Holiday break

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I’ll be on a short hiatus due to the holiday. Please check back next week. Something special could be happening!

Happy Holidays!

Mimi

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How to destroy a fairly clean kitchen in under 60 seconds

You would think after the seeded bread I made last week that I would be done with seeds. But… nooooooo! I have a problem with a short memory span. You see, I felt annoyed that I spilled seeds all over the kitchen when I was baking the bread. I then became more annoyed when seeds spilled all over my oven and I burned them. Seeds spilled everywhere when I cut into the loaf and each time I cut into it thereafter. Maximum annoyance. I cleaned up all of these seeds, but somehow, they kept reappearing. They found nooks and crannies to inhabit. Some of them thought the microwave was a nice spot to sit under. Some of them got on the floor and became world travelers showing up in bathrooms and bedrooms. My counters looked clean to me but I kept finding seeds in the grout of the tiles.

I wanted to make the seeded bread again this week and just skip making something new for YeastSpotting. (It was so good that I didn’t care what price I’d pay for another loaf). The problem is that we never finished the first loaf and I kept waiting for it to be eaten before committing a full day to a loaf of bread. Thursday showed up, no bread. I was looking in a cabinet and spied a box of our favorite crackers. These are really special crackers. Made of Spelt and covered in seeds, they are delicious! I came to the realization that they are an extravagance. We have been paying $6.89 for an 8 oz container of these crackers which we can easily polish off in a week. After figuring this out, it has been on my to do list to bake crackers. Today was the day.

The first thing I did was decide on the seeds. I thought an exotic mixture would be nice. I would mix sesame, poppy, fennel and for a little kick, brown mustard seeds. The brown mustard seeds come in a small Ziploc plastic bag. I opened the bag to measure out the seeds, something slipped and about a tablespoon of mustard seeds went flying, over the counters, onto the floor, into crevices, into my clothes (so that I could easily help them become world travelers). I took a deep breath. Gave up on immediate containment and proceeded with the recipe. My next error was to believe I could get the seeds to stick to the crackers without anything to bind them to the surface of the cracker. I somehow thought I could sprinkle the seed mixture on and then push the seeds into the surface of the cracker. Since I have the muscle tone of Napolean Dynamite’s brother Kip, that did not work out well. If I kept the fully baked crackers horizontal, the seeds stayed put, as soon as I moved them or tilted them in any way: disaster! So when I transcribe the recipe for you, I am going to tell you to make an egg wash to stick the seeds on. I have not tested it, but it worked for the bread last week so I’m hoping it will be fine.

I enjoyed these crackers as a light lunch today, (held horizontally to keep the seeds on), topped with a fine quality aged cheddar and Fuji apple slices. The crackers taste like flaky whole grain pie crust with the savory bite of the seed blend. They went so well with the cheese and fruit!

I am submitting these sourdough crackers to this week’s YeastSpotting event. Click on the link to see what everyone baked this week!

Seeded Sourdough Crackers

Crackers:

1 ½ cups stone ground whole wheat flour

½ cup rye flour

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp flax seeds

¼ cup cold butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup active sourdough starter

Topping:

4 tsp sesame seeds

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tsp poppy seeds

*Egg wash made with an egg yolk beaten with 2 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, F.

In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, rye flour, salt and flax seeds. Using a pastry cutter, cut cold butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse corn meal. Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour in the oil and sourdough starter. Mix with a silicone spatula until well combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and lightly knead to make sure all the flour and liquid is mixed well. Do not over knead, you just want to make sure everything is combined. Form dough into a ball, flatten and roll out to 1/8” thick. Using a 2” round cookie cutter, cut dough into circles. Transfer crackers to two parchment lined cookie sheets as you cut crackers. Using a fork, pierce the crackers three times. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds. You will have lots of scraps. When you are done cutting the first round of crackers, gather the scraps and carefully press them back into a ball (do not over work the dough), flatten dough and roll out to 1/8”, proceed with cutting more crackers and topping them with seeds. You can do this with the scraps a couple of times until most of the dough is used up. Once all of the crackers have been cut and seeded, transfer the cookie sheets to the hot oven. Bake for 13 – 15 minutes until browned, rotating the sheets from the upper to the lower racks of your oven halfway during baking for even browning. Remove crackers from the oven and transfer to racks to cool completely before enjoying.

*I did not brush an egg wash onto the crackers. The pictures are a sham! The seeds did not stick to the crackers. I have not tested an egg wash on this recipe, but this method worked for the bread I baked last week. It should work fine.

Day Trip

This past weekend we took a drive.  It was a dark and cool fall day so I didn’t take many pictures except for a few at Nojoqui Falls County Park.  Since it was so dark at the falls only a couple of pictures turned out.  We have gotten very little rain this year so the fact that there was any water at all was a pleasant surprise.

It was a nice day.  From there we fed Ostriches, had lunch in an art gallery and ate ice cream at a farm stand/petting zoo where a jersey cow with the longest tongue I have ever seen slimed me.  On the way back home, we tasted wine.  It was the best day ever.

As good as any bread you can buy, maybe better

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After admitting to my failing and debauchery, I stand before you with the reason I baked bread this week. As time goes on, I keep trying new recipes so that I can improve my baking skills and perhaps, over time, create a personal library of bread recipes. In short, my own personal bakery.

Artisinal bread was quite the rage around here for awhile. Now that the Brea bakery is a subsidiary of a European company, I am finding that the rage is starting to die down. Trader Joes used to have delicious breads but the quality is also going down. There is a local bakery that makes fabulous breads but it will now cost you an arm and a leg to purchase a single loaf. The last time we thought about purchasing that particular bakeries’ kalamata olive bread, it was almost ten dollars a loaf. I still buy bread if I am pressed for time. Sometimes it is worth it when you have a big meal to prepare and a sourdough loaf could take hours sometimes days to create. But when I have time, the most amazing things can be created.

I love a loaf of bread that tastes like it has taken a lot of time to prepare. My favorite loaf would be anything with seeds, especially a mixture of seeds. Seeds are flavorful and each kind has it’s own personality. Get a good mixture and it can change plain bread into something special, get a good mixture on a good bread and you have something amazing on your hands.

I based this loaf on the changes I made to the Sunset hearth baked chili cheese sourdough. This time, I went to Sunset’s original recipe, I added some whole wheat flour and swapped out semolina for the cornmeal I added last time. The bread I ended up with has a good grainy flavor, a dense but soft crumb and a brown crunchy exterior topped with a wonderful combination of seeds. The seeds are really what makes this bread so enjoyable. It’s all about texture and flavor!

I’m not sure how much more experimentation I’ll be doing, I am beginning to notice that I haven’t bought bread in weeks. We keep revisiting the different loaves I have made over the past couple of years. I think I have my own personal bakery now.

I am submitting this loaf to YeastSpotting. If there was a heaven for bread, this would be it.

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Seeded Multi Grain Loaf

Bread:

1 cup water

1 ½ cups active sourdough starter

2 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup stone ground whole wheat flour

¼ cup semolina flour

½ cup rye flour

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp salt

Topping:

1 egg yolk mixed with a tbsp of water

2 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1 tbsp caraway seeds

In a large bowl, Mix together all dough ingredients, mixing with a rubber spatula until all of the ingredients are combined and form a solid mass of dough. Turn the dough out onto a wooden board and knead for at least 10 minutes until you can stretch the dough and see through it without breaking it (window pane test). Wash and dry the bowl. Oil the bowl and place the dough in it, covered with a clean dish towel.   Allow the bread to rise until doubled, three hours or more in a cool kitchen.

Turn the dough out onto the wooden board. Flatten it out into a rectangle and then fold it from the short sides inward like you are folding a letter. Flatten it again and fold it again. Form the dough into a tight ball and place it in a floured banneton. Let the dough rise until doubled again up to 3 hours.

Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Dust a peel with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the peel. Mix all of the seeds in the topping ingredients list together in a small bowl. Brush the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle the loaf liberally with the seed mixture (you may have a little seed mixture leftover). Slash the loaf and then place it in the oven. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until browned and the bread makes a hollow sound when you tap it on the bottom. Place the bread on a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

I really shouldn’t have…but I did!

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I was supposed to only bake a regular bread today. It would have been a good idea to leave it at that. If you page back through my blog you will see why I am gaining weight again. It’s been a cake fest around here for weeks. Today, my intentions started out good. I would bake a nice sourdough loaf with an assortment of seeds attached to it’s crust. Simple but good. Then… I found a recipe I shouldn’t have found. Unfortunately, I realized it would use up the cream cheese, left over from last week’s carrot cake, (that was only destined to go bad). I noticed that I had just enough butter left for it. I decided it could use some jam too. I had a number of excuses to cause unrest in my household.

It all started yesterday. My boyfriend who has had a difficult time gaining weight in the past has put on a few pounds lately and… his face broke out. Due to this troubling turn of events, He had that intervention kind of talk with me. He let me know that he did not want me baking sweets for awhile. He explained the health benfits for both him and me. He told me it was my choice, but if if I did make sweets of any kind, I would have to eat them alone. This conversation was after the conversation last week about reducing the amount of sugar in the things I bake. He does not want to eat so much sugar.

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Well somehow in my baking fervor today, I thought it would be ok to bake a cheese filled sweet braid if I only used honey and not much of it. I would do a direct substitution of honey for sugar in the bread and then reduce the sweetener from ½ a cup of sugar to a scant 2 tablespoons of honey in the cheese filling. I had it all planned. I was so virtuous. How could anyone be angry if I made a lightly sweet bread? But then… I saw the orange marmalade, you know, real orange marmalade made from bitter Seville oranges. That elixir of bitter fruit and sweet sticky sugar. I knew I had to use it! Which makes me wonder, is this the way criminals justify their thinking…society (in this case the other member of this household) sets guidelines and then the criminal element flaunts those guidelines? Well… it was just too good of an idea to let go of and I was already lost at this point.

As it turns out this Danish is a knock out! The whole thing has a subtle flavor of honey and is not very sweet. When the marmalade hits your tongue, there is a burst of sweet and bitter. It is so good! My boyfriend politely ate a few bites, admitted it was stupendous and then sat there a pillar of self control. I however, polished off two pieces of my own and half of his. I am such a rebel!

I am submitting this dangerous snack food to YeastSpotting, the weekly baking event for those who love bread.

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I had a couple of problems converting the King Arthur recipe to sourdough today – read on as I explain and give you measurements….

Marmalade and Cheese-Filled Sweet Braid

Adapted from King Arthur Cheese-Filled Sweet Braid recipe

Dough:
1 ½ cups active sourdough starter
¼ cup water
½ cup lukewarm nonfat milk
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ tsp salt
¼ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
3 ¼ cups unbleached white flour plus up to a cup if needed

Filling:
6 oz cream cheese
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp unbleached white flour
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup orange marmalade (the kind made from seville oranges)

Glaze:
Egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water

Dough:
Combine all of the ingredients, mix well and then knead by hand until you have made a soft smooth dough, about 10 minutes. I had to mix in an additional ½ to 1 cup of flour. The dough started out too wet and sticky. I added the flour a tablespoon at a time as I kneaded. Now that I have reread the original recipe, I realize I added twice the butter in error. I will keep the recipe modified because the bread came out really good (I guess due to so much fat!). When you are done kneading, form the dough into a tight ball, transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and allow it to rise until it is puffy (not necessarily doubled in bulk) about an hour and a half.

Filling:
Using a mixer, mix all of the filling ingredients except for the marmalade together, beating until it is smooth. If you do this ahead of time while the dough it rising, refrigerate the filling until you are ready to use it.

Assembly:
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half. Working one at a time, roll the dough into a 12”x 8” rectangle. Transfer the rectangle to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Spread half the marmalade down the length of the rectangle. Spread half of the cheese filling over the marmalade down the length of the rectangle. Cut 1” strips from each side of the filling  out to the edges of the dough (I found this blog post that shows the cuts). Fold an inch of the dough at each end over the filling then fold the strips at an angle across the filling, alternating from side to side. Repeat the process for the second round of dough. (The bread can be left as a straight braid or you can form a circle). Allow the braids to rise, covered until they are almost doubled in size, this took nearly three hours in my cool kitchen.

Baking:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the loaves with the egg mixture right before putting them in the oven. Bake 35 – 40 minutes. You may have to rotate the sheets from the upper to the lower rack during baking if they are browning unevenly.

Cool completely before serving.

The demise of an icon

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I’ve stayed silent for weeks on this subject but writing about what makes you really sad is a good way to work through your emotions. Seven decades was not enough. This publication, so dear to me, was a chameleon, changing with the eras it spanned but always remaining relevant. It could have gone on indefinitely. Gourmet, I will miss you so much!

I began subscribing to Gourmet in the early 1990’s. The magazine was so vibrant. Unlike anything I had ever seen. So beautiful and it opened up worlds to me that I never knew existed. I knew how to cook, but the caliber of the recipes taught me how to cook well. The pictures were ethereal and unworldly. The articles traveled to faraway places I could only dream of seeing. The voices of writers like Laurie Colwin, Gerald Asher and Fred Ferretti were so real it was like having friends tell you stories about their adventures. Through them, I would eventually find my own voice too.

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I do have to admit to falling briefly out of love with the publication when Ruth Reichl took over the helm as editor. Gone were my favorite writers in favor of essays by strangers. She extricated the lush travel articles heavy on ethnic food recipes in favor of writing that was more introverted and experiential about food itself. She started adding more and more writing and less and less recipes even taking away a well loved feature called the last word (which caused such an uproar that she had to add it back). There were growing pains during this time. Who doesn’t resist change and we readers were used to what we knew. However, as we put our trust in Ms. Reichl, the magazine changed and became stronger. Which is why the decision Condé Nast made so suddenly last month to abruptly halt publication on the magazine was such a shock.

Gourmet will be gone after the November issue and we could have a consolation prize in it’s stead. Subscribers were offered Bon Appétit.  Bon Appétit:  a magazine I cancelled for $1 an issue, a magazine I cancelled after receiving it free for a year. I apologize in advance for saying rotten things about a magazine that is probably someone’s favorite magazine, but whereas Gourmet had pictures of food that made you hungry, Bon Appétit has pictures of overcooked food that looks like someone dropped the casserole dish before it was photographed. Very hipster. To me, the writing isn’t much better. The recipes? Fat and sugar do not always create a recipe with depth of character. I prefer much more subtle flavors. I declined taking this magazine as a substitution. It could hardly replace a publication I couldn’t wait to read cover to cover each month.

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Why did I wait so long to vent my frustration in a public forum? Being a romantic, I thought there would be an uproar. I really did. I thought that legions of Gourmet subscribers would rise up in anger and save the magazine from extinction. As I peruse the odes to Gourmet on other blogs, I detect an apathy instead. Some people hate to see it go, some people don’t really care. Some people thought the magazine was a dinosaur, espousing a lifestyle too rich for the normal person to live and recipes too complicated to cook at home. But in argument: That was the point! We could travel without leaving the house. We could eat like kings without dropping a paycheck at a restaurant! But there you have it. Nobody is going to rise up and revolt. Nobody is angry. Nobody is sad. We have too many other problems in the world. Things are so generally bad that caring about the end of something iconic is trivial.

In my own revolutionary little way, I told the girl on the phone at Gourmet how much I loved the magazine and informed her that if it had survived I would have subscribed for life. I would have kept sending a gift subscription to my best friend for life.  I was so fervent with my words that the girl on the phone thought I was a nutcase and politely said she duly noted my comment. That was how I championed my favorite magazine as it faded away.

Gourmet

 

The waffle experiments – Part 2

Pumpkin Waffles

This morning I excitedly went to my cupboards. It was time to ignore the “use by” date and grab that old can of pumpkin that had been sitting there longer than I care to admit and try another round of pancake batter as waffles. I used this pancake recipe that I absolutely love for pumpkin pancakes.

The pumpkin pancake batter was really good as waffles, but I have to admit, my initial enthusiasm from a few days ago is beginning to falter. The batter for these pancakes is thicker than I remembered. As a matter of fact, it is nearly as thick as the waffle recipes I was complaining about. It all started to come back to me. The texture of these pancakes is similar to a ricotta cheese pancake although there is no cheese in them. The texture is caused by the fact that the batter contains very little oil but a lot of moisture from the vegetable puree. This moisture, seems to be trapped in the puree and doesn’t cook off when you use a waffle iron. The batter was difficult to work with as it had a tendency to adhere itself to the waffle iron, making these very difficult to remove from the appliance. I also had to cook these at a lower temperature than the last couple of batches of waffles. The first waffle was a disaster! Overcooked and torn apart from the roughing up I had to give it to extricate it from the waffle iron.

If you decide to try these waffles, and don’t get me wrong, you should (the flavor makes up for the difficulties). Cook them on medium heat and use plenty of melted butter on your waffle iron. But be prepared. Despite my use of copious amounts of butter on the waffle iron, these waffles aren’t crispy edged. They are soft and cake like. The flavor is a bit like pumpkin spice bread, only not very sweet. But that’s what maple syrup is for, right?

So what is my take on this experience? Some pancakes are waffles. I suspect that my cornmeal and oatmeal pancakes will be inappropriate as waffles although I may try to find out anyway. 😉 That is the fun of getting into the kitchen to experiment! At this point, I think the best pancakes for waffles are the ones that make the flattest thinnest pancakes. If it is a pancake that could double as a crepe, toss that batter in the waffle iron instead because I bet you’ll end up with little bit of heaven on your plate.

Soylent Green is… people!!!!!!!!

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

No, no, no! I mean… pancakes are waffles. That’s it…pancakes are waffles. Phew! I’m so relieved! I bet you are too.

See:

Wheat and Rice Waffle

That is a waffle made with my wonderful wheat and rice cakes recipe. It is featured here with fresh pineapple, yogurt and real maple syrup!

Now I know that you are all way more savvy than I am, and you probably have figured out the whole pancakes are waffles thing a long time ago, but here is why I was so confused. Every recipe I have tried for waffles makes a really thick batter. So thick that my waffles always came sort of soft and soggy. Not like the crispy waffles you get at the local diner. Even the sourdough waffle recipe I tried suffered from thick batteritis. Since the batter was always really thick, I thought that waffle batter had to be thicker than pancake batter. It also seemed to me that the waffle batter had way more fat and sugar in it. To add to my confusion, I remember seeing a Good Eats episode on Food Network where Alton Brown explained the importance of plenty of fat and sugar in waffle batter.

I have to thank my best friend R. for showing me the way to good waffles. We were talking and she mentioned that she made some “kick ass” sourdough waffles. I asked for the recipe and she sent me an email entitled “fabulous waffles” which contained a recipe that would change my concept of waffles. You make a sponge the night before with your sourdough. The next day you are supposed to remove ½ cup of the sponge and save it as your next sourdough project. R. does not. She just adds the rest of the ingredients and gets an extra waffle out of the deal. The batter was super wet. Even a little wetter than some of my pancake batters. The waffle iron has to be really hot so that it can steam out all of that liquid but then, you are left with waffles that have a crisp exterior and a soft center. Just perfect. These waffles were an epiphany for me.

After making sourdough pizza last night, I meant to start a sponge for sourdough waffles for this morning and I forgot. We still wanted (no, needed) waffles this morning and I had a lot of buttermilk leftover from something I made last week, so I decided to make my wheat and rice pancake recipe and try it out as waffles. I made the waffle iron nice and hot and they came out perfect. The flavor and texture were wonderful. Now I want to try all of my pancake recipes as waffles.

Here is a list of possible candidates if you want to experiment with me:

Blueberry corn cakes (although this is a thick batter so it may be problematic)

Carrot cake pancakes

Oatmeal pancakes (again, these could be way too thick)

Orange sourdough pancakes

Pumpkin pancakes

And…I have an amazing recipe for gingerbread pancakes that I haven’t made in a long time and I have yet to blog about, but those gingerbread pancakes would make really interesting waffles. Let me know if you have any other great pancake recipes to try out as waffles.

Here is the recipe for those amazing Sourdough Waffles. My friend got them from a web site somewhere that credited them to Theresa B. by way of South shore B and B in Alaska. Here is my interpretation of R’s version of the waffles:

½ cup active sourdough starter

2 tbsp sugar

2 cups warm water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp baking soda

The night before, mix starter, sugar, water and pastry flour in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out overnight.

The next morning, mix in eggs, salt oil and baking soda. Allow the mixture at least 5 minutes to rise.

Preheat your waffle iron to one of the hottest settings. Cook waffles according to your waffle iron’s instructions.

Waffles can be kept in a warm oven as they are cooked so that all waffles will be warm when you serve them.

Braided bread 2.0

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When I stumbled upon Google books for the first time, I thought it was a dumb idea because I could get free recipes without having to buy books. How are the authors of these books supposed to make any money I thought. However, after spending hours thumbing through cookbook samples just on a search for sourdough, I found my Amazon wish list growing by a bit more than I wanted it to. Therefore, I have decided Google books is an evil and effective marketing tool! Do not. I repeat. Do not go to Google books. You’ll be sorry!

One book that made its way from my Google search to my Amazon wish list to my home (in less than a week) was an amazing book published in the 80’s called Great Whole Grain Breads by Beatrice Ojakangas. This unassuming cookbook has no photographs besides the one on the cover. It is filled, instead, cover to cover with recipes and practical bread baking advice. An inventive baker, Mrs. Ojakangas was baking no knead breads back in the 80s long before the craze hit the Internet (and long before the Internet).

The book is not heavy on purely whole grain bread. Most recipes include a mixture of white flour as well as whole grains in order to give the breads a lighter texture. Being of Finnish extraction, the author knows her rye breads and includes many variations on rye. As well as traditional loaves there are many interesting and quirky recipes such as stir and pour breads which are even simpler than the no knead bread recipes she also provides. There are vegetable breads, cheese breads, fruited breads and coffee breads. Since the book relies on small charming illustrations instead of photos, it is packed cover to cover with recipes.

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After reading the book as if it were a novel and placing book marks on dozens of recipes, I became obsessed with a recipe that appears in the photo on the cover. It is for Wheat Germ and Sesame Six-Strand Bread. I don’t own commercial yeast but I do own a sometimes temperamental sourdough starter which I stubbornly insist on baking all of my bread with. If you have been following my blog, you already know that I screwed up this recipe last week. Although it was under proofed the flavor was really good and we ate the bread anyway. I decided it was worth it to try again. This week I got it right. I added an extra half cup of starter and let the bread rise all day. The bread was perfect. It was not light and airy like the challah it resembles. The inner texture of the bread was soft more like a multigrain sandwich bread. The crust was crisp and then…there is the outer layer of wheat germ and sesame, nutty and crunchy. Just delicious! The bread was good on its own, but we enjoyed it with olive oil for dipping, salad with a homemade creamy balsamic dressing and chicken that was roasted with olive oil and lemons. This bread was the perfect bread to dip in oil, in salad dressing and in the pan juices from the chicken. It melded perfectly with anything fatty. It is a gorgeous bread for enjoying with food.

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After succeeding with this bread, I am now very excited to keep exploring this book. I have way too many cookbooks but I don’t feel bad about adding this one to my collection. It is the kind of book that will be used constantly and I predict it will become dog eared in a few months. If you love to bake bread, I seriously recommend this book to you.

I’m sending this bread off to YeastSpotting. Please click on the link to see other wonderful bread baking adventures.

Wheat Germ and Sesame Six-Strand Braid

Adapted for sourdough from Great Whole Grain Breads by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 ½ cups active sourdough starter

½ cup room temperature water

1 tbsp evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups + 2 tsp (if needed) unbleached white flour

Glaze:

1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tbsp water

¼ cup (or more) wheat germ

2 tbsp (or more) sesame seeds

In a large mixing bowl, combine starter, water and sugar. Let stand a few minutes. Mix in beaten egg, butter and salt. Mix in whole wheat and 2 cups of white flour gradually. Mix with a rubber spatula until a dough forms. Cover and let the dough rest 15 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a board and begin to knead. The dough should be stiff and not very sticky. I needed to add a little more flour to get to this consistency. Add more unbleached white flour one teaspoon at a time until you get a stiffer dough. Continue to knead the dough for up to ten minutes until it is soft and springy. You should be able to stretch it without breaking it (window pane test). Let the dough rest while you wash, dry and oil the mixing bowl. Return the dough to the bowl, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise until doubled (about three hours on a cool day).

Turn the dough out onto a board and divide it into six equal parts (I weighed the dough to make sure each part was roughly the same). Roll each piece into a strand about 12 inches long by rolling between the palms of your hand and the board. Mix wheat germ and sesame seeds in a bowl Brush a dough strand with the egg yolk mixture and then sprinkle 1/6 of the wheat germ mixture onto the board and roll the dough in the wheat germ mixture to coat. Repeat for the remaining 5 strands.

To shape: Line up the six strands side by side. Start with the right outer strand. Pick up the strand and weave it under and over each successive strand until it ends up on the very far left side of the braid. Repeat, always starting with the far right strand, weaving under and then over each strand until it ends up on the left side. When you are done, pinch the braids down on the end of each loaf and compress the loaf lengthwise with both hands gently to make a long narrow loaf. Place a sheet of parchment onto a peel and dust it with corn meal. Gently transfer the loaf to the prepared peel. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise until doubled (3 to 4 hours in a cool kitchen).

Place a baking stone in the oven 15 minutes before you want to bake. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer the loaf from the peel to the stone. It is ok if it sticks to the parchment. Bake the loaf for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Remove the parchment from the loaf and cool completely

Everyone needs cake

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Your birthday is your own personal holiday. In honor of your holiday, you must have cake. I think it is a rule.

I feel very strongly about cake. I love cake with layers and frosting. Moist cake with light and airy frosting! The fancier the better. My boyfriend loves desserts that are fruit based. Give him a pie or a cobbler, a grunt or a tart and he is in seventh heaven. The buttery crust, a lightly sweet fruity filling. He is in love. The only dessert we agree on is carrot cake. I like it. He loves it.

I don’t know why I never made him a carrot cake before. There was the year I made him a chocolate carrot cake, but it looked like a Ding Dong and tasted unlike any carrot cake we’ve ever had. As a matter of fact, we could hardly detect the presence of the eponymous veggie at all. A real honest to goodness carrot cake never crossed my mind although I have watched this man decimate many a slice of carrot cake, leaving barely a crumb (but leaving a wasteland of frosting – his least favorite part of the cake).

I haven’t baked a birthday cake for my boyfriend in a long time. Each year, I always made sure he had cake, but not always from my own oven. This year, I wanted to bake for him. This delicious sounding recipe on Epicurious looked promising, but I had some concerns going in. Carrot cake seems healthy but in reality, it is loaded with fat and sugar. As a matter of fact, carrot cake can be one of the richest cakes available, although it seems like it shouldn’t be. Currently, I am watching my fat and he is watching his sugar. I was concerned about having a whole cake of this caliber available for two people to consume. Not wanting to ruin the cake with too many changes to the recipe, my fears were alleviated after reading the comments on the site. Most people were able to reduce the sugar in the cake and substitute apple sauce for over half of the oil without ruining the flavor or the texture of the cake. The only place changes didn’t seem appropriate to me was in regards to the frosting. The people who commented about the recipe thought the frosting wasn’t cloyingly sweet but disturbingly, they generally felt that the recipe was incorrect and did not make enough frosting. Unfortunately, the idea that there wasn’t enough frosting was their only error. But it was an error which resulted in making me be stingy with the frosting in the middle of the cake (thinking I would run out and not have enough to actually cover the outside of the cake). As it turns out, I had plenty of frosting left over. For us, this is no problem since it helped me excise more fat and sugar from the cake. When you make this cake (because I know you will) go hog wild with the frosting, it is delicious! I noticed that my boyfriend had no problem eating most of his frosting this time! Oh…one wonderful change I made to the recipe was to swap the walnuts my boyfriend can’t eat for pecans which he loves to eat. I folded them into the cake batter and then toasted more which I used to encrust the outside of the cake.

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How did the cake turn out? Just lovely. The flavor is perfumed with a subtle hint of ginger. The frosting has the heady aroma of maple and when you take your last few bites, there is an earthy nutty crunch from the toasted pecans melting into that sweet maple cream. The cake was still very sweet but not intensely sweet like some carrot cakes can be. Altogether this recipe is a winner and I am sure we’ll have it again and again.

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Carrot Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Bon Apetit, September 1999

Cake:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

½ cup canola oil

4 large eggs

3 cups grated peeled carrots

1 ¼ cups coarsely chopped raw pecans

2 tbsp grated peeled ginger (or minced peeled ginger)

Frosting:

10 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

2 ½ cups powdered sugar

¼ cup pure grade B maple syrup

1 to 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped pecans, toasted and cooled completely (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F. Butter two 9” diameter cake pans. Cut parchment paper in circles to fit the pans. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment. Butter and flour the parchment and the sides of the pan. Tap out the excess flour.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl to blend. In a large bowl, whisk evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar), brown sugar, applesauce and oil until well blended. Whisk eggs into the oil mixture one at a time. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and stir until just blended. Stir in carrots, pecans and ginger. Divide batter evenly between the two pans.

Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean, about 40 minutes (ovens vary but you may want to check at 35 minutes, my cakes were a little too brown at 40 minutes). Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn them out onto wire racks, peel off parchment and let the cakes cool completely.

While the cakes are baking, start on the frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until it is light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until completely blended. Beat in maple syrup. Chill the frosting until it is firm enough to spread, at least 30 minutes.

Place one cake layer on a platter. Spread ¾ cup of frosting on the top of the cake. Top with the second layer. Spread remaining frosting over the entire cake. Work quickly because this frosting is soft and gets softer as it warms. Once the cake is completely frosted, press the toasted pecans into the sides of the cake, covering all exposed surface along the outside edge of the cake.

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