The trials and triumphs of breadmaking – part 3

Most mornings I am woken before 6am by a very cute baby babbling in her cot or one of two tornadoes that tear through my room, destroying everything in their path. It’s never easy dragging yourself out of bed at this time… except that is, when there is bread to be baked. Now that I know my loaves are going to turn out as they should, I wait for the baby to start stirring or the tornado to touch down and then I happily jump out of bed to crank the oven up. Does this mean I love bread more than my children? It’s unlikely, but after a string of disappointments on the sourdough bread journey, I’m finally able to enjoy the consistent satisfaction of freshly baked bread. It’s a good feeling.

I thought i’d share a few of the things that (I believe) have contributed to the success of my bread to help any home bakers out there who may be struggling in the kitchen. I am in no way producing artisan bakery level bread… but i’m on my way…

Pay attention to temperature

I now have a thermometer in one corner of my kitchen where I leave the bread to ferment. I use this to calculate the temperature that the water should be for making the leaven and mixing the dough. Tivoli Road Bakery have a good formula that I follow. Let’s say your kitchen is 20 degrees celcius:

Ideal temperature for bread making is 26 degrees

26 degrees x 2 = 52

52 – 20 degrees (current kitchen temperature)

= 32 degrees (the temperature the water should be to make your leaven and mix your dough)

I used to add temperate water by feel but I now know that the water would have been much too warm for the conditions in my kitchen, producing a wet, hard to handle dough (and consequently a flat loaf). By controlling the temperature of the water I find that the dough isn’t as billowy after bulk fermentation but it’s much easier to handle and shape.

Turn your dough during bulk fermentation

In the early days I read somewhere that completing all the turns during bulk fermentation was not necessary. Considering you need to be around to turn the bread every half hour, I was happy to to take on this piece of advice as it meant that I wasn’t housebound. In hindsight, this was probably not the best move and the source of the information is questionable. Turning the dough every 30 – 45 mins throughout bulk fermentation builds structure in the dough which is important to the robustness of your final loaf. So now I plan to make bread on a day where I am happy to be home in the afternoon – turning, turning, turning.

Use filtered water

I always filter the water that I use for mixing the leaven and the dough. As mentioned in my last post, the chlorine in tap water can kill a starter. I do know bakers who don’t filter the water and get good results but I am too afraid to turn back!

Try using a rye starter

I made my own rye starter from scratch. It’s more robust than a plain/wholemeal flour and to date has given consistently good results. It’s also nice to know that the sourdough bread is 100% mine from the start of the process to the end.

food photography, melbourne food, artisan bread by melbourne food blogger, sourdough, starter, artisan bread, sourdough bread

Each time I bake now I make two 70% plain/30% wholemeal loaves and then I make an experimental loaf such as the olive bread you see here. I freeze one loaf so we always have bread on hand.

Before I started making bread, I was spending $8 or more on a loaf of artisan bread at the market, often buying 4 loaves a week (spanish blood…). While I don’t make my own bread to save money, it does feel good to know that you’re producing similar quality bread for less than half the price. After all, it’s only flour, salt and water…



A year of food blogging

Leo (almost 5) asked me the other day if it was almost bed time. We’d not long had breakfast. It’s moments like these that remind me that the concept of time is much too complex for little minds to comprehend. How lovely it would be to live in this world.

Unfortunately as you get older the concept of time is all too real and the years come and go much faster than you would like. You always hope to look back and be happy with how you’ve spent your days. It’s been over a year now since I started Slow Sundays and this humble blog – writing about the food I enjoy cooking – has taught me more than I imagined it would. Putting energy into something you’re passionate about is certainly time well spent.

We had a baby girl in February of this year, an all consuming, turn-your-world-upside down baby. I had to learn how to juggle a family of five while finding time to post regularly. This was no easy feat and took quite a bit of planning. Considering that before you post you need to plan your meals, do the shopping, figure out how you’re going to make the food look good, photograph it and then write something that people will want to read – it’s more of a process than first thought!

I dove head first into the world of food photography – failed many times (continue to fail)… but I do know what depth of field and white balance mean now so some progress has been made!  However a perfectly captured photo is worthless if the food doesn’t look like something you’d love to eat. Enter ‘food styling’. This is much, much harder than it looks. Sometimes you set up a shot, high five yourself because you know the photos are going to be spectacular….and then you see the results (by which time you’ve already eaten the food). This happened to me quite a bit over the year. I have learnt that less is more and that you can’t force your style – it comes with time.

I’ve come to realise that social media is powerful, fickle and necessary. To succeed you need to dedicate time and effort to it. This is a job in itself. As you’re whiling away the time liking and commenting on random stranger’s posts, there is always a voice in the back of your head saying ‘I should be doing something much more productive with my time’. After all, food brings people together…in the real world, and creates some of life’s most beautiful moments. I am pretty sure  Instagram doesn’t do this…

But the real journey I have been on this year, much to my delight, has been in the kitchen (new family member aside). I have rediscovered the joys of baking my own bread (although it has not been without it’s trials), I’ve lived the seasons through the produce that each one brings and I’ve been much more conscious about how I feed my family.

This year I hope to experiment more with naturally fermented foods and make my own cheese, perhaps yoghurt.   I want to preserve more – pickles, jams, chutneys. I’m excited about making different types of bread (then buying a little truck and selling it in the streets ;-)). I want to bring people together over good food, cook with my kids more and savour the small, insignificant moments.

Thanks for reading. Not just today but throughout the year. Thanks for cooking my recipes, I hope they impressed a dinner guest or made your kids eat all their dinner.

Here’s to another year of cooking adventures…



Win a copy of Whole by Natural Harry – Giveaway now closed

Images courtesy of Natural Harry and Nikole Ramsay

Congratulations @hannahmnewton, you’ve won a copy of Whole by Natural Harry. Many clean, healthy recipes to start you off in 2018!

It’s the season for giving so I thought it was about time to giveaway something that will inspire people to get in the kitchen and cook delicious wholesome food. Whole by Natural Harry is as visually stunning (photography by Nikole Ramsay) as it is enticing.  Packed with over 110 down to earth, plant-based, whole food recipes, it has everything from nourishing breakfasts to wholesome main meals and divine desserts.

To be in the running to win, just follow these 3 simple steps (on instagram):

1. Follow @slow_sundays

2. Like the photo posted with the giveaway details

3. Tag a friend in the comments (tag more friends for more entries)

Good luck!! The comp will be open until 12pm on Thursday the 21st of December and the winner will be announced shortly after here on my website, on Instagram and Facebook. Open to AU residents only.

This giveaway is in no way sponsored by or affiliated with instagram, Natural Harry or Nikole Ramsay. I simply loved the concept of the book and the beautiful imagery and thought some lucky person out there might too.


The trials of breadmaking – part 2

I’ve previously posted about the emotional rollercoaster that is bread making.  No one told me that it was easy to make sourdough bread from scratch, but equally, no one told me how all consuming it could be, particularly when things aren’t fermenting and rising as they should be.

I’m not particularly good at accepting failure in the kitchen and as such, I’ve spent the last few months (yes it’s been that long!) trying to work out what the hell is going wrong with this more complicated than anticipated bread making process. Each time a loving tended to loaf comes out of the oven like a frisbee, it’s like a stake through the heart. Sounds dramatic but it’s not far from the truth. 

So where to begin? The starter is no doubt the most obvious place as it is responsible for creating the leaven that makes the bread rise. After exposing my starter to a little too much direct sunlight (I didn’t realise that yeast and sunlight were not the best of friends…), I decided to start a fresh with a new batch from a friend whose loaves always turn out perfectly.  Coincidently, I got a new oven at the same time and my first couple of bakes turned out well.  This early success lulled me into a false sense of (perfectly risen) security. Then the pancake loaves returned and I was quickly brought back down to earth.

Ok, so the starter is looking yeasty and rising and falling as it should and the new oven can surely be ruled out as the destroyer of bread… could it be the flour? I have been using a biodynamic white flour for the most part but on a couple of occasions I’ve gone for the good old supermarket white flour and surprisingly, the loaves have risen more. Coincidence?

Is it the water? My trusty bible Tartine says that any water you can drink is fine for bread making. So from day one I have used tap water.  Recently I purchased Ferment by Holly Davis and Holly says you should always use filtered water as the chlorine in tap water can kill a starter.

Holly, you may just be my saviour. I have started making bread with only filtered water and the loaves turn out perfect every time, like the one you see pictured here. Funnily enough, my bread making friend with the perfect loaves lives a few streets away and uses tap water. How do you figure that one out?

So through the process of elimination I am finally starting to feel like I am mastering the art of sourdough making (well for today anyway, tomorrow is a new day). It’s a complex beast. Let the experimentation begin!

If you’re not a bread maker and you’ve made it to here, well done! And if you feel like joining the fun…I’ll happily hand over some starter ;-).



Mixed mushroom and two cheese toastie with pickles

Well it seems winter has returned to Melbourne. I had just packed away the bulky doonas, jumpers and socks and I’ve had to pull them all back out again! Looking out my window at the moment it is a little windy, quite grey and very wet. You wouldn’t know it was summer. I am tempted to make soup but I think that going a bit too far… so I am going to make a mushroom toastie instead.

There is a little cafe not far from my house that serves their mushroom toastie with a pickle on the side. The sharpness of the pickle cuts through the richness of the mushrooms and cheese just nicely. Such a simple but comforting lunch on a cold and (unseasonably) wintery day.

So this is my version of a hearty mushroom toastie with cheese and pickles.

Mixed mushroom and two cheese toastie with pickles

A couple of tbs of butter

1 cup of assorted mushrooms (interesting ones), sliced – I used enoki, swiss brown, king oyster and baby oyster

A few sprigs of parsley and sage, chopped

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup of gruyere cheese, grated

1/4 cup of comte cheese, grated

1 pickle, sliced

2 slices of good quality sourdough bread

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium – high heat. Add mushrooms and leave to brown, stir and turn to ensure that all mushrooms are nicely browned. Add the chopped parsley and sage, salt and pepper and take off the heat.

Pile the cooked mushrooms onto a piece of your bread and scatter over the grated cheeses.  Place the pickles on top and then close the sandwich. Toast for a minute or so or until the cheese is melted and the bread is nice and crispy.