Thursday, January 28, 2010

sourdough bread


first, the starter...

A sourdough starter is a wild yeast living in a batter of flour and water. 

There are sourdoughs that are centuries old which have been zealously fed and cared for by generations. 

The area you come from plays a part in determining the personality of a sourdough starter. The particular strain of wild yeast thriving only in the San Francisco area of California can alone produce the unique flavor of San Francisco sourdough breads. Your area may harbor a wild yeast with its own exciting flavor.  The one we started in class last week will have that yummy "ORLA classroom #10" essence!

Keeping a sourdough starter is somewhat like having a pet because it needs to be fed and cared for. But its requirements are simple and not time consuming. With a minimum of effort, you can keep one in your refrigerator to use whenever the impulse strikes. Unlike more traditional pets, you can put your sourdough starter “on hold” by freezing or drying it. And like that ancient Mediterranean baker, you can capture a wild yeast at any time and create a new starter that will be ready to use in a few days.

In a 4-cup jar or plastic container, blend 1cup flour with 1cup water.
(If your tap water is treated w/ chlorine, let it sit out overnight before mixing w/ flour.  Or use bottled water)
Mix with a fork until all lumps are gone.  It should be the consistency of pancake batter. 
That's it!
Now just let it sit in a warm spot with a lid sitting loosely on top.  Do not seal it closed, as the yeasts in the air are what you hoping to attract.
Stir once or twice a day for the first two days.  You should begin to see some action, like bubbles or foaming.  

This is a good sign.  By about the third day you will begin to notice a yeasty, sour smell.  It is ready to use.  

{If you are not ready to bake with it, transfer it to a clean jar and refrigerate until ready to use.  Stir 2Tbsp flour in to feed it once a week.   To reactivate after refrigeration, let sit out for a few hours at room temperature then feed it another 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.  Sit in a warm place until bubbling action resumes.  Then, it's ready to use again.}

Stir your starter before measuring out amount to put in your recipe.  After using some of it, replenish the jar by stirring in 1 cup flour and 1cup water and letting sit out until bubbly.

 for 2 large sourdough loaves:

1 cup starter
1 cup water (lukewarm)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 - 4 cups AP flour 

 In a large bowl, combine starter, water, sugar and salt.  With a wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups of flour.  Then add 3rd cup. 
 As dough gets thicker and harder to manage with the spoon, begin to knead it by hand.
 It will still be sticky, but add flour now only a bit at a time until it is completely incorporated.  You may only add about 1/2 cup more, maybe less. 

 Remember how the dough felt in class when it was well-blended.  It will be moist, but not sticky.  It will hold together and get smoother as you gently knead it.  Keep kneading for 5 minutes.

Place in a bowl, cover with a warm, moist dish towel or plastic wrap, and set in a warm place for 4 hours.

Remove from bowl, deflate and cut in half.  Now you have two loaves to form.  Flatten dough with fingers:

roll dough from bottom up:

then pinch the seem tightly closed all the way across

Now place loaves on a baking sheet lightly sprayed or lined with parchment paper.  Cover again with towel or plastic and let rise for one hour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Use pizza stone if you have one.

spray loaves with water, and make scoremarks with a sharp knife

 Spray the insides of oven quickly with water and bake loaves for approximately 20-30 minutes, turning pan every 10 minutes.  Loaf will be golden brown when finished (though check the bottom, which may brown faster).

yum-yum, hot & sour!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Bread

    pumpkin spice bread

This recipe yields four mini loaves, one 9x5-inch loaf, or one 12-cup Bundt cake.


6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter softened
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cups canned pumpkin (from a 15-oz. can of pure pumpkin)
1/2 cup buttermilk

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour four mini loaf pans, one 12-cup Bundt pan, or one 9x5-inch metal loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, black pepper, salt, and cloves.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on low speed with the stand mixer’s paddle attachment or on medium-low speed with a hand mixer until the butter is smooth.

 Add the sugar gradually and continue mixing on the same speed, stopping and scraping the bowl and beater as needed, until lighter in color and slightly fluffy, about 2 minutes.

 Add the eggs one at a time and mix until smooth after each addition, about 30 seconds.

Add the pumpkin and mix until it’s evenly incorporated into the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until well blended.

Stop the mixer and add half the flour mixture. On low speed (for either mixer), mix until the flour is almost completely blended and then add half the buttermilk and mix until smooth. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until smooth. The batter will be thick.

If using mini loaf pans, divide the batter evenly among the four pans (the pans should be about two-thirds full). If using a Bundt or full-size loaf pan, spread the batter in the pan (again, filling the pan no more than two-thirds full.) Smooth the top of the batter. Bake until the loaves are golden and a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes for mini loaf pans (60 minutes for a Bundt pan and 60 to 70 minutes for a full-size loaf pan).
Let the loaves cool in the pans on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes to give them time to set and then turn them out onto a rack and flip right side up to cool completely.

Banana Bread

banana bread

{Quick breads are batters formed in bread pans.  Baking soda and/or powder  is used for the rising rather than yeast.  There is no kneading or proofing necessary.}

This banana bread starts as a thick, tangy batter full of mashed banana, and emerges from the oven with a golden-brown crust and a moist, almost cakelike texture.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 & 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans with butter and dust it with flour, tapping out the excess. Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl to aerate and break up any lumps. Set aside.

  • Place sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes. Add bananas and sour cream and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

  • Turn batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the top is golden brown, and the bread is pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour.

  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Slide a knife around the perimeter of the pan, invert to release the bread, and cool completely on the wire rack before serving.

  • Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

    chocolate sandwich cookies

    our version will be called


    For the Filling:

    1/2  cup heavy cream
    8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (or use white chocolate chips)
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon  extract (depending on which flavor you use and how strong you want it;  try either vanilla, peppermint, almond, espresso)
    For the Cookies:
    3/4  cup granulated sugar
    1& 1/2  cup plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
    3/4  cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2  teaspoon baking soda
    1 & 1/4  teaspoons salt
    15  Tablespoons (7 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch cubes,  AT ROOM TEMPERATURE (this is important)
    Make the filling:

    In a small saucepan, bring the cream to boil over medium heat.  Remove from the heat and pour over the finely chopped white chocolate. 

     Make sure all the chocolate is covered by the cream.  Let stand for 1 minute (this is important), then whisk the white chocolate until completely melted, and no lumps.

    Transfer the filling to a small bowl, add the flavor extract and let stand until room temperature.  You’ll need the filling thicker to assemble the cookies, so cover the filling and place it in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, until a thick, spreadable consistency is reached.  If the filling hardens too much, it can be rewarmed in the microwave for a few seconds. 
    Make the cookie dough:
    Position the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed.  With the mixer running, add the butter a few pieces at a time.  The mixture will have a sandy texture at first

     and then will begin to form pebble-size pieces.

      As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer.  Make sure all the butter is well incorporated.  If there are large butter pockets, mix for a few seconds more.
    Form and roll the dough straight from the mixer.  The dough becomes hard to work with if chilled.

    Transfer the dough to a board and use the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper to shape the dough into a block about 5 by 7 inches.  Cut the block into two pieces.
    One at a time, roll each block of dough between two pieces of  parchment paper until about 1/8-inch thick.  Using a cookie cutter, cut into 2 inch rounds. 

     Place 1/2 to 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.  You can form and roll the dough scraps once after the first roll.

    Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking.  Remove from the oven and cool on the sheets for 2 to 5 minutes.  They'll be too soft to move straight from the oven.  Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

    To Assemble the Cookies:
    Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip OR you can just scoop the filling out by the teaspoonful.  Pipe or dollop one teaspoon of filling  in the center of each upside down cookie.  Gently, using your fingers, press the cookies together until the filling comes just to the edges.
    The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Baking Basics - Cinnamon Rolls

    cinnamon rolls

    This recipe uses a biscuit dough rather than a yeast dough.  So the preparation time is much quicker than the average cinnamon rolls recipe.  You can easily have these ready before the whole family is out of bed on a lazy Saturday morning!

    Try to use a 9 or 10-inch springform pan;  otherwise a regular cake pan or small rectangular pan will do.

    Grease the sides and bottom of the pan with 
    cooking spray. 

    Makes 12 buns

    For the dough:
    3/4 cup cottage cheese (4% milk fat) 
    1/3 cup buttermilk 
    1/4 cup granulated sugar 
    2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted 
    1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
    9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling 
    1 Tbs. baking powder 
    1/2 tsp. table salt 
    1/4 tsp. baking soda 

    For the filling:
    3/4 oz. (1-1/2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted 
    2/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar 
    1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
    1/2 tsp. ground allspice 
    1/4 tsp. ground cloves 
    1 cup (4 oz.) chopped pecans 

    For the glaze:

    2-1/2 oz. (scant 2/3 cup) confectioners' sugar 
    2 to 3 Tbs. cold whole or low-fat milk 
    1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

    Heat the oven to 400°F.

    Make the dough: 

    (Use method #1 if you have a food processor.  If not, use the second method, which we used in class) 
    Method 1:  In a food processor, combine the cottage cheese, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. 
    Process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and 
    pulse in short bursts just until the dough clumps together (don’t overprocess). The dough will be 
    soft and moist. 
    Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it with floured hands 4 or 5 times 
    until smooth.  
    Method 2:  In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda).  In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients (cottage cheese, buttermilk, sugar, butter, vanilla extract).  Add wet to dry and mix until combined.  Then turn out onto a lightly foured surface and knead by hand 4 or 5 times until smooth.  

    With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12x15-inch rectangle.

    Make the filling: 
    Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border unbuttered around the edges. 
    In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Sprinkle the mixture 

    over the buttered area of the dough and pat gently into the surface. Sprinkle the nuts over the 
    sugar mixture. 
    Starting at a long edge, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Pinch the seam to seal, and leave the 
    ends open. 

    With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces. Or click on this link to check out one baker's method for cutting the roll using dental floss !  Set the pieces, cut side up, in the prepared 
    pan; they should fill the pan and touch slightly, but don’t worry if there are small gaps. 

    Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 20 to 28 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to 
    cool for 5 minutes. Run a spatula around the inside edge of the pan and remove the springform 
    ring. Transfer the rolls to a serving plate. 

    Make the glaze: 
    In a small bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar, 2 Tbs. milk, and vanilla to make a smooth glaze. It 
    should have a thick but pourable consistency, so add up to 1 Tbs. more milk if necessary. Drizzle 
    the glaze over the rolls. Let stand 15 minutes and serve.