Baking with Steam in Your Home Oven

Steam burns hurt. Like really, really hurt. The small mark on my left forearm begs the question every day: Maurizio, was it really worth it?

But before we talk about my new baking badge of honor, let’s concentrate on overcoming the challenges of baking good bread at home. While many of these challenges present themselves early on in the two-day process (fermentation, flour selection, mixing, shaping, and so on), there is that key component at the end of this whole ordered procession: baking with steam in a high-temperature home oven.

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A Trip to Northern Italy (and What I Did with My Sourdough Starter)

I’ve been separated from my good friend ‘baking’ for a short stint, but only because I traveled out to northern Italy, specifically the Veneto region, to attend a very important wedding: my brother’s! His fiance and her family live in the area but most of my family is in the south, with just a few up north, and so it’s a convenient central point for everyone to congregate and celebrate — and we sure did. Countless bottles of prosecco, sent back for recycling with nary a drop, provided ample proof of the full-day event. Prossecco is the life-blood of this area and every square inch of farmland has a vineyard placed on it, soaking up the rich soil to produce those lovely little pale grapes.

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100% Whole Wheat Sourdough

I have made whole wheat sourdough in the past but never a fully whole grain version, I typically mix in some white flour or sift out the bran, never to return. However, this entry is a true 100% whole wheat sourdough, through and through, and I have to say its taste really surprised me. Not too wheaty, not bitter, and a beautiful rise with a just-dark-enough colored crust. Some of this is due to the exceptional whole wheat flour I’m using (see below), but of course bread doesn’t just bake itself, the process is just as important.

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My Top 3 Leftover Sourdough Starter Recipes

Should we take a break from baking bread for a bit? How about just one entry… Trust me it will be worth it when you try even just one of my top 3 leftover sourdough starter recipes. Plus, it’s still considered baking if we’re using a starter, in a roundabout kind of way, isn’t it? This post presents a few ways we can utilize our excess sourdough starter discarded at each feeding (refreshment), and since my sourdough starter is fed twice daily,  I usually have excess starter in the morning and evening. Many see this excess as “waste” but it’s something that can be used for many things besides going into your compost bin. After all, this waste can be seen as food for our culture and is essentially a levain we would use to give life to otherwise inert flour.

If you named your sourdough starter like I have (hey, Brutus1!), you’ll be singing their name each weekend when you use your fork to cut into crispy waffles, light and fluffy pancakes, and deliciously nutritious banana bread.

I’ve made the waffles & pancakes so many weekends the process has become ritualistic.

The following recipes are tried and true here in my kitchen. I’ve made the waffles and pancakes so many weekends the process has become ritualistic: mix the batter the night before to ferment overnight, wake and finish mixing, and then get cooking.

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  1. My starter was donned Brutus after trying to get a few of his kin created unsuccessfully. I was just in the middle of reading a brief history of Julius Caesar and the name seemed appropriate for such a stubborn character in my life.

Tartine Millet Porridge Sourdough

I’ve baked many Tartine-style loaves through the years, but really only a few from their third book, Tartine No. 3: Ode to Bourdon whole wheat and their oat porridge loaf. Both extremely good loaves and worth the little bit of extra work required, but why haven’t I made more of the several dozen, sometimes very unique, recipes? The answer is simply that I haven’t had the time to derail my focus on the constant improvement of my country loaf. Each time I get the opportunity to bake I want to do a “simple” country loaf to try and open up the crumb, get a more gelatinized interior and increase the caramelization of the outward crust.

However, we recently had a need in the kitchen for millet and I just knew there was going to be a recipe in Tartine No. 3 for this whole grain. Sure enough, a millet porridge recipe almost opened up to itself as I was perusing the tome. Before heading to my local market to pick up the small amount we needed, I decided to double it and attempt this porridge recipe a few times. My previous oat porridge bakes produced some of my favorite sourdough to date and I just knew, if executed properly, a millet porridge bread would rank equally high on my favorite recipe list.

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