Italian home-cooking can be explained in a simple equation: a few fresh ingredients + a bit of love = happy diners! This is always the case at my house, where we celebrate the abundance of the exquisite produce we get … Continue reading
Move over, white flour! The more recent diets trends have cast the spotilght on an ancient grain that has been enjoying a new-found popularity amongst home-bakers and those with a knack for healthy eating. Spelt, or dinkel wheat, contains a … Continue reading
Call them dumplings, gnudi or patties, these soft, zesty morsels will have you beam in delight at the very first bite. What could go wrong when you combine the milky richness of fresh ricotta (rigorously full cream!), with home-made breadcrumbs, zingy herbs and the warm piquancy of nutmeg? These delectable bites are delicately poached in a fresh tomato sauce ready to be devoured with a generous chunk of crusty bread or gently mixed through perfectly al dente spaghetti. Did I mention they are ridiculously easy to make?
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
For the Sugo
850 gr (2 lb) of fresh tomatoes (or 1 tin of good quality tinned tomatoes or your own Passata)
1-2 shallots (or 1 medium brown onion), finely chopped
4 tablespoons of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, skin on, bashed with back of a knife
1 small celery stick, finely chopped
salt flakes, to taste
a handful of basil leaves
For the dumplings
450 g (2 1/2 cups) full-cream ricotta (using low-fat ricotta won’t work…Live a little!)
1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
100–120gr (2/3 cups) of fresh breadcrumbs (simply place stale bread in a food processor and blitz until you have coarse breadcrumbs)
2/3 cup (50 g) freshly grated pecorino
1 good handful of chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
semolina flour for dusting
1. Start by making the sauce. Wash the tomatoes, score the top gently with a knife and blanch them in boiling water for 1 minutes. Plunge them into cold water to allow the skin to come off easily. Peel the tomatoes, chop them roughly and set aside.
2. Heat up the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Stir fry the shallots, celery and the garlic on medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the shallots turn translucent and slightly golden and the garlic smells fragrant. Drop in the chopped tomatoes with half a cup of water (or tinned tomatoes, if using. Or, if you’ve been amazingly good, your own Passata…), season with salt and cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and set aside. For a smoother sauce, blitz in a food processor for 4-5 seconds. Scatter some basil leaves on top and set aside.
3. Make the dumplings by mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl. The mixture needs to feel sticky, but workable. If too dry add a few tablespoons of milk. If too wet, add a little extra cheese or breadcrumbs.
4. Let the mixture sit in the fridge, covered with plastic film, to firm up for 30 minutes or overnight.
5. Shape the dumplings with wet hands, the size of a golf ball. Place them on an oven tray lined with baking paper and dusted with semolina flour until ready to cook.
6. Heat up the tomato sugo in a large pot of frying pan. Add a little water if it looks dry. When the sauce comes to a simmer, gently drop in the dumplings. Cover with a lid and let the steam cook them through, for about 5-6 minutes. Take the lid off and gently, using a wooden spoon, turn them over. They are extremely delicate, so be mindful! Cook for a further minute, uncovered then turn the heat off.
7. You can serve them immediately, although I find that they are better the next day, a little firmer in texture and all the flavours harmoniously combined.
Serve with crusty bread or freshly cooked pasta.
Have you been looking for a super healthy recipe that combines nutritional virtues with great flavor? Look no further! In the one bowl you have the antioxidant powers of tomatoes, the good, necessary fats of extra-virgin olive oil, the antibacterial boost of garlic and the mood-elevating kick of rosemary. Add to this blissful mix the low-in-fat-high-in-iron, gluten-free, vegan-friendly and utterly delicious cannellini beans and you have granted yourself a beauty treatment for the insides that is sure to show its mighty benefits on the outside too. Whomever said that Italian food is not healthy ought to think again….
INGREDIENTS, serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main meal accompanied with bread
600 gr (1.3 lb) of cherry tomatoes (I used mixed heirloom)
4 tablespoon of EVOO
2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar or verjuice are good substitutes)
A generous handful of mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
Salt, to taste
freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tin of Cannellini beans, well drained and rinsed (if using dried-and-soaked beans, 450 gr (1 lb) will be more than enough)
1. If using dried beans, start this recipe a day ahead. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, place them in a pot well covered in water, throw in some herbs and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the beans in the cooking liquid, taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Set aside until ready to use.
2. Preheat your oven to 160 C (320 F).
3. Put the washed tomatoes in a large bowl, leave some whole and cut the rest in half. Season with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Mix well.
4. Pour the tomato mix onto a large roasting tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until blistered, but still intact. Add the well-drained beans to the tomatoes while that are still warm, taste for seasoning and fix as required.
5. Serve warm as a side dish or accompanied by toasted sourdough for a more substantial meal.
- Rocket and Parmesan Plus Salad With Cannellini Bean Puree (ifib.wordpress.com)
- Budget recipe: lamb, rosemary and cannellini beans with cabbage (telegraph.co.uk)
- Balsamic-cannellini Bean Tuna Salad (tamaraleighauthor.wordpress.com)
- Cannellini Bean Soup with Sausage (thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com)
As much as it is true that one should not judge a book by its cover, you can safely go about life judging a good Ciabatta by the holes in its crumb! And this is one particular instance when size does matter: the bigger the holes, the better the loaf…The secret to a perfect Ciabatta is in the percentage of water in the dough, a dough that is sticky, wet and fun to manipulate. This is not your classic “knead for ten minutes” dough. In fact, you hardly have to knead it at all. So, where’s the catch? No, catch. Ciabatta, it turns out, is a home-baker’s new best friend.
INGREDIENTS , if using dry yeast
450 gr (3 3/4 cups) of flour
350 ml (1 1/4 cup) water at room temperature
a tablespoon of olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoon of dry yeast
2 teaspoons of salt
1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, water oil and yeast. When the yeast is well incorporated, add the salt.
2. Mix with you hands for a few minutes or until the dough is amalgamated and slightly elastic. It will be sticky and wet. Put in an oiled bowl to prove for 30 minutes, then stretch it with wet hands and fold it onto itself and leave to rest. At this stage you have two options: place the covered bowl in the fridge to slow prove overnight , or for a minimum of 10 hours, or prove at room temperature, in a warm spot, for a further 1 1/2-2 hours or until doubled in size. Slow proving will add flavour and will ensure you a moist soft crumb, but you will still have a worthy ciabatta if you skip that stage. Up to you and your own time management, really! Once the dough has proven, you will notice that lovely air bubbles will have formed. Don’t burst them, they hold the secret to the formation of those coveted holes.
3. Place a metal bowl or a small skillet in the oven and bring the oven temperature to to 200 C (395 F)
4. Gently and with caution, tip the risen, bubbly dough onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Roughly give it an oval shape and dust it with a little flour. Insert the tray into the hot oven, pour a glass of cold water into the skillet to create steam, close the oven door and bake for 30-35 minutes or until risen, golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. You may need to flip the bread upside down to ensure even baking according to your oven. Cool at room temperature over a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing away to reveal that holey, moist crumb.
You can also make Ciabatta using an active sourdough starter. The flavour and longevity of your bread will be incomparably better.
Follow this link if you wish to make your sourdough starter
In a large non-metal bowl mix 230 gr (1 cup) of sourdough, 380 (3 cups) gr of plain flour and 260 ml (1 cup) of filtered water at room temperature and a tablespoon of olive oil. When the ingredients are well amalgamated, add 2 teaspoonsof salt and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover your bowl with either a lid or oiled cling wrap and let it rest overnight. Be mindful not to leave your dough to prove in a drafty spot. In the morning your dough will have more than doubled its volume. Using a spatula, scrape it onto an oven tray lined with grease-proof paper, dust the top with a little flour and let it prove for an hour or two. The proceed as step 4. You will find that your ciabatta will not puff up much in the oven, it will stay quite flat, like a slipper, hence its name (ciabatta means slipper in Italian)
As hard as it will be, allow to cool down before you attempt to slice it…
- Sourdough Starter (mizrhi.wordpress.com)
- Pane Alle Olive (myitaliansmorgasbord.wordpress.com)
- Consistency vs Improvement: a Baker’s Dilemma? (drfugawe.wordpress.com)
- Sourdough loaf (dailydouq.wordpress.com)
- Ciabatta: Andando Italiano (aspirepatissier.wordpress.com)
- A veggie Focaccia (stefanoberuschi.wordpress.com)
- greek olive ciabatta – poolish version (thesweetzucchini.com)
As the Holy Week marches on, I feel the urge to get my hands in more festive doughs! What could be better than home-made hot cross buns and scrolls? With the warm tang of cinnamon, the liveliness of orange peel and the opulence of chocolate, they are definitely going to be on offer at my Easter table this year.
For the ferment:
1 tablespoon of dry yeast
150 ml (2/3 cup) ml lukewarm milk
1 tablespoon honey
100 gr (3/4 cup+1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Dissolve the yeast in milk. Stand for 5 minutes then add the other ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
Cover with a tea towel and rest for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size
250 gr (2 cups) of all-purpose flour
50 gr (1/4 cup) of soft butter, cubed
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
100 (1/2 cup) gr of sugar
3 tablespoons of floured, mixed peel
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
4 tablespoon of flour
2 tablespoon of water
Mix together of form a soft, pliable dough
1 egg+2 tablespoon of milk
Beat egg with milk and brush on the buns just before baking
1/3 of a cup ml of milk, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Simmer of milk with 2 sugar and cinnamon.
Stir until sugar is dissolved and the glaze is slightly reduced.
1. In a large bowl, or using a stand mixer, add flour to the ferment, then the butter, a little at a time, the spices and the sugar. The dough will be a little dry at this stage.
2. Add 1 egg and knead for 15 minutes or until the dough is smooth and silky and is see-through if stretched with your fingers. Shape the dough into a ball and rest, covered with a tea towel for 20 minutes.
3. Stretch the dough with floured hands to shape a rectangle.
4. Sprinkle the surface with mixed peel and chocolate and roll the dough tightly, as if rolling up a cigar. Shape back into a ball and leave to prove in a floured bowl for 2-3 hours.
5. Stretch the dough one more time, fold it into three then shape into a log. Cut the log into 6. Shape 3 pieces into long ropes, roll them up to resemble snails and leave them to rest onto an oven try lined with baking paper. Shape the remaining 3 pieces into balls and place them next to one another on the oven tray.
6. Make the paste for the crosses. Roll it up and place on top of the balls in a criss-cross patters.
7. Leave to prove for 45 minutes.
8. Heat your oven to 180 C (340 F)
9. Glaze the buns and the scrolls with egg wash and bake for 20/25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
10. While the oven does its job, make the milk glaze.
Take the buns and scrolls out of the oven, brush the milk glaze over them and allow to cool on a rack, at room temperature.
- Easter Hot Cross Buns (kylielovescooking.wordpress.com)
- Week 26 – Mary Berry’s Hot Cross Buns (lewisandkim.com)
- HOT CROSS BUNS – “Power Foods Diet” has created a delicious recipe – start baking now – Embrace Easter! (powerfoodsfitness.com)
- ‘One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns’ – traditional Hot Cross Buns recipe for Easter! (irishcentral.com)
- An English Hot Cross Bun (cutoutandkeep.net)
- Baking Mad with hot cross scones (lornastearoomdelights.com)
Happy 2012 to all!
Given my self-confessed obsession for yeasted baked goods, it only makes sense that the first post of the year is -yet another- bread recipe. I have been experimenting with doughs and flours and I really wanted to offer you an alternative to hand or machine kneading, and it turns out that some breads can be mixed in a food processor! No hard work+no floury mess= amazingly good bread rolls with a soft, moist crumb.
1x 7gr (0,2 oz) sachet of dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup water
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
500 gr (3-3/4 cup) all purpose flour (or Italian 00 flour)
1-2 rosemary sprig
2 teaspoons salt
2 handfuls of pitted olives
1. Stir the dry yeast in lukewarm water. Stand for 10 minutes until the liquid appears slightly creamy, than add1/2 cup of water and oil
2. Place flour, a scant handful of rosemary springs and salt in a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, cover with the lid and pulse a few times to combine the flour with the salt. Gradually add the yeast+olive oil liquid until it starts to combine. At this stage the dough will look quite dry. Don’t be tempted to add water or oil as the olives you are about to scatter through it will add a lot of moisture.
3. Sprinkle in the olives (I used green Sicilian and black Ligurian olives) and pulse until the dough starts to gather into a slightly sticky ball. If you think your dough it too wet, you can sprinkle a little extra flour. Likewise, if your dough isn’t moist enough, add a table-spoon of water or another couple of olives.
4. When the dough easily detaches from the sides of the bowl, take it out, dust it with a little flour, shape it into a ball and leave it to rest, well covered, until it doubles in size. In warm weather this will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours, allow a little longer if it’s cold.
5. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, shape them into balls and place them to prove on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Be sure to allow some room for the rolls to grow. You can use this dough to bake loaves as well, as pictured below.
6. Allow to rise for a further hour. In the meantime bring your oven to 200 Celsius (390 Farenheit). Bake your rolls for about 20 minutes or until they look slightly golden and sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.
Serve with pecorino and salame or simply devour them as there are…
Baguettes are, quite possibly, the western world’s most-loved bread. The reason being that this starchy good, with its morish texture and savoury crumb is simply and utterly divine…It’s the ideal accompaniment to any cheese and cold cut of meat, it’s best friend with terrines and pâtés and it doesn’t fail to impress when married with jams or chocolate spreads. It’s practically perfect in every way…Apart from the fact that, unless you are in France or you own an industrial strength oven and proving cell, it is very difficult to re-create at home. Lucky for you, I am a bread-obsessed woman, and I have spent the last few weeks attempting to adjust various baguette recipes to suit my very normal oven and kitchen appliances. I have had many disappointments, and then eventually, last Sunday..Eureka! I cracked it. I cannot wait to share this with you, bread-lovers worldwide. For those of you as obsessed (read “insane”) as I am, I have worked out a recipe that uses natural sourdough yeast. But I have not forgotten the rest of you, probably a much saner percentage of readers, who will never go through the trouble of cultivating natural yeast for weeks and would rather use the readily available dried one. It’s good news all round: the bread will turn out incredibly good, no matter which rising agent you decide to use.
Where’s the catch?… You have to be patient and let the dough prove for, at least 8 hours. Mix it at night before you go to bed, forget about it, than shape your sticks in the morning, prove them for another couple of hours, and for your Sunday lunch you will have your much deserved reward.
220 gr (1 cup) of sourdough starter or 1/2 teaspoon of dry yeast
410 gr (3 1/2 cups) flour (baker’s or 00)
210 ml (3/4 cup) of filtered water, at room temperature
1 teaspoon of diastatic malt powder (or barley malt syrup, or honey)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
semolina flour for dusting
1. In a large non-metallic bowl, mix the sourdough starter or the dried yeast with flour, a teaspoon of diastatic malt (or barley malt syrup -or honey-) and water.
2.When the starter/yeast is well incorporated add salt and oil.
3. Mix it with a wooden spoon just so the ingredients are amalgamated. The dough shouldn’t be too smooth, nor elastic. In fact, it should feel a little rough and slightly damp.
4. Cover the bowl with a lid or with cling wrap. Prove at room temperature for 8 to 14 hours. You will observe that in very warm climate, and if using dried yeast, the dough will bulk prove quicker than in colder climate.
5. When the dough has tripled in size and looks bubbly, gently tip it onto a floured surface. It will feel quite sticky. Do not panic! Grab a small handful of flour and delicately work the dough to turn it a bit more pliable, being mindful never to actually knead it. It is important not to over work the gluten in the flour otherwise your bread will turn out too dense. Also, you don’t want to knock out those precious air bubbles as they hold the secret to a light-as-a-feather crumb and crunchy crust. Gently flatten the dough with the palm of your hand then roll it onto itself, lenghtways, and form a long sausage shape, seam side down and slightly narrower at the extremities. At this stage, you can sprinkle them poppy or sesame seeds, if that takes your fancy.
6. Prove for two hours at room temperature, on a tea towel dusted with semolina flour, and well covered. Then, carefully tip the logs into a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Rest for another 20 minutes and bring your oven to 200 Celsius (390 Farenheit). Place a metal bowl in the oven to heat up.
7. Score the sticks with a sharp knife quickly, yet gently, place the tray into the oven and pour a cup of cold water onto the metal bowl, to create steam. Close the oven door immediately after. The steam will favour the creation of a moist crumb and a crackly, bronzed crust.
Bake for 25/30 minutes or until the top looks crusty and golden and the bottom looks sunburnt and slightly rusty in colour.
Your home will smell like like a French bakery…
Silvia’s Cucina is submitting this post to yeastspotting
- Bretzels (silviascucina.wordpress.com)
- Focaccia Pugliese (home-made focaccia Apulian style) (silviascucina.net)
- Sourdough Starter (prepperpenny.com)
- Homemade Sourdough Bread (mpcasavant.wordpress.com)
- Christmas-ish Bread (deguello.org)
I feel the need to specify authentic because I am afraid l there is an overall misconception about what focaccia is and should be.
Focaccia should not be thick or doughy. I have encountered so many of this kind, such disappointing, heavy-as lead thick breads so wrongly called Focaccia, that I am now compelled to speak for its true identity and get rid of this misapprehension once and for all. Focaccia is its own thing and it’s one of the most recognized marvels of Liguria, a God-blessed region in north-west Italy. It is light, airy, bouncy and ever-so-satisfying. Each little (or big!) bite, so well seasoned with salt and ligurian extra-virgin olive oil is a joy for the palate. Focaccia is said to have been created by the masterful Genovese artisan bakers and to this day all Italians young and old know that it is in Genova and the nearby villages that you will find the best Focaccia. In Italy we love it so much we mostly eat it plain, fresh from the oven, warm and inviting. I have finally managed to snatch the recipe from my brother, a professional Chef who made Focaccia daily when he worked at “Il Genovese” , in Milan in the late 90′s. This recipe is so great I have been baking trays for two days straight…
Can you blame me though?
1 tablespoon of dried yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon of barley malt syrup or honey
320 gr (2 3/4 cups) 00 or plain flour
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of salt
For the glaze : 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil , 1 tablespoon of water.
1. In a large bowl dissolve yeast with water, add flour, oil and barley malt syrup or honey. Knead for 5 minutes, then add the salt.
2. Knead vigorously until it looks smooth and elastic (feel free to use an electric mixer with a dough hook).
3. Shape into a ball and rest for 20 minutes in a bowl, covered with a tea towel.
4. Stretch it with your hand to form a rectangle and fold into 3 or 4. This step will give strength and texture to your dough and is essential in order to obtain a soft, airy and chewy focaccia.
5.Place the folded dough in an oiled oven tray, cover it with a tea-towel and let it prove for around 90 minutes or until it doubles in size.
6. Once the dough has risen, stretch it out to cover the tray and sprinkle the surface with seasalt.
7. Let it rest for another 30 minutes, than, using your fingertips, press the dough down onto the tray to create lots of little holes.
8. Drizzle the holes with the glaze and sprinkle with some more salt. You can top it with caramelized onion or cherry tomatoes if you wish, but , believe me, this is already amazing as it is.
9. Let it rest for another 20 minutes.
10. Bring your oven to 200 C (390 F), then bake for 20-25 minutes until it looks slighly golden and utterly irresistible…
- Bretzels (silviascucina.wordpress.com)
- Focaccia Pugliese (home-made focaccia Apulian style) (silviascucina.net)
- The Ultimate Focaccia (korenainthekitchen.com)
- Focaccia, Revisited (loavesandstitches.wordpress.com)
Before you venture into the exciting world of sourdough baking, let me give you a word of warning: this method is not meant to be approached if you need instant gratification. Sourdough-making is a labour of love and it requires dedication, constance and patience. The mature and robust flavour of sourdough can only be obtained by proving the dough for a a very long time, and by that I mean something around 12 to 18 hours. And this is only after you have manage to create a living wild yeast…Why would anybody even attempt to make it at home then? The answer is that sourdough making is an addictive pleasure, one you may never get rid of… These days I am committed to travel 40 km to source the finest ground milled baker’s flour, I plan my outings according to my starter’s feeding schedule and I have managed to initiate several friends to this ancient ritual, so that, in the event of a cataclysm and my starter cases to live, its offering still lives in someone else’s kitchen.. You do believe me now when I said I was addicted!
First off, let’s talk about the yeast, which is the rising agent of your bread. Making your own is relatively easy, but it requires daily care and attention. The principle is that if you mix flour and water in a bowl, the bacteria in the air and in the flour will react together creating a living organism that will then be fed by those same bacteria to become strong and lively. Like all living things yeast requires regular feeds and care in order to grow healthy and vigorous. You can create a sourdough starter, which is Italian is called Pasta Madre (mother dough) in about 10 days and , if kept well, it can last forever. And I mean forever. I know of some bakeries in Italy that have been using the same Pasta Madre for centuries. Talk about legacy! Once you succeed in creating the wild yeast, you have to sustain it to help it stay alive and strong. The flavour of your bread will be determined by the strength and fermentation of your starter. The older and the stronger your starter, the better tasting you bread will be. There are many methods you can try to follow in order to create you Pasta Madre. I have read countless books and spoken to many bread-making folks and I have had many more failures than I wish to recall. This is because each yeast will be slightly different from the next, therefore you have to take all tips and advise with a grain of salt and learn to trust your instinct. The method below is relatively quick and easy and it is tried and tested by me, and produces a lovely, crusty bread. I noticed that the more mature it gets, the better loaf it produces. I am looking forward to tasting my bread in the years to come, if I don’t kill my starter, that is!
HOW TO MAKE YOUR PASTA MADRE or STARTER or SOURDOUGH YEAST (they are all the same thing…)
In a large plastic bowl mix together 120 gr (1 cup) plain or baker’s flour with 95 ml (1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons) of filtered water at room temperature and 1 teaspoon of honey or barley malt. The sugars will kick-start the fermentation process. Cover with a lid and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
You will notice your dough will have risen slightly and may have already formed small bubbles. Get rid of half of the dough and add 50 gr of flour (1/2 cup) and 40 ml (1/4 cup) of filtered water.
Repeat for 8 days. Every day you will notice the starter will grow bigger and develop more bubbles. It will smell a little like a cross between lemon juice and alcohol.
Day 10 – it’s alive!
This is the day your yeast will officially be born and may be used to mix your first loaf. You need to ‘refresh’ it and give it strength and vigor for your bread to rise. In simple terms, you need to feed it.
As soon as you wake up in the morning, discard 100 g of the ferment then add 2/3 cup (100 g) plain flour and 90 ml water. Cover with a lid and rest for 3 hours.
Feed your ferment 2/3 cup (100 g) plain flour and 90 ml water. Cover with a lid and rest for 3 hours.
Feed your ferment 2/3 cup (100 g) plain flour and 90 ml water. Cover with a lid and rest for 3 hours.
After it has rested, your yeast will look healthy, airy and full of bubbles (in colder climate this may take longer than 3 hours). It will have a slightly sour, yet pleasant smell. Congratulations! You have succeeded in making a living wild yeast. You can now use it to mix your first loaf.
How to maintain your lievito madre
The wild yeast you have created will happily live in your fridge, stored in an airtight plastic container. You will have to feed it at least once a week to keep it healthy and alive. If you don’t have time to mix a loaf, but only need to give your starter some dinner, rest it at room temperature for 30 minutes, then discard one third. Add 1/3 cup (50 g)/4 tablespoons plain flour and 40 ml (or 2 tablespoons) of filtered water (at room temperature) for every 100 g of yeast you have left (aim to always have at least 100 g yeast in your container). Mix with a wooden spoon or a chopstick, cover the container with its lid and stick it back in the fridge until next time. A well-kept yeast will live a long, prolific life. Some Italian bakeries are known to be using centuries-old lievito madre. As a rule of thumb, the older your yeast, the more flavoursome your bread will be. No wonder sourdough bread is so good!
SOURDOUGH LOAF RECIPE (Pane di casa):
240 gr (1 cup) starter
500 gr (4 cups) organic flour
300 ml (1 cup 1/4) filtered water
6 gr (2 teaspoons) of salt
A teaspoon of honey or barley malt (optional)
1. Mix flour and water in a large ceramic or plastic bowl with a wooden spoon, and let it rest for about 1 hour. This process is called Autolayse and it allows for flavour and texture to develop. It is not a mandatory step, but I recommend it.
2. Add your starter and knead for about 5 minutes, then add salt and honey , if using any. Knead well for about 10 minutes, until your dough is smooth and silky.
Shape it into a ball and let it rest, covered, for 20 minutes, then stretch it gently with your hands to form a rectangle and fold into three. This process will give your dough strength and texture.
3. Cover with oiled cling wrap and let it prove in a warm place for 3 to 4 hours.
Kead again, gently, for a minute , fold into three and shape into a ball and then place it a proving basket or a colander lined with a tea towel and dusted with semolina. Rest it the fridge covered, with a moist cloth, to slowly prove for 12 hours. I normally put it in the fridge at night before dinner and forget about until the next day. You can leave it to slow prove in the fridge for a few days, if you wish so. This process is called Retardation and it will develop the fermented flavour of the crumb and the characteristic crunchiness of the crust.
4. The next morning, leave your dough at room temperature for at least 2 hours. It should grow in size by 1/3 third.
5. Preheat you oven to 200C (390 F). Place a small metal bowl in the oven to heat up. Gently, turn the bread onto an oven tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle it with a little water and score it in a X pattern. Immediately insert the tray into the even, pour a cup of cold water into the metal bowl to create steam and close the oven door. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until crusty and bronzed, the bottom sounds hollow when tapped and the fragrance of freshly baked bread is intoxicating. Rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour before slicing.