“Princess”, The ‘Pain In The Arse’ Sourdough Starter

Once upon a time, there was an innocent, novice, bread baker who started to notice a little chill in the air. The days began to grow shorter, and the leaves on the trees turned yellow. She knew Autumn had arrived, and those long cold days of Winter were only just around the corner.
As always, her thoughts turned to food. She reminisced fondly of the previous Winter; great steaming bowls of veggie packed soups, served with toasted slices of sourdough bread, mmmmm. That simple combination made for delicious and healthy lunches, while fulfilling the comfort factor that was required to satisfy her soul in the middle of Winter, even when served over the stainless steel bench of the staff cafeteria.

Hot and hearty soup with a slice or two of sourdough on the side. Ooooh, great Winter lunch!
Hot and hearty soup with a slice or two of sourdough on the side. Ooooh, great Winter lunch!

But wait, a marvellous thought came to our idealistic baking heroine! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to bake her own sourdough bread, warm and inviting, ready to be sliced and toasted, to serve with nourishing bowls of goodness ladled from great steaming pots. Her minds eye could see the great soup vat sitting atop the old wood fired, kitchen stove, wafting steam and emanating wonderful aromas, that seemed to be an invisible invitation to all and sundry; “Come, pull up a chair around the great wooden table and sup ’til you are filled.” A truly vivid imagination does our innocent bread baker have, given that she knows full well only 2 people in her entire extended family of 10, will come anywhere close to eating sourdough bread with soup for a meal. (and, she has no such wood fired stove!)
But, our heroine is nothing if not tenacious. Her single minded determination, to make a sourdough bread that she felt was of standard, led her to reach her hand into the dark recesses of the fridge and pull out a sourdough starter that had taken up residence in the back of the fridge.
Oh what a sad, sorry and *’hooch’ drowned sight that starter was! Our novice bread baker had neglected the poor starter due to ignorance (and a punishing work/family schedule!), and was immediately faced with a long, slow road to try and breathe life back into the struggling mass of living beings she had so cheerfully thrown together several months before.
She dutifully fed and watered said mess, and waited…and waited. Not surprisingly, in hindsight, nothing much happened.

*Hooch is the liquid that separates from the starter.

Many, many websites were read, to find the answer to her dilemma, but it was all so confusing!
One writer wrote of the confusion for novice sourdough bakers being that they keep too much starter. Our innocent baker would say that the crux of the confusion for novices is that there is too much freedom in the world of sourdough bread!
What is the one best way to feed a starter? The one best recipe? The one best technique? The one best flour?
It doesn’t exist, of course!
The whole point of sourdough bread is that it is baking bread using only natural yeast, as the ancients did. Which ancients are they, our intrepid heroine asked? Whichever, bread eating ancient civilisation, you may wish to poke a stick at, is the general answer!

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This is the loaf we have liked the best so far. Thick chewy crust, spongey texture, and a mild refined taste.

So, in her Zen sourdough moment, when the light finally penetrated through the fog, the answer was revealed to her.
All techniques, all cultural differences, and all things are equal. You need to find your own path.

The innocent little baker, was delighted! She was free, free to be herself; to learn and create.
Oh, you should have seen her scouring websites with renewed vigour in order to understand the science, trying to digest the ramblings of water and flour ratios. Wrapping her head around the intricacies of activating a fridge bound starter, and since she is actually a biologist at heart; throwing herself into experiments to mark the timing of growth and visually interpreting the different stages of her starter sponge.

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My happy little girl, bubbling and gurgling away. Now that I know how to make her happy!

Then, one afternoon, she stumbled upon the fact, that it is traditional (somewhere or another) to name your starter. Of course…it is a living thing after all!

It was actually an easier task than she had imagined. She had read of people giving their aspirating, wet, doughy lumps, such uncouth names as, “Creature” or “Thing” and no matter how she considered it, that train of thought just didn’t seem right to her. In a flash of genius, over a hot cup of tea, she realized that her starter was;

  • born of white flour and *honey, with a little help from commercial yeast
  • a pain in her arse
  • that she had no idea how to make it happy
  • it had taken a considerable amount of investment on her behalf to learn about its moods
  • it took forever to get ready when she needed it
  • it was refined and didn’t smell too bad 😉

and, that no matter all its shortcomings, she loved it!

*Honey is a stupid choice, as it is an antimicrobial and we are trying to grow yeast and bacteria! Who came up with that recipe?

157a4-lumpy-space-princess

“Princess” was an obvious choice 🙂

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Princess has now leavened (slowly, ‘though successfully) 4 loaves of mild and refined white, sourdough bread to the bakers great delight! Lovely toasted and perfect for soup, yes, there was success for our happy baker!

Bliss!

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The most beautiful loaf so far! Who is the fairest of them all?

PS: For those who may be interested, I am noting down a few things that I learned about feeding and starting Princess, I hope it helps you in your journey, and if not, at least I have it all written down for my own reference!!

To feed only
Keep 30g of Princess and throw the rest away
Mix in 30g of water, incorporating plenty of air
Mix in 24g of plain flour and 6g of rye flour
Leave to sit on bench for at least an hour
Refrigerate

To build up enough Princess for baking
Take Princess out of the fridge 2 nights before you wish to bake
Empty all of Princess out into large bowl
Mix in 65g water, incorporating plenty of air
Mix in 65g plain flour
Cover loosely and leave overnight

Next morning
Mix in 125g water, incorporating plenty of air
Mix in 125g plain flour
Cover loosely and leave for the day

That evening
Up to 250g of Princess is ready to be mixed into bread recipe to be rested over night!
Spoon 30g of Princess into clean jar and feed according to feed only instructions, ready for next bake.

If you are enjoying being ‘blissed’, don’t forget to subscribe to my email list or follow me on wordpress to see all my latest ramblings 🙂

 

It’s A Heatwave! Nectarine and Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Sorbet Recipe

No, it is getting to 'beyond a joke', hot.  Feel free to dive in and cool off!
No, it is getting to, ‘beyond a joke’, hot. Feel free to dive in and cool off!

OH MY GOODNESS!! 8PM AND IT IS STILL 40 DEGREES CENTIGRADE!!!!! AAAAAARRRGH :0

What are you supposed to do when it is too hot to move, and you have inherited a bag of rather large, rather ripe nectarines from your globetrotting brother, who has left to go to a hot country, so he can play on the beach with his kids…..huh, Thailand, really? Couldn’t he just be hot here?
Hee hee hee, it may be sour grapes from me, but we have definitely had very sweet nectarines this Summer here in Melbourne!

I could of course, eat them as the fruit that they are….but you wouldn’t know me very well.
I have actually been on a healthy lifestyle kick for ooooh, about 4 days, and honestly I am already reaching a very low ceiling, I just can’t stomach this much fruit on a daily basis!
I like it best in cake, in dessert, in smoothies. Please don’t get me wrong of course I like fruit, but I enjoy fruit in small quantities as a pleasure, I just can’t do it as a staple, like veggies.

Given that these truly soaring, Summer temperatures are staying for at least the next couple of days I needed to quickly turn these nectarines into something, other than smelly, mouldy, mush in a bag.
Healthy lifestyle choices, mean that ice cream is not an option (at least this week!)
Out door ambient temperatures, means that the oven is NOT being turned on.
How about a sorbet? Cooling, no fat, chock full of fruit, sounded like the perfect option 🙂

What do you do with too many ripe nectarines?  Make something blissfully indulgent of course!
What do you do with too many ripe nectarines? Make something blissfully indulgent of course!

David Lebowitz, the master of indulgent desserts gave me his recipe via google and I, of course, Bliss-ed it!

I had just enjoyed a couple of glasses of Cape Mentelle, a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from Margaret River, Western Australia, the other night with a nice little seafood pasta. Fantastic; fruity, peachy and nectarine, flavours but not overwhelmingly so. I enjoyed it more and more as the glass got lower, the flavour became as smooth as silk. I don’t generally love a very fruity white wine but, I only had to take the nectarines out of the bag to immediately think of the frosty bottle I had in the fridge!

You will notice I actually put in a bit of cocoa and nutmeg into my recipe, which may seem strange!? For a brighter looking sorbet, please feel free to leave them out, but for me the mix needed a bit of extra depth in flavour, and it just seemed so right. You do sacrifice a few points in the looks department, and although you can’t taste chocolate flavours straight out, I think it adds really nicely to the complexity of the flavours.

No, this is not a kid friendly recipe, but if you want a clean, simple recipe, please link through to David’s recipe, it is gorgeous!

The best of Summer in a wine glass!
The best of Summer in a frosty wine glass!

Heatwave Nectarine Sorbet

5-6 ripe nectarines (approximately 750g after pitting)

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup white wine (sav blanc is my choice!)

2/3 cup caster sugar

pinch nutmeg

1/2 tspn dutch cocoa

1/2 tspn lemon juice

Fresh raspberries

Mint leaves and tips

Pit the unpeeled nectarines and cut into rough chunks.

Place the water, wine and nectarines into a medium sized pan. Simmer over a medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until soft, stirring occassionally.

Stir in sugar, nutmeg, cocoa and lemon juice. Use a stick blender to puree until smooth.

Cool thoroughly ( I actually poured the mixture into the pot from my ice cream maker and put the whole thing in the freezer for an hour)

Place into your ice cream maker and churn for 45 min-1 hr. It will still need some time in the freezer, after you have finished churning, for it to firm up enough so that it can be scooped. I left mine overnight.

Mix fresh raspberries with mint leaves and place in the bottom of a dessert or wine glass. Scoop generous portions of sorbet to sit on top and decorate with a few mint tips!

Oh yes, I feel cooler already, and an extra splash of Sav Blanc will guarantee to put a little smile on my face 🙂

This is a great make ahead dessert for a warm summer evening, especially after a lovely grilled seafood meal, on a balcony by the sea….. aaaaaah, such is Summer 🙂

All anyone really needs is a little touch of Summer Bliss :) x
All anyone really needs is a little touch of Summer Bliss 🙂 x

Chocolate Ripple Cake with Roasted Wattle Seed and Creamed Honey Recipe

Entertaining season is on us with a vengeance! Are you ready? How many family and friends’ barbecues and Christmas parties are you attending over the next 2 weeks? How many pavlovas and chocolate ripple cakes will you see this December?

Bliss it up!  A new Aussie Classic as far as I am concerned.  If you are making a chocolate ripple cake this Christmas, try this truly Australian version, I promise you will love it!
Bliss it up! A new Aussie Classic as far as I am concerned. If you are making a chocolate ripple cake this Christmas, try this truly Australian version, I promise you will love it!

After posting on facebook, a photo of an American version of a chocolatey, cream cheese and cool whipped easy to assemble, mad indulgence, my sister reminded me of the importance of keeping it real! Let’s get back to our roots, let’s not forget a good old, Aussie, chocolate ripple cake; ‘Blissed’ of course!

Pavlov's dog...who doesn't need a cup of tea when they see this iconic logo?
Pavlov’s dog…who doesn’t need a cup of tea when they see this iconic logo?

Arnott’s was the biscuit company of our time. We grew up with great Aussie faves such as Chocolate Ripples, Tim Tam’s, Chocolate Royals (yes, I took inspiration for the name ‘Royale’ for one of my cakes from this!), Tic Tocs, Iced Vovo’s, Nice, Marie, oh my goodness….too many to name! This simple line says it all, “Arnott’s is more than a food company, it’s a piece of Australia’s history.”

You can’t go wrong with a chocolate ripple cake and I am sure it sounds like a good idea to most, but I bet you are feeling hesitant about reading ‘wattle seed’ in the title. Biscuits, check, creamed honey check, but seriously wattle seeds? When I tell you, you can get bottles of roasted wattle seed at the local supermarket, and after you have taken your first lick of whipped cream with wattle seed, believe me, we as a nation, will all be wondering what we were waiting for!

Showers of golden, wattle flowers, bane of hayfever sufferers, and muse to photographers and artists across the country :)
Showers of golden, wattle flowers, bane of hayfever sufferers, and muse to photographers and artists across the country 🙂

Wattle is far better known by everyone, within Australia and overseas for the incredible masses of golden flowers it produces and the great green and gold colours which are synonymous with our sporting teams. Wattle is our national flower, so for goodness sake, why isn’t roasted wattle seed our national flavouring? Chocolatey, coffee, and hazelnut aromas are all what Melbourne cafe culture is about!! You get instant heady mocha aromas when you open the jar and then when you add it to a few spoons of Beechworth creamed honey, which is not too sweet, bursting with honey flavour and the perfect consistency for whipping into cream …. yes, you will know you are in heaven 🙂 Add some Victorian strawberries for a really Bliss-ed up version of the old chocolate ripple cake, and a new Aussie classic has been born!

Australian Herbs, Roasted Wattle seed...my new best friend.  What a gorgeous, amazing bottle of magic!
Australian Herbs, Roasted Wattle seed…my new best friend. What an amazing little bottle of magic!
A match made in the lucky country.  Smooth and sweet creamed honey with amazing mocha flavoured roasted wattle seeds.  I am claiming this combo as a Bliss specialty!
A match made in the lucky country. Smooth and sweet creamed honey with incredible mocha flavoured roasted wattle seeds. I am claiming this combo as a Bliss specialty!

I have done a little bit of a sexy version, however, feel free to leave out the alcohol and pile up the layers in little dessert or cake cups with extra sliced up strawberries for a more casual and kid friendly take.

Double or triple the quantities if you are doing a big party!

Blissed up Chocolate Ripple Cake – makes 6

1-2 packs Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple Biscuits- you will need 18 bikkies for this recipe

300ml bottle of thickened cream

1 tspn Roasted Wattle Seeds

2 tblspns Creamed Honey

1 tspn Kahlua

1 punnet strawberries

Pour thickened cream into a large bowl. Beat on low until frothy.

Add in roasted wattle seeds, creamed honey and Kahlua (or not, if you want it Kid friendly).

Whip until stiff peaks form.

Sexy version:

Transfer cream into a piping bag with a rosette nozzle.

Pipe a swirl of cream, that does not quite reach the edge, onto the first biscuit. Place a 2nd biscuit on top and press down lightly.

Repeat the swirl of cream, top with 3rd biscuit, and finish top with a swirl of cream.

Place in an airtight container and refrigerate over night.

Casual version:

Place first biscuit into a dessert cup, one of those paper ones with the stiff sides is perfect.

Spoon a generous tablespoon or so of cream to cover the biscuit. Top with second biscuit.

Repeat the dollop of cream, top with 3rd biscuit and finish top with a dollop of cream.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Top it up:

Decorate with strawberries and mint sprigs. Or rosemary sprigs, if like me, you want a more adventurous flavour combination, or truth be known, you have found that all your mint has died!

Yes, it is as delicious as I described!  So,  go out and buy yourself some roasted wattleseed!  Delish :)  xx
Yes, it is as gorgeous as I described, so go out and buy yourself some roasted wattleseed! Delish 🙂 xx

I hope to post a second Christmas inspired recipe post next week, however the best laid plans can go astray, so let me take this opportunity to thank you all for supporting my little Aussie blog. Have yourselves a very merry Christmas and see you in the new year xxx

mmmmmmm, Mazet :)

What do you get up to when you are not working?

I spend way too much time on facebook, watch endless movies with my family and spend entire evenings googling ‘chocolate’.  As I have admitted previously I am no expert on wine and… reality check,  I am also no expert on chocolate!  I know what I like, and that is about it.  I am an accomplished window shopper, so much to see and know, yet so little that I have ever actually bought and eaten!

A bar that reflects history, just by looking at it!

I think that it is time that all that changed, so after a lovely birthday lunch with my friend, I crossed my local high street and headed straight into a new gourmet chocolate shop called Cocomaya.  I slowly made my way around the displays and, with my highly honed window shopping skills,  took in the beautiful sight of hand made chocolates and, colourful designer boxes and wrappers.  However, I couldn’t stop myself from going back to this little bar of chocolate that was completely unfamiliar to me.  Maybe it was the word praslines that attracted me, but the minute the owner mentioned that Mazet was one of the best chocolates in the store, along with Valrohna, I handed over the money!

It only took a small amount of searching to find that Mazet Confiseur is one of the oldest chocolate houses in Paris, and in 1636 Praslines, or those red, knobbly looking, candy coated toasted almonds were invented…yes, invented(!) by an illustrious ancestor of the dynasty.  Well, I have a thing for praline and to discover that it directly heralded from this illustrious chocolate house, I was floored!  I have window shopped their website and already mapped out all the items that I can’t wait to taste, Amandas, Passions, Givrettes, Flavoured Fondues, Dark Grapefruit….oh my goodness, anyone heading to Paris, please take my shopping list with you!

If you wish to do a little bit of window shopping of your own, here is the link:

http://www.mazetconfiseur.com/index.php/les-confiseries-mazet.html

Dark praslines, the beginning of a long affair, I think 🙂

So, what did I think of my first Mazet experience?  Luxurious, old world printing and packaging, the chocolate wrapped tightly in gold foil, I must say it exudes an expectation of quality.  Great. shiny bar with a good snap when broken, you can see how clean it breaks from my photo!  The flavour of the chocolate is deep and rich, no strong overtones though, which is a shame, but I have to admit I have been irreperably, spoilt by Michel Cluizel’s plantation range.  The praline is a lovely addition in texture, however not as sweet as I would have liked. Well, having been told by a French Chocolatier, that Australian’s have a much sweeter palette than the French do, that is probably not surprising.

I guess it goes to show, no matter how much I might appreciate a fine French affair, and wax lyrical about my love for dark chocolate, the Aussie chick in me will always, still crave Caramello Koalas 🙂