sourdough rye bread crunchy crust dense crumb

Sourdough Rye Bread

It’s hard to find decent bread these days. Especially the kind I remember from my trips to Germany as a child. Thick-crusted, dense crumb, sourdough rye. The kind of bread that crunches when you bite through the edge. With a dense, moist crumb that tastes amazing with just a schmear of butter. Or soft cheese. Or pate. Or…well, you get the idea.


For a long time I have coveted my own batch of sourdough starter. You know. The kind with provenance. The kind that has been passed on religiously from one baker to another. Well, recently, I was gifted some sourdough rye starter. And then the weight of responsibility descended. Apparently this was another thing I’d need to keep alive. As if my kids, husband, and plants didn’t already occupy enough of my “keeping-things-alive” time. But my friend gifting me the starter assured me that it was no big deal. “Just keep it in the fridge. Pull it out about 12 -24 hours before you want to start making your bread and leave it on the counter. As soon as you take it out of the fridge, mix in about a 1/4 cup of flour (rye or white or wheat) and the same measure of tepid water. Stir and let sit on the counter.” And that was that.

So I started experimenting and came up with a recipe I’m really happy with and that is pretty darn easy. WARNING: It can take 12-24 hours for your dough to rise. So you have to plan ahead. Sort of. I’m not a big planner. Pretty much when I see my current loaf of bread diminished to the point that I know I am going to run out within a day or so, I pull the starter out of the fridge and start the process. It’s not really a big deal.

I also happened upon an amazing trick that will result in wonderful, crunchy crust and a moist crumb, which I will share with you.


1/2 cup sourdough starter (ask around or look online for ways of getting your own)

4 cups white flour

2 1/2 cups rye flour

3 1/4 cups tepid water

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar or honey

1 Tablespoon of cornmeal


In a mixing bowl combine white and rye flours and salt. Next add sugar, water and sourdough starter.

I use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Something similar to this:


Turn on to lowest speed and let mix for about 2 minutes. Keep an eye on your dough, if it looks a bit dry, add a tablespoon of water and keep mixer kneading. Once the water you’ve added is absorbed, if it still looks too dry, you can add another tablespoon. You want to keep doing this until the dough is moist but not sticky. If you have the opposite problem and the dough is too wet, add a tablespoon of flour (doesn’t matter which one) and mix it in. Keep repeating until desired consistency is reached. (Don’t worry. This is an art, not a science, and the dough is pretty forgiving so you can;t really screw this up.) Once you have the desired consistency, continue kneading with the dough hook for 8 minutes.

When kneading is complete, your dough should be in a smooth, slightly sticky, ball, but not be attached to the sides of your mixing bowl. If it is, just scrape it off with your fingers and add to the dough ball in the mixer. Now form a rough ball of dough and leave in the bottom of your mixing bowl. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and leave in a slightly warm place in  your kitchen.

Depending on how warm your room is and how active your starter is, it could take 12 to 24 hours for your dough to rise. Once it has approximately doubled in size you are ready to go.

Now for the trick!

This recipe will make a round boule of bread that is about 8-10″ in diameter

You will need a 6 or 7 quart Cast-iron Dutch oven (this is what I use)

31lqQnZlsZLOr you could also use a clay Roman Oven (you just have to change the shape of your dough to an oval to fit inside) something like this:

71amQN3P7jL._SL1445_Pre-heat your oven to 475°F with your Dutch or Roman oven inside. Let heat up for about 1/2 hour.

In the meantime, take the plastic cover off your mixing bowl and sprinkle some flour over the top of your dough. Have your cornmeal handy. Now that your oven is nice and hot, carefully take out your pot. Remove the lid, sprinkle the cornmeal on the bottom and place the dough in the center. (Keep the top of the dough which you just sprinkled with flour on top.) Put the lid back on and place in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.


You should have a beautiful crumb like this:



Bon appetite!!



Bruschetta is quick and easy to make, and offers a welcome change as a pizza topping.

Bruschetta Pizza from Spoon

Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta Pizza Recipe

 Dough Recipe from Spoon

Pizza Dough:


1 1/2 cups warm water

2 teaspoons yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt


Add yeast and sugar to a small bowl and pour warm water over. Let stand until the yeast mixture becomes frothy.

Stir in olive oil, flours, and salt. Knead on a floured surface for 6-8 minutes, until dough is elastic an smooth.

Place dough in a large oiled bowl and turn dough to cover with oil. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for approx. 2 hours, until doubled in volume.

Punch down dough and allow to rise again.

Lightly oil 2 pizza pans.

Divide dough in two and roll each out to fit pizza pans.

Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta



2 lb heirloom tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

pinch salt

a twist of black pepper


Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and allow to rest for up to an hour to allow flavours to combine.

Spoon bruschetta over pizza crusts, and crumble goat cheese over top.

Bake on lower rack of oven at 425ºF for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden on the bottom.

Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta from Spoon

It has been raining for days. Really–days. And the forecast is for another 5 out of 6 days of rain. Sigh. So, in a desperate attempt to hold on to summer, I’ve made a big batch of gazpacho!

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

This year, I grew 25 heritage tomato plants. It sounds like a lot, but with the tomato lovers in the family, it takes a lot of plants to have enough tomatoes to cook with after everyone is done snacking.

Heirloom tomatoes

I picked a bunch of heirloom tomato varieties and subbed in some lemon cucumbers to make Spoon’s Gazpacho soup. You can get the recipe here.

Lemon cucumbersheirloom tomato gazpacho


We often get a late crop of raspberries around here, and with today’s pickings I’m baking some brownies.

Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

I’ve tried a lot of brownie recipes, and I always come back to this one. It’s slightly cakey, slightly chewy, and if you undercook it just a little, it’s wonderfully gooey eaten hot with some ice cream or whipped cream.

Raspberry Chocolate Brownies


1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

1 cup butter

2 eggs

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In an 8″ x 8″ baking pan, combine the brown sugar, flour, raspberries, chocolate chips, baking powder, and salt with a fork.

In a glass liquid measure, melt butter in the microwave.

Add eggs, one at a time, to the melted butter, and stir well. Add the cocoa powder and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Add the cocoa mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the centre of the brownie is just set.


blackberry recipes

It is that time of year here on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia when the blackberries are begging to be picked. A short walk down the road netted almost 20 lbs of blackberries picked from the non-native, invasive vines. If it weren’t for the vigilant brush cutting machines, our roads and lanes would become impassible. With the abundance of the blackberries around here, it boggles my mind that the local nurseries sell blackberry plants and that the supermarkets sell the picked berries. I wonder who their customers are?

Anyway, I digress. So I still have bottles and bottles of jam left from last year’s harvest, so I am looking for other things to make with my bounty. Earlier today I made a gingered lentil soup (recipe to come) which left a lovely taste in my mouth so I wanted to continue the ginger theme.


2 cups Gingersnap Crumbs

1 T Crystalized Ginger (or 2 1/2″ cubes)

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 T flour

5 T cold unsalted butter (cubed)

1/2 tsp salt

Blackberry Mousse:

1 cup Fresh Blackberries

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1 package gelatin

2 cups whipping cream


1 cup fresh Blackberries



Preheat over to 350˚F.

In food processor combine butter, ginger, gingersnap crumbs, flour and salt. Pulse until everything is crumbly.

Line a 9″ or 10″ tart pan with parchment. Pour crumb mixture into tart pan and, using the back of a soup spoon, flatten mixture evenly along bottom and up the sides.

Cook in oven 10-12 minutes.

Remove and let cool.


In a heavy bottomed pot, cook 1 cup blackberries with 1/2 cup of water. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Sieve the blackberries to remove the seeds. Return now mostly seedless blackberry liquid to pot. Add sugar and gelatin and cook over medium low heat until completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Whip the cream until it forms peaks. Fold into blackberry liquid.

Spoon mousse mixture into tart shell until full and smooth the top.

Use the remaining blackberries to decorate the top of the tart.

Place in refrigerator and let chill for a minimum of 4 hours.


IMG_2298 blackberry tartcircle





Yama Gobo is something that can be hard to find. But it is worth hunting down as it imparts a unique and earthy flavor to sushi rolls. Usually you can find it at a Japanese specialty market, but for the past 2 years I have been unable to find any whenever I happened to be in Vancouver.


IMG_cannedgoboLast year I was buying seeds for the garden and happened upon burdock seeds. So as my back-up gobo plan, I planted it in 2012 knowing that the harvest would be at least 15 months in the future, and surely I would find some yama gobo before then (Burdock is a biannual). Fortunately, I came across a stash of the pickled delicacies at Fujiya in Vancouver in July. I cleared them out of their stock (all 3 packages). But these will go fast so I was happy to finally harvest the roots today. I did an extensive online search for recipes but was unable to find one that I thought would give me the desired results. A combination of 4 or 5 different recipes coupled with reading the ingredient list on the back of the store bought gobo and I had a total of 5 jars of yama gobo!

Time will tell if they come out right.


burdockflowerA weird but interesting fact that I picked up on my internet quest for pickled gobo recipes: the flowers of the burdock plant were apparently the inspiration for velcro. Which makes absolute sense given my personal experience with the plant. Whenever I went into my garden and brushed the flower with my hair or shirt it would cling to me and was quite a trick to get it off. Check out the curled tips of the strands just below the flower.

For some reason, this year is an exceptionally productive year for cilantro. Usually the cilantro bolts before we even get to pick a sprig for garnish. This year, though, a bunch of plants have sprung up, and I’m finding some great uses for them. Here’s one of my favourites, polenta with cilantro pesto.

This is also gluten-free, and makes a great potluck dish.

Polenta with Cilantro-Pepita Pesto

cilantro pepita pesto

Cilantro Pesto

yields approx. 1-1/4 cups


2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, packed

3 cloves garlic

1/3 cup toasted pepitas

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup grated parmesan or asiago

1/2 cup olive oil

juice of 1/2 lime


Combine cilantro, garlic, pepitas, salt, and parmesan in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.

While running food processor on low, slowly pour in olive oil and lime juice. Continue to process until combined.

This will keep, refrigerated for a week, and frozen for a few months.

basic polenta

Basic Polenta

yields 6 servings


1/4 cup butter

3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups polenta (corn grits)

1/4 cup parmesan


Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan. I like to use my Le Creuset pan for this, because it has a heavy bottom, and the polenta doesn’t stick.

Add in stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk in polenta until the stock is absorbed. Stir in the parmesan, cover and remove from heat. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Press polenta into an oiled 9″x9″ pan and allow to set. You can refrigerate the polenta at this point.

Serve warm, cut into squares and topped with cilantro pesto.



This is the first spring with our new greenhouse. It has come a long way in the past year. (This is how it began, and this is how it looked when it was just completed.)


Cedar planters line the inside windows, with a taller planter in the centre. The heirloom tomato seedlings are growing, as are peppers, eggplants, okra, tomatillo, and lots of basil. I’m looking forward to harvesting time!

cedar and glass greenhouse

There are raised beds surrounding the greenhouse filled with potatoes, edamame, strawberries, and lettuces, as well as the tomatoes that didn’t fit inside the greenhouse!

tomato and basil seedlings

 The eggplant are flowering already.

cedar planter box

 By this time next week, the tomato plant should be twice the size.

tomato seedlings

Castilian Garlic Soup, also known as Sopa de Ajo, is quick to make. The recipe is in SPOON: Soup, Stew & Chowder Recipes (Winter) (Cooking in Season #4)-coming soon.

Castilian Garlic Soup

This warm, garlicky, and wonderful soup can be made with traditional crusty bread or gluten-free bread. Both versions are equally amazing.

When I was a kid, my mom would take me to the bakery every few weeks for a treat. I remember loving this bakery–I only came up to counter-height, and had a great view of all the cookies and cakes through the glass cases. My mom and I had two favorites, the chocolate mountain and almond tarts.

A chocolate mountain is thick chocolate mousse piled up on a biscuit base and dipped in dark chocolate. I’ve searched for years for chocolate mountains, and came close at a local grocer with a version that contained Grand Marnier, but they’ve stopped making them.

Almond tarts seem like they’d be easier to find, but I only spot them rarely, and have has a hard time finding a recipe until I was reading a novel that described a tart filled with jam and baked almond paste, topped with an icing sugar glaze–a Bakewell tart! Now that I had the name, I could finally search out a recipe.

Bakewell tarts

I found this version, baked as bars, in Delicious magazine. I used homemade strawberry jam and  Jamie Oliver’s shortcrust recipe for the base. (I really could’ve made good use of that Danish whisk I want).

And they are just as good as I remember them!

Next Page »