Not Free From Goodness: Gluten- and Dairyfree Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

“Live life to the fullest, and focus on the positive.” Matt Cameron

Sourdough is the thing now. And for all the right reasons. It is healthy, it is good for body and soul. It is good to bake and good to eat. Glutenfree, dairyfree, free from all allergens – unfortunately – is also the thing now.

Not necessarily for the right reasons. Whilst I do not believe eating or dairyfree or glutenfree is the healthiest choice, unfortunately I do know eating gluten and dairy is certainly unhealthy for some. I do, however, strongly believe, free from allergens does not equal free from goodness.

The ones who are following a free from diet under the pressure of necessity think that to enjoy wonderful bread and yeasted product one has to be able to consume dairy or gluten. Wrong. The key is simple. Glutenfree sourdough is the thing! For all the right reasons!

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.” Dalai Lama

80 g fruit yeast water
80 g glutenfree white flour
2 tbsp glutenfree sourdough starter

450 g glutenfree white flour
150 g rice milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
30 g brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
A pinch of salt
1 tsp psyllium husk
120 g coconut oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp cinnamonn

To make the preferment mix flour, fruit yeast water and the sourdough mother starter. Leave it to ferment until puffed, bubbly and well risen, meaning it is active. This may take from 4-12 hours, depending on the temperature and strength of the mother starter.

To make the dough dissolve the entire starter in rice milk, add all other ingredients, except for the coconut oil. Knead the dough for 5 minutes and then leave it to rest for 30 minutes. After this autolyzation knead in the coconut oil for 8-10 minutes until smooth. Shape the dough into ball and place it into clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to ferment overnight in a cool place or until almost doubled in volume. When the dough is ready, put it in the fridge for a couple of hours so to enable easier shaping. To shape roll the dough to be 5 mm thick and spread coconut oil, then sugar thinly,sprinkle generously with cinnamon, leaving a small space from all sides. Roll the dough from the longest side in the direction away to get a log. Cut the log into pieces using a sharp knife. Place the rolls into lined and greased pan. Leave the dough for a final rise at the room temperature until puffed (2-3 hours).

Thirty minutes before the baking, preheat the oven to 200°C. When the dough is ready, put the pan oven into oven and bake the rolls until well baked, about 40 minutes. Leave to cool slightly, then brush with a little rice milk.

Not Just a Dough But a State of Mind: Flavoured Glutenfree Sourdough Bread

“When I hear somebody say ‘Life is hard’, I am always tempted to ask ‘Compared to what?'” Sydney J. Harris

Sourdough is a special thing. It requires hard work and experience, but – indeed – every bite worth the effort that its making. Even in itself sourdough has a tangy, special, deep and unique taste, however, flavouring the basic bread recipes (made of flour, water, yeast and salt) and enhancing with other ingredients that change the characteristics of the final product – including the texture, flavor, and colour – creates remarkable bakes.

Ingredients, such as eggs, duck fat, oil or nutmilk change the texture of the crumb and crust and provide a richness of flavour that is often lacking in basic breads. Some flavoured breads may include ingredients that simply add flavour to the bread, such as herbs, spices, sugar, honey, nuts, whole grains, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and even meats. Some breads contain both enriching and flavouring ingredients and may be almost a meal in themselves.

The flavour of a bread, I believe reflects the baker’s passion for the baking process. By putting creativity to its best effect, the baker becomes a creator, an artist of the taste, with an own distinctive signature on every cake, bake or bread. This creation is a sensory, emotional and technical journey into a personal fulfillment. Sourdough is not just a dough but a state of mind, a life style. Sourdough is not just a dough, it requires time, love, precision, attention and devotion.

“Luck is great, but most of life is hard work.” Iain Duncan Smith

240 g gluten free sourdough starter poolish (100 g flour, 100 g water, 40 g mother starter, mixed and left fermented for about 4 hours)

100 g white glutenfree flour
150 g tapioca flour
150 g sorghum flour
110 g millet flour
1 Tbsp salt
200 ml water
40 ml olive oil
1 tbsp psyllium husk
4 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 tsp harissa
1 tsp ginger
1tsp chilli flakes

In a large bowl, stir together the starter, water, and eggs. In a separate bowl mix together all dry ingredients. Add the oil to the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Slowly, gradually pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Pour just slow enough that it can be gradually mixed, approximately a cup at a time and mix before each addition. Let the dough sit out in a warm place for at least a few hours, preferably 3-4. Divide the dough as chosen and place into baguette trays and small bundt pans. When shaping, gently place the dough on parchment paper on a flat surface, not to disturb the dough to much so that it keeps the air bubbles intact from the sourdough action. Raise for another 4-8 hours, depending on conditions. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C. Once preheated, very gently score the top of the breads a few times with a sharp serrated knife and place into the preheated pan. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for another 20-30 minutes. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Little Pleasures: Glutenfree Sourdough Focaccia with Tomatoes and Herbs

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” John Wooden

“Thinking big” is the fashionable and the one-to-follow lifestyle of today’s world. Whilst it is nothing inherently wrong with it, when one believes that “big” is better than “small”, that “stretching to the limit” is what everyone must do, that “be the best one can be” beats “appreciating the self”, one is simply not being fair to himself. Not every human being is meant to make it “big”, not everybody wants to be multitasking all day long, every day. Some people are just happy to be usual, normal, and – even – boring. Not everybody wants to devote their energy to going for the gold at every part of their lives.

Indeed, some people are appreciative of cold, some like warm, some people adore red, whilst others want white in the world, and so on… The world likes colour. The world likes contrast. We like to do a lot of things that have nothing to do with making it big or being on top. And that’s a good thing, a very real thing. Obviously, not all can be at the top. Nor do we all want to be. For at the top, it’s lonely; the air is thin, oxygen is rare. And, on the bad days, there’s no place else to go, but down…

“True greatness consists in being great in little things.” Charles Simmons

Therefore, appreciating the little pleasures of life is really important. Like successfully growing a plant in the middle of the city (the pleasure of ny beloved husband, that is)…like feeding a child…like receiving a thank you… Little things are what people tend to remember and appreciate when they reflect on days gone by. A little thing may be a fun evening with friends. It may be the joy of learning something new. It may be listening to the giggles of children. It may be the warm feeling caused by a simple act of kindness. It may be noticing nature change. If one neglects, ignores to enjoy the little things of life, then what are they left with but the daily struggles, the disappointments and the disasters that masks the simple pleasures when we least expect it.

Sourdough is sure one of life’s big little pleasures. After ten years of solid baking, the excitement of waiting for the dough to rise still doesn’t fail to entertain me and fill me with pride and joy. My latest adventure into baking with gluten-, soy- and dairyfree sourdough is probably even deeper of a pride…I believe via cultivating natural fruit yeasts I achieved such a strong glutenfree sourdough that – in the final baked products – manages to get rid of all the usual free from characteristics, such as sweetness, slightly disturbing odour and crumbling texture. The glutenfree sourdough starter is one of my daily pleasures now…ant it is indeed one to be noticed and appreciated.

Starter dough
Combine 100 g spring water, 100 g fruit yeast water, 100 g gluten free flour mix, 100 g active glutenfree sourdough starter. Mix all to a soft dough, then cover – leave for 6-8 hours to ferment.

Main Dough
Add 360 g Gluten free flour, about 40-50 g fine corn grits, 8-10 g of salt, 100 g fruit yeast water and about 100 g sprig water into the starter dough gradually, until a soft dough is achieved. Place in oiled bowl and leave it to ferment for about one hour. After the first fermentation process place into oiled or lined baking tray and flatten into the desired size (a large rectangle). Cover loosely and let it rise for 5-8 hours. Once proofed gently create indents with fingertips, oil and place fresh herbs (I used sage, rosemary and thyme) and cherry tomatoes on the top. Bake in preheated 220 degrees C for about 45 minutes or remove tins from oven when nicely golden. Loosen the sides and tip out to cool on a wire rack (tap the underneath if it sounds
hollow it’s done).

“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.” Frank A. Clark

Seasonal Taste-Sensation of the Summer: Spicy-Herby Apricot and Walnut Macarons

“Five tender apricots in a blue bowl, a brief and exact promise of things to come.” Frances Mayes

Apricots are true treats of the summer season. The origin of the apricot is disputed and unsettled. It was known in Armenia during ancient times, and has been cultivated there for so long that it is often thought to have originated there. The apricots’ outstanding appearance, their distinctive taste, their silky texture and seductive fragrance nowadays is wide spread in the world, loved by chefs and consumers alike.  Apricots have a complex sweet-tart flavor that marries well to a wide variety of other tastes, spices, herbs and flavourings. Fresh apricots are a treasure to eat, however, they reach their full potential when cooked — roasted, poached, sauteed or incorporated into baked goods. Warming them brings both their sweetness and tartness to the forefront. Apricots can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, but their crowning glory is really any dish that is sweet.

Apricots are closely related to almonds, their pits can be used to create an almond-like flavoring, therefore it should come as no surprise that almonds are a strong flavor complement to apricots. Macarons, obviously host apricots perfectly. The shells house all the warm spices – as cardamoms, cinnamon and ginger enhance the decadent flavour of apricots – whilst the apricot filling can include the refreshing herbs that counterbalance the spices and sweetness of the shells. Many herbs work well with apricots, providing a woodsy, herbaceous note to balance the fruit’s sweet-tart nature. The herbs’aromatic pungency works well with the apricot flavour. The floral note of lavender is a natural match for apricot’s sweetness, whilst rosemary’s resinous notes play off both the sweet and tart aspects of apricots. Citrus flavors – lemon, orange and lime in particular – also bring out apricots’ sweetness while complementing its tart notes at the same time. The pairing aids the taste buds in appreciating characters of each ingredient that might not appear when used on their own.

“One that would have the fruit must climb the tree.” Thomas Fuller

4 egg whites (around 160 g), at room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
65 g almond meal
65 g ground walnut
280 g confectioners sugar
Apricot or tangerine gel food colouring
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
10-15 apricots (depending on size)
A handful of fresh basil
Zest of one orange
4 tbsp honey

Sieve the almond meal, ground walnut, spices and icing sugar together, set aside. Beat the egg whites over medium-high speed until they begin to froth, then add granulated sugar, gradually. Continue beating the mixture until eggs whites are glossy and stiff peaks form, adding the gel food colouring in the last minute. Add half of the dry mixture to the egg whites, fold slowly until all ingredients are well combined, then repeat with the other half of the dry mixture. It should slowly dripping off the spatula back into the bowl and easily absorbing back into the batter at the bottom. Mix in Transfer batter into a piping bags, than pipe onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. When all the batter is piped out, firmly tap the baking sheet onto a hard surface to remove air bubbles. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and bake the macarons for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, lift parchment paper with macarons onto a wire rack and let cool completely. To make the filling puree the apricot and basil, mix with orange zest and honey and cook on medium heat, stirring until the apricot mixture thickens, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary.Let it cool and stick together macaron shell pairs with a small portion of filling.

Fruit, Yeast and Love: Free From Sourdough Sandwich Loaf made with Fruit Yeast

“The future belongs to nations who have grains not guns.” Dr. MS Swaminathan

Many of the people who live with an allergy or intolerance – let it be gluten, dairy or egg – believe that a good loaf is out of their reach…Whilst traditionally the idea of beautiful bread has been based on the trustworthy, reliable work of gluten, modern-old practice shows: free from perfect sourdough bread is really possible. Though sourdough wheat bread can be tolerated by some gluten-sensitive individuals as the fermenting process makes wheat and gluten easier to digest, others who can’t tolerate any wheat, are still able to enjoy sourdough fermented bread’s tangy flavor, thanks to the wide variety of gluten-free flours now available made with everything from corn to quinoa, through buckwheat, rice and all.

Investigating the nature of long-fermented, old-fashioned bread in its gluten- and dairy free form is an exciting journey. Bread, especially that of sourdough is a living being. A simple dough, made in the right ratio of flours to starter to water to salt, achieves the most amazing transformation when left undisturbed for a pleasant night. Witnessing that creation magic is an honour, a heartwarming activity that somehow connect one to her roots.

Sourdough can easily be created with glutenfree flour and it indeed produces beautiful bread. During the quest for my own real sourdough story, I had found that feeding the glutenfree starter with fruit yeast achieves the gratest result, in terms of both rise and taste. To capture and cultivate fruit yeast sterilize the glass jar by boiling both jar and lid for 5 minutes, then leave them to cool. Fill the jar with fresh fruit and spring water, and leave it until it starts fizzing and small bubbles could be seen. Closed the lid on the jars loosely, giving the jar a shake once a day and opening the lids so to let the yeast breathe. Check after the three days, so to avoid over-fermentation (optionally move the jar into the fridge).

Bringing a glutenfree sourdough starter to life with fruit yeast is relatively simple, only needing some careful attention, patience and love.

Using the starter as a basis and baking good free from bread also depends on simple rules: adopting a reliable mixture of locally accessible flour, respecting the live yeast and allowing ample time for the dough (to rest, to rise, to bake, to cool).

150 g free from sourdough starter
200 ml water
120 ml fruit yeast
1 tsp honey
1 tsp psyllium husk
1 tsp dried potato flakes
350 g glutenfree flour mix, plus some for
1 tsp Himalaya salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Mix the starter, the water, honey and fruit yeast stirring vigorously until well incorporated. Fold in the psyllium husk, potato flakes and flour gently, then let it autolyse for 2 hours. After the autolysation, knead in the salt and oil and let it rise in the mixing bowl covered for 4-5 hours. After the first rise pour it on floured surface, gently fold 3-4 times (by turning the sides into the middle), then form and place it into floured proving basket. Allow 6 to 8 hours for the final proof on the kitchen worktop (fridge proving seems to give less elevated results). Bake it in preheated 230 degrees C oven on hot baking stone for about 50-60 minutes. Before starting the baking throw a couple of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir

The most Healthy Ingredient of Baked Vegetable Soup: Love!

“What infants need is the opportunity and time to take in and figure out the world around them.” Magda Gerber

There are some special foody people in the big wide world who have ingredients on their fingertips, recipes coming out of their lips and the smell of cooked or baked gold floating around them wherever they go…there are chefs, writers, food critics, bloggers who occupy the internet, social media and publishing…YET…I believe the true flavour of food, and therefore, life, is only really known to the most natural of the population, to the most knowledgeable of the food-experts and to the most honest of judges, children.


Kids nowadays seem to have an interesting relationship with food. It is due to many characteristics of modern day living: quick and instant lifestyle, poor quality offer, hormonal effects of the 21st century to name but a few…it would be pointless to go on a quest in order to find one reason…it is a multi-factor mess!

It -children and healthy food- is, however, not at all a hopeless! The key is adding a not-so-secret ingredient: love…A love-filled approach toward the children and towards the ingredients in the same time, creates a life-long taste sensation and real healthy food-experts. Children need to meet ingredients…children need to be able to express likes as well as dislikes…children need to be able to make decisions…children need time when meeting ingredients…Children and food need love.

From the foods offered, kids choose what they will eat or whether to eat at all. Kids need to have some say in the matter. Schedule regular food-play, cooking and snack times. Quit the “always clean-plate rule”. Let children stop eating when they feel they’ve had enough. Lots of people grow up under the clean-plate rule, which completely ruins their ability to listen to their own bodies when they feel full. When children notice and respond to feelings of fullness, they’re less likely to overeat. Start them young. Forming the healthy relationship with healthy food has to be started at a young age. Preferences are developed early in life, so offering a variety and allowing involvement in food related activities without a force will encourage a child to eat, to love healthy food and to love it healthily.

Lovely Becca and Mark of the Shayler-Adams family has tried one of my suggested activities, vegetable body training: the sit the children around some washed, but not peeled vegetables (such as cucumber, marrow, onion, butternut squash, pepper, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and celery). They encouraged the children to touch and smell the vegetables, then involved them in cutting the goods and making a creamy soup. This activity stimulates exploration mainly through touch, weight, texture and smell and together with their four beautiful children, Becca and Mark seem to have had a tremendous fun. They are a family raising two bubbas with special needs, and indeed, they do it exceptionally. So when in a family, where time really matters, food and the togetherness of the food-events can still matter too, one can only admire the power of ingredients, above that of the main ingredient, love!

Read Becca’s article  here… on the ‘amumdoingherbest’ blog, where the readers can take a peek into the family’s fun-filled life with four kids, and learn from their love-filled approach towards daily tasks and issues.

1 kg mixed vegetables
3 tbsp pumpkin seed oil
A handful of marjoram and a handful of parsley
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Juice 1 lime and 1 lemon

“I believe that parents need to make nutrition education a priority in their home environment. It’s crucial for good health and longevity to instill in your children sound eating habits from an early age.” Cat Cora

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Chop the vegetables into small pieces. Place in a roasting tin. Mix the oil with the herbs and seasoning, and the lime and lemon juice. Pour over the vegetables and toss thoroughly. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and well browned. Place in a saucepan with 750 ml of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Cool. Blend half of the mixture, then return to the pan to reheat.

Images courtesy of Becca of amomdoingherbest and photographed by Mark of markshaylerphotoraphy.

Free From Bread and Better: Glutenfree Sourdough

Where there’s a mill there’s a way… Old proverb

When most people think “gluten-free”, they think that quality bread is no longer an option. The Free From Fruit Yeast Sourdough is a recipe method I developed when I learned that I had multiple food allergies: gluten, dairy and soy. I was also a little sensitive to commercial yeast.

I had been successfully making sourdough bread for many years for my family, but when I had a new baby who started to be interested in bread, but had to be kept glutenfree, I decided I had to do something…To continue eating bread and being able to give bread for my baby, I tried to find a bread that used minimally processed organic ingredients, ingredients that had no chemicals, and ingredients that were not created in a laboratory.

The Free From Fruit Yeast Sourdough starter is based on and fed with natural fruit yeast. To cultivate fruit yeast, I fill a Mason jar full of organic fruit pieces with spring water, keep it loosely covered away from direct sunlight for five days. After five days I sieve it and there it is, fruit yeast…I feed it with my glutenfree grain and starch flour mix (sorghum, corn, buckwheat, potato, arrowroot and rice), equal weight of flour to the weight of liquid. I continue feeding it three times a day with 50 g of flour and 50 g of fruit yeast.

If the volume can not be handled, I discard some of the mixture. Then I continue to feed it twice a day for another five days. After this the starter can be fed with spring water, but if fed with fruit yeast once a week, it will retain its unique character.

The method of free from sourdough baking is not really different from the fundamental ways of classic sourdough baking. It needs starter/yeast, flour water, salt and love!

The mill of the gods grinds slowly, but it grinds exceedingly fine. Old proverb

Basic Free From Sourdough Bread
For the levain the evening before baking mix:
500 ml water
1 tbsp brown sugar
100 ml sourdough
50 g corn flour
50 g buckwheat flour
100 g rice flour
50 g millet flour
Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let it rest for the night (about 7-8 hours)

In the morning add:
400 ml l water
75 g millet flour
175 g rice flour
25 g potato starch
25 g arrowroot flour
50 g sorghum flour
35 g psyllium husk
1 1/2 tbsp dry potato flakes
1 tsp soaked chia seeds
1 1/2 tbsp Salt

Add everything to the mixing bowl with the starter from the day before. Mix on medium speed for about 10 minutes for a nice thick but still sticky batter. Let the dough rise for about 1.5 hours.

Dust the working surface with rice flour and turn the dough out on the table, divide it into two portions and gently shape them into oval breads, then dust them with rice flour on top. Let it rise for another two hours, or overnight in the fridge. Place them in a preheated 220 degrees C oven and bake them for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. After 45 minutes turn the temperature a bit down.

Remember the miller when you eat your daily bread. Old proverb

Red Summer Romance: Berry Field Cocoa Gateau with Mint and Cream Cheese

“Red”, I write “is the color of life. It’s blood, passion, rage. …Beginnings and violent end. Red is the color of love. Beating hearts and hungry lips. Roses, Valentines, cherries. Red is the color of shame. Crimson cheeks and spilled blood. Broken hearts, opened veins. A burning desire…” Mary Hogan

I do accept that may not all bakers have a personal berry story, but they sure all do have a story about baking with berries. What exactly makes a berry story? The personal touch – history, memory, like or dislike – that makes one want to eat or bake berries for their versatile and vibrant flavour, colour or content. My berry (and cherry and currant) story is as red as the berries themselves, full of love, family and strong emotions. In the village where my grandparents had lived their whole life and my auntie still lives, many of the locals own huge raspberry and fruit fields, making their living from picking and selling ripe, organic products. As a child, I had spent most of my summer berry seasons with my paternal grandfather, picking these luscious red jewels, including raspberries and red currants. I often talked about imagining love to be as red as the juice of fresh red currant – surprisingly sophisticated from my child self! – so then my grandfather told me a story.

It starred a young berry-picker woman. She was desperately in love with a man who she married, gave birth to three of his sons, only to find out she had a lover. She worked a lot picking berries to provide for her sons and when she fell ill, her husband cruelly said to her that should she die, her successor was already chosen. She was heartbroken, then her husband died suddenly. In the period of tuberculosis epidemic, sudden illness was not uncommon, often leaving poor babies orphaned. The young, loving woman than followed her beloved, unkind husband, died of her illness. The three boys were nurtured, truly loved and well treated by their late father’s ;over and her husband. Missing their caring, young mother, they often found comfort in picking berries. This year I picked berries from my auntie’s field. During the berry jam making, I asked my mother how did my family start growing berries, and my mother told me the story of my grandfather who was brought up by his late father’s lover….my berry story is, indeed, as red as love…

“Red is such an interesting colour to correlate with emotion, because it’s on both ends of the spectrum. On one end you have happiness, falling in love, infatuation with someone, passion, all that. On the other end, you’ve got obsession, jealousy, danger, fear, anger and frustration.” Taylor Swift

Berries, cherries and other fresh fruits, no matter the culture or the place of Earth, are sure the stars of many summer treats, some used more often and others. I love berries and currant to the point of insanity, but even in my kitchen red currents, I believe, are unfairly less fashionable. Even though the little jewels might be a little tart without a fair dash of sugar or syrup, they do look truly beautiful and are truly precious, packed with Vitamin C. These shiny little berries grow low on bushes, hanging from the branches like rows of miniature gems. Their flavour is distinctive and sweet enough to be eaten raw. They pair well with other berries and fruits, such as raspberries, strawberries and melon, and also host a sprinkle of lavender or mint perfectly. They can also be frosted with egg white and caster sugar and used as a decoration.

For the Gateau
6 large free-range eggs
150 g caster sugar
100 g self-raising flour, sifted
50 g cocoa powder, sifted
1 tbsp oil
The Berry Field Jam Filling
240 g mixed berries and red fruit(the mixture of strawberries, raspberries, red currant and sour cherries works beautifully)
A handful of fresh mint leaves
45 ml water
150 g sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
Cream Cheese Topping
720 ml heavy whipping cream, cold
150 g powdered sugar
1/2 tsp tsp mint extract
450 g cream cheese, chilled

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly grease a 22 cm cake tins and line the base with greased non-stick baking parchment. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, add the sugar, oil and whisk until the mixture is pale and thick enough to leave a trail when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl. Carefully fold in the sifted flour and cocoa powder. Turn the mixture into the prepared tins. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until the sponge well risen, springy to touch and beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Turn out onto a floured surface upside down to cool completely and peel off the parchment.

To make the berry field jam topping topping, add the berries, mint leaves and water to a food processor and puree until smooth. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in the berry puree. Cook over medium heat, stirring consistently until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 8-10 minutes. Allow to boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Refrigerate and allow to cool completely.

To make the cream cheese topping add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and lavender extract to a large bowl and whip on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the mascarpone cheese to the whipped cream and whip until stiff peaks form. It will happen fairly quickly. Set whipped frosting in the refrigerator.

To assemble the cake, use a large serrated knife to cut in three layers. Place the first layer of cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Pipe a dam of frosting around the outside of the cake. Spread half of the berry filling evenly on top of the cake layer, inside the dam. Add some additional mascarpone frosting to the top of the berry filling and spread into an even layer to fill in the remaining dam space. Add the second layer of cake and repeat the filling layer with the remaining berry filling and additional mascarpone frosting. Add the final layer of cake on top, then smooth out the frosting around the sides of the cake. Cover the outside of the cake, then add the chosen design. Finish off the cake with some swirls of c and cream and some fresh fruit.

“Red is for fire red is for love too it lies in our hand  what we wanna choose…” Shivangi Lavaniya

My Sourdough Story: Grandma’s Black Loaf

“To the loyal and to the blood-lovers, in the good families and in the fiery dynasties, life is family and family is life. It is the same people who give advice and their vices to live well who turn out to be the ones who give resource and reason to live long.” Criss Jami

Almost every sourdough-baker has their own story of bread-baking. Some filled with history, some filled with experiment, but, oh boy, all filled with both sadness and joy. I started baking at a very early age, so I had the majority of fails under the watchful eye of the family matriarchs, who guided me through – sometimes in a friendly manner, sometimes with ruthless rigour – all the mistakes I encountered around the kitchen desk. In my childhood-Eastern-Europe baking was a part of life, not some kind of fancy hobby, but way of and means to feeding a family’s stomach, heart and mind.
When I started to bake bread in my first own kitchen, my aim was to be a good wife by keeping things simple and authentic, so what better than to follow the trace of someone in the family, with my grandmother’s baking phenomena being the one. My grandmother’s culture was not at all like the popular 100 % hydration, wet-type sourdoughs of today, but it was a simple bone-dry ball of leftover dough that my grandma collected by scraping off the sides of the wooden dough bowl she made the bread in earlier. She kneaded it with some additional flour and left it to dry out on a little plate in the larder window. Two days before the baking process started, she soaked ‘The little Crumble’ (what she called it) in spring water, and there it was…live and fierce. This, she used for making a leaven, which then created the base of the final dough.
My sourdough story is full of history…and full of sadness. But that sadness does not originate from numerous fails (even though I had many), but it comes from the painful lack of love, nurture and advice, the late baking family members used to shower me in… They have gone and so many questions remained unasked. So many doughs remained unproven. So many techniques remained unwatched… Therefore, with every spoonful of flour, with every bake, with every heated oven, I still try to reapair the void, whilst trusting and praying that I would never bring shame on Grandma’s Loaf! And even though it may not be as wet, as full of air, as light as the engineered sourdoughs I pushed myself to make, it is hearty, filling and motivated by love.

“A house needs a grandma in it.” Louisa May Alcott

For the leaven:
1 tablespoon active sourdough starter
75 g white bread flour
75 g vegetable juice (used cucumber)
For the dough:
1 tablespoon salt
300-400 g water (dependent on type of flour)
125 g vegetable juice
2 tbsp poultry lard
350 g bread flour
350 g brown, wholegrain flour

For an active starter, if the sourdough has been in the fridge, take it out 2 to 3 days before using and feed it daily.
To make the leaven overnight: the night before making the dough, combine a tablespoon of active sourdough culture with the flour, vegetable juice and water for the leaven. Mix thoroughly to form a thick batter. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight, for about 12 hours.

To make the dough: Combine the salt and 50 grams of water in a small bowl. Set aside, stirring every so often to make sure the salt dissolves. Combine the leaven and the remaining liquid. Stir the flour into the water and leaven with a spatula. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. This is the autolysing stage where the flour is fully absorbing the water and enzymes in the flour begin breaking down the starches and proteins. Pour the dissolved salt over the dough. Work the liquid and salt into the dough by pinching and squeezing the dough. To fold the dough, grab the dough at one side, lift it up, and fold it over on top of itself. Fold the dough four times, moving clockwise from the top of the bowl (or giving the bowl a quarter turn in between folds). Let the dough rest 30 minutes, then repeat. Do this a total of 6 times, every half hour for a total of 2 1/2 hours. The dough will gradually smooth out and become tighter with each folding.
Let the dough rise undisturbed. Shape the dough into loose rounds with surface tension. Once the dough is shaped, let them rest for 20 to 30 minutes to relax the gluten again before final shaping. Prepare a bread proofing basket/colanders/mixing bowls, line it with clean dishtowels. Dust it heavily with flour. Dust the top of the ball of dough with flour. Flip it over, the tops and sides of the shaped loaves generously with flour. Place them into the proofing baskets upside down, so the seams from shaping are on top.
Let the dough rise 3 to 4 hours, or overnight in the fridge.
To bake heat the oven to 240°C. Place a heavy-bottomed pot with lids in the oven. Tip the loaf into the pot so the seam-side is down. Score in a slight angle using a lame or a sharp knife, cutting almost parallel to the surface of the loaf. Bake the loaves for 25 minutes covered, then reduce the oven temperature to 200-210°C and bake another 10 minutes. Remove the lids and continue baking 15 to 25 minutes. Continue baking until the crust is deeply browned. Lift the bread out of the pot and cool completely before cutting.

“A Grandmother thinks of her grandchildren day and night, even when they are not with her.She will always love them more than anyone would understand.” Karen Gibbs

The Art of The Paper-thin Pastry: Traditional Strudel and Baklava

“…wanted to leave the past a few hundred miles down the road, shake it off like dust. But that was the problem with the past. It kept finding…” Suzanne Woods Fisher

Creating new recipes, new combinations is an uplifting act for the creator-baker. Featuring unexpected combinations of flavours in classic baked goods always goes a long way, eaters will, and really will, talk about it… However, traditional, tried and solidly unchanged recipes of the past can be just as uplifting on their own way… Baklava, the syrupy, well-known and truly-loved treat of the East is a common discussion subject. Who made baklava first? The Greeks? The Turkish? Filo dough was not born in Greece, but rather in Istanbul during the Ottoman reign. Greeks claim creating the paper-thin version. In reality, there are filo-like pastries in various cuisines all over the world. A close relative to filo is pulled strudel dough… Pulled pastry or handmade strudel – just as sweet and syrupy as baklava – has a crackling quality missing from the machine-made variety.

Pulled Strudel (homemade filo pastry)
Ingredients (for 1 large roll)
For the dough
400g flour
1 egg
300 g lard
250 ml water
4 drops of vinegar
1 pinch of salt
For softening the dough inside and outside
200 g lard, melted
3 tbsp soured cream
For the filling
150 g sugar
200 g cooked pudding rice (prepared in milk)
700 g cherry compote or cherry preserve
Place the ingredients of the dough into a large bowl and knead until a soft, shiny and airy texture is achieved (at least ten minutes by hand).When ready, form two balls,oil them on the top and rest them in a slightly oiled, clean bowl for 20-30 minutes.

Take it out and lay on a well floured, large and dry kitchen towel. Dust it with flour underneath and on the top, then slowly, from the middle towards the outside start to pull, stretch the dough. From time to time place it back on the kitchen towel and gently blow underneath or wobble (ideally, this should be done by two people to avoid tears).

Stretch until a large square is achieved. Once pulled to desired size, drizzle some melted lard, then some soured cream on the dough. After the softening of the dough, layer the filling ingredients evenly. To form the strudel roll, firstly fold the longer sides of the dough in a little bit, then hold the kitchen towel and roll the dough towards the middle from both sides by gently lifting the towel underneath.

Place the roll with the aid of the kitchen towel (as it is too soft to lift) onto a oiled baking tray. Brush with the mixture of the leftover lard and soured cream and bake it in a hot oven (preheated to 210 degrees C) for about 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 160 degrees C, and bake for further 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy on the top. With wetter filling such as grated apple, the strudel may needs to be baked longer.

It is well known that the Turks brought baklava to Central Europe, but almost all the communities of the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans, Caucasia; Turks, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians introduced baklava as their national dessert. If considered that all of these regions once belonged to the Ottoman Empire, it is obvious to conclude that Baklava is an Ottoman dessert.

100 g hazelnuts, grated
100 g cashew nuts, grated
150 g sugar
150 g brown sugar
100 ml acacia honey
A large handful of fresh mint, chopped finely
Zest of an orange
Zest of a lemon
100 g walnuts,grated
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
200 g butter , melted
20 sheets/600-650 g of filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Place the sugars, honey, fresh mint and zests in a sauce pan together with 300 ml of water and bring to a gentle simmer. Let it bubble away, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by a third. Leave to cool completely before assembling. Before assembling mix the nuts with the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Lightly grease a shallow tin (about 20 x 40 cm) with the melted butter. Gently unfold the filo and cover with a damp tea towel to stop it cracking. Layer sheets of filo in the tin and brush each layer with melted butter. After 3 layers, scatter over some of the the nut mixture; repeat with layers of filo, then the rest of the nuts, until 4 layers of nuts achieved. Top with the last layers of filo, then generously butter the top. Cut into diamonds with a sharp knife – ensure the blade goes right to the bottom.
Bake on the middle shelf of the oven on a hot baking sheet for 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp, reducing the temperature to 170C/gas 3 if the baklava looks as though it is browning too quickly. Remove the baklava from the oven and spoon half the cooled syrup over the top. Leave for 5 minutes, then spoon over the remaining syrup. Allow the baklava to cool before removing the individual pieces from the dish with a palette knife.

These recipes, made with hand-pulled pastries, are kind of forgotten, because it’s not so easy to prepare the dough, therefore people buy it or they make something that reminds them of this kind of treats … but it’s never the same anymore. Making them the proper way though, is less about the pastry and more about connecting to a time before politics forced people to live the way they do, a link to the past…

“The past has been there all along, reminding us: This time–maybe, hopefully, against all odds, we will get it right.” Leslie T. Chang