Kusmark sourdough

BoulangerieA story about , , , , Written on le Saturday 04 April 2015.

sourdough bread

I thought it would be nice to start my weekend boulangerie posts with a book quote. You know, being the weekend and all. Perhaps, you’ll want to do what I’ve doing and explore forgotten books.

Yes, I’ve had time. To bake, to draw, to read.
And yes, I’m extremely happy.

On this subject, a few nights ago, we watched a documentary – in Swedish – about what used to be Frantzén/Lindeberg. It was unusually accurate and very interesting. I could relate a lot; with both Frantzén and Lindeberg, who were in two – very – different phases which caused them to separate. But really, I especially liked the part where Lindeberg – after leaving the restaurant – says (and I’m about to very badly paraphrase/translate him) that once you leave that intense bubble created by the constant need to reach perfection, you start to soak in the beauty of life that has been around you all these years without you even noticed.
And while I don’t want to leave that bubble behind just yet, it’s certainly refreshing to be able to live without being consumed by a limitless passion that restlessly occupies every of your thoughts.

“It was a pleasant May morning in 1775, and the air was filled with the fragrance of the freshly cut pine logs that had been poled down the river in big rafts to be cut into planks and boards at the big sawmills. The river, unusually full with the spring rains, dashed against its banks as if inviting the little girls to play a game with it. Usually Anna and Rebecca were quite ready to linger at the small coves which crept in so near to the footpath, and sail boats made of pieces of birch-bark, with alder twigs for masts and broad oak leaves for sails. They named these boats Polly and Unity, after the two fine sloops which carried lumber from Machias to Boston and returned with cargoes of provisions for the little settlement.
But this morning the girls hurried along without a thought for such pleasant games. They were both anxious to get to the lumber yard as soon as possible, not only to fill their basket with chips, as their mother had bidden them, but to hear if there were not some news of the Polly, the return of which was anxiously awaited; for provisions were getting scarce in this remote village, and not until the Polly should come sailing into harbor could there be any sugar cakes, or even bread made of wheat flour.”
Alice Turner Curtis (1920), A Little Maid of Old Maine

sourdough before proofing

Kusmark sourdough
Adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.

You know those times when you know you’re doing something wrong, but you decide to go ahead and do it anyway. When, this was me, all over this bread. And yet, it turned out beautifully.
A lovely chewy crumb, with a wonderful sourdough aroma – yet not too strong – and a dark crisp crust.
I had a slice with a little butter and that Swedish flaky salt I’ve fallen in love with; the bread still slightly warm and the butter oozing on my fingers.

The dough felt quite dry and gluten development was very fast. I guess I’ve gotten too used to my usual 75% hydration sourdough and this one being only 65%, it was surprisingly easy to work with.
Yes, I do think it’s one of those magic breads that can absorb mistakes. Perhaps, a new go-to.

I’ve named it Kusmark sourdough as it is apparently custom to name your bread according to the geographical location of your starter. And really, I thought it sounded great.

The recipe.

makes one boule.

The recipe is based on Jeffrey’s Vermont sourdough, which seems to be loved by many.

75gT55 flour100%
for the dough
375gbread flour90%
50gwhole rye flour10%


The ingredients.

Jeffrey recommends to go for a 12% protein flour for his levain breads. So I went ahead and used my Kungsörnen vetemjöl special and the Saltå Kvarn rågmjöl that I’ve also been using to feed Surdeg these past few weeks.

The latter seems to absorb slightly more water than what rye has gotten me used to, so if you’re using the same flour, you might need to adjust the hydration slightly.

Starter used: Surdeg (19/03/2015), 14 days old.


sourdough bread slice

The timing.

Mixing the dough & autolyse = 1 hour-ish.
Bulk proofing = 3 hours, with one or two folds.
Pre-shaping, bench rest & shaping = 35 minutes.
Fermentation = at room temperature, for around 2-3 hours or 1 hours at 20°C then retarded overnight (for up to 16 hours according to Jeffrey) at 5°C.
Baking = 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of your loaf.


The process.

While I’m a bit of a perfectionist when working, I must say that I’m way more laid-back when it comes to home baking. In my mind – perhaps because I’ve spent so much time being insanely precise – I really like the nonchalance of baking at home. Yes, the oven isn’t perfect. Yes, the dough temperature might be too high or low. Yes, you will fail. But I’ve learnt to appreciate all of these. Maybe that will change, but for now, I’m pretty happy to take it for what it is: trying to make the best things possible in a home kitchen environment.

That means, I’m not going to lie, that:
– I didn’t measure dough temperature, even though I know they’re important. I adjusted the water temperature slightly to have a dough slightly warmer than 23°C, which I measured with my hands. There you go probe.
– I don’t have a banneton to prove my loaves, but a bowl lined with a floured kitchen towel.
– I didn’t score my bread using a lame – but a small serrated knife.

Other than that, here is the process I followed.

Make the levain.
In a bowl, mix your active starter and water. Add the flour and mix until smooth. Cover with clingfilm and allow to ferment overnight.

Mix the dough & autolyse.
In a large bowl, combine the levain, water, and flours until it just forms a dough. Leave covered for an hour.

Bulk proofing.
Add the salt and knead the dough to medium gluten development. The dough will feel elastic and smooth but slightly loose.
If you’re feeling like it, Jeffrey tells us the dough should now be 24.4°C.
Cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature to proof for around three hours.

My gluten development being a bit more than medium, I only gave the dough one fold. To give a fold, simply place the dough, “nice side” down on a slightly floured surface (I didn’t need any flour here) and pat with the palm of your hand into a rectangle. Then fold like a business letter. And again in the other direction. Place back into the bowl, and keep on proofing.

From the very beginning till the end of the process, make sure to keep the “nice side” – or seamless – of your loaf as is. While the other side will always be the one with seams.


Place “nice side” down onto a lightly floured surface. Pat down with the palm of your hand to degas the dough. Pre-shape the dough into a rough ball. Then cover it with a cloth – leaving its “nice side” down so not to put any flour on the seams and leave for around 30 minutes. In the meantime, get your banneton – real or homemade – ready. Then shape the dough into a tight ball, on a clean surface; the sticky dough will pull the outer layers creating some surface tension.
Place the dough seam-side up into your banneton if you intend on scoring the bread. Or for a more natural look, place the seam-side down to let the natural cracks bloom in the oven.

You can either ferment your loaf at room temperature until doubled in size and a positive finger poke test, or proof for around an hour before wrapping it in clingfilm or placing it in a sealed bag, and retard it in your fridge for up to 16 hours.

I went for the latter. But I think my fridge was too cold as barely any fermentation happened overnight and I had to leave my bread to proof outside for another two hours in the morning before it was ready to go in (slightly underproofed, but I had reached my patience limit).

Unmould your loaf onto a piece of baking paper, big enough for you to lift the bread to the cast-iron pot. And score into the pattern of your choice.
Scoring weakens a portion of the outer dough layer, creating the perfect escape for steam during baking and the cuts will expand in the oven, making sure your bread gets to its full volume.

sourdough scoring

Preheat the oven to 250°C for at least an hour before your bread is ready. You can preheat a cast iron pot as well, although I’ve baked bread in a cold pot before with great results. It’s really up to you, although I do think a hot pot will generate a better oven spring.

I choose to bake in a cast-iron at home for two reasons:
– it removes the need for a stone: cast iron will accumulate heat, just like a stone would. A hot cast-iron pot will prevent your bread from sticking and has amazing heat retention properties, which means it’ll keep your oven hotter and provide a real nice hot base for your bread to bake on.
– the bread steams itself: by placing a lid on top of your pot, you allow the steam that comes out from the bread to stay in a closed environment, hence acting as a steamer.
Yes, steam is essential for a good crusty bread that has a lovely oven spring. As the steam moisten the surface of the bread – retarding the gelatinisation of starch, a process which starts at around 60°C – it will increase the volume of your loaf and turn the crust into a shiny surface.

I baked mine at 250°C for 20 minutes with the lid on and then 30 minutes without. A quick way to check if your bread is done is to probe its centre. It should read 96-98°C for a sourdough bread.



Next time, I’ll increase the hydration to 70%, to – perhaps – get a more open crumb.
I also need to check my fridge temperature to make sure it’s not too cold.

Perhaps, I’ll use a lower protein flour, around 10.5-11% proteins.


Vermont sourdough ressources.

Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.

The fresh loaf’s posts on Vermont sourdough.

R.F. Tester & W.R. Morrison (1990), Swelling and gelatinisation of cereal starches.

All sorts of wonderful – Coconut drizzle cake

PâtisserieA story about , , , , Written on le Thursday 02 April 2015.

coconut cake out from the oven

When we’re in Åsen, we like to stay in the small cabin. The one by the big house, which I’ll have to show you more of when I (finally!) post the recipe for kanelbullar.

There is a small kitchen and a fireplace. A cosy bed nook, with curtains dimming the morning light, and a star by the window.

star light


Today, I walked on a path we made through the snow, to get eggs and butter from the big house. Milk too. And a large bowl. Back and forth. At times, I stopped on our front steps and sat in the sun. With my gum boots on.

flour and baking powder

coconut cake before and after

Yes, I’ve made a coconut cake while Kalle and his dad – Svante – were fishing on the lake.
I mixed flour and baking powder. And whisked butter, coconut oil and sugar until almost fluffy. Egg yolks got added. One after the other. Dessicated coconut and a glass of milk. And I whipped egg whites just so. The batter tasted delicious. And really, while the cake was in the oven, it smelled all sorts of wonderful in here; coconut and butter, crust getting golden. And I think it will last until the firewood takes over; not without its beautiful spitting and burning sounds – a music to which we fell asleep last night.

egg whites

coconut cake slice

When they came back from their little expedition, K. told me they took the canoe for a ride. And although I love my quiet moments here, I couldn’t help but wish I was there too. With them. On the lake, which I’m told, was mirroring the immobile sky. But I’m sure it will happen. Sooner rather than later.

In fact, K. bought me my very first fishing license earlier this morning. Here is to days by the river and coffee cooked over a bonfire.

coconut cake batter

Coconut drizzle cake

One thing that I love about cake – and when I say cake, I mean unassumingly plain: the way my mother made it, and my grand-mère too, the kind that’s eaten piping-hot from the oven, then sliced in little morsels and served with a fresh pot of coffee for dinner, the kind that’s wrapped in clingfilm and makes a mean breakast with a fat dollop of yoghurt – is that no matter how basic it looks, it is – most often than not – one of the best things in life.

This coconut cake is just that.
Light with a moist yet delicate crumb. It will keep for a week in an airtight container. More than enough time for you to have it: for breakfast, dessert, and nibble.
I decided to make it when I saw dessicated coconut at the store this morning. And really, I couldn’t have hoped for a better cake.

It’s very simple to make. You could even forget the icing. Or bake it in a loaf tin. I’ve used whole milk here, but I’m pretty certain – although I haven’t tried – that coconut milk would make an excellent substitute. Let me know how it goes if you ever want to turn your week into a better version of itself.

Coconut drizzle cake

serves 8

260 g plain flour
10 g baking powder
100 g butter
50 g coconut oil
225 g caster sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3 eggs, separated
140 g dessicated coconut
220 g whole milk

for the icing
icing sugar
boiling water
a handful of dessicated coconut

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Butter and line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper.
In a bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and set aside.
Cream the butter, coconut oil, sugar and salt for 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition, around 1 minute or so. Add the dessicated coconut.
Then, alternatively mix in the flour and the milk, in three times, until barely smooth.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then add a third to your batter and mix well. And finally, fold in the remaining egg whites gently using a silicon spatula.
Transfer the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until golden-brown and a knife inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool down slightly, then unmould onto a rack and leave the cake cool down to room temperature.

Make the icing by mixing icing sugar and boiling water to a smooth paste consistency. Drizzle over the cake, then immediately sprinkle with coconut.

Bonjour Åsen

MemoriesA story about , , , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 31 March 2015.

[Hello Åsen]


This morning, as every morning since the past two weeks or so, I’ve fed Surdeg. Rye flour and water. Stir. Cover.
Except, it’s no usual morning.

I packed it in my bag. With watercolours and old polaroid cameras. Yes, in ten hours or so, we’ll be in Åsen.


The not-so-official I-can’t-wait-for Åsen list.

1. Walking through Åsen forests again.
2. Drawing by the fireplace. On that little table where I learnt how to play backgammon last summer.
3. Going fishing on the lake.
4. Baking – or rather, trying to – a sourdough bread in the wood-fired stove.
5. Starting my croissants experiments as soon as we come back. As usual, I’m not very good at blog planning and this croissant article will have to wait.
6. Making kanelbulle, a Åsen tradition.
7. Stopping at the gas station on the way. For a latte and a hot-dog.
8. Not knowing what to expect. First signs of spring or snowy roads.
9. Learning how to make Leksands knäckebröd.
10. Telling you all about it, if I ever manage to make my portable internet work.

PS. A picture of flowers from last summer and some strawberry doodles act as a sun-dance for spring.
PS bis. Do you like my new header? xx