I will admit… I have not been motivated or inspired to do much photography during isolation… but I have never cooked (or baked) so much in my entire life, either, not since I became a vegan in my early 20’s… (mind you, I am no longer a vegan… I do, however, choose to eat mostly plant-based.)
On my last post, I explained how I’ve been on a quest to find and/or develop a bunch of recipes involving sourdough discard. I came across the idea of making a scallion pancake from this YouTube video my friend sent me during a lengthy text discussion on bread. Mike Greenfield’s method is super simple, but intriguing, and eventually led me down memory lane, all the way back to my high school days, when my best friend at the time, who is Korean, introduced me to pajeon, a Korean scallion pancake. We’d order this as an appetizer and share it amongst ourselves, as a culinary precursor to our bibimbap bowls. Our highschool was also conveniently located near Toronto’s K-town neighbourhood, so we would go as often as we had a bit of money to splurge in meals outside of our school or our homes.
I wanted to make a scallion pancake that was crisp on the outside and mochi-like on the inside. Mike Greenfield’s sourdough discard pancake looks a little too thick for the purposes of creating pajeon, so I went ahead and read a bunch of pajeon recipes and basically distilled all of that information into some key components and techniques, and just factored in my sourdough discard into the ratios I have observed in said recipes. The texture I wanted in my pajeon needed a mix of gluten and gluten-free flour—gluten from the sourdough discard, plus the added body from GF flours without contributing too much heft onto the batter. I was looking for the liquid batter to be somewhere between a pancake and a crepe: lighter in viscosity than a pancake batter, and thicker than a crepe batter.
Try not to overmix this; treat this like you would a tempura batter. Keep the liquids ice cold, then gently fold in the dry ingredients until the batter no longer looks clumpy.
Pajeon with Sourdough Discard
(makes 4 8-inch pancakes)
- 250 g sourdough discard
- 2 eggs
- 50 g cornstarch
- 50 g brown rice flour
- 40 g whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup ice cold water
- 1/2 cup ice cold cooking sake
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
- 4 stalks scallions, cut into matchsticks
- cooking oil of your choice
1) Weigh the sourdough discard into a bowl. Add in the cold water and cooking sake and mix with your hands, until the discard and the cold liquids have been thoroughly incorporated into each other, without any clumps. Wash your hands, then crack two eggs into the discard/liquid mixture, then beat to mix.
2) Sift the whole wheat flour, cornstarch, and rice flour onto the wet mixture. Add the gochugaru and salt. Fold gently until you observe very little to no clumps.
3) Heat an omelette pan on high. Add the oil. Carefully lay the scallion matchsticks onto the bottom of the pan. Let it sizzle for a moment as you prepare to ladle a single layer of batter over the scallions. Swirl batter to coat the entirety of the pan and let the batter solidify on one side before flipping. Continue with the remaining scallions and batter. Sandwich the pancakes between layers of paper towel while you make the dipping sauce.
Pajeon dipping sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp organic cane sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp gochugaru
- chopped scallions
- a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds
4) Make the sauce: whisk the above ingredients together (except for the scallions and the sesame seeds) until the sugar has been dissolved completely. Sprinkle scallions and sesame seeds as a final touch.
5) Cut into small triangles or squares and serve warm with the dipping sauce.
It needs not be said that we are on uncharted territory here. Worldwide calls for shelter-in-place have been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and those of us who take this virus seriously have settled indoors, practicing social distancing when we head out for only the most essential errands and exercise within close proximity of our homes. I am observing a resurgence in bread-making these days (it’s not just me, is it???), particularly with natural leaven, and it has been super inspiring to see people get back into the kitchen to bake and cook again. For those of us who usually find their joy in the kitchen (like me!), these strange, surreal, and scary times have certainly pushed me to get creative, working with what I have got in my pantry and fridge in order to minimize time spent in grocery stores.
My last blog post detailed my experience taking E.A.T.’s Sourdough Basics (hosted by the wonderful Julie Marr) and I have been baking up a storm since. I have even experienced the frustration and pain of having to discard TWO failed loaves from my first few attempts at a porridge loaf. I figure every baker needs to experience failure and waste, but lil’ ol’ me HATES failure AND waste, and I swear I felt painful tugs in my heart when I was forced to compost my soupy, overworked polenta dough, and that one super dense polenta loaf that—I now realize—was not given enough time to bench rest. The whole damn thing over-fermented too (because of the corn); I was not mindful in the making of this bread (I blame tax season), so I would forget about it and let it sit for too long in between folds. Sigh.
I throw away an incredible amount of sourdough waste. There are only so many crackers I can make. After a successful bake one day, I had googled ‘sourdough discard recipes’ and came across Maurizio Leo’s blog, The Perfect Loaf. What a treasure trove of tried and tested recipes for the sourdough nerd, not to mention his knowledge of different kinds of flour! I think I spent all week reading some of his recipes, most of which are far too advanced for someone typically baking-averse (aka: me), but what few sourdough discard recipes he has in his blog look easy enough for me. I wanted something beyond the usual crackers I make with discard, and I did not have the patience for pancakes nor the equipment for waffles… but banana bread? I fucking LOVE banana bread. Sourdough discard, CHECK! Bananas, check! Eggs, sugar, flour, etc, etc…??? Check, check, check, check, check!
The credit for the recipe obviously goes to Maurizio; I simply used his recipe as a guideline for what flavours I want/ingredients I have in my pantry. My pantry, admittedly, is filled with ingredients the average cook may not have in their cupboards. I fall in the way above-average category of home cooks, all because of my chef parents, my intense love of food from all over the world, and for having photographed so many fine dining restaurants and producers of high-quality products. So, for this sourdough discard banana bread, I have, in my baking section, an endless amount of bitters and spices, so I pulled out what spoke to me: tonka beans, cardamom pods, cardamom bitters (I use Scrappy’s; it’s my favourite bitters brand for baking), and cinnamon. In my fridge, I happened to have hemp seeds and hemp oil given to me by an old food photo client, Planet Hemp Super Food, so I decided hemp oil and hemp seeds are going in this bread. Yada, yada… I think you get the picture! Go pantry-shopping in your kitchen, and let those ingredients speak to you! Banana bread is really one of those foods that can do with all the unprecedented ingredient substitutions COVID-19 has entrusted upon us in this age of shelter-in-place. Have bananas, eggs, sugar, and flour? You’re good to go!
Blueberry, Hemp, and Cardamom Banana Bread (made with sourdough discard)
- 120 g white, unbleached AP flour
- 120 g whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds
- 3 g baking soda
- 3 g sea salt
- 126 g butter, room temperature
- 80 g organic cane sugar
- 2 eggs, large
- 30 g maple syrup
- 125 g sourdough discard
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 28 g hemp oil
- 4 g vanilla extract
- 2 g cardamom bitters
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- nutmeg, grated
- 1/2 tonka bean, grated
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
For the crumble and topping:
- 1 banana, sliced length-wise
- 1 tbsp AP flour
- 1 tbsp rolled oats
- 25 g cold butter
- 2 tbsp organic cane sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1) Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.
2) Make the crumble: combine all the crumble ingredients plus a little bit of the zest from one lemon and mix thoroughly, making sure to squeeze the dry ingredients in with the cold butter. Set aside in the freezer until time to assemble the loaf.
3) Combine the two flours, baking soda, salt, and hemp seeds. Set aside.
4) Cream room-temperature butter and sugar until fluffy. Add one egg in at a time. Scrape down the sides of your mixer bowl.
5) Add in the sourdough discard, maple syrup, mashed bananas, and hemp oil. Stop and scrape. Then add the vanilla, cardamom bitters, the rest of the zest from the lemon and its juice, tonka, and nutmeg. Once fully incorporated, add in the flour mixture in thirds. Stop when the dry mixture has been fully incorporated into the wet banana batter.
6) Take the mixing bowl and fold in the frozen blueberries. Pour this batter into a loaf pan.
7) Slice a banana in half, lengthwise, and lay these halves on top of the thick batter. Take the crumble out of the freezer and sprinkle on top.
8) Bake for about 55 to 65 minutes. I checked it around the 50-minute mark; the batter was still a little jiggly so I left it in for another 5 minutes. I then put the broiler on high to brown the crumble topping—about 1 to 2 minutes. You want to watch this step; it could burn on you.
(Recipe adapted from Maurizio Leo’s The Perfect Loaf)
My sourdough discard gave this bread a nice tang at first bite, but I hardly noticed it afterwards. This loaf has a nice balance, flavour-wise, with the hemp, lemon, blueberry, and cardamom. This ain’t your regular banana bread; she fancy… like me, hahaha! :-)
Oh… and a just a quick note for those wanting to try your hand at sourdough baking, Maurizio’s blog is definitely a great resource—highly recommended—but Julie (E.A.T.) has been making a bunch of sourdough vids, walking you through the steps and process of setting up your kitchen to bake sourdough bread, making and maintaining a starter, etc. She LITERALLY started these videos a few days ago; get on her e-mail list so she can give you access to her VIMEO. Her vids are password protected; get on her list and she will give you access! Here’s her IG post with the deets. <3
Until my next post, everyone!
I hardly ever take cooking classes. Most of my culinary education comes from all the BBC Cooking, Channel 4, and Food Network shows I devoured since I was in my pre-teens. As I started down the path towards my food photography career, I started collecting cookbooks too—primarily for the photographs at first; I wanted to study the way stylists plate the food and how the photographer would compose and light each scene—but eventually I would make my way around the text and the recipes too. I read cookbooks cover to cover—the good ones, anyway—and I would take note of the recipes, the techniques used, and the ingredients.
But bread has always eluded me. I have owned Chad Robertson’s Tartine for years, inspired to make bread using natural leaven after watching one too many Bake with Anna Olson episodes. Her bread episode got to me. I had it recorded on DVR and watched it over and over and over again. In these episodes, she used good, old-fashioned instant yeast, but I really wanted to make sourdough the old-fashioned way. I wanted to develop my starter (at this point, it is worthy to note that I was in my kombucha phase; I was obsessed with ferments). I wanted to be THAT WOMAN who hardly ever buys her loaves; she would adhere to a regular baking schedule and make sure her house always had a homemade loaf on hand. I quickly cracked open Tartine and started to study and make notes… only to be overwhelmed by all the science, the ratios, and the information. I shelved that book in the back corners of my bookshelf—so quickly daunted by the process. I chickened out too quickly; I barely gave the book a chance.
I met Julie through a mutual friend of ours—a fellow food photographer, Melissa Quantz. When I worked for Janaki Larsen, Julie was a frequent visitor of her shop, where she would eventually strike up a best friendship with Janaki. She hosts a series of culinary tours and cooking classes in Puglia, where she has built a home with her partner and soon-to-be-husband, Francesco. Julie and I have only really orbited each other through the people we both know mutually, but I soon became aware of her culinary prowess and her love of Italian cooking. Both her Vancouver and Puglia kitchens, known fixtures on her instagram feed, became my future kitchen goals.
When I saw that she was offering some sourdough-making classes in her kitchen while she’s back here in town briefly, I knew I had to see her Vancouver kitchen in person, and to learn from someone whose work with bread is relatively new—at least, compared to the seasoned bakers that surround both our culinary consciousness. The price was really reasonable, and it was a 4-hour intensive workshop that broke down the Tartine method—and I mean really broke it down—in absolute layman’s terms. Now, I had taken a two-day sourdough workshop years before, but found it a little too difficult to follow. I needed to be guided into the world of bread like I was a small child learning to take their first step. Julie’s class was perfect.
Julie guided all six of us through a basic recipe she has gleaned and tweaked from Tartine, explaining each step without the jargon that usually surrounds the science of sourdough-making. The recipe she provided can be divided or multiplied with relative ease—and… after having baked FIVE loaves since taking her class last weekend—this recipe is foolproof. You just have to develop a pretty regular habit of taking care and maintaining your sourdough starter, but once you have some sort of routine down, you are pretty much set. I simply had to follow the recipe Julie broke down for us—down to the folding and final shaping of the loaves. Having cracked open Tartine again the day after I took her class, I noted that her method is essentially Chad Robertson’s method, only perfectly suited and tweaked to her everyday repertoire, and eventually, my own.
Furthermore, Julie had time to show us how to make crackers using spent starter. I was delighted we had time for this; normally, when you feed your starter, you discard about 80% of the old starter and the idea of throwing away that much starter makes me a little sad. She devised a few ways to use up spent starter to minimize waste, and crackers are a great way to do so. She also baked a cake with spent starter; she says she is still tweaking the recipe, but will gladly share with us her method once she has perfected it. This chocolate cake (which I neglected to photograph with my SLR—whoops) had a sourdough-like tang at first bite, which I personally loved. It had a drier crumb if you compared it to a traditional molten lava cake… but for me, it was still tender and moist, and has a substantially more elegant texture and flavour profile than your average chocolate cake.
Et… voila! Our finished loaves and my lovely workshop mates! :-D
I have been baking up a storm since her class, mostly for the practice, and to form my sourdough-baking habits. I could not resist shooting my results in my studio, which I am super proud to share here.
My scoring has gotten incrementally better, though I have yet to develop my signature look.
For the above loaf, I had chosen to set the bread on an un-lined banneton basket. Look at those flour swirls!
Of course, I had to make crackers using spent starter. I made two kinds. First, Julie’s fennel crackers…
Then, my own version: Ethiopian berbere and caraway seed crackers. This one WAS A HIT at last night’s dinner party.
Bread and butter… nothing can be more heavenly.
Thank you, Julie, for your warmth, your patience, and for sharing your knowledge!
You can follow Julie’s instagram feed here.
To be kept abreast of future workshops and classes, follow Everyone at The Table or visit their website here.
My husband and I have spent the entire holidays turning our living room into a full-service studio, and it is almost complete! Photographs of the space to come soon. In the meantime, here are a couple of January self-portraits to mark the beginning of a new decade. I figured it be appropriate I christen the new studio space with a photoshoot of sorts.
These composites took about an hour to shoot and about 6 hours to edit. Photoshop crashed on me when I was saving my first attempt at the composite and I had lost a good two hours’ worth of work - a reminder to always save, save, SAVE! It must have been a sign from the universe, however, as I prefer my later attempts much more than my sloppy first. I am quite happy with these final results.
More projects soon! Happy 2020!
My dear friend, Renee Mills, and I collaborated on a series of photographs for her ceramic portfolio last month. We took advantage of a couple of really sunny Sundays we have been fortunate enough to have here in the often gloomy-rainy Vancouver November weather. Renee’s work is really beautiful; her choice of shapes, glazes, and texture remind me of a call back to nature, particularly her crystalline glaze work - some of which remind me of mossy rock formations immersed underwater, gleaming under the bright light of the sun.
We went full-blown nature here with her ceramics, letting our environment inform the way these have been photographed. We also shot some of her ceramics in my home studio as well, but we both feel like the light inside my studio definitely complement the photographs we made outside.
I will let the photographs speak for themselves here. In the meantime, for those who live in the Vancouver area, Renee will be doing a pop-up along with her friend and fellow ceramicist, Chloée St. Amour (who is currently interning for Janaki Larsen), at Nemesis Coffee Holiday Market, December 13, from 4 to 8 pm. See their Instagram post here for the full vendor list or take note of these details below:
Nemesis Holiday Market
December 13, 4 to 8 pm
302 West Hastings Street
I will be visiting them to show my support and for you locals reading this, I hope you can too!
Let me end with this beautiful portrait of the artist. Renee, it’s been a pleasure photographing your work and I hope we do plenty more of these in the new year.