Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

I am beyond excited about this bread for three reasons: first, it is….. it is…. (drum roll)….. my own recipe!!!! Second, I am entering it in a “Bread Contest” launched by Jackie, from Pham Fatale.   I hope you will have a moment to visit her site on October 1st to see all breads and vote for your favorite.  Third, I am submitting it for this week’s Yeastspotting, my third contribution to Susan’s event.

Of course, for the most part a “new recipe”, is an oxymoron, because almost all are variations on previous themes, and this bread is no exception. I played around with a basic sourdough formula that I’ve used countless times (from Hamelman’s Bread). It uses wild yeast as the sole leavening agent.   I put my very own 1.5 year old starter to work (I call him Mr. Dan), together with white and spelt flour, plus caramelized onions and a small amount of goat cheese in the dough, to balance the sweetness of the onions. I can’t thank Jackie enough for this contest, that gave me a big push to create a bread recipe; I look forward to seeing all the entries.


For the caramelized onions:
2 medium yellow onions, sliced very thin
large pinch of salt
1 T olive oil

For the bread:
330g bread flour
45g spelt flour
185g mature liquid starter
185g filtered water, at room temperature
1 + 1/4 tsp sea salt
85g caramelized onions, cut in small pieces
20g goat cheese, cut in small chunks

Caramelize the onions by sauteeing the slices in olive oil with the salt until they are dark golden. Sautee them slowly over low heat, stirring from time to time to prevent burning. It took me about 40 minutes.  Don’t  rush this process.  Drain the onions of excess oil on a sieve, then cool them and cut into pieces.

Refresh your starter two to three times over the previous couple of days to make sure it’s very active. Do the last refreshment 8 hours before making the dough.

Add all the ingredients (except onions and cheese) to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on first speed for 3 minutes. Check the hydration: if too sticky add a little more bread flour. Mix for 3 minutes more on second speed. Add the onions and cheese, and mix until incorporated. At this point, depending on the amount of moisture in your onions, you might have to correct the hydration. My dough needed almost 2 full tablespoons of flour.

Place the dough in a bowl coated with a spray of olive oil, allow it to ferment for 2.5 hours, folding the dough at 45 minutes, 1.5 hours, and 2 hours and 15 minutes. After the last folding, wait for 15-20 minutes and form a “boule”. Place it in a banetton or other recipient of your choice, and retard it in the fridge for at least 8 hours. (You can see pictures of how to fold the dough in one of my previous posts)

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours. Bake it at 430F for 45-50 minutes. A clay pot is perfect for this kind of bread. Place it  in the cold oven, when the oven is ready,  remove the lid (with oven mittens) and quickly dump the dough inside, make a couple of quick slashes, and close the lid.   After 30 minutes, remove the cover  to brown the crust. Internal temperature should be at least 200F.

Place it on a rack to cool for 2 hours before slicing. (I know this isn’t easy, but it’s essential to avoid a gummy crumb).


jump for more photos and final comments


brazilflag Always together, rice and beans are the staple of Brazilian home-cooking.  As a child growing up, I had them many times every week,  alongside beef, chicken, pork, or even seafood.   In Rio de Janeiro black beans are more common, whereas in Sao Paulo you’ll see a more reddish variety.  I’m from Sao Paulo, but my Mom was born and raised in Rio, so in our home you never knew what kind of beans  to expect.  Indeed, cooking beans is a weekly endeavor in Brazil:  you make enough to last the whole week, then you make it again. And again.  And again.   It sits in the fridge, waiting, getting better each day.

I’m not talking about “feijoada“, Brazil’s national dish “par excellence“, made exclusively with black beans. I’ll post a feijoada recipe in the future, but for now here’s  a much simpler preparation that you can adapt in many ways to suit your tastes.  The only thing that I won’t endorse (or forgive) are canned beans.  If you go that route, you’re on your own.  😉

2 cups dried black beans, picked
2 bay leaves

1/2 T vegetable oil
2 very thick slices of bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t ground cumin
red pepper flakes
ground black pepper
fresh cilantro (optional)

Place the beans in a bowl and cover them with two inches of water.  Allow them to soak overnight (I normally do that early in the morning and cook the beans in the evening).  Drain, discarding the water.  Place the soaked beans in a pressure cooker, add cold water to cover by 1 inch, add the bay leaves, and bring it to a boil. Cook under pressure for 15 minutes, then release the pressure.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, help the economy and buy one right away! 😉 Actually, you can cook them in a normal pan, but it will take 1 to 2 hours. Cook until the beans become  tender (they can be prepared up to this point and then kept in the fridge overnight).

Heat the oil in a  small frying pan.   Sautee the bacon pieces until they are golden, add the onion and sautee more, until dark golden.  You do want some color here.  When the onion is getting dark, add the garlic and cumin and sautee for a couple of minutes.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, add red pepper flakes.

If you made the beans the day before, heat them until boiling, then add the bacon/onion mixture plus all the oil accumulated in the pan. Mix it all well and allow the beans to simmer for a while (10 to 30 minutes), uncovered.   Remove some of the beans into a small bowl and smash the grains with a fork, forming a paste. Return the paste to the simmering pan and cook everything for 5 or 10 more minutes. Add salt to your taste; add more pepper and cilantro if you desire.   Remove the bay leaves.

Serve over white rice with the meat of your choice.  We had it with pulled pork and arugula salad, served on the same plate, the way my family likes to do it…


to print the recipe, click here.

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After a bunch of nice breads in the BBA challenge, it was bound to happen.  Let’s just say that I have “issues” with this recipe.  In practice, it was not too different from the previous assignment (light whole wheat bread), except that such rye-containing doughs should not be kneaded very long, or they become gummy.

For Marbled Rye you prepare two batches of dough, one that gets a darker color from  the addition of caramel coloring or coffee. I chose coffee.  The first thing that I noticed was that my darker dough was not dark enough, but at that point it was too late and I couldn’t do anything, as the texture seemed perfect. I took a deep breath and moved on.


I formed the loaf, placed it in the pan, and it rose beautifully….


I recommend accepting Reinhart’s advice and shaping it free-form. My pan was not big enough, and the bread ended up with a boxy shape.   But, the most important thing for a marbled rye, is the marbling!  Which  in my case didn’t exist.  It just wasn’t there, it wasn’t anywhere!


I’m accepting names for my fiasco, which tasted pretty good, if that’s any consolation…  “Blobbed Rye”, “Faint Marbled Rye on Drugs”, “Drunk Baker’s Marbled Rye”…


With my self-confidence bruised, I will move on.

Nineteen breads down, twenty-four to go….

Please make sure you check the other bakers who already made this bread, and did a much better job than me:

Carolyn and Joe from Two Skinny Jenkins

Deborah, from Italian Food Forever

Mags, from The Other Side of Fifty

Oggi, from I Can do That

Txfarmer, with her gorgeous website in Chinese

Paul, from Yumarama Artisan Bread


The times, they are a changing… Gotta love Bob!   Now I’ll have this song with me for the whole day… 😉

Fall is here, the beginning of my favorite cooking season: soups, stews, braises, comfort foods of all sorts are back on the menu.  To kick things off with an   ‘Mmmmm” here’s a recipe for vegetable soup, recently featured in Fine Cooking magazine (#101). This soup has a yin-yang aura about it: hearty and light at the same time. It’s perfect for the slightly cooler evenings…


(by Ellie Krieger, published in Fine Cooking)

(receita em portugues na segunda pagina)

2 T olive oil
3 carrots, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of butternut squash pieces (1/2 inch cubes)
1/4 t ground allspice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 quart chicken broth (I used homemade, you can use water for a vegetarian version)
1  14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 cups coarsely chopped kale (I used chard from our garden)
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed well

Heat the oil in a large pot, add the carrots and onion and cook for 5 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic, cook for one more minute, add the squash, cayenne, allspice, salt, and mix well.
Add the broth, tomatoes with their juice, and thyme. Bring it to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add the chard and chickpeas, then uncover and cook for 10 minutes more.
Remove the thyme sprigs and adjust the seasoning before serving.

To print the recipe, click here


My favorite season is over.  Soon it will be time for “the move”:  summer clothes will go into storage, while long sleeves, sweaters and coats will return to my closet.   My sandals will be gone, and with them the nice tan on my feet… The poor babies will be hiding in socks and shoes for months!

To say goodbye to Summer, I picked a yellow watermelon and turned it into granita. Watermelon is my beloved’s favorite fruit.  His ritual is to sit on the couch with a huge slice dangerously balancing on a plate, and our dogs locked into full begging mode close by. The dogs are watermelon maniacs;  they can smell it from several rooms away.

Granita is a refreshing classic, conveying the essence of Summer’s bliss with each spoonful.



Make a simple syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Heat until sugar is completely dissolved; cool to room temperature.

Make the fruit juice
Watermelon pieces
1 T lemon juice
pinch of salt

Juice the watermelon (easier if using seedless fruit, but we prefer to buy the regular kind).   Measure the amount, you will need a minimum of 3 cups.

For three cups of juice, add the full amount of simple syrup made, the lemon juice and salt.  Mix well.

Make the granita:
Pour the mixture in a glass baking dish, 9×13 inches, or 8×8 inches.  Depending on how thick the layer is, the longer it will take to freeze.  Place it in the freezer, and every half an hour (or 45 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your dish), scrape it with a fork to destroy the ice crystals forming on the edges, then place it back in the freezer.  Do this several times, maybe 4 or 5 times,  until the mixture is completely frozen. It will  take from 3 to 6 hours.

To serve, scrape the frozen granita with the tines of a fork into a serving bowl. Decorate with mint (which you can also add to the juice, I normally do that, but forgot this time), and….


To print the recipe, click here.

click for more photos e receita em portugues


Unlike the other breads in the “challenge“,  I’ve made this one many times. It is in fact our default sandwich bread, that I bake on weekends and slice and freeze for later in the week.

It’s a straightforward recipe, with white and whole-wheat flours, dry milk, a little sugar, butter, and commercial instant yeast.  Knead it until smooth, allow it to rise and shape it as a loaf; let it rise another time and bake it.  Really, easy as pie!

I made it  for the first time after reading this post at Smitten Kitchen. She expressed my feelings exactly: a person who loves good bread and enjoys cooking (that would be me, and I am sure many of you, who read food blogs… 😉 ), cannot possibly settle for what is sold at grocery stores as sandwich bread.

As I explained before, we can’t post the full recipe, but if you’d like to make a great sandwich-style bread at home, that freezes extremely well, look no further, grab the book, open to page 181 and give it a try…


You can follow the adventures of folks baking ahead of me through the challenge by clicking these links:
Carolyn and Joe, from  Two Skinny Jenkins
Deb, from Italian Food Forever
Oggi, from I can do that
Phyl, from Of Cabbages and King Cakes
Paul, from The Yumarama Artisan Bread Blog
Maggie, from The Other Side of Fifty

Eighteen breads down, twenty-five to go!
(I wonder if Peter Reinhart is still watching our adventures… 😉


I love cauliflower, from gratins and purees to soups and curries, passing by  tempura and souffles… 😉   The only way I dislike it is raw in “crudites”, which, to my mind, are an abuse of culinary practice.  I will not serve crudites and its partner, “the dipping sauce” for my guests.   Back to the point, I love cauliflower.  But, in truth, my husband does not share my appreciation for it.
“I take it we are having cauliflower….” is his usual remark when he spots it on the counter.   The tone of disappointment and resignation permeates the kitchen.  His mind is probably racing through philosophical thoughts on the ups and downs of marriage,  certain that a deep “down” is  approaching, set to arrive at dinnertime.

But my response is: “Oh, don’t worry, I think you’ll  really like it”.  And for those of you  on his team,  I say the same.  Give this recipe a try. It’s luscious, creamy, not too heavy, and surprisingly simple to make.

The recipe is from chef  Thomas Keller, of restaurant Bouchon , a place I’m dying to visit. It’s on a  page of a book  that I mentioned beforeSecrets of Success.


(from Thomas Keller, per Michael Bauer’s Secrets of Success)
(receita em portugues na segunda pagina)

1 large head of cauliflower. florets separated, stems diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 + 1/2 T olive oil
1 T minced shallots
1 T minced garlic
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream (see my comments)
1/2 T prepared horseradish
ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

To prepare the florets:
Fill a bowl with water, add the lemon juice, and place the cauliflower florets inside, allowing it to sit for 2 minutes. Drain.  Transfer them to a pan with salted boiling water and cook for about 7 minutes, until just starting to get tender.  Drain, place in an oven-proof serving dish. Alternatively, you can steam the florets, which works very well.



To prepare the creamy base:
Heat the oil in a sautee pan, add the diced cauliflower stems, the shallots, and the diced garlic, and cook for a few minutes, until tender. Add the water and cook, uncovered, for 5 more minutes, until reduced by half.  Remove from heat and add the cream. Transfer to a blender, add the horseradish, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pour the cream over the florets and stir. Top with the grated cheese and bake in a 425F oven until golden brown and bubbly, around 25 minutes.

To print the recipe, click here


Comments: The recipe calls for 1 cup of heavy cream,  which makes me a little nervous.  I’ve  made it in the original way, but also substituted half heavy cream/ half milk.  Even though I didn’t taste them side by side, (shame on me, what kind of a scientist am I?) the version with less cream tastes rich enough for us. Feel free to experiment.

I  love the fact that the cauliflower stems are a major part of the “creamy” component.  I’ve made other recipes with similar approaches, for instance the   “Duet of Cauliflower” published in Food and Wine years ago, but I ultimately prefer Keller’s take on it.

This basic dish may be tweaked to suit your taste (or other dishes that you are serving with it);  cauliflower goes well with many spices, nutmet, paprika, curry, dill. You can add pancetta or bacon to the creamy component if you like.  Other cheeses may be used alone or combined, including gorgonzola and other blue cheeses, that match cauliflower quite well.

Leftovers are great, and easily survive a couple minutes of microwave torture, if you desire  to go that route.

P.S.  He loved this dish, conundrum solved!  😉

para receita em portugues, siga o link….

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