Apple Galette

Today is the first day of fall, so it is time to think about apples. And yes, apple pie. Lately, I have been whipping up apple galettes when I don’t have enough time to make an apple pie. Last time I did, the whole family was sitting at the table, and Matthew took a bite of the galette and said, “I think I might like this more than your apple pie”.  Allow for a pause as I take in the information. Just so you know, apple galettes are so much easier to make than apple pies. What’s to love about an apple galette, aside from how quick and easy they are to make? First of all, the crust is pretty much guaranteed to be crispy, both top and bottom. Secondly, for those of us that love crust, I do believe there is more crust in the crust-to-fruit ratio. Thirdly, it bakes up so much faster, and you don’t have to wait as long to cut into it! And the rustic beauty of it will sweep you off your feet. And you only have to roll out one crust, not two. And you can use different fruit, like peaches or blueberries or whatever you have on hand. I’ve stopped counting.

This one is a peach galette.

Sure, you won’t have a lot of leftovers, since it serves 6, but that’s okay. Just make another one!

Apple Galette

  • 1/2 recipe of your favorite pie crust dough* (For best results, make your own crust! This galette is so much about the crust, so you want it to be top notch.)
  • 3 medium sized apples, whatever you have on hand
  • Fresh lemon juice, a Tablespoon or two
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • Milk for brushing the crust and sugar for sprinkling the crust
  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Take your disc of pie dough out of the fridge and let it sit on your counter while you prepare your apples: about fifteen minutes. It will be easier to roll out if it is not straight out of the fridge.
  3. Peel and core your apples, and slice 1/4″ thick, then cut slices in half.
  4. Toss apple pieces with lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  6. Roll out your pie dough on a lightly floured surface (don’t worry about jagged edges; they add to the charm) and transfer to parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
  7. Put apples in center of rolled out dough, leaving a 2 to 3 inch border of crust all the way around.
  8. Fold in the sides of the crust. Brush crust lightly with milk (or you can use a beaten egg white if you want sheen) and sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar.
  9. Bake on center rack of oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375° and continue baking for another 20 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown, and the apple filling starts to bubble.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.  It is lovely served as is, or with vanilla ice cream.

Note: *If you can, make your pie crust dough one day to several days in advance, then wrap the discs and put them in your fridge. That way you can whip up this apple galette at a moment’s notice.

Posted in Comfort Food, Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 1 Comment

Plum Torte

It is that time of year when plum trees (Italian prune plums) are all of a sudden exploding with ripe plums – too many to know what to do with! I don’t have a plum tree, but I have friends with plum trees, which is kind of perfect. My friend Sonja gave me a big bag loaded with these small, egg shaped fruit.

That’s a lot of plums!

I was a bit overwhelmed, and didn’t have a recipe, so I set the plums in their bag in a corner of the kitchen, and proceeded to forget about them. Several days later, when our kitchen was afloat with fruit flies, I discovered the source… I rooted through the bag and got rid of the few plums that had gone bad. I then decided that I would not be daunted; I would figure out a way to use these plums! Sonja gave me a recipe (in German!) for a plum kuchen… she included a translation.

It was a lot of work – yeasted dough, crumb topping, etc. It was good, but I was imagining a softer cake, kind of like a crumb cake. What I got was a type of yeast “crust”. Later Sonja told me that it was like a fruit pizza, so I guess I did it right, but just not what I was hoping for. During this time, there was (and still is) a lot of excitement over a New York Times recipe for a plum torte that was going around. It was fast and easy to make, with ordinary ingredients. Since I still had plenty of plums, I decided to give it a try. And OH MY.

Rustic beauty.

In all of its simplicity, this torte is perfection. Soft and moist, with homey flavors that will have you feeling summer’s last whispers on your tongue. Sweet, but with a wonderful tartness here and there from the plums that were just freshly picked. And the best surprise? The outside of the torte is crispy! So you not only have the wonderful contrast of sweet and tart, but you also have the delight of crispy on the outside, and soft cake-y fruity-ness on the inside. And bonus, this is so easy to make. I have started asking other friends for plums, while telling them about this amazing recipe. You may have already heard about it, but if not, here it is for you, along with a couple of tips that make it work better for me.

Plum Torte

(Marian Burro’s recipe from the New York Times)

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (NOT melted)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour*, sifted (measure first, then sift)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 goodly pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 dash cardamom (optional; not in original recipe)
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 to 26 halves pitted purple Italian plums (super easy to halve and pit!)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon for sprinkling
  • lemon juice for sprinkling (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350°
  2. Butter a 9″ springform pan, place a 9″ round of parchment paper on bottom of pan, and butter that too. Sprinkle a little bit of granulated sugar on the bottom and swoosh it around. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter until light (in color) and fluffy.
  4. Add flour (you can sift it directly into the bowl if you like), baking powder, salt and eggs and beat until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix. Batter will be thick.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread it to edges with a spatula.
  6. Place plum halves skin side up on top of batter. A pretty design is fun, but it will get covered by rising cake batter, so keep that in mind. A nice even covering is good so that each piece will have plenty of plum in it. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sugar, then about a teaspoon of cinnamon. I don’t use the lemon juice, since I find the plums to be quite tart, but if you like, sprinkle with lemon juice.
  7. Bake 1 hour. Remove and cool; a light dusting of powdered sugar just before serving is a nice touch, but not necessary. I think this dessert is best served at room temperature, although we have enjoyed it still warm, and also cold out of the fridge.

*I have had the best luck using King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour for this torte. the second time I made this torte I tried a lower protein flour and found the cake to be a bit mushy. The higher protein flour gives the cake more structure.

**I plan on making a few of these and freezing them, but if that doesn’t happen, I have frozen some halved and pitted plums so that I can make this summer sensation in the middle of winter. To serve a torte that has been frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300°.

Getting ready for the fun part!

Pretty!

I may have been a bit heavy-handed with the sugar.

Yes, I like lots of cinnamon! But the cake doesn’t taste overly cinnamon-y.

Looks like it came from a European bakery.

One of summer’s last gifts.

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Blueberry Crumb Muffins

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The other day, Millie decided she wanted to bake with me. She looked online and found a recipe for blueberry muffins that looked good, and off we went. (I have to chuckle to myself, because if it had been me, I would have researched for days before finding just the right recipe.) So we made the recipe exactly as written, and the muffins were fantastic! But because I am me, I imagined something a bit more dense and buttery for the cake part, and I wanted a crumb topping. The crumb topping was easy, since I already have a nice crumb topping go-to recipe from my German Style Crumb Cake post. As for the texture of the cake, I decided to use a little bit of almond flour to create the dense but moist texture I was after. Success! If you don’t have the almond flour, and/or don’t want a crumb topping, you can make the original recipe just as is, and you will still love it.

Now, this recipe might seem a bit fussy, because it calls for things like Greek-style yogurt, buttermilk, and now almond flour. But it’s worth it.

Blueberry Crumb Muffins

(Adapted from Broma Bakery’s recipe)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Greek-style yogurt (plain)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Crumb Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (Gold Medal if you have it**)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted, cold butter, cut into cubes
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  1. To make the crumb topping, put sugar, flour, cold cubed butter, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla into the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Using the paddle attachment, beat on low speed until topping resembles sand or crumbs, with some larger clumps. Clumps should come together when pinched with your fingers. Do not cream!!! If you prefer to do this by hand, use a pastry blender to blend the ingredients. If you see some chunks of butter that have not blended in, use your fingers to blend it in.
  3. Put crumb topping into a different bowl and place in fridge. Now wash your stand mixer bowl (sorry!) because you’ll need it.
  4. Preheat oven to 425°.
  5. Grease 12 muffin tins, including a bit of the top of the pan around the individual tins, and line with cupcake liners and set aside.
  6. In your stand mixer bowl, combine the melted butter and granulated sugar, beating until combined. Add the eggs in one at a time. Add the buttermilk, greek yogurt, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
  7. Add flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed just until batter begins to come together (not fully incorporated). Toss the blueberries with the additional one Tablespoon of flour. Fold the blueberries into the batter, mixing only until combined – don’t over mix!!! Batter will be thick.
  8. Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins. I like to use a large cookie scoop for this; my cookie scoop measure just under 1/4 cup. Level the batter in the scoop by pressing along side of the bowl before putting in muffin tins so that there is plenty of room for the crumb topping. If you end up with extra batter, just distribute it equally among the 12 muffins.
  9. Sprinkle tops with crumb topping. Really pile it on there. If you have extra you can save it in an airtight container in your fridge for the next time you need crumb topping***.
  10. Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F, then turn oven down to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until muffins are golden brown and spring back to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before eating!

Notes:

*Here is a quick way to get your eggs to room temperature: place eggs in bowl of tepid water and let sit for 5 minutes. You just want to take the chill off of the eggs. Done!

**Your crumb topping will be more tender if you use a low protein flour, such as Gold Medal. But whatever all-purpose you have will be fine.

***You might want to make a larger quantity of crumb topping (that’s what I do), and then store it in your fridge in an airtight container for future use. It will last for about a month.

P.s. Sorry I don’t have more pictures. These are so good that I just wanted to post right away.

 

 

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Zucchini Brownies

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It is August in Seattle, and there is a fall feeling in the air. It’s the time I need to be really creative to figure out ways to use all of the zucchini from just one plant.

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My daughter Mara has been wanting to make brownies, and I noticed a zucchini brownie recipe from King Arthur Baking Company that looked interesting. The perfect opportunity for some mother/daughter time. Here is Mara in the kitchen.

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Gaucamole is one of her specialties.

So yesterday, when I had a few other things going on, and needed to get dinner on the table, and needed to be at a school meeting, I called out to Mara to see if she wanted to make brownies with me. She appeared in an instant. Let me tell you something about Mara: she is fast. She is like a whirlwind in the kitchen. I told her to look at the recipe, which I had pulled up on my phone, and tell me what to do. She put me on zucchini duty, while she started pulling out all other necessary items.

She told me I needed to cut the zucchini into chunks, and tamp them down. What? I had not read the entire recipe, but I made assumptions about it. Well, okay, so I got on it. We both furrowed our brows at the idea of tamped down chunks of zucchini in brownies, but anyway… then I asked her to read the actual steps of the recipe, and it turns out the recipe calls for a food processor, which we don’t have! So I switched gears and set aside the chunks of zucchini; those ended up in our dinner. I got out more zucchini (not a problem) and started grating.

We just started putting all the ingredients into a large bowl and mixing with a wooden spoon. It then occurred to me that King Arthur recipes usually have “Bakers Tips” near the end of their recipes, so I scrolled down, and sure enough, they suggest that if you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender. I imagined the mess of the blender, and Mara agreed that we should just stay the course and mix everything in a big bowl. So we did. Right at the end, we added chocolate chips. I at first grabbed “mini” chips, but then decided against it, and just used regular chips. We dumped them in and stirred. I then looked at the recipe and noticed that it said to add the chocolate chips and pulse a few times to break the chips into small bits. Oops. Keep in mind that all of this is happening at an alarmingly fast pace.

The recipe called for a 9″ x 9″ pan, which we don’t have! So we went with an 8″ x 8″. We both agreed that the brownies would be thicker, so not a problem, right? We baked them for 20 minutes and checked at that point. The batter was still too wet, so we set the timer for 5 more minutes while we hustled and bustled around the kitchen cleaning up and getting dinner ready. Suddenly I looked at Mara and asked her if the timer had gone off. She didn’t know. Well, it had, and neither of us heard it! So I’m not sure how much longer the brownies went, but they were slightly puffed up (the kiss of death for brownies). I pulled them out of the oven to cool, threw dinner onto a platter, and sent my family onto the deck to eat while I sat in front of my computer for a Zoom school meeting.

Why am I telling you all of this??? Because it seemed that we royally screwed up with these brownies. But when the meeting was over, and dinner was done, and the brownies had cooled, we all sat down together for some dessert. The brownies were dark, fudge-y, gooey perfection. And I got to have some fun in the kitchen with Mara. Oh yeah, the recipe called for frosting. Nope. We opted for vanilla ice cream. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Zucchini Brownies

(Adapted from King Arthur Baking Company’s recipe)

  • 1 1/2 cups (182 to 225 grams) grated zucchini*
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, Dutch-process or natural (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (57 grams) all-purpose flour (King Arthur, if you please)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Grease an 8″ x 8″ brownie pan
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients in the order as listed above, mixing with a wooden spoon with each addition. When you get to the flour, mix it only until incorporated.  Then stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth it out with spatula.
  5. Bake brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. You shouldn’t see any sign of wet batter. Remove the brownies from the oven, and allow them to cool before enjoying.

Notes:

*If your zucchini is watery, place grated zucchini between sheets of paper towels or tea towels to absorb some of the moisture before using.

**Hats off to King Arthur Baking Company to come up with a recipe that even when you screw up royally, the results are royally delicious.

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Posted in Comfort Food, Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 2 Comments

Perfect Every Time Pie Crust

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I know I already wrote about an all-butter pie crust, and that one is pretty good, although a bit fussy. But since that time, I have found the perfect pie crust. I mean, it is perfect. When I say perfect (shall I say that word again?), in my world of pie crusts, that means that the crust is easy to make, doesn’t require fancy ingredients, uses only butter, is fork-shatteringly flaky, and is consistently amazing every time I make it.

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Flaky perfection.

Even though I was pretty happy with my other pie crust recipe, this new one knocks it out of the ballpark every time. Every time. This recipe comes from Kenji López-Alt; it is his Easy Pie Dough Recipe. The name sounds so modest, you’d never know how fantastic it really is. And I’ve tried a gazillion different pie crust recipes, including all the fads, and none compare to this one. I can’t even believe I’m letting you in on this secret. But trust me, this is the one.

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Once I discovered this crust, I couldn’t stop making pies. All kinds of pies.

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Hand pies.

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Even meat pies.

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The moment I love is when someone bites into one of my pies, and they get this look of disbelief on their face, and say, “Did you make this??”. Yeah, that’s the moment. Even better is when my husband Matthew says it, because he eats everything I make, so taking him by surprise is a sweet moment indeed.

Okay, now that you are thoroughly convinced, let’s get to the recipe. When I first came across this recipe, I ignored it, because it called for a food processor [sigh]. I don’t have one, and they are a pain to clean, so I don’t want one. If you can convince me otherwise, that’s great. My birthday is two days after Christmas. Yeah, not the best day for a birthday, but let me not get sidetracked. I read all the reviews, which were all great, so I was bummed about the food processor thing. So I decided to experiment and use my stand mixer. It seemed like a stand mixer would not work… just could not do the same things that a food processor with a sharp blade could do. But understanding what the technique actually does – create a butter/flour paste, then break up the chunks of paste and coat them with flour to create flakiness, that seemed like it could maybe work. And it does. I have been making this crust ever since and have not looked back.

Perfect All-Butter Pie Crust

(Adapted from Kenji’s recipe)

Makes enough for two 9 inch pie crusts.

  • 2 1/2 cups (11 ounces, or 312 grams) all-purpose flour (divided) – I recommend King Arthur All-Purpose Flour.
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar (optional, for sweet pies)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ pats
  • 6 Tablespoons ice water
  1. Combine 2/3 of the flour (7.4 ounces, or 208 grams, or 1 3/4 cups – see note**) with the sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Cut the butter into 1/4 inch pats and toss the butter in with the flour to coat.
  3. With the paddle attachment, mix at low to medium speed in little bursts. Watch carefully and stop as soon as all the flour is incorporated and it starts to look like a crumbly paste. (I know, I know, it goes against everything you thought you knew about a flaky crust. Stay with me.)
  4. Spread the dough evenly around the bowl using a rubber spatula.
  5. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 of the flour (3.6 ounces, or 104 grams, or 3/4 cup), and mix at medium speed in a few little short bursts, just until you have lots of little crumbles coated in flour. Do not over mix!
  6. Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork as you go, until dough starts to come together. You might not need all 6 tablespoons.
  7. Press down on dough with a rubber spatula to bring it into a ball. Do not stir!!!
  8. Dump out onto a work surface and divide dough in half.
  9. Place each half in plastic wrap, then quickly bring together into a 4 inch disc, using the plastic wrap, and not touching the dough with your hands (that will make the butter melt). Place discs in refrigerator to chill for at least two hours. For best results, leave in fridge overnight. (For directions on rolling out your dough, refer to my other post on pie dough.)

**Note – I am exact about flour measurements, because these are what work best for me. When I went back to Kenji’s recipe and made it using his weight measurements, I found the dough had too much flour. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, stir your flour well before measuring to aerate it, sprinkle the flour into your measuring cup using a spoon, and level it with a knife. Too much flour will kill this pie crust.

I’m including pictures below. I think having pictures to see what the process actually looks like is important, since it’s an unusual technique!

Combine 2/3 of the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cut butter into 1/4″ pats and place into the bowl with the flour mixture.

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Yes, there is flour under there.

Toss the butter and flour together, then mix on low to medium speed in short little bursts just until the mixture starts to look like a crumbly paste.

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Yep, this is what it looks like!

Spread the crumbly paste evenly in the bowl with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle dough with remaining 1/3 of the flour.

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Mix at medium speed in a few little short bursts, just until you have lots of little crumbles coated in flour. Do not over mix!

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Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork as you go, until dough starts to come together. Press down on dough with a rubber spatula to bring it together.

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Do this until until it comes into a rough ball.

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This shouldn’t take long. Just press it all together.

Dump out onto work space.

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See how it is still crumbly? That’s ok!

Divide dough in half.

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I love my bench scraper.

Place each half in plastic wrap, then quickly bring dough together using the plastic wrap, and not touching the dough with your hands.

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Make a 4 inch (or wider) disc and wrap well.

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Look at that marbleized butter!

One last thing I want to say: It is important to add the flour in two stages!!!! On a couple of occasions, I have forgotten to divide the flour in the beginning (GASP), which means that I went ahead and added the salt and sugar to all of the flour, only to realize afterwards my mistake. Not a big deal, since I hadn’t added the butter yet. At this point you can still divide the flour into 2/3 and 1/3. I’m not suggesting you do that, but just letting you know that it’s not the end of the world. What is important is adding the flour in two stages. That part is an absolute must. Now get ready to amaze your friends and family, and yourself!

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Posted in Comfort Food, Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 1 Comment

Sourdough Clean Up Tips

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I have two words for you: cold water.

I’m serious. The sooner you get stuff into cold water, the better. The cold water turns that floury sticky gluey crusty stuff into something watery and easy to clean off in no time. Of course, try to get as much stuff into the compost bin as possible. You don’t really want a lot of that stuff going down your drain.

I usually keep a bowl or glass filled with cold water in the sink, so I can toss stuff in there as I go. Then clean up is a breeze.

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But now let’s talk about the proofing towel.

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Crusty stuff. This one is not too bad.

This is a moderate mess. After I am done proofing my dough, often the towel I use is coated with floury crust. I take it outside and shake out all the loose flour into the compost bin, and I shake it like a maniac (no, I don’t have a picture of that). But I am still left with crusty stuff. What I have been doing is letting it dry really well, then scraping off the crust by hand. Tedious at best. So I talked to my friend Sarah, you know, my Buy Nothing friend that got this whole thing started, and she says she has three towels that she uses on a rotation, and that she just puts them in the wash! Well, I had a bad experience one time doing that. So now here is what works for me.

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Soak in cold water first!

After shaking the towel out, I just put it in a bowl of cold water, crusty stuff and all… the bowl I use to make the bread in the first place. It’s in there anyway. And just rinse a couple of times with cold water, rubbing the fabric together if necessary. All the stuff comes right off. If you think I am silly for telling you this, and of course everyone already knows this, then well, you are one step ahead of me. Or maybe two. I just didn’t know. Now my towel has no crusty stuff, and I can throw it in the wash.

So that’s it! Those are my tips. The other idea is that you can have your kids do the clean up for you, and then you don’t have to worry about it at all. Good luck with that.

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Posted in Musings, Yeasty Things | 1 Comment

Sourdough: Part Two!

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I am back to share with you my latest favorite sourdough bread recipe, along with techniques that work for me. I was going for an open, airy bread, with some of those great big holes, but not too many! I also wanted a mild but distinct sourdough tang. And a crispy crust that is not a tooth breaker. And I wanted to be able to make intricate designs… And I think I found it!!

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After trying a few different recipes, and then focusing on the one that worked best for me, and trying a few different techniques, I am tempted to say that I am satisfied and will stop experimenting…

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So before I go and forget this yummy bread recipe, along with technique tweaks, I am going to document it right here and now, because all of that experimenting gets very confusing!

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My most successful sourdough loaf is King Arthur Baking Company’s Naturally Leavened Sourdough Bread recipe. It is fantastic! It came out beautifully the first time I made it, and that was with no tweaks at all. But then, I wanted a bit more rise, and a few more holes, and a bit more tang… so I had to tweak it a bit, mostly technique, and a tad more salt. And be aware, the original recipe makes two smallish loaves of bread, but I didn’t want to make two loaves. I just wanted to make one large loaf (a two pounder), so I make 2/3 of the recipe for one large loaf. It works well with my dutch oven, which is a Le Creuset #26 (26 indicates the inside diameter of the pot in centimeters), which has a 5.5 quart capacity.

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You can see the number on the bottom of the pot.

I also have a #22, which has a 3.5 quart capacity, and that one works well for small loaves. Since I am relatively new to sourdough, I feel a bit overwhelmed at the idea of making two loaves at a time. So I make one big loaf. And here is what works for me, from beginning to end.

Start two evenings before you want to bake your bread. For example, I want to bake bread on Saturday morning, so I start the process on Thursday evening. Don’t worry! What you have to do that first evening is minimal. And what you get to do on the morning that you bake is so fun and satisfying, and also not a lot of work. The middle day is when the bulk of the work happens.

Day 1: In the evening, take your unfed starter out of the fridge. If you have read my Sourdough: Part One! post, maybe you will have a jar in your fridge that has about a tablespoon of starter in it. Or maybe you just got some starter from a friend. In any case, all you need is about 10 grams of starter. This is what I start with. Really.

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All the starter I need is in the jar… maybe 6 grams?

In a 16 ounce glass jar, mix about 1 tablespoon of unfed starter, or anywhere from 6 to 10 grams, with 70 grams filtered room temperature water and 70 grams all-purpose flour. Please use a scale and weigh everything. Stir the flour, water, and starter together and mix well, using a rubber spatula so you can get everything well combined. It might look something like this.

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Put a rubber band around the jar at the level of the starter so you can keep track of how much it rises. Put a lid on the jar, but don’t close it tightly. You just want to stop anything from falling into the jar. Leave it on your counter overnight.

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Now you are done with Day 1! Yay!

Day 2: Hopefully you will wake up and notice that your starter has grown quite a bit. Mine usually takes about 12 to 14 hours, so if I mixed it up at around 8pm on Day 1, on Day 2 at 8am my starter will have doubled, and will look something like this.

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Because I want my starter to be very active, I let it go for another couple of hours, until it has almost tripled in size, and is doming on top. It will look like this.

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Anywhere from double to triple in size with lots of bubbles and doming top is great. To avoid waiting too long, aim for somewhere between double and triple in size. You are now ready to mix up your second starter. You will need a larger container for this.

Pour 105 grams of your starter into a large container or glass bowl. Add 105 grams room temperature filtered water and 105 grams of all-purpose flour. Mix well with a rubber spatula so you can scrape the sides and incorporate everything.

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Cover this new starter with a loosely fitting lid (you should have about 315 grams total) and leave on your counter for about 6 hours. Again, you want the starter to have doubled to tripled in size, with lots of bubbles and a doming top. If you have let it go too long, the top will collapse, and you won’t have as much rising power for your bread. Don’t forget to put a tightly fitting lid on your original glass jar, which will have some scrapings in it. Pop it in the fridge for the next time you want to make bread. That jar of scrapings is your forever starter [insert heart emoji here].

When your new starter has doubled to tripled in size, you are ready to mix your final dough together. In a large glass bowl, pour in 300 grams starter.

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Add 264 grams room temperature filtered water. Right now it might look something like this.

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By the way, I zero out the scale before each addition so I don’t have to do the math in my head, if that makes sense. Now add 400 grams all-purpose flour.

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And now add 56 grams whole wheat flour.

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Stir everything together until everything is well incorporated and you see no more dry flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl to get every bit. The dough will look shaggy, like this.

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Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes. This rest is important, and is known as the autolyse. The flour continues to absorb the water, and the dough becomes easier to work with. DON’T skip this step.

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After the resting period, remove and set aside the plastic wrap, and sprinkle 2 teaspoons kosher salt (12 grams) over the dough. The picture shows 10 grams, but really it is 12 grams.

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With a rubber spatula or bowl scraper, fold the dough over onto itself to start to incorporate the salt. By the way, a bowl scraper is made out of some sort of flexible plastic material that bends to work nicely in a bowl, and should not be confused with a bench scraper, which is made of metal and is not flexible at all!!!

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Scrape the dough out onto an UNFLOURED surface. This is where it gets interesting. Your dough will be wet and sticky. Don’t freak out.

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Now it is time to knead the dough. This is the most labor intensive part of the recipe. The first time I made this recipe, I kneaded the dough as I always do, on a lightly floured counter. The bread came out great, but I wanted a more open crumb (picture those nice big holes), which requires a more hydrated dough. So I use this slap and fold technique for kneading that requires no flour at all. Watch Alex do it here at 3:20 into the video. He explains it quite nicely. And here is a super short video of me doing it, so you know it’s possible, because if I can do it, so can you.

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You want to knead your dough for about ten minutes, until the dough is nice and smooth and still tacky. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover it with the plastic wrap that you saved, and let it rest on your counter for one hour. The dough might look something like this.

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After an hour, you are ready to give the dough a few folds. You will want to very lightly flour your work surface for the folding. Your dough might look something like this – it will have flattened out.

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And now the folds. Scrape your dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. You will fold each end of the dough over like an envelope. You might need to use your bowl scraper to manipulate your dough.

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Eight folds… you’ll want to fold all four sides like an envelope, stretching the dough gently before folding it, and once you’ve done four folds, rotate the dough 90 degrees, gently flatten the dough a bit, and repeat. You are giving your dough structure now.

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First of all, let me apologize if there are too many photos. I just know that when I am learning how to do something, I want to see it so that I know I am doing it right. And there are not pictures of every single fold, because my photographer got tired :). So you have folded all four sides, rotated the dough 90 degrees, and folded all four sides again. Now do one last fold and bring that fold over so that the seams are facing down. Pick up your package of dough and put it back in the bowl seam side down and cover it again with your saved plastic wrap. Let it sit for another hour. Don’t worry if this is starting to make your head spin. It is starting to make my head spin just writing it all out. I will put a timeline near the end of the post. After your dough has rested for that hour, you will want to do another set of folds, but just a few this time. When you gently scrape the dough out of the bowl, you want it to land smooth side down, seam side up.

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Now about three or four folds.

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Roll the whole thing over so that the seam side is face down, and gently shape into a round by cupping your hands around the dough. Rotate it around while cupping the dough slightly under itself to create a nice round shape.

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Lightly dust with flour and cover the ball of dough with plastic wrap and let it sit on the work surface for twenty minutes.

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During those twenty minutes, get out a clean kitchen cloth (not terry cloth!). Tea towels work nicely. Put flour on the towel.

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Now rub the flour into the towel so that you have a solid layer of flour.

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Fold the towel and put into a large colander.

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When the twenty minutes are up, open up the towel to prepare for the next step.

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Go back to your dough after the twenty minutes is up. Now, don’t get mad at me, but you have to do a few more folds. By this time, your dough will have gained enough strength and structure that it will be difficult to do actual folds, so it’s just more like bringing the edges toward the center. I don’t have pictures of this part, as my photographer was on strike. She’s ten. But here’s what you do. Lightly flour the top of your dough and flip your dough gently over so that the smooth side is facing down. Bring all the edges gently in toward the center. Do one last fold to roll everything over again (bringing the seams side down), and cupping with your hands, rotate the dough gently around! You can bring the dough toward you and then rotate it. Do this many times, to create a little tension in the dough. But don’t be rough or vigorous with the dough, because you don’t want it to tear. Here Alex is doing it at 5 minutes into the video, but he uses a bench scraper. I use my hands. You might end up with something that looks like this.

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Now, lightly flour the top of your dough one more time, and place it smooth side down and seam side up into your prepared tea towel/colander. This is important! The smooth pretty side goes face down into the floured tea towel/colander. What you are now looking at is the seams. The not-pretty side, and eventually, the bottom of your loaf of bread.

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Dust the seam side of the dough with more flour, then cover with the towel. Then cover the top with the plastic wrap. Should look like this.

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Now let the dough rest on your counter for 20 to 30 minutes. When that time is up, place the whole thing in the fridge for an overnight rise. The dough can stay in your fridge for longer than overnight, but so far, I have just done a twelve hour rise in the fridge. You have completed Day 2. Congratulations!

Day 3: When you are thinking you want to bake your bread, back track about an hour. So if you want to bake your bread at 9am, preheat your oven to 450° F at 8am. When you preheat your oven, put your dutch oven inside your oven so it can preheat with your oven. For this loaf of bread – it’s a biggie, 2 pounder – you will need a large dutch oven. Mine has a 5 1/2 quart capacity. Okay, so put your dutch oven with the lid on it into your oven and preheat to 450°.

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You can preheat your oven anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. An hour is better, but not essential. A half hour is essential. Make sure your oven has come to temperature. Fifteen minutes before you want to bake your bread, take it out of the fridge. Remove the plastic wrap, open up the towel, and now set a square piece of parchment paper over the top of the dough and dutch oven.

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Then place a large plate upside down on top of the parchment.

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Now, with one hand on top of the plate, and one hand on the bottom of the colander, flip the whole thing over so that now the plate is on the bottom. Remove the colander.

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Carefully remove the towel and set aside, and brush any excess flour off of the parchment paper. It’s okay if there is flour on the dough. (Clean up tips for the towel are here, but that’s for later.)

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If you want to do fancy scoring (fancy cutting into the dough), you will need to take a small amount of flour and very gently smooth it over the surface of the dough so your design will show up.

A note about scoring: one of the advantages of a long overnight rise in the fridge, aside from getting better flavor, is that the cold dough is easier to cut into! But if you don’t want to be fancy, you can just get a sharp knife or serrated knife and cut quickly and without fear across the loaf, about a half inch deep, and then again across the other direction, so you have a cross. These cuts are very important to allow the bread to rise and expand during baking. Otherwise your loaf will perhaps explode in places where you don’t want it to, and it will rise unevenly.

But I am going to assume you want to do something really fun, so you will need a sharp razor blade. Nothing fancy, just a sharp razor blade. The french call it a lame (pronounced lahm, rhymes with bomb), which just means blade. A lame is also what bakers refer to as a tool to score your bread. I have one, and basically, it is a sharp razor blade on the end of a stick. Below is a picture of something you can do to give yourself guidelines to work with. I take a cotton string and make marks in the floured dough. I forgot to flour it below, but it will be floured on the next one.

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Now for the scoring. Since I want an intricate design, I will carefully and decisively make cuts that are barely 1/4 inch deep. There will be lots of these little cuts, so plenty of ability for the dough to rise. Here’s an example of one of my favorite patterns. I didn’t make it up. I found it online.

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Now that you have scored your loaf, get some sturdy pot holders and take your dutch oven out of the oven. Take the lid off. This part you must do swiftly as to not lose too much heat. Now, believe it or not, take two ice cubes and put them in the bottom of the piping hot dutch oven. Now grab the parchment paper on both sides of the loaf and lift your masterpiece. Place it down into the dutch oven, parchment paper and all.

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Grab your pot holders, place the lid back on the sizzling steaming dutch oven and put it back into your piping hot 450° degree oven. Set your timer for 25 minutes. Now go walk in your garden or have a cup of tea or wipe flour off of your counter, but don’t stray too far from your kitchen. I keep my timer on my person at all times. You have worked way too hard on this to mess up on the timing. When the timer goes off, grab your pot holders or oven mitts, open your oven and take the lid off of the dutch oven and set it aside, preferably somewhere heat proof, like your stove top. Stare at your beautiful creation for one or two seconds tops (it will look pale, but beautiful, and hopefully will have risen some), then close the oven door and let the bread bake without a lid for 15 minutes more. The top of the bread should be a deep golden brown when the bread is ready. When 15 minutes are up, take the dutch oven out and use a spatula or kitchen-gloved hands to remove the bread. It is hot!!! I use a flexible plastic spatula, the kind you use for flipping pancakes, and an oven mitt. If the bread looks pale on the bottom or sides, you can put it back in the oven directly on the rack (no dutch oven) for one or two more minutes to brown the crust a little more. Again, be careful and don’t let it burn!!! Two minutes is enough to brown the bottom of the crust. Bread is done when it is a deep golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Place the loaf on a cooling rack and let cool completely before cutting into. This can take a couple of hours.

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You might want to sit and stare at your bread for a while. I don’t blame you. Bread is beautiful. You might even hear your bread make a sweet, soft, crackling sound in those first several minutes that it is out of the oven. It is whispering sweet nothings to you.

Snap out of it!!! Here is a sample timeline:

Day 1:

  • 6:00pm – Mix starter (total about 145 grams) set on counter overnight

Day 2:

  • 8:00am – Mix second starter (total about 315 grams) and set on counter
  • 2:00pm – Mix 300 grams starter with flours and water, cover with wrap for autolyse
  • 2:40pm – Add salt and knead dough for ten minutes, put back in bowl and cover
  • 4:00pm – First set of eight folds, dough back in bowl and cover
  • 5:15pm – More folds and shaping, let rest on work surface covered at room temp
  • 6:00pm – Final shaping, place in prepared colander and let rise overnight in fridge

Day 3:

  • 8:00am – Preheat oven and dutch oven to 450°
  • 8:45am – Remove dough from fridge and score dough
  • 9:00am – Place dough in dutch oven and bake
  • 9:25am – Remove lid from dutch oven and continue to bake bread
  • 9:40am – Remove bread from oven and let cool
  • Noonish – Bread is ready!

Of course, this is just a sample timeline. You can play around with the timing if you prefer to do the bulk of the work on Day 2 later in the day. Just means you would need to get your starter going later in the evening on Day 1, and that your bread won’t be ready on Day 3 until a bit later. Just make sure that your overnight rise in the fridge at the end of Day 2 is at least 12 hours. I wanted to show you a sample timeline so you would see where the bulk of the work is, and that it’s really not too overwhelming, once you get the rhythm of it. Obviously, you’ll want to have a large chunk of time on Day 2 for all that kneading and folding business. On Day 1 there is hardly any hands-on time at all, and on Day 3 just a bit more of hands-on time.

Notes:

Flour is important! For this recipe, since it is a King Arthur Baking Company recipe, I use their flour. Their unbleached all-purpose flour has 11.7% protein, so it is ideal for breads. I also use their whole wheat flour. I have not tried this recipe with a different all-purpose flour, but when I do, I will update my post to to let you know how it goes.

Use a scale.  For consistently good results with bread making, it is important to weigh your ingredients. I never used to do this, and my results were not consistent. Not only that, I would avoid recipes that had measurements in grams instead of cups. So I missed out on a lot of great recipes. You can find good digital kitchen scales at kitchen stores or online, or if you are lucky, you can find one through your Buy Nothing group like I did.

Size of loaf:  If you have a dutch oven, but it is a bit smaller, you might want to make a slightly smaller recipe. If you go to the original recipe, just halve it and you will get a smaller loaf. Keep in mind that I did increase the amount of salt in the recipe, so if you are calculating, I put in 2 grams of salt per 100 grams of flour. So for a full recipe I would use 18 grams of salt (about 3 teaspoons), so 9 grams ( 1 1/2 teaspoons) for a half recipe. Remember, I did a 2/3 recipe, (thus the 2 teaspoons salt). I wanted a big loaf to make all of my work worthwhile!

Don’t have a dutch oven?  If you don’t have a dutch oven, no problem. The original recipe doesn’t call for one. You can bake your bread on a baking stone or on a baking sheet. I followed the recipe exactly the first time I made it, and used my baking stone. The bread came out great, but for me, it comes out even better when I use my dutch oven. The closed dutch oven is great for retaining steam, which makes for a better rise and lighter, crisper crust. And the ice cube trick (thanks to my friend Sarah) creates even more steam. Please refer to the original recipe for tips on how to bake this bread on a baking sheet or baking stone.

Don’t like the three day process?  Guess what? The original recipe has you making bread from beginning to end all in one day. That is assuming you have a large amount of starter ready to go. Instead of doing an overnight rise, you just let your prepared loaf rise for 2 1/2 hours on the counter (no fridge), then bake! For me, I like what the overnight rise does for the flavor of the bread (more sourdough tang, while still subtle), and I like the flexibility I have on Day 3 to bake the bread when I want to, earlier in the day. And I really love playing around with scoring, which is much easier on cold dough!

Finally:  This is an individual process. What works for me might not work for you. I played around with a lot of recipes, and then repeated the recipes using different techniques until I found what worked well for me. I read countless blogs and watched a ridiculous number of YouTube videos and read a gazillion recipe reviews, and asked my sourdough baking friends endless questions about what worked for them. What I ended up with was definitely my own thing. What works with my hands, my flour, my spirit, in my kitchen. So I encourage you to have fun with the process, and don’t give up! My first couple of loaves were dense and not at all what I wanted. And I had several other flops. We ate them all, of course, because anything toasted and buttered suddenly becomes irresistible. And the house regularly smells like wild yeast and freshly baked bread. And that is a good thing.

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Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things | 1 Comment

Sourdough: Part One!

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Well, I did it. I jumped on the sourdough bandwagon. I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about, why everyone was going nuts for sourdough. My friend Sarah, whom I met through my Buy Nothing group, offered me some sourdough starter, and I was off and running.

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And I have to admit, there is something really exciting about creating a beautiful loaf of bread with nothing but flour, water, and salt. After all, the starter is just flour and water that has fermented. I find myself feeling excited about getting up in the morning to see how much my starter has risen, examining the bubbles and smelling the tang. Magic!

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And the thrill of pulling a loaf out of the oven and seeing how much it has risen, and what the design ends up looking like.

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And of course, cutting into the loaf and admiring your handy work.

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One of the things that made me nervous about sourdough was the idea of having to feed a starter every day, and then have a lot of discard to either throw away or have to use with sourdough discard recipes. That sounds like a lot of work!

But oh, the beautiful loaves of bread!

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So I needed to figure out a way to be able to make sourdough bread and have a very low maintenance starter. VERY low maintenance starter. I played around with amounts of this or that, and finally came up with a great solution for me – a starter with NO discard that I can keep in my fridge, and don’t have to feed it! And it turns out that it’s already a thing. It’s called the “scrapings” method. Or at least that’s what Jack says. I really enjoy watching Jack’s videos, and highly recommend checking them out. Don’t get me wrong; I will sometimes purposefully make extra starter so that I have discard to make fun recipes with.

But it’s really the traditional artisanal loaves of sourdough I am excited about.

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Okay, so are you ready? Let me preface what’s about to come with this: I am not an expert. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I just have come up with something that works for me. And my schedule. Maybe it will work for you too.

I use a 16 ounce wide mouth canning jar, straight up and down, no curves, to store my starter. And my starter is from 6 to 10 grams or so (between a teaspoon and a tablespoon) at any given time. Yep. that’s right. And I keep the jar in the fridge. Lately I’ve been making bread a couple of times a week, but I’m sure the starter can go longer in the fridge, like at least a week or two. And the jar with starter in it looks like this.

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When you look at sourdough bread recipes, they can call for hundreds of grams of starter. So how do I go from six grams of starter to 300 grams of starter? It requires a bit of planning, but here is what I do. And this is for my latest favorite recipe. I take my jar of starter scrapings out of the fridge in the late afternoon or evening the day before I want to make my recipe.

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Yep, this is what my starter looks like. Scrapings!

I add 60 grams of room temperature filtered water and 60 grams of all-purpose flour.

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I weigh everything!

And I mix it very well.

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If I put 62 grams of water by accident, no big deal, I just put 62 grams of flour. It’s important that you put the same amount of flour and water. (And by “amount”, I mean weight. I strongly suggest measuring by weight. 60 grams of flour is about a half cup of flour, while 60 grams of water is about 1/4 cup of water, so it’s confusing. A kitchen scale will make all of this much easier, I promise.) I put a rubber band around the jar at the level of the starter (about 126 to 130 grams) so I can keep track of how much it rises. I put a lid on the jar, but just lightly, and leave it on my kitchen counter overnight.

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With this one I added 70 grams each of water and flour… close enough.

The next morning it might look something like this, just about doubled in size.

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Almost doubled in size, with bubbles.

Now I might want my starter to be a bit more vigorous, so I could wait until it has almost tripled in size, which might take a few more hours.

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Almost tripled in size, with lots of bubbles.

At this point, the starter will be bubbly all over, and will have a dome on top. This is perfect – ripe starter. It’s important to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t go too far. When it has gone too far, the starter begins to collapse. No more dome. And every starter goes at its own pace, so mine might rise quicker than yours, or vice versa, and it also can depend on the temperature in your kitchen: warmer kitchen = quicker rise blah blah blah… so just keep an eye on it. You will have the best luck if you catch it somewhere between doubled and tripled in volume. Just doubled is fine too. You just want to see an increase in volume and bubbles. Lots of bubbles.

Now, remember that for my recipe, I need 300 grams of starter, and I only have 145 grams, so here is what I do next. I scoop out about 105 grams of starter into a larger container. I have a crock that I use, but you can also use a larger jar or two jars. My original jar has about 35 grams of starter left in it. I scrape out most of that into another jar labeled “discard”, or you can put it in your compost bin. So I have my original jar of starter that now just has the scrapings, about 6 to 10 grams. I put a lid tightly on it and keep it in the fridge. I also put the discard in the fridge for another use. Now back to the crock that has 105 grams of ripe starter in it. I add 105 grams of room temperature filtered water and 105 grams of all-purpose flour. I always like to have a little extra just in case.

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105 grams starter + 105 grams water + 105 grams all-purpose flour

I mix it up really well, and put a loose fitting lid on it. The proportions of ingredients in this starter are different than the first starter, because now we have equal amounts of starter, flour, and water. This will rise much quicker than the first starter, so it should become “ripe”… somewhere between doubled and tripled in size, in about six hours. Because I can’t see the levels really well in this crock, I measure with a tape measure to get a better idea of the rise. But that’s just me.

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There is freshly mixed starter at the bottom of the crock.

Now about six hours later.

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Ready to go!

So here’s the deal. You have 300 grams of ripe starter ready to go for your sourdough bread recipe – hooray! And you have your jar of scrapings in the fridge that you can pull out next time you need starter for another recipe. Any extra (discard) can just go in another jar in your fridge, until you have enough to make something interesting, like sourdough English muffins, or sourdough maple walnut bread, etc. Or you can just throw out the discard, which isn’t much at all using the scrapings method. When you feel ready, check out my Sourdough: Part 2! post for my latest favorite sourdough bread recipe.

What if I need more than 300 grams of starter? If you need more than 300 grams of starter, just adjust your amounts of flour and water. For example, you have a recipe that calls for 450 grams of starter. For your first starter build, when you are using your scrapings, add 80 grams of flour and 80 grams of water. You will end up with 160 grams of starter. Now you have enough for your second build: 160 grams of starter + 160 grams of flour + 160 grams of water = 480 grams of starter. And so on.

You might ask what the difference is between the starter in the fridge and the discard in the fridge. Well, there is no difference at all. Except that the starter is the thing that you keep, and the discard is what you throw out or use in discard recipes. Or you can give the discard to a friend, and now they can start making sourdough bread. You still have your jar of scrapings. If you want absolutely NO discard, just be precise with measuring. In other words, you start out with 6 to 10 grams of starter (your scrapings), and you add 52 grams of water and 52 grams of flour. When it is time to scoop out starter for your second build, you will have about 104 grams of starter to mix with 104 grams flour and 104 grams water. Are you following? You now have fresh scrapings – about 6 to 10 grams of starter – close jar with a tightly fitting lid and put back in the fridge. And you end up with 300 or so grams of starter for your recipe. I like to have some wiggle room, so the extra 12 grams means some of the starter gets stuck on the spatula and some gets stuck inside the crock, and I still have 300 grams for my recipe. Whew!

So, hopefully this has been helpful. In summary, to maintain your sourdough starter (get some from a friend… just a tablespoon!!), and make enough starter for a bread recipe, you will need a 16 ounce glass jar that is straight up and down (with a tight fitting lid that can also just be put on loosely), a larger container for building starter (or just use two jars, but for me that got tedious), a kitchen scale that has grams, and a one-piece spatula for easy clean up. And of course, flour and water!

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Notes:

  1. Choose a good quality all-purpose flour, and stick with it for consistent results. For bread baking, I love King Arthur flour, and I also love our local Cairnspring Mills flour.
  2. If you have containers but don’t have lids, no worries. You can always lightly cover the top of your containers with a cloth napkin while your starter is on your counter. For tightly fitted covering in the fridge, you can use plastic wrap and a rubber band.
  3. For easy clean up, be sure to put anything that you need to wash in cold water right away to soak, since when starter dries, it becomes like glue, and is difficult to wash off. Using warm or hot water will only make the starter more gluey, so definitely use cold water.
  4. Don’t put discard down your drain. If you have discard, get as much of it in the compost bin as possible. A bunch of flour and water going down your kitchen pipes is not a good idea… remember, it is like glue.
  5. You don’t have to wash your original starter jar very often, you know, the one with the scrapings. Just scrape everything down to the bottom of the jar and pop it back in the fridge with a tightly fitting lid. After a while, if you really really want to wash that jar, just transfer the scrapings to a new jar and wash the old one. Soak it in cold water first!
  6. It’s helpful to know the weight of your containers. Write it on a piece of tape and put it on the bottom of your container.

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Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things | 3 Comments

Chipotle Dry Rub

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Last weekend, we all went to visit Matthew’s mom. It was her birthday, and we all masked up and sat outside with her to celebrate.

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We took the masks off for the picture! Gramma is in the back at a safe distance.

We ended up staying a lot longer than anticipated, so I had to whip up a quick dinner when we got home, and chicken was on the menu. I found a recipe for chipotle dry rub on allrecipes, and it is so good! The only thing I did differently was to reduce the amount of chipotle so that my family would be able to eat it. And this is the moment where I realize that my girls will actually eat the chicken I make, because it is so good! This is a big deal. Trust me. When Mara was little, she used to say “I’m a vegetarian of that” whenever I would serve chicken for dinner. Well, she’s not a vegetarian of that anymore!

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Chipotle Dry Rub

(Adapted just barely from allrecipes)

  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon smoky paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon chipotle chile pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon dry mustard

Just mix all ingredients together and keep in an airtight jar. I like to write the ingredients on the jar so that I remember how to make it when it’s running low.

Here’s how I use it: In a glass bowl, I toss the chicken pieces in the spice mix until they look well coated. I then add olive oil to coat. I cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about a half hour while the grill heats up. During that half hour, I make rice. Then, once the chicken is on the grill, with about five minutes to go, I sauté a green veggie, usually broccoli because my girls will eat it, and everything is ready and hot all at once. This takes about 45 minutes total. I love having quick dinners in my repertoire!

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So easy to make!

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Easy marinade.

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Keep the dry rub your cabinet so it’s ready when you need it.

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Quick summer dinner!

 

Posted in Busy-day meals, Fun in the kitchen! | Leave a comment

Orange Fennel Poppy Seed Cake

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Okay, I know I just wrote about lemon pound cake, and even mentioned in that post about substitutions so that you could make this instead… so why am I devoting more time to this? Well, because Millie loves this cake. And it was magically created because I ran out of lemons and decided to get creative. And there might be some of you that don’t like lemon, and didn’t even bother to look at the lemon pound cake post, but will be curious about an orange cake. And of course there have been more tweaks making it even better. And did I mention fennel? Finally, I think this cake is so yummy that it deserves to be showcased. So there you have it.

Orange Fennel Poppy Seed Cake

(Adapted from Lauren Schaefer’s recipe)

  • 1 large navel orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, freshly ground
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered milk (optional)
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 fluid ounces) whole milk at room temperature
  • 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar (for the glaze)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Butter an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. Line pan lengthwise with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on both sides.
  3. Using a Microplane (this is the fine grater that I normally use to grate Parmesan cheese), grate the zest of 1 large orange into your mixing bowl. Juice the orange and set aside.
  4. Grind the fennel seeds and set aside (I use a mortar and pestle).
  5. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter to your mixing bowl, and cream together with the zest on high speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. If you are using a stand mixer, you might need less than 5 minutes.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Continue to beat for another minute or two until the mixture is fluffy.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. If you want to go crazy, sift these ingredients together.
  8. Whisk the poppy seeds and ground fennel into the flour mixture.
  9. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and combine on low speed just until the flour is incorporated.
  10. Add the milk and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
  11. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix on low speed, yep, you got it, just until the flour is incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, swipe around the edge of the bowl quickly once or twice, making sure that everything is uniform and well mixed. Do not over-mix!
  12. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.
  13. Place in preheated 350° oven on middle rack and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. I like to rotate the pan at about 25 minutes into the baking. Start to test for doneness (is that a word?) at 40 minutes by sticking a toothpick in the center. Mine takes about 50 minutes, but all ovens are different. Toothpick should come out clean when cake is ready… might have a crumb or two on it, but no wet batter.
  14. While cake is baking, make the glaze by mixing 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar with 4 Tablespoons orange juice in a small sauce pan over low heat, mixing until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat as soon as the sugar has dissolved and set aside.
  15. When cake is done, place the cake (still in its pan) on a cooling rack and let cool for ten minutes. After ten minutes, poke holes into the top of the cake using a wooden skewer, and brush the cake top with almost all of the glaze. Be patient and just keep brushing the glaze onto the cake. Next, pull the cake out of the pan using the parchment paper and brush the sides of the cake with the remaining glaze. Place cake back in its pan and let it cool completely before serving. Enjoy!

Notes: I use Gold Medal all-purpose flour for this cake, since it has a lower protein content, making the cake nice and tender. The addition of the powdered milk adds a richness to the cake that is lovely, but you don’t have to add it if you don’t have any handy.

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Prepare the pan.

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Zest the orange.

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Juice the orange.

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Crush the fennel seeds.

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Ready to mix zest, butter, and sugar.

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Make sure it is nice and fluffy!

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Add eggs one at a time.

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Nice and fluffy again!

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Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt (or you can whisk).

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But I’m starting to believe that sifting makes a difference!

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Add the poppy seeds and ground fennel.

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Whisk together.

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Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture.

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Don’t over mix!! Mix on low until just blended.

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Don’t forget to add and mix in the milk!

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Then add the other half of the dry ingredients.

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Put batter in prepared pan and smooth the top.

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After cake has cooled for ten minutes, poke holes and glaze.

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Brush the sides too.

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

Posted in Comfort Food, Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 3 Comments