Zeb Bakes a little more Bread

Lately I haven’t felt much like blogging and I haven’t managed to keep up very well with you all working away and writing your lovely stories and sharing your photographs. I am feeling tired and old and quite sad a lot of the time. The drought of winter made way for the rains of April and we are quite sodden in parts of the country now. I am optimistic that May will be gorgeous though !

Mood swings, ageing, ill health are all part of the natural cycle of things for many people, well being tired and old certainly is, so I am not looking for sympathy particularly but just offer you this by way of explanation for my less frequent blogposts.

I have baked a few loaves which I can share with you here,  as like the rain the bread baking always seems to happen at some point in time.  These are a couple of loaves of our faithful friend the Vermont Sourdough with Extra Grain and a white sourdough rolled up with wild garlic and basil pesto, the latter is not the most successful bread I have ever made but we ate it anyway. The pesto is a combination of olive oil, pine nuts and handfuls of basil and wild garlic leaves and pecorino cheese and seasoning.

I had some lovely friends here at the weekend who I worked on sourdough with. They are outstanding cooks in their own right and spoiled us by cooking for us here at home .

I shared a few tips on shaping and stuff like that; as you can see from their breads above they are pretty amazing at super fast learning. We made a white levain which got turned into a ciabatta bread as it wouldn’t hold its form (aka ‘devil’  bread) a 40/60 rye bread which came out quite well and they pulled off a beautiful first time Couronne Bordelaise just to top it all off.

We also rescued the aebleskiver pan from the garage and whistled up a batch of these sourdough round pancakes leavened with baking powder for breakfast, another one of those cooking activities that looks much harder than it is in reality. The recipe I used for these is from Teresa of Northwest Sourdough, links etc in this post.  I just use less honey in the mixture and then have no qualms about filling them with wild cherry jam or partnering them with dry cured bacon from Gales the butcher and a dribble of maple syrup in the transatlantic style.

Somewhat gratuitously I took a pic of this poached egg on a slice of sour cream toast (still our favourite white bread recipe from Dan Lepard) the other day and couldn’t remember why when I came across it just now and then I remembered –  it was my attempt at doing Misk’s perfect poached egg. Her method can be found over on Misk Cooks along with many other handy tips on how to cook the Misk way.

Stay well and keep busy everyone !  See you soon!

64 thoughts on “Zeb Bakes a little more Bread

  1. Jeannette

    It all looks splendid and inspirational, the sourdough bread is especially so! I was looking at the recipe for the sour cream loaf just the other! day, why is it so special? I have some sour cream in the fridge so I may have a go at it tomorrow….
    I hope you are feeling happier by now, Joanna, just looking at your pictures and reading your blog cheers ME up!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am feeling happier Jeannette, I woke up to find 17 lovely comments on my post. Squee!! (as a Twitter friends says) The sour cream loaf is special because it is soft and sweet and has a thin crust and is the best thing since sliced bread which it resembles, but you make it yourself. In the same way that Dan’s soft white baps are better than the baps you buy.. does that make sense? I hope so :)

  2. Abby

    Glad to see you, Joanna….I always enjoy your posts. All of the bread looks delightful, but I’m especially taken with the rainy day picture at the top of your post: seems to just capture….a mood, my mood today….okay, I’m not being articulate, but I love the photo! :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Aww thanks Abby – it’s not often the rain splats itself against the kitchen window like that and overflows the guttering above, I think the wind has to be going a certain way too… all calmer today, though I think we’re in for another batch of rain this weekend coming. Take care sweetheart :)

  3. bakecakecrumbs

    Take care Joanna, and I hope life treats you better soon. I too am hoping for better weather soon, for better weather always makes me feel more optimistic. Thank you for taking the time to share your breads – they look magnificent as always and wouldn’t be out of place in the sort of artisan bakery I always wish to find, but somehow never do. I do particularly love the Couronne Bordelaise, one day I will get to grips with sourdough and shaping.

    1. Joanna Post author

      If you can shape little balls of dough, and roll out a thinnish piece of dough to a more or less circle you can make this bread. It is one of those pieces of bread trickery, not nearly as hard as shaping a baguette or something like that. You can use any of your favourite doughs to do it, just choose one that is reasonably firm, doesn’t have to be a sourdough either. The trick is to have a big enough centre piece so that the centre stays open, dough has a way of closing up round central holes, a common problem when making bagels too.

      Thanks for the good wishes – sending them back to you x Jo

  4. Misky

    Firstly: Hugs.
    2nd: Where was I when you posted about Couronne Bordelaise? Away on holiday? That is the most amazing creation I think I’ve ever seen. I just studied all of your methods, suggestions, and the comments, and I’m giving this one a try on Friday. Or maybe Sunday, depending on how long it takes to wake up Sedrick.
    3rd: That poached egg looks perfect to me! :D Were you happy with the method and result?
    Lastly: Many thanks for mention and link-back.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks for the hugs, 2, no idea! Give it a go, as I said to C, you can always use a yeasted bread dough if Sedrick is sleepy. 3, the poached egg method definitely works to reduce the stringy scummy stuff bobbling about in my mini wok when I do eggs for breakfast, though my tea strainer seemed to block up while I was doing the second egg, I should probably have rinsed it out in between eggs :)

  5. heidiannie

    Joanna- I could have written this post it is so familiar.
    General malaise- minor misery- aches and pains no worth mentioning, but not welcome companions!
    And bread and friends help- but when they are done and gone- you are left with melancholy old you? I have to search out a happy place to write from- and even then it sure sounds a lot happier than it actually was.
    But your bread is beautiful and I’m sure things will feel better as the weather improves and you can get out with Zeb on wanders and foraging for berries.
    I do enjoy hearing from you-and look forward to your own particular point of view.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Morning Heidi :) Thanks you for your kind and perceptive comments. I thought of your recent bread post when I wrote this one and figured there was solidarity to be found amongst bread bakers who felt sad xx

      I treasure my friends and family as I know you do. Yesterday I dived under the duvet with a gifted book called The History of Sweets and had some extra hours sleep and that has helped too. I suspect as I get older I am less resilient to lack of sleep and then I lose perspective too. Years ago I was in a car accident and for a year after that I was another person almost, whether it was a PTSD thing or what I am not sure, but when I feel like this it is as if I am back there. We all have our own stresses and things going on, for me often linked to bereavement, either old losses or new ones and sometimes I get stuck there which has been happening a lot lately.

      Now berry foraging sounds good – I saw the cherry blossom has fallen and there is a hint of berries to come and the elderflower should be in bloom too – I think this is a summer for making cordial !

  6. hotlyspiced

    I do hope you are feeling better. Rainy, drizzly days always make me feel a bit blue; everything seems so much better when the sun comes out so I hope the weather turns for you. I love the look of that poached egg and must find out the cooking method because mine never look as well put together as that one xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I like the rain but the light levels get so low, that might be part of it you are right there. Sometimes when the UK gets stuck in waves of lows coming in off the Atlantic the summer never really gets going. Cross fingers it’s not one of those years. Poaching eggs – much harder than getting the bread right – do have a look at Misk’s post :)

  7. FEARN

    How dare you – bringing out the aebleskiver pan when I had just accepted that I wasn’t going to get one ;>)

  8. Debra Kolkka

    It’s nice to have you back! We have had rain here for most of April and I am sick of it. Today was gorgeous, hopefully a sign of good things to come.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I will try and rev up the posts again Debra – I think it goes in phases for me and I am so glad your weather has perked up, if the wind switches around maybe we’ll have some mainland weather blow in soon :)

  9. Cas

    Hi folks, I’m new around here and found this fabulous blog whist searching for sour dough rye recipes.

    I was so inspired that not only did I make rye but have just made my best ever white sour dough, all crisp and crunchy and tasty. The rye needs more practice, edible but I think under cooked.

    I hope knowing you ecouraged someone have another attempt at sour dough and this time successfully will cheer you up!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hello Cas! I am so pleased that you are having success with your bread. Rye bread often benefits from a cooler longer bake, sounds like you have worked that out. You can protect the crust by covering it with foil for part of the time if you feel the crust is getting too thick in the process, though if you leave it for a day it usually softens up.

      Thanks for the lovely comment I really appreciate it :)

  10. Jan

    Freesias, freshly baked bread – and, bread baked with friends, rain against the window pane – they are my most favourtie things. But feeling low, feeling old, feeling sad and not well, they are not my favourite way of feeling. I’m almost 66 and I do feel there is a process of grieving when you finally take note of the way the rest of the world views you and acknowledge, that yes, one is becoming old and ones options are growing fewer and fainter. However, most of the time I know that these feelings pass and I hope they do for you too Joanna. I so much enjoy your blog, your writing, the inspiration I get from you. You’re intelligent, clever and generous with a great sense of humour – you may feel you know another Joanna, but I feel that when you write – that’s the inner you and it’s lovely.

    1. Joanna Post author

      My inner Pollyanna is the one who writes for the most part, except when the Grouch comes out and occasionally there is a hint of a Gremlin too. The freesias were amazing – I wish we had scratch and sniff blogging – sometimes you get a particularly good bunch and these were them. Your comments are always perceptive and astute Jan, thank you for taking the time to say such nice things about me, I blush a little even xx :)

  11. Ann Hall

    I always love your posts Joanna but so sorry to hear you feel sad. I try hard to forget the fact that I am supposed to be old (a lot older than you) but one does seem to become invisible! Would a big lick from Spot help? Dogs are such a comfort.

    1. Joanna Post author

      My sad is rapidly dissipating answering all these comments Ann :)

      I was throughly washed (yurg) by Zeb this morning who obviously had similar thoughts to Spot – dogs are particularly good at comfort, though I think there is also a little self-interest there too as they push and shove to get comfy next to you. I was up in the Mall yesterday and felt almost completely invisible as I l wandered past the shop windows festooned with bright and flowery summer clothes. But then I looked at the shoppers and they were all still in winter garb. I wasn’t there shopping, I was visiting the Apple store to get some help from a shining youth with understanding spreadsheets… getting there slowly :)

  12. sallybr

    Joanna, your post was very touching to read, and full of beauty.

    Jan”s. reply. was perfect, I intend to remember her words when I feel a bit down.

    a warm hug going your way…

  13. Just A Smidgen

    It must be something in the air, Joanna.. I feel the same. I actually thought if you read my last few posts in succession I appear manic.. up then down.. I think I’m a victim of the weather and in need of a vacation.. but until then, I shall come here and continue to be inspired. Your round loaf above looks like a pretty flower (flour:) and I could only wish to bake bread like you do. Some day! xoxo until we both feel a bit more chipper:) Smidge

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have just been reading your blog Barbs – now armed with a cookie recipe to try and Vivaldi ringing in my ears I am all set up for the day. Thanks for visiting me xx

  14. gillthepainter

    bread bread bread. I love saying the word, and also love looking at the fabulous breads you create from scratch.
    The bordelaise corona is particularly difficult to shape, but looks stunning.

    & I wish the rain to subside for you, inside and out. XXX

    1. Joanna Post author

      Bread bread bread to you too dear Gill! The bordelaise was done by the friends, thus proving it is easy peasy or they are particularly clever. And the rain will subside – it always does, change is the nature of life xxx

  15. ninopane

    I know exactly what you mean, I have run out of steam on the blogging front and am not baking as much now as 6 months ago. I can justify this with all sorts of reasons (work, kids, life) but the reality is my breadmaking has hit a plateau.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Oh Nino, what sort of plateau have you hit? I hope it is a good one… sometimes it just goes in phases. I joined in with a very simple bake off on Twitter the other night and that kick started me again. Do you follow @smithslog he is a dear chap who likes to bake on Twitter. There is something very uplifting about baking together like that, it’s not competitive at all – more a group effort to get something together for late night munching . I tried to figure out if I could do it via a blog, using one of the realtime themes, but it is a bit too complicated for me on my own. We talked at the weekend about sourcing ‘leaf lard’ which apparently is the finest sort of lard and used for pastry, then we could attempt to make some of those wonderful Sicilian pastries…. you will get your baking mojo back one day x Joanna

  16. Melanie

    Hi Joanna,

    I’m so glad you are starting to feel a little better. Even though it is sad to know that someone you care about is feeling blue and down, it is kind of comforting to realize that we’re not alone in our feelings and we all experience similar periods of emotions. It is very difficult though when you are sort of isolated at home without all your friends in the same room to cheer you up. I’ve thought about that alot lately as I’ve gone thru these past few months of pain without anyone to share it with or talk to since most of the people I know are people on the internet many, many miles away.

    I love to see your bread pictures, as they always cheer me up. They always look so wonderful!! My favorite is the one w/ the vase of flowers in it.

    I hope your weather takes a turn for the better soon. You can send some of your rain our way, as we are not having much of that right now, just alot of hot!

    Sending you a great big hug:)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Admitting to sadness and less than positive feelings about oneself is OK in my book, And no less valid than shrieks of joy at cracking an obscure bread recipe !! it’s just part of what makes us human. I am sorry that you have had months of pain Mel and iI agree that it is very strange that we talk about this with people who we are unlikely ever to meet, reality is a funny place these days… Sending you a big hug back from across the world xx Joanna

    1. Joanna Post author

      By giving it an airing here I hope to get it all in perspective Doc – guess what I got given at the weekend? Jars of kombucha :)

      1. drfugawe

        I know what that stuff is, but I don’t think diabetics are supposed to imbibe – I’ve never had it – but I bet it’s good for ‘ya – probably cheer you up too!

        1. Joanna Post author

          Ooops, yes it is full of sugar – and acetobacter and goodness knows what and sparkles and a hint of alcohol, but only a hint ;)

  17. timethief

    I identify with aging, aches and pains and the incessant never-ending rain has got me down to. However, I’m now focusing on container gardening and optimistically hoping for a dry spell. Leaving you a {HUG}. All my best to you always.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks for the (HUG) and we might paddle out into the garden and see what is growing and what we can do, I have tubers of oca waiting to be planted in containers, seedlings to pot up and a pile of seeds hoping for homes, though as usual I have far too many for the space I have available. My best to you too TT, thanks for visiting me :)

  18. Cas

    Still grey here but I’m baby sitting our 2 year old grandson who is theoretically having a nap so I have sneaked online.

    Although I love baking, especially bread I have a wheat intolerance and I’m hoping that the rye loaf will be my new staple if I manage to perfect it. I even sneaked a tiny bit of the last sour dough I made and didn’t suffer, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could eat even one slice of bread a day.

    Last night I made some pretty good wheat free rock cakes so I’ve just satisfied my carbs craving :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      How lovely to have a sleeping grandchild Cas ! I have just dragged the dogs round the woods for their constitutional and it sure is grey today and chilly too. I don’t know much about wheat intolerance but I have tried one of Dan Lepard’s gluten free bread recipes and it worked well. Worth checking them out to see if they might work for you. The one with the psyllium husk looked and tasted a lot like bread, just had a bit of a squeak to it, which I think was the cornflour.

      1. Cas

        I didn’t realise Dan Lepard had done any glutenfree, thanks for that! At the moment I use a bread mix from Crimbles which makes quite a reasonable white loaf but is an expensive way to make bread so I’ll check that recipe out.

  19. Choclette

    The bread all looks as amazing as usual despite the rain. Hopefully May will see better weather and cheer you up some. Despite the rain forecast today, we’ve actually seen the sun for a couple of hours or so – most welcome.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I’ve been trying to put some things in the garden in order, failed completely at the rudimentary task of digging up gigantic bluebells and fell over the dog several times. Tomorrow is another day again – might go to Westonbirt as they have lots going on this weekend. Always lovely to hear from you Choclette :)

  20. Cas

    Talk about pride comes before a fall!

    I have made another sour dough white today to the same recipe as a couple of days ago and my husband says it tastes fine and the crust is quite good but it kind of collapsed when I lifted it (on baking parchment) from bowl to baking sheet. I think I should have poked it all over and called in focaccia.

    If sour dough won’t hold it’s shape what am I doing wrong please?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Can you put your finger on what you did differently from last time? Did you leave the dough a bit longer before you baked it maybe? From what you say it worked fine the first time? The more water in the mix, the harder the doughs are to shape. You get bigger holes in the crumb but that is the price you pay for the big holes :)

      If you like rye do you think your husband would eat a bread with a little rye in it? I would suggest trying the formula and method in the weekly sourdough post, it’s a good dough for shaping, not too liquid and quite mild in flavour if you build the starter up the way it is described there. If you want an all white version, simply omit the other flours and use all white in their place. Quite often I shape the dough twice. The first time very roughly and quickly and then I let it sit on the worktop for a bit, say twenty minutes, then I shape it again, more tightly and often I put it inside a container to support it. If you don’t have one that is designed specifically for bread, then you can rub an old teatowel heavily with flour, line a bowl with it and pop your ball of dough in there to do the final rise. Then take it out very gently when it has increased in size by a half and is puffy to the touch, turn it out upside down. slash it and bake in the usual way. Sometimes my loaves flatten out quite a lot but usually they rise up again in the oven. Hope this helps, without knowing your recipe and exactly what you do in some detail it’s hard for me to say if you are doing something wrong.

  21. Cas

    Thanks I’ll have a look at that and see how it compares with the recipe I’ve been using, OH likes rye so it shouldn’t be a problem.

    I was surprised that with the same recipe twice and different results, it is one that you let rise overnight in a cool place and then bring into the warm in the morning til it was risen.

  22. Cas

    I’ve just read through that and it is quite different, I was over proving and did not do the extra “tightening” in the morning. So I’ll try again once OH has eaten this loaf.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I hope it was helpful, sometimes it can be so confusing that there are lots of different ways to make sourdough. I was quite overwhelmed at the beginning too, but now you know what ‘overproved’ looks and feels like, which is a really good thing to know. Underproved is slightly different, when a loaf hasn’t really sat for long enough, you often get big cracks on the sides and bottom of the loaf and an uneven rise in the oven, the crumb is also a mixture of very dense patches and large holes. I have made them all at one time or another, less often these days. Good luck with your baking Cas :) PS I have emailed you some pics with examples of my early loaves, over and under proved

      1. Cas

        Thank you!

        I was encouraged today when OH went to the Farmers Market and bought a sour dough and it was flatter than my good attempt but better than my last attempt.

        Alongside looking after our 2 year old grandson and making soup for lunch I managed to get my 2nd attempt at 100% Rye into the tin. In my state of exhaustion once I’d waved them off, I forgot to put it into the oven so it over rose and collapsed a bit but at least I baked it for long enough.

        I won’t find out how good/bad it is til tomorrow, sometimes life gets in the way of bread making :)

        1. Joanna Post author

          Life definitely gets in the way of bread! I made some dough last night and was too tired to wait up with it, so I hid it in the fridge and baked it this morning. Not a sourdough just a dough with a little yeast in it. You sound like you are juggling lots of tasks right now. Hope the rye is getting there…it really does get better with practise quite quickly :)

  23. Sincerely, Emily

    I will send you some of our sun and heat only if you share your rain. I have been gloomy and unmotivated lately. Our nights are not cooling off anymore and I know I am going through an adjustment to that. Trying to just let it pass and get on with life. Hard sometimes. Somehow I roll out of bed in the early morning when it isn’t blazin’ hot to get out and work on something outside. Repeat in the evening. Somehow I am getting outside stuff done. I am going to mix up a few loaves of bread tonight, bake them tomorrow and take them to the man where I pick up my manure on Sunday. I think making bread with friends would put a huge smile on my face (I know the load of manure will too, but I have to load it!). Sounds like it helped you smile too. Enjoy today and tomorrow. Thinking of you! Emily

    1. Joanna Post author

      Oh hot nights :( It is rare that it gets that hot here but I do sympathise Emily. without restful sleep everything gets that much harder and I can well understand it is making you gloomy. Our rain came in all of a sudden and now it is quite cold again, I think there is a frost due tonight even here in the South West which is usually the most temperate part of the UK. I have baby bluetits (like chickadees) feeding babies which has cheered me hugely, they are rushing backwards and forwards to the one feeder we have left out for them and are catching loads of baby spiders and other nutritious foods for the little squeakers. The box is on the front of the garage that you can glimpse through the rain picture and I can hear them when I go down to put stuff in the compost. Peep peep.

      I think about manure, there is a place that sells Garden Ornaments that also sells ‘well rotted horse manure’ that I drive past quite frequently. I have to figure out how to get it home though. Take care my friend xx Joanna

  24. peasepudding

    Winter can do that to you, at least you are still making lovely bread. We are just moving into winter now but it’s never as cold as Europe

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s all go here in the garden, if it would only stop raining, it might warm up a bit too! But I have some early flowers on the new tomato plants I am trying so all is looking promising. Must put up a new post. Will try and do one tomorrow. Thanks for visiting :)

  25. Tutak

    Damn! Left the wild garlic wilting in a bag at the Tardis….Shouty Boy most annoyed as going on and on and on about garlic bread….This might just horrify you, but felt it had to be shared…../www.cakedoggydog.com/index.php/cake-dogs

    1. Joanna Post author

      Oooh you are awful ;) I don’t think I would like to eat a cake that looked as realistic as that. It reminds me of the Edible Woman book….

  26. Jean

    Hope you will feel better soon. At least spring holds promise.. What inspires you most about baking bread (or whatever) these days? Has it changed?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thankyou Jean. The weather is very changeable right now but lots of plants are doing well regardless. I am not particularly inspired by bread or food. but it is my habit to blog about it and the blog is a means of communication with some very kind people who I am very fond of.

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