Grapes for New Year

12 grapes Spain

Happy New Year! These are Las doce uvas de la suerte, “The twelve grapes of luck”. Handy portable party format, is it not? A grape is to be eaten with each bell as the clock strikes midnight. Spanish friends say it can be harder than you think, if you are laughing and have had a few drinks.

We brought these back from Spain, but our grapes ended up with some late Christmas gifts for friends today…… So we are grape-less this New Year! Oh well, better coordination next year, if we manage to retrieve one set and have the grapes in the right house next time. Or just get fresh ones? Fireworks are going off steadily in our neighborhood of Rome, although it is not even nine PM yet. Cold night out there.

Happy New Year to all!

At the Mercado in Alicante

market stallWe are in Spain for Christmas with the English side of the family this year, which is very nice. Staying in a holiday village is not a very Spanish experience, but we had a day in Alicante and stopped by the Mercado, the central market.
imageLittle pâté ducks! I was really happy.
sucking pigsThe others went for coffee and I had time alone to browse stalls, buy cheese and chorizo, and see these suckling pigs. Meat and cheese and salumi upstairs, fish and vegetables downstairs.
cheese stallBy now the others had joined me, and we explored this excellent cheese stall. We bought lots.
imageFrench and Spanish cheeses, very nice.
egg stallSeveral stalls selling eggs of many kinds.
image Wonderful dried fish, smoked and tinned fish, tuna and anchovies.

image This was just before Christmas and it was lively. Not a touristy market, lots of locals shopping and chatting. Very nice! We even found a lone bag of Brussels sprouts there, so my mother-in-law was delighted. No English Christmas dinner without that, it seems, though nobody actually likes them.

Sourdough loaf with hazelnuts

imageNothing says Christmas like a yucca palm with tinsel! Our palazzo has decorated for the holidays.

imageThe neighbouring palazzo even has a Christmas tree. The patron saints live there all year, but have company from a couple Santas this month. Our entrance has the Madonna, as I recall.


I particularly liked these Christmas figurines on the other mailboxes. Anyway, with holidays imminent a little bread might be nice? I tried adding hazelnuts this time, which worked well.

Sourdough loaf with hazelnuts

110 grammes mature sourdough starter, 100% hydration
375 grammes lukewarm water
410 grammes plain white wheat flour (I used 00)
90 grammes barley flour
30 grammes of shelled walnuts
6 grammes salt

I did this last night at dinner time: Stir the sourdough starter with the water. Add the flours and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. After this initial rest, add the salt. Fold dough with a spatula. Add more flour or water if you think the dough needs it.


Cover the bowl and let rise for about a couple hours at room temperature. Fold the dough a few times (just in the bowl, using a spoon or spatula). You will feel the dough becoming more elastic and responsive, and it will increase nicely in size. Fold in the shelled hazelnuts during the last fold.

For baking same day: move the dough to a floured banneton and cover it with plastic (a hotel shower cap works well), and let it rise 5-6 hours at room temperature.  I cheat, and line the banneton with baking paper, less pretty markings but easier to lift over to the pot. I left the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. Depends when you want to eat and have time to bake, I really appreciate how flexible sourdough can be that way.

When ready to bake (in my case, this morning): heat your oven to 250C, with a cast iron pot. When it is properly hot (or after at least 20 minutes), take the pot out carefully. Invert the dough onto a piece of baking paper, slash the dough, and put the bread in the pot. Bake at 250C for thirty minutes with the lid on, then 10-15 minutes more with the lid off, until the bread looks done and the base of the bread sounds hollow if you tap it. About 45 minutes in all, depending on your oven. Cool before slicing.

Sourdough hazelnut bread Happy holidays to all!