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.

Bohemian Oil DIYs

I’m so excited about today’s post! I have loved essential oils for a few years now, and I’m (finally) taking big time advantage of using them again since we moved into this house. They were in a storage box for far too long!

My Aussie, insta-acquaintance, Sinead (who is AMAZING at essential oil DIYs, by the way) inspired me to do a few projects of my own. After seeing her pretty little posts and projects, I thought I’d come up with some new blends to bottle; for a few different uses.

Now, I admit that I am not an essential oils expert. It’s just something I enjoy and find helpful in my day-to-day. I also understand that what oils and brands people choose to use are highly personal, and sometimes controversial. So, I won’t delve too deeply into a spiel, trying to get you to use what I do.

I will only mention that I’ve been using Eden’s Garden oils forever and I LOVE them. I’ve found them to not only be affordable, but effective. I LOVE that the company doesn’t recruit distributors! They are a family/woman-owned business, and their products are 100% pure. That being said, I encourage you to use WHATEVER oils you are comfortable with. Every boho babe has her own groove!

Today, I’m going to be sharing five easy, oil “recipes” you can start with for these diy projects. But, if you’re familiar with, and love, oils already- feel free to experiment and add to what I’m blending here! I’d love to know about your fave oil blends and creations!!

Here’s what I used for these 5 projects, besides the oils themselves:

NOW Solutions Vegetable Glycerin

Thayer’s Witch Hazel Facial Toner (w/ Rose Water)- I chose this product knowing that it was alcohol free, it contained aloe, and I liked the added depth of the rose water component. I also will use this product alone in future. I also really like THIS brand that also comes in unscented.

Carrier Oil- Carrier oils are very important when it comes to formulating your oils for application to skin. Read this great article from HelloGlow, to find out more! I used this particular “coconut oil” product because it’s specifically formulated for skin + absorption, I’ve been using it for a long time and knew it wouldn’t cause irritation, and it also has percentages of safflower oil, jojoba oil, cotton seed oil, almond oil, argan oil, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, and avocado oil. Holy hydration!!

However, I can no longer find this one in stores or online. Therefore, no link available. But, I encourage you to use whatever you have handy and what works for you! It’s so important that you don’t feel pressured to go out and buy a bunch of fancy, expensive products to do this. Find what’s cost effective and easy to obtain, and what might be the best for your skin type. Not everyone will choose the same combination; that’s what makes it so fun & experimental!

Dried Flowers- This part is totally optional and unnecessary, but I love the way it looks! Adding dried flowers can help you identify which oil is which and add to the artsy vibe of the whole thing. You can get dried flowers in a number of places, online, or even dry your own! I got my lavender from Amazon and have been using it for everything imaginable. The lovely chamomile came from Sage Hill Botanicals via their etsy shop.

Vessels- Besides the blends themselves, choosing the vessels to put them into might be my favorite part. Sinead uses The Vessel Collection (as do I) because they have all beautiful, glass containers you could want. I went to place an order from them immediately, BUT then I saw the $40 shipping to the USA and knew I’d have to do something different. So, I searched for something I loved, US based, and found these gems from Karma & Cosmo. They are SO GOOD!!

I also have a monthly subscription to Grove Collaborative and received another one of their perfect, spray bottles in my box last month. Similar HERE. Or you could reuse/repurpose a container from home.

Funnels- I reccommend getting funnels for besically any project that requires dumping liquid from one container to another, but especially for small/narrow necked bottles like this. I got a pack from Amazon (linked), a lot of times they come with a bottle when you buy them, or you could probably find them at the dollar store.

If you are (and even if you’re not) new to essential oils, I HIGHLY recommend getting a book like “A Beginner’s Guide To Essential Oils”. It’s a helpful and quick reference to remember what each is helpful for, their uses, and what they blend well with…etc. I use this one regularly to maintain knowledge of what works well for me.

Let’s get down with the blends!

Cloud Nine Room Spray:

Unscrew the top of your glass bottle and add essential oils.

4 drops lemongrass

4 drops clary sage

4 drops patchouli

4 drops pine

Fill the glass halfway with distilled water, then fill the other half with witch hazel. replace the lid and shake the bottle to combine the witch hazel, oil, and water. (If your glass bottle is clear instead of colored, you could also add some dried flowers or greenery to add beauty and also- if desired- show the scent.)

This blend helps to energize, reduce anxiety, support mindfulness and concentration, as well as boost air quality. Perfect for literally any time of day and any room in your home.

*For the roller balls, drop essential oils in, fill the rest of the bottle with carrier oil. Be sure to leave a little space at the top so there is room to drop in any dried flowers and put the roller back on. My rollers here are 7.5ml.

Tranquil Slumber Roller

4 drops lavender

2 drops vetiver

2 drops ylang ylang

2 drops australian sandalwood

This roller recipe is great for treatment of insomnia or sleep disorders, promoting calm & relaxation, and overall easing restlessness. As someone who suffers from insomnia, I LOVE THIS BLEND! And can attest to it’s soothing qualities.

Lifegiver Roller

5 drops tangerine

1 drop spearmint

3 drops lemongrass

3 drops lime

This roller is designed to boost mood, refresh, and alleviate the blues! Everyone needs this one in their life. And all my kids even loved how it smelled (not that they need more energy lol). Eucalyptus would’ve been a great addition to this, even replacing the lime. (However, my 2 year old dumped out all I had left before I could make these!!)

Look Lively Roller

3 drops pink pepper

2 drops frankinsence

2 drop bergamot

1 drop rosemary

Loving this roller for those days when you just need a “pep talk” to get you through those late afternoons when you’re so badly craving a nap. Good for invigoration, emotional support, and increase alertness.

*For body spray, add your oils, then one tablespoon of vegetable glycerin, one tablespoon of witch hazel, and fill the rest with distilled water. The perfume bottle I’m using here is 50ml.

Nature’s Child Body Spray

12 drops patchouli

12 drops bergamot

10 drops myrrh

8 drops tangerine jasmine blend (if you don’t have this blend you can use 4 drops of each, separate oil)

8 drops australian sandalwood

6 drops lemon

This is a very subtle scent, but I love it for after the shower. It’s got a sweet, earthiness that’s extremely pleasant and uplifting. It improves feelings of contentment, enhances meditation, intensifies attentiveness, & supports overall well-being. Keep in mind though, it’s a body spray, not a perfume, so the scent does fade with time.

Okay, that it for me. I hope you guys try some of these out, or, as I mentioned, I would love to hear some of your creations you think I should give a whirl!

Stay groovy, friends,

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.

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.