Some Kitchen Trials and Tribulations ….

Celia, from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, posted a recipe for Sesame Snaps not long ago.  I love Sesame Snaps.  When I was employed, I would regularly forget that I should be on a diet and go down to the Newsagent and buy a Sesame Snap.  So when I saw Celia’s recipe, I thought I would give it a try. The above photo is my effort.  The photo below is Celia’s effort.  See if you can spot the difference:)  I know it is hard but, go on, make an effort.  I will give you a hint.  Celia’s looks like Sesame Snaps, whereas mine looks like a bowl of crystalised sugar and sesame seeds.

Yep, that is what we got – a bowl of crystalised sugar.  I didn’t even know that making toffee could go wrong – my mum used to make it all the time and it looked so simple.  Luckily, Maus was at the stove when it all went wrong so I can blame her for the result.

I don’t have that many books with me so I haven’t been able to really research the art of toffee-making but I have learned on the net that crystalisation happens when you run out of moisture (which will happen it you have the heat too high).  I also learned that many recipes include an acid to stop crystals forming and that butter also helps.  I haven’t been able to give it another go because I need to go to Kakulas Sister and buy some more sesame seeds.  I will report back on our next attempt.

Then there is my sourdough ciabatta.  I have been baking sourdough ciabatta for weeks now.  Poor Maus, the other day she asked, “What, you’re making ciabatta, again?’  ‘Yep, again‘.

A perfect ciabatta has a moist, rubbery-looking texture which is full of  big uneven holes.

This the best of three tries following Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye from Local Breads by Daniel Leader.  I followed the Doc’s technique. I certainly got the lovely rubbery look but not many big, open holes.  It certainly did not look like the Doc’s magnificent loaf.

Then I tried Ceilia’s recipe using the super-fine remilled Semolina flour that she gifted me.  This is my effort.  Again, the texture was perfect but where are those nice big holes?  Nothing like Celia’s.

When you don’t succeed, you need to blame someone or something. Maus was no where near the kitchen when I was baking the bread so I couldn’t blame her. I decided to blame my ‘tools’ and in this case, my wheat starter.  It is not as robust as my rye starter so I figured either it didn’t like winter or was not strong enough to give the boost needed in the super wet dough.  My solution was to add some rye starter.  I used the same water/flour percentages in the Pierre Nury recipe but converted it to a 100% hydration starter and converted the 50g of rye flour to 100g of rye starter (therefore, maintaining the flour content).  I then adjusted the water content, ensuring the hydration in the recipe remained the same.  For those out there with my starters (and there is a growing number of you) or keeping 100% hydration starters, you may want to try it.  I still didn’t get those nice big holes but it tasted great (as did all the others) and I got the rubbery texture.

Make up:

  • 180g of rye starter (60g old starter, 60g rye flour and 60g rainwater)
  • 210g wheat starter (70g old starter, 70g wheat flour and 70g rainwater)

When the starters have doubled in size and are all nice and bubbly, proceed.

Measure out:

  • 100g rye starter
  • 164g wheat starter

Take 50g of each of the remaining starters, feed with 50g of the appropriate flour and 50g water and put back in the fridge.


  • 100g rye starter
  • 164g wheat starter
  • 450g bread flour
  • 310g rainwater
  • 10g salt
  1. Mix the bread flour and water in your mixer bowl until just combined.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave for 20 minutes.  This allows the flour to hydrate and the gluten to develop.
  2. Add the two starters and the salt.
  3. Knead the dough in an electric mixer for 12-14 minutes until it is smooth and very stretchy.  Take a small bit of dough and stretch it between your fingers.  You should be able to stretch is so much that you can see through it without it breaking(the window pane test).
    You could mix the dough by hand but it will be very sticky.  Pick up the dough, flick it and whack it against your bench.  Keep doing this until the dough passes the window pane test.  Do not add flour – just do the best you can.
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled, plastic, rectangular container with lid. Cover and leave for 1 hour.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured bench and do a stretch and fold.  Return the dough to the container.
  6. After one more hour, do another stretch and fold, re-oil the container and return the dough to it.
  7. Leave the dough at room temperature and allow it to double in size.
  8. Once doubled in size, put the container in the fridge for 12 – 24 hours.  It will not increase in size.
    Putting the dough in the fridge (retarding the loaves) intensifies the flavour of the bread.  As Daniel Leader advises, this is  “…because even though the yeast produces less gas at cooler temperatures, bacteria produce more lactic and acetic acids, giving slow-fermented breads their pleasantly sour flavour.   (Beyond twelve hours, these acids will start to break down the gluten in the dough, inhibiting the bread’s rise.) Retarding also results in darker thicker caramelized crust with appealing brown bubbles, evidence of carbon monoxide escaping to the surface during baking”.

Next day:

  1. Take the container out of the fridge three hours before you want to bake.
  2. After two hours, put a tray (a Swiss roll tray is ideal) on the bottom shelf of your oven and two unglazed tiles (side by side) about a third of the way up from the bottom.
  3. Preheat the oven to 250°C.
  4. When ready to bake, boil a kettle.
  5. Heavily flour your bench with rye, whole wheat or semolina flour.
  6. Gently pour the dough onto the floured bench, being very careful not to knock out the air bubbles.
  7. Let it fall into a roughly 30 cm square. Flour the top of the dough.
  8. With a pastry cutter or knife dipped into flour, cut the dough in two.  Again, try not to deflate the dough.
  9. Get 2 pieces of baking paper ready.
  10. With two pastry cutters:  in one quick movement, lift up one of the loaves and place it on the baking paper.  Do the same with the remaining loaf.  Stretch each loaf, if need be, to about 30cm in length.
  11. Generously flour the loaves.
  12. Pour boiling water into a tray in the bottom of your oven.
  13. Put the loaves (on the baking paper) onto a paddle, slide the loaves onto the unglazed tiles.
    If your oven is not big enough, bake one at a time.
  14. Turn your oven down to 220°C and bake for 30 minutes.
  15. Turn oven off and leave bread in oven for extra 10 minutes.
  16. Remove bread from oven.

9 thoughts on “Some Kitchen Trials and Tribulations ….

  1. Pingback: Sesame Brittle | Passion Fruit Garden

  2. Pingback: The Elusive Endeavour … | Passion Fruit Garden

  3. Pingback: Sesame Snaps | Passion Fruit Garden

  4. I use to love those chewy sesame bars from the supermarket, only because I was feeling guilty about eating chocolate so thought I would buy one of those. Never thought about sesame seeds in toffee yummo!!

  5. Glenda, I’m sorry the sesame snaps didn’t work, but I honestly can’t see why you weren’t happy with the sourdoughs! All three photos look fantastic – the crumb was rubbery and elastic, and the holes, especially in the top two photos, were enormous! I never get better than that with my loaves!

Please, leave a comment - it makes me feel loved.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.