YUMMY, Batch Sourdough

I have been baking sourdough for a bit over a month now and, while I’m not expert, it’s become one of my favorite pastimes. It’s become a ritual I perform at least once a week, preferably on Saturday/Sunday and I usually bake more than one. Now, I don’t know everything is to know about hydration and everything , but I know that I’ve never had my bread turn out bad. And that means a lot.

What also means a lot, is that I’ve had people from other states beg me to make them bread because they think it’s so beautiful. I’ve had a friend text me and tell me I need to host a Zoom cooking class. And, I’ve had internet acquaintances give me encouraging words. All of that means to me, I must be doing something right with my sourdough boules.

I’ve taken to making between one and three loaves per week and giving away a lot of them as “covid care packages”. So, I thought I might share my bulk batch recipe in order to give you an easy, no-knead recipe you can literally sleep on and come out of it with perfect looking loaves.

I learned basically everything I know about baking sourdough from following along with Sylvia from Feasting At Home. This recipe was adapted from hers and the tips and tricks I picked up along the way. She has an amazing, broken down timeline on her blogged recipe, equipment to have on hand, and some special tips she finds helpful too– head over and check it out!

In the meantime, I’ll let you know that I got my [live] sourdough starter from Breadtopia because. wanted a jump start on the process. And when I say “jump start”, I mean mine was ready to bake in like two days! Wowza! You can purchase from the Breadtopia website or from Amazon; live or dry. If you go this route, I HIGHLY recommend that you follow the directions for care provided by Breadtopia for the best results.

Now, your first attempt may not be perfect. Mine certainly wasn’t! (See above) However, I feel like, in this technology driven society, it’s nice to practice slow living by taking your time to really develop a craft/hobby or two that takes you away from your phone and computer. Something that makes you feel like you’ve spent you time well. Makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.

So, here goes, guys! The recipe is below and it’s a good one! Yield is three boules (or batards), 75% hydration. Whichever you prefer. Bon appetit!

YUMMY, Batch Sourdough

Ingredients:

12 cups (leveled) of bread flour (personally, I do not weigh)

6 tsp salt

5.5 cups water (filtered is preferred)

1 cup of sour dough starter

(I love to add sesame seeds, rosemary, parsley, oregano…etc to season when I’m in the mood.)

Directions:

  1. At least 8 hrs before mixing your dough, feed your sourdough starter and leave it out on the counter.
  2. When ready, add your flour to a large bowl. Mix in spices, seeds, flavorings at this time. Add your starter and water next. (I, personally do not dilute my starter in the water first for this. However, if you are more comfortable with that method, you can mix the starter with your water until the water is cloudy before adding it to the dry mixture.)
  3. Mix all ingredients with your hands (or a wooden spoon if you prefer, but to me the hands are the best tools for this) for a minute or two until you have a shaggy, sticky dough. Make sure the flour is completely mixed in, without overworking and ‘tidying’ the dough. Messy is okay! cover with a wet kitchen towel and let rest 15 minutes. It will loosen up as it rests.
  4. Do the first set of stretch and folds.  With one wet hand (put a bowl of water next to you) pull the dough from one side and stretch it upward, then fold it up and over to the center of the dough.  Turn the bowl and repeat until the dough gets firm and resists. This helps strengthen the gluten. Cover, rest, and repeat the process  15-20 minutes later. (I do this 3-4 times total, but only two is “required”.)
  5. Proof overnight, at room temp. Cover with plastic or wax wrap or a damp kitchen towel and place it on your counter for 8-12 hours. (68-70F is the ideal temp. according to Sylvia.)
  6. Check the dough in the morning. The dough should have flattened, expanded, with a slight dome to the top.
  7. Flour your Banneton basket (if you have one). If you do not have one, line. high-sided bowl with non-stick parchment paper.
  8. Loosen the dough from the all edges of a bowl with using your wet fingers. With both hands, carefully pull the dough straight up, in the middle and lift it, stretching straight up in the air until it hangs down 12-24 inches and place it back down, gently folding it on top of itself. It will firm up as it stretches and folds. Do this at least 3 times. The third time you lift and stretch, lift it all the way into your parchment-lined bowl/banneton seam side up.
  9. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for uncovered which will firm up the bread, make scoring easier and help boost  oven spring. Preheat the oven (for 1 FULL hour)  to 500F with your dutch oven inside and lid on.
  10. Score the bread in the bowl, using a very sharp knife, lame, or razor blade & bake.
  11. Place in the middle of the oven for and immediately drop heat to 450F and bake 25 minutes with lid on. Remove lid and it should be puffed and just lightly golden. Lower heat to 450 F, Continue baking 18-20 minutes until deeply golden. Keep an eye on it!
  12. Let it cool for 45 min to 1 hr before cutting and serving. Enjoy! With butter, honey, jam, olive oil & balsamic… any way you choose!

***When you put one loaf into the oven, rotate your next loaf into the fridge. Also, when you go to put the second and third loaves into the oven, don’t change the temperature! Start out at 450 and bake for a little longer time, if needed.

Charlie’s Chocolate Bundt + Lavender Vanilla Glaze

Lately, I have been craving rich, yummy comfort foods. Especially sweet ones! I’m currently trying to break that habit because my jeans don’t really like it, but man! do I love a good slice of cake or decadent pastry. And my passion for baking has only shown itself more in the past few weeks.

I wanted to share this recipe because is a refreshing take on the typical chocolate cake, but it’s also very moist and indulgent. Kudos go to my daughter, or this recipe would have never been born- so it’s named after her. She requested a chocolate butterfly cake a while back, which I obliged with this recipe. However, her cake was slathered with vanilla buttercream and then decorated with a trillion sprinkles.

After making her cake, I started thinking about ways I could make it again, but in a more sophisticated, simple, and elegant way. I have also been trying to use as many unexpected herbs in my cooking as possible, recently. While chocolate and vanilla are classic flavors (and what my daughter picked), I wanted a twist and ultimately decided to add lavender.

I also made a large batch of lavender lemonade to serve with it. YUM! Which my husband eventually turned into a cocktail with gin and ginger beer. Basically, we’ve been living in a lavender heaven!

In my opinion, this is a wonderful cake to bring to a spring or summer gathering or share with family on a special occasion. However, in my case this was just for fun, and I ended up sharing it with my sister-in-law and family. I was glad they loved it- enough to even enjoy it for breakfast! Haha! ( I apologize for not having more photos!)

If you decide to try this out, I truly hope it brings you as much happiness as I had making it.

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 cups flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking soda

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup cooking oil (I used coconut)

1/2 cup hot water

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 pkt instant chcolate pudding

1/2 cup sour cream

Glaze:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp dried lavender buds

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. For the Cake, mix all dry ingredients, by hand or in a mixer. In a separate bowl, combine pudding mix, eggs, buttermilk, water, oil and 1 tablespoon vanilla. In large mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients and wet, by slowly pour in the wet ingredients while whisking with electric mixer on low/medium speed for up to 2 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Pour into greased bundt pan.

Bake on 350° for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan 20-30 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack or plate. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, for the glaze, Bring cream just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, in a small saucepan over medium. Remove from heat, and stir in dried lavender; let stand 10-15 minutes.

Pour lavender milk through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, and cool completely, about 20 minutes. 

Whisk together powdered sugar, salt, 1/4-1/2 of the lavender milk, and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Whisk in up to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. (However, because I didn’t want the lemony taste to take away from the lavender I ended up adding a little bit of water instead, to thin out the glaze. Don’t add so much water, though, that you dilute the taste or make your glaze so thin it sinks into the cake.)

Sprinkle with dried lavender buds, if desired. Enjoy!

Hopefully you whip this up, post a picture, and tag me on social media @lone_birch.

Blackberry Ginger Cake w/ Peach Apricot Filling + Barely There Cream Cheese Icing

Where do I even start with this cake? It’s pure magic. It’s perfect for any occasion. And, if possible, it’s even better the second day.

I developed this recipe on a whim, in the middle of the night (no surprise) and probably annoyed the crap out of my husband by constantly asking, “Does this sound good? Do you think this goes together?” I wanted so badly to have some originality to the flavor combo, but also have it taste cohesive.

I saw a cake on Pinterest that was honestly the inspiration for the whole process. It was no only pretty, but it melded together incredible flavors. It inspired me to do the same, but with my own imaginative blend. I tend to like making things multidimensional because I like the challenge of it.

Since COVID, I have seen people turn into serial bakers. But, I had managed to avoid it, for the most part… until I made this cake. I bake when I’m stressed, and the longer this pandemic lasts, the harder it is to resist making anything that pops into my head. It’s so satisfying to see creations come to life.

My whole family, kids included, ranted about how great this was! I have to admit, even though my kids aren’t picky eaters, I wasn’t sure this would be their taste. In hindsight, I think this is probably a very generally liked mixture of ingredients.

We ate on this for days and I swear it got better with time! It has a nice, warm gingery taste but, with a bit of depth from the blackberry. The peach and apricot give the cake a nice punchiness without being tart. And, the cream cheese icing- reminiscent of carrot cake- is to die for. No one thing overpowers the other. They all just work together to create something delicious!

While I initially made this in late spring, when all the fruity ingredients could be found fresh locally, you could use canned fruit for this as well. Or, even frozen. However, keep in mind the water content in thawed frozen fruit will be higher so you may end up with a runnier filling; you may have to add a thickening agent, such as xanthan gum or gelatin.

I hope, if you make this, you enjoy it as much as we do! And if you care to share, tag me on social media @lone_birch so I can see your version!

INGREDIENTS:

CAKE:

10 tbsp butter

3 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup + 1.5 tbsp brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp backing powder

1.5 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 cup finely grated, fresh ginger

1 1/4 cup pureed (strained) blackberries

2 tbsp lemon juice

FILLING:

1/3 cup pureed peaches

1/3 cup pureed apricot

FROSTING:

10 tbsp butter (softened)

12 tbsp room temperature cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla

CARAMELIZED APRICOTS:

8 ripe apricots

1/2 cup honey

INSTRUCTIONS:

CAKE:

  1. Heat oven to 350° F (170° C).
  2. Butter two 6-inch (15 cm) cake pans.
  3. 4. Beat eggs and sugars until fluffy and lighter in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Add melted butter and vanilla and beat until combined.
  4. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl, then stir into the batter until just smooth.
  5. Peel and grate the ginger. Put the blackberries in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Strained through a fine mesh strainer.
  6. Add grated ginger and all of the blackberry puree to the batter and stir until combined. Batter will look bluish/gray. Divide batter between the two cake pans.
  7. Bake for about 40-43 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Leave to cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

FILLING:

  1. Put both the apricots and peaches together in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Set aside in the refrigerator until time for cake assembly.

CREAM CHEESE ICING:

1. Beat butter until pale and fluffy. Add cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until just smooth.
2. Put the bowl in the fridge until time for cake assembly.

ASSEMBLY:

1. Cut both cake layers in half with a serrated knife so you end up with four cake layers.
2. Put the first cake layer on a cake board or directly onto a plate or cake stand. Spread a layer of frosting on the first layer, then spread a layer of the peach/apricot puree over. Repeat this until you’ve used up all layers.
3. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and put in the fridge while you prepare the topping.

CARAMELIZED APRICOTS:

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Arrange the apricot halves, sut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Spoon 1/2 tbsp honey onto each apricot half. Brush with melted butter, if desired.
  4. Broil the apricots for 3-4 minutes, until bubbling and caramelized.
  5. Place around the cake as decoration and/or serve on the side of each slice. Vanilla ice cream optional.

My Favorite Homemade Cocktail

So, I know a lot of you will be hanging out (hopefully, somewhat socially distant) with friends or family this weekend. I thought it would be a good time to share my favorite homemade cocktail recipe with you. It’s not complicated, and it’s absolutely delicious!

I haven’t served this to one single person who hasn’t loved it. And, I won’t lie, it’s pretty strong. But, the mix of ingredients is super refreshing and great for front porch sippin’, or passing out at your backyard barbecue.

Personally, I think the best way to serve this is in a copper mug. But, putting it in a mason jar was just so aesthetically pleasing- I just couldn’t help myself. Also, jars (or something similar) might be more practical + cheaper, if you are having several people at your home. Even cooler cups, like an Arctic or Yeti, would work fine!

I came up with this recipe back in the winter, when my best friend was visiting me and I had basically no ingredients in my house to make drinks. We wanted to sit and relax with a cocktail, but my supply was so random… I wasn’t sure what to make. No matter what I Googled, I never had all the components. So, I decided to mix and match what I had based on a couple different ideas I had come across.

Since COVID, especially, this has been put in the regular rotation. It’s a great drink to sit and wind down with after a long day of work on the farm, and sitting around an early evening bonfire.

One thing I want to mention before I go ahead with the recipe is, for measurement, I use a tall shooter glass. However, you could also totally use a jigger like THIS ONE I found on Amazon. So, let’s get to it!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 oz lime juice

1.5-2 oz gin (depending on how strong you like your drink)

1.5 oz elderflower liqueur

sprite

ice

optional: lemon or lime slices for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put ice into a shaker and pour in the lime juice, gin, and elderflower liqueur and shake vigorously.
  2. Transfer mixture into a copper mug (or glass of choice) and top with sprite. Stir, garnish with a lemon or lime slice, if you wish.

This is snappy, refreshing perfection. A great drink year ’round, but especially for summer leisure time. Enjoy!

Farmhouse Fave: Apple Maple Bourbon Cinnamon Buns

About a month ago was the first day since quarantine that I was able to have an entire day [almost] to myself. Noah had to go see his [biological] mom, so, while hubby and the other two oldest kiddos made the long trek to VA to meet her, T and I stayed home and tried to relax. If you know me, you know that “relax” isn’t in my vocabulary. It’s one of the hardest things for me to do and, with four kids around, it’s not something I often get to attempt.

That said, T and I layed in bed, watched movies, cuddled on the couch…and I managed to fit in a little laundry. While we were lounging a bit in the morning, I stumbled upon a couple of recipes that sounded divine, only I couldn’t decide- between the two- on which to make. At one point, I even contemplated trying to be ambitious and make them both with a toddler hanging around my feet screaming, “ME TOO! ME TOO!”, because of her desire to help. Disaster? I think, yes. Haha.

So, instead, I decide to marry the two into a delicious, gooey masterpiece and knew the kids would be thrilled to come home and find them ready for dessert or a sweet, breakfast treat the next day. Needless to say, I kick myself for not thinking to make something like this as a nice send off surprise for Noah. But, they are so yummy that they are definitely going to be a go-to that we will all get to enjoy over and over.

They DO take a little time and effort, so I wouldn’t exactly call them “quick and easy”. But, the result smells and tastes amazing! And, I’ll be honest, I’ve had a hard time keeping my hands out of that pan! Hopefully, if you make these, you love them as much as we do.

Don’t forget, you could always add things like pecans or walnuts, raisins, and other favorite ingredients into the filling mix to make it your own. Without further adieu, here’s the recipe!

Apple Maple Bourbon Cinnamon Rolls

Dough:

1 pkg active dry yeast

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting your work surface

2 tblsp butter, melted, plus more for buttering the bowl and baking dish 

2 tblsp granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Filling:

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 granny smith apples, diced small

Icing:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar 

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. For the dough: Place the yeast and 1 cup lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and add the flour, butter, granulated sugar, salt and egg. Knead on medium-low speed until the dough forms a ball and releases easily from the sides of the bowl.
  2. Butter a large bowl; transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. For the filling: In a medium bowl, stir together the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter. Set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter your baking dish.
  5. Punch down the dough a couple of times, then roll it into approx 16-by-12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread with the filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  6. Starting at one of the short ends, roll the dough into a cylinder and then slice into 8-12 rolls. Arrange the rolls, cut-side up, in rows in the prepared baking dish. The filling will be “watery” and start leaking. Feel free to spoon what comes out over and into the crevices of the rolls to help retain flavor and moisture. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise until nearly doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake about 20 minutes.
  7. For the icing: Blend or stir the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Top the warm cinnamon buns with icing and serve.

Tip: If you plan to reheat them to eat the next day, be careful not to leave them in the microwave too long. 10 seconds in ours was enough to restore the fluffy, gooiness without melting away the icing or turning the dough into a hard rock.

Also, if you happen to have a cute two year old around to help, snap a pic of them licking off all that frosting! It’s too cute and you’ll know all your hard work paid off from the satisfied look on their face. (as seen below)

If you recreate these, let me know in the comments below, or tag me on social media so I can see!

Recipe inspired by and adapted from Half Baked Harvest and Nancy Fuller.