bread · sourdough

Improvising with Sourdough Bread or Being Lazy?

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

I’ve grown lazy enough these days to start baking without a recipe. This concerns both bread and sweet things. Not all of my free-baking experiments are successful but I guess I get some extra pleasure from those which do happen to be successful. And there’s always this risky feeling of experimenting which I do enjoy!

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

So what I do is feed my rye sourdough culture with rye flour + water and then after an overnight rest I divide it and use the larger amount for the rye bread and a smaller for white bread. Sometimes if I just need some white bread, I feed the culture with white flour.

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

Thanks to the now mature sourdough culture (been using it since 2011) I usually do no add any yeast, but this time I wanted a more ‘fluffy’ result with my white bread, so I added a bit of instant yeast to the dough. I also tend to overload my bread with seeds and bran, so sometimes it all results in quite a dense and moist crumb, just like this time when I also added rye malt:

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

Oh, breaking this just-out-of-the-oven bread is so very tantalizing!

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

Of course the rye version which I make with rye flour + all-purpose / whole-wheat flour does not rise as much in the oven – although it does rise a lot before baking, as this rye flour is so very reactive!

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

If you’re looking for a perfect sourdough bread recipe, it doesn’t exist. I mean, you should probably just figure it our for yourself. I ‘created’ mine out of Darnitsky bread recipe which I’ve been using for quite a long time already.

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

For me, the best formula is to take several tablespoons of sourdough culture from the fridge, feed it with about 200 g of water and 200 of rye flour, then leave it overnight. At this point you can either split it for two breads or make one large loaf. Then I add about 200 g of water, 200 g or more of rye flour, more or less the same amount of white flour, salt, various extras like wheat, oat or rye bran, coriander, sunflower, pumpkin or flax seeds, oatmeal, rye malt, sometimes honey etc. I try to achieve a sort of thickish dough so that it will keep the shape, if it’s going to be rye bread it will be sticky but you should be able to fold it and almost knead it. I then leave it covered for more than an hour, sometimes I make several folds and leave it for some more time to rest (rise). I then flour a glass bowl, shape the bread into a round loaf, flour it and place it in the bowl. Alternatively, I make rolls if I see that the dough (usually with more white flour than rye) is quite easy to shape. I leave it to rise for yet another hour covered and preheat the oven to 225 ‘C with a pan on the bottom (for steam) and a reversed tray in the middle (it acts as a baking stone for me). I then reverse the loaf onto a baking mat / paper, make several slashes and slide it onto the hot tray. I pour some water into the pan on the bottom to create steam (not much so that it evaporates and I don’t need to take the pan out during the baking). I usually do not change the temperature but if I see that the loaf is browning too much, I might decrease the temperature or move it to a lower rack. The baking takes from 25-30 minutes (for the rolls) to 45-50 for the loaf.

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

This might not sound as a very precise formula but then this is what I call experimenting with the sourdough! You never know even with a perfect recipe whether your bread will come out right or not, because this living thing called sourdough culture can have its moods 🙂

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

What’s your personal sourdough bread formula?

Adding this post to Sourdough bread collection.

G.

bread · Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Greek: Grandma’s Cheese Pies and Homemade Village Bread

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

I’ve got two Greek recipes to share with you: cheese pies and bread. Both recipes call for whole-wheat flour which in Greece is not that very common unless you really turn to home or rather village cooking. And that’s exactly what I like in cooking – let’s walk on the rustic side of it!

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

1 year ago – Italian Sourdough Bread with Potatoes and Herbs

2 years ago – Sunflower Seed Rye Sourdough or We Need Sun Here

3 years ago – Thessaloniki

4 years ago – Mangoes and Rye to Welcome Spring

(Greek) Grandma’s Cheese Pies or Tiropitakia tis giagias (Τυροπιτάκια της γιαγιάς) translated and adapted from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com will make lots of pies with rubbery cheese filling – a Greek version of hand pies. Beware (:) the entire recipe will make about 40 big pies! I halved the recipe and yet got about 2 trays of pies 🙂 See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Greek yogurt case – was not sure about the volume so added about a cup for 500 g flour, using a mixture of milk and kefir
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup olive oil + added salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 700 g Feta, crumbled with a fork – I used a 250 g pack of 5% fat tvorog (cottage cheese) + 290g Adygea cheese (for all three fillings) + fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Second filling was some cooked millet and third – Adygea cheese + green onions, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Procedure:

Mix flour with yogurt (I would suggest adjusting the amount of liquid accordingly), soda, eggs and oil. Knead well and divide into pieces (I also let the dough rest about 20 minutes which made it softer). Roll each piece into a round disk and place a spoonful of the filling on one side. Cover the filling with the other side of the disk and pinch the edges. You should get crescent-shaped pies (I also tried other shapes, see remarks). Place the pies on a greased baking tray (I used a silicon mat) and bake at 200 ‘C for 20 minutes (before baking I sprinkled the pies with some water).

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Remarks: My pies took exactly 20 minutes to bake – no matter what shape I used. First I thought about making small pies just like pelmeni (or Russian ravioli) but soon got tired of all the rolling, cutting and pinching, so made medium-small pies with the rest of the dough. And I should really warn you that we’re dealing here with a truly Greek recipe that will feed all your relatives! 🙂 So I would suggest making only half of the dough recipe or you might end up with no filling! Even with half of the dough I still had to invent more filling options thus adding fresh herbs (rosemary was good!) and using both cottage cheese and soft white cheese.

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Result: I tried the smaller pies right out of the oven – they were hot (apparently) and rather rubbery with all the soft cheese inside. If you’re using real Feta (lucky you!) I bet your pies will be quite salty and won’t need any special spicy twist to them (the dough might seem a bit bland even with the added salt). You can serve these as a starter – or if you make them big as the author suggests, they can become your lunch or dinner! 

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

***

Homemade Village Bread

I’m still looking forward to finding that very recipe which will result in the super soft and super whole-wheat rustic bread I ate almost each day at the free (!) student canteen in Thessaloniki. Gosh, even my parents remember it! 🙂 I guess the thing was in the flour which was rough but yet gave that wonderful flavour to the bread. And it was soft too – with a crunchy crust. Oh, that bread was perfect… So here’s what I call the Greek size:

Homemade Village Bread

Homemade Village Bread or Khoriatiko psomi spitiko viologiko (Χωριάτικο ψωμί σπιτικό βιολογικό) translated and adapted from www.sintagespareas.gr will make a huge flagrant bread with super soft crumb and yet all those healthy bran bits inside. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg ‘village’ flour (whole wheat) – made a mixture of whole wheat + all purpose + wheat and rye bran + some oats for the topping
  • 2 packages of instant dried yeast – used less
  • 500 ml lukewarm water – had to use more
  • 1 shot of olive oil (Greek, please!)
  • 2 tsp salt

Procedure:

In a big plastic bowl (not necessarily🙂 mix all the flour with the yeast. Add salt and gradually pour in the lukewarm water, mixing well with your hands (yep, that’s how you do it!). Knead vigorously so that it becomes soft. Cover the bowl with a towel and a blanket (I just used plastic). Leave the dough to double in size in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

Then add the oil and knead well again. Place the dough in a greased and floured baking pan (preferably a large thick non-stick pan or tray). Slash the surface (I also brushed it with olive oil + sprinkled oats). Preheat the oven to 180 ‘C for 10 minutes, place the bread on the middle rack and bake it for about an hour (I had to move it to the lower rack at the end and baked just 55 min.).

When the bread is ready, take it out of the oven and out of the pan and leave it on a rack so that it gets rid of all the moisture inside.

Homemade Village Bread

Remarks: With all its Greek dimensions the bread did bake through! However, if you’re not planning to gobble this entire loaf at once (which you will surely do if you try just a bit!) and would prefer to freeze a part of it, I would suggest baking two loaves out of this recipe. I eventually cut the bread in – still – huge pieces and froze them. Beware of the burning top – I had to move the pan to the lower rack as the oats started burning and the voluminous top was menacing to reach the upper heater.

Homemade Village Bread

Result: The crumb is really very soft – and crumbly while the crust is… you get it, crusty! :). It’s hard to slice this bread properly – but I’m sure you will manage without perfect slices! This bread won’t keep well because a). you will eat it fast no matter how huge it is and b). the crumb has lots of moisture in it.

Homemade Village Bread

Hope I’ve given you a desire to bake some nice rustic Greek food. Ideal at the end of the winter (let’s hope we’re getting there soon!).

This post goes to Lunch / Dinner, Leavened Bread and Greek recipe collections.

In neverending search for wonderful food, always yours,

G.

bread · cookies · sourdough · sweet

Finnish Sourdough Flatbread and Cookies with History

Finnish Sourdough Flatbread

In this anti-winter days – at some point the temperature reached +11 here! – I would like to share with you two recipes: a recipe of Finnish rye flatbread known in Russia as Krayushki and oatmeal cookies with chocolate and nuts… and history. Will start with the bread. You might already know that I love rye bread, especially the sourdough. I can eat it plain, with cheese or even with honey or jam. Like this:

Finnish Sourdough Flatbread

This particular bread is notoriously chewy and super rye-ish and I love it even more as the best part of the bread loaf is exactly these hard-to-chew “edges” that we call krayushki in Russia. The authentic version is made with sourdough culture but don’t worry –  you can make the flatbreads with yeast, too.

Finnish Sourdough Flatbread

I’ve tried the recipe several times, experimenting with the procedure and the ingredients, and failed only once when I forgot them in the oven which resulted in ehhm rusks rather than flatbreads 🙂 The photos in this post show two versions. Here’s a different one from the bread pictured above, shaped as a circle with a whole in the middle. It was very handy when in the Finnish village they would string multiple breads on a stick and hang them to the ceiling:

Finnish Sourdough Flatbread

A year ago – Best Soviet Winter Movies. About Food Too!

Two years ago – Vermont Sourdough and Yellow Roses

Three years ago – Winter’s Here. Time for Spicy Rye Bread

Four years ago – Flammekueche – how time to make some!

Ruispalat or Finnish Sourdough Flatbread translated and adapted from www.povarenok.ru will make very flavorful and quite authentic in their taste flatbreads. Numbers in brackets indicate the amount of the ingredient needed if you do not use the sourdough culture. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients

  • 375 g (500) rye flour – I mixed in some all-purpose and once – some wholewheat flour
  • 325 ml (450) water – I use about 25 ml less because there’s this extra water needed for the rye malt
  • 2 Tbs rye malt, mixed with hot water 1 hour before, or extract
  • 2 Tbs molasses or honey or sugar dissolved in water – I omitted this as it was not mentioned in the procedure
  • 10 g salt
  • 2-3 Tbs bran for sprinkling the top – I used oat bran
  • 1 Tbs ground coriander – do use this much, it’s so tasty!
  • 5 g (13) fresh yeast – I didn’t use yeast at all
  • 250 g (none) sourdough culture, 100% hydration – I refreshed my rye sourdough

Procedure

Dissolve your sourdough culture in lukewarm water (30 ‘С), add yeast (the author remarks that this will help soften the crumb but I didn’t use it). Sift in the flour, add rye malt and begin mixing the dough with a spoon or in a breadbaking machine. Add the coriander and the salt and mix a bit. This is (unless you use a mixture of flours which I did) a 100% rye bread so the dough won’t benefit from a long mixing anyway. Cover the bowl and leave the dough for 1-1.5 h.

Flour generously the surface and spoon the dough out on it, flouring it too. As for the shaping part, there are different possibilities:

— Roll out (which I could never do, so I just water the palm of my hand and flatten the dough with it) to thickness of 8 mm – 1 cm and cut into rectangles. Prick the dough with a fork and move to the baking sheet (this is a tricky part so I would suggest rolling the dough already on the baking silicon mat. The author warns you against using baking paper as they stick a lot. I still use baking paper but flour the surface quite heavily).

— For a super-authentic look, spoon the dough out into two heaps onto a wet surface (here too I use a heavily floured paper – it would have been impossible to transfer my dough once shaped!). With wet hands form each heap into a circle. Flour the baking sheet heavily, the same as the top of the circles. With the help of a wet knife, transfer the circles to the baking sheet. Flatten them with wet hands. Cut a whole in the center of each circle with a (shot) glass. To make the ‘rays’ use a wooden stick (an ice cream stick works well) with which you will make indentations (but do not force the stick right to the bottom).

For both variations, cover the dough with a linen towel for 50-90 min (90 min if using the sourdough). Spray the top with some water and sprinkle with oat bran generously. Put in the oven preheated to 200 ‘С and turn down to 180 ‘ С after several minutes. Bake for 12-15 minutes more. Do not overbake as the flatbreads should remain soft! (here I realized I had to increase the temperature to about 220 ‘C and bake all the way maintaining this temperature, otherwise the indicated 12-15 minutes turned into 30 minutes and still the breads would be too moist. So I baked them also at the top shelf for some minutes to get a crustier top).

Remove the baked bread from the oven and wrap it into a towel. Enjoy!

Finnish Sourdough Flatbread

Remarks: I’ve made this recipe several times, trying various shapes, cuts and baking time / oven temperature. Even if sometimes I failed to make them look ship-shape ( I also tried baking them as separate ovals or as a sheet of rectangles cut halfway through), they would still taste great. Work out the most convenient shaping procedure for yourself! By the way, these flatbread freeze well and do not take much space either.

Finnish Sourdough Flatbread

Result: These chewy breads are just wonderful. The combination of rye malt + coriander makes them very flavourful! And some of these breads did rise to the point when they split in two layers, letting you separate them or use them as a pocket and make a double sandwich, mmm!

Finnish Sourdough Flatbread

***

The $250 Neiman Marcus Cookie

For the dessert today here are these tasty sweet chocolate cookies with ground oatmeal, walnuts and pistachios! The story behind these cookies is that someone who paid for the recipe 250 dollars thinking it was 2.50 USD instead, decided to spread the recipe all over the net so that no one would have to pay that much for a cookie recipe! And you know what? The recipe is really nice and the result is probably worth the price… But I’m definitely grateful for having this recipe for free 🙂

The $250 Neiman Marcus Cookie

The $250 Neiman Marcus Cookie adapted from www.browneyedbaker.com will make sweet and crunchy cookies that would certainly sell very well and justify the price paid for the recipe! For the original recipe visit the link above – and you won’t have to pay anything for that either 🙂 Here are my changes and remarks:

I also put some oat bran into the coffee grinder together with the oats. Used less butter and substituted regular sugar for the brown sugar. As for the chocolate, I used 1 chocolate bar – part of which I grated and part chopped into pieces. I had a very limited amount of walnuts so I also added some pistachios.

The $250 Neiman Marcus Cookie

Remarks: I made my cookies pretty big so had to bake them longer. Be careful with the baking time though as I definitely overbaked the first batch. The recipe will make quite a lot of cookies but be ready to repeat the process very soon 🙂

The $250 Neiman Marcus Cookie

Result: These are great cookies! The walnuts add to the nuttiness of the ground oats, there’s something toasted about this cookies too. Which makes me agree with the author that these cookies are truly hearty! The melting chocolate inside is so oh-oh!

Adding these recipes to Sweet, Chocolate and Sourdough collections.
G.

bread · German recipe · sourdough

Two Good Sourdough Bread Recipes

Sourdough Bread from www.hefe-und-mehr.de

Sourdough bread… for me it is the quintessence of ‘Russian food’. Along with kefir of course 🙂 Well, they do have the ‘wild yeast’ stage in common! And you can make both at home, by the way. I’m still making my kefir with this creamcheese recipe, just skipping the straining stage. And then enhancing it with a slice or two or an entire gorbushka (the butt piece of the loaf and the best piece too) of crusty sourdough bread. Here are two recipes – one of a ‘white’ bread for breakfast and the other of a ‘black’ bread for lunch and dinner.

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

I’ve been using this recipe for some time now, each time altering it but mostly making dark or ‘black’ bread with it. The recipe is perfect for those who are only beginning to bake sourdough bread. But it is also just fine for those who need a basic recipe easy to remember and a procedure easy to follow.

Sourdough Bread from www.hefe-und-mehr.de

A year ago – Three Times Chocolate: Danish Swirl Bread, Panforte and Cookies

Two years ago – Sablé aux figues or Fig Jam Shortbread

Three years ago – Pommes. Pommes de Terre too

Sourdough Bread adapted from www.hefe-und-mehr.de is a super recipe which leaves you so many ways to explore! For the entire recipe and detailed instructions, visit the link above.

My changes: I usually increase the amount of rye flour, add whole wheat flour, rye bran, seeds, etc etc. As for the procedure, I normally bake the bread a bit longer at the highest temperature, cause I really like it crusty!

Sourdough Bread from www.hefe-und-mehr.de

Remarks: I usually mix the starter in the evening, leaving it to ferment overnight, then proceed with the recipe next day. Also tried leaving the rising dough in the fridge and it baked wonderfully. The only problem here is that the dough sticks to the ‘basket’ (I’m using heavily floured glass bowl) so that when you turn it over, the top of the loaf gets damaged a bit. But this you can always remedy with a cross slash 🙂

Result: The crumb is thick and particularly chewy if you add seeds. The procedure is easy and flexible and the recipe is super-adaptable. Each time the bread is somewhat different although the recipe stays the same.

***

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

And here’s the ‘white’ bread, although it would have been whiter if I hadn’t added quite a lot of whole wheat flour and hadn’t used rye sourdough culture. However, this is still ‘white’ to my mind, so we’re eating it for breakfast. Made huge goryachie buterbrody (hot sandwiches) with this bread, mmm! I know, I know, this is all very cheap gourmandise but I like those microwaved sandwiches with cheese and herbes de Provence on top 🙂

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule adapted from  www.ashaggydoughstory.com will make two big loaves that slice perfectly to make tasty buterbrod! The original recipe (follow the link above) will give you all the necessary instructions.

My changes: Used 4-cereal mix (barley, oats, wheat and rye) instead of just plain oats. My sourdough culture is made with only rye flour so the result was darker than what it should be with the white flour culture. Also couldn’t resist the temptation to add about 500 g whole wheat flour instead of all-white flour. For the want of covered bakers I used a cast iron pan and a pan covered with aluminum foil. I also baked my loaves a bit longer.

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

Remarks: The procedure is quite flexible so you can adapt it to your lifestyle so to say. The recipe makes quite large loaves so you might want to freeze one once it gets completely cool (I normally do that).

Result: This bread tastes great and looks great – with this swirly slash on top. Don’t mind the oats that will fall off 🙂 Just enjoy the chewy yet soft sourdough bread: crusty with airy crumb!

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

I’ve posted some more oatmeal bread recently. Adding these two recipes to Sourdough bread collection.

G.

bread · sourdough

Good Morning with Hearth Sourdough Bread

Hearth Sourdough from www.karenskitchenstories.com

It was so sunny and so warm today that I’m ready to forgive St Petersburg for that nasty snow in late April we were having… And here’s a great sourdough bread to celebrate it! Yes, I finally made an almost all-white sourdough bread with almost no changes to the recipe!..

Hearth Sourdough from www.karenskitchenstories.com

When I baked it in the evening, I was quite impressed (taking into consideration the fact that I used my pretty unreliable oven) and wanted to grasp this moment. So here it is, the fragrant loaf still puffing with warmth of the oven right under the lamp in lieu of a flash 🙂

Hearth Sourdough from www.karenskitchenstories.com

The parchment paper was all burnt through. The recipe requires a Dutch oven which I do not have, so I improvised it with this old pan and the biggest enameled bowl turned upside down on top of it. A burnt finger ensued… inevitably! But those air pockets, they are worth it. It’s what happens when you’re trying to bake a “Hearth Bread” in a conventional oven 🙂

Hearth Sourdough from www.karenskitchenstories.com

A year ago – Spring in Pavlovsk Park and Blueberry Muffins

Two years ago – Apples and Oranges

Three years ago – Biscotti and On Soviet Food Stupidities and More on Smart Use of Leftovers

Hearth Sourdough adapted from the very helpful www.karenskitchenstories.com will make soft flavourful bread with chewy crust and all those artsy air pockets in the crumb! Follow the link for the entire recipe.

Although I said that I made almost no changes to the original recipe, there were some alterations along the way. Like using rye sourdough starter as it’s the only one I have or adding less water to the final dough as I was fearing the bread to be flat and shapeless (which it certainly was not!). And well, apart from dusting my loaf somewhat too heavily with wheat bran and flour, that’s all I changed.

Hearth Sourdough from www.karenskitchenstories.com

Remarks: Be careful when operating your Dutch or fake Dutch oven… Although I made this recipe without any major changes, my bread has this extra flavour and bran thanks to the presence of rye sourdough culture. I think it just added to its quality!

Hearth Sourdough from www.karenskitchenstories.com

Result: Loved it! The crust is wonderful (though I did dust it with too much flour) and the slices are ship-shape but soft. Will definitely try to make more white sourdough bread now. In the morning I took most of the pictures while there was still sun (it was already some days ago) and then… took a bite off this loaf too 🙂 And that’s exactly what you should do with it!

Adding this to my Sourdough bread recipe collection.

And yes, white nights are getting closer. I feel it!

G.

muffins · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg · sweet

Concert in Rotunda and Country Applesauce Muffins

Zinger House, St Petersburg

This week I continued exploring the mass of concerts and other events offered free at the St Petersburg libraries. I enjoyed going to these in Strasbourg which is especially rich in various cultural events. And you know what? Their ‘free’ status rarely meant they are low-quality or something. The same applies to the free events I’ve been to in St Petersburg! Actually the list of things one can do for free here is just amazing.

Music Shop, St Petersburg

On your way to the Ex-House of the Dutch Reformed Church you pass along the art-nouveau Zinger House and then this famous Music Shop on Nevsky Avenue. Continuing your walk, at the crossing with Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street you notice the familiar criss-cross of the wires against the St Petersburg sky.

Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street, St Petersburg

I was certainly in the mood of observing the things ABOVE my head that evening!

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

An impressive door of the Arts and Music Center of the Mayakovsky Public Library promised some new discoveries inside. I have passed along this building so many times during and after my student years and never had I ventured inside! Shame on me…

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

The concert was due in some 20 minutes so I had time to explore the interior of the former Dutch church built in the 19th century for the Dutch community of St Petersburg. It is now referred to as Rotonda (Rotunda) and is the place for various expos and concerts.Yet another example of converting churches into cultural institutions after the Revolution – a very-very lucky sort for a church during the Soviet times!

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

You can imagine that the acoustics is great, particularly if you manage to get your seat right in the center under the cupola. Although in order to get there I had to move seats twice and end up with a very annoying spectator right behind me. She was all commenting and talking loud. A true connoisseur.)

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

They say this is the most popular shot among the visitors of the Arts and Music center. And although I am not a huge fan of classical buildings, I think this one is something special. I didn’t have the chance to look inside the rest of the rooms but according to the photos on the center’s website, they look very modern and inviting! They have a huge list of heavy XXL-format art books there.

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

The concert included pieces from mostly classical music created by French composers, performed by St Petersburg theatre Zazerkalye, one of my most beloved places in St Petersbyrg when I was a kid – a truly magical place for children! Although this theatre is mainly known for its children-oriented performances, they also stage operas and other concerts for the grown-ups.

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

This woman played very beautifully. It was a completely different experience from that in the Smolny Cathedral where string orchestra of teenagers was performing. This was a truly professional musician who made her violin speak to the spectator’s hearts and years. There was also a woman performing Ravel’s compositions in Hebrew and Aramaic – I enjoyed the songs in Aramaic most of all, a very ‘world music’ experience, much more moving than, say, Bizet!

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

And now – some food which I devoured ate before the concert. After celebrating the final exhaustion of our apple stocks earlier this month with Apple Pancakes, we are now left with another task – use up the tiles of jars with various apple jam and apple puree, successful and not that very successful… The second type is the one I usually add to the recipes asking for honey or jam.

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

A year ago – Darnitskiy Bread (a time-proof recipe, I’m still using it almost every week! Like today, for example)

Two years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake

Three years ago – Oh Mon Dieu, Ces Baguettes!..

Country Applesauce Muffins adapted from www.williams-sonoma.com  will make s dozen of spicy and very good muffins. This is a very successful recipe which leaves you enough space for improvisation! Visit the link to see the original recipe.

My changes: I added just a bit of chopped hazelnuts, used less salt and less sugar, and opted for sunflower oil. As for the applesauce, I had our neverending homemade apple puree.

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

My first edition (on the photo above) featured chopped up hazelnuts which made the muffins quite crunchy. The second edition (pictured here with a rough thread) was done with no extra sugar, flaxseeds instead of nuts, a bit of olive oil instead of sunflower oil and some wheat bran. But wait – there’s more! There’s this third edition 🙂 I made it just now with some orange zest chopped up finely (it caramelized and added crunchiness and extra chewiness), no seeds/ nuts but oat bran along with wheat bran and ginger.

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

Remarks: The batter – and the resulting muffins – might seem a bit on the dry side, so I would suggest using a runny applesauce/ apple puree / apple jam and probably adding more of those apple chunks which make these muffins even tastier. Pay attention to the baking time – these muffins will not escape from the cups so they do not need high temperature and lots of time to bake. Try experimenting with different spices too.

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

The greatest bite is when you have this moist apple chunk!

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

Result: An easy recipe for chewy muffins, a cross between gingerbread and jam muffins. This recipe asks for just 1 egg, no special preparation and when it is ready, the aroma is super! And they came up very handy to use leftover apple jam!

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

Adding this to my collection of Apple recipes and to St Petersburg series.

G.

bread · sourdough · St Petersburg

Running for Vivaldi and Pistachio Sourdough Bread

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

Yesterday we almost missed a Vivaldi concert in the Smolny Cathedral. We ran about 3 km in 30 minutes as we were being late and there was no other means of transport on a Friday night… except for ‘our twos’ as we say in Russia! The concert was well worth running for anyway. It’s been a long time since I last had such a mixture of emotions all at once – and such acute emotions. The music was so powerful that I was smiling and crying at the same time – something that happens to me only with very beautiful music or with some very dear memories.

Vivaldi concert in Smolny Cathedral, St Petersburg

There’s nothing like listening to great music being played live. The kids from the St Petersburg Conservatory School performed Four Seasons inside this huge baroque cathedral with neo-classical interiors (think white columns and a huge golden chandelier). The acoustics is great there and I’m afraid I have no remorses from enjoying this cathedral as a concert hall rather than as a church. In a way turning it into a concert hall in 1980s helped save the degrading 18th century building from being – who knows – demolished. And after all a concert hall where people enjoy such unearthly music as Four Seasons might be one of the best transformations that ever happened to a church over the Soviet period!

Vivaldi concert in Smolny Cathedral, St Petersburg

The building itself is a very beautiful sight – it’s super-tall and yet so delicate and light! I love the combination of blue and white against the St Petersburg sky. And although the entire district surrounding it has long been associated with the government and consulates, still Smolny Cathedral is something cloud-like and … a bit cake-like 🙂 It reminds you immediately of another Rastrelli’s famous creation, the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. And since we’re talking food now…

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

Here’s a quick note on Pistachio-Walnut Sourdough Bread that I’ve turned into just Pistachio Sourdough Bread. I managed to taste it (notice those three tiny slices in the picture below) and it was rather dense and chewy. We still have some pistachios left from my last year trip to Aegina. The nuts do not give a very distinct flavour but I always enjoy them in the crumb, a small gift from the sunny Greece 🙂 Ah yes, it’s again cold and super-windy here in St Pete, as if those amazingly warm days we suddenly had so early just were not there.

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

A year ago – 2,800 km of Russia Seen from Above

Two years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake

Three years ago – Double Citrusy Heaven

Pistachio-Walnut Sourdough Bread adapted from bewitchingkitchen.com will result in a smallish loaf with dense crumb and some nuts to chew on. Follow the link to see the entire recipe.

My changes: I added all the levain which I made with rye flour and my rye sourdough starter. As usual I increased the percentage of rye flour in the dough too, as well as added more whole wheat flour along with some wheat and rye bran. I skipped the walnuts and added the pistachios crushed, not whole. I forgot to slash the top but it cracked anyway.

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

Remarks: I don’t like the way walnuts look and taste like in bread (they add this purplish color and turn into something rubbery) so I usually avoid them in sourdough bread recipes with long fermentation time. The pistachios do not result in something crunchy either after all the hours but I prefer them to walnuts in bread.

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

Result: Very dense and chewy, the crust is not that thick though. The loaf is small so be quick to snatch a bite! Enjoy your bread and the music 🙂

Adding this to my Sourdough Bread recipe collection.

G.