When I buy eggs, I usually directly buy the big carton, optimistic that I will use them all in the next few weeks in my various baking and cooking endeavors. But then one thing leads to another and I do not get around to all the things I wanted to try. Long story short, some of the eggs remain in the fridge past their official expiration date. I am usually skeptical when it comes to official expiration dates since most of them are set rather randomly. However, checking whether the egg is still fresh and edible is more tricky since you cannot smell it or look at the yoke without breaking it.
So, for those of you wanting to check whether those forgotten eggs in the fridge are still edible instead of simply throwing them away, here is an easy trick.
Fill a glass with water and put the egg in.
If the egg sinks to the bottom, it is still fresh, and you can use it without worries. (picture 1)
If the egg sinks down in the glass, yet remains slightly tilted upwards (picture 2), then it is starting to lose its freshness – this means you can still use it, but make sure to cook it really well.
If the egg rises to the surface, it is no longer edible, so please throw it away. (picture 3)
In case you are wondering what the science behind this trick is: The older the egg, the more water evaporated in the yoke and the more air has entered the egg. This is why an older egg rises to the surface.
One rather random side effect of the global Corona pandemic is that yeast has been completely sold out for weeks here in Germany. As a frequent baker, I started looking for natural, self-made alternatives – in large part also to keep myself busy and convince myself that I still had some control over my life while I self-quarantined and worked from home. As I experimented, I found it easy to make and helpful in baking, so I think I will keep using it.
500 ml water, lukewarm
1 piece of non-sulfured fruit, e.g. dried plums or dates
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 glass jar (which can be closed tightly with a lid)
How to Make It
Pour the lukewarm water into the jar, add the piece of fruit, and the teaspoon of brown sugar.
Close the jar and shake it thoroughly until the sugar has dissolved.
For the next 7-8 days, keep the jar at room temperature and stir the water or shake the jar at least twice a day. If you shake the jar, make sure to unscrew the lid for a few seconds before and after shaking so that the jar can air out.
Over the course of the week, the water will start to ferment. The water is ready for use once it has the typical sweet, fermented smell.
Once the yeast water is done, you can keep the jar in the fridge. Do not forget to stir/shake it at least once a day, though.
I have started to use yeast water regularly and since I bake a lot, the 500 ml never lasted long. Hence, in the pictures below you can see me make the triple amount.
If you have toyed with the idea of baking your own bread, you have probably already come across references to sourdough. Sourdough is a natural leavening agent and the best way to get heavy doughs to rise. Through the fermentation process, we grow lactobacilli and yeast fungi in the flour-water paste which, in turn, work to leaven the bread dough. This means you do not need industrial yeast. Instead, the sourdough gives the bread a more intense flavor and makes the bread more durable. It also works to splits up the nutrients in rye flour so that the body can use them. So, long story short, I highly recommend baking bread with your own sourdough – it is fun and surprisingly easy!
Before We Start
Before we begin, keep in mind that there are many ways to make a sourdough. If you search the web, you will find many different suggestions in forums about how to proceed, what to do and what definitely not to do. However, I soon came to a point where I did not find these debates helpful anymore because some people got very aggressive and dogmatic about the whole affair. Instead, I would want to reassure you that since there are so many ways to go about it, it also means you cannot really do things wrong (no matter what some people on the internet would have you believe). And if you find that your sourdough base did not turn out the way you expected it to – oh well, no problem, it happens. Just try again.
190 g whole grain rye flour (or any other type of flour, just make sure that it is whole grain)
300 ml lukewarm water
How to Make It
Mix 50 g of flour and 100 ml of lukewarm water and blend it until you have a paste.
Cover it and let it rest in a warm spot (ca. 20-26° C) for 3 days.
During these 3 days, stir it once a day briefly and cover it again. Keep it in its warm spot.
In the morning, whisk in 80 g of flour and 100 ml of lukewarm water. Cover the batter again.
In the evening, whisk in another 60 g of flour and 100 ml of lukewarm water.
The sourdough base should have fluffy and bubbly consistency. It should have the typically fermented smell.
Fill about 50g of sourdough in a jar and store it in the fridge.
You can use the rest for baking straight away.
How to Use It
Sourdough is a resilient, crafty little leavening agent! You basically keep a jar with a rest (I usually keep around 50-60 g) in the fridge where it “sleeps” until you activate it again.
Activating the dough means that you take the sourdough base out of the fridge, mix your rest with a paste of fresh flour and lukewarm water, and let the new sourdough “wake up” for 10-12 hours (usually overnight). In that time, the sourdough base infuses the fresh flour-paste and ferments it. Voilà – you have multiplied your sourdough! Take around 50 g and store it again in your jar in the fridge and use the rest for baking.
The flour-paste is also easy to make: Just take between 50 to 100 g of flour (ideally whole grain) and mix it with the same amount of lukewarm water. Then stir in your sourdough base, cover the bowl, and let it all rest for 10-12 hours in a warm spot.
You should try to feed your sourdough base as I described above once a week so that it remains alive and active. It is worth the effort because the more you use your sourdough base, the fluffier and better it becomes. I did not believe it at first, but I have had my sourdough for a few months now and I can tell that it has become stronger and bubblier.
A Few General Rules for Baking with Sourdough
Bread dough made with sourdough has significantly longer resting times than dough made with industrial yeast. At first, I did not quite believe it myself, but it is true: the longer the dough can rest, the better. These days, I let the dough rest at least 6-8 hours and it really makes a difference: the dough grows significantly bigger, tastes better, and is fluffier. I really want to encourage you to give your dough a lot of time to rest and rise! The way I go about it is that I make the dough in the morning, let it rest until lunch, knead it one more time and put it in the proofing basket (link), and let it rest again until dinner time. Then I bake it and we have warm and fresh bred for dinner.
Bread made with sourdough also needs a bit longer in the oven, usually around 40-45 minutes. You start baking at the highest temperature so that the dough does not “melt” and the loaf does not lose its shape. Then you lower the temperature after a while so that the bread can slowly finish and does not burn.
You should also always put a little fire-resistant bowl or cup with water into the oven to help the dough rise a bit more. Before you put the loaf in the oven, take a sharp knife and cut across it 2-3 times. Then sprinkle the top of the loaf with a bit of flour and water to create a crunchy crust.
Did you try to make your own sourdough now? How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments below or contact me on Twitter and Instagram. I’d love to hear (and see) your experiences!
In Germany, different types of flour are distinguished through a “type number”. The type number states how many nutrients per 100 g the flour contains. Hence, type 450 wheat flour contains 0.45 g of nutrients per 100 g of flour.
Generally speaking, the higher the type number, the darker the flour and the more vitamins and nutrients it contains. Flour with a high type number also creates more savory, hearty flavors.
Whole grain flour does not have a type number because the entire grain is ground up to produce the flour.
Here are a few examples:
Wheat Flour Type 450: the most basic flour and used for all types of white bread and bread roles, pasta, cookies, cakes, …
Wheat Flour Type 1050: darker wheat flour, can be used for all kinds of baking activities, can be mixed well with rye flour, works really well for pizza dough
Whole Grain Wheat Flour: for wholesome, robust breads and bread rolls; can be mixed well with whole grain rye flour
Spelt Flour Type 630: spelt is closely related to wheat, so they have similar characteristics and spelt flour type 630 is similar to wheat flour type 450; you can use this flour for pastries and white bread
Whole Grain Spelt Flour: for wholesome, robust breads and bread roll; slightly nutty flavor; usually made with sourdough
Rye Flour Type 1150: used in basic brown breads
Whole Grain Rye Flour: for wholesome, robust breads and bread roll; usually made with sourdough
This is a list of little tipps and tricks that you may find helpful when baking and cooking. I will continue to update this as I grow the blog further. Let me know if there are things you feel are missing here! Simply comment below or contact me on Twitter or Instagram.
Read the Recipe Beforehand
Before you start cooking or baking, read the entire recipe at least once or twice! It will help you to understand what the process will be. By reading the recipe beforehand, you can also ensure that you have all the ingredients and equipment you need, and whether you know how to do all the steps involved.
How to Check Whether Your Baked Goods Are Done
Take a toothpick and stick it into the dough. If dough sticks to the toothpick, leave your goodies in the oven a little longer. This technique works for any baked goods, really.
If you want to check whether a loaf of bread is done you can either use the toothpick trick or take the bread out of the oven and knock on the bottom side. If it sounds hollow, then the bread is done. Make sure to wear oven mitts, though.
Additional Tips for Baking Bread
If you want to check whether the dough has risen enough, poke a hole with your finger into it. If the hole closes up (at least ¾), then the dough has risen enough.
You should keep the finished bread in a dry and airy place. Do not put it in the fridge! Fresh bread and bread rolls made from wheat flour lasts only a day or two, bread made from flour mixes (wheat, rye, spelt, …) up to 10 days, and bread made purely from rye over 10 days. The more rye a bread contains, the longer it remains fresh.
Bread that has dried out a bit can be “refreshed” by spraying it with a bit of water and crisping it up in the oven.
A Note on Resting Times
Generally speaking, for loaves of bread made with sourdough, the longer the resting periods, the better! This means you have to plan a bit when you bake with sourdough and allow the dough enough time to rise, easily 5-6 hours in total. As with most cooking and baking, it is impossible to give definite time periods here, so you will have to try a bit on your own to get a feel for it. It is important, though, that the dough can rest in a warm spot so that the sourdough can work its magic comfortably. You should also use a bowl (or proofing basket) that is big enough so that the dough can expand unhindered. While this may sound tedious, the time is worth the wait because you will get a richly flavored loaf of bread in the end!
This is an admittedly incomplete list of equipment that you may find helpful when baking and cooking. I will describe some of the more unusual items here and let you know whether you really need them or not. If you would like me to review a particular piece of equipment, let me know in the comments below or contact me on Twitter or Instagram.
Using the Oven
Please keep in mind that every oven is different. This means that the baking times in my recipes have to be followed with caution – your oven might work differently from mine. I suggest that you start checking regularly on your baked goods some 10 minutes earlier than the baking times specified in my recipes.
One easy way to check whether your cake, cookies, or bread is done, is by sticking a wooden toothpick into them. If the toothpick comes out dry, you can take your baked goods out of the oven. If the toothpick has dough still sticking to it, keep your baked goods in the oven for a little longer.
When it comes to pizzas, tartes, pies, etc., another reference point is the color: Simply check whether the dough is starting to brown. Once it is golden to golden-brown, it is usually time to take your food out of the oven.
In any case, practice makes perfect! Do not be afraid to try and follow your instincts. After a few attempts, you will know your oven better and will be able to judge baking times more easily.
As the name indicates, it is indeed a disk made of stone or ceramic that you put on your oven rack. As you preheat the oven, the stone soaks up the heat and retains it.
You put your food (whether bread, pizza, or any other item) directly onto the hot stone which then passes the heat on, thus creating a crunchy crust.
Pizza stones are mainly used in baking pizza and bread because the heat of the stone helps the loaves to leaven faster and makes the bottom side of the bread (or pizza) crunchy. The stone also helps to bake the dogh faster.
In any case, this is not a must-have item. You can make perfectly nice pizzas and bread rolls without a pizza stone. I baked for years without having one! I only bought a pizza stone recently and would recommend a purchase only if you are a frequent pizza and/or bread baker.
It is also called “brotform” or “banneton” and it is a useful tool to ensure that the loaf keeps its shape and structure as the dough rests and leavens. By now, proofing baskets are available in every shape and size.
Before you put the loaf into the basket, sprinkle it with flour so that the dough does not stick to it.
As with the pizza stone, proofing baskets are a nice tool to have if you are baking bread regularly, but when I started, I simply formed loaves with my hands and that worked fine as well. So, do not fret if you do not have a proofing basket – you do not necessarily need to buy a professional proofing basket. I only bought a traditional breadbasket a while ago and use it both as a proofing basket and to serve bread at the dinner table and it works just fine.
Food Processors (like the KitchenAid)
As you may know already, I have dreamed about owning a KitchenAid for years. I now own one and frankly do not know how I lived my life without one all those years. But then again, I might not be entirely objective here…
Any type of food processor is perfectly fine, though. They have the advantage that you can set the machine to a constant speed and let it knead the dough for you as long as you need.
But do not worry if you do not have one (they are quite expensive after all and you need to have enough space in the kitchen). You can use a hand-held mixer as well or, if you have the patience and the stamina, knead your dough by hand. I used a hand-held mixer for years and my cookies and cakes turned out nicely as well. 🙂
When you use a kitchen machine to knead dough for bread, always knead it at the lowest speed. It is better to knead the dough a little longer but at lower speed – especially sticky doughs like the ones based on whole grain. Check the manual to make sure you are using your machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.