sourdough bread

My sourdough bread journey

Posted on

Best sourdough bread recipe ever

King Aurthur sourdough recipe

Sourdough bread has a bit of a cult following at the moment. It’s tangy, complex flavour and crunchy chewy crust make it some of the yummiest bread around but I think part of what makes it so sort after is that it is the antithesis of convenience food. Making sourdough bread at home doesn’t fit well into our modern lives. It’s fickle, messy and time consuming but like most things that take effort and time to master the results are worth it. If you’re new to sour dough bread the yeast used in most modern bread recipes is replaced with a starter that your grow at home.

I’ve been writing this post in my head for months but what has inspired me to finally get it written is making the best and simplest loaf of sourdough bread I’ve ever made. However as my title suggests it has been a journey to get there and I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learnt along the way to hopefully get you to the goal of making great sourdough bread a little quicker.

My first attempt at a sourdough starter was a dismal failure. Not only did I never get an actual loaf of bread made, I’m pretty sure I also created some kind of toxic concoction that would not have done you any good to ingest. It had that pinky/purple hue they all warn you about in the recipes and it smelt BAD!

My version of the BBC sourdough bread.

So what went wrong the first time?

Firstly I think the starter recipe I used first time was too complicated. It contained yoghurt and yeast plus water and flour. Just more ingredients, more chance of it going wrong. Also the dairy element I think made the chance of it going bad more likely.

Secondly I don’t think I approached it with the right mindset. The recipe I used came from a fantastic book which I had tried almost every recipe and they’d been winners. I think I just wanted to try the next recipe and didn’t realise the commitment and dedication sourdough bread making requires. Growing a sourdough starter is a bit like taking on a new pet. Somewhere between cat and seamonkey in it’s level of commitment. In the first couple of weeks it’s more like a newborn baby requiring regular feeding and you have to organise your life around it. Having two small children at the time this was probably just one commitment too many for me a the time.

Second time lucky

Fast forward a few years and all the stars aligned for me to give it another go. What inspired me this time was watching Michael Pollan’s excellent mini series Cooked. In this program Michael Pollan explores how cooking transforms food and shapes our world. The episode titled Air focuses mainly around bread and gluten. This history of this staple of humanity and how recent industrialisation of the bread making process has taken this simple product defined as containing, flour, water, yeast and salt, to containing a list of additives a mile long. He questions whether this change is contributing to the rise of gluten intolerance in western society.


Two things about this episode fascinated me.

1 the discovery of the wild yeasts that eventually resulted in leavened bread. He describes the possible scenario of some ancient human leaving a bowl of wheat porridge out on the table on a warm day long enough for the wild yeasts in the air to begin to grow and multiply. How magical it must have seemed to see that bowl of porridge begin to bubble and grow. This is the closest we’ve ever come to true alchemy. Flour and water transforming to this living growing dough that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. That when cooked transforms to some of the most simply delicious food we ever eat.

2 my sister-in-law has chosen a gluten free diet for health reasons. She was one of my biggest home made bread fans and I also wondered if that was true if there is something in the short cutting of modern bread making that makes it less digestible to people today. There is suggestions that the long fermentation process of sourdough bread making breaks down the gluten making it easier for those with gluten intolerance to digest. However this part I haven’t proven and wouldn’t suggest trying unless your intolerance is only mild.

So this time I had the right motivation. I wanted to replicate the most simple and primal bread making experience and see if with just flour and water I could make my own bread. I’ve got to admit there is a wee tad ‘doomsday prepper’ in my personality. Maybe it’s growing up in the shadow of the cold war but I always feel better when ever I acquire another essential survival skill. If the zombie apocalypse comes I’ll be in high demand.

Another thing I did right this time was give myself time. I took on growing the sourdough starter over the school holidays. I had two weeks on minimal commitments. This is also something that you can do with your kids as a cool science experiment so a good school holiday activity.

I found this very simple recipe for a sourdough starter plus a lot of great tips and step-by-step instructions on the King Arthur flour website. Following their instructions I successfully grew a healthy vigorous starter and made my first loaf of sourdough bread with no added yeast what so ever! It was such a triumphant day, such a sense of accomplishment. I tried a bunch of recipes, both from the King Arthur site and from around the web. I’ll include links to the most successful ones at the bottom of the page. However the business of life took over and my starter got relegated to the fridge and once weekly feedings. Most of the time I was too busy to make bread from the discard so it got chucked down he sink, which seemed a real shame.

We’re currently on another round of saving a budgeting so reinsured to save a little money I thought I’d better start making my own bread again. I had another hunt around the web for a new sourdough bread recipe to try. This time my aim was as simple as possible with a timing that fit well into the daily routine. For those of you unfamiliar with sourdough bread proving the dough takes a lot longer than with added yeast. It’s not uncommon for a recipe to take days to prove. Usually there’s not a lot of hands on time – just a lot of waiting. So you have to plan ahead and you have to time everything backwards so you start your process with enough time to finish at a useful part of the day. When I found this recipe on the BBC good food website I thought I was onto a winner. There were a couple of things I really liked about it. It was simple just starter, flour, honey, salt and water. It used a lot of starter and it fit well with using the discarded starter after feeding so there was no waste. It had a 6-8 hour second proving time which fits perfectly into either a work day or over night. Simply shape and forget. However my first couple of attempts were a bit disappointing. It definitely wasn’t as good as the King Arthur recipe but because of the convenience I stuck with it.

Then I decided to put my mad scientist hat on and experiment. Problems I had found with the recipe were it had a course crumb texture, it didn’t seem to raise much in the oven and was generally just a bit ho-hum in taste. Rereading the recipe I realised I hadn’t been giving my starter long enough to come back to life after being refrigerated. Also I felt though the second raising time length was convienient it seemed too long. I looked like the dough had risen and collapsed in that time so I needed to shorten that. Also to improve the crumb I thought I’d try to add a small amount of gluten flour – obviously if you’re trying to cut your gluten you’d omit this but it with the other changes seems to have made a dramatic difference.


  • 300gms sourdough starter.
  • 220mls warm water
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tbsp gluten flour (optional)
  • 500gms high grade or bread flour.


  1. The day before you want to make your bread take your starter out of the fridge (if that’s where you are keeping it) Reserve your 4oz and feed. Take the remainder and feed with 4oz warm water and 4oz flour. After a couple of hours put your reserved, feed starter back in the fridge and leave the starter that you are going to use to make the bread on the bench in a warmish place, loosely covered until the next day.
  2. If you want to eat your bread for lunch start as early in the morning is you can. Dissolve your starter which will now be hungry again in the warm water. Add the honey and salt and mix. Add the flour and gluten flour and either by hand or with the dough hook of a stand mixer kneed for about 10 minutes. Add more flour or water to get a soft but not sticky dough if necessary.
  3. Cover and leave the dough for 2 – 3 hours. The dough should have risen slightly but may not have done too much.
  4. Knock down and shape into one large round.
  5. Put a clean tea towel into a bowl or proving basket (got to get me one of these) dust liberally with flour and put the shaped dough smooth round side down, seem side up in the bowl.
  6. Oil some cling film and cover. Put in a warm place to rise for 2-3 hours.
  7. Heat the oven to 220c about an hour before you want to eat your bread. Put a large shallow pan filled with water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.
  8. When the oven is hot enough invert your dough gently onto a baking tray after removing the cling film!
  9. With a very sharp knife cut three deep slits in the top of the dough. This will not only give your loaf that traditional sough dough look but it helps the dough underneath expand without being constrained by the skin of the risen dough.
  10. Place in the oven for 40mins.
  11. Bread is cooked when it sounds hollow to tap.

Other recipes

King Authur flour extra tangy sourdough

Breadtopia wholewheat sourdough

This is an image of Rock Candy.

Rock Candy tips and tricks

Posted on

Despite it begin the current dietary bad guy you just can’t deny what an amazing substance sugar is. Even if you forget about the taste we all love, purely as a creative material in cooking it’s versatility is incredible. You can even use sugar to learn about the science of crystals. What more could you ask for than running a science project that in the end you can eat the results. I also think rock candy sticks are wonderfully pretty to look at and photograph and I had a lot of fun with that. Growing rock candy may test the patience of younger children but if there’s just a little bit of OCD in any of you parents, like me, you will love this process.

The rock candy recipe

  • 1 part water
  • 3 parts sugar
  • Wooden skewers
  • Tall thin glasses or jars
  • Food coloring and flavouring if desired.
  • Clothes pegs or large bull dog clips for suspending the skewers over the glasses/jars

The ingredients couldn’t be simpler but as always working with sugar can be both tricky and dangerous when it gets hot, so the first stage definitely requires adult supervision. All recipes call for one part water to two to three parts sugar. So if you had one cup of water you’d need two to three cups of sugar. Basically the more sugar you can dissolve into the water the better – though there is a catch – if you add too much sugar and do too much stirring your sugar syrup may crystallise in the pan. This is want you don’t want and the major omission that I found in all the tutorials I read. Obviously the more sugar and water you use the more rock candy you can make but I’d suggest starting with 1 cup water: 3 cups sugar for your first batch until you have the method working so as not to waste too much sugar.


Wet your skewers and roll them in sugar and hang them to dry in the jars. The sugar on the skewers provides a ‘seed’ for the crystal growth. Do this as far in advance as you can. If you get nice and evenly coated skewers you should get nice even crystal growth, but they need time to dry so they don’t wash straight off when you put the skewers into the solution.

Add one cup of water and three cups of sugar to a heavy based pan.

Bring to the boil over a medium high heat stirring UNTIL the syrup boils. As soon as it boils STOP STIRRING. Bring to a rolling boil and then take off the heat. This should only take a couple of minutes. The rest of the sugar should now be dissolved. You should end up with a clear, thick liquid.

We put different colouring in each glass so we ended up with 5 different colours. It’s up to you if you want to make them all the same. If you want a different colour for each you can put a few drops of colouring (concentrated gel is best) in the bottom of each glass

Allow your syrup to cool for 15 to 20 minutes and warm your glasses to avoid the hot liquid cracking them. Carefully pour in your hot syrup to the top mixing the colouring as you go.

Lower your sugar seeded skewers into the liquid. Depending on the size of your glass/jar you will be able to fit either one or two in each. Make sure the skewers don’t touch the bottom or sides of the container.

Put the containers in a warm sunny places where they won’t be disturbed and loosely cover with a kitchen towel if you have dust or bugs to worry about – and wait!

Within a day or two you should start to see some growth. If you start to find a sugar skin start to form on the surface of the liquid or crystals form at the bottom of the container it’s a good idea to pour the liquid into a fresh container. Use a sieve to remove and chunks of sugar floating around. Do this once a day at the most.

It should take about a week to grow some decent sized crystals.

The science

So this is all great fun and produces some yummy results but we’re also here to learn something right! Now I only studied chemistry as far as high school so I’m no expert but again thank goodness for all the helpful people out there in cyberspace all the answers are there.

So what’s happening is when we melt the sugar in the water we are creating a SUPER SATURATED liquid which is essentially unstable and the sugar can not stay dissolved in the solution once it cools. As the liquid cools the sugar comes out of the solution it is forming a precipitate, in the form of sugar crystals and the method is called precipitation. The other effect that makes the crystals grow is evaporation – over time the water evaporates from the solution again increasing the saturation of sugar in the solution and encourages the sugar molecules to collect on your stick.

Molecular bonds are soft with relatively low melting points. Rock candy sugar crystals are made from molecular bonds (there are other types of bonds in crystals such as ionic in salt) and they grow molecule by molecule on the stick.  There may be as many as a quadrillion molecules attached to your stick when they are fully grown.


Here are some of the useful websites that helped us with our rock candy plus some science sites for further reading.

Middle school chemistry

Video Tutorial

Science Bob


Citrus body scrub recipe

Posted on

Body Scrub makes a great activity for a Spa Party or Spa Party Favor

For my daughters Pacific Beauty Spa party I scoured Pinterest for recipes for products we could make as a party activity.The body scrub turned out to be an absolute winner.

This is an image of oranges used in the body scrub recipe.

As soon as I ran out I had to make more for myself and started to adapt the body scrub recipe so now I think it’s even better. It’s become a beauty routine essential, and so easy to make out of basic pantry supplies! This recipe will make enough for a small party favour bottle full for around 10 guests or 3 large Mason Jar size pots for your own personal supply.

You’ll need

  • 4 cups of white sugar
  • One orange
  • Enough neutral vegetable oil (like canola) to cover the sugar
  • Essential oils: Sweet orange, bergamot or patchouli oil work well with orange

This is an image of orange sugar.

Put your sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and grate the rind of one orange into the bowl with it. Turn the mixer onto low and allow the rind and sugar to blend together for about 5 minutes. This will release the oils in the orange zest and give you a wonderfully fragrant and golden colored sugar.

Transfer the sugar/orange mixer into a bowl and cover with oil so that all the sugar is wet.

Mix in the essential oils of your choice and transfer to clean, air tight jars.

Visit our Etsy shop and add a Printable Party Ideas label as the finishing touch!

Macaroon Mess

Posted on

Macaroon Fail? Never fear, Macaroon Mess is here!

I must have made hundreds of Macaroons by now. I’ve even taken a night class to learn their secrets. But they are tricky, fickle things and even now probably two thirds end up in the reject pile. They still taste great of course but maybe they are cracked or have peaks or horror of horrors not passed that number one macaroon test – no feet!


So I end up with tins full of macaroons that eventually go stale and get thrown out. Seemed like an awful waste. While prepping for our latest party I had a brain wave – the Macaroons taste great, look pretty why not create a twist on an old classic – instead of Eton Mess why not Macaroon Mess. Now someone may have come up with this before but if they haven’t I hear by coin it! If you’re not familiar with Eton Mess it’s a heavenly mix of crushed meringue, strawberries and cream. Another one of those serendipitous happy accidents like brownies that have found their way into our most favourite recipes.


How do you create a Macaroon Mess?

Part of the beauty of the dish is it’s really easy and if you have a great clear glass trifle bowl it will look spectacular. It’s simply a matter of layering. Starting with cream, sweetened with sugar and essence, either vanilla or an appropriate flavour for you other ingredients, add a layer to the bottom of your bowl.

Next some fruit. This mess was for a “Twisting by the Pool” baby shower. Our colour theme was blues, greens and a punch of yellow for an accent. So I picked fruit that fit that theme. I used a mix of fresh and canned pineapple and folded lemon curd through the juice to thicken it and balance the sweetness. You could use a berry compote or stone fruit but make sure they are thickened a little so there isn’t too much juice that will just end up curdling your cream.

Then add a layer of Macaroons. Crumble and crunch those little suckers up and sprinkle them over the fruit. Repeat this sequence until your bowl is full or you’ve run out of ingredients. Save a layer of cream and a sprinkle of Macaroon crumbs on the top. The Mess will start out with chewy crunchy bits and the longer it’s left they will melt into a marshmellowy sticky ribbon of pretty colour. Have fun with your colour, flavour and fruit combinations. My family have given it the definite thumbs up.

Printables shown in the photos are available from our Etsy shop.


Biscotti recipe

Posted on

Ginger dark chocolate biscotti

Biscotti makes a great gift, it’s easy to make, goes a long way and keeps well. My biscotti recipe has ginger and dark chocolate, one of my favourite combos.

This is an image of ginger and dark chocolate biscotti


  • 2¼ cup of plain flour
  • ½ tsp of baking powder
  • 3.5oz of ground almonds
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup glace ginger chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cups of castor sugar
  • tsp of vanilla essence


Heat oven to 350°F.

Sift flour and baking power together and mix in chopped ginger, ground almonds and chocolate.

Whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla essence.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and poor in the egg mixture and mix till combined. The dough will be quite wet so tip out onto a lightly floured and divide in two. Roll the two sections into long sausage shapes about two inches wide and 12 inches long. If the mixture is really sticky you can use cling film to help roll the dough into shape.

Put the two logs of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with baking paper with a little room between each to allow for some spreading. Bake for 25 minutes.

When cooked allow the logs to cool completely before cutting. Once cool cut into .18 inch thick slices diagonally down the log. I found using a serrated bread knife using very little pressure, just letting the knife do most of the work gave the smoothest most event biscotti.

Place the sliced biscotti back onto the cookie sheet in a single layer and cook for a further 15 mins. Keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t over brown. Cool on a wire rack.