Sourdough Success

I am currently in the groove with sourdough. I remember to feed my starter. I don’t hesitate before throwing away some of the discard. I’m even finding recipes I like.

I usually stick with Cooks Illustrated or King Arthur Flour for all of my baking recipe needs, but I haven’t loved their sourdough options. I picked up a copy of Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa and it has changed my sourdough world.

The cookbook is worth it for the cinnamon sugar sourdough waffle recipe – if you enjoy mini donuts at fairs and carnivals you would love these waffles. I wish I would remember to take a picture of the waffles, but the waffles are devoured before I remember to take photos every single time. Everyone in my family loves these waffles, even John, who is a self-proclaimed pancake snob. The waffles use discard, so I usually make them once a week when I’m feeding the starter.

I’ve also made country farmhouse white sandwich bread from Raffa’s book. It was delicious, easy, and perfect for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (we eat a lot of those in this house).20190311_1037518648076420246029432.jpg I made the best bread I’ve ever made using another recipe in the book: Decadent Chocolate Chip. It has a flavor similar to pain au chocolat, which means I’m in danger of eating a loaf of bread in a day. This is going to be my going to a brunch and bring a fancy gift bread from now on.20190312_0852566909099110063027743.jpg

In addition to baking enough bread to feed an army I’ve been getting the kids outside as much as possible now that it is above freezing. We went to the zoo yesterday and I snapped this tigertastic photo.20190311_1232406824261146548530294.jpg

I hope your week is carb filled and above freezing too.

Sour D’oh!

Way back in 2010 I spent a year trying a new loaf of bread every week. Most of that time was spent working my way through the Bread Bakers Apprentice. That year I maintained a sourdough starter and baked with it occasionally.

I started day dreaming about sourdough bread after reading Sourdough last year. After mulling over getting back into sourdough bread baking for months I decided it was time to get back to it (having a snowstorm or a polar vortex a couple of days a week for a month will really motivate a person to get baking).

Over the past 24 hours I’ve made sourdough pizza and sourdough English muffins.

Over the past 24 hours I’ve also come to the realization that I’ve been romanticizing my love of maintaining a sourdough starter. Having a starter means feeding it once or twice a week. Each time you feed it you either throw away a large portion of it or you bake from what you discard. I’m need to expand my recipe repertoire or get comfortable throwing ingredients away.

If you have any sourdough recipes you recommend please send them my way. I’m hoping to find sourdough motivation and become a better baker.

Audrey’s Birthday Party

On Saturday we celebrated Audrey’s birthday again. This time we celebrated with family over brunch. We have parties for Audrey and Elliot at my sister’s house, as she has a nice entertaining space and we live in a glorified tiny home.

I keep the food simple for birthday parties – fruit, frozen cinnamon rolls, and egg bakes. I don’t keep the cake simple. I make whatever cake the kids pick.

Audrey picked a pretzel cake from the cover of Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson.  It was delicious. It was a triple layer chocolate cake with peanut butter butter cream. There were pretzels and chopped chocolate between the layers. It was topped with chopped chocolate and peanuts. Pretzels adorned the sides. Audrey helped me decorate the cake. She was very focused.

She was excited to blow out the candles.signal-2018-10-27-1326305124139855470358328.jpgShe thought the cake was delicious. John and I agreed.

After presents we headed home in time for naps. I love that about brunch.signal-2018-10-27-1325448742812062042821777.jpg

Please note that my sister not only lets us use her house, she also made Audrey’s hat and shirt. Audrey wears her party hat to every party she goes to. It gets a lot of use, as it should.signal-2018-10-27-132544-18092527569471994559.jpg

Vanilla Extract

Are you a baker? Have you noticed how expensive vanilla extract has gotten? The vanilla crop in Madagascar failed causing a shortage of vanilla beans. The price of vanilla is now ten times what it was a few years ago.

I recently ran out of vanilla and picked some up at my local spice shop. An ingredient that I never considered the cost of now makes me gasp. I used over half of this bottle in two batches of cookies this morning.20180628_1112443852065551983353752.jpg

I am not going to switch to intimation vanilla extract. You can tell the difference in the final product. I was planning to buy the now $40 bottle of vanilla the next time I’m at Costco. It is a large bottle and should get me through a year of baking. I may still buy a bottle, but it is no longer immediately needed.

I remembered I had vanilla beans from Costco that I bought last fall. I also have vodka. Those two items are all you need to make your own vanilla extract.

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It couldn’t be easier. Slice some vanilla beans open (I also cut them in half so they would fit in a jelly jar). Put the open beans in a jar. 20180628_1111202140349684719578520.jpg

Cover the beans with vodka.

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Put a lid on the jar. Put it in your cupboard. Shake it a couple of times a day for two weeks. after that it should be ready to use. I’ll add vodka a few times, as there will be enough vanilla to infuse two or three times the amount of vodka in the jar.

After a few hours you can already see the change in the vodka.

Hopefully the vanilla crop recovers soon. Until then, I hope you find some forgotten vanilla beans in a drawer and vodka in your freezer and make some of your own extract.

Butterscotch Revel Bars

I have a problem. A baking problem. I can’t get enough of it. It is a problem because most recipes make 12-24 servings and there are only 4 of us in our home. That means we are stuck eating all of whatever I make. I suppose I could freeze some of the treats, but the truth is neither John nor I are good at moderation when it comes to sweets.

After weeks of looking at a recipe for Chocolate Revel Bars I had pulled out of my latest issue of Cooks Country I decided it was time to make them. I opted for the butterscotch version, as we are big butterscotch fans in our house.

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Oh my wow. These suckers are delicious. Imagine using the topping for apple crisp (oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, almonds, and a shameful amount of butter)  as a cookie bottom layer. Now imagine that is topped with a mixture of butter, butterscotch chips, and sweetened condensed milk. The top layer is even more of the crumb topping.

Are you drooling yet? You should be. These heavenly bars are almost gone. I brought some to my book club this afternoon to help us get through them. John is in charge of eating the rest. They are amazing but incredibly unhealthy (337 calories each!).

These are now my go to pot luck dessert recipe. I can only be trusted to make them when I can get them out of my house. I really want to make them again, so please invite me to a party at your house. I promise to bring delicious treats.

These are from Cooks Country magazine. The website is a subscription, so it doesn’t work for me to post a link to it. I am able to e-mail the recipe from the site however, so if you are interested in the recipe leave me a comment with your e mail address and I’ll get it to you. If you don’t feel like leaving your e mail address out in a public space, you could send me a message on Instagram (I’m mildly_granola over there).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat the crumbs John has left behind. I said I was done with the bars, but I didn’t say I was done with bar remnants.

Elliot Turns Two

Today is Elliot’s birthday. I don’t know where the past two years have gone. It seems like just yesterday he was a screaming baby who barely slept. Now he’s a big guy that loves trucks, whisks, and going to the grocery store. He loves being on the go. He has a large vocabulary and talks all the time (no seriously, all of the time. I would really like him to give it a rest for an hour or two). He wants to be a grandpa when he grows up. He is such a joy, and we are so happy that he is ours.

To celebrate his birthday we had a party for family at my sister’s house. Her house has the space for entertaining, ours does not.  We do brunch birthday parties for the kids. They nap in the afternoons, so planning a lunch or early dinner can be hard.

Brunch doesn’t just work with timing, it also helps with food. Brunch food is delicious and can be made ahead. We had 2 egg bakes (strata with sausage and potatoes with bacon), cinnamon rolls (I go with the freezer kind for birthday parties), fruit, and cake.

I made two cakes. A layer cake for everyone and a smaller cake just for Elliot. He loves construction equipment, so I topped the cakes with Oreo dirt and put a few new toys on top. It was a very easy way to decorate and I didn’t have to worry about how the top of the cake looked. 20180414_0937251381250925.jpg

Audrey helped me put the trucks on. I’m pretty sure she only wanted to help because she thought she could sneak frosting. In addition to stealing cake, she also made sure the excavator was dumping dirt into the dump truck.

When it was time for Elliot to eat his cake he had no interest. He only wanted to play with the backhoe.

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This is his cake after he was done with it. He wasn’t interested. Trucks are more exciting than cake.

I would like for time to slow down, but I know it won’t. I hope he continues to be a sweet boy, continues to grow, continues to learn, and continues to enjoy toys more than cake. I also hope he continues to want snuggles from his mommy.