Categories
Savories

Rustic Zucchini and Apple Crostata

This was a fridge cleanout creation. I needed to use up a few random bits before heading off on a leaf-peeping trip to North Carolina. The prospect of those fall colors must be taking over my brain because the result is wonderfully autumnal.

Ingredients

For the pastry crust:

  • 1 stick very cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling out dough (whole wheat pastry is great, but whatever you have on hand will work)
  • big pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated hard cheese of choice (parm, cheddar, gruyere, etc)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • big pinch salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped herbs of choice (sage, rosemary, parsley, etc)
  • honey for drizzling

Step-by-step

  • To make pastry dough, mix flour and salt in a bowl. Add butter cubes and work in by hand. Aggressively pinch and mix with your fingers until the butter is roughly the size of peas. Try to work fast to keep everything as cold as possible.
  • Pour in water, mixing by hand to create a uniform dough. Depending on the flour used, you may need a bit more water or a bit more flour to achieve the right consistency, which should be smooth, firm and fully hydrated, but not tacky. Shape dough into a thick disc.
  • Allow dough to rest covered in the fridge while prepping the filling. You can also make dough in advance. It will keep in the fridge for several days.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Mix together all filling ingredients but the honey so the veggies are uniformly coated.
  • To roll out pastry crust, generously flour work surface and dough. Use a rolling pin to flatten, working from the middle toward the edges in every direction. Flip the dough over and continuously dust with flour, so nothing sticks to the counter. (Or do like my mother and roll the dough out in between two pieces of wax paper!). The goal is a rough circle about a 1/4 inch thick. I often get very uneven jagged edges, which I just rip off and smoosh in where necessary to form a circle-ish shape.
  • To assemble, place the rolled out pastry dough on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Add filling in the middle of the circle, leaving an inch border of dough. Drizzle with honey. Fold dough border over on top of the filling.
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes until the crust is brown and the zucchini and apple are softened and browning at the edges.
Categories
Ferments

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

This is my attempt to document my process for baking a loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread. It is the longest and most in-depth recipe I’ve included on the website to date. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at sunshineandmicrobes@gmail.com.

“One way to think about bread– and there are so many: as food or Food, matter and Spirit, commonplace, communion, metaphor, and medium (or exchange, transformation, sociality, etc.)– is simply this: as an ingenious technology for improving the flavor, digestibility, and nutritional value of grass.”

-Michael Pollan, Cooked

It can be challenging to understand the movements involved in each step without watching someone do them (and really…doing them yourself a bunch of times to build muscle memory). I’ve done my best to document the process with photos. It’s tough to be your own camera person when, for the most part, baking requires two hands! One day I’ll get my act together and make a video tutorial.

If you’ve got an active sourdough starter, you’re ready to start baking bread. If not, check out my method for building and maintaining a sourdough starter here.

Equipment

  • Kitchen scale
  • Dutch oven or other oven safe pot with lid
  • large mixing bowl
  • bowl or proofing basket
  • kitchen towel
  • razor blade, sharp knife, or kitchen scissors

Ingredients

  • 510 g water (a shade or two colder than room temperature)
  • 600 g whole wheat bread flour* see note on flour type below the recipe
  • 100 g active sourdough starter
  • 15 g  salt

Step-by-step

Feed Your Starter
  • 4-6 hours before mixing, feed the sourdough starter. In a clean jar, thoroughly mix 50 g starter with 50 g rye or whole wheat flour and 50 g room temperature or cooler water. Loosely cover and allow to rise at room temperature. The starter is ready to use when it is aerated throughout, at least doubled in volume, smells pleasantly sour, and a small plop of it floats in water.
    sourdough starter
Mix Ingredients
  • In a large bowl, mix 450 g water and all flour. Mix well until no dry bits of flour can be detected. Let mixture sit, loosely covered with a kitchen towel, for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This allows the flour to absorb the water and makes the dough easier to manipulate.
    dough mixing collage
  • Add sourdough starter and 30 g water to dough and aggressively mix until fully incorporated. Squish the dough between your fingers as if you had crab claws. Then scoop from the bottom of the bowl and fold the dough up over onto itself. (If that’s confusing, check out a visual at 2:10 of this video tutorial) Let mixture sit, covered, for 30 minutes. 
    Don’t forget to feed what’s left of the sourdough starter and store it in the fridge until your next bake.
  • Add salt and 30 g water and mix in the same manner as above until fully incorporated. Give the dough a full 5-10 minutes of mixing using the folding method from above. This long mix will strengthen the gluten network.
1st Rise
  • Allow the dough to sit loosely covered with the kitchen towel for roughly 5-6 hours. Yeasts and lactic acid bacteria will ferment the dough, filling it with carbon dioxide bubbles. During the first 2-3 hours of the rise, stretch and fold the dough every 30 minutes. To do this, wet your hands, grab one edge of the dough from the bottom of the bowl. Stretch it up and fold it into the center over the remainder of the dough. Turn bowl and repeat until you have folded the north, south, east, and west of the dough. (Here’s a video) With each stretch and fold, you’ll be able to feel the dough become stronger and more extensible.
  • Let the dough sit covered and undisturbed for the remainder of the 1st rise. The rise is complete when the dough is aerated throughout, the volume has roughly doubled, and the dough feels pillowy and alive. The temperature of in the kitchen and the dough itself will impact how long this process takes (colder = slower fermentation, hotter = faster).
    risen dough
Shaping
  • Fill a small bowl with water to keep your hands and the work surface wet throughout this process. 
  • Remove the dough from the bowl by tipping the bowl onto the counter and using your fingers to gently pull it from the sides of the bowl. Using the same stretch and fold technique from the first rise, gently flatten the dough out (just a bit!) and fold it into a package , then flip it so the side with the seams is down and the smooth side is up. This gives the dough an initial shape and structure. Let rest for 15-25 minutes.
  • To give the dough it’s final shape, with wet hands and a wet surface, flip the loaf over (smooth side down). For this process, use the stretch and fold technique, but instead of 4 folds, make 5-7, as if folding little flower petals of dough into the center of the loaf. Turn the dough over so the pretty side is facing up.
  • Place a kitchen towel in a bowl or proofing basket. Sprinkle very generously with flour. Place shaped loaf, smooth side down, into the basket. Cover with the remainder of the kitchen towel.
    dough in proofing basket
2nd Rise
  • Place the loaf in the fridge for 12-48 hours. The dough will continue to ferment, developing nuances in flavor and texture.
Baking
  • Place Dutch oven with lid on into oven and preheat to 500 °F. Allow Dutch oven to heat for at least 25 minutes. 
  • Remove loaf from fridge and dust with flour. 
    floured dough
  • Once oven is heated, remove Dutch oven with oven mitts. Carefully flip the loaf into the vessel, floured side down. Using a razor blade or sharp knife (just the tip), score the bread by confidently and quickly cutting a line across the top of the loaf, which will help steam escape and the dough expand in the oven. Alternatively, make a few snips in the top using kitchen scissors.
    scored dough
  • Using oven mitts, place the lid back on the pot and return to oven. In the hot oven, the water in the dough will evaporate, bathing the dough in steam inside the Dutch oven. In this steamy environment, the interior structure (crumb) will expand and begin to solidify. Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for another 15- 20 minutes, so the crust can brown. The loaf is ready once it sounds hollow when you knock its bottom. 
  • Let it fully cool on a rack or propped up on its side. The bread is still cooking at this point as steam escapes the loaf and the fragile internal structure gels. Cutting into it too soon will significantly shorten the shelf life. But if you’re planning to eat the whole loaf right then and there, don’t worry about waiting and just tear into it!
    bread crumbshot

Notes

*A note on flour: The type of flour you use impacts  the bread’s flavor and texture. This has to do with various factors (wheat variety, milling method, enzymatic activity), but the most important factor is gluten (aka protein) content. The stronger the gluten, the airier the loaf.** Gluten content depends on the variety of wheat used and what time of year it was grown. Bread flour has a higher gluten content than pastry flour. White flour has more gluten than whole wheat. 
Whole wheat flour has other important stuff like FIBER and FLAVOR, so I prefer to save white flour for special occasions (and pizza) and bake almost exclusively with whole grain flours. 
Because of the lower gluten content, baking with whole wheat is more challenging than with white flour, since gluten keeps everything knitted together.  Newer bakers (or anyone looking for a super airy crumb) may choose to replace a third or even a half of the total whole wheat flour with white bread flour. If adding white flour, reduce total water for the recipe to 450 g.
**Serious bakers who want a deeper understanding of gluten, start here.
Categories
Sweets

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

I make a lot of cultured butter at work. I’m always trying to find creative ways to use up the buttermilk, the liquid byproduct of the butter-making process. Here is one such endeavor – a lovely, little cake. Easy to whip up and satisfying without feeling decadent. Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream for a satisfying afternoon snack.

Makes: 1 cake

Equipment

  • 9-inch round springform or other cake pan
  • parchment paper

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour, but choose your own adventure)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (or milk or yogurt)
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • (Optional) 1 cup mix-ins such as chopped nuts, chocolate, and/or coconut flakes

Step-by-step

  • Preheat oven to 375 °F. Cut a round piece of parchment and line the cake pan so the bottom and most of the sides are covered. Lightly rub a splash of olive oil onto parchment.
  • In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Crack the eggs directly into the flour mixture, breaking the yolks with a wooden spoon. Add buttermilk, olive oil, and vanilla extract and mix until there are no more dry bits of flour.
  • If adding optional mix-ins, gently fold into the batter now.
  • Pour batter into the parchment-lined pan, and bake on the middle rack in the oven for about 35 minutes. Insert a toothpick to be sure the cake is cooked all the way through (There should be no wet batter sticking to the toothpick). Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Carefully remove cake from the pan. Gently peel away parchment, and let it finish cooling, ideally on a wire rack.
Categories
Sweets

Berry Oat Crumble Bars

Eating a strawberry that was picked ripe will ruin those cardboard imposters at the supermarket. Many of the fruits found in grocery stores are picked in an unripe state (often chemically-ripened off the vine, although not in the case of strawberries). This increases their shelf life and their ability to survive transport. But these shortcuts rob the fruit of vital maturation time on the plant, where it develops the sugars that make it delicious. That’s why strawberries from the supermarket often taste like clouds of nothing. But it’s strawberry season in Florida, and the farmers markets I frequent are dripping with sweet, just-harvested fruit. I could talk about why you should turn them into these crumble bars, which are sweet enough for dessert but not so decadent that you couldn’t eat one for breakfast…or we could all collectively listen to The Crumble Song.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from somewhere else

Ingredients

For the oat mixture:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 sticks butter, cut into 1-inch pieces (or make it vegan by substituting 1 1/2 cups olive oil)

For the Berry Mixture:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 pound berries of choice (slice strawberries, leave others whole)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Step-by-step

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper. 
  • To make the oat mixture, combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined but still crumbly.
  • Firmly press 3/4 of oat mixture into the pan to form the crust, reserving the remainder for topping. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
  • While the crust bakes, make the berry mixture by combining all ingredients together in a bowl.
  • For a crunchier crumble, allow crust to cool once it comes out of the oven. But if you don’t mind a softer bottom, go ahead and top the crust with the berry mixture, then sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly over the top.
  • Bake for approximately 45 minutes until things start to bubble and the crumble on top looks golden brown.
Categories
Ferments

Sourdough Starter

Many people think that sourdough refers to a style of bread — a crusty white loaf with big holes and a sour flavor. This San Francisco-style sourdough is famous thanks to bakers like Chad Robertson (of the Tartine empire). However sourdough can run the gamut of baked goods, from dense rye loaves to pizza crusts to croissants. Sourdough refers to the process in which bread and other baked goods are fermented or risen. 

Nowadays bakers typically use a package of commercial yeast to rise their dough. Those lab-bred microorganisms work super fast and uniformly by converting the starches in flour to carbon dioxide, which gets trapped in the dough and creates the air pockets seen in bread crumb (crumb refers to the interior of the bread). Sourdough uses wild yeasts and bacteria — found in the air, on the flour, and on our hands — to do the same job, but much slower. This slower fermentation process produces more nuanced flavors — the sweet and acid notes associated with sourdough, and if properly managed — a more digestible product. 

To bake sourdough bread (or pizza, or croissants), you need to maintain a sourdough starter. Anyone can create a sourdough starter from scratch, with one trip to the grocery store and about five minutes of work a day for approximately two weeks. After that, the starter will require regular use or occasional maintenance, and — Bam! you got yourself a collector’s item that can be shared with friends and family.

The Science

Yeast and lactic acid bacteria (LAB) like to eat sugar. Mixing flour and water together creates an all-you-can-eat buffet for the wild yeast and LAB in the kitchen environment. The microbes will gobble up the sugars (starch) and convert it into carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Happily fed, the yeast and LAB reproduce and take over the mixture. A healthy colony of microbes will thrive perpetually in the flour and water mixture as long as they’re kept fed (in the form of flour and water). Now it’s time to make delicious baked goods

Equipment

  • Kitchen scale
  • Two clear containers (I use wide mouth pint mason jars)

Ingredients

  • Water
  • Rye or whole wheat flour

Step-by-step

  • On the first day, mix together equal parts room temperature water and rye or whole wheat flour (I do 30 g and 30 g) in a clear jar. Stir to remove clumps of flour and thoroughly aerate. Loosely cover with a kitchen towel or lid (don’t screw it on).
    Check in on the mixture for the next few days. After 3-5 days, tiny bubbles should begin to form. Those bubbles are the sign that wild yeast and LAB have made their way into the mixture. This is the beginning of your sourdough starter.
    Once the bubbles appear, begin to feed the starter.
Feeding the Starter
  • Scoop out 50 g of starter into a clean jar. Add in another 50 g room temperature water and 50 g rye or whole wheat flour, mix thoroughly, and loosely cover. The leftover starter in the first jar is called the “discard”, which I save in a separate container in the fridge for other uses (it’s great in pancake batter). 
    Feed the starter (the direction in bold above) twice everyday, morning and night, at roughly the same time. Once the mixture begins to follow a regular schedule where it doubles in size and then collapses back down in between each feeding, it’s ready for baking. I recommend feeding the starter twice daily for another week or two, in order to develop its strength and flavor.
Storage, Use, and Maintenance
  • Once satisfied with the starter (taste it throughout! The flavor should be a pleasant combo of  acidic and fruity), seal it tight and store in the fridge until ready to bake with it. 
    About 4-6 hours — longer if living somewhere really cold — before baking with the starter, take it out of the fridge and feed it. Once the starter has roughly doubled in size, looks aerated throughout, and floats when dropped in water, it is ready to bake. 
    Take out the amount of starter required for the recipe. Don’t forget to reserve some of the starter and feed it, so it can be used for future bakes. Store in the fridge between uses.
To Increase or Decrease Starter Quantity
  • 50 g each of starter, flour, and water gives me enough starter to bake a loaf or two of bread. If I need more, I can increase these numbers. If I'm feeding for storage in the fridge, I decrease to 30 g each.
    If I need a ton of starter, I feed a very small amount of mature starter to a large quantity of flour and water and let it rise overnight. For example, if I needed 800 g of starter, I would mix 400 g water, 400 g flour, and 20 g mature starter and let it rise for about 12-14 hours.

Notes

Sometimes a brown or grey liquid will form at the top of the starter. This is perfectly fine. It’s alcohol from the fermenting process. Just pour it off and continue as normal. It is a sign that the bacteria are hungry, so simply feed the starter more regularly.
You cannot “kill” a sourdough starter. Even if the microbial colony in the starter dies, you can always coax more wild yeast and bacteria with fresh feedings of flour and water. So if the sourdough isn’t behaving, it’s a sign to feed it more regularly.
These are the basics to maintaining a healthy sourdough starter. If you have any questions at all, please reach out at sunshineandmicrobes@gmail.com.
Categories
Kitchen Basics

Whole Grain Flatbreads

These dead-easy flatbreads are an excellent addition to most meals. Top them with a few slices of fancy cheddar and lightly dressed greens; use them to sop up a pot of tomato-y beans, or fill them with leftovers for a satisfying sammie.

Makes: 6

Equipment

  • KitchenAid mixer with a paddle attachment (if available)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour of choice (go for a whole grain, or a blend)

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 2 tsp salt

  • 1 cup liquid (buttermilk, yogurt, nut milk, veggie stock, whatevs)

  • Fresh herbs and spices (optional)

  • 1/2 cup sourdough discard (optional- if using, reduce 1 cup liquid to 1/2 cup)

  • Extra flour for shaping

Step-by-step

  • Use a KitchenAid mixer with a paddle attachment if available, but mixing by hand is also fine. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and any spices. Then, add liquid,sourdough, and fresh herbs. Mix until dry bits of flour are no longer visible. The dough will be very sticky — almost a batter. 
    Cover and rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. For anything longer than one hour, stick it in the fridge.
  • To portion, pinch off a hunk of dough — about the size of a lemon. Dunk the hunk in a bowl of flour and make such it is fully coated. Roll it into a rough ball shape. Repeat with remaining dough.
  • To shape, dust the work surface with plenty of flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. This is a very sticky dough, so add extra flour and flip as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the table or the rolling pin. Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Carefully add a flatbread. After a minute, the surface will bubble and perhaps inflate a bit. Use a spatula to flip it. Heat for another 30 seconds, then remove from pan and repeat with remainder of the dough. (Note: Flour from the dough might burn in the pan, but I don’t mind the lovely char marks it leaves on the flatbread.)