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  • Sourdough Bread Pudding

    I knew that I had found "my people" at work when farm-fresh eggs, homemade sourdough, granola, raw milk yogurt and bundt cakes showed up at work. Ooh, also, garlic. Yep, homegrown garlic. And beans! One of my co-workers gave me a sample of his heirloom beans he grows. How cool?!But honestly, the thing that excited me most...like, I literally lost my shit, was when one of my co-workers brought in freshly baked sourdough bread. With almond butter and homemade jam. I mean, come on! A chilly late-March morning can't get much better than a freshly toasted slice of sourdough bread, adorned with a little organic butter, some almond butter and homemade jam, all with a cup of hot coffee. If you can't get on board for that, I just don't know....maybe you shouldn't be reading this? 

    Long story short, I managed to get a blob of sourdough starter from my co-worker. I was over the moon. The blob was accompanied by some instructions, and a book recommendation.

    That night, I downloaded the book onto my tablet (tbh I forgot you could do that...ha), and dove right in.I fed the starter. I fed it some more. I got some locally milled wheat and rye flours, I swore a little, and yeah...I did cry once (But it wasn't from the starter/bread, really). I found the warmest spot in my kitchen (above my fridge, by my kombucha), and let the sourdough cultures to there thing for 3 days.And then, there was bread. Glorious bread. I was so goddamn happy. 

    But then, there was bread. Two loaves. Too much for one person....so...bread pudding. But bread pudding with sourdough? After a search on the internets, I found that this was kind of a rarity. Everyone was using challah, brioche, or shitty white bread. What about those non-enriched, sans dough conditioner-rich breads?? I mean, come on, people. How boring?

    So, I am very pleased to report that sourdough makes a fabulous pud. I would even venture to say that the heartier crust and crumb allows you to be more flexible in how long you soak it, without fear of the bread cubes disintegrating into custard oblivion. A soak overnight, or for two nights, is perfect here. 

    And mix ins? Endless options. I went simple, with raisins...because I secretly love raisins. Blueberries, cranberries, hunks of apples, pears, banana...any sturdy fruit, I think would work. Dark chocolate (duh), nuts, toasted coconut....you get the idea. Be creative. Indeed, using brown sugar, coconut sugar, or even using some honey or maple syrup for sweetener would be a fun idea. I mean, this is bread pudding...not rocket science. I think you could get away with using 1/2 to 3/4 liquid sweetener instead of 1 cup of granulated. If you like it less sweet, I'd suggest cutting back, and using only 1/2 cup liquid sweetener, and scant 1 cup of granulated. Whatever your heart desires. And yes, brioche and challah will work just fine here too. The key: use what you have! That is what bread pudding is all about, am I right? Use this recipe as a template, and, shout out to Food52 for their no-fuss guidelines. Get at it. 

    Cheers to chilly spring mornings, and sharing carbs! Pssssst: this would be fabulous Easter Sunday treat!



    Bread Pudding // makes one 9"x13" pan of bread pudding // soy-free; nut-free; oil-free //

    • 1 lb (16 oz) bread cubes (a generous 5 or so cups), about 1” in size
    • 4 large eggs, using locally raised and/or organic if possible 
    • 3/4 cup granulate sugar, or 1/2 cup liquid sweetener (honey, maple syrup, etc)
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • Sea salt*
    • 2 1/2 cups milk of choice, such as half & half, coconut milk or almond milk
    • 1 to 2 cups dried fruit, sturdy berries like blueberries or cranberries, or chunks of apples, dark chocolate, nuts, etc.

    *Salt: for my sourdough, which was fairly salty, I did NOT add any additional salt. If your bread is on the less-salty side, as a standard brioche or challah is, feel free to add in a pinch of salt if desired.

    1. Mix everything, except the bread, in a large bowl. Dump in bread cubes, and stir with a spatula to coat the bread crumbs. Let sit for a few minutes, and then stir again. Add in dried fruit if using, or other sturdy fruit like berries or cubes of apples, and stir.

    2. Oil or butter a 9”x13” pan. Pour in the bread/custard mixture, and pat into an even layer. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

    3. To bake: preheat oven to 350F. Give the bread pudding a quick stir, and redistribute any fruit, nuts or chocolate pieces that have sunk to the bottom. Place the covered bread pudding in to bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the cover off and bake for another 20 minutes, checking at the 15 minute mark. Add or subtract baking time based on how the top is browning. If it is browning too much but needs more baking time, put the cover back on. The pudding is done when you stick a fork in, and see very little or no residual custard mixture on the bottom of the baking dish. 

    4. Remove, and cool slightly. Serve warm, or room temp. I wouldn't tell anyone if you had a scoop of ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream, with a bowl of warm bread pudding. 



     

  • Super Simple (and flexible) Spelt Focaccia

    I'm allllll about the simple lately. Down-sizing. Getting rid of stuff. Minimizing. I think moving for the third time within a 6 month time span does that to a person...

    So, don't throw your shit in my (proverbial) backyard...but, you may show up to my apartment with freshly baked goods and/or coffee. Edible material goods acceptable, since they are a) easily stored away in my belly, and b) easy to re-generate. 

    What is more....we are in (what I think is) the coldest month on winter...which means we are also wading our way through soup season. Ultimately, that leads us to wanting something carb-y and sponge-y to soak up our soup while shoveling spoonfuls of hot, nourishing goodness into our faces.

    Enter: this simple spelt focaccia. Too lazy to go out and buy bread? This one is for you. Have a bunch of herbs awaiting their fate in the crisper? Perfect application. Bought too much spelt flour last weekend? Done.

    Requiring just 1 bowl, 5 ingredients (plus any add-ins you choose), and about 10 minutes of active time (minus eating), you really have no excuse to not try this. It also freezes really well, with a quick thaw in the toaster or in a warm oven being your ticket to warm, carbohydrate goodness. Bonus: you can mix the dough up sans mixer (and I know you have at least one large bowl and a wooden spoon!), and let it sit either for a few hours at room temperature, OR you can mix this up one day, cover it, and let it sit in the fridge overnight for even better flavor. It is up to you. And how fabulous is that?

    Allow yourself to be creative with what you wish to mix in or top this simple bread with. Some ideas are:

    • Freshly chopped herbs, like thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley and dill
    • Toasted walnuts
    • Whole or chopped olives
    • Shreds of parmesan cheese, or hunks of goat cheese
    • Roasted or sundried tomatoes packed in oil, roughly chopped
    • Roasted red peppers
    • Caramelized onions
    • Slices or minced fresh garlic, or poke cloves of roasted garlic into the top of the dough pre-bake
    • Sea salt (I love the large flakes of Maldon on top of this baked bread!), cracked black pepper

    Sooo...there you go. You can make your own bread, and eat it, too! 



    Simple Spelt Focaccia // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free option (just don't put nuts as an add-in)// Makes one roughly 9" by 13" free-form focaccia //

    • 450g or 4 cups spelt flour (I typically use whole spelt flour for the nutty flavor and hearty texture, but white spelt works, too)
    • 7g or 1 packet (1 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
    • 425 mL (or 425g) water (this is roughly scant 1 3/4 cups), 125 mL (3/4 cup) being freshly boiled and 300 mL (1 cup) being freshly boiled, or just use warm water (105F to 110F)
    • 2 TB olive oil, plus a little more for greasing your hands when handling the dough 
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB honey, maple syrup, agave OR sugar
    • Optional add-ins as desired

    1. In a large bowl, add the hot and cold waters (the aim is to get to warm water that is ideal for "proving" your yeast is viable), the liquid sweetener or cane sugar, and yeast. Mix with a fork or whisk to combine. Allow to proof for 10 minutes until bubbly and foamy. If the mixture is not bubbly after this time, start-over with fresh yeast. 

    2. Sift the spelt flour and sea salt into the same bowl. Add the olive oil. Mix with the same mixing tool you used to stir the yeast mixture, or use a large wooden spoon to stir the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes to incorporate everyting. The mixture will be a bit sticky and moist, but this makes for a spongey, tender bread. This would now be the time to fold in any add-ins you desire if you plan on baking the focaccia the same day. Take care to not over-mix any delicate things, like goat cheese, or simply plan to poke/plop them on top of the focaccia right before baking (see step 4).

    3. Allow the mixture to sit, covered, until doubled, usually about 1 hour in a moderately warm kitchen. Alternatively, you can cover the bowl with a more air-resistant lid like plastic wrap or a loose fitting lid, and allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. 

    4. When ready to bake, flour a baking sheet with spelt. You could also use a parchment lined-sheet or silpat-lined sheet, but also sprinkle with spelt. Pour the dough onto the sheet, and using oiled hands, gently coax the dough into a free-form shape that is roughly 9" x 13". Sprinkle with additional add-ins or delicate mix-ins, gently poking them into the surface to adhere to the dough while baking. Pre-heat the oven to 375F, and allow the focaccia to rise once more as the oven pre-heats, usually 20-30 minutes. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the focaccia has baked to form a crisp crust on the top and bottom (you can check this by sliding a thin spatula under the focaccia). Allow to cool completely, and cut into desired sizes and shapes. Store extra focaccia in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or freezer for up to 1 month. 



    Herbs! I used what I had around: fresh thyme and rosemary. Is as that. Rustic, sticky, flavorful and flexible. But most importantly, so very tasty!Bake, bake, bake...if you're feeling fancy and are planning on eating the whole damn thing in one sitting (no judgemet!), you could brush on some olive oil or even some garlic-infused olive oil. The options are endless, and the road always leads to tasty, tasty carbohydrates...so you cannot lose!Enjoy! 

  • Bourbon, Pecan and Salted Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

    You get all that in the title? Bourbon. Pecan. Salted Dark Chocolate. Banana Bread. 

    "Bread". Becaus let's be real here: this loaf is verging on a cake. Which, in my book, is just fine!

    This loaf came about when I was feeling a little (ok, a lot) down and sad. And for some reason, baking in general made me feel whole and happy. Sharing also made me feel good. I mean, when does it not? But it was that much better. This loaf, or cake, is not complicated, but the pay-off is great. Yes, you do need to get out your cutting board and a sharp knife to chop the pecans and dark chocolate (and yep, feel free to nibble away while you do, because....I know I am not the only one who does that). But I assure you, this is worth it. Also, lately I have been LOVING the heck out of my dough whisk. It truly does a wonderful job in thoroughly mixing quick breads, but not over-beating them to produce a tough, tunnel-ridden loaf. I got mine on Amazon, and highly recommend this tool for anyone who, like me, struggles to not over-mix quick breads! Game changer, for sure.Now, if you are looking for a more wholesome, more in-tune with your perhaps upcoming 2017 New Years Resolutions to Not Eat All the Sugar, check out the following: Gluten Free (but not full of weird flours) Banana Bread and/or Best Banana Bread for a vegan loaf. If you are looking to sabotage your health goals in a more gentle way, check out my Browned Butter Banana Bread! See, I got your back, whatever your goals may be! Heh...

    However, if you are in need of....

    • A sweet treat to go with your coffee early in the morning, when drinking all the hot things flood your mind as soon as your feet hit the cold kitchen floor
    • An easy, but special, host or hostess gift for an upcoming Holiday gathering
    • A relatively quick and fuss-free dessert, made even more indulgent covered with a quick chocolate ganache
    • A feel-good baked treat, to shove in your face by yourself or to share with others
    • Using up those overripe bananas languishing in your fruite bowl alongside that pomegranate you think is too beautiful to open, and those super sweet clemintines that come around this time of year
    • Something to bake to make your new apartment smell less like weird cleaning chemicals that the cleaning crew used to sweep your apartment of all traces of human DNA 

    Bonus round: this loaf smells like banana heaven while baking. All bananas go to heaven. Yep. Gather your bananas. Treat yourself to a bar (ok, or two!) of your favorite dark, salted chocolate (my favorite is Theo's Salted Dark Chocolate). Rummage your liquor cabinet for your bourbon. And splurge on those pecans in the bulk aisle, because this is soooo worth it. Happy baking, and stay warm!

    Notes: My first trials of this bread were using walnuts instead of pecans (see above picture of slices), but the pecan version overwhelmed me with the power of pecans to stand up to the robust flavors (like dark chocolate), and the sweetness in this loaf. But, feel free to use walnuts if you can't find or don't want to use pecans. As for the chocolate, I guessssssss salted chocolate is not required, but is a really, really lovely touch here, and also balances the sweetness of this loaf. Additionally, I have a weakness for the shards and chunks of chocolate that result when you chop the chocolate, rather than simply using chips, in this loaf but either work. Finally, the bourbon is not required, but strongly encouraged. If you don't have bourbon, a dark spiced rum (like Meyer's) will work beautifully, as would any other spicy, dark alocohol. If you don't have or don't want to add the booze, just add another dash or two of vanilla extract, and carry on! And finally, a word on sweetness: invariably, the ripeness of your bananas will influence this. You can bump up or knock down the brown sugar accordingly (using less for riper bananas, and vice versa). Similarly, if you want to verge more on cake territory, use the full 3/4 cup sugar. 



    Bourbon, Salted Dark Chocolate and Pecan Banana Bread // makes 1 standard 9"x5" loaf // certainly not gluten free, for sure not vegan, not a hint of plant-based, and full of refined sugar //

    • 4 large very ripe bananas
    • 1/3 cup (75g) melted virgin coconut oil or butter
    • 3/4 cup (145g) brown sugar, or use 1/2 cup (100g) for a less-sweet loaf
    • 1 egg, using locally sourced and/or organic when possible
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB bourbon
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
    • 1 1/2 cups (190g) unbleached, all-purpose flour 
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cups chopped dark salted chocolate, such as Theo's Sea Salt bar
    • 3/4 to 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9"x6" loaf pan. Chop the chocolate into small to medium chunks/shards, and do the same with the pecans. Larger pieces are ok, as this makes for a lovely texture and visual appeal as the loaf is sliced. 

    2. Smash the bananas in a large bowl using a fork or potato masher. Add the melted coconut oil or butter, the egg, the vanilla, the sea salt, the bourbon, the cinnamon, the nutmeg and the ginger, and mix well. 

    3. Sift the flour directly into the wet mixture in step 2. Stir breifly, then add in the chopped chocolate and pecans, stirring just to combine. 

    4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Smooth out the top if needed. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until the loaf is deep golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool for 10-15 minutes, and then carefully slide a knife or off-set spatula around the edges, and release the loaf from the pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to throughly cool, if you can, before slicing. If you wish to pour a chocolate ganache or glaze over the top, you must let the loaf cool all the way before doing so. Loaf may be stored, covered or in a container, in the fridge for up to 1 week, or be frozen whole or in slices, for up to 1 month.



    1. Chop chop chop....Measure/weigh, mash, crack that egg, add the booze and vanilla...re-assure yourself that this is going to be amazing, because you are amazing!Sift, gently stir, then add the chopped goodies...briefly stir once more to bring the batter together.Pour. Admire the textures and colors.Bake, enjoying the lovely aromas!And you've done it. Look at you, all on top of your banana bread/caking skills! Go you. Enjoy as desired, either plain, sliced in thick pieces, or drizzle with your favorite chocolate glaze or ganache once cooled. 

  • Best Banana Bread!

    Yes! Best Banana Bread! As I type this, I realize I am being quite lazy, as I have an entire 10-day California trip to re-cap...but it is just too soon. I miss my sister, so in efforts to not be over emotional and commence chocolate-eating-for-breakfast/lunch/dinner, I will be sharing the trip + photos in a week or so. Not that I have been regularly updating this little space, but lucky for you, I have been busy making many tasty things, taking pictures of said tasty things, and (not lucky for you) eating those tasty things. I do intend to share many of them, so stay tuned!

    In the meantime, I have (finally) perfected my banana bread recipe. I say "a recipe" because have you seen how many "vegan banana bread" recipes pop up when you search the internets? A bazillion. I counted, exactly a bazillion. So, I am adding my version, since it has taken a few years (!!) and trials and tears to get this loaf right where I want it: not too sweet, lots of banana, no weird ingredients, and adequate shelf life (i.e. it will last in your fridge or room temperature for about a week). Turns out, you need a lot, on the order of 5-6 super duper ripe (the blackest, spottiest, near-to-fermenting) bananas you can muster to a) leave out of a smoothie/not freeze and/or b) get your hands on (I am NOT sharing where I find my stash of over-ripe bananas in Madison...EVER). But, I promise you, regardless of where you procure your bananas, all of them and the wait are worth it. Put a big bunch in a brown or plastic bag, let that ethylene gas build up and ripen those 'nanas ASAP.

     This recipe is great for a variety of reasons. No need for a ton of fat, eggs or other nonesense, thanks to the power of mased banana. You don't even need add-ins (unless you like those, then walnuts and/or dark chocolate chips would be fabulous, and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and flaked almonds on top are fun, tasty and decorative....yep...fun, tasty AND decorative). Be sure to cut this loaf into thick pieces, and enjoy with a steamy hot cup of your favorite coffee early in the morning. Getting up has never been so easy....no? To reheat, simply place a slice (or two...) in a warm oven (350F) for 5-7 minutes, or warm in a toaster on a low setting.

    Recipe Notes:

    • You could replace half or all of the melted coconut oil with your favorite fat, such as Earth Balance or butter, if you're into that kind of thing.
    • I have included weight measurements because I have started to use my scale much more (you should snag one, too, if you're remotely serious about producing more consistent baking/cooking results-I have this one here). In case you need to know (you do!), the volume measurements are taken as fluffed flour in the bag with a fork, which is then scooped with the cup measure, and then leveled with the back of a butter knife. I have made the loaf with entirely unbleached all-purpose, entirely whole wheat pastry, as well as a 50:50 combo of both with great results (FYI: Bob's Red Mill is what I use).
    • Baking this in a glass pan will tack-on a few more mintues of baking, so just monitor the loaf every 7 minutes during the last 15-20 minutes of baking. I use this loaf tin and LOVE it to bits.
    • Lastly, if you want to verge on a banana cake-like loaf, simply up the fat to 1/2 cup (90g), and up the sugar to 3/4 cup (150g). Heck, bake in a bundt or other fancy-ass pan, pour some chocolate fudge on top of the cooled bread, sprinkly with toased and crushed salted hazelnuts/peanuts, and call it dessert. For breakfast and snacking, I really prefer the less rich, less sweet version as I share below, but both are damn tasty in their own right. 


    Banana Bread // Plant-based; soy-free; nut-free option // makes 1 standard loaf //

    • 5-6 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (2 cups, or 500g of mashed banana puree)
    • 1/4 cup (45g) virgin coconut oil, melted (for a richer, more cake-like loaf, up to 1/2 cup
    • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
    • 1/2 cup (119g) room temperature almond or plant-based buttermilk (1/2 cup milk + 2 tsp apple cider or other vinegar)
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 3 cups (365g) unbleached all-purpose flour and/or whole wheat pastry flour 
    • 1/2 to 1 cup walnuts finely chopped (don't add those if you're allergic to nuts, yo!), or your favorite dark chocolate chips
    • Optional: cinnamon sugar (1 TB cane sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon) for topping and/or handful flaked almonds

    1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and flour a standard loaf pan. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Melt the coconut oil in a small bowl, and add to the bananas. To this add the room temperature almond buttermilk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, mixing with a whisk to thoroughly to combine. Be sure the almond buttermilk is room temperature, or else it will cause the fat to solidify once added to the mixture. If this does happen, place the mixture in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to re-melt the fat, and whisk to incorporate.

    2. In a large bowl, or directly into the banana mixture, sift the flour and baking soda. Gently mix the wet and dry together using a rubber spatula, gently mixing in the walnuts and/or chocolate halfway through mixing. Be sure to not over-mix, as the loaf will be tough if you do. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and top with cinnamon sugar and/or flaked almonds if desired. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. If using a fancy-ass pan or glass loaf pan, baking time may vary, so just check on it near the last 15-20 minutes of baking. Cool for 15 minutes, scrape around the sides, and invert out of the pan to cool completely before cutting and/or storing. Enjoy within 1 week, storing either at room temperature or in the fridge in a sealed bag or container. 



    These bananas should really ripen a bit more for this recipe, but I really, really wanted banana bread.Mashing the bananas, using my favorite under-utilized kitchen tool.Puree, spices, sugar, oil...mix them all together, in a larger bowl, unlike what I have pictured below. Also, the Oaktown Spice Shop >>> Penzey's. Everything all mixed, ready for the pan. I left out the add-ins, cause I was in the mood for plain-jane banana bread. Into the pan, and optionally adorned with cinnamon sugar and/or sliced almonds (or not!). I baked one loaf with and one without. Also, shout-out to my grandma for the vintage salt/pepper shakers, one of which I exclusively use for cinnamon sugar. Shake shake shake....the sugary topping makes for an aromatic, delicious top to your loaf.Into the oven to bake. Let this loaf cool before trying to pry it out, and please...for the love of banana bread gods, please let it cool as much as you muster before slicing it, as freshly baked, it may be a bit too gooey...but whatever-you baked it, you do what you want.

    Mmm...the taste of victory. It is indeed banana-y.