Biscuits: the forgiving bread product

Unmarried, childless and middle-aged. Therefore, expected to be a Thanksgiving guest in my parents home instead of the host of a Thanksgiving event. I love being with them but once I get home, I need to have a personal Thanksgiving dinner of my own devising. Tuesday was Thanksgiving again for me. I made my favorite turkey breast recipe (there would only be two of us so we didn’t need the whole bird), stuffing with pecans subbed in for the fussier chestnuts, maple glazed sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, steamed brussels sprouts and green peas (two very pedestrian vegetables to cut through the richness of the meal). It was a three-hour whirlwind cooking experience and in the middle of it, I realized there was no bread. I meant to buy rolls, but I forgot. I didn’t realize my error in time, so I couldn’t make bread. Once I thought about what to do, realized I had something good in my repertoire that I could toss together between making the sweet potatoes and finishing the rest of the cooking: sourdough biscuits.

As luck would have it, I did plan to make a sourdough loaf the next day for turkey sandwiches, so Herbert was happily bubbling away on the counter. I made sourdough biscuits a couple of times before, but I always made them with whole wheat pastry flour and I always had buttermilk on hand. I was nearly out of pastry flour and I was certainly missing the buttermilk. There was no way I could leave to go to the store. What do I do when I have no buttermilk but need to make a recipe that requires it? I substitute plain nonfat yogurt diluted with nonfat milk. You see, buttermilk hasn’t been real buttermilk for years now. Instead of being the liquid that is leftover as a byproduct of making butter, it is now a cultured milk product similar to yogurt or kefir, but not as thick. I love using buttermilk in recipes. It makes things tender, flavorful and fluffy, but a mixture of yogurt and milk makes a good stand in.

The resulting biscuits were everything I needed. They were quick to prepare. They were flaky and tender. Because I used mostly white flour, they also carried the yogurt/sourdough flavors well. My boyfriend could not stop eating these biscuits and he could not stop talking about how delicious they were. To me, that is the best praise of all. Now that I happened onto this new method for making biscuits, I think I will revise the recipe for good.

These biscuits go to YeastSpotting, showcasing the best bread on the internet every week!

Oh… and before I forget… I have the opportunity to give away a Reserve kit of Muir Glen Tomatoes this week. If you are interested in my contest, click here and drop a comment on the Muir Glen Tomato Giveaway post.



Sourdough biscuits redux

Adapted from the Golden sourdough biscuits recipe on Recipe finder

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp baking soda

½ cup cold unsalted butter

1 cup well fed sourdough starter

¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt

¼ cup nonfat milk

2 tbsp melted butter for brushing the muffins

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees f.

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, white flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry-cutter cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Don’t let the butter get too warm, you want the cold butter chunks to stay pretty solid to help with the flakiness of the finished biscuits. Mix together yogurt and milk. Mix with a whisk or fork until smooth. Mix the sourdough starter into the yogurt mixture. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture. Using a silicone spatula, mix the dough until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough a dozen times. Pat the dough into a 1“ thick round. Cut the dough with a 2 1/2” biscuit cutter. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or butter the cookie sheet. Place the biscuits close together on the lined sheet. If there are dough scraps, gently press them together, form a ball and pat it out to 1” thickness again. Cut more biscuits. If I have enough scraps left for one more biscuit, I usually just squash it out into one last free form biscuit. Just don’t over knead the dough while you work with the scraps.

Bake the biscuits for 12 – 15 minutes until golden browned. Remove from the oven and brush the biscuits with melted butter. Allow them to cool before serving.

As good as any bread you can buy, maybe better

Seeded Sourdough1

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.

Seeded Sourdough2

Seeded Multi Grain Loaf


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


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!

Marmalade Cheese Braid2

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.

Marmalade Cheese Braid1

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.

Marmalade Cheese Braid3

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

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

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)

Egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water

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.

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.

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.

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.

Braided bread 2.0


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.


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.


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


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

The pitter patter of tiny buns


I am suffering from tiny bun syndrome. I know it sounds like a personal problem. Maybe it is…but wait a second…no it’s not! (But, I kind of wish it was a personal problem so that I could stop dieting). It’s just that I keep stumbling on recipes that promise me big buns. The kind that will make embarrassingly big sloppy sandwiches and I keep pulling these lovely little petite things out of the oven. It’s embarrassing. Especially because my boyfriend has a big appetite and keeps giving me a look of disappointment when he sees how small his sandwich will really be. (It never occurs to him that he will eat two sandwiches anyway and that those two sandwiches will equal the one big sandwich of his hopes and dreams). These rolls turned out to be 3” x 3” inches. Monsters I suppose, compared to the microscopic 2” x 3” ciabatta rolls I made last time.

Unlike those ciabatta rolls, these rolls made up for their diminutive size with a huge amount of flavor. I made these rolls with sourdough instead of active dry yeast and the sponge was allowed to sit for 15 hours. The fermentation was evident in the final bread. The flavor was stupendous! The recipe called for green olives. Trader Joes has a Greek olive medley composed of 4 or 5 different olives of different colors and textures. I used as many green olives as I could and supplemented them with a few black olives to get the ¾ cup needed for the recipe. I have had kalamata bread that was too salty before. These olives are much more mellow and less salty and they contributed a nice tang to the bread. The final product was sour and tangy with a soft interior and a nice crispness to the crust. I was very pleased with these rolls and look forward to making sandwiches with them.

Next time… well… I may double the recipe and then make 9 instead of 12 rolls. What do you think? Will I get the right size rolls or should I double the dough and go for even less rolls?

By the way, here is a vanity shot of the interior of the rolls (oh yeah! Light and fluffy!)


These little rolls are going out to all of you YeastSpotters. But if you haven’t seen YeastSpotting before, you are in for a treat! Click here to see what other kinds of yummies were baked up this week!

Rustic Olive Rolls

Adapted from the King Arthur flour site


½ cup water

3 tbsp sourdough starter

1 cup unbleached bread flour


All of the sponge

2 tbsp olive oil

½ cup (+ 1 tbsp if needed) water

1 tsp salt

2 cups unbleached white flour

¾ cup chopped, pitted olives (Greek olives worked well – use any mild, firm less salty olives)

To make the sponge: In a large bowl, mix water, starter and flour until well combined. It will look like a little ball of dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out on the counter 14-15 hours. (Start early in the evening if you want to bake first thing in the morning). In the morning, you should see that your little ball dough has tripled in size!

To make the dough: Add olive oil, water, salt, and flour to the sponge. Mix until well combined. My dough was very dry and wouldn’t come together. I added another tbsp of water and it seemed to hold together. You may need to as well. Just add water by the tablespoon until you get a dough forming. Turn the dough out onto a kneading surface. Knead 10-12 minutes or until the dough is soft and you can stretch it without breaking (window pane test).

Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Put olives in a clean dish towel and wring out any excess liquid from them. Turn the dough out onto the kneading surface. Flatten the dough and add the olives. Knead the olives into the dough until they are well incorporated into the dough.



Pat the dough into a 9” x 9” rectangle. Be careful to make the corners as sharp as possible and the edges as straight as possible so that the rolls will have a pretty shape.


Cut the dough into six 3” x 3” rectangles. Rub flour into the surface of a clean cotton dish cloth (not terry cloth or you will be sorry) . Place the dish cloth on a hard surface like a cookie sheet. Space three pieces of dough on the dishcloth and pushing the cloth up against the edges of each dough piece to form a support. Set the other three dough pieces on the cloth and repeat so that they look like this:



Cover the dough with another clean dish towel and let it rise 1 to 2 hours until it is very puffy.

Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Carefully transfer the rolls to a peel that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal. Transfer the rolls to the stone and bake until browned, 20 – 25 minutes. Transfer the rolls to a cooling rack. Cool completely before enjoying.



I found my sourdough mojo


Lack of confidence. Lack of confidence is the state I have been in when it comes to my bread baking. Since I often want to bake things that call for commercial yeast but I refuse to do it without using my liquid sourdough starter instead, I feel wary about my decisions since so often things get crazy in the kitchen as I try to use a liquid starter in place of dry yeast.

Today something felt so right. I decided to bake a recipe from Sunset magazine that I have been wanting to try for years. Years ago I would have accepted the recipe for what it was. A sourdough bread with a distinctly south of the border spice but the strange decision to use a very Italian cheese for flavor.

As I looked the recipe over for the first time in years, my brain started to make the cooking decisions I so often shy away from in bread baking. I recently saw an article that defined the different kinds of yeast. The article defined starter and said that two cups of starter has the same leavening power as a packet of active dry yeast. I knew right away that the cup of starter called for in the recipe would not leaven my bread quickly. I decided to up the starter to a cup and a half. But… that would throw off the ratio of flour to liquid. I decided a quarter cup of cornmeal would soak up the extra liquid and give the bread a little more bite and flavor. The cheese just seemed wrong to me. Jalapenos just scream out for cheddar or jack. I decided to increase the cheese to a half a cup and use a sharp white cheddar instead. Something still seemed missing….what to do, what to do?? I remembered how much I loved the caraway seeds in the sour corn rye I made a few weeks ago. Is there something similar I could use that would give this bread the same texture and punch that the caraway seeds did in my rye bread? Oh… yes… I had whole cumin seeds in my pantry. I took a taste of one and it was so good!

The dough came together as if the recipe was prewritten with my changes. It seemed so perfect. I baked the bread which smelled so delicious. I pulled it out of the oven and it looked amazing. After it cooled, I sliced it and tasted it. The bread was not spicy in a hot way but had a pleasing complex flavor the way that good Indian food does. As I sampled the bread, my mind went wild imagining all of the food this bread could accompany, the interesting sandwiches it could make and the kick ass croutons that would be so delicious on soups and salads. I think I have my baking confidence now.

I am submitting this lovely bread to YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast.  Click here to see all of the other wonderful yeasty baked goods that other people have made this week.


Cumin scented chili cheese sourdough

3 cups unbleached white flour

½ cup rye flour

¼ cup cornmeal

1 tsp salt

½ cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup water

1 ½ cups active sourdough starter

1 tbsp honey

¼ cup minced jalapeno chilies

1 tbsp whole cumin seeds

In a large bowl, combine, white flour, rye flour, cornmeal, salt and cheese. In another bowl, combine water, starter and honey. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until a dough forms. Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a wooden board. Mix and knead the dough until it is well combined and pliable. Flatten the dough. Add the minced Jalapeno chilies and the cumin seeds. Wrap the dough around the chilies and seeds and then continue to knead vigorously for 12 – 14 minutes making sure that the chilies and seeds are well distributed throughout the dough. Form the dough into a tight ball and transfer it to an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and allow the dough to rise until doubled about 2 hours.

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. Slash the loaf and then place it in the oven. Bake for 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.

Destructive desire


I was going to bake bread this week. I even made a point of going to a special store to pay lots of money for a really nice bag of exotic flour. I had the Breads from the La Brea Bakery cookbook out on my counter! I did not. I repeat, did not want to bake something sweet and ruin my diet even further. What the hell happened?!

Someone derailed me. She probably doesn’t even know it was her fault. All she did was innocently mention that she got a recipe off of the Fleischmann’s Bread World Site. I clicked on the sweet treats link, I clicked on the rolls and buns link and that was my undoing. What I saw there that day would have me obsessing over so many sordid opportunities for gluttony.

At least I added fruit and a little whole wheat flour to make myself feel better.

Here is this week’s sourdough porn:


The fresh fruit has been sprinkled over the filling


The rolled dough with a little fruit peeking out


The raw dough was so pretty with the fruit poking out


The naked baked rolls


Drizzled in chocolate a la Jackson Pollack


I should never have taken that bite… all was lost. So delicious!


For more ideas on how to wreck your diet please click on this link to view YeastSpotting which will be hosted on friday by Macheesmo

White Nectarine and Cocoa rolls

Adapted from Cinnamon Cocoa Breakfast Rolls on the Fleischmann’s Bread World site


3 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

1 tsp salt

¼ cup water

¼ cup buttermilk

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

½ cup cooked, mashed potato

1 cup sourdough starter

2 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted


¼ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 white nectarines, peeled and diced


1 oz bitter dark chocolate

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 – 2 tsp evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp brandy

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, and salt. In another large bowl, combine water, buttermilk, melted butter and mashed potato. It is ok if the ingredients are still warm from the butter melting and the potatoes cooking. Add 1 ½ cups of the flour mixture and the sourdough starter to the wet ingredients. Using a mixer, beat the ingredients together for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and an additional cup of the flour mixture and beat for 2 more minutes. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix by hand until a soft dough forms. Not all of the flour may get incorporated at this point. Turn the dough and any remaining flour out onto a board. Knead the rest of the flour into the dough until it is fully incorporated into it. Continue to knead the dough for ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to a clean bowl and cover it. Let the dough rest for ten to fifteen minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the filling ingredients: combine sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon.

Turn the dough back out onto your board. Roll the dough out into an 18” x 12” rectangle. Spread the dough with the tablespoon of melted butter. Using a spoon, sprinkle the cocoa mixture evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the diced nectarines over the filling. Starting at the long end, roll the dough tightly in a jelly roll. Pinch the seam to seal. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Transfer the pieces to a buttered 9” x 13” pan. Cover the pan with a clean towel and allow the dough rise until doubled. (It was a chilly day here today so mine took around two hours to proof).

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for 20 – 25 minutes until golden. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.

Make Glaze: Over low heat, melt butter and dark chocolate with sugar salt and brandy. Stir until well melted and smooth. Using a spoon, drizzle hot chocolate in artful splotches over the top of the chocolate buns.

Of ghosts and grapes


If I haven’t visited your blog in awhile, forgive me. I don’t like to read blogs in an RSS reader or on services like Food Buzz. Part of the enjoyment of reading your blogs is to see them in the natural habitat of their original design with all of the pretty colors and banners and ads. I keep a folder of links to blogs I like and I randomly visit when I feel like it. This kind of habit makes for some surprises and some disappointments. The disappointments are blogs that get abandoned for whatever reason. I don’t want to criticize. My blog went abandoned for six months, but I tend to call blogs that seem really abandoned dead blogs.

 Some dead blogs are like ghost ships, plying the waters of the vast Internet. They are there for all the world to see but for some reason, their masters are long gone. One such wonderful blog is the Trans Fatty Blog. This blog was all about real food. To give you a hint of why I liked this blog, just read the about page. He wrote the best about page I have seen. I found this blog through a shared love of sourdough and was so bummed out the blog was already a ghost by the time I found it.

 I used Trans Fatty’s focaccia recipe as a guide. I have always wanted to bake a grape focaccia but I have never seen a sourdough focaccia recipe that made sense to me and I was a little intimidated to start experimenting on my own. I had his recipe bookmarked for a long time and then stumbled back onto it recently. I was a little worried about the huge amount of starter and flour but it turns out it is fine. This recipe is designed to make a giant monster of a focaccia that will feed an army or keep you supplied with bread for days.

 The topping is genius if I do say so myself. I created a mixture that is savory, sweet and salty. Just wonderful!

 The only thing I have to caution you on is to use parchment paper to line your cookie sheet. I saw this instruction and got a little cocky, thinking I knew what I was doing; I used a layer of cornmeal instead. That was last week and my mistake resulted in a focaccia that hermetically sealed itself to the cookie sheet. When I attempted removal, it broke apart. It was still delicious but very ugly. This week, I knew better.


I am submitting this monster sized bread to this week’s YeastSpotting. Click here to enjoy bread baked around the world.


Grape and Blue Cheese Focaccia


2 cups active sourdough starter

1 cup room temperature water

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp olive oil


2 tsp salt

2 cups unbleached white flour

2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour


1 tbsp olive oil

3 Rosemary sprigs, leaves removed from stems and then leaves roughly chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 quarter cup red or sweet onion, thinly sliced and then chopped in half

1 cup red grapes

4 tbsp crumbled good quality blue cheese


In a large bowl, combine active starter, water, honey and olive oil. Let sit in a warm place covered for 45 minutes.


Add salt, unbleached white flour and whole wheat flour to the preferment. Mix until well combined and a stiff dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead 12 minutes. The dough should be firm and shiny. Form the dough into a tight ball and transfer it to a very large oiled bowl. Let the dough sit covered in a warm place for 5 – 6 hours until doubled.

 Line a 12” x 14” baking sheet with silicone parchment paper (if using regular parchment, lightly oil the paper. This dough sticks as it bakes!). Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined sheet and gently press it into a rectangle to fill the dimensions of the cookie sheet. Let dough rest covered for at least a half hour up to an hour.

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush or spread 1 tbsp olive oil over the surface of the dough. Top with Rosemary, garlic and onion, making sure dough is evenly covered with these ingredients. Press grapes into the surface of the dough, I do this in neat rows, but a random covering of grapes is fine. Sprinkle blue cheese evenly over the focaccia. Transfer the focaccia to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

 Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool completely before cutting into it.




An old favorite with a new twist

Sourdough Quiche

If someone were to ask me what my signature dish was, I would probably have to say tomato zucchini quiche. I have been making this dish for years. It has a flaky whole grain butter crust. Sweet tomatoes cooked just until the juices flow. Zucchini sautéed in the pan juices of the tomatoes with herbs. Sharp cheese; it’s a gorgeous creation that I am always happy to serve.
Years ago, I wanted to bake a tart out of the Greens cookbook. It was an unusual tart with a yeasted crust. I made it once and soon forgot about it. I didn’t enjoy the crust and longed for my butter pastry. The tart itself was strangely not delicious. I went back to standard quiche and forgot about this little dalliance.
I planned to bake with my sourdough this week and nervously realized that it was getting late if I wanted to participate in a fun little weekly blogging event that I have become so hooked on. I knew I would need lunch the next day and started to think about that ill fated yeasted crust of the past. I am a much better cook now than I was years ago and I am now the proud owner of a tasty sourdough starter.
Armed the next day with my active starter, Deborah Madison’s updated olive oil yeasted tart dough recipe as my guide and my imagination, I set out to remake my favorite quiche. I wanted a flavorful crust so I added lemon zest and herbs to the dough. After my problems last week with the flaky sourdough rolls, I added the starter on top of the amount of liquid called for in the original recipe. The result was a beautiful silky soft dough flecked with goodies.

I added caramelized onions and fresh herbs to my filling. I have never been able to make my quiche in the 35 minutes called for in most recipes. The tomatoes may be the culprit so I baked the quiche for 55 minutes using a pie crust shield during the last 20 minutes of baking to protect that lovely crust.

The result? Delicious! The crust was moist and herbal under the filling and crunchy at the edges, reminiscent of the sourdough pizza crust I make which has a toothsome quality and a grainy, malted flavor.

The filling was a mélange of different flavors due to the layers of cheese, herbed veggies and custard.

I would like to submit this delicious concoction to this week’s YeastSpotting event on Wild Yeast. Susan usually posts the new submissions by Friday so click here to see what the other talented bakers decided to make this week.


Sourdough Quiche Slice

Tomato Zucchini Quiche with a Sourdough Crust
½ cup active sourdough starter
½ cup room temperature water

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg, beaten

½ tsp salt

1 cup unbleached white flour

¾ cup stone ground whole wheat flour

1 tbsp minced chives

¾ tbsp minced fresh rosemary

½ tsp lemon zest


½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup grated parmesano reggiano

1 – 2 tbsp olive oil

5 -6 chives roughly chopped

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves minced

3-4 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves removed from stems and chopped

Dried basil, to taste

Fresh ground black pepper

¼ red onion, sliced thin

2 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced

1 medium zucchini, julienned

3 eggs beaten

1 cup milk

Paprika for garnishing

Prepare the crust:

In a large bowl, mix together the starter, water, olive oil, egg and salt. Stir in the white and whole wheat flours until combined well. When the dough feels stiff, turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Use a bench scraper to keep the dough from sticking to the board as you knead. The dough is a little sticky. Form the dough into a smooth round and place it into a greased bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let the dough rise between an hour and an hour and fifteen minutes. Press the dough into an oiled 9 “ pie pan, making sure the sides of the dough are thicker than the bottom and that the dough fills to the top of the pan. Let the dough sit, covered until you are done making the filling.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


Heat one tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onions and a pinch of rosemary and cook until limp and beginning to caramelize (about 5 -6 minutes). Transfer the onions to a bowl. If the skillet seems dry, add a little more of the olive oil. Add the tomato slices and all the oregano, a pinch of the chives and the remaining rosemary. Cook without stirring until juicy but still firm (about 3 -4 minutes). Stir the tomatoes gently so they don’t break up, but the herbs mix in. Transfer the tomatoes to the bowl of onions, being careful not to transfer much tomato juice. The pan should be full of juices and you may not need to add more oil, add the zucchini, the remaining chives, a sprinkling of dried basil to taste and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook the zucchini until just tender but before it browns. Remove the zucchini from the pan and let it cool a little bit.

Mix the beaten eggs and milk to make your custard.

Assemble quiche:

Put the pie pan on a cookie sheet. This will keep the quiche from dripping all over the oven if it overflows and give you a tray to carry the quiche to the oven. Sprinkle cheddar and then parmesan onto the surface of the crust. Add the veggies on top of the cheese. Pour the custard over the filling. Sprinkle the surface of the custard with sweet paprika. Put the quiche still on the cookie sheet, into the oven where it will bake for 50 -55 minutes. At about 35 minutes, check the quiche. If the crust is looking nice and browned, use a pie crust shield to keep the crust from burning. Ovens vary, so keep checking the quiche every few minutes up to 55 minutes. When the quiche is firm all the way to the middle, it does not jiggle, it is time to remove it from the oven. Let the quiche cool considerably before you dig in. I was too anxious (the quiche was still pretty hot) and if you look closely at my pictures, you can tell the middle of the quiche did not set as well as I would liked it to have. So…. patience, patience!!

More adventures in sourdough

  Flaky Dinner Rolls
Sometimes I have an easy time figuring out how to make a traditional yeasted recipe with my starter. Sometimes I don’t. In this recipe for flaky dinner rolls, I decided I could just replace half of the milk with starter. Sounds logical, right? There is no other liquid in the recipe and the recipe seems pretty straight forward. The problem… is… that when I get a hold of a recipe, sometimes I don’t follow instructions very well. Somewhere between reading the recipe and executing the recipe, I reduced the needed sugar by 1 tablespoon (I figured the wild yeast didn’t need 3 tablespoons of the stuff) and I swapped out a cup of the white flour for whole wheat. I think the whole wheat flour was my undoing. The stuff seems to suck up the moisture!
When I mixed and then began to knead the dough, it was very dry. At this early point in the process, the dough is supposed to be sticky and a quarter cup of flour you have reserved from the total flour called for in the recipe is supposed to be added to the dough one tablespoon at a time until the dough is still sticky feeling but does not stick to your hands. My dough was dry and brittle! Not good! I proceeded to knead in the extra half cup of milk, one painful tablespoon at a time, incorporating the extra flour one tablespoon at a time as my dough alternated from too sticky to dry again. Somehow, the dough was salvaged. I marched on with the next interesting steps.
Interesting I say because next you roll the dough into a rectangle, spread it with softened butter, fold the dough, wrap it in plastic, freeze it, roll it out again, fold it, wrap it in plastic, freeze it, roll it out, roll it up and slice it and bake it. Phew! I managed to use unsalted butter which I think was an error. My boyfriend loved these but something was missing and I think it might be the salt in the butter. Another comment about the butter – make sure you spread it out evenly and you don’t have any lumps. I had lumps. When I rolled the dough, the lumps went bursting through the dough like little yellow geysers (so much for freezing the dough. My butter was impervious to cold).
I had to bake my rolls for an extra five minutes to get the nice browning I wanted. When I pulled the rolls out of the oven they were swimming in butter. In order to avoid scalding myself with butter, I pulled back a bit and managed to burn my arm on the oven door. So be careful when you make these!! They are hazardous. Swimming in butter you wonder? Let the rolls sit in the tins a couple of minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. The butter miraculously disappears because it gets sucked back up into the rolls.
I had the same problem with these rolls that another baker had. The outer layers were crunchy but the inner layers were soft and bready. I’m not certain if it is the sourdough or if it was me not being adept at making a jelly roll or if my rolls which proofed for 15 minutes longer than the recipe wanted them to, did not proof long enough. If this happens to you, do not be tempted to be childlike and unwind the roll and eat it in ribbons. It isn’t nearly as good as taking a big bite and tasting the crunchy to soft, light textures your mouth will experience with each and every bite.

All in all, I was very happy with these rolls. Next time, I will play with the butter a little. I’m thinking that garlic and herbs or chili powder and onions would make a nice addition.

On Friday July 17th Nick from imafoodblog will be hosting YeastSpotting.  Click on this link to visit his site

Flaky Dinner Rolls

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
 ½ cup active sourdough starter
1 cup 1 % low fat milk
1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups unbleached white flour, divided

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, softened (I used unsalted, salted would be better)

Olive oil spray

Mix sugar, starter and milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 3/4 cups white flour and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining ¼ cup white flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky). Cover dough with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured baking sheet. Gently spread butter over dough, making sure there are no significant lumps. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet (sprinkle on a little more flour, if needed), into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Beginning with a long side, roll up dough jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut roll into 12 equal slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in muffin cups coated with olive oil spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, at least one hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake dough at 375° for 20 -25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in pan for a couple of minutes if you see molten butter bubbling around them. Remove from pan, and cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Serve rolls warm.

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