Category Archives: Sourdough

Still Plugging

Would you believe that I am still working my way through all the apples we picked over a month ago? How have I made them last so long, you ask? Well, a few weeks ago, I put the last half bushel in the fridge, basket and all. Apples will keep well in the fridge for quite a long time, especially when you have picked them yourself and they don’t have to make a journey across the country to your local store that might take weeks. I usually still have apples in the fridge from our farm day during Thanksgiving week for my apple pie or tart dessert post turkey.

Well, after I stuck that basket in the fridge, we went into full production mode for cookie dough and they have been ignored until this past weekend when we were trying to fit a particularly large batch of groceries in the fridge. The husband grumbled about that blankety blank basket of apples in there and was I ever going to do anything with it? I sighed, very loudly, and yanked the basket out of the fridge and put it on the counter, where it sat for a day.

Yesterday, it was good to spend some time in the kitchen that had nothing to do with cookies or an obligatory dinner. I reacquainted myself with my sourdough starter and the apples and made a couple of apple treats for us to enjoy.

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First, there was an apple sourdough bread with dried cranberries. My inspiration was this King Arthur Flour recipe that I have made previously, but instead of making that bread dough, I made my usual Not Flatbread recipe. I added a little potato flour and oatmeal to my dough, which made it super dry. But, instead of waiting until the end of mixing to add the apples, I did it as soon as the dough began coming together. This allowed some moisture from the apples to permeate the dough and, after about 10 minutes of kneading, the dough was actually pretty sticky. Lastly, I added dried cranberries and let the dough mix for another few minutes. The cranberries evened out the moisture level of the dough a little by absorbing some and, at the end, I had a really silky dough.

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This is all highly experimental stuff. I tend to do this quite often, throwing stuff in a recipe that I think might be good and sometimes it works out. Sometimes, though, it does not, but I always learn something from it. Most of the time, it is edible, though there have been a few unfortunate results. This time, it worked out beautifully. The bread is tasty, especially when it is toasted, and the boys loved it today with bacon and cheddar.

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The best thing is that I got four average sized loaves from one batch, which means we can look forward to more yummy toast and sandwiches in the future.

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Secondly, I made this apple cake recipe, which fascinated me because of its mixing method. Mostly, it’s a dump and mix sort of thing. See?

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You put everything in a bowl except the apples and nuts.

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Then you mix it up until it’s sort of dry and pasty.

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Lastly, you add the apples and walnuts and look! It turns into a cake batter. This is another case of letting the excess moisture in apples work to your advantage in a recipe. Many apple cake recipes are yucky to me because they are too moist or the moisture from the apples makes the cake pasty, which, quite franky, is not the right texture for a cake.

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Seriously, this is one of the easiest apple cakes I have ever made.

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It’s been awhile since we have had cake in the house and it is a really nice change from cookies and Halloween candy, let me tell you. Plus, it’s just right for autumn with the brown sugar and maple frosting on top. I halved the frosting recipe because no one here is a fan of lots of frosting and i think this thin layer is just right. It lets the flavor the of cake take center stage. To add some maple flavor, I added a little maple oil to the frosting.

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Also, the cake is just as good the next day. The only thing that I would take issue with in the recipe is that it says it yields 24 servings. Maybe this would be true if it was mediocre, but I’d say with a cake this good, the serving count is closer to 15, less if you have growing boys in the house. I will certainly be making this recipe again and, if you like apple cake, I urge you to give this recipe a try.

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Hot Cross Buns, the Sourdough Version

Our favorite treat of the Easter season is not a chocolate bunny or a jelly bean or even a sickly sweet cream egg. No. Our favorite treat to eat during holy week is a bun. A hot cross bun. Go ahead. You can sing the song, now.

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I have made several versions over the years and we have loved them all, even the ones that go stale almost as soon as they cool. It’s something about the sweet fruit mingled with the spices in the dough. I think the spices are supposed to represent the spices they used to use in Jesus’ time for dead bodies so that you wouldn’t notice the smell too much.

Fortunately, here, there are only sweet smells. And let’s not forget the sugary glaze that makes it all shiny and the frosting cross piped on each bun. Every once in awhile, I toy with the idea of making the crosses out of dough, but then I shake myself. Who am I kidding? If I left off that sugary cross, there might be some mutiny at the Easter table. When my younger son was younger and he had less self-control, he would always eat the frosting cross first, then the sticky sweet top portion of the bun, and then he would sometimes leave the rest on the plate. Nowadays, he eats the whole bun and sometimes asks for another. So, I wouldn’t think of leaving off the frosting top. Besides, I think it’s a sweet reminder of what the season is all about.

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This year, I used a recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. The recipe is based on the Greek Celebration Bread, but with a few changes. There’s more sourdough starter and I used butter instead of oil and left out the almond extract and I changed the mixing method and….oh. Forget it. Here’s the recipe.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

This recipe makes about 40 buns at 2.5 ounces each. For less, you can half the recipe for 20 buns and space them on one half-sheet pan.

1 cup dried currants
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons of dark rum or water or orange juice
1 cup candied citron or orange peel (optional)

12 ounces or 1.5 cups whole milk
4 ounces or 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
5.25 ounces or 1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons orange extract
16 ounces 100% hydration sourdough starter
1 tablespoon instant yeast, preferably SAF gold osmotolerant yeast
2 pounds or 7 cups unbleached bread flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons fround cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Glaze Ingredients:

2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons orange extract

Frosting Ingredients:

8 ounces or 2 cups powdered sugar
1 ounce or 2 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To prepare the fruit:

Combine the raisins, cranberries, currants, and rum in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1 minute. If your bowl is tightly sealed, shake (or stir) the fruit in the bowl. The fruit should be warm, but not hot. This step helps to plump the fruit a bit so that they don’t suck up moisture from the dough. Set aside, covered, to cool, stirring or shaking occasionally, while you are making the dough.

To prepare the dough:

Scald the milk in a pot or in the microwave until bubbles appear around the edges, it starts to steam, and smells of cooked milk. watch it like a hawk and stop the microwave before it boils over. Cut up your butter into tablespoon sized pieces and toss them into the milk. Stir the mixture until all the butter is melted. Pour into your mixing bowl and set aside to cool until it is around 100 degrees, but not more than 105.

When your milk mixture is cool enough, add the honey, eggs, orange extract, yeast, and sourdough starter. Stir with a spatula to combine. Add the flour, salt and spices. By hand or in the mixer on the slowest speed, mix until a rough dough forms. Then, knead for 10 minutes by hand or in the mixer on medium low. The dough should clean the edges of the bowl, but still be fairly soft and sticky. Add flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, if it is too sticky. I added about 6 tablespoons of extra flour.

During the last two minutes of mixing, add the fruit mixture and the citron. You may have to add additional flour here if your fruit did not soak up all the rum. I added another two tablespoons. This is a lot of dough, so there is a good chance that the fruit will not distribute evenly. If this happens, just turn it out onto your counter/kneading board and give it a few turns by hand to distrubute the fruit better. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm area until almost doubled, about 90 minutes.

Have a generous amount of flour nearby. Scrape the dough onto your counter and knead for a few seconds to deflate it. Divide the dough into 2.5 ounce pieces using a scale. This approximately 1/4 cup. Or, you can divide the dough into quarters and then cut each quarter into ten pieces. Dust all the dough with a little flour. Roll each portion into a ball and set on your baking sheet. One half-sheet pan can fit 20-24 depending on how close you’d like to squish them together. I put 24 in one pan to save for Easter Sunday and put the rest on another for us to eat right away.

Cover the pans with plastic wrap and set them in a warm place to rise. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. After about 90 minutes, they should be puffy and doubled. Remove the covers and bake for 20-22 minutes or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. If you have two pans, bake the pans in the order in which you shaped them, one after another, instead of both pans at once. They will bake more evenly this way.

While the buns are baking, combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until it begins to boil. Stir until all the sugar is disolved and the glaze is clear. Once you take the buns out of the oven, brush them generously with glaze right away. Then, let the buns cool completely in the pans.

Once the buns are cool, whisk together the icing ingredients until nice and smooth. It should be thick and similar to the consistency of wet mustard, not runny. In other words, it should hold its shape when piped and not run all over the place. Scrape your frosting into a disposable pastry bag or a quart sized freezer bag. Snip the tip of the bag to make a 1/4 inch hole and pipe the frosting crosses onto the buns. If your buns are all nicely lined up in rows, this will be easier.

Serve. If you plane to freeze some buns, wait to frost the buns until after they are thawed. Frosted, the buns will stay soft, loosely covered for a day. After that, store in a plastic bag. On the second day, they will be a little drier, but still soft and excellent with tea or coffee. On the third and fourth day, they will be best warmed slightly in an oven, but the frosting will melt and go all crackly (just as yummy!) when you do this, so make sure you put it on a piece of foil or on a pan to do this. Five minutes in a 300 degree oven should make them soft and heavenly again.

Not Snowy Day

Our snowstorm yesterday turned out to be a big disappointment. It started off in a promising way with big, fat snowflakes and an inch or two of wet snow covering most things. However, the day turned out to be like many other snowy days recently: a rainy day. Everyone around here agrees that a rainy day is not nearly as fun as a snow day and, as the day progressed and the snow melted away, I knew I would have to do something.

Sigh. What’s a parent to do?

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Well, we turned it into a rainy day activity day. First, we made lighthouses out of oatmeal and pringle cans. This was supposed to be a model of the famed Alexandrian lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The elder rigged up a light at the top using his snap circuits set.

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Then, we made pipe cleaner animals and set up a little ark scene. I got this little kit on a clearance sale a long time ago and was saving it for a rainy day. Very cute, are they not?

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The boys were not the only ones to indulge in some crafting. I was able to get my mystery shawl blocked. It was a challenge to find enough floor space in my house to spread this out. Can you see what the mystery pattern turned out to be? Tulips!

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Of course, if I knew it was going to be a flowery theme, I might have picked a different yarn color. When the husband saw it, he immediately called them dead tulips because when the shawl is worn, the tulips are hanging upside down. Regardless of the orientation of the tulips, I love the shawl. Th beads add a lovey heft and sparkle to the shawl and helps it to drape wonderfully around the shoulders. You can find the pattern here. It was great fun doing a mystery knit along, and I am sad it is over. In fact, I was so sad that I had to start another shawl.

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This time, I am thinking of spring, with this lovely laceweight alpaca yarn from the Knitspot Fall in Full Color club. Just looking at this color makes me happy. The pattern for this shawl is challenging, with lace on both sides and nupps!

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To counter balance the complicated lace, I had to start a little kid sweater in worsted weight yarn. Actually, I started it about 3 times before I really started it for good. I am hoping this will be a quick knit. That is, if I don’t get distracted by something else.

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Like bread. Harvest Bread from Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman. This book has been my bedtime reading lately. I have been finding the recipes highly entertaining, not because they are really funny in any way, but because he gives recipe amounts to make bread on a large scale. If you want a recipe for making 29 loaves of bread, it’s here, right next to the formula for making 2. As much as I would have absolutely Loved making 29 loaves of bread, yesterday, I only made two. It was delicious. Today, I will bake two more. Why? Because there’s room in the freezer and it must be filled.

Who says a rainy (not snowy) day can’t be fun?

Sourdough Sweet Bread Variations

Remember when I made that Fruit Studded Not Flatbread a little while ago? Well, we loved that bread so much that I have continued making that dough, remaking it into all kinds of good stuff.

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I rolled it out into a large thin sheet, filled it with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and rum-soaked fruit, and baked it up for delicious Cinnamon Fruit Buns.

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Next, I made the dough into loaves for sandwiches.

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With these loaves, I thought I might be pushing to dough a little too far. I let it rise to well above the rim of the pan, which was more than double the original volume of the dough. Hoping the dough would not fall in the oven, I baked it up.

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Clearly, I need not have worried. This dough has incredible oven spring. In fact, I have never seen a dough with such incredible oven spring. Also, amazingly, even with all the rising and springing, the texture of the dough does not suffer.

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My most recent variation combined this bread with my neverending quest to use up the jam in my cupboard. I rolled out the dough as thin as I could get it, slathered jam on top, placed another piece of dough on top, and topped it all with a crumb topping.

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It’s like a giant jam-filled crumb bun. These have raspberry jam, but I also made a tray with apple butter. They are pretty scrumptious.

This recipe has quickly become our favorite everyday bread dough. It’s perfect for breakfast toast, for sandwiches, and for making into all kinds of tasty treats. I know it’s white bread, so I am flying in the face of the crunchy granola healthy camp, but I don’t care. I’ll just eat more kale for dinner. I’m thinking of going salty in my next experiment with the dough. Anyone have any suggestions?

Fruit Studded Not Flatbread

We are near mid winter. It is cold. Produce at the store is looking sadder and sadder and spoils more easily when you get it home. Last week, the husband went to the store and brought home some beautiful looking apricots. They were a nice warm orange with blushes of red. They were also from South America and kinda firm. Oh, how bad can they be if they look so good? It turns out, they can be pretty bad. Not bad as in spoiled. No, they were just so sour and hard that it was impossible not to spit them out. So, I was left with almost a dozen apricots that no one wanted to eat. What to do?

Well, make bread, of course. My original inspiration for this recipe is the recipe for blueberry schiacciata from Rustic Italian Food, but, in the end, the bread I made probably does not resemble the one in the book at all. Still, it provided the inspiration for me that I needed.

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I wanted something like a fruity foccacia bread that we could eat for breakfast; not too sweet like a sticky bun, but nice and substantial, you know, to start the day off right. The recipe starts wih a sponge, in which I used my sourdough discard from feeding my monsters. You could easily make this bread without it (directions below).

The great thing about this recipe is that from start to eating, it only took 3.5 hours, which is pretty quick for a yeast bread. The rising times are short, each less than an hour, but the oven spring of this dough is really and truly impressive.

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The dough looked like this when I put it in the oven. It barely comes over the top of the rim of the pan, so it’s maybe an inch thick.

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When the bread came out of the oven it looked like this. Whoa! What happened in that oven? I don’t know. What I do know is that this bread was fabulous. The juices from the berries bake into a nice slightly sticky glaze. The sugar that was generously sprinkled on top before baking was caramelized and slightly crunchy. The apricots remain a little firm, but tender enough to bite through easily and their sourness has turned into a pleasing tartness that is balanced by the sweet, crunchy sugar. It can only be called a flatbread in the sense that its width and length are greater than the thickness, but since we all had a tough time getting our mouths open big enough to take a bite, I think that other flatbreads might be a little offended if we called it that. That’s why we’ve named it Fruit Studded Not Flatbread.

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Fruit Studded Not Flatbread

This makes a huge loaf of bread: 12 by 18 by 2.5-3 inches high. You can make a smaller one by cutting the recipe in half and using a smaller pan. Be warned that the syrup may run over the sides of the pan and into your oven. For me, it just joins countless other little spots on the floor of the oven, but if you don’t want this, put a piece of foil under the pan to catch the drips.

Depending on the size of your portions, this could yield 12 humongous portions, 20 average sized portions, or 30 snack-type portions.

475g 100% hydration sourdough starter OR 250g water and 225g bread flour
25g water
195g eggs or 4 large
10g or 1 tablespoon osmotolerant instant yeast
80g sugar
200g bread flour
500g all purpose flour
12g or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
120g or 1stick unsalted butter, softened
Grated zest of one medium orange
Extra water, if needed
8-12 small apricots or other stone fruit, halved and pitted
1-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries or other berries
Extra sugar for sprinking on top- I used about one half cup, but you’ll want to adjust according to the sweetness of your fruit

Equipment: spatula, stand mixer, rolling pin, 12 by 18 inch rimmed baking sheet

With a spatula, mix your sourdough starter (or the alternate ingredients) in a large mixing bowl with the water, eggs, yeast, 80g of sugar, and the 200g bread flour. It should be the consistency of pancake batter (see photo below). Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 30 minutes or until nice and bubbly.

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Add the all-purpose flour, salt, soft butter, and orange zest to the sponge and mix on low-medium until the dough is nice and smooth. It should be a soft dough. If the mixer sounds strained, it is too stiff. Add extra water, one tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough is soft and smooth, but not sticky. It might be tacky, but it should not stick to your hands when you touch it. The dough should have cleaned the sides of the bowl really well.

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Leave the dough in the bowl and place in your warm spot for 30-60 minutes. It should be well-expanded, but perhaps not quite doubled.

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Roll out your dough on a sheet of parchment paper that is about the same size as your half sheet pan. Place the dough, with its parchment onto your pan. Press the apricots into the dough firmly. Scatter the blueberries over the dough and, using your fingers, press those firmly into the dough as well. You want to get the fruit as close to the bottom of the pan as possible to discourage them from rolling off during the rising and baking process.

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Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise in your warm place for 45-60 minutes. Meanwhile, place a baking stone, if you have one, in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Before baking, sprinkle the fruit and dough generously with granulated sugar. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Check on the bread after 15 minutes. Turn the pan around to encourage even baking. If there is a lot of liquid pooling on the top of the dough and you happen to have a convection oven, lower the heat to 325 and turn on the convection fan for the last 15 minutes of baking. If not, try moving the pan to a higher rack in the oven to encourage the liquid to bake away.

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When you take the pan out of the oven, transfer the bread out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. Eat some immediately.