Sourdough Bread with tomatoes and thyme

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It is said, there comes a day in the life of every bread baker, when you make a successful sourdough. Finally that day is here for me and I have a beautiful bread for it. I tried making the sourdough starter thrice before and had to abandon it each time when the smell was too much to bear within a day. Disheartened I gave up till I met Gayathri who encouraged me and also answered my dozen silly questions and made me patient enough to wait to get a beautiful sourdough. And life looked up! I will write separately about actually making the starter. It has been amazing trying to bake with the starter and I am glad to get reasonably good results. 

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It is not exactly known how sourdough bread came about. One of the oldest sourdough bread was excavated in Switzerland dates back to 3700BC but the origin of sourdough bread is supposed to be thousand years earlier most likely in the Fertile Cresecent ( Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, etc.). Sourdough was the leavening used for bread production for most of human history. Baker’s yeast is only 150 years old. Isn’t that absolutely fascinating?  Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening down into the European Middle Ages until being replaced by barm from the beer brewing process, and then later purpose-cultured yeast. Bread made from 100% rye flour, popular in northern Europe, is usually leavened with sourdough. Baker’s yeast is not useful as a leavening agent for rye bread, as rye does not contain enough gluten. French bakers brought sourdough techniques to Northern California during the California Gold Rush. For simplicity sake, I will assign Switzerland as the country of origin for this bread.

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Country – Switzerland

Makes one 8″ round loaf

Recipe adapted from here

WHAT WE NEED

Cherry tomatoes                 12

Thyme sprigs                        2

Sourdough starter                100 gms

Whole wheat flour               100 gms

Water                                       60 ml

Salt                                            4 gms

Cayenne pepper                     1 tsp
WHAT TO DO

  • Mix the starter, flour and salt and set aside for 30 minutes
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves and pluck the thyme leaves from the stem and dice them finely
  • Mix the cherry tomatoes, thyme leaves and cayenne pepper with the flour mixture 
  • Stretch and fold the dough every 15 minutes for an hour and a half
  • Cover it with cling wrap and set aside for 5 hours
  • Transfer the dough to a floured surface and shape it into a ball
  • Keep it covered with cling wrap in the refrigerator overnight
  • Preheat the oven to 250C
  • Transfer the dough to a baking tray
  • Slash the dough on top 3-4 times and bake for 15 minutes
  • Reduce the temperature to 230C and bake for 10 minutes
  • Remove the loaf and brush the top with clarified butter / ghee
  • Reduce the temperature to 210C and bake for 5-6 minutes or till the top is nicely brown
  • Cool completely before slicing
  • Enjoy!

NOTES

  1. If you don’t have fresh thyme, you can use 2 tsp of dried thyme
  2. Stretch and fold means lifting one side of the dough and folding it over the opposite side. Every 15 minutes, stretch and fold one of the four sides of the dough in rotation.

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 This is my post for the Mega Marathon under the letter S.

 

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 75

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Insalata Caprese Loaf

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Baking for the letter ‘I’ left me pretty confused. The almost obvious choice was the Irish Soda Bread which has also been on my to-bake list for quite a while. But at the same time, I had decided on the bread theme for this month and the soda bread is technically not bread since it uses baking soda and not yeast. Further research on Google also told me that it is treated as cake in Ireland even though it is called bread and treated as such in the rest of the world.

Like always, the solution presented itself when I was trying to solve another problem. I have been eating more salads now to compensate for all this bread baking and eating. When I was figuring out a tomato salad, I came across this one called Insalata Caprese which means ‘Salad of Capri’. I figured I could put this delicious salad into a loaf and ta da! So, that is what I did. The significance of Insalata Caprese is that it depicts the colours of the Italian flag which is white, red and green. It is a simple salad with fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil leaves sprinkled with salt and pepper. I had seen fresh mozzarella at the newly opened gourmet store near home and promptly bought it.

I was a little apprehensive about the cheese melting and flowing out of the bread but that did not happen. Only a small amount of cheese oozed out but not much fell on the pan and all was well. So when you braid this bread, ensure you do not leave gaps between the strips because that can lead to the cheese oozing out.

Country – Italy

Makes a 10″ loaf

Recipe for the dough from ‘Easy Sourdough Recipes’

WHAT WE NEED

All purpose flour                        1 1/2 cup

Sourdough, unfed                       1/2 cup

Warm water                                 6 tbsp

Instant yeast                                 1 tsp

Salt                                                  1 tsp

Olive oil                                         1 tbsp

Fresh mozzarella cheese           120 gms

Tomato, large                               1

Basil leaves                                   3-4

Salt & Pepper

WHAT TO DO

  • Mix the flour, sourdough starter, yeast, salt and olive oil with the water
  • Knead to form a smooth dough, around 7-8 minutes by hand
  • Keep covered in a greased bowl till it doubles in size, about an hour
  • Punch it down and keep covered again to rise again for an hour
  • Cut the tomato and mozzarella into 3-4 slices each
  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle of around 8*6″
  • Leave a gap of an inch and place the mozzarella and tomato slices alternatingly in the centre of the rectangle
  • Tuck in the basil leaves between the mozzarella and tomato and sprinkle the salt and pepper
  • With a knife or dough scrapper, cut finger wide strip on either side of the fillings
  • Fold in the top of the dough and then fold in the strips alternating between the two sides
  • Tuck in the dough at the bottom of the loaf
  • Set aside for 15-20 minutes

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  • Preheat the dough at 220C
  • Reduce the temperature to 200C and bake for 20-25 minutes till the top is nicely brown
  • Remove from the oven and let cool
  • Serve warm
  • Enjoy!

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This is my post for the Mega Marathon under the letter ‘I’.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 75

Apple and Almond Soup

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I am not a huge fan of cooking fruits preferring to have them raw as they are supposed to be. But sometimes exceptions need to be made, especially when you have a beautiful symphony of apples with tomatoes, gooseberry and carrots topped generously with almonds. Exception accepted.

I had a couple of apples sitting on the counter top for 4 days without the daughter or me going anywhere near it. Usually it is the husband who cores and slices the apples for us. With him travelling, I kept postponing it till such time the apple threatened to decay. With me in a soup daily, I figured I could soup the apples without too much effort. Voila! I must admit I was surprised at how tasty and flavorful the soup turned out. Do try it –

Serves 3

Recipe adapted from here.

WHAT WE NEED

Apples                          2

Gooseberry                 2

Tomato, medium      1

Carrot, medium        1

Cinnamon                  1/2 tsp

Sugar                            1 tsp

Fresh cream               1/4 cup

Almonds                      8

Salt

 

WHAT TO DO

  • Blanch the almonds and peel the skin
  • Cut 4 of the almonds into slivers and set aside
  • Core and cut the apples into quarters
  • Cut the tomatoes and gooseberries.
  • Peel and cut the carrots
  • Take all the above in a vessel and pressure cook with 1 1/2 cups of water for 4 whistles
  • Once the steam escapes, take them out and cool
  • Once cooled, blend them along with 4 almonds to a smooth puree
  • Take the puree in a saucepan and add 1 cup water
  • Simmer for 10 minutes
  • Add sugar, salt, cinnamon and fresh cream and simmer for 1-2 minutes
  • Garnish with almond slivers
  • Enjoy!

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Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 68

Baked Pisto with Eggs

   

Today is the second day in the ‘Do the eggplant’ series as part of the Blogging Marathon. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the husband has been throwing more tantrums than my daughter when it came to eggplants. But he loved the baked eggplant with Parmesan. So at least I have one go-to dish in desperate times! Yay!

Today’s dish is the Spanish Pisto which is basically eggplant with a whole lot of other vegetables sauted and baked. I have used eggs in them but you can forget about it and it would still be yumm. Plus, as an additional precaution I grated some cheese on top after baking so that the husband won’t groan. So again, it’s optional and can be done away with.
  

I have adapted the recipe from here. Mine is a lot more simple with fewer ingredients. So here goes –

Serves 2

WHAT WE NEED

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finley chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped 

1 large eggplant, diced

1 large capsicum, diced

4 medium to large tomatoes

salt & black pepper

 a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed from stem

2 eggs (optional)

Grated Parmesan / Cheddar cheese for garnish

WHAT TO DO

  • Soak the tomatoes in hot water for 15-20 minutes and peel off the skin. Chop them and keep aside.
  • Heat the oil, add the onions, thyme, garlic and chilli and cook till the onions are translucent 
  • Add the eggplant, salt and pepper and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes
  • Add the capsicum and cook till all vegetables turn soft. It should take another 10 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 190C
  • Transfer the vegetables to an 8 x 8 baking tray and spread it out evenly.

  

  • If using egg, make two small dips in the vegetables and crack the eggs into the dips. 
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on the eggs.

    

  • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the white of the egg is just set but the yolk is still runny.
  • Remove from the oven, sprinkle the grated cheese and serve with any bread for dipping in the pisto and egg yolk.

  

NOTES

  • You can add zucchini as well. Tropical countries don’t seem to have them 😔 so I had to omit those.
  • If you don’t have fresh thyme then you can use dried thyme but then you need to add it in at the end of the cooking, just before adding the eggs.
  • One of my yolk was funny while the other was not. That’s more to do with my oven hot spots than anything else. This was when I baked for 15 minutes. So I suggest you bake for ten minutes or so if you want a runny yolk.
  • From my limited research, I found corn bread to be the most recommended one with pisto but you can serve it with any other bread and it will taste just as good. I am letting you into a secret – I served it with pita bread. Yes, you read that right, pita bread. It was quite good, if I may say so myself. So go ahead and pick any bread. You can do worse than me 😊

  

This is my entry for the Blogging Marathon hosted by Srivalli. 

  
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for other marathoners doing this BM