Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

I save bread packaging from going to landfills by baking my own rustic bread loaves baked with plain flour bought in bulk.  Currently into natural starter and Tartine’s recipes seem to be on everyone’s must-bake list.

There is nothing different about the recipe I used to bake this classic Tartine sourdough except that I have halved it, based on the size of my Dutch Oven and my refrigerator’s capacity.  Why bake the full recipe when it takes me a few mornings to finish one loaf?  What helped a lot is that this dough recipe is a breeze to mix.  Simply mix another batch when the loaf is about to finish.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

An active starter is a critical ingredient here.  I continue to be awed endlessly by my natural starter that produces the most dramatic oven spring in my short sourdough baking history.  Coating the surface of the bread with rice flour before slashing is also a must, to make the “split” more obvious and help it look more ‘pro’ and rustic.  My heart skips a beat every time I uncover the pot after the first 40 minutes in the oven.

To ensure that the starter is active, I make sure that I feed my starter at regular interval until it can double within 3 hours at room temperature which is 30C here.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

While the original recipe stated 20 minutes with the lid and 20-25 minutes with the lid off, this is for bakers who are experienced or willing to risk a scalding arm with a preheated hot dutch oven pot at 230C.  I bake my dough cold, straight from the chiller and in an unheated pot, but I still manage to get a perfect oven spring and a crust that caramalize to a beautiful brown.  I have to bake the bread longer though: 40 minutes in the oven with the lid on and another 40minutes without the lid.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Made for myself a step by step pictorial guide with 1/2 the ingredients of this recipe.  Hope you will find it useful too.


Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf

Start with an active starter, pour 125g into a mixer bowl, and add 370g water.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Stir around with a wooden spoon until the starter is mixed well with the water.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Add 350g plain flour and 150g wholemeal flour to the diluted starter.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Stir and mix with the wooden spoon.  Let this sit aside for at least 30 minutes, covered.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

After 30 minutes, sprinkle 10g sea salt on top of the dough and another 25g water, and

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

gently stir to mix the salt and water into the autolysed dough, which will appear smoother at this point.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Mix until all the water has been absorbed by the dough.  Then, with a clean wet hand, do a few round of  “stretch and pull” actions.  Let dough sit for another 30 minutes.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

After 30 minutes, repeat the “stretch and pull” action, then let it sit for 30 minutes again.  This will be “Turn #1”.  Repeat this for another 3 times.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

After “Turn #4”, transfer the dough to a container with cover, or simply cover the mixer bowl (if your fridge has ample space for it) with a pot lid of the right size, and let it bulk ferment inside the fridge overnight.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Next morning, when ready to bake, preheat oven to 250C.  Flour the base of a Dutch Oven with rice flour, to prevent the bread from sticking to the pot when baking.  I do this to save on parchment paper.  Retrieve the dough from fridge and shape the dough gently into a ball, place it inside the pot, seam side downwards.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Sprinkle rice flour on top and make a score on the surface of the dough.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Cover and bake for 40 minutes.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

After 40 minutes, Remove cover, and bake for another 40 minutes at 220C.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

After baking, remove the bread from the Dutch Oven immediately, and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.  Store unfinished bread in an airtight container to prevent crumbs from drying out.

Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf // Mono + Co

Enjoy!

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Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong

Hong Kong. No Disneyland. No Ocean Park.

I was there to spend a simple weekend exploring local organic stores and wet markets (surprised that they are air-conditioned), plus trying out meat-free eateries.  All this while sticking to some basic eco-friendly rules that I follow at home, like finishing up my food.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

Despite clearing out my fridge before the trip, I still had a leftover peanut pancake which became my first snack in Hong Kong, packed in beeswax wrapper, stow away inside my luggage with other reusables that became really useful during the trip.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

I brought along 2 containers.  A plastic version that is airtight and leakproof and a stainless steel version, two of my most compact ones.  Beeswax wrapper in smaller dimension seals my cutlery set in case I need to throw them into my bag when the containers are full, keeping them away from the-whatever-dirt-I-have inside my bag.  These come in handy for street food and bakeries with no seating, think stinky tofu, cream cakes, and egg tarts.  But whenever there is an option to dine in, I will choose so to save the hassle of explaining my “no-disposable” preference.  It’s a great way to immerse oneself in the native atmosphere.  The servers at the Cha-Chaan-Teng are straightforward and loud, and always have an interesting tale or two to share among themselves, nevermind that the shop is full of hearing ears.  However, take note that some eateries will impose a minimum spending amount per head due to Hong Kong’s high rental rates.  Besides food containers, I also brought along a borosilicate glass flask for hot coffee takeaways and of course, my daily drinking water that I boil and cool every night in the hotel room.  If you find bringing these along cumbersome, at least consider foldable reusable bags for shopping, I brought 4.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

Packing for a vacation doesn’t mean stuffing the luggage with plenty of disposables,  especially for a short trip like mine.  I simply condense my bathroom routine with multi-purpose products, such as applying the same jojoba oil for face and body or using the same soap for hair and body.  I could easily do without a face mask or scrub for a week, so why bother bringing along?  Sunscreen is a must though.

The first thing I do when I step into a hotel room is to gather all the disposable items and place them outside the bathroom for the chambermaid to know that they can reuse them after we check out.  Even if you don’t use them, leaving them on the bathroom counter will only damage the paper packaging with water splashed from the sink, making them unusable for the next guest.  I usually bring along my outdoor rubber slippers as bedroom slippers after a quick wash.  But if the room is floored with hardwood, I will just go barefoot, making myself feel at home, thus saving a pair of disposable room slippers from the landfill.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

Public transport in Hong Kong is famous for its efficiency.  MTR stations are super accessible, with numerous exits leading to the various destinations.  But I have view watching in mind, so I boarded one of the 11 airport bus routes that depart from the terminal to my accommodation that lies along the route.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

Google map has also totally changed my public transport experience in a foreign city, allowing me to explore further, connecting the dots with buses, minibuses, even the 100-year-old tramlines are also included in the Google routes.  No longer are itineraries limited to just popular touristy spots or places near MTR stations.  Precious amount of travelling time is saved by choosing the “fastest route”.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

But we can always choose to go the slower way, such as purposely taking a stroll along the street even though a bus will take us there in 5 minutes.  There are plenty of things to see in the neighbourhoods, unlike the cookie-cutter malls.

Some of the daily mundane that caught my eyes:

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// public road for everyone

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// store with memories

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// creating own’s patch of greenery with limited space

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// or leave it to nature

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// rag-and-bone man, keeping useful items in the loop

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// the usual recyclables in demand

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// packaging-lite shopping

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// wrapped by nature

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// cellophane-free vegetables

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// local organic vs imported premium

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// “it’s more tiring to cook at home”, a reason for take-outs in this fast-paced city

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// even places of worship can conduct workshops on environmental issues, overheard at the Wong Tai Sin temple announced over their PA system

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// every effort counts, an eco-reminder spotted in a local market: “today let’s save the earth together. tomorrow will be a better day for us.”

Turns out that Hong Kong has plenty of recycling bins dotting around the island.  They are never too far away from you to drop your recyclables.  I started counting recycling bins around me while waiting at the airport.  They are in such abundance that at a particular vantage point, I could spot 3!

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// a reminder that you are contributing to the landfill, rubbish don’t just poof and disappear

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// no language barrier. no excuse!

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// recycling bins next to garbage bins to make you think twice.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// see through ones

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// batteries included

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// slot for papers only, so you can’t sneak in your plastic bottles

At the end of my trip, I still ended up with some non-recyclable plastic rubbish, though I am sure that I have saved more waste than I have created as a result of being a mindful consumer.  I understand that the environmental problems won’t go away immediately after I reject a plastic shopping bag.  But the key point is to at least try, isn’t it?  Any more tips from experienced eco-travellers?

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Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner

Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner // Mono + Co

These origami papers are not what they seem.  The Minion themed tray liners from a popular fast food restaurant are too pretty to be recycled into paper pulp.

After trimming them to square sheets, I proceed to turn them into bookmarks.  Catching up with a novel or two is a great luxury during the school holiday, so these will definitely come in handy when left on the coffee or bedside table.

Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner // Mono + Co

I folded these bookmarks with instructions here, here, and here.

Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner // Mono + Co Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner // Mono + Co

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Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade

Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade // Mono + Co

My blue butterfly pea flower lemonade has a lighter hue than what you’ll see here and here.  These recipes state to steep the flowers in boiling water first to allow the blue pigment to be extracted before adding the juice of a lemon and transform the blue tea purple.

I prepared mine in a different order: squeeze the juice of a lemon into a glass first, followed by adding ice cubes that has been frozen with the flowers inside each of them.  This method suits me better since I prefer my lemonade really sour with little dilution. By the time all the ice cubes has melted, at least the drink still stay tasting like lemonade.

Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade // Mono + Co

I started freezing these blue flowers in my ice cube tray when I ran out of ideas what to do with them as they continue to bloom.  I have since brewed them as hot blue tea, dye a cotton hankerchief into a lightest shade of blue (the color has since faded after a few washing), and conducted a self-learning calligraphy lesson in, you guessed it, blue ink.

Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade // Mono + Co

This is a great way to preserve the blooms and make pretty drinks.  If you let these ice cubes melt on counter, you will get a puddle of blue ink which you can subsequently use for your favorite  crafting ideas with blue pigment.

Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade // Mono + Co

Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade // Mono + Co

Back to my lemonade, as the ice cubes started to melt, the color of the drink slowly turned pink.  It’s so perfect for the warm day!

For the curious ones, this explains the science behind.

Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade // Mono + Co

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Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew)

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

Sometimes, synthetic materials are so ubiquitous in our lives that I often overlook simpler/ natural alternatives until I ask myself if a DIY avenue is possible.  For all the countless ironing board covers that I have been replacing over the years, I always blindly pick one from the shelf pondering over only the size and pattern design but never the material composition.  There wasn’t much choices available at the supermarket where I usually buy my covers from and technology all seems to be pointing towards a shinier and easier-to-glide surface for a perfect press anyway.

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

When the latest cover accidently got burnt by a wrong temperature setting (note to self: focus!) and let off a plasticky whiff, I started wondering if I should seek a better cover made of a thicker material with a higher heat resistance level.  I started recalling how my mom used to make us do our ironing seated on the floor without an iron board.  What lies underneath the garment is just a huge piece of heavy cotton canvas that has been folded multiple times to create a thick pad.  And after we were done, the canvas was stowed away nicely in the wardrobe, unlike the modern bulky standing iron board that sticks out like a sore thumb propped against one side of my bedroom wall.  I don’t intend to discard my ironing board since I have grown accustomed to doing my ironing while standing, but this brief reminiscence reminded me of a piece of cotton cloth that could be perfect for this DIY.

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

The cotton cloth fits the dimension of the ironing board nicely, but I wasn’t in the mood to sew this by hand, yet.  Instead, I retain the damaged cover (a temporary pad since I find the cotton not thick enough) and start manoeuvring the cloth around to wrap the cover and the ironing board.  If you can make your own bed or wrap a present neatly, this should not be difficult.

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

When it comes to the narrowest end of the ironing board, I can’t tuck in all the excess fabric without obstructing the folding parts of the the board for storage.  Instead, I used a hair tie to gather the bulk end tightly to keep this part of the board tapered and neatly so that the cover doesn’t move around when ironing.

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co  Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

I am working on part 2 of this DIY : finding a suitable padding material and putting everything together, sewn by hand. But if you are lucky enough to own a sewing machine, here are few links that will be useful:

Craftsy blog

The 36th Avenue

My Plastic Free Life

The Spruce

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Cucumber Cold Soba Salad

Cucumber Cold Soba Salad // Mono + Co

The hot weather lately is becoming unbearable.  I decided to save myself from the hot kitchen by tossing a salad for lunch.  The only cooking involves boiling the soba, which only takes 4 minutes on the stove if you use an electric kettle to boil the water beforehand.

Cucumber Cold Soba Salad // Mono + Co

I halved the portion and dropped miso and tahini from the original recipe as I wanted a light clear dressing.  Instead of soy sauce, I seasoned the salad with liquid aminos, something I have grown to like with soba.  Rice vinegar provided a nice tangy finish to the dressing, I also added more sesame oil than the original recipe.

Cucumber Cold Soba Salad // Mono + Co Cucumber Cold Soba Salad // Mono + Co Cucumber Cold Soba Salad // Mono + Co


Cucumber Cold Soba Salad

adapted from cookie and kate

1 bunch of soba noodles
1 small japanese cucumber
1 stalk scallions, chopped 
1 stalk cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon liquid aminos
or, light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Cook soba according to instructions on the packaging.  Drain and rinse with cold water until the noodles are at room temperature.

To prepare Japanese cucumber, use a vegetable peeler to peel skin, use a knife and julienne the peel into thin strips.  Cube the rest of the cucumber and set these aside.

In a bowl, whisk to mix rice vinegar, grated ginger, liquid aminos, sesame oil and red pepper flakes.  Adjust according to taste.  Mix this dressing to coat the cooked soba noodles in a large bowl. Then toss in cubed cucumber and the julienned peels, chopped scallions and cilantro, and black sesame seeds. Adjust seasoning further to liking.

Serve immediately.

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Green Monday : DIY Bath/Foot Soak

Green Monday : DIY Bath/Foot Soak // Mono + Co

After a while, the habit of reading food ingredient label will automatically extend to the body care product section.  With more beauty trends focusing on naturally derived ingredients, I also started making some for my own use with very basic recipes starting with bath and body products.  It’s tempting to stock up on a variety of ingredients to keep up with the huge range of diy bath product recipes available online, but I am determined to stick to what I already have.  Apart from a few types of essential oils, sweet almond oil, and castile soap that I bought last year (Yes! All these lasted me that long!), I got the rest from my kitchen pantry: honey, baking soda, raw sugar, sea salt, coconut oil, oatmeal, apple cider vinegar, etc.  I am very tempted to buy some bentonite clay, but that will probably have to wait until I finish up my jar of store-bought clay mask.

I always tell my friends that they will get a lot more bang for their buck if they make home spa products at home.  Since I am making these products for my own use, chance are I will be super generous with the key ingredients such as honey or olive oil, food grade, no less and sometimes even organic.

I made this “Rosebuds + Himalayan Pink Salt + Epsom Salt” bath soak for a recent vacation and like it so much that I made more back home as a foot soak since I don’t have a bathtub. For this soak, I used a mix of Epsom salt and Himalayan salt, with more of the latter since it is the cheaper of the two.  The rose buds from floral tea section were honestly more for aesthetics purpose, to have an entire bathtub of water smell like rose tea, I will need way more than the 30+ buds that I have added here.  If you have a favorite essential oil that you like, add a few drops of that instead.  The addition of rosebuds is a nice touch if this is put together as a gift.

Green Monday : DIY Bath/Foot Soak // Mono + Co

This 300g bottle of bath/foot soak took me less than 5 minute to diy and cost less me than $2.  Make one for your regular home spa treat, or pack this in your luggage to soothe your aching muscles at the end of the day!

Here are some interesting links that I referred to when I decided on the Epsom and Himalayan salt mix, with some common precaution to note when taking bath soak:

// 2-salt combo mentioned here, here and here as a detox bath

// a pretty gift idea

// Epsom salt with baking soda, also for detox

// precautionary notes here state that Epsom salt are not recommended for patients with high blood pressure or severe varicose veins

// benefits of Epsom salt, and Epsom salt baths here

// or detox with just Himalayan salt

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Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// going bagless.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// losing a jar lid to rust, but found a substitute almost immediately.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// plastic-free baking measuring tools.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// upcycled cologne bottles.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// we are ready.

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June Holiday Activities + DIY Natural Insect Repellent

June Holiday Activities + DIY Natural Insect Repellent // Mono + Co

The mid-year school holiday will start this weekend and there is no lack of outdoor activities on our sunny island, a great opportunity for the little ones at home to get connected with nature or outdoor sports.  I always fully embrace the idea of playing a local tourist at home as a frugal mom, so I have listed some events that have caught my eyes at the end of this post.

Let me first jump the topic to my homemade insect repellent as this is a must-have in my outdoor bag with the entire family being walking mozzie magnets.  To start, let’s find a spray bottle.

June Holiday Activities + DIY Natural Insect Repellent // Mono + Co

Remember these handy mosquito repellents that the schools and RCs distributed a few years back?  Check the expiry dates, they have probably passed their effective period.  But don’t throw them away yet, the spray bottles can be refilled with a homemade Deet-free natural version, recipes and instructions can be easily found online like this, this, this and this.

Most of these recipes require just 2 or 3 of the following ingredients.

++01. Essential Oil

An essential oil or mix that repels mosquitoes and bugs: choose from Citronella, Eucalyptus,  Tea Tree, Lavender, Peppermint, and Neem just to name a few.  My favorite combination is 70% citronella + 20% tea tree + 10% eucalyptus.  If you are new to essential oils, stick to Citronella and try it out before getting more.  Always, always dilute essential oils before use.

++ 02. Witch hazel, or distilled water.

Some recipes use only witch hazel, some mix equal part of witch hazel to water.  I choose the cheapest/convenient way, only boiled water that has cooled down.

++ 03. The optional ones:

// Vegetable glycerin as an emulsifier. I happen to have glycerin at home so I add it to my latest batch.  For some reason, this works much better than just essential oil diluted with water.
// A carrier oil like sweet almond to bind the repellent better to our skin.  I don’t usually a carrier oil, but an oil based repellent’s effectiveness will last longer without regular reapplication.  When I need something stronger and don’t have time to reapply the water base repellent every hour, I will make a rub-on repellent instead by adding essential oil directly to the carrier oil and store this a brown bottle, away from light.
// Vodka is sometimes suggested to be added as a preservative.  Since I don’t make the repellent spray in bulk, usually just enough for half a day outer activity, I don’t add it as well.

June Holiday Activities + DIY Natural Insect Repellent // Mono + Co

Now that the worry of getting bitten by bugs is out of the way, let’s run through to the outdoor activities for the coming school holiday:

+ Car Free Sunday on 28 May 2017.  Wake up early and kick off the school holiday the car-free way!

+ Pesta Ubin 2017: Happening since May 10, but there are still plenty of free activities being organized every weekend.

+ Nparks Concert Series in the Park at Fort Canning on 3 June.  It’s retro theme with music from the 60s to 90s this time.

+ DBS Marina Regatta from  1-4 June.  Interesting activities such as trying out dragon boating and participating in various fitness sessions are available with pre-registration required.

+ SPH Gift of Music at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 10 June featuring Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

+ Kranji Farmer’s Market on 11 June.  While you are there, take a self guided tour to explore the heritage trail that covers 14 historical and agricultural trail markers, such as Kranji War Memorial and Thow Kwang Industry that house the last dragon kiln in Singapore.

+ Gardener’s Day Out on 17 June at Hortpark.

+ Opera in the Park on 17 June at Singapore Botanic Gardens.

+ Weekends in the Park on 17 June at Pasir Ris Park.

+ Ecolife at Coney Island Park on 24 June , a guided tour with pre-registration required.

+ Istana Open House on Hari Raya Day 25 June.

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