October 06, 2011

R.I.P. Xam

It takes time. I know that, of course. Still it took from mid-June when his time on earth was done until now- early October- for me to be able to write a post in honor of the bread baker's dog, Xam on what I think of as his blog.

He lived a long time for a big black lab...15 years in fact. He was in pretty good health until about Christmas time when we noticed he was having trouble breathing now and then. The vet confirmed that and said that a valve that regulates breathing had worn out. Over the next six months it grew gradually worse, although some of the time he still seemed like a young dog, especially when we took walks. Even that changed about March or April. The walks became shorter although he still loved to be out in nature.

I still bake bread, although I don't blog about it as much...most of the bread is just slight variations of ones I've posted before. When the house smells so good with the fragrance of warm bread I know that Xam is with us in spirit, tail wagging, ready for his taste of what is fresh out of the oven. I carry his enthusiasm for life and good food with me as a gift. Thank you Xam for all the good years.

July 25, 2010

Visit Feeding My Enthusiasms For More Recent Bread Posts

Xam, the Bread Baker's Dog is long suffering these days. A drawn out bathroom remodel has been creating upheaval and too much noise as far as he is concerned. It has also keep the Bread Baker busy and given me less time to bake (or cook) so for the moment I'm only posting at Feeding My Enthusiasms.

Hope to be back to posting bread recipes here next month! Will this sausage bread lure you to the other blog?

May 14, 2010

Oatmeal Bread for Sandwiches

There is something so satisfying about biting into a sandwich made with your own bread. Although my Mom had few choices for grocery store bought bread in the ancient days when I was young, she did try to go with bread that had some substance although white bread was still the norm. Eventually she found that she could buy Trappist Monks bread somewhere and that was good bread, although still white...not a whole grain in sight.

Eventually my Dad began making bread on the weekends so our sandwiches suddenly became worth making and toast was fabulous! He liked white bread, so mostly that's what we had, although sometimes he would add some whole wheat flour.

Not sure if it was the bread of my lack of interest in the fillings, but I spent most of my childhood not liking sandwiches (except for bacon, lettuce and tomato). I would pack soup for lunch in a thermos container, salads in Tupperware later in high school, and little containers of cottage cheese if I could convince my Mom to buy them. For a long time our sandwich wrappers were sheets of wax paper, then wax paper sandwich bags. Plastic didn't show up until I was in late high school or in college and even then it had a flap you tucked in so nothing too messy could be packed.

I still choose leftovers over sandwiches most of the time, but with a loaf of home made Oatmeal Sunflower on the counter, I took a sandwich to work this week. Due to lots of visitors I only worked the one day, but that sandwich hit the spot at lunchtime. This bread was made with cooked rolled oats and it has lots of chewiness, sunflower seeds scattered through it, and a nice crust, too, plus sourdough flavor. The oatmeal bread was first sliced from the loaf, toasted, slathered with grainy mustard, stacked with thinly sliced roast turkey, topped with lettuce and another slice of that toasted bread. Yum!

For the loaf I used the second piece of the dough that I also used for a Lemon Marmalade Braid, and the recipe can be found here. Check it out!

May 08, 2010

A Sweet Bread and Some Awards

Awesome Bread Babe Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups kindly gave my blog an award and I've been lagging in passing it on. Time to correct that!

For winning the award, I’m suppose to tell you and Tanna 7 things about myself ... beautiful things, interesting things (hopefully), blogging things...perhaps:

One: Baking and cooking provide things to eat and drink, but for me they are a way of being creative.

Two: Recipes are where the creative spark starts for me much of the time. They provide a focus for the ingredients and flavors, a source of proportions of components, essentials like baking temperature. From there my imagination takes flight...sometimes with unexpected results :)

Three: Enthusiasms come and go. I also blog over at Feeding My Enthusiasms and started this blog when my enthusiasm for sourdough was at full spate and dominated my posts. Now it seems that I post here about once a month, although I still bake with sourdough once a week or so.

Four: I love coffee! Can't drink the stuff after about 2 pm if I want to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, but a little decaf is OK. Both kinds go great with a piece of toasted sourdough.

Five: Gardening, especially vegetable gardening, is a passion. My Mom passed on her love of flower growing and my Dad his love of vegetable growing. Even when I lived in an apartment I figured out a way to grow veggies. My favorite Bread Baking Babes recipe was the asparagus bread.

Six: Meeting bloggers whose blogs you enjoy and admire is very rewarding and special. Have not done the convention settings because you generally don't connect in that kind of setting, but maybe I should try it.

Seven: I have been ver, very fortunate in my family, friends, most jobs, places I've lived and most especially in Sweetie, my husband and I thank God all the time for each of those.

The other part of the award of course is to pass it along to 7 more bloggers - these are beautiful blogs and bloggers, some relatively new to me, some old friends, listed in alpha order:


The garden often takes precedence when time is limited in the spring. It's nice to find a dessert recipe that lets me do other things while it gets ready for baking in its own sweet time!

With strawberry season finally here it’s always fun to think of new ways to serve the luscious, sweet , red, juicy fruit. With sourdough starter in the fridge needing to be fed regularly it’s always a challenge to find a new way to use the toss off.

The two came together this week in the form of a sourdough savarin with strawberries and some whipped cream. I have been wanting to make a savarin for years but was never brave enough. It looked complicated, but was actually easy. There was only one minor mishap: I soaked the baked savarin with a sugar syrup that had some grated lemon zest in it. After enjoying my serving I decided that I should have used a sugar syrup that had something with more punch added - like rum or lemencello. The sourdough flavor was dominant and needed the foil of another strong flavor. Any suggestions?

We are still getting strawberries, so I have more opportunities to trick this recipe out with something delicious in the sugar syrup which the savarin soaks up just like a sponge.

Other than the slight lack of balance in the strength of flavors this was a delicious dessert. The cake/bread was moist from the sugar syrup, tender and with just a bit of chewiness. It sank a little bit so I should perhaps have added an additional 1/4 cup flour. The cream and strawberries provided color, texture and flavor contrasts.

I know that Julia, Dorie and David may not have had sourdough in mind when they included their recipe in Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan with the recipe contributed by David Blom, so I changed it to use the starter.

One of the neat things about making this is that the cook’s time is pretty short. I had lots to do the evening I made it so I ate lunch while the stand mixer did its job. Went grocery shopping while it rose the second time in its ring pan. Made a salad while it baked. Allow more time for it to cool before you douse it liberally with the sugar syrup…and give me some ideas on additions to that syrup, OK?

Since this was a personal challenge, I’m sending it to Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn for one of my High Five entries - I Did It!

It’s also going to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly wonderful event, Yeastspotting.

Sourdough Savarin with Strawberries and Cream
Makes a large savarin ring

The Dough
1 cup sourdough starter at room temperature
½ teaspoon instant yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons ( 12/ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature

Put the sourdough starter, instant yeast, lukewarm water and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Put bowl with the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the flour, ¼ cup at a time with mixer on low speed, just until the ingredients are blended. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat for about 8 minutes (see, it was a quick lunch) until the mixture is smooth. Add the butter and beat on low only until the butter is absorbed, 1 – 3 minutes.

Removed bowl from mixer and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place (85 – 90 degrees F) for about 15 minutes, just until slightly risen. It will not double. (If your room or rising place is cooler, it may take longer. You are looking for a noticeable increase in volume and a lightness.)

Once dough has risen slightly, brush a ring mold with clarified butter (although I just rubbed the inside surface of my monkey bread pan with soft butter) and fill with the dough. NOTE: If you don’t have a ring mold, you can use a Bundt pan or, probably, and angel food pan or gelatin mold with a center ring.

Cover the mold with plastic wrap and let rise in a very warm place for about 30 minute, or until dough fills the ring mold. (Since my rising place was cooler, each rising took longer…but that way I could get to the grocery store and back AND unpack the groceries while the oven was preheating!)

Position the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Carefully put the savarin on a parchment or silicon mat lined jelly roll pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until it is golden and starts to shrink from the sides of the mold. Unmold onto a cooling rack and cool completely before soaking.

For Soaking and Assembly:
Sugar Syrup
2 pints fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1 pint heavy cream, whipped with 1 tablespoon of sugar until soft peaks form

Sugar Syrup
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
Grated zest from one lemon
(Something stronger??)

Put the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for 30 seconds and then turn off the heat.

Line a jelly roll pan with waxed paper and set a cooling rack on tip of it. Place the savarin on the cooling rack. Spoon the hot syrup over the savarin, a few tablespoons at a time, continuing to soak the pastry until it is plump and cannot hold any more liquid.

When ready to serve, slice the savarin into serving portions, place on a plate and spoon on a generous amount of sliced strawberries. Dollop with whipped cream and serve.

April 28, 2010

One Potato Two Potato

The Bread Baking Babes usually come up with great bread recipes to bake. I don't always have the time between when they post and when a "Buddy" post needs to be up, but this time I did.

I woke up early today and decided to quietly peel and boil some potatoes for the mashed potatoes so that they would be cool for later baking. The house smelled great and it smelled even better when I baked the bread for dinner.

In between was a lot of running around looking at shower door samples and getting paint chips and getting shower stall samples and looking at vanities and sinks and mixer valves. Fun, but time consuming. The dough that had been left to rise at noon when we were just going a ten minute drive away to pick up a window turned into many hours gone. Fortunately this dough didn't seem to suffer from my neglect. I used about twice as much chives as the recipe called for. No soy milk in the house, either, so I used 2%. For the water at the beginning of the recipe I used the water that I had cooked the potatoes in, although it had cooled down.

The two smaller loaves I made baked up beautifully. The crust was golden and had a nice crackle. The interior crumb was fine and moist and very flavorful. I'm afraid that Sweetie ate about a third of the loaf while it was still warm...and who can blame him?

I'm going to try some toasted tomorrow morning. Bet it would be great with some cream cheese.

Thanks to Sara for choosing this great bread. My dough was a bit sticky but that's what bench scrapers are for. The contrast between the crisp crust and moist interior was really great! I did brush a little beaten egg over the loaves just before I slit the tops. Gives them a nice color and shine.

The recipe below includes my changes. For the original recipe and to become a Bread Baking Babes Buddy, go to Sara's blog, I Like to Cook.

Potato Bread with Chives
adapted from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

"The addition of mashed potatoes gives this bread a moist, dense texture and delicate flavor that is accented by that of the chives. This bread is best eaten slightly warm from the oven on the day it is made. It is also good toasted."

2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water that the potatoes were cooked in
1 tsp pure maple syrup
2 Tb safflower oil
2 tsp salt
1 cup cold mashed potatoes
1 cup 2% milk
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
¼ cup minced fresh chives
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and 1/4 cup of the potato water. Add the maple syrup and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, then stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of potato water, the safflower oil and the salt. Mix in the potatoes, then stir in the milk. Add about half the flour, stirring to combine, then work in the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Transfer to a lightly floured board.

Lightly flour your hands and work surface. Knead the dough well until it is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes, using more flour as necessary so the dough does not stick. Place in a large lightly oiled bowl and turn over once to coat with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, lightly oil a large baking sheet and set aside. Punch the dough down and knead lightly. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle with the chives, and knead until the dough is elastic and the chives are well distributed, 3 to 5 minutes. Shape the dough into one large or two small round loaves and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly and cover with a clean damp towel or lightly oiled plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400'F. Paint the loaves with beaten egg. Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the loaf or loaves. Bake on the center oven rack until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size. Tap on the bottom of the loaf or loaves - if they sound hollow, the bread is done. Remove from the sheet and let cool slightly on a wire rack before slicing.

April 19, 2010

Morning Walk - Evening Boule

Sunday morning was glorious. I woke up with the sunrise and we took the Bread Baker's Dog on a walk by the Laguna. The morning mist was rising off of the shallows, a grebe's wake was perfectly reflected in the still water and a pair of ducks waddled together across a baseball field whose verdant grass was dense with dew. It felt good to be with my Sweetie and dog...good to be alive on such a beautiful day. Here is a photo of Xam on the walk. His birthday is this month and he is 15 years old but still takes a long walk every day and seems to highly enjoy it.

The day before we walked I fed my sourdough starter and made a fairly simple boule to go with our dinner pasta.My original plan had been to shape the dough into a long torpedo shaped loaf but, once shaped, I had covered it with plastic wrap to rise. Thought that the wrap was oiled, but apparently the oiled side was up, so in peeling it off I lost the shape. Not wanting to wait for it to rise again, I just shaped it into a ball, tucked the ends under and baked it. Julia Child would have approved I think.

This boule had simple ingredients: white and whole wheat flour, salt, water, sourdough starter and a little olive oil. It was fine grained, with a moist crumb and mild sour flavor.

Had a slice toasted this morning as we waited for the fellow to come and measure for our new shower pan. I liked that the toasting brought out the crunch of the crust. I started the loaf in a 450 degree F oven and added a pie pan of water right at the beginning of baking...some even spilled on the bottom of the oven. The steam helped create an nice crisp crust with a little crackle to it.

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting event. It is a treasure trove of great recipes using yeast and yeasted items. Check it out!

Simple Sourdough Boule
makes 1 loaf

1 cup 100% hydration sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups unbleached white bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
enough extra bread flour to make a slightly tacky dough

In the bowl of a stand mixer equiped with a dough hook, mix the starter, water and olive oil. In a large bowl whisk together the flours and salt.

With machine running on low, add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture, letting the dough climb the dough hook. Add enough additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, as needed, to create a soft, slightly tacky dough.

Turn out onto a lightly flour surface and knead for a minute or two to make sure dough is well combined. Form into a ball.

Place ball in lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2-3 hours, longer if your house is cool.

You can also let the dough rise for an hour or so and then let it stay overnight in the fridge, then continue the rise in the morning in a warm, draft free place. This will intensify the flavors of the grains and sourdough.

Punch dough down and shape into a ball, tucking ends under. Place on parchment or a silicon mat and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Paint the surface of the ball lightly with egg wash and slash in a few places...I make three slashed across the top...then place in a preheated 450 degrees F oven. If you have a pizza or bread stone, make sure that you have preheated that as well as the oven. Place a pan of water on the lower shelf or bottom of the oven. Splash a bit out if you want more steam. Let bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake another 40 - 45 minutes or until boule is golden brown and, when turned over and tapped, gives off a hollow sound.

Cool, right side up, at least 15 minutes, then slice and serve warm or at room temperature. Great toasted, too!

Have to give equal time to our wonderful cat Merlin. Here is creates the perfect scene with spring tulips and a garden hose.

March 10, 2010

Pancakes Are Bread, Too

You should have seen Xam this past weekend. He sat just outside of the kitchen, patiently waiting as I cooked the pancakes on the griddle, trying on his big brown eyed 'feed me' look. Sweetie got the first plate of pancakes, liberally garnished with a lovely apple-pomegranate-cranberry-cinnamon compote. Xam looked even more anxious. Then I managed to scorch two of the pancakes at the back of the grill...the heat on that burner was too high. Lucky dog! Once they were cooled a bit he was the recipient of some slightly burnt but good bread...pancakes, but still bread.

A few days before I made these sourdough pancakes I took the ‘toss off’ from feeding the starter and put in a bowl and added a slurry of a cup of flour and 3/4 cup of water, whisked together. Once those were whisked together I let it sit out on the counter overnight to get some good yeast action going on, then put it in the fridge in the morning.

Because some of the preparation had already been done, the pancakes went together very quickly. I probably should have let the batter sit another hour before cooking them for fluffier pancakes, but we were hungry…so I poured the batter on the hot griddle very shortly after stirring in the last ingredients.

The first set of pancakes were fairly flat, but delicious even so. The next batch was fatter and the next batch were just like regular pancakes. I love the sour tang and tender texture, plus they seem to get a nice golden crust when I start with sourdough starter instead of packaged yeast. Molasses added depth, flax seed some texture, and buttermilk it’s own contribution of tang and tenderness. All in all these were excellent pancakes for a weekend morning…although they would taste fine any day of the week.

To gild the lily I made the fruit compote to go on top. Sliced Braeburn apples went into a saucepan with some POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, some dried cranberries (which became soft and gorgeous with the steaming), a shake or two of cinnamon, and a bit of sugar. I covered the pan and simmered it until the apples and cranberries were soft, then uncovered the pan and let the juices cook down a bit for a syrup. The pancakes were excellent but with the apple pomegranate cinnamon compote they were extraordinary!

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for the week's Yeastspotting event. Always a bread bakers fantasy land, so check it out!

Sourdough Pancakes with Flax Seed
Serves about 4 people

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups all purpose flour, divided
¾ cup water
1 egg at room temperature
1 tablespoon molasses
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup sweet milk (I used 2%)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flax seed

Place the sourdough starter in a bowl at least twice as big in volume. In another bowl whisk together 1 cup of the flour and the ¾ cup water. Add it to the starter and whisk to combine. Leave, uncovered, in a cool place (60-65 degrees F) overnight. In the morning cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

In the next day or two or three, remove the bowl with the starter mixture from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Then whisk in the egg, molasses, butter, buttermilk and milk.

In another bowl, whisk together the second cup of flour, the salt and the flax seed. Add this to the starter mixture, creating a batter about the consistency of heavy cream.

Let sit for half an hour if you have more patience than I do, or use right away. Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium high heat until a drop of water dropped on the surface sizzles. Add a light coating of oil or butter or margarine, then scoop about 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake onto the hot griddle.

Cook until small bubbles form around the edges, flip over and continue cooking until cooked through and golden brown. Serve while hot.

Apple Pomegranate Cinnamon Compote

1 large Braeburn (or your favorite kind) apple, cored and sliced. Note: I like to leave the peel on apples but you can peel them if you prefer, then slice them
1 cup POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon white or brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of ground cloves if you like cloves

Place apple slices, pomegranate juice, sugar, cinnamon and cloves (if using) in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Place over medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cover and continue simmering until sauce is the consistency you like. Serve warm or cold. Good over vanilla ice cream, too.