I felt like there was something missing. Do not misunderstand me: I’m still in love with my blog, with the relationship we have created throughout these almost seven years. I still look at recipes and experiences through the foodblogger perspective, scanning reality for something which might be appealing for you and interesting for me. But there was something missing.
I needed a weekend in Valdorcia to find out which was the missing piece of my puzzle.
I met Luisa last year for the Juls’ Kitchen Lab with her sister Martina: I was hypnotized by her ability in making pici. I started following her on Social Media to find out she lives in a corner of paradise, her family Agriturismo il Rigo, between Bagno Vignoni and San Quirico d’Orcia. Luisa gave us a room with a four-poster bed – yes, one of those old-fashioned beds you dreamt to sleep in as a child -, she carefully put a mason jar with wildflowers on the dresser and gifted us with a painting-like view from our window. She introduced us to her Valdorcia, made of thermal water streams, old pharmacies, unknown strongholds and family bonds.
She organized visits, surprises and activities for us, she was moved by friendship and by a genuine love for that well know part of Tuscany that she calls home. But she did something more.
I found the missing piece of my puzzle in the wildflowers tenderly arranged in our bedroom, in an old brick wall covered by ivy, in the meringue cake with garden strawberries and rose buds that she made for us one evening. It was real life.
If I think about the blogs I admire the most – Vaniglia Cooking, Emiko Davies, Miss Foodwise, Rachel eats, Orangette… – what strikes me every time is how powerful is reality in their blogposts, how they are able to present every time a vivid slice of their daily life in words, images, taste and smell.
It is a long journey, begun in June when I attended Annette’s food styling and photography workshop in Alassio. I started questioning myself and my work here on my blog, looking for a new source of inspiration, a personal style and a recognizable voice. I decided to take the whole summer to investigate my expectations. At the beginning of October I came to a resolution. I want the blog to be the mirror of my reality, an open window on my imperfect daily life.
On Monday we went to Podere il Casale, an organic cheese farm run by a Swiss family on a hill in front of Pienza. There reality welcomed us with the silver ringing of sheep and goat bells in the air, with wild artichokes growing at the side of the path, with a persimmon tree perched on a slope overlooking Valdorcia.
Tiny inexplicable glimpses of real life. Not a well studied photo portraying an inspirational life, but a genuine life lived by true people. This is what I want to share on my blog.
After a frugal lunch with bread and cheese – is there anything better? – we drove to meet three sisters who changed their life and created Fiori di Puscina, a wildflower farm. Reality in its most authentic form: shears on a bench, a house on a tree, a shed at the end of the garden, a partially ripe grape hanging on the vine. I felt the urge to find seeds, study wild herbs and flowers and plant a dozen of fruit trees in the orchard. I was craving for real experiences, to dirt my hands and come back here to tell you what I found at the end of the path.
I’ll tell you more about our weekend in Valdorcia in the next post, with detailed information on where to stay, eat and be merry, but I could not wait to share with you this fresh new perspective I rediscovered in the hills around Pienza.
I thought the perfect recipe to outline this reinforced bond with reality could be a wholesome multigrain bread loaf made with whole spelt flour, whole rye flour and whole buckwheat flour, all mixed together and shaped into a crusty loaf with some water and olive oil.
Slather the bread slices with orange marmalade or pumpkin jam, or make it a meal with some cheese and honey. Toast the bread for breakfast and admire the butter slowly melting on the toasted slice or have it still warm from the oven. Freeze some sliced bread as to have it whenever you feel like having a slice of wholesome bread.
- 250 g of bread flour
- 250 g of water
- 2 g of fresh brewer's yeast
- 1 kg of flour (300 g of whole spelt flour, 200 g of whole rye flour, 400 g of bread flour, 100 g of whole buckwheat flour)
- 400 g of poolish
- 500 g of water
- 5 g of fresh brewer's yeast
- 20 g of salt
- 50 g of extra virgin olive oil
- 10 g of malt
- The night before dissolve the fresh brewer's yeast in water. Add the flour and mix with a whisk until completely smooth. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let the polish mature at room temperature (ideally about 18°C) for 12 hours.
- The day after spoon 400 g of poolish into the stand mixer bowl. Dissolve the fresh brewer's yeast in lukewarm water and pour the water into the bowl. Add also all the flours, salt, extra virgin olive oil and malt into the bowl.
- Knead for about 8 minutes with the hook attachment at the lowest speed, then knead for 5 minutes at the second speed.
- Move the dough in a bowl previously greased with olive oil and fold it onto itself to give it strength and help it to raise. Let it rest in the oven with the light on for about an hour.
- After an hour divide the dough into 4 loaves, set them on a floured surface and dust each loaf with a generous sprinkle of flour.
- Let the bread rise in a warm room for about two hours and a half, until doubled.
- Preheat oven to 230°C. Transfer the bread loaves onto a tray and keep them separated. Score the surface with a razor blade or a sharp knife. Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 190°C and bake for 25 more minutes.
- Let the bread cool down on a wire rack and keep it closed into a paper bag. It will be good for several days.
Here you can find some detailed information on poolish and how to use it to make bread. Did you know that the term “Poolish” comes from Polish baker’s in Vienna who developed the technique of prefermentation, later adopted by French bakers?
Italian Riviera workshop
I already mentioned how inspiring Annette Joseph’s workshop in Alassio was, it brought me to question myself and my work to investigate a more authentic way to express my ideas, to photograph and to tell a story. Well, Annette already launched the second edition, which will be held again in Alassio in June.
Join us for this once in a lifetime creative retreat on the Italian Riviera. This photographic retreat will immerse you in the Riviera lifestyle. Stroll the palm-lined boardwalk of the seaside town of Alassio, taste the ocean bounty and handmade pasta. Enjoy the retro vibe of this little Italian beach town while capturing your best images along the way. Liguria, the home of focaccia and pesto, will take your breath away. Mingle with other creatives in this charming setting, relax and learn about photo styling and photography all at the same time.
June 8th-13th, 2016 at Borgata Cantone
(Registration Closes March 1, 2016)
Find all the information here, and join us! I will be teaching a cooking class and spend all the time with you to learn, relate and have fun!