Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sourdough Sticky Buns

The kids and I were watching an old episode of a food network show about sticky buns. I was drooling the whole time. All the kids were fascinated and wanted to know if we could make sticky buns someday. Well, all the kids except for the 2-year-old. He just thought that "sticky buns" was a really silly word, and giggled and repeated it every time someone on the show said it.

I had my sourdough starter all active and bubbly, having just used it that morning to make pancakes. I figured that I would treat the family to a batch of delicious sourdough sticky buns.

I used my new favorite recipe for sourdough bread, because it makes bread that is very soft and not too sour. I combined a couple recipes for the sticky, gooey glaze, and came up with these fantastic sticky buns. Best served warm, so the glaze is caramel-soft.

I didn't make these buns super duper sticky. The caramel topping can be doubled if you want the kind of sticky buns with oozing caramel that drips down your fingers. But any mess the kids made while eating these is a mess I would have to clean up! So I stuck with a smaller amount of topping, one that would leave a minimal amount of sticky on the fingers, face, table, floor, and clothing.

Sourdough Sticky Buns
1/2 batch Velvety-Soft Sourdough Bread dough
3 tbsp. softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cinnamon
Caramel Topping:
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tsp. honey
4 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans are traditional, I used almonds)

Prepare bread dough (mix sponge, rise, add flour to make dough, rise twice). I start the sponge early in the evening the previous day, then mix it into dough and set it to rise right before I go to bed. When I get up I punch it down and let it rise again, then punch it down again and it's ready to shape.

Roll out dough into large rectangle. Smear the 3 tbsp. softened butter over the rectangle of dough. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the butter. Roll, starting with long side. Cut into 12 segments. Cover while you make the topping.

In a bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, 4 tbsp. melted butter, and vanilla. Spread into greased 9x13 pan, then top with chopped nuts. Arrange buns on top of caramel topping and nuts. Cover and let rise until double.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake buns 20-22 minutes. Let sit in pan for about a minute. Invert onto another pan, or serving platter. Let the caramel drip over the buns a bit before removing the baking pan. Scrape any leftover topping out of the pan and spread over top of sticky buns.

I set aside a couple of these to give my husband when he gets home from work. It's taking all of my self-control and all of my love for my husband not to go in and eat them right now. I. Must. Be. Strong...

Linking to:
"Think Tank Thursday" 
Link Party Palooza

Velvety-Soft Sourdough Bread

I have been quietly going through a bit of a sourdough bread saga. When I first started my sourdough, my bread turned out pretty good every time. I always used the same simple recipe, and while it wasn't perfect it was good enough. But it eventually stopped working. I'm not sure what went wrong, but every time I tried making sourdough bread, the loaves would turn out flat and hard. I had one loaf that was supposed to be round and rustic but it ended up looking exactly like a flying saucer. And it tasted about as appealing.

So I've been trying a variety of new recipes, hoping to find one that I can count on, and hoping to improve my skills and knowledge of sourdough at the same time. I found a pretty good recipe for soft sourdough bread that I made a couple times. It worked well and gave me consistent results. Through this recipe I learned that when making bread, you have to make sure the starter is active and bubbly. Some recipes can get away with flat starter that hasn't been fed for a few days. Bread is not one of them - it needs to have been fed within 12-24 hours in order for the yeast to be active enough to make the bread rise.

I recommend the above recipe, and would continue to use it, had I not found one that works for me even better! I recently bought a book called Alaska Sourdough by Ruth Allman. It's full of stories and recipes, all hand written by the author, and is just the sort of homey, down-to-earth book that I love.

I tried the basic sourdough bread recipe and was floored by how well the dough rose. I haven't had my sourdough rise that well since I started keeping a sourdough starter. Then when we sliced into it, I was even more amazed at the softness of the bread. I was seriously running my fingers over the slice of bread, because I like soft things and this bread felt just like velvet.

I did have to cut the recipe in half. I only cook 2 or maybe 3 loaves at a time, because that's how much we can eat before it starts going stale and yucky. I also had to adjust the baking time and temperature. The recipe called for baking the bread for 10 minutes at 500 degrees, then turning it down to 400 for 45 minutes. I took the bread out when there were still 27 minutes left, because it was turning too dark on the outside. The next time I made this bread, I tried 400 for 30 minutes and it baked perfectly.

Velvety-Soft Sourdough Bread
2 cups active (recently fed, bubbly) sourdough starter
1 cup warm potato water (water from boiling potatoes, or just add 1 tbsp. potato flakes to 1 cup water)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cooking oil
5 cups flour, approximately
1/2 tsp. salt

Make soft sponge by mixing the sourdough starter, sugar, water, and oil. Add half the flour (2 1/2 cups). Set in warm place to double in bulk.

Add salt and remaining flour to make a dough that is easy to handle, smooth, and elastic. Place in greased bowl. Cover. Let rise in warm place until double in bulk.

Knead down dough. Let rise to double bulk once again.

Form into 2 loaves. Can use loaf pan or make free form loaves. Let rise about half an hour. Slash top of loaf. It's got to be a nice deep slash, or the bread will split down the side. I might or might not know that from several instances of personal experience...

Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Linking to:
"Think Tank Thursday"
Link Party Palooza

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sourdough Scones

I knew that I needed to use my starter today. I'll be making three batches of sourdough brownies tomorrow for a friend's wedding this weekend, so I wanted my starter to be drained and fed and ready to go. I didn't want to make bread, since I'm having some weird issues with sourdough bread baking lately and I just didn't feel like trying it again today. So I checked out my Pinterest board and was reminded of these Sourdough Scones that I pinned a while back.

I made these for breakfast, and they turned out so good! I've come to expect a certain flavor when I make sweet baked goods with sourdough, but the baking soda in the recipe neutralized some of that usual sourdough flavor. What was left was just a really delicious scone.

The recipe I'm posting is just a basic sourdough scone that lends itself extraordinarily well to a variety of add-ins. I added spices and dried cranberries this morning, and I'm excited to try other things like chocolate chips, chopped apples, blueberries, etc.

Sourdough Scones
(adapted from allrecipes)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup shortening or cold butter
1 1/4 cups sourdough starter (this might vary depending on the hydration level of your starter)
Optional milk and sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar, baking soda, and sugar. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the sourdough starter and mix by hand to form a soft dough. I ended up needing a bit more than 1 1/4 cups.

Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently a couple times. Divide into 4 pieces. Pat or roll one piece of dough into a 1/2-inch thick round. Cut it into 4 wedge-shaped pieces. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.

Alternately, press the whole batch of dough into a rectangle and cut into 16 triangles. The shape might not turn out quite as traditional, but I thought it was simpler this way.

Place scones on baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops of the scones with milk and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.

Bake until the scones just start to turn golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Optional variations that I'm eager to try:

-Add 1-2 tsp. spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, citrus zest, etc) with the dry ingredients.
-Stir in 1-2 cups additions (dried fruit, chopped fresh fruit, baking chips, nuts, etc) after cutting in the shortening.
-Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze after baking.
-Make a savory version by eliminating the sugar, adding savory spices (garlic/onion powder, cayenne, dry mustard, etc) with dry ingredients, and stirring in grated cheese after the shortening.

Linking to:
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Sourdough Banana Bread

I recently discovered a fun website called Sourdough Surprises - "a monthly baking group who strive to use our sourdough starters for things besides bread (although we do a lot of that, too!)." Given my recent obsession with exploring uses for my sourdough starter, this got me pretty excited. Basically, each month an assignment is given, participating bakers must make a specific something using sourdough starter. Past months have included challenges like steamed buns, croissants, granola bars, kolaches, crepes, and so many more!

The challenge for March, because of celebrating three years of Sourdough Surprises, was to choose from any of the previous challenges. I had some bananas that needed to be used, so I chose the category of Quick Breads and Muffins, and made Sourdough Banana Bread.

I have found that there is a very distinct flavor in every sweet thing that I have made with sourdough. Sometimes it's strong, sometimes it's mild. It's a little bit of tang, a little bit of richness and depth of flavor that you don't really get when you don't sourdough. But add sourdough, and that flavor is always there, whether the recipe is cookies, brownies, cake, muffins, or pudding. This recipe is no exception. Sourdough Banana Bread tastes exactly like I would have imagined it - like banana bread, but with that distinct tang and richness that sourdough adds. It's quite good.

Sourdough Banana Bread
(recipe from Cook's Hideout)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1 cup sourdough starter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9x5 loaf pan.

In medium mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix oil and sugar until sugar is almost dissolved. Add egg and mix well. Next add mashed banana, sourdough starter, and vanilla. Mix well.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips or chopped walnuts.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Notes: I doubled the recipe because I had lots of bananas to use up. I only have one 9x5 pan, so I put half of the batter into the loaf pan, and the other half went into an 8x8 baking dish. The bread in the 8x8 was finished baking after 50 minutes, the bread in the 9x5 loaf pan took the full 60 minutes.

I used peanut butter chips in one, and a combination of peanut butter chips and chocolate chips in the other, just for fun. Yummy!



This post is linked to:
The Little Thumbs Up (March 2015 - BANANA) event organised by Zoe (Bake for Happy Kids) and Mui Mui (My Little Favourite DIY) and hosted by Faeez of BitterSweetSpicy.
"Think Tank Thursday" at Joyful Homemaking

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sourdough Pudding

I was recently browsing for new recipes to use my sourdough starter. It's a fun pastime, I highly recommend it. I searched for "sourdough pudding," thinking that sourdough starter might make for an interesting custard, if used in place of cornstarch or flour as a thickening agent.

I found recipe after recipe for sourdough bread pudding, and a few random recipes that had nothing to do with either sourdough or pudding. But no recipes for a custard pudding made with sourdough. I tried different wordings, different search engines, but nowhere could I find a recipe that made a simple custard pudding using sourdough starter.

I couldn't let it go. I had to try it, to see if it would work. I was nervous and excited. I was about to attempt to do something that, according to the internet, had NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. Because obviously, if it had ever been done before, it would be somewhere on the internet. Amiright?

Well, now it has been done, and now it is on the interwebs. I have successfully made a custard-style pudding, using sourdough starter in place of flour, cornstarch, and part of the milk. And it totally worked.

The flavor is what I would expect, having tried a number of dessert recipes that use sourdough starter. It's sweet and pudding-like, and it has that bit of tang and richness that sourdough usually gives. I will say that the distinct flavor that sourdough gives is very distinct in this recipe. There aren't any other flavors to compete with it, so it's quite strong. So if you don't like the flavor of sourdough starter, this probably isn't the pudding for you. But if you like sourdough in just about anything, you'll like it in this.

In the interest of being fully honest, at one point I thought I would have to scrap the whole thing, pour it out into cheesecloth, and claim that my intention all along had been to create a sweet sourdough cheese (details in the recipe below). Even now, I'm throwing around the idea of making cheese with sourdough, because I found out today that it would totally work. But I held out and it turned into pudding after all.

Sourdough Vanilla Pudding
2/3 cup sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 cup sourdough starter
2 2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter or margarine

Combine sugar and salt in large saucepan. Mix together sourdough starter and milk, and add gradually to the sugar, stirring to combine.

Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly. At some point, the milk will curdle. Sourdough starter is acidic, which I halfway forgot when I was planning out this recipe. The mixture will look like you're making cheese, with chunky curds and watery whey. Just keep stirring. Don't use a whisk at this point, though, or you'll end up with a very large, gloppy, stretchy blob of curds stuck to the whisk. Just use a spoon.

Continue heating and stirring until the curds dissolve back into the whey. At this point you can use a whisk so the mixture gets smooth. Once it comes to a boil, boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Slowly stir half of the mixture into the beaten eggs. Blend egg mixture into hot mixture in saucepan. Return to a boil, and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Blend in vanilla and butter.

Pour pudding into serving dish(es). Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly (about 2 hours) before serving.

I'm pretty sure this could be used in place of vanilla pudding in any recipe. I want to try it in a pie crust. You could add bananas and make sourdough banana cream pie. Add coconut and make sourdough coconut cream pie. Stir in a cup of chocolate chips with the vanilla and butter and make sourdough chocolate pudding or sourdough chocolate cream pie. Layer this stuff with bananas and nilla wafers to make sourdough banana pudding. The possibilities are endless!

Think Tank Thursday

Monday, March 2, 2015

Amazing Sourdough Brownies

These sourdough brownies are absolutely amazing. The chocolate flavor is intense, more so than any brownie I've ever tried. The texture of the brownies is dense, smooth, and fudgy. The sourdough adds a touch of tang, but its most noticeable contributions are richness and intensity. The overall combination of flavor and texture makes these brownies divine. I would go on and on, but basically no words can really describe how amazing these brownies are, so you should just make them. If you don't have sourdough starter, make some, then make these brownies.

Don't you want to dive in head first?

I made a batch a few weeks ago, and have been dreaming about them pretty much nonstop ever since. My mouth waters just thinking about these incredible bars of chocolate perfection.

This recipe gives ingredient amounts by weight instead of volume. I have a nice little digital kitchen scale that I use, I just zero it out after adding each ingredient. I prefer volume recipes, but I'm willing to make adjustments for a recipe this delicious.

Sourdough Brownies
(source Chef in Disguise)
300 grams chocolate, chopped (I used chocolate chips for one batch, and a *substitute made with cocoa powder, sugar, and oil the second time, both worked great)
226 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter
200 grams sugar
6 grams (1 tsp.) salt
8.4 grams (2 tsp.) vanilla
3 eggs, room temperature
40 grams cocoa powder
220 grams sourdough starter

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Line a metal 9×13 pan with parchment paper and grease it ( it makes it easier  to lift the brownies out of the pan if you leave some extra parchment at the 13 inch sides).

In a double broiler, saucepan, or the microwave, melt the chocolate and butter. Stir it often so it does not burn.

Pour the melted chocolate/butter into a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar, salt and vanilla.

Add the eggs one at a time, whisking to combine each addition. Sift the cocoa powder over the chocolate and stir to combine. Add the starter and stir gently until it is completely incorporated.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 20 minutes then lift the parchment paper out and allow to cool the rest of the way on a wire rack. When cool completely, cut into squares and enjoy!

*To make chocolate substitute: For one ounce of semisweet/bittersweet chocolate, whisk together 1 tbsp. cocoa powder, 3 1/2 tsp. sugar, and 2 tsp. oil or softened butter or margarine.

300 grams of chocolate converts to about 10.5 ounces. So for this recipe I used 10 1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder, 12 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar, and 7 tbsp. oil. I then added this mixture to the melted unsalted butter and continued with the recipe from there.

Complicated enough? I know, I know. But I WANTED these brownies and I was out of chocolate. I did what I had to do.

Le Swoon!

Linking to:
Think Tank Thursday 
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Homemade Mayonnaise

I am often thankful that I have a very do-it-myself kind of mindset. When I wanted my kitchen remodeled, I gathered as many details and tutorials as possible, the dug in and did it myself. I also have a I'll-finish-it-later mindset at times, which is why my kitchen still isn't finished, after a year and a half, but that's beside the point...

Sometimes this do-it-myself-ness applies to food, which is always fun. Making my own bread has become second-nature. I recently started making my own pasta. Occasionally I do homemade tortillas. There are lots of things that are typically purchased at the store that can actually be made pretty easily and inexpensively at home.

Today, I wanted to make sandwiches for lunch. I got out the (deliciously homemade) bread, lunchmeat, cheese, pickles, and lettuce. Then I looked for the mayo, only to find that there wasn't any! What to do?! We never run out of mayo! Well, I was too lazy to put away all the sandwich fixings and come up with something else for lunch. But not too lazy to look up a recipe and make my own mayonnaise.

It was super easy. Mayonnaise basically just needs egg, acid, flavor, and oil. For the oil, I used mostly extra-virgin olive oil (store brand, of course) combined with some vegetable oil. It made for a very strongly olive oil-flavored mayo. I thought that might be a problem, as I have been raised on store bought mayo with its mild flavor, but on the sandwiches the flavor was diluted enough to be quite pleasant. Still, if the flavor is too strong, light olive oil could be used, or just less olive and more vegetable or canola. All in all, my homemade mayo was a successful venture.

Super yummy with some ground black pepper

Homemade Mayonnaise
(from What's That Smell?)
1 egg
2 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard (or whatever seasoning you'd like)
3/4 cup oil (I used 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil)

Place all the ingredients except the oil in the blender and blend on high for 10 seconds. Reduce speed then slowly pour olive oil in through the top and blend until thick. Store in refrigerator. Mayo will last 2-4 weeks.

Linking to:
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