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I know, I know. I bang on about this all the time.

The very best part of sourdough baking (for me) is being able to share bread with others.

And as my friends on the Bay Run found out recently, if you stand still long enough, I’m likely to hand you a loaf. In turn, Sue and Mel shared their warm baguettes with our favourite barista Samira, and when I popped in for a coffee the following day, she asked me if I’d bake a fruit loaf for her.

I don’t normally bake to order, but I couldn’t refuse Sami – after all, she’s been cheerfully making brilliant decaf piccolos for me for over a year. So I took the box of dried fruit she gave me and baked three sourdough fruit loaves for her the next morning…

She was excited, but didn’t want to take all three loaves. I figured she could share one and take two home, which is exactly what she did. By the time Mel and Sue had made their way over for coffee, Sami had already cut up and handed out a whole loaf to customers. How cool is that!

Big Boy and I shared a hot buttered slice as we walked, and it was divine

I came home, fed up Priscilla, and made another batch. Here’s the formula I used:

  • 100g bubbly sourdough starter (see note)
  • 1kg bread/bakers flour
  • 700g – 750g water (the flour I’m currently using is very thirsty, so adjust the water quantity as needed)
  • 18g fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 100g dried dates, chopped
  • 50g dried apple, finely chopped
  • 50g dried apricots, chopped
  • 100g walnut pieces

Note: Over the past couple of years, I’ve adopted the current trend of using less starter in my sourdoughs, and the results have been very pleasing. You could, however, simply add the dried fruit and cinnamon to the basic overnight sourdough recipe and it should work fine.

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the starter, water, cinnamon and dried fruit.

2. Add the flour and salt, and squelch everything together with a clean hand. Cover and allow the dough to rest for about half an hour.

3. Uncover the dough and give it a brief knead in the bowl (less than a minute), then cover it again and allow to prove overnight.

4. The following morning, the dough should be well risen and puffy. Dust the bench with flour or fine semolina (my preference) and scrape out the dough. Stretch and fold it onto itself so that all sides are coated in flour – this makes it easier to work with. There are photos of this process in our earlier tutorial.

5. Divide the dough into two or three even pieces. I bake three smaller loaves in my ginormous oven, but you could just as easily bake two larger ones. If you have a tiny oven, just halve the quantities and bake a single loaf. Shape each piece into a ball, then let it sit on the bench for 15 minutes, covered in a tea towel. This short rest will make shaping the loaves much easier.

6. Shape each ball into a round or oval loaf, trying to keep as much fruit inside the loaf as possible. Sit each loaf on a sheet of parchment, or nestle it seam-side up in a tea-towel lined banneton. If you’re going to use bannetons, I suggest rolling the shaped dough in fine semolina first, which will help prevent sticking. Preheat the oven to 220C with fan. Allow the dough to prove until puffed up – about 30 minutes to an hour.

I line my bannetons with Tenegui (coarse weave cotton hand towels) from Daiso. They work brilliantly!

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7. If using bannetons, carefully turn the loaves onto sheets of parchment and slash a long cut on the top, either in the middle or offset to one side. Try to avoid any bits of fruit.  Place each loaf into an enamel roaster and cover with lid. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

My grotty enamel roasters. I never bother to wash them!

8. Remove the lid and bake for a further 20 minutes (you might need a bit more time if you’re baking larger loaves). I like to reduce the temperature to 210C with fan at this point, as the sugars in the fruit can cause the top to burn a bit. Bake until well browned and hollow sounding.

. . . . .

In theory, you should let the loaves cool before slicing, but this bread was so delicious hot and smothered in butter that all I can really recommend is letting it rest for half an hour or so before cutting into it.

This is hands down my favourite fruit and nut sourdough so far! It doesn’t have raisins or sultanas in it, nor is there any added sugar, yet the dates, apples and apricots add rich sweetness and depth of flavour. The walnuts turn the dough a gorgeous purpley-grey which carries through to the finished bread.

I took a leaf out of Sami’s book and invited all the neighbours over for a slice…

. . . . .

Break bread with others, folks. Share the sourdough love as often as you can! ♥

PS. If you’re just starting out, you might enjoy our earlier sourdough tutorials:

Overnight Sourdough Tutorial

Overnight High Hydration Sourdough Tutorial

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Madly Baking Bread

Since my friend Emilie’s book landed in my Kindle app, I’ve been baking bread like a mad woman…

She’s convinced me to actually use the bannetons I own (normally, I’m too lazy), and the results have been fabulous…

It helps that I can line the baskets with the Japanese tenegui (hand cloths) that I bought from Daiso. The open weave makes them less sticky than regular tea towels. Plus they’re dead cute…

I followed Em’s shaping technique and ended up with this magnificent holey crumb in my high hydration loaves…

. . . . .

I made her chocolate sourdough recipe with Callebaut 811 54% dark. The neighbours lost their minds…

It was unbelievably good, especially with the Belgian chocolate…

I tried another version with leftover Halloween candy. That was less appealing to anyone over twenty-five, but the kids loved it (yes, that’s melted Snickers Bars in the middle)…

. . . . .

I’ve tweaked Em’s focaccia formula a bit to accommodate for our local flour. I think our plain (AP) flour might be lower in protein than the US ones, so I’m substituting a 50:50 mix of bakers flour and plain flour. The results have been perfect – non-cakey crumb but controlled even rise and super-crispy crust.

I made a cheese and black olive filled focaccia using her croque monsieur shaping technique…

. . . . .

For the caramelised onion and goat cheese bialys, I again subbed a mix of bakers and plain flour, and ended up with easy to shape balls…

…that kept their shape (and fillings) as they rose. The crumb was super tender and the crusts thin and chewy. All twenty-four bialys (I made a double batch, as you do) were shared out and eaten on the same day…

. . . . .

Finally, the overnight baguette twists were an absolute doddle to make and completely delicious. Definitely one for a future dinner party…

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If you’re a home sourdough baker (or would like to be), I can’t recommend Emilie’s book highly enough. Yes, she’s my friend, and yes, we share a sourdough starter, so my opinion was always going to be biased. But I can honestly now tell you that I’ve tried a stack of recipes from her book, and they all work brilliantly (just ask my neighbours). If you’d like to know more about it, here’s my first post on Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. I hope you enjoy baking from it as much as I have! ♥

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Holiday Crushes

Here are a few of the things I fell in ♥ with on our San Francisco holiday!

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Dandelion Chocolate

As you all know, I’m pretty fussy about chocolate, preferring to temper my own whenever possible. We wandered into Dandelion Chocolate on Valencia Street purely by chance, having strolled down from the extraordinary Paxton Gate (more on that in a future post).

I was completely blown away by their chocolate! The bars are made from scratch using cacao beans grown on a single estate, then carefully tempered to a rich, dark 70%. The flavour profile of each variety is distinct and elegant. Without doubt some of the best chocolate I’ve ever tried and so beautifully packaged that I purchased three bars on the spot, and then went back to pick up five more to bring home. So far, the Hacienda Azul from Costa Rica has been my favourite…

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Zenni Optical

To be fair, I’ve been crushing on these guys for quite a while now.

I had new Zenni glasses delivered to where we were staying in SF and they were absolutely perfect for our holiday adventures. The frame is stainless steel and the lenses are transition and progressive – that’s photochromatic and multi-focal, in old person speak. They cost just US$94 plus US$5 delivery (although shipping to Sydney would only have been US$5 more). They’re very comfortable, they’re ludicrously affordable, and they remind me of my dad. I’m completely smitten with them…

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Blackcurrant Aguas Frescas

I discovered two local SF drinks that I adored – the Arnold Palmer (a mix of unsweetened ice tea and American-style lemonade) and aguas frescas (Mexican fruit drinks). Dan and I ate three times at Cholita Linda in Temescal, just so that we could indulge in their blackberry aguas frescas…

Admittedly, their fish plate was pretty awesome as well…

When we came home to Sydney, I discovered that a reasonable copy of the the Cholita Linda drink could be made by mixing together equal parts of pure lime juice with Ribena cordial and topping it with ice cold water. Dilute to taste – it’s the proportion of lime to blackcurrant cordial that’s important…

. . . . .

Vintage Thrift 

I thought we had decent secondhand shops here in Sydney, but the vintage and thrift stores in San Francisco are out of this world. We had huge fun visiting as many as we could find, including the beautiful Rocket Reuse in Alameda…

…and some amazing shops in Haight-Ashbury, where we found (but didn’t buy) World War II fighter pilot hats…

…and heavyweight bike jackets…

Our very favourite store was the completely insane Mission Thrift, which sold everything from Bavarian loden jackets to wedding gowns to vintage military uniforms…

Pete and Dan had to stop me…used cowboy boots at $20 a pair were almost too hard to resist…

I bought a dozen (ok, more) square scarves to use as furoshiki and then gave the girls at the counter a lesson on tying them

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Suiseki

Treasure Island is an  artificial island and former military base in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can only enter and exit from the Bay Bridge, which runs over the land mass. Once a month, they hold an amazing flea market, which offers a huge selection of vintage memorabilia, hippie clothing, secondhand goods, and artisan arts and crafts.

I had a conversation about Suiseki, the Japanese art of viewing stones, with Daiza artist Jerry Braswell.  The stones are carefully selected to suggest mountains, lakes, animals or other scenes from nature, and then a daiza (stand) is carefully carved to support and complement it. Jerry’s pieces were stunning, and I particularly loved the one on the top left, but we didn’t have enough baggage allowance to bring it back to Sydney…

After a lovely chat, we were walking off to explore other parts of the market when Jerry came after us. He gave me a small stone with stand, and said “I’m sure you can find room in your luggage for this”. I was very touched by his kindness, and promised that I’d find a spot for his gift on my rock shelf (and I have)…

. . . . .

Kate Spade Wallet

I’m madly in love with my Kate Spade wallet! It’s full hide leather and I picked it up for 65% off at Nordstrom Rack. My old purse was falling apart at the seams (literally) and all my cards had started dropping out of it. The Kate Spade has a zip the whole way around…

…and when it’s open, everything stays inside. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to buy a new one…

. . . . .

Piccolo Keep Cup

Finally…my Australian-made 4oz Keep Cup has traveled all over San Francisco with me. It’s been a little trooper – it never leaked, it was small enough to fit into my handbag, and baristas all over the city went mad for it. If you’re an espresso, macchiato, piccolo or gibraltar drinker, then I can’t recommend this highly enough. Order directly from the company website and you can choose your own colour scheme!

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Anguilla in Carpione

Remember my earlier eel adventures? Don’t panic, I’m not putting the twitching video back up.

When my friend and Italian chef Carla Tomasi heard I was frying fresh eel, she sent me her recipe for anguilla in carpione – a pickled eel dish traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve. It’s delicious and very easy to make, once you get past the squeamishness of handling pulsing slabs of flesh.

Cut the eel fillets into pieces, then dust them in seasoned flour. Keep them as cold as possible and work quickly to avoid the twitching! Fry the pieces gently in a combination of butter and oil until cooked through…

In the meantime, bring to boil ¾ cup oil and ¼ cup red wine vinegar, with a bashed clove of garlic, a pinch of fennel seeds, half a sliced onion, two bay leaves and a piece of chilli (dried or fresh). Drain the eel pieces and place them in a bowl, then pour the mixture over…

It will keep well in the fridge for at least a week – make sure the eel is submerged in the liquid, topping up with more oil/vinegar if needed…

The skin becomes quite rubbery when cold, so I trim it off before eating (it’s fine when first cooked). The tender pickled eel is tangy and delicious, and particularly good on buttered sourdough toast…

Thank you, lovely Carla, for sharing such an interesting dish with me! ♥

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Pete’s Baked Bean Pasta

My darling husband is very annoyed at me for calling his creation “Baked Bean Pasta”.

He thinks it’s misleading, but I disagree – I think it’s a dish that has to start with baked beans, because regular tinned ones wouldn’t be soft enough. Anyway, the point is, it’s a genius recipe. It doesn’t taste like baked beans and it’s a luscious and frugal alternative to a meat sauce.

Many of Pete’s creations are one-offs that disappear into the ether – this one was too good to lose, so I typed it on to my phone as we ate. Here’s the annotated version of what I wrote:

1. Fry two grated carrots and one chopped onion in oil (Pete used lard). Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

2. Add a few slices of finely chopped pancetta (we had that in the fridge, but bacon would work as well) and fry everything well for about ten minutes. Season to taste.

3. Rinse the contents of a 420g can of baked beans well to remove all the sauce, then add it to the pan with a tin of Italian tomatoes. Add a splash of white wine and half a tin of water.

4. Cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes, mashing the beans into a paste as you go. Add a little garlic oil and chilli oil (we have these on the bench, but you could add a little garlic with the pancetta and a pinch of chilli flakes instead).

5. Just before adding the pasta to the boiling water, add green vegetables to the sauce – we used topped and tailed beans and sliced zucchinis. Add a little water to the sauce to loosen if necessary. Continue to simmer gently.

6. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, combine everything together and serve with a drizzle of garlic oil and a little grated pecorino cheese. Enjoy!

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