Saturday Random Recipe: Sourdough Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Bread, ready for the cutting!

Welcome to the latest way to use your sourdough starter, which you started a month or two ago and have since used to make endless waffles or pancakes and biscuits! Today, I thought I would share my all-time favorite bread recipe. It’s a versatile dough which I use for sandwiches, toast, to accompany soup (clam chowder is a perfect pairing!), or even for pizza dough.

Basque Shepherd’s Bread

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (no warmer than 110 F)
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour

Mix together (don’t forget to feed your starter!), cover, and let stand overnight or up to 24 hours.

When you proceed, add:

  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 F)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

Mix together.

For bread-making, it is way easier to use a heavy duty mixer for kneading – such as a KitchenAid, which we’ve used for years. However, if you don’t have one, kneading by hand can be quite a good workout. Simply flour a clean surface generously and knead for about 10 minutes until another 1-2 cups of whole wheat flour has been absorbed and a good elasticity develops.

If you use a mixer, gradually add another 2 cups of whole wheat flour. If it’s still sticky, sprinkle in white flour by the half cup. When it’s done, the sides of the bowl should be clean, and the dough should be elastic and resilient. This is usually after about 6 minutes.

Turn the dough into a greased bowl, cover, and let rise at least half an hour. Then punch it (a good time to take out your aggression!), cover again and let it rise for another half hour. A second rising lets the dough develop a good flavor and texture.

Divide into two or three equal portions, and shape into rounds or oblongs (roll a bit to let out any big bubbles that might have formed). Place on a baking sheet or stone (I love stoneware!), dust with flour, slit the tops, and let rise 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 F, and when it’s hot, pop in your dough (carefully so it doesn’t fall). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and the bottoms thump when you tap them with your knuckles (yes, this will burn your hands – but that helps make you feel like a real baker!).

Now, the difficult part: You must let the bread rest and cool for at least half an hour – which is torture, because it smells delicious! But it’s very important to let it cool, so that it doesn’t become doughy and weird when cut.

Enjoy, with butter and local raw honey, or jam, or alongside stew, or torn off and dipped into cheesy fondue!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sourdough Bread (looking particularly artisan!)

A few variations:

  • Let the dough rise overnight and bake it early in the morning (a very baker thing to do!). This develops a distinct sour flavor, wonderful crustiness, and an artisan feel.
  • Use a quarter of the dough to make a medium-size pizza.
  • Make dinner rolls. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Put into bread pans, for a sandwich bread look.
  • Form the dough into 5-6 inch rounds, bake, cool, then cut off the tops, scoop out the insides (useful for breadcrumbs or croutons!), and fill with clam chowder.

The possibilities are endless!

-Abigail-

Saturday Random Recipe: Sourdough Waffles (or Pancakes)

Last week, I shared with you how to grow your very own sourdough starter and, struck with irresistible inspiration, you rushed off to your kitchen to mix up your own batch! You bought a beautiful jar to be its home, named it something wonderful – like Lobelia or George or Hagrid. And now, you have been looking at it for the past couple of days with some trepidation as bubbles rise and then a creepy layer of clearish liquid formed at the top.

So, I am here with you first delicious recipe!

I’m rather proud of this one, since I sort of made it up myself. These waffles (or pancakes) are so light that they are almost lacy, with a sweet and slightly tangy flavor.

IMG_1077.JPG
Scrumptious with butter and maple syrup! But also lovely with a good fruit spread or fresh strawberries or caramelized apple slices. Or even plain.

 

Sourdough Waffles

First, stir up your starter so that the “pot liquor” is fully incorporated.

Mix in a large glass bowl:

  • 2 cups sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cup reduced-fat milk (or substitute soy or nut milk)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

Cover, and let sit overnight or up to 24 hours (another patience builder, I know!). This is called a sponge. Don’t forget to feed your starter by adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of oil (yes, it is a living thing!).

The next day, mix together:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (increase to 2 tsp. for low altitude)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda (ditto!)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Combine with the starter sponge. Drop by rough half cup-fulls onto your waffle irons, and await the deliciousness!

This recipe can also be used for pancakes, of course – which is a nice option if you don’t have a waffle iron. Cut the oil to 1/4 cup, since pancakes don’t require the crispiness of waffles, and there you go!

Breakfast for tomorrow? I think so! Enjoy!

-Abigail-

Saturday Random Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Kugel

This is one of those recipes that is an example of two wrongs making a wonderful right! Spaghetti squash has never been one of my favorites, even when served traditional spaghetti style with our favorite meat sauce. And the usual kind of noodle kugel is bland and that’s about it. But a couple of years ago, we were inspired to use the stringy, odd squash in place of the noodles (which apparently hasn’t been done much before) – and, voila! Deliciousness emerged.

Spaghetti Squash Kugel

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. mixed dry herbs (either a premix, or a selection of matches; such as basil and oregano, parsley and thyme, or chives and marjoram.)
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, or a mix of two
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese

Prepare the squash with the help of this slideshow, and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or up to an hour:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the squash is baking, mix the other ingredients. And, in this case, cottage cheese is another unexpected inspirations: It makes the kugel rich and cheesy! However, when making this recipe, I usually just find whatever is open in the fridge and use that up. If using cottage cheese, you can use an immersion blender or a food processer to get everything really smooth.

IMG_1004.JPG

Mix in the grated cheese. Choose a cheese that matches the cuisine that you’re going for – Parmesan or asiago for Italian, Jarlsberg for something more appropriate to a classic Germanic kugel, or perhaps cheddar.

Test the squash for doneness by skewering it with a knife; it should be tender. Remove from the oven, invert with care so that the steam doesn’t scald you, scoop out the onions and garlic and add to the egg and cheese mixture. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape out the flesh and shred the fibers apart. Mix everything together, pour into the casserole, sprinkle plentifully with more paprika, and throw it back into the oven for about 45 minutes. It’s done when a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

IMG_1009.JPG

This makes a wonderful side dish, served with chicken-apple sausages or kielbasa. But might also be a lovely one-dish meal that’s vegetarian and gluten-free (especially if you mix in half a cup of ground chia or flax seed). The spaghetti squash’s slightly sweet and nutty flavor is the perfect ingredient for kugel!

-Abigail-

 

3 Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas to all!

In honor of the day, I thought I’d share a few of our favorite traditions for celebrating the holiday:

Luminarias

So simple, so beautiful! You take paper bags and tea candles (cheap) and sand (ubiquitous), and put them together to make lights. Then, line Mary and Joseph’s path to the inn – and the path to Christmas Eve mass. This is a lovely New Mexican tradition!

Plum Pudding

Being Anglophiles, it was only a matter of time before we tried this Christmas treat mentioned in so many seasonal British stories. And it’s worth it! Full of spice and plums (raisins) and love, it is quintessential Christmas. (I use butter rather than suet, and it turns out fine!)

We don’t end Christmas on the 25th

WIN_20151225_19_26_45_Pro.jpg

Seriously, try it! Some of the best fun is to be had after the stress and expectations of the day are over. Plus, if you’ve maybe forgotten a gift or two, there are the post-Christmas sales to hit. After all, traditionally, the season isn’t over until Epiphany (or 3 Kings Day), which is January 6th! I love Christmas so much that I would rather extend it than call it over after all the presents are opened!

I hope that you all have a blessed and wonderful holiday weekend!

-Abigail-

Thanksgiving Tree

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

On this point of stillness and gratitude, a holiday still strangely dedicated to family and togetherness even when you don’t have family or you are alone, I’d like to share some of our family’s favorite traditions!

First, and most important, here is a look at our Thanksgiving Tree (glimpsed in an earlier post).  WIN_20151126_14_58_17_Pro.jpg

WIN_20151126_14_58_37_Pro This is one of those traditions from childhood that has lingered, and deserves to be kept around! The idea is, you write something you’re thankful for on a paper leaf, and stick it to an empty tree on the wall. The tree fills up with thankfulness over the course of the month of November, until you cannot pass it without being reminded of all your blessings.

 I usually get carried away and write way too many leaves. But this year, I’m trying to focus; and not just remember my blessings and all the little things I have, but also the big things. And those don’t always fit on a paper leaf!

WIN_20151126_15_00_11_Pro

 

And, of course, we also cook! We try to make everything we eat, because then we know what goes into it, and Thanksgiving dinner is no exception. It tastes better that way!

WIN_20151126_14_59_04_Pro
Pumpkin pie, with homemade crust (it’s actually not that hard! Yes, it is…)
WIN_20151126_16_03_16_Pro
I have been known to puree my own pumpkin, but this pumpkin (incredibly orange) is from a can
WIN_20151126_15_01_24_Pro
Cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, and bacon-apple Brussels sprouts. Yum!
WIN_20151126_15_01_33_Pro
Cranberry sauce. I do it Manuel style. Manuel recommended using orange juice (and zest this time) and adding a dash of Grand Marnier. It transforms and uplifts cranberry sauce into something sublime!

 

One of our best cooking traditions is to let the menfolk cook the bird. They smoke it, which is a very manly form of cooking. The results are wonderful, if a little startling at first:

WIN_20151126_14_59_36_Pro
A Goth Turkey. We don’t know why, but the skin always comes out blackened. Soot, or something. But we don’t eat the skin, so it’s all right. And don’t be alarmed:
WIN_20151126_16_02_42_Pro
Inside, the meat is tender, more tasty than ordinary baking, succulent, and delightful!

WIN_20151126_16_03_07_Pro

 

Thanksgiving is also a time to – of all things – be thankful. I know; radical notion, right? But isn’t it strange that amid all the demand for More! More! More! that swamps our lives (and especially the next major holiday) we stop for a moment just to be grateful for what we have? It doesn’t matter if you have family or friends to celebrate with, or not. It doesn’t matter if you can cook a turkey and all the fixings, or buy it from the store, or prefer some sushi. It doesn’t matter if you live in your own house, or in a corner; or if you can afford a new wardrobe and the latest tech every year, or barely manage to scrape buy. Because you still have many blessings.

Never mind all that I’ve been talking about, with our traditions and blessings: God has, somehow, abundantly blessed you.

So, pause for a moment, and give thanks!

-Abigail-