King Arthur Flour

Chocolate Sourdough Cake Redux

It's really a nice feeling that I have not discarded any sourdough starter in well over a month. A steady appetite for experimentation (and pancakes) uses up any surplus with ease. My palate is curiously adapting to less sweet and less refined desserts although, you would never know it come Daring Baker reveal day on the 27th...

Early in the sourdough starter days, I made a vegan chocolate sourdough cake that was very good. I have made several others since, vegan and non-vegan, and still hadn't settled on that recipe that I know I'll automatically grab whenever I need a chocolate sourdough cake. Yesterday, I found it. This cake is moist, slightly sweet, and holds together well. It is a tad bread-like, but fully rooted in dessert territory - given that it's roots are from King Arthur Flour's recipe bin.

I slashed the sugar, heaped the cocoa powder, and upped the fermentation time - although I will plan ahead next time to give a full 12-24 hour fermentation to the starter/flour mix. I also cut the recipe in half, since me and 9x13 cake pans are not the best of friends. Our relationship is complicated, and generally ends with me devouring too much of my new friend's content in too short a period of time. 8x8 cake pans are much more suited to my demanding dessert demeanor.

Chocolate Sourdough Cake (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/2 c. well-fed sourdough starter
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 c. AP flour
  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
  • scant 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 6 heaping T. cocoa powder (natural process)
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. or greater espresso powder
  • 1 egg
Combine starter, milk and flour in a mixing bowl and let ferment. (KAF says at least 3 hours, but you can go longer.) After ferment time, proceed:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and salt together until lightened. Add vanilla, cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder and egg, and mix thoroughly.

Add the sourdough/milk/flour ferment to the chocolate-butter mixture. I found it easiest to use a sturdy spatula to mix the two - be firm but not vigorous and also be patient. Stir to combine until very few streaks of sourdough remain, and the batter looks like batter. It's sticky stuff!

Pour into a greased 8x8 glass baking dish, and use a metal knife or spatula dipped in water to spread batter evenly in the pan. The cake does "dome" a little, so you can try to push a bit more batter into the corners than into the center if this matters to you. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a tester in the center comes out clean.

You can use whatever frosting you like to top it after it cools completely - I just went with a simple American-style buttercream in a thin layer.

In case it needs to be said: I Love Cake. No matter my health consciousness or obsessive nutritive behaviors, there is nothing quite like a slice of cake on a plate at the end of the day. Culinarily, it gives me something to look forward to (and kind of prevents me from seeking out sweets throughout the day), and as a parent, it gives me a bargaining chip. I think I like baking cakes as much as I like eating them, and it never hurts to have something somewhat nutritious and homemade to offer my boys for dessert. Now that I have this one perfected, I'll likely try messing with the flours or sweeteners - I can never leave well enough alone.

I get to wondering if there is some such thing as an actually nutritionally viable cake, one that doesn't just serve it's eater as a recreational deliciousness. While I fantasize that this would be a wonderful thing, really what would the fun be in that exactly? What is the point of dessert if not to be doing something that isn't a bit out of the ordinary, right? Any way you look at it, this chocolate sourdough cake is going to be hanging around my kitchen for awhile. Depending on how fast I eat it, that is.

Non-Rustic Sourdough

I would say that I'm my own worst critic. When it comes to things like bread, anyway. People (maybe some phobic of yeast baking) may look or taste what I've accomplished and be satisfied immensely, but I am a harder sell. My first several loafs of sourdough were ephemeral. They embodied what I always held up in my imagination that bread should be: simple, earthy, crusty, chewy. As my starter is aging, however, I notice that the easy baking of my first labors are behind me. Perhaps due to the maturation of the wild yeasts at work, or maybe just this cold, dry then damp again weather, my breads lately are leaving me wanting.

I've just returned from a long, relaxing weekend out at the "farm"... lounging in front of the fireplace, watching movies and playing games when the just barely gone snowbanks were replenished from above with snow and freezing rain. Visiting home is always restorative to me, even more since I usually get to cook a bit in my Mom's luxury kitchen. I always have help and conversation, and best of all I don't have to do all the dishes myself - and the group effort is exciting when I am solitary most of the time. On the drive back to Milwaukee, I began thinking about how I'd step up my sourdough methods - how I could be more calculating, and where I could turn to learn more about this morphing starter. When I wanted a bread for tonight, and only thought of it this morning, I figured where better to turn than King Arthur Flour.

Strangely, this bread is completely the opposite of all the wonderful sourdough qualities that I expect from bread. That doesn't mean that it isn't wonderful. It is soft, slightly sour with an almost spongy interior. (I mean spongy in the best possible way, mind you.) This is the bread that your picky son and husband will want to eat as a sandwich, but the bread that will still satisfy you, the self-proclaimed bread-snob.

The reasons that I didn't want to try this bread when my starter was first viable, were exactly the same as the reasons I now wanted to try it: it had both starter and commercial yeast, it made 2 loaves, and it used a stand mixer to knead. All of my bread snobbery is now officially laid to rest. All bread has it's place, and this one will fit well in my kitchen alongside soup and salad, or just plain accompanying cheese. I'm betting it will make great toast, too.

After first rise, shaped into elongated loaves.

After second rise, I always poke the dough to see the response.

I love King Arthur Flour's website. They always have a lot of information, and who else boasts a comprehensive help line via email or good old-fashioned telephone? Their recipes are sound, and their dedication to bread completely obvious. I like to think if I ever have extra money and a weekend to myself, I'll fly over to Vermont and take a few classes...

That said, I did change up their recipe just a little. I didn't need the bread to be done lickety-split, so I decreased the amount of commercial yeast. I also used a combination of weight and volume amounts. Another thing I love about their recipes is that you can toggle between weight and volume measures. Endearing, don't you think?

King Arthur Flour's Sourdough Bread (slightly adapted from KAF's recipe)
makes 2 loaves
  • 1 cup sourdough starter, well fed
  • 1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
  • scant 1 t. instant yeast
  • 1 T. sugar (I used raw)
  • 2 t. salt (I used Kosher)
  • 5 c. ap flour (I used the weight measurement of 21 1/4 oz. - and I still needed to add a little extra)
Mix all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer. Knead with a dough hook until the dough is cohesive and smooth, about 5 minutes. I needed to add a bit of extra flour - I added until the dough made a smooth ball that wasn't too sticky.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to get a feel for it. I kneaded by hand for several minutes. Put dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and let rise until doubled in size (this took about 2 1/2 hours for me).

After first rise, gently turn dough out onto the same floured surface and cut into two pieces. Lightly form into two elongated loaves, and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet (or use parchment paper, I used a sil-pat and lightly oiled it). Cover with a towel, and let rise until "very puffy", at least 1 hour (I let it go almost an hour and a half).

Preheat oven to 425 near the end of the second rise time.

Since I don't have a water spray bottle for my kitchen, I lightly wet my hands with warmish water and gently rubbed the surface of the loaves. Then slash each loaf twice, quickly but firmly with a serrated knife. Immedieately place in the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Mine took the entire 30. Bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and feel light for it's size. Let cool completely before cutting.

I knew it was just the day for a bread like this. Yesterday, my Husband was saying how he ate rather poorly when I was gone, and felt like eating less meat, since he feels better when he eats this way. (!!!) I tried to contain my excitement as I mentally plotted my veg attack for the remainder of the week during our dinner last night. This is just the thing I live for, since I do like meat, I just don't like a whole lot of it.

In 3 days, we'll have been married for 6 years, and this kind of information is still thrilling to me! We may not have everything in common, but I know that I have the best possible mate for me, and that is what it's all about. I know when he takes a bite of this bread at dinner tonight, my reward will be in his asking for seconds. That is how I know something is good. He may not be as rustic as I am, but he is mine, and I love him!

This post has been Yeastspotted.


One thing about keeping a project such as a food blog: I sometimes feel obligated to post something, even if I don't particularly feel like it. Usually this feeling of urgency happens when days span into a whole week of silence on the page. It's certainly not because there has been no cooking and/or baking going on.

Part of the recent reason has been sickness, nothing so serious- just a common cold. The day before Thanksgiving I rapidly worsened. Sneezing, at my most impressive, 12 times consecutively when my eyes watered, and my nose ran, and I lost all traces of an appetite. Great. Just in time for the biggest feast of the year. I felt better fairly quickly, and then felt like a relapse accosted me. Perhaps even a second separate cold, complete with a tiny sore throat. Fortunately, this second baby cold was no match for the probiotic/sourdough/kombucha launch that is usually my regimen, and today I finally feel top notch and more like writing about foodstuffs.

Last Friday, I was feeling pretty hungry for the first time in a whole week. I also had an uncontrollable urge for something chocolately. I made some Sourdough Brownies, which I'm pretty sure are my favorite brownie to date. I wouldn't lie and say that they tasted so much of my sourdough starter, but the starter obviously lent it's magic juju to the texture. They were black and rich, moist, but still a bit crumbly. I used the last of my macadamia nuts and some walnuts which were a surprisingly great combination. The best thing about using sourdough in a baked good continues to be that I get to use it up! I feed the little guy twice a day, so it quickly grows. One week, I'm going to try and slip some into everything I make. Maybe I'll have some time and creativity in the new year. Meanwhile, I still can't cut back on his feeding; I feel if I am good to him, he will be good to me. And he has already been so good.

It's safe to say that I am positively addicted to baking with raw sugar. If I want it to dissolve more into a batter, I run it quickly through the VitaMix so it approximates granulated. In most things, I leave it to it's large-grained self and I'm never dissatisfied. I love the crunch of it in these otherwise fudgey brownies.

Chocolate Sourdough Brownies (adapted from Loreli Aguda)
  • 1/3 c. butter
  • scant cup sugar (I used raw)
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 c. AP flour
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c. sourdough starter
  • 1/2 baking soda
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts of your choice
Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9x9 inch pan with butter and set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate over low heat in a small saucepan. Set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and sugar and set aside.

Stir egg, sourdough starter and vanilla into cooled chocolate mixture, and mix until well blended.

Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir gently to combine. Fold in nuts, and spread into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the edges begin to pull away from pan.

last bite.

Saturday morning, it was snowing, our first snow. The first snow is always exciting to me, and it makes me so happy that I live in a place with changing seasons. I frequently get sidetracked when we have fluffy snow, the kind that falls in perfect flakes on your mittens. I spend whole minutes examining each tiny flake, the perfection of fractals in something so minuscule. I may get to complaining with the rest of them: the conditions of the driving, the VIPIR radar and the TV meteorologists and their "wintry mix" lingo, but I secretly love Winter. I wish that I was 8 again and didn't get cold playing outside, no matter what the thermometer says. Instead, I'm in my '30's, and baking things dusted heavily with powdered sugar, my grown-up equivalent to playing in the white stuff.

Rum Balls are always the first of my Christmas baking. They truly benefit from lazing around for a few weeks, allowing their "rumminess" to fully develop. I usually hide them in my basement so I don't keep snitching them.

This recipe is from Bon Appetit, and I've been making the same one for some time. I don't recall ever having a problem with the "dough" being too soft to roll, but that kind of happened to me this time. It could be because I used agave nectar instead of the corn syrup, (and had found a natural version of vanilla wafers that were an ounce shy of the requirement,) but I just added an extra half cup of walnuts and then let the batter rest in the fridge for 45 minutes before rolling them out. I guess, I used the raw sugar in these too and that could also have added to the textural differences. These could be vegan if you use vegan chips. With all of those changes, I'd better write it down, so we all don't forget.

Rum Balls (adapted more than I thought from Bon Appetit)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (about 6 ounces) (I used the weight version, and bittersweet chips)
  • 1/2 c. raw sugar
  • 3 T. agave nectar
  • 1/2 c. dark spiced rum
  • 2 1/2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafer cookies (about 10 ounces) (I used a 9 oz. box of Back To Nature, pulverized in the food pro)
  • 1 c. walnuts, nearly pulverized in food pro - leave a few larger bits (may need to add an additional 1/2 c. nearly pulverized nuts, like I did...)
  • 1/2 c. or so powdered sugar for rolling in

Stir chocolate in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Whisk in sugar and agave nectar, then the rum.

Mix vanilla wafers and walnuts in medium bowl to blend; add chocolate mixture and stir to blend well. If the "dough" seems soft, refrigerate until the chocolate hardens up enough to roll into balls.

Put a half cup or so of powdered sugar in shallow bowl. For each rum ball, roll 1 scant tablespoon chocolate mixture into generous 1-inch ball. I use a smallish disher. Roll balls in powdered sugar to coat evenly. Cover well and refrigerate.

Bon Appetit says they keep up to 5 days, but I say up to a month, or maybe even longer. But they'll never last that long.

This morning, I felt particularly cold driving the Boy-O to school. When I rushed back to my warm kitchen, I made caramels for the first time. I confess that I have a bottle of somewhat ancient corn syrup hiding in the cupboard, usually for a recipe that calls for a tablespoon here and there like those rum balls. I did not have enough to get the 1/4 cup I needed for these soft caramels, so I subbed in honey for the rest. I frequently think of Alton Brown, without whom I would be clueless about sugar. In particular, his explanation of sugar and how to heat it without it becoming a brittle mess is genius.


The part with Shirley Corriher that unfortunatly splits this video in half is the most helpful when it comes to heating sugar. So without furthur ado, part 2:

And, now you know all about sugar.

The key, it seems, is to mix a tiny bit of fructose with the glucose to prevent seizing. Since I was using the raw sugar, which is less "pure" than the white stuff, I'm sure that also altered the final result. But I'm happy, since they are amazing caramels: soft, sweet and briefly salty. (I also read that honey does have a high percentage of fructose, so maybe in the future, I'll try it without any corn syrup and use all honey!) I didn't add quite as much salt to the actual caramel, preferring instead to infuse the lumps of caramel with a few grains of my large Celtic sea salt when I wrapped them up. Oh, and I got 100 pieces of candy. I counted.

Soft Caramels (adapted from Foodiebride)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • heavy pinch of kosher salt,
  • 1 1/2 c. raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (can substitute light corn syrup) (I used corn syrup and honey, 2/3 of which was syrup and 1/3 was honey approx.)
  • 1/4 cup water

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter parchment. I used a 9x9 pan, since that is the only size I have.

Bring cream, butter, vanilla, a pinch of kosher salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Stir only when the mixture is cold to combine, then use the swirling method.) Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248 on thermometer. Pour into baking pan and cool 30 minutes. Sprinkle fleur de sel or Celtic sea salt over the top of the caramel for a nice salty crunch and let sit until completely cooled. Cut into 1-inch pieces (I buttered a pizza cutter), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close. I started cutting the caramels after they rested about 45 minutes, and it was still hot. But, I kind of liked wrapping them up into "tootsie roll" shapes. It took me several dozen to figure out the best way to wrap, but now I've got it down!

They were soft, even when firm enough to hold the square shape for photographing purposes... and quickly molded into the shape my hands forced them via the parchment paper. You could wrap them in plain waxed paper, but I though this looked nice. I determined to put the square of soft caramel in the center of a rectangle about 4x3 inches. Fold it up like a cigar, then kind of mash the right side first to crinkle the paper, otherwise the parchment tears. Then, twist up the right side tightly. When working the left side, first firmly press the soft caramel toward the center, then repeat as for the right side. You'll have plenty of tries to get it right. And, you can eat the mistakes. I effectively ruined my lunch appetite. That's alright. It was worth it.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to eating some of plain old white bread for supper tonight. I just had to try making a new loaf of white bread it even though I'm sourdough crazy lately. It's an insanely easy and traditional white sandwich bread King Arthur posted the other day. I used yogurt instead of the sour cream, and it made the loveliest soft dough. It raised up out of the pan like a beautiful cloud, confirmation that even bland American white bread can be transformative and nourishing in and of itself once in a while. Especially when eaten with other healthy things. Oh, and it does makes killer toast.

I recently started another blog: rcakewalk loves links. It's a place where I've decided to keep track of my recipe links that are still taking over my life. I'm getting better about posting a quick reminder where I found something, so check it out if you wonder what's going on in my kitchen over here. I will be posting more of the links I'm intending to make soon. It's likely comprised of cookies and candies for holiday giving... some of my favorite baking of the year!

So, after proofreading this post, I'd hardly know I was sick and not feeling so productive! I guess there is more to the meanwhile than I often realize, and that is why it's nice to keep up a schedule of a blog. So much happens and is made, and sometimes unfortunately it is forgotten. A blog is a nice way of simply remembering just when and why and how I did something. And, who am I kidding... I am addicted to it. As sure as sugar calls my name from the other room, I want to tell someone about something I've just made, and this happens to be the perfect format for not annoying those who do not wish to be annoyed!

Updates, Wasted Food, and Being Thankful.

It seems like I haven't been cooking lately. I have, really, but I feel like it has been nothing so exciting to warrant a place here in the chronicles of CakeWalk. All week, I've been wondering if I'd make it to my Vegan Monday, and technically, no I didn't. I have eaten a fair share of vegan foods, namely smoothies and vegetable drinks. I am finally a proud owner of a VitaMix, and feel like I've never eaten so many raw fruits and vegetables in my life. I do have lots of new vegan recipes bookmarked, but haven't embarked on them officially and I'll tell you why.

Part of the reason is that I've been reading American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom (he also blogs at Wasted Food). Well, to be honest, I started it, got a couple chapters in, and then have taken up reading three different bread baking books, trying to see if I can calculate my own flour to water ratios to improve my final bread product... But what I have read so far has changed my cooking habits forever.

I'm always looking for the next thing I can make, and I confess that sometimes this leads me to more waste than I'd like. I have been better this year; it was a bit of a New Year's Resolution last January to make less and consume more of what is already made. But this book sums it up in the very first pages, in fact in the first sentences of the introduction:
Every day, America wastes enough food to fill the Rose Bowl. Yes, that Rose Bowl - the 90,000-seat football stadium in Pasadena, California. Of course, that's if we had an inclination to truck the nation's excess food to California for a memorable but messy publicity stunt.

As a nation, we grow and raise more than 590 billion pounds of food each year. And depending on whom you ask, we squander between a quarter and a half of all the food produced in the United States. Even using the more conservative figure would mean that 160 billion pounds of food are squandered annually - more than enough, that is, to fill the Rose Bowl to the brim. With the high-end estimate, the Rose Bowl would almost be filled twice over.
I will say that the rest of the book so far is equally engaging, taking me on a journey from farm waste to supermarket waste, and finally to neglect in the home. I know that a heated political debate could ensue, but I think it's just criminal to have so much waste when we have a real need to feed people. Signs are everywhere in our cities for food pantries, Food Network frequently endorses Share our Strength, and it's Great American Bakesale (sponsored by refined sugar company giants) to help hungry children in our own country. We have this idea in the US that everything needs to be beautiful and unblemished to be consumed - EVERYTHING in our marketing and media focuses on the beautiful, the young, and the airbrushed. Take a head of iceberg lettuce, or a 18 year old model wearing Louboutin shoes, and the treatment is the same: we don't want it if it isn't hyped and wrapped and neatly approved into our massive consumption lives. And we have real need for people who are hungry. (But hungry for fruits and vegetables, or hungry for pre-packaged meals? That is a whole different debate, as well.)

Now, I know that most people I know don't fit into this generalization. We food shop locally, preserve much ourselves, and limit packaged food purchases. But as my Mom was just telling me, gone are the days when the Grandmothers make a soup out of the dregs of the celery.

My Mom's (maternal) Grandmother was the first generation born in the United States. Her name was Laura, but it was supposed to be "Lottie", her mother's accent too thick for the writer of the birth certificate to understand. My earliest memories of soup were from her summer home in the Northwoods, just down the road from our house. Her pea soup, most clearly, I can still taste on my tongue. Surely, it was nothing more than a ham bone and split peas, maybe some onion, but it was so good that it has stuck with me all of these years, and no soup I've ever made has rivaled it. Her husband, my Great-Grandfather Casey, was a DP, also from Poland. Food was especially precious to him, as was his American citizenship. He was detained in a camp during WWII, and when he finally came to America, he brought with him a heel of bread that he kept until he died - a memory of the scarcity of food he came from and the bounty of his new country.

I was very young when I knew them, but remember all of the stories: their foraging for mushrooms that led to the pumping of stomachs, my Grandfather's impossibly thick accent, the rabbit hutches where they kept the pets that I later found to be sources of food, the bonfires and family times that were so important to them both, and ALWAYS contained food.

Waste was never a part of their lives. My Mom would bring us to their little cottage and it would appear there was nothing to eat. Moments later, somethings were made from nothings, and I'm now remembering this daily in my own kitchen. I would never tell someone else what he SHOULD be eating (except my Husband, of course), and would not support Big Brother stepping in to take hold of our food consumption issues. But this waste! It's hard for me not to cook, or to not have many wide, open mouths that want to eat. But, I've been trying to take pleasure in eating my leftovers, and living more reliably out of my home canned pantry.

The trick, I've found, is trying to make much less. My Husband isn't a fan of leftovers, but some things I can get him to eat a second time. Of all of my bread experimenting, I haven't had much waste, but turned what I did have into breadcrumbs. (An infinitely more exciting task since I just got my very own VitaMix! The crumbs are uniform and even the hard crusts are punished into complete dust, and I can't wait to coat something in them and panfry...)

Dinner tonight will be the end of this bread, turned into toasted panino type sandwich. Glamorous, no, but it will be tasty, and then I can make another loaf of bread!

This one, I kneaded until it felt smooth and elastic. I haven't been making much "kneaded" bread lately, in part because I wasn't sure my starter was vigorous enough. Now, I am certain that my starter is active, and strong enough to lift dough. I started this bread at 11 AM, and it rose, was shaped, rose again, was baked, and came out of the oven at 10:30 late last week. One more notable thing about sourdough, is that it seems to have preternatural ability to be fresh. I made this on Thursday, and though not technically "fresh", it is still absolutely tasty - especially as toast. I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour, but omitted the commercial yeast and sugar. After all, I went through the trouble to raise up the starter, I don't mind waiting around for it to do it's job. Yesterday I was reading in Bread by Jeffrey Hammelman, that the incorporation of air into the dough is essential to the raising of the dough. You can do this too much, and run into problems, but I found that this kneaded loaf did rise more quickly than the wetter doughs I just mix and let rest for 18-24 hours. I feel I have volumes to learn, but that's half the fun.

Fall also brings with it low-light photography that challenges my camera...

I also decided that the brotform is best suited to kneaded, 'drier' doughs. I had no problem tipping the loaf out of the basket, and then carefully lowering it into my dutch oven by hand. I was even able to slash into it with the lame, another KAF purchase that was going largely unused. My next several loaves will likely be kneaded, and I may even try to approach my scientific side and pay more attention to the temperature of dough, air and water and the ratio of water to flour.

It still completely amazes me, and it probably always will, that bread is flour and water. That's it. A union that immediately begins the fermentation process when combined, and can satisfy the world over. Almost no bread is ever "inedible", as well. I baked kind of a brick last week, since the dough was too wet and stuck to my brotform so much that all of the air was knocked out of it. It ended up a flat discus of dough, and was still edible. Honesty permits me to tell you, that we ate a little of it, but then I ditched the rest. Waste. That's the price I pay for bread snobbery - and for never being hungry enough. I should not have thrown away that loaf. My Great-Grandparents wouldn't have. My Gram wouldn't have. My Mom was here, and was eating it. But me, bread-snobbish me, decided that I needed to make a better one, and tossed it out so I wouldn't have to think about it.

On my last library trip, I also picked up One Magic Square, in hopes to learn a bit more about packing more into my raised beds next spring. The author, Lolo Houbein, begins the book with her own family history in the Netherlands. As a child in 1944 and 1945, her family survived a famine - and she tells of eating grass scavenged from beneath the snow to "steady her stomach". At 5 foot 8 inches tall, she withered to 75 pounds, but survived. She has tended her own food sources ever since, and inspires others to grow at least a small percentage of their own foods. Another reminder never to take for granted all that America's food has to offer us, and to be responsible and diligent with what we do have. That probably includes that loaf of brick-ish bread I tossed out.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful for enough food and the knowledge of how to prepare it. I'm thankful that I am the only one in my house that likes squash, and I have 9 (!) of them to figure out how to eat myself thanks to my CSA the past several weeks. I am thankful that as the season grows colder, we can heat our house (and that my baking bread warms the kitchen so that I keep the thermostat a bit lower). I am thankful for my picky-eating family, and never abandon hope that they will someday also like things like squash. I am also thankful that I have many everyday reminders not to waste food.

Sourdough Pancake Experiment

Because I was so excited with the success of my pretzels the other day, and because I'm certain that my sourdough starter is starting to have the good behavior of a properly maturing adolescent starter, I had to try making another quickbread. Though lately I was passionately in love with the waffle, pancakes are really where it's at for this Midwestern lass. So, branching gingerly out, I chose a sourdough pancake with a long rise - indeed you can leave it up to 24 hours if you wish - and couldn't be more pleased with the result!

I received an encouraging email back from the bakers at King Arthur Flour yesterday. I contacted them wondering if they had any tips for the sourdough starter I've been working on. I am a devoted KAF flour user, and even though I don't typically splurge on their organic flours, I use their AP flour, bread flour and whole wheat flours exclusively. I get my specialty flours from the Outpost bulk bins, since I can get them in small amounts and they are always fresh.

According to a recent catalogue article I read, King Arthur does purchase wheat solely from US farmers who also have good sustainability practices in place. Aside from being the oldest flour company (1790!), they also have demanding standards which ensure that even from crop to crop and year to year, their flours are consistent in composition. I love that they are an enormous company, yet answer every individual question - and have painstaking amazing recipes. I was so happy to hear from Frank, who assured me that sourdoughs are unique to their environments, and that mine probably just needs a bit of rye flour here and there to thrive and do his best.

For about a week now, I've been feeding my starter with one feeding of rye every 4 or 5 feedings (I feed twice a day), depending on if it starts looking sluggish or not. I can't believe how it grows between feedings now, and is deflated when I stir it. I also can't believe how light it makes baked goods.

These pancakes are entirely whole grain, yet they were extremely light. I usually eat 2 (4 inch) pancakes when I make them using AP flour, but ate 4 of these without even blinking. The Boy-O had me beat, he ate 5 for breakfast this morning, and I actually had to tell him that he couldn't eat any more. I also think they were so delicious since I fried them in a cast iron skillet brushed with ghee. I made ghee yesterday for the first time, and am hooked. It's slightly nutty flavor was so great, especially baked onto the outside of a healthy pancake!

I finally found that straining the ghee after 10 minutes of rest through a coffee filter was the best way to strain it...

I found the original recipe for sourdough pancakes at The Nourishing Gourmet. Kimi Harris has a great site, full of great recipes for whole foods, and quite a lot of information on healthy eating. I cut her recipe in half, and even at that, had 8 leftover pancakes. I'm sure they will toast up well tomorrow. I also think these would be excellent as little blini pancakes, topped with caviar or smoked salmon and creme fraiche even cream cheese topped with slices of cucumber, radish and dill. They are pretty amazing just plain with maple syrup, too.

Mix up the starter portion at least 3-4 hours before you want to eat pancakes, or really anywhere between 3-24 hours. I started mine last night before bed, and it was ready to go by 7 this morning, even in a pretty chilly kitchen, since I forgot to close the window last night...

Sourdough Pancakes (adapted from Kimi Harris, The Nourishing Gourmet)
makes 18-20 4 inch pancakes

For the starter:
  • 1/2 c. starter
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 3/4 c. multi grain flour (I used 1/2 c. whole wheat, 1/2 c. barley, 3/8 c. (6T.) cornmeal, and 3/8 c. rye flour)
To make the pancakes:
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
3-24 hours before you want pancakes, mix the ingredients for the starter in a large bowl. Make sure it's big enough to accommodate some rising action. When pancake making time comes, add the rest of the ingredients, and stir until just mixed. You can adjust the consistency of the batter if you like by adding a bit of water or milk.

Fry in a hot pan, preferably cast iron, as you do with pancakes. Try not to eat them all at once.

Armed with new confidence in my starter, I think I'm going to keep feeding it as I have been for the past week: watching for sluggishness and fortifying with rye for about a month before starting to work on another bread. I think my starter needs to acclimate to me and my kitchen, and gain his own confidence in his rising capabilities. And I hate to say it, but I think that my next loaf of bread may come from a King Arthur Flour recipe and not one from Nancy Silverton. I hope she'll forgive me.