assure you! There are somethings that I would like to improve for example the height and the shape but I know that that is pretty much trial and error. 

So I've been practicing using my sourdough for more than just bread. It can be used in place of artificial activated yeasts for all recipes. 

Yesterday I made homemade croissants and we had them for breakfast this morning. Just yummyyyy! 

I'll also post about those next week as well. 

So there you go, I wanted to update you guys on my Pasta Madre and wish everyone a blessed Sunday :-) 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Living Room Makeover - Take 2

Well this weekend I did absolutely no cooking. That's right...I went on strike in the kitchen. I just didn't feel like it. Does this happen to anyone else? So unfortunately I have no recipes to share with you today. Boo...not even a Sunday Sweet nada - zip - zero - zilch - niente. I mean I THOUGHT about cooking. I wanted to make cinnamon sugar pretzels (Auntie Anne style) I wanted to make spinach stuffed pizza....I really wanted to make a lemon meringue pie. But it just wasn't happening. My mind was all about it but my body was like nope! Don't feel like it...I would just rather be a lazy bum and watch Italian X Factor...

I was a little productive though...I wasn't a complete and total procrastinator over the weekend. What I did do was rearrange my living room about 550 times...that's fun right? I know I've already told you about my love for blue and white and all last week I was pondering how to incorporate some blue and white into my living room.

I was so pumped to start because I thought it was going to be totally awesome so I went to Leroy Merlin (which is like an Italian Home Goods/Home Depot all in one) and was looking for some blue and white curtains to get the ball rolling. So I found a panel that I thought was suitable. I wasn't OMG crazy about it but I thought it looked nice and would go well but I wasn't convinced enough to buy 4 panels....because we all know tailor made curtains are not cheap... So I bought one $30 panel with the intention of cutting it in half and seeing if I liked it enough. If I didn't like it I could just use the fabric for something else. I definitely won't be throwing it away! So I cut it in half and hung it up...

Then I moved the pictures around the curtains and put other ones up.....
Then I took more close up pictures and sent them to my friends and family for opinions...
I left them up all day Saturday to get a better feel but I was just "ehhhh" about them...
I kept seeing too many colors it just looked like a hot mess. I kept telling myself to step out of my comfort have too much beige...spice up your life a I know guys...this is important stuff right here!
So I went back to Leroy Merlin to buy the other panels when I stop all of a sudden in front of the most beautiful fabric I have ever seen (ok that's a bit of an exaggeration but it makes for a good story...)! My eyes start to sparkle and I hear choirs of Angels singing "halleluiah". I set my eyes on this gorgeous gold victorian leaf print fabric and fell in love. I took home 4 meters of this fabric and ditched the blue and white curtain panels I had in my cart...immediately!
How excited I was! I couldn't wait to get home and break out my sewing machine and get those bad boys hung up! I am not in any way a professional seamstress but I do know how to use a sewing machine so I just hemmed up the top, bottom and sides and on the curtain rod they went!

I know terrible pictures...sorry. Here's kind of a close up...

I also bought that little drawer set in the corner that I'm in love with. It's like a light switch came on when I put those curtains up and now everything goes well together. The blue just wasn't working for me as much as I wanted to love it. I also added some candlestick lampshades to my chandy which I think look great. You wouldn't think it but those little guys are expensive! I think they are so worth it though. They add that little extra something.

If you noticed I had adhesive decorating paper in the top left corner of that wall. There is a hole there for a wood burning stove that we just never put in...and I never knew what to do about that hole that was so ugly looking. So I arranged the pictures like that to cover up the hole and I think it works well.
There is also so much light that enters from the windows now. Before the room looked rather dark because I had draped curtains that blocked out a lot of the natural sunlight. The room seems so much brighter with the curtains this way.

Well, that's what I was up to this past weekend. Interesting right?

No worries...strike's over....back to cooking! I'll have some tasty recipes for you soon. 
I have however been refreshing my sourdough every day so it wasn't a total strike I guess.
Here it is:
Alessandra, what do you think? I need your expert opinion please :-) I'm worried my baby stopped growing :-/
Ciao my friends and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sourdough starter - "Pasta Madre" Part 1

I've been dreading writing this post because I already know it will be rather complicated to explain but my friend Alessandra who gave me this recipe convinced me last night on the phone that if I don't document my "Pasta Madre" I will end up regretting it in the end. So here it goes....

What is "Pasta Madre"? It is the naturally produced yeast that is used in making sourdough bread. The literal translation for Pasta Madre is Mother Dough. It is called this in Italy because genuine Pasta Madre (I will abbreviate PM from now on) is not sold in grocery stores. It is a natural yeast that must be made at home. It must be cared for and "refreshed" to keep it alive or else it will die. Yes I know I'm sounding a little crazy but I'm trying to make it easy to understand because when I first started reading about it, it seemed extremely complicated and I hardly understood anything about it.

Alessandra was so informative and made everything so easy to understand. She told me "Silvana, you have to act as though it is your child! That is the real reason it is called Mother Dough!" So there you have it. I have been raising my "child" for about 10 days now and I'm proud to say she is growing big and strong! :-)'s a she by the way...I named her too. You have to name your's a must! If you're interested her name is Maria :-)

Alessandra has had her PM for over 2 years! Can you believe that?! The longer you have it the stronger it gets and it makes the most delicious sourdough bread and baguettes you have ever tasted!

So where do we start? You only need three things:

1) 100 grams of Manitoba Flour: you must use a strong flour or Manitoba flour as it's called. You should not use regular all-purpose flour or else you will not achieve the right yeast growth.

2) 50 grams of room temperature water: notice that it is exactly half of the amount of flour you have used. Use bottled water if you can instead of tap water.

3) One tablespoon of honey: you need some form of glucose to activate the yeast and this is the preferred method of my friend. It's the easiest and the purest method. Some people even use raisins in place of honey but by using other activators, you run the risk of mold forming which you must then immediately throw out and start over. Using honey is the "cleaner" approach and it makes for a beautiful and robust PM.

That's all you need! Now mix the three ingredients together by hand and you should end up with a ball the size of a tennis ball. Place the ball in a tall glass container that you will then cover with plastic wrap. Put one hole on top of the plastic wrap with a toothpick and let it sit on your counter top for 24 hours. Never place it in the refrigerator. The PM must produce naturally-occurring lactobacilli and yeast. This starts the fermentation process and will cause your PM to grow in size and expand.

This was Day 1 for my PM
After the first 24 hours you won't see much of a difference. For the first 3 days actually you won't see much change in size but on the fourth day you start to see the magic taking place!
So after 24 hours, you must refresh your PM for the first time. You should refresh every 24 hours for 30 days. I know...I know... I thought the same thing. It's a long time. But it really only takes 10 minutes a day. I do it before going to bed at night and it really is not a hassle at all. As I said before, my PM has been growing for about 10 days now so you will see it larger and of a different consistency than it was the first time I refreshed it. Now I will show you step by step the refreshing process which was the most complicated part for me.
This is what you need for the refreshment:
1) 100 grams of Manitoba Flour
2) 100 grams of your PM
3) 50 grams of water

Remove the top layer of your PM and discard. With a spoon take 100 grams of your PM from the middle area which is the most active, weigh it on a scale and place in a bowl.

Weigh out 100 grams of Manitoba flour and place in the bowl with the PM.

Then weigh 50 grams of room temperature water and mix together kneading well by hand, you don't have to knead for very long. Like I said before the whole process takes me no more than 10 minutes. Knead until you have formed a ball.


If you find that it's still too sticky, go ahead and add a little more flour.

This is how the PM should look after it has been refreshed. It's now ready to rest.
Discard the rest of the PM that you had left over and wash the glass container with ONLY hot water and dry well with a paper towel. Never use soaps or other chemicals. Only hot water. The PM will be very sticky so what I do is let the glass container soak overnight in hot water and place my refreshed PM in another tall glass container. Cover with the same plastic wrap with the hole on top and place on the counter again. Let it sit and repeat the process after 24 hours.

Each day you will see it grow larger and larger. It truly is an amazing process...It's like magic as my friend says! Once the PM is ready to be used, after 30 days, you will keep it in a closed container in the refrigerator and you don't have to refresh it every day. It usually should get refreshed once a week. I can't wait to make my first sourdough bread! I'm excited to see how it will turn out.

This is what my sourdough looks like now. In about 2 weeks it should reach the top of the container and be completely active for my first bread :-)
If you want to try it, don't be intimidated. Just give it a go! You have nothing to lose...
Here are some pictures of typical sourdough bread to get you motivated. Hopefully mine will turn out this yummy!! We'll just have to wait and see.... 



To be continued....

Update: Part 2 here