Bread with soaker, and Umbrian soup

Seeded loaves

Sourdough is my preferred bread, but sometimes the weekend rolls around and shopping has not been done, laundry is piling up, visitors are are arriving and the sourdough starter has certainly not been fed for the last two weeks. And I’m missing Fiesta Friday again. Oh no! Time to get sorted. Thus we had scrambled eggs and pickled herring for breakfast (yes, I just had a trip to IKEA to stock up on Kalle’s kaviar, sursild and rhubarb cordial), we chucked some laundry in, and I contemplated what other bread baking would best fit the day. It is also finally warm enough for cambia di stagione time here, which is when you change over your wardrobe from winter to spring/summer, and pull out summer shoes and sandals, so it needed to be a simple bread. I soaked the base for this bread, went for coffee, then set this dough, stashed away winter wear, and made soup. All sorted by dinner time.

Bread with soaker (2 loaves)

100 grammes whole wheat berries (helkorn)
50 grammes flax seeds
50 grammes quick-cook oatmeal
250 ml boiling water
Pour water over grains, seeds and oats. Cover, and leave to soak and cool 1-2 hours.

25 grammes fresh yeast  (or 12 grammes dried yeast)
180 grammes plain yoghurt (I used goat yoghurt)
300 ml water
400 grammes all-purpose wheat flour (I used 00)
150 grammes wholewheat flour
5 grammes salt

Crumble the fresh yeast, pour over water and yoghurt, add soaked grains, seeds and oats. Add flours, and stir it all together. After ten minutes, add salt and fold several times again, until the dough is mixed well. Cover, and leave to rise to double size.
rising dough

Fold the dough again, divide it in two and move the two dough portions to two medium sized baking parchment-lined bread tins. Cover, and let them rise another 30-45 minutes. It depends on the temperature of your kitchen, but you’ll see the dough rise and expand.

Heat the oven to 220C. When ready to bake, slash the tops and bake them for 45 minutes. I increased the oven to 230C at the end, as I thought the loaves were a bit pale.


These loaves were destined to be part of our dinner, but with what? We have been watching Italy Unpacked, which is great, and the last episode they went to Le Marche and Umbria. And I had a bag of Umbrian legumes in the cupboard, and a vegetable drawer that had seen better days, so Umbrian bean soup it was. Are the dried legumes not just beautiful?

Umbrian legumes

Umbrian bean soup
500 grammes of pearl barley and mixed dried legumes: green lentils, fava beans, borlotti beans, peas (any commination you have), ideally soaked 12 hours
2 sticks celery
handful parsley
small onion
3 carrots
1 litre chicken stock + 1 litre water
salt and pepper to taste
Soak the legumes 12 hours (I soaked these 9, I confess…….). Chop vegetables, toss them in a pot. Drain the soaked legumes, and toss everything in the pot. Cook gently for an hour or so.

There you go: dinner!

bread and soup It’s a humble contribution to Fiesta Friday 65, with thanks to co-hosts this week Effie @Food Daydreaming and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook.

Fiesta Friday

A birthday cake shoe

Shoe birthday cake We are in Tuscany for Easter, with rolling hills, olive trees and vineyards, and very wet weather. So yesterday we baked a cake, went for a pici con cinghiale lunch, then came back to sculpt the bread into this running shoe for the birthday boy of the group, who just turned 42.

Chocolate cake recipe The recipe, as written by our head baker (aged eleven). This was doubled.

Chocolate cake recipe

This was baked in a 20x30cm foil tray, so we could cut the cake in half and stack the halves.

Chianti in rain

While cake cools, go for a drive and and admire the rainsoaked view.

Carving shoe cakeA shoe shape was outlined, we carved the cake halves and glued them with frosting.

Blue fondantBlue fondant icing, brought over from the UK. The birthday boy runs marathons and just got a new pair of blue running shoes.

Wine bottle as rolling pin No rolling pins in a holiday house kitchen, but we had Chianti bottles from last night which worked well! The laces were handcolored orange royal icing.


Hey presto, a birthday cake shoe!  And we are heading off for Easter lunch soon. Happy Easter Sunday to all!

Sourdough loaf with buckwheat flour

Sourdough loaf buckwheatWhen life is a bit chaotic, baking bread can help. Feed the starter, watch it develop bubbles and the right smell; set the dough, and fold it now and then, and bake it when it suits your schedule. Familiar rituals, which are also soothing. I might have to leave Rome later this year for work reasons, and I find myself alternating between severe apprehension and resigned stoicism when thinking about it. Then I resort to compiling mental lists at 3 AM of  hierarchies of kitchen gear: what would absolutely have to be in luggage (sourdough starter, good knives, parmesan), what might go in a limited set of moving boxes (coffee grinder, moka, baking gear), and what we could certainly live without (ramekins, cocktail glasses, fondue set). And just how much parmesan and pecorino would one need to pack? Hard to tell when possible new destination is not yet known. Silly, I know, but it calms me. The move might not happen at all, but just contemplating the possibility is making it clear to me that I am really not quite ready to leave Rome yet, despite a number of years here. I have been very fortunate.

Rome is especially nice now in the spring, so I will just take a deep breath, try not to worry too much over what I cannot control, enjoy the spring and see what happens. Baking bread can be done almost anywhere, I tell myself. Here is a normal sourdough loaf with buckwheat flour bought in Northern Italy, in Varese. The speckled flour gives a nice chewiness and flavour to the bread, I will try that again.

Sourdough loaf with buckwheat flour

100 grammes mature sourdough starter, 100% hydration
400 grammes lukewarm water
450 grammes plain white wheat flour (I used 00)
70 grammes buckwheat flour
5 grammes salt

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. This was quite wet.


Cover the bowl and let rise for about a couple hours at room temperature. Go for coffee and enjoy a nice spring day first. I just discovered  a new lemon tree up the road.

imageFold 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.

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 three hours at room temperature.  I cheat, and line the banneton with baking paper, less pretty markings but easier to lift over to the pot. Our kitchen is already 20C, so this rose quickly.

When ready to bake: 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.

Happy Easter to all!