The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

Adventures In Sourdough IX: Onion Sprout Focaccia October 18, 2010

Filed under: baking,bread,CSA,San Diego,sourdough — Amanda @ 21:19
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Onion Sprout Focaccia Stack

After six months of bi-weekly CSA boxes from Suzie’s Farm, one of my favorite ingredients is onion sprouts. These delicate little sprouts pack big onion flavor, and while I love to eat them sprinkled over salads, I’ve also discovered that they add great onion flavor when baked into bread!

Onion Sprouts

This recipe is based on a no-knead focaccia recipe from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger. I use the standard yeast version as a deep-dish pizza dough, but I’ve also converted the recipe to use my 100% hydration (equal flour and water by weight) sourdough starter.

Recipe Conversion from Yeast to Sourdough

I used my home-grown San Diego Bay sourdough starter; after about four months of inactivity the refrigerator, it peaked in activity about 16-20 hours after its second feeding. It was a little bit past peak by the time I used it, but was still had enough power to leaven the focaccia in about 2 hours.

Bubbly sourdough starter

After setting aside 12 ounces of starter for the focaccia, I had about four ounces left to keep in the fridge. I fed this with flour and water (3 ounces each), and used masking tape to label the jar with the date and activation notes, so I know what to expect next time I use it – this is a very handy method if you sometimes neglect the starter for a few months, like me :)

SD Starter Labeled for Storage.

To make the focaccia, I combined 12 ounces sourdough starter with 16.5 ounces (about 3 1/3 cups) flour, 1/4 cup water plus 1 cup milk, warmed to about 105 degrees F, and a generous 1/4 cup olive oil.

A good kitchen scale makes weighing flour fun!

After mixing those ingredients in a stand mixer until well combined, I added about 3/4 of an ounce of onion sprouts (I just eyeballed the volume and weighed them afterward for the measurement, so feel free to use more or less depending on preference for oniony flavor!), and mixed for about 3 more minutes on medium speed, ensuring that the onion sprouts were evenly distributed.

onion sprout focaccia, before rising

I drizzled the bowl with olive oil (don’t be shy – the olive oil is what makes this focaccia spectacular), and turned the dough over to coat it with the oil, then let it rise until doubled in size, about two hours.

Focaccia Dough After Rising

I then turned the dough out onto a parchment lined half-sheet pan, spread and stretched it to cover the bottom of the pan, dimpled it with my fingers, and let it rest for about 20 minutes while heating the oven (with baking stone on the bottom rack) to 450F.

Focaccia before baking

After fifteen minutes in the oven, I lowered the heat to 350F and baked for an additional 20 minutes, until the top was golden. Chuck has declared this to be the best focaccia I’ve ever made, and he should know – while it was cooling, I walked out of the kitchen and folded some laundry, and by the time I came back a corner was missing! I guess the scent of freshly baked bread and roasted onions was too hard to resist!

Onion Sprout Focaccia

To make the focaccia with yeast instead of sourdough starter, use the following ingredients: 1 package (or 1 Tbs) Active Dry Yeast; 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour; 1 1/4 tsp salt; 1 cup warm water; 1 cup warm milk (105F- 115F); 1/4 olive oil; 3/4 ounces onion sprouts.

Delicious oniony crumb

I’ll be submitting this to YeastSpotting, my favorite online source for bread baking inspiration!



Honey Whole-Wheat Bread February 27, 2010

Filed under: baking,bread,home — Amanda @ 22:32
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Honey Whole-Wheat Bread

Whether due to pure tastiness or a boost of nostalgia, this is probably my favorite bread recipe. I learned to bake bread by helping in my Grandma’s kitchen on the weekends when I was young, and this is the whole wheat recipe that we made. I think it can be enjoyed even by people who don’t typically like whole wheat bread – only about a sixth of the flour in the original recipe is whole wheat, and the honey and sugar give it a pleasing sweetness.

The recipe also has a distinctive secret ingredient: Cottage Cheese!

Cottage Cheese!

The original recipe, which makes two standard-size loaves of bread, calls for:

  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 c cottage cheese
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 5 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 2 packages dried yeast
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp salt

Since both of my loaf pans are larger than standard size, I multiplied the quantities of everything but the yeast and egg by 1.5 so that I had enough dough to rise above the tops of the pans. (I probably could have done *1.33, but 1.5 was easier.)

Recipe Card

First, combine the water, cottage cheese, honey, and butter in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until the butter is just melted.

Butter, honey, cottage cheese and water in sauce pan

To avoid killing the yeast, you’ll want to make sure the temperature of the cottage cheese mixture is below 115 F. If you keep the heat low enough so that the butter melts gradually, it should be fine – mine came out at 108 F.

Testing the cottage cheese mixture's temperature.

While the cottage cheese mixture was heating, I put together a mise en place with the remaining ingredients:

mise en place

I wanted a slightly higher percentage of whole wheat flour than the recipe called for, so I increased the whole wheat flour by 1 1/2 cups, and decreased the all-purpose flour by the same amount. In the mise en place I’ve set aside a quarter of the of AP flour for kneading; the rest of the flour (whole wheat + AP) is mixed together in the large bowl.

Also, a note about the yeast – you’ll see various advice about how long yeast will last past the expiration date. I buy mine in bulk from King Arthur Flour and store it in the freezer. The package I currently have was originally purchased over four years ago – October 2005!  – and it’s still going strong. So even if you only use yeast a few times a year, buying in bulk and storing in the freezer may be more convenient and cost effective than buying individual packets.

My yeast - purchased in 2005!

I combined the flour mixture, yeast, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl, then added the cottage cheese mixture and egg. I mixed these until combined, then turned out onto a kneading mat and added half the reserved flour:

Bread dough, first mixing

Bread dough - kneading in reserved flour

After I kneaded in the portion of reserved flour, I split the dough in hlaf to rise in separate containers. For the standard size recipe you can divide the dough later, and probably by hand instead of weighing the portions, but I had a large batch of dough and a fun kitchen scale, so I weighed it out:

Bread dough after first knead

As you can see in the next picture, my dough weighed 2.6 kilograms – about 5 3/4  pounds!

Weighing the dough

Half of the dough - 1.3 Kg

I put each half of the dough into a mixing bowl, covered them with plastic wrap, and let them rise for about 2 hours (until approximately doubled in size).

Dough covered for first rise.

After the first rise, I took each piece of dough, deflated it, and kneaded in its half of the remaining flour.

Dough after first rise

Half the dough after second knead

I then returned the dough to the mixing bowl, and let it rise again until doubled, about 1.5 hours:

Dough after second rise

I then shaped the dough into cylinders to fit the loaf pans, covered with plastic wrap again, and let rise a final time while I preheated the oven to 350F:

In loaf pans before final rise

After about 40 minutes, the dough was well clear of the pan rims:

Dough after final rise

I then put it in the oven at 350F; my large loaves took a little over an hour to bake thoroughly, but standard size loaves will likely finish sooner and should be checked after 45 minutes.

The finished bread had a rich brown crust – the dark spots are the cottage cheese curds – and the crumb was similar to a dense sandwich bread – not spongy, but soft and close-crumbed, with a thick, slightly crispy crust.

Honey Whole-Wheat Bread

The crumb shot!

The sweetness of the bread doesn’t pair well with some savory applications – I wouldn’t make a fried-egg or pastrami sandwich with it, for example – but this bread is perfect with peanut butter and jelly, or toasted with butter and/or jam.

This is my fourth submission to YeastSpotting, the inspirational weekly compendium of bread baking blogs hosted at the Wild Yeast blog.


Adventures In Sourdough VIII: San Diego Bay Sourdough Starter January 3, 2010

Filed under: baking,San Diego,sourdough — Amanda @ 19:37
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Number 20 on my semi-neglected 101 Things list: create a sourdough starter from scratch. Last month, with cool weather and nice breezes flowing in from the bay, I decided the timing was perfect. Eschewing the more complicated-sounding grape-containing starter in my Nancy Silverton book, I looked to The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum for guidance.

Mmmm, sourdough

Mmmm, sourdough

The recipe recommends organic rye or whole wheat flour to start off with, as those apparently have the most wild yeast cells already and the least chance of contamination. My supply of rye flour (organic? not sure – got it from the bulk bin at Henry’s) was running low, so I supplemented with some pumpernickel flour (whole-grain rye, essentially) to get up to four ounces flour. To this I added four ounces cold water, then took my measuring cup outside and covered it with plastic wrap.

After two days, I brought the proto-starter inside to start the feeding schedule. The starter did not smell very good at this point – sour and fermented, yes, but not good; in the absence of any visible signs of spoilage I simply blamed the odor on the rye flour and continued with the feeding schedule, throwing away half of the starter and adding 2 ounces each of bread flour and water. The next morning, I was happy to see air bubbles – it might actually be working!

After three days: air bubbles!

I fed it again, with 2 ounces each water and flour, and the next morning I was rewarded with more signs of life – the starter had more than doubled in size overnight, so I was pretty confident that it would soon be viable for baking.

Day four - more rising power!

I fed the starter for three more days, discarding part of the original each time to keep the volume manageable, then poured about 1 cup into a quart-sized jar for refrigerator storage and gave it an extra feeding.

San Diego Bay Starter - ready for refrigeration

I had about 1.5 cups of starter left, so I started a simple bread recipe based on the San Francisco Sourdough recipe in Ed Wood’s Classic Sourdoughs. I added 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water to the starter, then let it rise for about 4 hours at room temperature, at which point it had doubled in size:

Bread dough after initial rise

I then dissolved 1.5 teaspoons salt in 1 cup water, added this to the dough, and then mixed in 3 cups of flour one at a time. I then kneaded in one more cup of flour, and formed two round boules:

Sourdough Boules, after kneading & shaping

I let the loaves rise for about two hours before slashing and baking at 400°F, spritzing the oven three times in the first five minutes of baking to help the crust formation. After about 45 minutes, success! The first loaves from my new sourdough culture were complete!

Sourdough bread from new starter


Bring On the Barley: Spent Grain Crackers November 7, 2009

Filed under: baking,beer,bread,San Diego — Amanda @ 18:06
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Barley Blend from Chocolate Porter

Barley Blend from Chocolate Porter

Inspired by the spent grain flatbread I’ve had at Stone World Bistro (where it’s now called “Brewer’s Barley Cracker Bread”, perhaps because non-brewers are squeamish about the phrase “spent grain”), I took advantage of Chuck’s recent batch of Chocolate Porter to try my hand at making these treats. I searched for recipes in my numerous baking cookbooks and online, and found several recipes for spent-grain bread, but none for crackers. While reviewing the flatbread section of The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook, I decided that the malted barley is kind of like rolled oats, and so an adaption of the “Scottish Oat Cakes” recipe would be my jumping off point for my spent grain crackers.

Recipe for Scottish Oat Cakes, with Spent Grain Markup

Recipe for Scottish Oat Cakes, with Spent Grain Markup

I wanted my crackers to be part whole-wheat, and wanted to use less butter, oil, and sugar than in the oat cakes recipe, and I was hoping the residual moisture in the barley from the beer-making would help bind the crackers together.

I started out with 2 cups lightly packed barley which had been boiled from the beer and then mostly drained.


Two cups packed barley

I combined the barley with one cup each King Arthur All-Purpose flour and King Arthur Whole Wheat flour, added two tablespoons brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.


Mixing the dry ingredients

I then added 1/2 cup butter, slightly softened, and 4 tablespoons shortening, and creamed those into the flour and barley mixture. After mixing in the butter and shortening, I had a dough that held together loosely. I recommend adding 2-4 tablespoons of water to make the dough more cohesive, since my baked crackers had some crumbly edges.


Cracker dough after mixing in butter and shortening

The recipe recommends rolling out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cutting it into rectangular crackers, but I was going for a more rustic look. I used a cookie scoop to get uniformly-sized balls of dough, then squished them down to about 1/4 thick:

Dough sqiushed into disks, before baking

Dough squished into disks, before baking

I then baked the crackers at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until fairly crispy. The resulting crackers had the flakiness of a pie crust, with extra chewiness from all the barley. The whole wheat flour and barley gave the crackers sweetness, but they weren’t overwhelmingly sweet.


Spent grain crackers, just out of the oven

We had the crackers with our dinner that night, as part of a cheese plate. We had three cheeses from Taste cheese shop –  Mimolette, Barely Buzzed (made with coffee – my favorite!), and Shropshire Blue.  We also paired our dinner with Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point.

Cheese Plate with Baguette and Spent Grain Crackers

Cheese Plate with Baguette and Spent Grain Crackers

Sculpin IPA

Sculpin IPA

These crackers are a fun and tasty way to use some of the barley from beer-brewing, and I recommend making them if you get the chance!


Adventures In Sourdough VII: Sweet Potato Bread October 25, 2009

Filed under: baking,bread,sourdough — Amanda @ 15:48
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Sweet Potato Sourdough fresh from the oven!

Sweet Potato Sourdough fresh from the oven!

It had been a while since I used my sourdough starters, so I recently spent two consecutive weekends nursing them back to health and baking some bread. The first week, I made a no-frills slow-rise white bread, but last weekend I made something a little bit more exotic – sweet potato bread! The recipe I used is called “Pumpkin Bread” in the La Brea Bakery Bread cookbook, which admits to the intentional misnomer because “pumpkin bread” is more marketable than “yam bread”. (I remain utterly confused as to whether I’m technically using sweet potatoes or yams, but I’m going with my personal convention: dark orange = sweet potato, yellow = yam.)

IMG_3810This is actually the first time I’ve used the Breads from the La Brea Bakery book (I’ve probably had it for eight years or so!), partially because I have so many bread cookbooks (but I still really do need the ones on my Amazon wishlist!), and partially because I’ve finally become confident enough in my sourdough bread-baking to improvide freely where the sometime complex recipes don’t quite work for me (or even just to take a shortcut!).

"Pumpkin" Bread recipe from Breads from the La Brea Bakery

"Pumpkin" Bread from Breads from the La Brea Bakery

This recipe, for example, called for roasted pumpkin seeds and wheat germ – I didn’t have those on hand, so I just ignored them. Also, my starter reched peak activity a few hours before I was ready to bake, so I took the amount of starter called for in the recipe and borrowed some of the water and white flour called for in the recipe to feed the starter and keep it happy until I was ready to use it.

Very Active Sourdough Starter

Very Active Sourdough Starter

My variation of the “Pumpkin” Bread went thusly:

1) 8 ounces active starter; add 4 ounces cold water and 4 ounces bread flour; let stand several hours at room temperature

2) Oven roast 2 medium sweet potatoes at 400 degrees F for one hour; cool, peel and mash; measure 10 ounces for use in the bread, make sure they are room temperature or cooler before continuing.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

3) Combine 7 ounces whole wheat flour, 14 ounces bread flour, and one teaspoon ground cumin in a mixing bowl (you should also add one tablespoon salt to this mixture, but I forgot and had to knead it in later).

Weighing whole wheat and bread flours

Weighing whole wheat and bread flours

4) Combine starter mixture, 8 ounces cold water, and mashed sweet potatoes. Add flour mixture one cup at a time, mixing thoroughly.

Mixing in the flour

Mixing in the flour

5) When too thick to mix by hand, transfer to kneading surface and knead in the rest of the flour, adding more if necessary. If you forgot to add the salt earlier, sprinkle it over the kneading surface and work it in now (it’s non-ideal, but it works!).

the kneaded dough Dough after kneading

6) Put dough in lightly-greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (the book says 6-10 hours, but I think mine was refrigerated for about 14 hours and still turned out well).

Dough after proofing overnight

Dough after proofing overnight

7) Divide the dough into three pieces, deflate, and form into rounds; let rest 15 minutes.

unevenly separated dough, resting

unevenly separated dough, resting

8 ) Form rounds into ovals, then construct elaborate flour-covered proofing contraption to help loaves retain oval shape during final rise:

"Ovals" rising between loaf pans and towel-rolled kitchen accessories

"Ovals" rising between loaf pans and towel-rolled kitchen accessories

(Alternately, choose an easier shape if you don’t have small oval baskets). I set up my proofing area on my baking peel, covered with a sheet of parchment, for “easy” transfer to the oven. In reality, the loaves were a little too big for that and it wasn’t THAT easy, but I didn’t have to invert the loaves onto the peel before transferring to the oven. I did bake a corner of parchment into the bottom of the smallest loaf, but was easy to avoid parchment-ingestion, so no real harm done!)

9) Let loaves rise for 3-6 hours at room temperature, or 6-10 hours in the refrigerator if you have enough room.

Loaves after proofing

Loaves after proofing

10) Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F at least one hour before baking; I use a baking stone on the lowest rack of my oven. Slash the tops of the loaves, then transfer to the oven; lower the temperature to 450F and spritz the oven with water three times in the first five minutes of baking. After 20 more minutes, rotate the loaves if necessary, then bake an additional 10 minutes and remove from the oven. The loaves will be a lovely roasted orange color (Nancy Silverton, my Los Angeles baking hero, calls it “burnished brown”).

Sweet Potato Bread, finished loaves

Sweet Potato Bread, finished loaves

11) Wait patiently for the loaves to cool, then slice to reveal beautiful crumb, roasted cumin fragrance, and deliciously moist interior. For best results, lightly toast, then slather with butter and sprinkle with sea salt!

Sweet Potato Bread, the Crumb Shot

The Obligatory Crumb Shot

This is my third submission for YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast!


Adventures In Sourdough VI: Blueberry Waffles with Whole Wheat Flour April 5, 2009

Filed under: baking,home,sourdough — Amanda @ 20:54
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I used to buy Eggo waffles for breakfast sometimes, but then I actually looked at the ingredients for their “Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat” waffles, and was seriously unimpressed with their whole-wheat content. Since then, whenever I’m craving waffles I make my own, individually wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer. They’re round just like the Eggos I used to love and can be toasted straight out of the freezer for a quick breakfast or lunch. Last weekend, I decided to take my homemade waffles to a whole new level – it was time for sourdough waffles.

I based my recipe on the Blueberry Waffle recipe in Ed Wood’s World Sourdoughs From Antiquity, but increased the yield to eleven waffles by adding an additional feed and proof cycle. Here’s how I did it:

1) To two cups active culture (100% hydration), add two cups whole wheat flour and one cup water. Proof for 4 hours (or longer depending on culture).

sourdough culture with whole wheat added

sourdough culture with whole wheat added

2) Thaw 2 cups frozen blueberries; drain if desired (I’m ok with purple batter, so I kept the bluejuice). Melt four Tablespoons butter. Add blueberries, butter, and 1 teaspoon salt to proofed sourdough culture.

sourdough cluture with blueberries and butter

sourdough culture with blueberries, butter, and salt

3) Beat 4 eggs and 1/4 cup sugar on high speed until foamy and tripled in size. (The original recipe called for the more traditional separation of eggs – it added egg yolks and sugar directly to the flour mixture and beat the egg whites to soft peaks, but I had just made a genoise cake the day before and realized that I could be slightly lazy and skip the egg separation step. Seemed to work pretty well.) Gently fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture.

Eggs and Sugar, Foamy

eggs and sugar, foamy

4) Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in 1 Tablespoon hot water; add to waffle batter and mix gently.

final waffle batter

final waffle batter

5) Add batter to preheated waffle iron and cook to desired level of crispiness. My waffle iron took slighty more than 1/2 cup batter per waffle, and I used a cook time of about 5 minutes per waffle on the highest heat setting. The waffle edges sometimes had an uncooked appearance when there wasn’t enough batter to fill the iron completely; since I was re-toasting my waffles after freezing this was no big deal, but it’s worth making sure the iron is full enough to come in contact with the edges of the waffles when you’re eating them fresh from the iron.

waffle in progress

waffle in progress, not enough batter

6) Eat and enjoy! I’ve had these waffles toasted to untra-crispness with butter, with peanute butter and jelly, and the traditional butter and maple syrup (Grade B, for richest flavor). They’re probably the best waffles I’ve made yet – the sourdough flavor works well with the sweet-tartness of the blueberries and adds a depth of flavor that waffles are usually missing.

Blueberry Whole Wheat Waffle

Blueberry Whole Wheat Waffle

This is my second submission to YeastSpotting, the weekly compendium of blogged breads that is a fantastic source of baking inspiration.


Adventures in Sourdough V: More English Muffins February 21, 2009

Filed under: baking,bread,sourdough — Amanda @ 15:50
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English Muffin with Raspeberry Jam

English Muffin with Raspeberry Jam

Before Mom visited last month, she mentioned that she had never made yeast bread from scratch, and also that she thought the idea of a sourdough starter was kind of gross. ‘This cannot be!’ I said, and promised to force teach her to make bread when she visited in January. I had frozen a few of my sourdough English Muffins for her and dad to try, and they were a big hit, so we decided to make another batch to keep us in breakfasts for the rest of the weekend.

Mom kneads the dough

Mom kneads the dough

This time I changed things up by using a different recipe, from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary cookbook, and a different sourdough starter, the second that I activated from the set of Italian starters that Chuck gave me for my birthday. This sourdough starter is more slow-acting than the other, taking about three feedings and a day and a half out of the refrigerator before it becomes fully active. Since the other one is much faster, this one tends to make me nervous that it won’t properly activate, but it’s come through every time so far.

Still kneading - see Mom, this is fun!

Still kneading - see Mom, this is fun!

This recipe also used some baking powder for a little extra leavening power, and I was hoping that helped develop some better nooks and crannies than the first recipe.

Cutting out the muffins

Cutting out the muffins

Since this recipe used the baking powder, it didn’t require an additional rise time after cutting out the muffins, we got to cook them immediately. The instructions were to cook the muffins in a skillet on ten minutes per side, and I decided to use two skillets instead of just one to move the process along more quickly.

My double-burner skillet solution

My double-burner skillet solution

There were two things about these English Muffins that I didn’t like as much as the previous version: we floured the counter a little too much while rolling them out and didn’t let them sit to rise for very long afterward, so the cornmeal didn’t stick to the bottom very well, and I really liked the cornmeal crunch on the first version. The other thing I didn’t like was that the baking powder caused the muffins to dome a little bit during the first part of cooking, and so some of the muffins were a bit pointy-headed, where the previous batch had been more evenly shaped.

the finished muffins

the finished muffins

Other than those minor quibbles, these muffins also turned out really well. They were more sour than the previous batch, which is a characteristic of the slower sourdough starter, and the baking powder method did seem to improve the nooks-and-crannies factor. The other key to getting good nooks and crannies seems to be fork-splitting the muffins (poke a fork into the side of the muffin, then rotate slightly and poke again, continuing around the muffin until the top and bottom halves have separated).

toasted muffin, fork-split for good nooks and crannies

toasted muffin, fork-split for good nooks and crannies



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