Tag Archives: bread

Blueberry Kolaches – From Austin and D.C. with Love

Blueberry Kolache_2Yes, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it, friends?  I know Emilie and I have fallen far from the regular postings you used to get, but please know that we haven’t forgotten any of you.  In fact, we talk, text, and e-mail about you and Cork and Spoon quite often.  That is why today’s post is dedicated to all our friends/readers that have stuck with us all this time.

The last you heard from Emilie, she had moved from D.C. to Austin, TX (For the record, I’m still working on my abandonment issues…).  Well, before she and Tom left, in fact while I was helping them transfer their home into a rented PODS container, Emilie and I decided that I should run a half-marathon in Austin.  Since I had already planned on the “Real Girls Run” November half-marathon in Charlottesville, (injuries down the road put a stop to that) and because Emilie wouldn’t have accrued annual leave before Christmas, we found the perfect sweet spot: the Austin Marathon and Half-marathon, which takes place in February.

Now fast forward to New Years 2015.

I find out that after hearing I was coming to Austin and running a race, another Blueberry Kolache_4dear friend of ours, Gill, was coming to Austin, too.  Yay, reunion time! It had been years since the three of us were in the same place at the same time.  As we started coordinating our itineraries, Emilie sent Gill and I the following:

Tuesday: Ruth arrives around 8 PM

Wednesday: Gill arrives around 4 PM

Thursday-Saturday: FUN

Sunday: Ruth runs a marathon while Gill and I eat kolaches and cheer her on.

Yay, fun! Hey, wait.  “What’s a kolache?”  Neither Gil nor I had heard of such a thing before.

Emilie responded with this article from the NY Times.  It is a Czech, yeasted sweet bread filled with deliciousness like fruit, sweetened cheese, or sausage.  Due to a large amount of Czech immigrants that settled in Texas during the 19th century, these dollops of yumminess have become part of the Texan culinary culture.  Now that I was more informed about kolaches, I reminded the girls that I needed to begin refueling around mile 5 or 6 and hinted at how cool it would be for them to toss me a kolache as I ran by them.  (Don’t you agree?)

Blueberry Kolache_Luckenbach

Well, population 3 unless you count the rooster…

After a fun filled couple of days of hunting down BBQ, tasting Texas wines, exploring the faceted city of Austin, enjoying Deep Eddy cocktails,  and eating lots of bacon (Tom kept it comin’!), tacos, and avocados,  race day finally arrived.  In the dark early hours, Tom graciously drove me downtown and dropped me off while the girls got in an extra couple of hours of sleep.  I walked up and down Congress Ave between the State Capital and the starting line at 2nd St. thinking of how lucky I was to have friends who would get up this early or travel half way across the country to cheer me on.  I told my injured IT band that we could not disappoint them now.

Blueberry Kolache_Hope Outdoor Gallery

At the Hope Outdoor Gallery

Em, Gill, and Tom actually made it to three different points along the course, which took me by total surprise.  If you have ever run a long distance race, you know how much energy seeing your friends/family can pull out of you (Right, Sue?).  Emilie and I also learned about the SNL, “More cowbell!” skit from Gill, because Em had bought a cowbell to clang and cheer with for race day.  (Hey, we’re not the only ones.  I shouted “More cowbell!” at some spectators at a recent race…I don’t think they understood, but they did clang louder!).

Blueberry Kolache_mile 12

Mile 12…the biiig hill. Look at how encouraging Emilie is trying to be as I whine about wanting to walk not run.

Sadly, there were no kolaches for me on the course.  When Emilie accompanied me up the big hill at mile 12, I asked where my kolache was.  She told me to keep running up the hill.  Waaaah, I’m not done yet?

Then there was the finish line.  Yay!  I crossed right at my goal time.  Double yay!

Emilie, Gill, and Tom found me at our pre-determined meeting point.  Between great jobs and proud of yous, Gill mentioned they had had kolaches for breakfast.  Before my face fell too much, she also mentioned mine were waiting for me in the car.  Now how about a triple, yay!

Blueberry Kolache_3Now the kolache recipe I am sharing with you today is a “clean eating” version.  More about that in another post, but basically it’s a style of eating that keeps processed and artificial foods to a minimum.  For example, the typical sweet dough is made with all-purpose flour and granulated sugar.  I swapped these ingredients out for white whole wheat flour and sucanat.  For the blueberry filling, I swapped the sugar for honey.

As you probably know, working with whole wheat flour, even the finer white whole wheat kind, can be tricky business.  Whole wheat bread tends to be denser than bread made with its airier all-purpose cousin.  While the kolaches I had in Austin had a tender, pastry-like texture, these whole wheat versions are denser and more like a breakfast biscuit than a pastry.

Feel free to use whichever flour you like, both versions taste delicious and will compliment your morning coffee or tea quite nicely.

Blueberry Kolache_5

Whole Wheat Blueberry Kolaches


Blueberry Kolache_Ingredients

Sweet Dough
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 3/4 cups whole wheat flower
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup sucanat  (may substitute granulated sugar)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • Egg Wash (beat 1 egg with 2 tablespoons heavy cream or buttermilk)

Blueberry Filling

  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch or tapioca starch
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sweet Dough
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sucanat in ¼ cup of milk.Blueberry Kolache_Yeast
  2. Allow yeast to bloom, about 10 minutes.
  3. Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment.
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine yeast mixture with the remaining milk and sugar along with the butter, eggs, and salt.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Mixing
  5. Turn mixer speed to low and gradually blend in 1 ½ cups of the flour.
  6. Change out the paddle for the dough hook attachment.
  7. Turn mixer speed to medium and begin kneading the dough.  Gradually add remaining flour mixture.
  8. Once all dough ingredients are combined in the mixer bowl, knead dough for about 5 to 7 minutes.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Kneaded
  9. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Rest
  10. Allow dough to rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.
  11. Punch dough down.  Knead by hand briefly then divide dough in half. Blueberry Kolache_Dough Risen
  12. Form into balls, and let stand for 10 minutes
  13. Flour your work surface.  Roll out one dough ball to ½ inch thick.
  14. Cut dough rounds using a 2½-inch cookie or biscuit cutter.  Combine remaining scraps, re-rolling and cutting additional rounds.  Repeat with the second dough ball.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Cutting
  15. Place cut out rounds on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet(s) about 1 inch apart.  Cover with a towel and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Rounds Rest
  16. During this final rise, prepare Blueberry Filling (instructions below).
  17. Pre-heat oven 400°F.
  18. Use your thumb or the back of a spoon to press a deep indentation into the center of each round.  Blueberry Kolache_Indent
  19. Brush kolache edges with egg wash.
  20. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling into the indentation.Blueberry Kolache_Filling Kolaches
  21. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.Blueberry Kolache_Baking Time
  22. Allow to cool then store for up to three days in an airtight container.Blueberry Kolache_Baking Done
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir to combine.  Blueberry Kolache_Filling Syrup
  2. Add the blueberries and lemon juice. Blueberry Kolache_Filling Add Berries
  3. Place saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring, until filling comes to a low boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Blueberry Kolache_Filling Simmering
  5. Set aside and let cool.

Blueberry Kolache_1

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread

One of the hardest parts about moving halfway across the country is making new friends in a strange city. Luckily, the Internet makes it relatively easy to find social groups, volunteer organizations, and more. Within a few weeks of moving to Austin, I started exploring the Austin MeetUp website, where I found several local women’s social groups that appeared to be filled with people I could definitely get along with. Through events these groups have sponsored, I’ve been able to explore Austin while meeting lots of funny, smart, and awesome people who have the potential to become a great group of friends.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cookie swap table

Setting the table before the guests arrive.

I’ve begun to enjoy the people in one group in particular over the past few weeks and wanted to give back by hosting my own MeetUp event for ladies in the group. I decided to host a small Christmas cookie swap for those who were interested as a chance to hang out while also getting a fun collection of holiday treats to enjoy over the coming weeks. As the host, I wanted to make sure I had some salty snacks to compliment the sweets we’d be sampling as well as a little mulled wine for everyone. With so much already on my to do list, I needed make a swap treat that had minimal steps and took little time to bake. Spending hours preparing baking sheet after sheet of cookies seemed like too daunting a task when the floor still needed to be mopped.

Onion Cheddar Bread - finished onion cheese bread

The clear choice for my dilemma was mini-loaves of quick bread. With 3 loaves of bread baked per recipe batch, it would be easy to quadruple the recipe and make the required 12 loaves of bread for the ladies to take home aftewards. I even had 12 cardboard mini loaf pans in the closet waiting to be used! It was fate. A few test runs later, I perfected this super easy, 9-ingredient, savory quick bread. It is perfect with a little butter  or cream cheese served on the side of a smooth tomato soup.

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread
(1) 9-inch loaf bread or (3) mini 4-inch loaves

1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces white cheddar cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounce bottle nut brown ale or porter

1)     Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan or 3 mini 4-inch loaf pans.

2)     Add olive oil to large heavy bottomed skillet over low-medium heat. Add diced onion and cook slowly to caramelize. While the onion is cooking, shred or roughly chop the cheddar cheese. When the onion has just begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool so that it doesn’t melt the cheese.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cook the onions

3)     Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in onions and cheddar until evenly distributed.

Onion Cheddar Bread - whisk dry ingredients

Onion Cheddar Bread - add chredded cheese

Onion Cheddar Bread - stir in onions

4)     Slowly add beer, stirring to fully combine. The final batter will be thick and you will need to spoon it into baking dish. Bake for 50 minutes for a large loaf or 30 minutes for smaller loafs. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing, airtight, in the fridge.

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 1

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 2

Garlic Naan and a Duo of Dips

Many of summer’s best moments include sharing food and laughs with good friends. Whether I am attending a backyard BBQ or picnicking in the park with friends, these moments never fail to make me happy. If I had to pick a favorite place to share sunshine and food with friends though, it would be a winery. Wine makes everything better (obviously) and the bucolic scenery and atmosphere are prefect for unwinding. Share a couple bottles of wine;  indulge in plates of breads, cheese, and crudités; and chat with friends. It really is the perfect day.

As someone who loves to cook and try new recipes, these types of events are extra fun because they give me the chance to try new recipes designed for sharing. So, when Ellen invited me along for a trip to Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn in Delaplane, VA, I immediately said yes and began planning my contribution to the picnic. After some debate, I finally decided on a couple of unique dips and homemade garlic naan.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan with yogurt and lentil dips 2The dips, both based on recipes from Food & Wine, were simple to make – especially the yogurt-mint dip which was a simple as stirring 3 ingredients together – and could easily be served with pita if you aren’t up for making naan.

Really though, you should make the naan! It is more labor intensive than the dips, but it simple and hard to mess up. It is a great recipe for someone who wants to start working with yeast breads but is a bit nervous about the whole process. Tom and I fell in love with the naan, and could have easily eaten every piece if I wasn’t saving it for the picnic.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan with yogurt and lentil dips

Garlic Naan
Adapted from Daydream Kitchen’s Garlic Naan

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
¼ cup white sugar
3 tbs. milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. salt
4 cups bread flour
2 tbs. garlic, minced
⅓ cup butter, melted

1)    In a large bowl combine warm water (approximately 105ºF to 110ºF) with about a teaspoon of your sugar – just eyeball it here- until sugar is fully dissolved. Sprinkle yeast packet over warm water and let stand 10 minutes, until frothy. This is the time I used to mince the garlic.

Naan and 2 Dips-making naan step 1

2)     Stir in remaining sugar, milk, egg, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Once this is all fully combined, add the remaining 3 cups of flour.

Naan and 2 Dips-making naan step 2

3)    Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Begin adding in minced garlic about half way through this process. I added the garlic in 3 different portions to help ensure it made its way throughout the entire dough ball. Dough is read when it is smooth and garlic is pretty evenly distributed.

4)    Place dough in a well oiled bowl, and loosely cover with saran wrap (I spray the saran wrap to avoid the dough sticking to it) and a dry kitchen towel. Let dough rise until it is about double in size. This took about an hour outside on a 95ºF day.

Naan and 2 Dips-let the dough rise 1 Naan and 2 Dips-let the dough rise 2

5)     Punch down dough and pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into rough balls (no need for perfection here), and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan dough balls 2

6)     Preheat a large cast iron pan or grill over high heat.

7)     Roll one dough ball out into a thin circle, about an eight of an inch thick. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with melted butter and flip. Cook another 2 to 4 minutes, until light brown. Continue the process with all of the dough.

8)     If you somehow manage to still have some left, store in an airtight bag or container. It should last 3 or 4 days.

Mint Garlic Dip
Adapted from Food and Wine

2 cups plain Greek yogurt
½ cup finely chopped mint leaves
3-4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
salt & pepper

1)     In a medium sized container with a lid, stir together the yogurt, chopped mince, and minced garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour (flavors will mingle and intensify the longer the dip rests), serve cold with naan or pita.

Naan and 2 Dips- mix the yogurt mint garlic dip

Spicy Lentil Dip
Adapted from Food and Wine

2 cups brown lentils
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large shallots, cut into large chunks
1 quart vegetable broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of half a lemon

1)     In a large sauce pan, combine vegetable broth, carrot, and shallot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the lentils, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until most of the water has been absorbed and the lentils are tender. It took me about half an hour.

Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip step 1 Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip step 1.5

2)     Using a food processor or blender, puree lentils and vegetables (and any leftover liquid). I found this easier to do in 2 batches, and I had to add little more liquid (just less than a ¼ cup) to get it to the right consistency. Set the puree aside.

Naan and 2 Dips- lentil dip step 2

3)     In the original sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the spices to the melted butter and cook for 1-2 minutes. The spices can go from perfect to burned in the blink of an eye, so watch them carefully. Add the pureed lentils and cook for another few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip spices Naan and 2 Dips- lentil dip 3 and a half

4)     Serve warm or room temperature with naan or pita chips.


Gluten Free Pizza Dough

GF Pizza Crust 5When my sister mentioned a week before Thanksgiving she was going completely gluten free I wanted to reach through the phone and slap her silly.  Power to her for the life-style change, but I’m the one in charge of  all the holiday family meals.  I’m the one that had to figure it all out!  How about more than a week’s notice, please?  Luckily for both of us  my curious and experimental nature had already lead me to some dabbling in gluten free recipes.

Now I’m not much of a fad person myself, but I do respect the will-power of those who chose restrictive life-styles (for whatever reasons).  I also GF Pizza Crust 4empathize with those living with food allergies.  However, what is often left out of the conversation are those, like me, that do not have these restrictions, but find themselves thrust suddenly into that world. Emilie and I were discussing this not too long ago just after the New Year.

Who doesn’t love to accommodate their friends and family, but can you imagine how bad your host(ess) might feel if they didn’t know of your GF Pizza Crust 3recent vegan conversion and watched you pick at your bacon wrapped  steak and butter topped asparagus all evening?  Forewarned is forearmed!  Don’t feel bad about giving someone a heads up about your allergies or special diet. When Emilie and I were visiting a friend in San Francisco one Spring Break, I made sure to mentioned that it was Lent, which, after receiving a family dinner invite on a Friday night, allowed enough notice for a Lent friendly meal that everyone could enjoy.  When my friend Sue is in town, I know to keep a container of soy milk on hand for her coffee since she is allergic to dairy.  Now that my sister is gluten-free, I have engineered gluten-free versions of our favorite family GF Pizza Crust 6holiday recipes.  However,  there are still folks that might feel uncomfortable at the potential inconvenience.  Emilie has a great tactic for that.  She offers to bring a dish! This tactic not only ensures there will be at least one thing you can eat, but provides an easy opening to mention what you are not able to eat as well as eases any feeling of inconvenience, because you’re bringing the dish.  Not a bad idea huh?

With that said, many of you are like Emilie and me: food lovers.  We like to eat and cook new things, unfamiliar things.   Our friends are lucky, because we’re the most likely to have that paleo vegan, gluten-soy-nut free recipe in our back pocket.  We’re always experimenting.  My favorite food “fad” to experiment is, as I’ve mentioned, gluten-free substitutions.  So, without further adieu,  for your back-pocket I present this gluten free, thin crust pizza dough!

GF Pizza Dough Pizza 2 cu 2

Gluten Free Pizza Dough

makes 2 9″x 9″ personal pizza crusts

GF Pizza Dough Ingredients

  • 2 ½  cups Gluten-Free Flour (see recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons dried milk powder or dairy-free creamer
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon honey or granulated sugar
  • 1 5/16 ounce package of instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for dough)
  • olive oil for pan
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal for dusting
  1. In a large bowl, blend together the gluten free flour mix, dried milk, baking powder, and corn starch.  Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, add yeast, olive oil, and warm water along with ½ cup of the dry ingredients.GF Pizza Dough Yeast Mixture
  3. Stir to combine and set aside for about 30 minutes.  Mixture should be bubbly and smell yeasty.GF Pizza Dough Yeast Ready
  4. When yeast is ready, add to the remaining dry ingredients.GF Pizza Dough Adding Yeast and Flour
  5. Using a stand or hand mixer, mix at medium-high speed until dough forms. It will not be like the pizza dough you’ve probably made in the past. Instead it will be sticky, like spackling.GF Pizza Dough Sticky Stuff
  6. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit .
  8. Divide dough in half.  If not using right away, grease two sheets of plastic wrap and wrap the two halves separately.GF Pizza Dough Dividing
  9. For a single personal pizza, grease a 9” x 13” baking sheet with olive oil and dust with cornmeal.
  10. Place one of the pizza halves on the baking sheet. Wet your fingers and begin working the dough outwards beginning from the center.  You should be able to get a 9″ x 9″ crust.GF Pizza Dough Forming Crust
  11. Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes before baking the crust in the oven for 8-10 minutes.GF Pizza Dough Crust Resting
  12. Your crust is now ready to become a pizza. After adding desired toppings, bake pizza for about another 10 minutes.GF Pizza Dough Starting to Make Pizza

GF Pizza Dough Topping Pizza    GF Pizza Dough Pizza 2 in the oven

Pinspired: Bourbon Pumpkin Pecan Bread

As you read this Tom and I are on our way toHouston, TX to enjoy the long weekend with his family. This will be my third trip to Texas, but my first to Houston. While most of our time will be spent with Tom’s parents, sister, and larger family, I am planning to do at least a little sight seeing. I had hoped to check out the Johnson Space Center, but with the U.S. government shutdown in full swing, that seems unlikely.

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - sliced bread 2

Since we will be spending most of our time at Tom’s sister’s home, and I was taught to never show up at someone’s front door empty handed, I’ve decide to bring along a few things to say help say thank-you. My original plan was to bring a bottle of Virgina red wine that I picked up during my recent wine outing, but wine doesn’t always travel well and there was a definite risk of travel shock. So, as a back up plan, I decided to bake a loaf of quick bread because, properly wrapped and pack, I was confident it would make the trip in one piece. I originally thought of baking my “healthy” chocolate zucchini bread, but then I remembered that I’d recently pinned a recipe for bourbon pumpkin pecan bread. What follows here is my slightly tweaked recipe based on Belle of the Kitchen’s original recipe, found here.

Bourbon Pumpkin Pecan Bread
makes 2 standard loaves

¾ cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ginger and cloves
4 eggs
15 oz pureed pumpkin
⅔ cup oil
3½ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup bourbon
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cup chopped pecans

1)    Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and lightly flour the bottom of two standard size loaf pans, about 8.5 x4.5×2.5 inches.

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - prepare loaf pans

2)     Use a fork to whisk together sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove in a small bowl.

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - whick sugars together

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - whisk spice into sugar mixture

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - whisked sugar and spices

3)      In a large bowl whisk together eggs, oil, and pureed pumpkin. Add sugar mixture to bowl and whisk to combine. Stir in 2 cups of flour.

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - whisk egg pumpkin and oil
Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - mix sugar and pumpkin mixture

4)     In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together bourbon and buttermilk and carefully fold into batter.

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - add bourbon buttermilk

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - fold in bourbon buttermilk

5)    Sprinkle baking powder, baking soda, and salt on top of the batter and stir well to incorporate. Add in remaining flour and mix until just incorporated.

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - add leaveners

6)     Fold the chopped pecans into the batter.

7)     Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared loaf pans and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - pour batter into pans

8)     Once bread has been removed from the oven, let the loafs pans cool until comfortable to handle and then remove loaves. Set on wire rack to cool completely before storing.

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - finished bread

Bourbon Pumpkin  Bread - sliced bread 3

Easy Sourdough Sandwich Bread

There is something about warm bread, especially sourdough bread, on a cool Sunday afternoon in the autumn that just makes me want to melt. The smell wafts throughout my tiny apartment and, combined with the lavender candle I burn, are exactly what I think love would smell like if it were, well, a smell.  Once the bread is out of the oven and just cool enough to touch, I can’t resist cutting a slice slathering it with butter and blackberry jam. With a cup of tea this is possibly the best snack ever in the world, especially if your using homemade jam.

So if you are ready to take your sourdough starter from Monday’s post for a spin while enjoying your own version of the perfect Sunday afternoon, look no further.  This is a straight forward, easy recipe for someone starting out with sourdough breads. It uses a little commercial yeast to help the rising process and the use of bread pans helps ensure that the bread keeps an attractive shape during the final rise and baking times.  While the whole process takes a long time – it starts the night before you want the fresh bread – it requires minimal hands on work. I’m still working to perfect a free form sourdough recipe for sourdough bread bowls, but in the meantime this is a great recipe to use while getting used to working with sourdough. If you start to feel adventurous, you may even be able to cut out the commercial yeast and use only fed sourdough starter to make your bread.

Easy Sourdough Sandwich Bread

2 cups  water
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups fed sourdough starter*
3 cups bread flour
3 cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoon sea salt (or table salt)

*For fed sourdough starter you will need 1 cup sourdough from the fridge, ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour, and ½ cup warm water.

1)     In a large mixing bowl, 1 cup sourdough starter with ½ a cup each unbleached flour and warm water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

2)     In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl combine 2 cups warm water with the yeast and let sit 1-2 minutes until the yeast is completely dissolved. Pour into the bowl with the fed sourdough starter and stir to combine.

3)     Add all 3 cups bread flour and 2-3 cups all-purpose flour (you may not need all of the flour, it depends on how much liquid is in your starter) to the liquids, alternating one cup at a time and mixing completely between each cup. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to knead.

4)     Knead for a minute or two just to bring the dough together into a ball. Sprinkle the dough with some flour and let sit for 5 minutes. During this time, enzymes will begin to break the starches into sugar and relax the gluten strands, making it easier for you to knead.

5)     After 5 minutes, flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and sprinkle on half of the salt. Fold the dough in half, flatten again, and sprinkling on the rest of the salt. Fold in half and knead the dough for 10 minutes. If the dough becomes so gummy that it’s sticking to the board or your hands, add a tablespoon or two of the extra flour.

6)     Let the dough sit for another 5 minutes and then knead for a final 10 minutes. The dough is ready if it springs back when you poke it with your finger.

7)     Clean out your mixing bowl and lightly coat it with oil. Set your dough in the bowl and turn it a few times to coat it with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. The long slow rise time will help the dough develop its slightly sour taste.

Dough after rising overnight in the fridge.

8)     Divide the dough into two equal portions, loosely shape them into balls, and let them rest for 20 minutes to relax the gluten. Meanwhile grease two loaf pans with nonstick spray, butter, or other grease.

9)     Shape the dough into loaves by slightly flattening each ball and shaping them into rough rectangles. Fold the rectangles in three like a business letter and pinch the seam closed. Flatten slightly and fold the dough in half one more time, pinching the seam again.

10)     Place loaves in the pans seam-side down and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the dough has just crested the top of the pan. One hour into rising time, preheat the oven to 450-degrees Fahrenheit. Place an oven-safe pan (like a broiler pan) in the very bottom of the oven.

11)     When the loaves are ready, bring two cups of water to a boil. Using a sharp serrated knife, slash the tops of the loaves in three or four places about 1/2 inch deep. Slide the loaves into the oven and pour the boiling water into the pan. Close the door immediately to trap in the steam.

12)     Bake for 10 minutes and then rotate the loaves in the oven for even baking. Also, I used a spray bottle and this point and sprayed the loaves with additional water.

13)      When the loaves begin to show color, decrease the heat to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.

14)     Continue baking for a total of 25-30 minutes. Loaves are done when they are deeply golden and brown, when they sound hollow if you thump the bottoms with a finger, and when a thermometer registers an internal temperature of 190-degrees Fahrenheit.

Sourdough Starter

My current apartment doesn’t allow me to have pets and I haven’t gotten around to buying any house plants because I’m still trying to figure out where in they will get enough light. Without a roommate, this means I live well and truly alone without another living thing in my apartment. That was, until several weeks ago when I decided it was time to give making a sourdough starter another shot.

During grad school, one of my friends had shared with me a portion of her sourdough starter at the beginning of our second year, along with a very simple, no-knead bread recipe. For the rest of the year, it became my weekly habit to make a loaf of fresh bread to have around the house. So, when it came time to move, I packed up my starter in a tupperware container and nestled it carefully alongside me in the front seat of my car. It felt great to know I could continue making fresh bread while living with my mom and even share some of the starter when I finally moved out.

My plans were dashed, when, for whatever reason, the sourdough starter did not survive the trip. Whether it was the shock of the 10 hour drive (highly unlikely, but if anyone were going to have high maintenance sourdough starter, it’d be me) or the well water at my mom’s place, which is treated with chlorine (a far more likely cause, as the chlorine would kill off all of my living yeast). But I wasn’t ready to give up, so I tried several methods to make a starter from scratch, but it just never seemed to last (more proof it was probably the water) so I decided it was time to stop trying.

Then I moved back to D.C. and the first thing I bought myself was a faucet mounted filtration system. Is D.C. water going to kill you? Not at all. But this way I actually want to drink it. A few weeks after settling in, I was pouring myself a glass of water when I realized my filtration system would ensure I had chlorine free, “fresh” water that would be perfect for keeping a starter alive. So I did some research, and then some more research, and finally collected my supplies. It’s been almost 2 months now since I made my sourdough starter and it is still going strong. I’ve even used to make a really awesome sandwich bread (check back for the recipe on Friday). Confident that my starter is around for the long haul, I’ve given him a name – Bob (did I mention I live very very alone…). Below are the ingredients and method I used to make my sourdough starter and the method I have been using to keep my starter alive.

Sourdough Starter
2 cups lukewarm water (about 100ºF)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 cup unbleached white flour
2 packages instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey

Getting Started
1)      Dissolve the honey in the warm water  in a large plastic or glass container and sprinkle yeast on top. Make sure the container is large enough to allow your starter to rise and bubble without pouring over the sides of the container.

2)     Let the yeast and honey mixture sit until it begins to bubble then stir in flours. Cover loosely with a towel or loose lid. Make sure air can escape.

This container turned out not to be large enough. Later in the day I came back and there was sourdough starter all over the counter…

3)     Let rest for 2-4 days, stirring daily, until a sour yeasty smell has developed. The starter may separate with a layer of liquid forming on the top of the mixture, this is fine, just mix that back in.

4)    For about a week, feed and nurture the starter so that it has a strong foundation. Once a day, remove about 2/3 cup of mixture and replace with ½ cup flour and ½ cup warm water.

5)     At this point you can pour it into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator, either using it or feeding it at least once a week.

Maintaining the Starter
Keeping your sourdough starter alive is pretty simple. One method has you keep it on your counter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and feeding it 2x a day. This was how I kept my starter in Michigan, but I was going through so much flour it became impossible to maintain. So I was thrilled to learn that you can put your starter to “sleep” in the fridge for long periods of time, removing the need for daily feedings. This is the method I suggest and give instructions for below. I try to take my sourdough starter out every weekend, but you can also do it every other week with no ill effects.

1)     Every Friday I take my sourdough starter out of the fridge and pour off the liquid that has formed at the top.

2)     Stir it really well and let it sit for about 30 minutes to warm up a little.

3)     Remove approximately 2/3 of the starter and do one of 3 things: (A) pour it down the drain, (B) set it aside in a non-metallic (tupperware or canning jar) to gift to a friend, or (C) feed it for use in a sourdough bread recipe.

4)     Add to the remaining starter 1/2 cup warm filtered water and 1/2 cup unbleached white flour or whole wheat flour (I like to mix it up, using whole wheat one time and unbleached white the next). Whisk together well and let sit loosely covered on your counter. You will know your sourdough is still alive and kicking if it gets bubbly and frothy after you feed it.

5)     Leave the sourdough starter out all weekend, feeding again on Saturday and Sunday before putting to bed Sunday night in a sealed container.

Amish Friendship Bread Lesson Learned – Lemon Balm Whole Wheat Muffins

There are times when I wonder whether I just like to punish myself. You all know how I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing. I try to approach my whole life that way. When it comes to recipes, I rack my brain for days trying to think of new flavor combinations or find that new unique twist to a classic. So the day my sister announced on Facebook that she had Friendship Bread starter, I knew I was about to receive a new “pet” (yeast is alive after all). I also knew that I was NOT going to make the Friendship Bread everyone else was making.  As you will see, this is where the punishing myself bit comes into play.

You may recall that this is the first summer where I did not murder all of my potted herbs. In fact, except for the dill and parsley, they all flourished, particularly the lemon balm. With such an abundance of the stuff, I decided to make lemon friendship bread using lemon balm to give it a nice freshness and that unique twist I am always searching for. And what about cutting down all that sugar and trying honey and Greek yogurt? Sure, why not?

Never having made friendship bread myself before, I was not sure what I was looking for, so when the batter came out a bit soupy, I didn’t bat an

Soupy batter = NOT GOOD

eye and went ahead and poured it into muffin tins. Ummm…how do I describe the disaster that was the final product? Flat, gummy and tough, over half the muffin stuck to the paper liner. Think dry cornbread meets an over beaten muffin batter. Nasty, I know.

At first I thought it was my starter. When I made these muffins, I had gone a little past the “10 day” mark. I thought maybe the yeast had started to die and lose its rising power. So I gave the starter a feeding and I gave it a little boost with an added packet of commercial yeast. Wow, did that starter grow and ferment nicely over the next ten days…and still the same results!

Disaster! Flat, gummy muffins!

What was I doing wrong? I searched the internet and looked up other recipes and mine seemed comparable. Then I did various google searches on “Why are my muffins coming out tough?” or “What causes gummy muffins?”. The majority of sites tried to tell me I was over mixing my batter. Ha! Not a chance, I know better than that! Searching, searching, searching…what am I doing wrong???? Then I found this AWESOME site (apparently the original went out of business so I am happy someone still has the info posted out there!).  It boiled down to the batter being too wet.

Kind of a slap yourself in the head with a “Duh!” moment. I had not taken into account  that both honey and the Greek yogurt add liquid to the recipe. Soupy = not good! So I swapped the yogurt out for olive oil and reduced the amount by a quarter cup, used sugar instead of honey, and cut out one egg. Needless to say they came out perfect that time around and every time since! Yippee!!

Amish Friendship Bread, a Variation – Lemon Balm Whole Wheat Muffins

Makes 2 1/2 dozen
Wet Ingredients
  • 1 Cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
  • 2 Eggs
  • ½ Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Dry Ingredients
  •  1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 large  Package of Vanilla or Lemon Pudding
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ Teaspoon Table Salt
Other Ingredients
  • ¼ Cup Lemon Balm, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Large Lemon, juiced and zested


  1. Preheat oven to Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease muffin tins if not using liners.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift or whisk together all dry ingredients until well blended.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine your starter with all the other wet ingredients and the lemon zest.
  4. Gradually fold in dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until fully incorporated.  Do not over mix, or you will get a nasty looking and tasting muffins.
  5. Fold in the lemon balm.
  6. Fill the tins, spooning about ¼ cup of the muffin mix for each muffin.
  7. Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes, until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

What’s for Brunch? – Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

A month ago, I shared with you a dish I made for my mom’s birthday brunch. Well now it’s my dad’s turn. This time my sister was the hostess for breakfast, which took place at the parentals’ , but she did ask if there was anything I would like to contribute. After some going back and forth,  it was finally decided I would make the biscuits for one of my dad’s favorite breakfast dishes: biscuits and gravy! Yup, he is definitely a southern boy, despite being from Indiana. My southern belle grandma (who is from Kentucky) raised her kids on good ol’ southern fixin’s.

As I was gathering the ingredients the night before, I ran into a snafu .  I forgot to buy the gosh darn buttermilk! Don’t ask me how I could forget the key ingredient to buttermilk biscuits, but I did. Luckily, there is a handy dandy substitute readily available using items already in your kitchen: regular milk and white vinegar. I actually use this substitute a lot when I get a sudden craving for red velvet cake, another recipe for which buttermilk is a key ingredient. Disaster successfully diverted! Phew!

No sooner said than done, my kitchen was smelling of fresh baking biscuits. The little darlings were so cute. When I pulled them out of the oven I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple and smothering them in butter and jam. After all,  I had to make sure they were perfect for my dad’s birthday. So, sooooo goood!

Buttermilk Biscuit Minis

makes 20-24 mini biscuits
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 ½  teaspoons baking powder
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl
  3. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or with two forks until mixture resembles coarse meal. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine milk and vinegar, stir and let set for about five minutes.
  5.  Add honey to your newly made buttermilk, stirring with a whisk until well blended.
  6. Add buttermilk mixture to your dry ingredients and combine until just moist.
  7. Flour your workspace and turn dough out onto it. Knead lightly, about five times.
  8. Roll dough into a 9”x5” rectangle. Dust top with flour.
  9. Fold dough into thirds, just like you would a letter to fit into an envelope. Repeat two more times.
  10. Roll dough to ¾” thickness then cut with a 1 ¾” round biscuit cutter (Or a shot glass like I did! It gave me biscuits about an inch in diameter)). You should be able to get about 20 -24 rounds.
  11. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, keeping about an inch in between rounds.
  12. Bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Brush tops with butter if desired and serve piping hot.


French Toast with Caramelized Bananas or Balsamic Strawberries

When I made my Healthy Brioche the first time, I thought, “This would make an amazing french toast!” Unfortunately,  I ate it all too fast and before the weekend came, along with it’s precious time,  I had finished the whole loaf. In my defense, a slice of the brioche toasted and topped with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter got me through the hectic weekday mornings. Having the same on those weekday evenings while I made dinner kept me from devouring 1,000 calories in one sitting! Ah mi!  Then a few weekends later I was able to make another brioche loaf and the first thing I did (well, the first thing I did the next day, which was thankfully a Saturday) was make me some french toast. Wohoo!

Now Emilie and I are both bringing you two delicious versions of french toast. Today, you have  my notorious sweet tooth to thank for this version of the traditional sweet variety. Then tonight, I get to be Emilie’s guinea pig for her version of french toast. While we prep for the Virginia Wine Expo and go over our tasting notes from last weekend’s Girls Day Out with our friends, we’ll be doing it over a french toast with  a savory twist…and stuffed to boot! Yeah! Breakfast for dinner! Stay tuned for that recipe!

French Toast with your Choice of Caramelized Bananas or Balsamic Strawberries

Serves 1*



French Toast
  • Two thick slices brioche bread (try our recipe)
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon, freshly ground
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
  • ¼ cup half and half or cream
Caramelized Banana Topping
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 banana, sliced
Balsamic Strawberry Topping
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ – ¾ cup strawberries

*Batter probably is enough for two servings depending on how much your bread soaks up


French Toast
  1. Crack egg into a shallow bowl and whisk to scramble.
  2. Add half and half or cream, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the egg and whisk to combine.
  3. Heat a pan over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray if using non-stick.
  4. Dip the bread slices into the batter making sure each side is nicely coated and soaks up enough batter to become just a little squishy to the touch (but not enough that the bread falls apart on you!!!)                            
  5. Place bread in pan, either one at a time or both depending on how large your pan is.
  6. Cook on each side until golden.
  7. Serve topped with Caramelized Bananas or Balsamic Strawberries and with your favorite breakfast sides.
Caramelized Bananas
  1. After finishing cooking the French Toast, remove pan from heat and allow to cool just a little
  2.  Lower heat to medium-low
  3. Add butter to the pan and allow to melt.
  4. Once butter is melted, add the corn syrup and stir to mix well
  5. Raise heat back to medium
  6. Add bananas to the syrup mixture and mix to coat the fruit
  7. Allow the bananas to cook until soft and caramelized and the syrup thickens
Balsamic Strawberries
  1. After finishing cooking the French Toast, remove pan from heat and allow to cool just a little
  2.  Lower heat to medium-low
  3. Add butter to the pan and allow to melt.
  4. Once butter is melted, add the corn syrup  and stir to mix well
  5. Raise heat back to medium
  6. Add the strawberries to the pan along with the balsamic vinegar.
  7. Allow the strawberries to cook in the syrup until tender. (You may slice them once they soften and let them simmer some more in the balsamic syrup if you wish.)
  8. Optional: add a dollop of plain or vanilla Greek yogurt before serving