Buttermilk

Let’s do a really simple recipe today. So simple that people have made this for thousands of years: buttermilk. Yep, everyday cultured buttermilk for making buttermilk pancakes, waffles, biscuits, all those good things.

Buttermilk

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Abbreviated Instructions

In a super clean glass container (you could sterilize it, but we just wash and rinse under hot water, then air dry), pour in the 2 cups milk.

Pour in 1/2 cup buttermilk and stir to combine.

Cover and let sit 24 hours.

Refrigerate and use within a week or two.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/11/buttermilk/

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Ingredient discussion:

Note that to make buttermilk, you need buttermilk. So, how do you get started? We picked up a quart of cultured buttermilk at Trader Joe’s, oh, probably a year ago. We used most of it, but we reserved some to make our scratched buttermilk. Then, when we run low, we just use some scratched buttermilk to make a new batch. Milk: use milk that you feel comfortable using. We use organic skimmed milk, but it’ll work with 1%, 2%, or whole milk; however, we’re not sure about the ultra pasteurized milk. You’d be on your own.

Procedure:

milk
Just pour in 2 cups milk. Pretty much any kind will do. That’s the advantage of scratchin’; you make the product to fit your diet.

Add the milk. In a super clean glass container (you could sterilize it, but we just wash and rinse under hot water, then air dry), pour in the 2 cups milk. We have a handy measuring cup with a lid, so we can just add milk up to the 2 cup line.

adding buttermilk
Just pour in the buttermilk. Use some from your last scratched batch, or if you’re just starting, use store-bought cultured buttermilk.

Add the buttermilk. Pour in 1/2 cup buttermilk.

mixing milk and buttermilk
Whew. Tough recipe, huh? Two ingredients and a bit of stirring. If you’re worn out, don’t worry, we’re almost finished.

Stir. Stir the milk and buttermilk together.

making buttermilk
Now just let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. It’s scary the first time, but it’ll turn out. People have been doing this for millennia.

Cover and let sit 24 hours. Yep, just place it on the counter for 24 hours. Yeah, we worried the first time we did it, but the buttermilk turned out perfect. Yours will, too.

completed butermilk
Your buttermilk should have thickened nicely. In general, ours turns out thicker than the store brand.

Pop it in the fridge. Use it within a couple of weeks, and don’t forget to make more before you run out. If you’re careful, you can keep the buttermilk going a long, long, time.

Since it is the easiest recipe on the planet, and it makes buttermilk that’s better than the store-bought kind — thicker, no added salt, no carrageenen (seaweed) — it gets five stars.

Worth the trouble?

Saturday Dinner

Hmm. We have a commitment this Sunday afternoon/evening, so once again we have to move our big dinner up a day. But we will provide you with the best chocolate recipe we have in our repertoire: Bittersweet Chocolate Tart. It is a bruiser of a dessert. Once you have it, you’ll remember it for the rest of you life. We do. The rest of the dishes will be a bit more ordinary, to wit:

As of today, a number of things are up in the air — we’ll be using some of our CSA produce — and once they firm up, we’ll be updating this post.

Q: So a number of things changed, why? A: When we baked up the butternut squash for the risotto, it was clear that they would be plenty of food, so we left off the side. We had to change the risotto at the last-minute when we realized that we used up all the sage on Thanksgiving and hadn’t bought more. The salad, we created on spur of the moment. We had some Cuties(tm), and a bit of Gorgonzola left, so those were going in. Then we wanted to play off the citrus, so we thought lime, and the raspberry-lime vinaigrette was born.

 

Q: Timeline? A: Pretty straightforward since we make risotto often. We made the crust for the tart around 1:00; while it was chilling we cubed and baked the butternut squash around 2:00. While the butternut was baking, we rolled out the tart crust, so it could go in the oven after the butternut came out. Around 3:oo we made the tart filling, and popped it in the fridge to set. We put the salad put together and set in the refrigerator around 4:00 along with the measured-out ingredients for the vinaigrette.  Then we started with the Mise en Place for the risotto, grating the Parmesan, heating broth, finely dicing onions, etc., so we could start cooking around 5:00 for a 6:00 dinner. Dinner rolls, of course, we had frozen from baking day, so those are a no-brainer.

 

Q: Anything different for next time? A: Put sage on the grocery list immediately after using the last of it.

From the CSA

Our weekly share.

The fresh-from-the-farm produce this week consisted of:

  • Pickling cucumbers (2)
  • Eight-ball squash (2)
  • Bok Choy (1) but we traded roasted chili peppers for another
  • Tomatoes (4) — three green, but one was beginning to ripen
  • Scarlett turnips with greens (1 bunch)
  • Arugula (1 bunch)
  • Salad mix (1 bag)

The cucumbers are going into super-easy pickles. We used the ripest tomato for last night’s mesquite grilled pizzettas. We just got a recipe for making zucchini relish that we’d like to try, so those eight-ball squashes could have plans. Salad mix and arugula: salads, of course, although we might turn the arugula into pesto. You’ll have to check back during the week to find out.

December 1 update: We cooked up the turnip greens as slow-cooked greens to go along with melted cheese and lettuce sandwiches for lunch yesterday. Also yesterday, we had one-half of the eight-ball squash along with mushrooms and red pepper sautéed in olive oil. One bunch of bok choy went into a quick pasta/greens dish with a sesame-soy sauce and topped with cashews that we had for lunch today. About one-half of the salad mix and arugula have been used in side salads over the last couple of days. That pretty much brings us up to date, for now.

December 4 update: Today we’ll pick up our new batch of CSA produce so we had to update to explain how we used everything from last week (or not). We used the remaining arugula for a small batch of arugula pesto, which we had on sandwiches along with the last of the lettuce. We’ll use the last bit of arugula pesto on grilled pizzettas tomorrow along with the remaining two tomatoes. Today, for lunch we had a frittata using the remaining head of bok choy. That leaves us with a eight-ball squash and two turnips to use sometime next week. We really need to find a way to use large turnips that we like.

Sourdough Pancakes

If, like us, you bake a lot of bread using a natural starter — it’s coming back into vogue these days — you probably wonder what to do with the leftover starter. It’s a shame to throw it away; after all, it’s perfectly good, but there’s really not enough to make more bread, so out it goes. But not anymore. We fretted about the starter issue, and even though it’s only a cup a week going out the door, we really didn’t like the idea of throwing food away.

Then, one fine day, we came across a recipe for sourdough pancakes in Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux. Hey, we thought, those Italian grandmothers have been making naturally leavened bread for longer than we’ve been alive. They’re probably onto something, so we tried it. Now, every week, on baking day, we have pancakes for breakfast — sourdough pancakes. A tasty breakfast and no more wasted starter. Of course, we’ve modified the original.

Makes about 20 three-inch cakes, enough for a filling breakfast for two.

Sourdough Pancakes

Sourdough Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup thick but pourable starter (this is just about the amount we have left)
  • 1 Tbs local honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Abbreviated Instructions

As you split, feed, and use your starter, save the leftovers.

Add about 1 Tbs of honey to the starter. Stir it in.

Add everything else and stir until everything is combined.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Cook as you would pancakes.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/11/sourdough-pancakes/

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup thick but pourable starter (this is just about the amount we have left)
  • 1 Tbs local honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Ingredient discussion: Honey: did you know that most supermarket honey really isn’t (try looking up fake honey in supermarkets, you’ll see)? It’s high fructose corn syrup and coloring. So, find a local honey supplier. The one that we found lets us bring in our own jars and sells his honey by the pound. A quart runs us about $10. Buttermilk: it doesn’t really have to be buttermilk, but we always have some in the fridge (we make that about every two weeks), so in it goes. Egg, only free range will do. Everything else: take the quantities listed as approximate; we make the pancakes while we’re splitting and feeding the starter and we never really measure any of these. You can, of course, but as long as you are close….

Procedure:

leftover bread starter
Save your leftover starter. This would normally go to waste, but not anymore.

Save your starter. As you split, feed, and use your starter, save the leftovers. We just scoop the extra into a 4-cup measuring cup. When you’ve accumulated all the leftover starter, move to the next step.

honey in the starter
Honey makes everything a bit sweeter. And it might attract a bear if you’re lucky!

Add honey. Add about 1 Tbs of honey to the starter. Stir it in. If you don’t stir it in now, you’ll end up with honey lumps in the batter. Honey lumps aren’t dangerous, of course, but they can stick to the griddle when you’re making the cakes.

Adding the other ingredients
Just toss all the ingredients in with the honey starter. It’s just pancakes. It’ll be fine.

Add everything else. Add the egg. Add the buttermilk (or milk). Toss in a bit of salt so your pancakes won’t taste like wallpaper paste. Put in the baking soda, and the baking powder. Add the flour.

 

completed sourdough pancake starter
Sourdough pancake starter ready for the fridge. You could have it the same day, but that wouldn’t be the tradition.

And stir. Stir until everything is combined. Don’t worry about pancake instructions that say “Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened.” For leavened pancakes, it won’t matter. Just make sure you have a pancake-batter-like consistency. Add more buttermilk, if need be, or more flour.

Cover and refrigerate. We use those little shower cap thingies that were popular with our grandparents. They were smart. Use something reusable, and don’t waste. Probably like the grandmothers from whom this recipe springs.

Baking day (per tradition):

Remove from the fridge. When you uncover the batter, the top layer may have discolored. That’s oxidation — food rust. It won’t hurt you, so gently stir it back in.

Heat the griddle. On medium heat, let the griddle come up to temperature. You want it hot, so hot that a water drop skitters across the griddle.

Wipe with a bit of grease. No sticking for these pancakes, at least if you grease the griddle a bit.

cooking pancakes
Pancakes griddling on the range. How do you describe cooking pancakes? It’s not frying, nor baking, nor grilling; cooking doesn’t sound right, so it is griddling.

Cook the pancakes. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto the griddle. And another. And another. Fit a few on (we can get four, each about 3 inches in diameter) and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Then flip, and cook the same amount of time on the other side.

Serve hot with maple syrup. Real maple, no substitutes allowed. We will let you get away with peach preserves, too. Or raspberry. We normally just stand at the counter, cooking pancakes, eating pancakes, cooking pancakes, eating pancakes, until they’re gone.

We always make these sourdough pancakes with leftover starter, therefore, we give this recipe five stars – count ’em, five!

Worth the trouble?

Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Pie

With the holiday season upon us, we, like you, get invited to various parties. Most seem to center around food, and they are often potluck-type affairs, which allows us to taste a bunch of new things and maybe get ideas for future dinners. At the very least, we get some really good food, and we try to bring the same. To the party we attended yesterday, we brought a Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Pie. We like it because it’s pretty easy, travels well, and it’s a bit different from most casseroles. And it’s really tasty, too.

We’ve modified the recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Basically, we changed it to half broccoli and half cauliflower. And please note that all the photos are for a pie that is double this recipe; it was for a potluck.

Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Pie

Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Pie

Ingredients

    For the crust
  • Unsalted butter (for greasing the pan)
  • 2 cups raw potato, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup onion, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs flour (omit to make gluten free)
  • Olive oil (for brushing the crust)
  • For the filling
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 medium cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 stalks broccoli, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk

Abbreviated Instructions

Make the crust

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Butter a shallow 9-inch baking dish.

n a medium mixing bowl, combine the potato, onion, egg, salt, and flour (if using), and mix well.

Use a rubber spatula, or a spoon, or even your hands, to spread the potato mixture evenly in the buttered dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, then brush with olive oil and bake 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

Make the filling

In a large sauté pan on medium heat, heat the olive oil until it is hot.

Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, basil, and thyme. Saute for about 8 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the cauliflower and broccoli, and cook for about 5 minutes more or until the cauliflower and broccoli are tender.

Spread half of the cheese on the potato crust so it’s pretty evenly coated.

Add the broccoli and cauliflower mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Whisk together the eggs and milk in a small bowl, and pour over the top.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until the eggs have set, and the top is a nice golden brown.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/11/broccoli-cauliflower-cheese-pie/

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • Unsalted butter (for greasing the pan)
  • 2 cups raw potato, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup onion, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs flour (omit to make gluten free)
  • Olive oil (for brushing the crust)

For the filling:

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 medium cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 stalks broccoli, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk

Ingredient discussion: Peeling potatoes – you really should if they are non-organic. Potatoes are one of the crops on the “dirty dozen” list, indicating that they are heavily contaminated with pesticides. Choose a cheese you like to eat, and, since you’ll be baking this dish, feel free to select for a stronger-flavored cheese. We used an aged raw-milk Cheddar. Eggs: free range all the way, baby.

Procedure:

Make the crust:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Butter a shallow 9-inch baking dish. Use about 1/2 Tbs, and use butter, not margarine or shortening. While you might not notice in this dish, butter just tastes better.

mixing up the potato crust
Mix, mix, mix. Mix up the potato crust. You want all the shreds of potato to get a bit of egg.

Combine the crust ingredients. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the potato, onion, egg, salt, and flour (if using), and mix well.

potato crust in the pan.
Press the potato mixture into the pan. Make sure to get it into the corners and up the sides a bit.

Line the baking dish with the potato mixture. Use a rubber spatula, or a spoon, or even your hands, to spread the potato mixture evenly in the buttered dish. Play patty-cake and pat it down, but get the soon-to-be-crust to go up the sides, too.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Brush with olive oil. No, this and the previous instruction are not reversed. You do want to bake the crust, then apply some olive oil, then it’s back in the oven.

potato crust cooling on a rack
It’s starting to look good. The edges are a bit crispy, and the crust has set up. Now let it cool.

Bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. We just put it on a cooling rack.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

Make the filling:

chopped vegetables
Chop up all the veggies. We like to cut the onion into thin quarter rings, that way no one snags a long whole ring while eating.

Prep the filling vegetables: slice the onion, chop the garlic, cut up the cauliflower and broccoli.

Heat the olive oil. In a large sauté pan on medium heat, heat the olive oil until it is hot. You want the onions to sizzle when you drop them in the pan. We often take a slice of onion and just hold it in the oil to see if it is hot enough.

onions sauteing
There is nothing better than the smell of onions sautéing. Except chocolate, but that goes without saying.

Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, basil, and thyme. Saute for about 8 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

You are through cooking the filling mixture when the cauliflower and broccoli are tender.

Add the cauliflower and broccoli, and cook for about 5 minutes more or until the cauliflower and broccoli are tender.

Now assemble the pie.

Cheese, glorious cheese. Make sure to spread it around and not just put it in the corner you are planning to eat.

Cover the crust with cheese. Spread half of the cheese on the potato crust so it’s pretty evenly coated. By letting the crust sit, it’s cool enough that the cheese doesn’t immediately melt.

broccoli and cauliflower in the potato crust
Add the filling, spread it around, and tamp it down. Not too much tamping. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine.

Add the broccoli and cauliflower mixture. Just spoon it in, and tamp it down a bit. Ideally, your vegetables should come up to the top edge of the crust.

adding cheese to the pie
More cheese! Everything is better with more cheese. Well, some things, anyway.

Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

The pie right before baking
Assembled! And we didn’t even need a wrench or a screwdriver. Now bake!

Add the eggs and milk. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a small bowl, and pour over the top. It should come up to the very top of the veggies. If not, no worries.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until the eggs have set, and the top is a nice golden brown.

Bask in the golden brown loveliness of a Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Pie. Bask, we say!

Take it out and serve. Looks delish, doesn’t it? (It tastes pretty good, too).

Since this recipe is a bit more involved, we’ll have to give it four stars in the “worth it?” rating. The upside is that it is nearly a complete meal or will be once you add a nice salad, and a small light dessert.

Worth the trouble?

Basic Bread

bread fresh form the oven.

Let’s face it, everyone loves homemade bread. Just the scent of baking bread is enough to make people salivate and remember their childhoods. And it’s no wonder: as one of our oldest foods, bread is that one magical food that brings forth joy like no other. For those who have had homemade bread, our question to you is why would you ever settle for store-bought? We bet you said that homemade bread is “too difficult,” “inconsistent rising,” “crumbly,” or most likely, “takes too much time.”

Bah, humbug! We’re going to tell you how to make GREAT bread at home – easily, and it’ll taste better than anything you can get at the store in plastic wrap. This will be gourmet bread! Now, for great bread it will take time. Not too much of your time, but time for the yeast to work. Your time spent is about an hour of hands-on work, but it is well worth it. Trust us, this bread is so good, we bake three loaves at least once a week. It seems like a lot to do, but once you get the hang of it, there really isn’t that much to it.

However, there are a few special items that we strongly recommend purchasing.

One, a kitchen scale, that measures in grams and has a capacity of about 5 kilograms. Using a scale will make your bread consistent! It’ll be the same from week to week, month to month, and year to year. It took us over twenty years of baking bread off and on until we got a kitchen scale. We would never give it up!

Two, a cast iron “combo dutch oven skillet set.” This is the easiest way to get that crisp but chewy crust that everyone wants in bread. It also nearly guarantees having that “oven spring” that makes your bread go from lead-lump loaf to airy-light loaf. It is just amazing how much difference the combo cooker makes.

Now we got this recipe, starter, and some great tips when we took a class offered by Barrio Bread, and we learned about the technique of using a cast iron dutch oven from Tartine by Chad Robertson (which also shows how to make your own starter).

Basic Bread

Basic Bread

Ingredients

  • 150 grams Whole Wheat flour (~1 1/4 cup)
  • 850 grams Bread flour (~6 1/3 cups)
  • 360 grams sour dough starter (~2 cups)
  • 18 grams salt (~1 Tbs)
  • 680 grams water ( ~3 cups)

Abbreviated Instructions

First, make next week's starter

Measure 200 grams of starter (~1 cup) into a clean container that has a lid.

Add 75 grams (scant 2/3 cup) of whole wheat flour. Add 75 grams (~1/2 cup) of bread flour. Add 150 grams (2/3 cup) of lukewarm water.

Stir until the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Cover and let sit on the counter about 1 hour. Put back in the refrigerator, as this is your batch of starter for next week.

Feed this week’s starter

From the original starter, remove and discard starter until you have 200 grams (~1 cup) remaining.

Add 75 grams (scant 2/3 cup) of whole wheat flour. Add 75 grams (~1/2 cup) of bread flour. Add 150 grams (2/3 cup) of lukewarm water.

Cover and let sit on the counter about 1-2 hours, or until it has about doubled in bulk.

Now make Bread dough

Measure 680 grams (3 cups) tepid water.

In another bowl measure out 150 grams (1 1/4 cups) of whole wheat flour and 850 grams (6 1/3 cups) of bread flour.

In a small bowl measure out 18-25g (~ 1Tbs) salt.

Once your starter is ready, add 360 grams (~ 2 cups) of the starter to the water and mix until mostly dissolved.

Add most of the flour mixture, but keep back about 1/2 to 3/4 cup for kneading. Mix until combined.

Sprinkle the salt on top, and cover with plastic wrap or plate. Let sit 20-30 minutes.

Fold in the salt and scoop the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead for 5 minutes. Rest 5 minutes. Repeat the kneading resting cycle 4-5 times.

Now that you’ve kneaded the dough, shape it into a ball and put in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or plate.

Let the dough go through a “bulk rise” lasting 4-8 hours, depending on the temperature.

After the dough has doubled in bulk, you’ll want to divide it into three equal pieces of about 680 grams each.

Shape each piece into a ball by pulling the dough from the sides to the bottom until you have a nice smooth ball. The dough you pulled down should be pressed together to form a rough seam.

Place each ball on a floured board (we use a cutting board), loosely cover with plastic wrap or damp towel, and let sit for 1-2 hours.

While waiting, line three baskets (or colanders, or something that’s a bit porous) with clean dish towels and dust with flour.

Once the dough has doubled in size, just like the pre-shape, work the dough under and pinch it together, keeping a nice smooth surface on top.

Place each ball smooth side down in the prepared baskets, dust lightly with flour and cover with part of the dish towel (or another towel) and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, take the dough from the refrigerator about 1-2 hours before you plan to bake and let it begin warming.

About 30 minutes before you want to bake, place the dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 450°F.

Remove the skillet lid from the oven, and place a ball of dough in the middle, so that the seam side is down.

Slash the top with a razor blade or sharp knife to form a tic-tac-toe pattern.

Place the dutch oven on top of the skillet lid, and bake 20 minutes.

Remove dutch oven cover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/11/basic-bread/

Ingredients: [volume measurements are estimates]

  • 150 grams Whole Wheat flour (~1 1/4 cup)
  • 850 grams Bread flour (~6 1/3 cups)
  • 360 grams sour dough starter (~2 cups)
  • 18 grams salt (~1 Tbs)
  • 680 grams water ( ~3 cups)

Ingredients discussion: Don’t skimp on the flour. This bread has only three ingredients: flour, water, and salt (and wild yeast that’s in the starter), so the choice of flour will make a difference. We heartily recommend using King Arthur flours. Yes, King Arthur is more expensive than some other brands, but it’s better. We know, we’ve tried to skimp. Besides, even at $5.00 per bag of flour, each large loaf costs about 90 cents.

With regards to the sourdough starter, if you have some, great; if not, you can substitute a poolish (see note at the end of this post), although the rising times will be shorter. Or, if you’re up for it and are willing to bake about once a week, you can try making your own. We recommend looking at the book Tartine by Chad Robertson for instructions. Or maybe you have an artisan baker in your area who makes naturally leavened bread and would be willing to supply you with a starter – that’s how we got ours.

Procedure:

First off, we need to prep the starter. If you are using a poolish, you can skip these steps and go to the part about adding the starter to the water. We are going to both split and feed the starter, as this will allow us to have starter for this batch of bread and the next. With care, you can keep a starter going indefinitely.

sourdough starter
Measure out 200 grams of starter into a clean container. This will be for next week’s baking.

First, make next week’s starter.

Measure 200 grams of starter (~1 cup) into a clean container that has a lid. We use a 1-quart yogurt container.

Add 75 grams (scant 2/3 cup) of whole wheat flour.

Add 75 grams (~1/2 cup) of bread flour.

Add 150 grams (2/3 cup) of lukewarm water.

 

refreshed starter
Here’s the refreshed starter for next week.

Stir. Stir until the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Cover and let sit on the counter about 1 hour. Put back in the refrigerator, as this is your batch of starter for next week.

Feed this week’s starter. From the original starter, remove and discard starter until you have 200 grams (~1 cup) remaining. In our case, we tared the scale with a similar container, so we removed and discarded starter until we were left with 200 grams total. If, like us, you hate to see the starter go to waste, make sourdough pancakes. We’ve provided the recipe.

Add 75 grams whole wheat flour. Now, just as with the starter you are saving for next week, add 75 grams of whole wheat flour (scant 2/3 cup).

Add 75 grams of bread flour (~1/2 cup).

Add 150 grams of lukewarm water (2/3 cup).

Stir. Stir until the consistency of a thick pancake batter.

Cover and let sit on the counter about 1-2 hours, or until it has about doubled in bulk. Now you have starter primed and ready for bread making. (You can also check to see if it is ready by putting a small bit in a dish of water. If it floats, you’re good to go.)

680 grams water
Measure out 680 grams of water into a 4 quart bowl.

Measure 680 grams (3 cups) water. While you’re waiting on the starter, measure out 680 grams of water into a large (about 4 quart) bowl. Use cool to tepid water.

In another bowl measure out 150 grams (1 1/4 cups) of whole wheat flour.

a kilogram of flour
For this recipe, you’ll want a kilogram of flour total.

Add 850g (6 1/3 cups) of bread flour; we just add bread flour until we get 1000g (1kg) total flour.

Now, measure out 18-25g (~1 Tbs) of salt into another container. We just use the measuring cup that we used for scooping flour.

starter and water
Scoop in the 360 grams of starter. This is where the tare function on your scale comes in handy.

Add the starter to the water. When your starter is ready, add 360 grams (~ 2 cups) of the starter to the water. Here we use the tare function of the kitchen scale. We put the container of starter on the scale, tare it, and scoop out starter until we reach -360 grams. Discard the remaining starter (or make sourdough pancakes).

Mix the starter into the water until it is mostly dissolved.

Add most of the flour mixture, but keep back about 1/2 to 3/4 cup for kneading. Mix until combined.

Dough and salt.
Don’t mix the salt in quite yet; you want the flour, water, and starter to work a bit first.

Sprinkle the salt on top, and cover with plastic wrap or plate. Let sit 20-30 minutes.

Okay, now for the hard part. Fold in the salt and scoop the dough onto a floured work surface.

starting to knead the dough
Knead the dough five minutes, rest five minutes. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And repeat.

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, incorporating more flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Rather than watch the time, we do 300 folds and turns. Yes, we do count them.

Shape dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let it and you rest 5 minutes.

Time’s up! So knead for another 5 minutes. Shape and cover 5 minutes. Do this 4 times until the dough becomes supple and smooth. Don’t skimp on the kneading or resting. That’s what develops the gluten to make a nice, somewhat chewy, bread texture.

Kneaded dough getting ready for the bulk rise.

Put the dough in a bowl. Now that you’ve kneaded the dough, shape it into a ball and put in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or plate.

You are going to let the dough go through a “bulk rise” lasting 4-8 hours, depending on the temperature. Here you can run errands, do laundry, etc., and pretty much ignore the dough, but if you are around you should do a “stretch and fold” every 1-2 hours – basically grab an edge, stretch the dough up and fold it over, then grab the opposite side, do the same, and then, with the sides offset by 90°, flip the dough over and dust with flour.

Dividing the dough into three equal pieces for the boules.

Divide the dough. After the dough has doubled in bulk, you’ll want to divide it into three equal pieces of about 680 grams each.

starting the pre-shape
Starting the pre-shaping of the dough.

Pre-shape the dough. Shape each piece into a ball by pulling the dough from the sides to the bottom until you have a nice smooth ball. The dough you pulled down should be pressed together to form a rough seam. This is the pre-shape. (The photo shows the beginning of the pre-shape, before we’ve flipped over the ball of dough).

Pre-shaped dough, rising on a board.

Place each ball on a floured board (we use a cutting board), loosely cover with plastic wrap or damp towel, and let sit for 1-2 hours.

Get some baskets ready. While waiting, line three baskets (or colanders, or something that’s a bit porous) with clean dish towels and dust with flour.

dough ready for the final rising.
Dough ready for the final rising.

Do the final shape. Once the dough has doubled in size, you’ll note that it collapsed and spread out a bit, too, so now we’ll want to do what’s called the final shape. Basically just like the pre-shape, work the dough under and pinch it together, keeping a nice smooth surface on top.

Place each ball smooth side down in the prepared baskets, dust lightly with flour and cover with part of the dish towel (or another towel).

dough in a basket
Dough in a towel-lined basket, ready for the final rising.

If your house is cool (say, below 70°F) you might want to leave the dough out overnight; otherwise, put it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, take the dough out of the refrigerator about 1-2 hours before you plan to bake and let it begin warming on your work surface. It should have risen nicely.

Preheat the oven and pans. About 30 minutes before you want to bake, place the dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 450°F. We normally let the oven cycle twice to make sure the cast iron dutch oven is hot.

dough on the hot pan
Dough on the hot pan. Be careful!

Put the bread on the pan. Remove the skillet lid from the oven, and place a ball of dough in the middle, so that the seam side is down.

slashed dough
Slash the dough in a tic-tac-toe pattern. This allows the dough to open up and “spring” in the oven. Otherwise, you’ll have a dense loaf.

Slash the top with a razor blade or sharp knife to form a tic-tac-toe pattern. We use a double-sided razor blade attached to a coffee stirrer. A lot of people panic and try to work quickly, but don’t. You’ll get burned, and, besides, there’s no rush. You want to slash the dough so you get that oven spring. Place the dutch oven on top of the skillet lid, and place the whole thing back in the oven.

After 20 minutes, the bread has really opened up, and is starting to look good.

Bake 20 minutes. Note how the bread has opened up along the slashes.

Bake 20 minutes more. Remove dutch oven cover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Remove bread and place on rack to cool. If you tap on the bottom, it should sound hollow. Repeat the same baking procedures with the remaining two loaves.

bread fresh form the oven.
Fresh bread right out of the oven. Yum.

Enjoy some of the best bread you’ve had. And you scratched it yourself!

Variations:

During the summer, we generally switch to making rolls and/or pita bread and we change the bulk rising a bit. For the rising, after the kneading is complete, we put the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover it, and let it sit for about an hour. Then we do one stretch and fold, re-cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours (sometimes we bake the next day, sometimes not). We like to get the dough out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before we’ll be shaping.

The reason for the rolls and pita bread is that they bake quickly, and, besides, they’re a bit different from the standard boules. For the rolls, we happen to have a couple of cast iron muffin pans that work wonders with this dough – if you have cast iron pans, you’re in for a treat. If not, you might try baking them on greased cookie sheets or a pizza stone. After a bit of experimentation, we found that measuring out 40 grams of dough per roll is perfect for our muffin pans, so we cut off the dough and shape small rolls and place them on a floured cutting board. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for about 30-45 minutes, then remove the damp cloth so the top part of the roll will dry out a bit. Preheat the oven and cast iron muffin pans to 450°F. It should take about 30 minutes to get those cast iron pans super hot! When hot, take out the muffin pans, load each compartment with a ball of dough, and snip with a kitchen shears. Pop them back in the oven for 15 minutes. Note: with a seasoned cast iron pan, no greasing is necessary; with other pans, you might need a bit of oil to prevent sticking.

Pita breads are even easier, although you do need a pizza or baking stone. This time, measure off and shape dough balls that are about 100 grams each, place them on a floured board, and cover them with a damp cloth. Let rest 15 minutes, then pre-shape them into disks and re-cover with the damp cloth. Now, place the baking stone on the lowest rack and preheat the oven to 450°F for about 30 minutes. Once hot, take a dough disk, and roll it out until it’s about 7 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Place directly on the hot stone and quickly close the oven door. In about 3-4 minutes, it’ll puff up like a ball. Once it is fully puffed, wait 60 seconds (we count it off) and remove the pita to cool. When you get the hang of it, you can do 3-4 pitas at the same time and you’ll be finished baking in about 30 minutes.

Poolish: If you don’t have a starter, you can make a poolish (the name is a corruption of Polish; Polish bakers used this a lot) or sponge. Measure out 90 grams (3/4 cup) of whole wheat flour, 90 grams (2/3 cup) of bread flour, and 180 grams (3/4 cup) of cool water into a clean container. Add just a pinch of yeast, and stir until you have something resembling thick pancake batter. In about 2 hours, it should have doubled in size. Use this as your sourdough starter.

Worth the trouble?

Potatoes Gratin

This recipe will make you into the rock star of the kitchen. It is that good; we think it’s the best Potatoes Gratin recipe on the planet. Most people think they need to add cheese to make a gratin dish; this recipe shows them that they are wrong, way wrong. The cream with the slight bay flavor pairs just perfectly with the potatoes, and the thyme is just enough to add that little something. We really wish that we could give credit where credit is due, but, unfortunately, we’ve forgotten where we found this recipe.

Dec 5: This recipe came from In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters.

Please, please, before you start making changes, try it just as it is.

Serves 6

Potatoes Gratin

Potatoes Gratin

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup homemade vegetable stock (or liquid from rehydrating the mushrooms)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 4 pounds medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 Tbs chopped thyme
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 drops liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms (optional)

Abbreviated Instructions

If you’re using dried Porcini mushrooms, put them in a small bowl and cover with about a cup of boiling water. Let stand for about 45 minutes. Then drain, reserving the liquid, to use in place of the stock. Cut the mushrooms into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Butter a 9x13x2-inch baking dish.

Put the cream, bay leaf, salt, stock or mushroom liquid, and liquid smoke, if using, in a medium pan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low and let steep while you prepare the potatoes.

Peel the potatoes, then cut into 1/8 inch thick slices. Work quickly, but safely, so the potatoes don’t oxidize and turn brown. Do not put the potatoes in water; it will wash away the starches that make the gratin creamy.

Place the potatoes in the baking dish, overlapping slightly, so it looks kind of like roof shingles. If you are using mushrooms, sprinkle pieces between each layer of potatoes.

Remove the bay leaf, and gently pour the cream over the potatoes.

Dot with butter. Just cut the butter into small pieces and place each piece on top of the potatoes, trying to get them somewhat evenly distributed. Cover tightly with foil.

Bake covered until the potatoes are almost tender, about 35 minutes. You should be able to pierce the potatoes moderately easily with a small sharp knife.

Increase the temperature to 400°F. Remove the foil, press the potatoes down with a spatula into an even thickness, allowing the creamy juices to baste the potatoes. Sprinkle the thyme and black pepper on top. Continue to bake, pressing the potatoes down periodically, until the gratin is nicely browned, about 30 minutes.

Let stand 5 minutes. Remove the gratin from the oven. It’ll be a little loose and creamy at this point; that’s okay, it’ll thicken a bit more while standing.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/11/potatoes-gratin/

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup homemade vegetable stock (or liquid from rehydrating the mushrooms)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 4 pounds medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 Tbs chopped thyme
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 drops liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms (optional)

Ingredient discussion: The stock is really there just to add a bit more liquid and not necessarily flavor. If you’ve saved the cooking liquids from various vegetables, you can use that. Or, as we’ll show, just use the liquid that is left over from rehydrating the Porcini mushrooms. Don’t try to substitute milk for the cream, nor half-and-half. Neither will propel you into kitchen rock stardom. If you can, use fresh thyme. And, be extra, extra careful if you use liquid smoke. You want just the slightest hint of a smoky taste; you’re not smoking fish here.

Procedure:

porcinin mushrooms rehydrating
Pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms to rehydrate. Do not discard the soaking water.

Rehydrate the mushrooms. If you’re using dried Porcini mushrooms, put them in a small bowl and cover with about a cup of boiling water. Let stand for about 45 minutes. Then drain, reserving the liquid, to use in place of the stock. Cut the mushrooms into small pieces. We use a pair of kitchen shears, which works nicely.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

buttered baking dish
You’ll want to butter a shallow baking dish. This will maximize the surface area to concentrate all that delicious creamy goodness.

Butter a 9x13x2-inch baking dish. If you have a gratin dish, use that; after all it’s made for gratins. We don’t have one, so we do what we can. When you butter the dish, use about 1 tablespoon of butter. A little more or less won’t matter.

cream, stock and bay leaf.
It already smells and tastes good. Just wait until it’s finished!

Heat the cream. Put the cream, bay leaf, salt, stock or mushroom liquid, and liquid smoke, if using, in a medium pan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low and let steep while you prepare the potatoes. Try not to taste it at this stage, but honestly, we always do.

Prepare the potatoes. Peel the potatoes, then cut into 1/8 inch thick slices. If you have one, use a mandolin (careful) or a food processor with a slicing blade. Otherwise, use a knife and try to make the slices uniform in thickness. Work quickly, but safely, so the potatoes don’t oxidize and turn brown. Do not put the potatoes in water; it will wash away the starches that make the gratin creamy. You don’t want potatoes in cream sauce, which, while good, is not a gratin.

potatoes and mushrooms layered in a baking dish
Layer the potatoes as best you can. If using mushrooms, layer those in, too.

Layer the potatoes. Place the potatoes in the baking dish, overlapping slightly, so it looks kind of like roof shingles. If you are using mushrooms, sprinkle pieces between each layer of potatoes. The potatoes you’ve sliced should make 3 to 4 layers.

potatoes and cream
A nice side shot to show the level of the cream mixture before placing in the oven.

Pour in the cream. Remove the bay leaf, and gently pour the cream over the potatoes. The cream will be just below the top layer of potatoes; when you press the potatoes down, the cream should flow over the top.

potatoes gratin dotted with butter
Put dots of butter across the potatoes; this is one of the things that will make them brown.

Dot with butter. You only used one tablespoon of butter for the pan, so the rest goes on top. Just cut the butter into small pieces and place each piece on top of the potatoes, trying to get them somewhat evenly distributed. Cover tightly with foil.

potatoes gratin with pepper and thyme
Ohh, that’s looking good, and it just gets better and better.

Bake until almost tender. Bake covered until the potatoes are almost tender, about 35 minutes. You should be able to pierce the potatoes moderately easily with a small sharp knife.

Increase the temperature to 400°F. Remove the foil, press the potatoes down with a spatula into an even thickness, allowing the creamy juices to baste the potatoes. Sprinkle the thyme and black pepper on top. Continue to bake, pressing the potatoes down periodically, until the gratin is nicely browned, about 30 minutes.

perfect potatoes gratin
Wow! If there is anyone who doesn’t like this dish, eject them physically from the table. Politely, of course, so as not to disturb the other diners.

Let stand 5 minutes. Remove the gratin from the oven. It’ll be a little loose and creamy at this point; that’s okay, it’ll thicken a bit more while standing. After five minutes or so, the potatoes should have absorbed some more of the cream, and you’ll be ready to serve.

Serve and bask in your kitchen rock star glory. Heck, break out a glass of wine, if you indulge. You deserve it for dishes like this. I think once you taste this, you’ll know why it gets the five-star rating. And remember, keep this one for those special dinners when you really want to impress.

Worth the trouble?