Why I’m learning how to bake sourdough bread

One thing I like more than cooking is challenging myself. And preparing homemade sourdough bread has been a big challenge for me over the last few months. I’ve always loved bread and sourdough is my favourite to me, it is far richer in texture and flavour. But why? Good quality flours and natural fermentation are the answers. After some research, I realised we eat a lot of fermented food. Beer, wine, cheese, and also bread. So, I became curious about fermentation and started reading articles and following people who know about it. 

Lucky for me, in 2016 Netflix launched Cooked, a documentary series based on journalist Michael Pollan’s 2013 book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation about various methods of cooking and their impact on humans and culture throughout history. In the third episode, Pollan explores the science behind bread making and gluten, as well as the history of milling. The episode shows the relationship between wheat and humankind, and how both have evolved throughout time.

Another person who inspires me is Neide Rigo, a Brazilian nutritionist who owns Come-se, a blog where she shares her knowledge about bread, fermentation and a lot of interesting information about food. I learned from her how to prepare the sourdough starter and how to enhance bread results using home equipment. 

My first sourdough bread with homemade starter
After some testing, I realized it was going to be a long process from the starter to a perfect loaf of freshly baked bread. I decided to take a class to better understand the ingredients and the methods to improve my results.
My second sourdough bread
I enrolled in a bread baking experience day at Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery.  The watermill has a thousand years of history and produces a range of stoneground organic flours. There is a bakery where Steven Mansbridge bakes high quality breads and also teaches how to prepare them. It is a beautiful place to spend a day learning about bread. Steve knows what he does and kindly answered all questions I had. 
Breads baked at the Mill’s class
Now it is time to bring together everything I have learned and continue to improve my sourdough bread. 

Caipirinha

Caipirinha is a Brazilian drink mande with lime, sugar, cachaça and ice. Cachaça is a strong  distilled alcoholic spirit prepared with fermented sugarcane (spirit refers to a distilled beverage that contains no added sugar and has at least 20% alcohol by volume).

Cachaça, also known as pinga, marvada, caninha, aguardante, is produced in two varieties: unaged (also called branca or prata) and aged (called amarela or ouro). The best variety to use with cocktails is unaged, because the taste is subtle than the aged ones (which are good to taste pure).

It isn’t easy to find cachaça in London. We could buy it on Amazon. It is commom see ite to sell in some Brazilian shops. The other ingredients to make a good caipirinha are thing we usually have at home. The original caipirinha recipe is with lime. But you can use other fruits, since they have natural juices and some acidity in the flavour.

Let’s move to the recipe. I like to make my caipirinha with a cocktail shaker. But if you don’t have one, do it straight in the glass you will drink.  Just make sure you have a really refreshing drink in the end. If you are trowing a dinner or party, welcoming your guests with caipirinha will be a great start!

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Caipirinha
Caipirinha is a Brazilian drink mande with lime, sugar, cachaça and ice. 
Caipirinha
Course drink
Cuisine Brazilian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
1 drink
Ingredients
Course drink
Cuisine Brazilian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
1 drink
Ingredients
Caipirinha
Instructions
  1. Using a good knife and a board, cut a lime in four wedges. Remove the white centre and put the wedges into a drink shaker.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of suggar and crush it with a wooden spoon or pestle.
  3. Then, add a shot of cachaça, some ice cubes, cover the drink shaker and give it a good shake.
  4. Open it and serve, adding more ice if needed.
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Feijoada – Brazilian bean stew

Considered the national dish of Brazil and becoming popular worldwide, Feijoada is a comforting, warm, intense and flavourful black bean and pork stew. It is served with rice, sauteed collard greens or kale, orange slices and farofa (toasted cassava flour).

The main ingredients are black beans, salted cured pork cuts like ears, trotters, and tail, and smoked cuts like ribs, loin, sausages and bacon.
Living in Brazil, it is common to find those ingredients in supermarkets. But if you live in the UK, it is possible to find some of them in Brazilian and Portuguese shops. Polish products like sausages and smoked pork can be a good substitute.

Sausages are an important item to pay attention to. If you are looking for an authentic Brazilian feijoada, using Spanish chorizo is not a good idea. It has strong paprika and chilli taste, and it could cover the flavours of other ingredients. Rather, I recommend looking in Brazilian shops for calabresa and paio sausage. Bay leaves are important to create one more layer of flavour, giving a hint of freshness to the stew.

Although there are plenty of methods to cook feijoada in a fast way, my experience tells me that time is the most important ingredient. Slow cooking the ingredientes step-by-step is required. My grandmother’s Feijoada recipe starts 2 days in advance, with plenty of time to desalt cured meats and cook them slowly.


Print Recipe
Feijoada - Brazilian beans and pork stew
Considered the national dish of Brazil and becoming popular worldwide, Feijoada is a comforting, warm, intense and flavourful black bean and pork stew, slowly cooked. It is served with rice, sautéed collard greens or kale, orange slices and farofa (toasted cassava flour).
Feijoada - Brazilian beans and pork stew
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Brazilian
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 4-5 hours
Servings
8 people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Brazilian
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 4-5 hours
Servings
8 people
Ingredients
Feijoada - Brazilian beans and pork stew
Instructions
  1. After buying the right ingredients, it's time to remove the excess of salt from the cured cuts. You do that giving them a good wash and placing them in a bowl where you will soak the meat, and change the water from time to time.
  2. Slow cook the ingredientes in steps. It starts with the desalted cuts, placed in a big pressure cooker or sauce pan. Give them a fast sautée, then add 2 cups of water and cook until they soften, to release the collagen and thicken the mixture.
  3. Fry the smoked bacon and ribs with onion, garlic and bay leaves. Add the cured meat prepared before, the beans and the water, and let it cook slowly and gently for about 2 or 3 hours, stirring it occasionally.
  4. After the beans are cooked, add the sliced sausages and, if the sauce seems too thick, add more water. Let it simmer until the sausages and meats tenderize and starts break apart.
  5. Serve it with rice, sautéed collard greens (thinly sliced, sautéed with olive oil and garlic), sliced oranges and farofa.
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Moqueca – Brazilian Fish Stew

Moqueca is a Brazilian fish stew recipe commonly found on the coast. It is a fragrant and flavourful dish, usually prepared with white fish, tomatoes, coriander, garlic and onions, with some variations.

The Moqueca Capixaba is from the state of Espírito Santo and influenced by Native Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine. They use olive oil and natural urucum pigment powder, and it is always cooked in a traditional clay pan.

Moqueca Baiana also has a strong influence from African cuisine. They use dendê palm oil and coconut milk in the preparation. It is easy to find the dendê is Brazilian Shops.

I will share the best version I have prepared at home, mixing those references, with an accompanying recipe for pirão, which is a moqueca sauce polenta.


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Moqueca - Brazilian Fish Stew
Moqueca is a Brazilian fish stew recipe commonly found on the coast. It is a fragrant and flavourful dish, usually prepared with white fish, tomatoes, coriander, garlic and onions, with some variations.
Moqueca - Brazilian Fish Stew
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Brazilian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
4 people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Brazilian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
4 people
Ingredients
Moqueca - Brazilian Fish Stew
Instructions
  1. Cut the fish in 4 big pieces and season it with salt, black pepper, the lime juice and leave it to marinate in a glass dish while you do the next step.
  2. Chopp finely the chives and coriander (saving some for garnish in the end). Don't throw away the coriander stalks (you will use them). Dice the tomatoes and onions. Slice finely the bell pepper.
  3. Using a food processor, combine the peeled garlic, urucum (or paprika), coriander stalks, fresh chilli, 1 tsp of salt and blend until you have a paste. Divide the paste into 2 parts. Use one half to spread over the fish as it continues to marinate.
  4. Place the olive oil and the rest of the paste inside a large deep frying pan, and turn the heat on. At medium heat, fry the onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, chives and coriander. When the vegetables releases their juices, add the fish pieces into that, cover with lid and let it gently simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. After 10 minutes cooking, turn down the heat, add the coconut milk and let it simmer for 5 more minutes, until the fish is properly cooked. Open the lid and garnish with chives and coriander. If you want, add a splash of dendê palm oil.
  6. Serve hot, with long grain rice, farofa and pirão. It will be a success, a truly flavourful meal!
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Brazilian Cheese Bread – Pão de Queijo

I come from Minas Gerais, a state in the centre of Brazil which has a great culinary tradition. To us, the kitchen is the heart of the house. When you arrive at a Mineiro’s home, you are invited to the kitchen for a cup of freshly brewed coffee and some quitanda (baked goods). One of ours favourite treats to offer is pão de queijo. This is a tapioca cheese roll with a crispy outside and chewy centre. The main recipe ingredients are tapioca flour and cheese.

Tapioca flour is the starch extracted from the cassava root. Some people use regular tapioca flour, called polvilho doce, and some use the sour version, called polvilho azedo. The cheese rolls made of regular tapioca flour tend to be more dense and has a subtle flavour. The ones made only with sour tapioca flour become bigger, dryer and has a strong flavour coming from the starch. I like to use a mixture of them to get o good balance in flavours and textures. It is easy to find tapioca flour in Brazilian shops, organic and whole markets, and even in Amazon. The best ones I recommend to buy in UK are Yoki and Zaeli.

For the cheese, we use a cured local variety, known as queijo minas curado. The state of Minas Gerais produce the best cheeses in Brazil. Unfortunately, it is not possible to find them abroad. But I’m lucky that UK produces amazing cheeses. I did some research and ran tests at home. With the help of some friends I could find a good mixture of cheeses to get the best flavour and texture to pão de queijo.

There are many different methods to prepare pão de queijo. For a traditional recipe, there are some important steps if you want to achieve the right texture and flavour. I would like to share the same method I learned from my family, a recipe handed down for generations, adapted to UK ingredients.


Print Recipe
Brazilian Cheese Bread
Pão de queijo or Brazilian cheese bread is a delicious tapioca cheese roll, with a crispy outside and chewy centre.
Brazilian Cheese Bread
Cuisine Brazilian, Mineira
Prep Time 30-40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
35-40 cheese balls
Ingredients
Cuisine Brazilian, Mineira
Prep Time 30-40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
35-40 cheese balls
Ingredients
Brazilian Cheese Bread
Instructions
  1. Place the tapioca flour into a large bowl.
  2. In a saucepan add the milk, water and oil, and place over medium heat. When boiling, gradually add to tapioca flour, stirring with a spoon until well mixed and the dough is sticky. Let cool for about 20 min. 
  3. While you wait, grate the cheddar cheese finely and mash the feta cheese with a fork.
  4. When the dough has cooled, add the cheese and three eggs, slightly beaten, to the mixture. Knead well with your hands until you get a very soft dough. If you find the dough too dry, you can add one more egg. 
  5. With the dough ready, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Using a teaspoon, take a spoonful of dough and roll into a ball. Place it in a baking sheet giving some space among them for grow.
  6. Bake them until golden brown, about 30 minutes, until the crust becomes golden. Then, serve them with a freshly brewed coffee and enjoy!
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Hello!

Hey, thanks for the visit! This is my attempt to share my passion for food and gastronomy in English. I write about this subject for 7 years, and you can check it out if you understand Portuguese. But if you don’t, hold on: I will be posting Brazilian authentic recipes, cooking tips,  restaurant reviews and sharing my photos weekly. See ya!