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Archive for September 2008

The pesto of Nonna Stella (and how not to do stuff)

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‘Il Pesto della Nonna Stella’, recently spotted on Zorra’s ‘Kochtopf’ as well as on ‘Culinaria Italia’ is a paste made from five ingredients – onions, carrots, celery, parsley, basil. If you don’t count the olive oil. Preferably of the highest quality you can find and which is abundant in Nonna Stella’s kitchen, of course. You can watch Nonna, a charming resolute Italian woman making her pesto in this video (or watch below).

As Zorra points out, this pesto is not used like the Pesto Genovese and mixed directly with the pasta, instead, it should be warmed a little in the pan first and then other ingredients can be added, for the sugo or soup. Stored in a jar and sealed with olive oil, it is supposed to keep for 3-4 months.

Hm, interesting side note. Loud noises affect eye sight. Blitzing the vegetables, basil and parsley, I did not see the smoke coming from the mixer. I think I smelled it but thought it was the onion, whch sometimes gives off a sulphurous aroma. The stalks of the parsley had embraced the head of the mixer. I hope it will be okay for the next round – Anna Forno’s Herb Pesto! (#1, #2, #3)


Written by theinversecook

30 September 2008 at 21:51

Berliner short sour

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Typically, German bakers want to maintain a high level of acidity in a healthy rye sourdough. The tendency to make bitingly sour breads is not to everybody’s liking, so I’ve heard (shrug). The ‘Berliner Kurzsauer’ (cf. German Wikipedia entry) is a way to quickly develop moderate acidity in a very wet sourdough in a warm environment within a few hours. For getting this quick sourdough going, 20% of mature sourdough coulture is used in this one-stage build. For the final dough, adding commercial yeast is recommended, because yeast multiplication cannot be rushed that easily in such a way. You could rise the bread by adding a white leaven, of course.

The resulting loaf is a very mild rye sourdough bread. Shelf life of loaves made by the Berliner Kurzsauer is a bit shorter than that of breads made with a conventional 18-hour-sourdough. I baked a big loaf so it would not dry out as quickly. Eating it, I believe this type of bread is sometimes sold as ‘Mengbrot’. I don’t think these kinds of breads are made frequently in German bakeries, because 3 hours of doing nothing or getting up 3 hours before the shift will not excite the shop owner or head baker. Overnight batters are probably an easier way to have the dough ready “pünktlich” on time. But flavorwise, a very friendly bread, if there is such a thing.

Berliner Brot

Sourdough build

  • 140g rye flour
  • 120g warm water, 35°C
  • 30g mature rye sourdough culture, hydration: 100%

Let stand at 35°C for 3 hours or until the domed top of the dough starts to sink in the center. At 30°C this will take about 75 minutes more (15 minutes per 1°C below 35°C).


  • Sourdough build
  • 60g rye flour
  • 300g strong white flour
  • Enough water to make an elastic dough, approx. 230g, yielding a total hydration of 71%
  • 5g fresh yeast
  • 9g sea salt

Develop gluten well for a good lift in the oven.
Bulk fermentation: 60 minutes at room temperature
Final fermentation: 1 – 1.5 hours at room temperature

Written by theinversecook

28 September 2008 at 21:47

Apricot and wheatgerm loaf

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Gosh! Believe it or not, this blog is mentioned in today’s Guardian newspaper, in the Weekend Magazine. Blame a sudden rupture of the spacetime continuum, but it is true. Dan Lepard, baker extraordinaire from London, whose name is mentioned on my blog mostly in connection with key words like “great bread” or “awesome book”, has found very kind words for my notes from a German baking kitchen. I feel really humbled. (Currently 14 minutes and 32 seconds of fame left.)

Link to the recipe on the Guardian website

Link to the recipe in the forum on Dan Lepard’s site, if you have questions you would like to ask him

I had written a note about an article that says if you just add a tiny amount of date purée to bread dough, volume and shelf life of the finished bread are increased. The article speaks of 3% extra volume, which does not sound like much. It isn’t much. In a glass of water you would not notice a 3% increase of volume. But if volume of bread acts as an indicator for aeration of the crumb (I think it does), this seems to be a technique to keep in mind. Maybe add the date paste to a quick pre-ferment and enjoy the boost it gives the yeast?

In this recipe, Dan Lepard went a little further in the way that the dates do not act as the cited “paste imrpvoer” but make for a deeper date flavor. Modern bakers, instead of just adding the chopped ingredients to the dough, like to layer the flavors and incorporate softened or cooked dried fruits to improve the taste. The shelf life of such a loaf is also better than one baked without the purée. When I baked this loaf, which was a cinch, I found that the crunch of the sesame made for a sharp contrast to the soft, not too sweet bread crumb. A very good fruit loaf.

Written by theinversecook

27 September 2008 at 14:11

Grainy rye meal bread

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This is a rather grim looking monolith. Somewhere along the way, adding ingredients to my bigger mixing bowl, I was not sure if the dough was shapable into a free-standing loaf. It was rather messy. Wet hands helped and the messiest doughs always make good breads.

Strongly flavored, ready to be slathered with liverwurst or topped with spicy cheeses, this bread obviously does not provide a wonderbread experience. A moist dark crumb with a grainy bite, surrounded by a thick crust, that takes a big serrated knife and a strong person to cut through. Better not do it before it has rested for at least 24 hours to let the crumb set and make the cooked pasty dough lose its gumminess. A bread that gets better each day. For a week or so.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by theinversecook

25 September 2008 at 21:17

Posted in Bao, Bread, Brot, food, pain, pane, Recipe

Baking stones. Thick = Bad. Thin = Good.

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Regarding sobering observations: Having replaced my lovely unglazed quarry tiles (~ 1cm in thickness) with shamot firebricks (~ 3cm in thickness), I was ready to enjoy a bread baked on a very smooth surface which was supposed to give me the oven spring I got used to with the quarry tiles.

The firebrick needed hours to heat up properly and even then the bottom of a test loaf was pale and soggy. No fun. Back to the thin tiles that heat up on the fly to roaring temperatures and back to taking care that the bottom of the bread will not burn. I love it.

Written by theinversecook

20 September 2008 at 18:13