This has been a busy week in our kitchen. There has only been one day that I wasn’t in the kitchen baking or cooking. It’s been a busy week, but a good week. It went something like this:
Sunday: I started the dough for sourdough bread. We’ve completely stopped buying bread, especially since I calculated that it costs us about 60¢ to make a large loaf of sourdough. Better tasting and cheaper? Win-win.
|One of the few gingerbreads that came out of the pan cleanly.|
Tuesday: I tested a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookies for pear, pistachio and ginger blondies. Oh. My. Goodness! And I do mean goodness! These are so good I regret not making them sooner. When those were done I also made cappuccino cupcakes with mocha buttercream.
|I absolutely loved these blondies. It was hard to give them away.|
|These aren't the actual cupcakes I made Tuesday.|
This is an older photo of the same recipe I made for a friend's wedding.
Wednesday: Except for the sourdough bread (which was for us), most of the gingerbread, blondies and cupcakes were delivered to my former colleagues and coworkers and the staff in Tug’s office for Administrative Professionals’ Day - just to remind them that I appreciate what they do. It was my intention to take a photo of all of the goodies in the boxes, but I got in a hurry and it didn’t happen. After I got home from making deliveries, I spent several hours making Bolognese sauce for dinner that night. It was Tug’s birthday, but since he doesn’t like cake, he got pasta.
Thursday: I mixed up two different brioche doughs. I made a batch plain dough for sticky buns. Just for experimentation purposes, I decided to try using my smaller, 4.5 quart mixer. I won’t be doing that again. I ended up cutting out 10 minutes of the mixing time because the little thing seemed to be on the verge of having a hot flash. I moved on to the larger, 6-quart mixer to make the dough for peanut butter brioche. (This was a quasi-joking suggestion from my friend, Rhonda, who likes peanut butter much more than chocolate.) The peanut butter brioche dough will be frozen for another day.
Friday: The intent was to finish the sticky buns, but running out of brown sugar side tracked those plans. I did have enough to make the caramel “goo” for them, but didn't have any left for the filling. We have a big, stock-up-the-pantry, grocery shopping day on Sunday, so the sticky buns will wait until then to be finished. In the meantime, all of the brioche dough has been wrapped, wrapped again, bagged and stashed in the freezer. (And a brief rant: cling wrap has to be one of the most vile, man-made creations ever! If I need it to stick to itself, it won’t. If I’m trying to lay it out flat, it’s like a magnet to itself. To me, this stuff is the ultimate in frustration-inciting kitchen supplies.)
Saturday: After a week of baking, some laundry and housekeeping was long overdue. Since Tug is cooking dinner tonight, my only endeavor in the kitchen today was making this morning’s coffee. No complaints.
The recipes for the blondies and gingerbread aren’t included as I made them exactly from their respective cookbooks. The recipe for the cappuccino cupcakes with mocha buttercream is already up (and I made a recipe index!), so here’s my bread recipe.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
227 g "fed" sourdough starter (see notes)
340 g lukewarm water
602 g bread flour
14 g sugar
15 g salt
1/8 teaspoon citric acid, optional, for extra-sour bread (see notes)
Combine the all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until all ingredients are combined and the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, anywhere from 3 – 5 minutes.
Cover the dough with plastic or place in a large bowl with a lid and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, about 10 – 12 hours.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface (I like to knead on a silicone baking mat so I can use less flour) for 5 – 7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Allow the dough to rise in a covered bowl until it's relaxed, smoothed out, and risen. This may take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours, and don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t rise significantly. The vigor of your starter will make the difference here. Sourdough bread without added yeast isn’t exactly predictable so just try to go with the flow and trust your judgment.
Gently divide the dough in half. Shape the dough into two oval loaves, and place them on a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment. (It may seem redundant to grease the parchment, but it will stick to the bread if you don’t. Trust me on that one.) Cover and let rise 2 – 4 hours until very puffy. The loaves may spread more than they rise but they'll spring up once in the oven.
About 20 minutes before you’re going to bake the bread, begin preheating the oven to 425°F.
Brush or spray the loaves with a little bit of lukewarm water (plant misters work well).
Quickly and firmly make two deep horizontal slashes in each loaf with a serrated bread knife. Don’t hesitate – be authoritative.
Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's a very deep golden brown and a thermometer reads 200 – 204°F. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool on a rack. Let is cool completely before slicing. It’s hard, but you can do it.
· For “fed” starter, mix 140 g unfed starter, 70 g bread flour and 60 g tepid water and allow it to set in a warm spot until nearly doubled. You’ll have a little bit more than you need, but you can just add the extra back to your original starter.
· If you choose to use citric acid, don’t be tempted to use too much. I tried 1/2 teaspoon once and found the bread to have an artificial, chemical taste to it.