Sourdough Blueberry Muffins


After a few months of a baking hiatus, I pulled my sourdough starter (Frank) out of the fridge before thanksgiving.  I baked a couple of loaves but they just aren’t everything they could be. Too dense, too sad-looking. 

So, in an effort to rev up my starter and strengthen it enough to get a great loaf of bread, Frank has been living on the counter being fed twice a day. This creates a lot of leftover starter and we can only eat so much bread. 


This morning, I tried a new recipe from King Arthur Flour–blueberry sourdough muffins. Sounded interesting enough!
Frank didn’t have quite enough volume to get a full cup from him, so I made a half batch which yielded 10 smallish muffins. 

These were tasty but unlike most of my usual muffins. The maple syrup sweetener is very mild so these are much more like enriched bread than muffins. The sourdough flavor is pretty much swamped by the blueberries but it is there if you look for it. Perhaps if my starter was stronger, it would come through more.  Surprisingly, my kids loved these despite the lack of super sweetness. 
Small batch Sourdough Blueberry Muffins

120 grams AP flour

70 grams yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed

1/8 cup milk

1/2 large egg or 1 yolk

2 tblsp melted butter

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup blueberries, frozen (wild blueberries are best but I only had regular today)

Demerara or coarse sugar, for sprinkling tops
Preheat oven to 425 and prepare muffin pan.

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another, leaving blueberries out until the last step. Thoroughly stir the wet, then add the wet to the dry. Stir until nearly combined. Add blueberries and stir a few more times. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and top with coarse sugar. 

Bake 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. 

Sourdough Bagels: a love story

Bagels are pretty much amazing, right?  Chewy, dense, and able to provide a lot of cream cheese delivery ability.  I’ll admit that I’m a little picky about my bagels though; don’t try to feed me bagel shaped bread and expect me to eat it, ok?  Bagels aren’t bread. Bagels are bagels.  Don’t mess with this.

We had an ok bagel place in Texas but Tennessee is sadly lacking in bagels.  Its been a few months now and my need for a bagel was pretty overwhelming, so I’ve been plowing through recipes looking for a good option.  First, I tried the recipe from Classic Sourdoughs, a book I really like.  I am chalking that failure up to my halving the recipe though as the dough was soft and ultimately bready.  They couldn’t hold their shape during boiling so I ended up just baking them.  bleh.

I finally came upon the recipe for 100% sourdough bagels over at The Wild Yeast Blog.  The pictures looked amazing and I loved the no additional yeast thing.  Then, when I was admiring some bagels on instagram (who doesn’t do that?), azture mentioned they were from the same recipe I had been eyeing.  It was meant to be.

I made a few slight changes to the recipe.  I didn’t have high gluten flour or vital wheat gluten on hand (though I have since gotten some from amazon to try with), so I used bread flour.  I also kneaded it all by hand since thats my thing.  The dough was super tough to knead but came together nicely.  I kneaded it for maybe 15-18 minutes.

Where I differ with the wild yeast blog was in the shaping.  I tried the rolling method but…its a total pain in the ass.  The dough is super tough and elastic even after a resting period and sticking the ends together with water is too fussy for me.  Poke my finger though the ball and shape the bagel all the way.  It takes 1/zillionth of the time.

Proof, refrigerate overnight and they are ready for the final steps in the morning.  I was a little intimidated of the boiling part since my previous attempt at bagels went south here but I trusted in the dough.

They held together and, while they looked a little gross, I knew this step would give me that amazing exterior shell that really differentiates bagel from bread.

Baked!  My bagels could have been a little more evenly sized but whatever.

Sourdough Bagels

Ingredients:

  • 349 g bread flour
  • 121 g cold water
  • 28 g baker’s dry milk powder (King Arthur Flour’s is the best here)
  • 16.4 g non-diastatic malt powder
  • 10.1 g (1 2/3 teaspoons) salt
  • 301 g active 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda for boiling

Combine all the ingredients (except the baking soda for boiling).  Mix with a spoon in a bowl until it becomes to difficult to work.  Turn out and knead for 15+ minutes or until your dough is smooth and satiny.  Cover the dough and rest for 10 minutes to help it relax before shaping.

Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into a ball.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes or so.  Prepare a sheet pan with parchment and a heavy sprinkling of semolina flour.

Shape each bagel by sticking your finger through the center of the ball and gently pulling it into a bagel shape.  Make the hole a little bigger than you think to account for puffing during the long rise.

Cover with cling wrap and proof at room temperature for 4 hours.  Then put in the fridge overnight (or about 8 hours).

In the morning, turn the oven to 425 and start a large pot of water to boil and get a cooling rack with a towel or sheet pan under it ready.  Once the water reaches boiling, add the baking soda and stand back!  It will bubble up a bit and then calm back down.

Add the bagels a few at a time for 20 seconds each.  If your bagels don’t sink/stay under water in the beginning, just flip them halfway through the boil.

Remove and allow to drain for a few minutes.  If your bagel’s holes have closed up, you might want to dab the top with a towel.  Transfer back to the semolina dusted sheet pan and put them in the oven.  Turn the oven down to 400.  Bake for 20-27 minutes or until golden brown. Open the oven halfway through to vent any steam out.

Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Eat with cream cheese!

Italian Crackers

After making sourdough crackers a while ago, I thought they were just pretty good. Not amazing or so incredibly easy that they basically make themselves or so different than anything you can buy in the store.  They were just good.  They were also a pain to bake since they baked unevenly and had to be checked constantly.
Then I chatted with a friend of mine who had one of those comments that made so much sense. “Why don’t you spread them out a little?”  DUH.  Why don’t I do that??? Have I even baked before???

So I did, this time with italian seasoning instead of herbs de provence.  It didn’t even take 30 seconds to rearrange them on the sheet pan after cutting. Then I put them in the oven and walked away. No prodding. No taking the outer ring of crackers off. No fussing. Just a quick pan rotation halfway through.

Tada! Perfect crackers. They were…delicious. I can see a homemade cracker problem developing in my future.

I also ended up making yet another batch of these and turning them into breadsticks to go along with a pasta meal. 

  

The search for sourdough part 2

My first attempt at sourdough was less than amazing.  It was flat and not as sourdough-y as I wanted.  This time, I wanted a nice crusty loaf with a soft interior that could be used for a solid sandwich bread.  Packaged along with my replacement sourdough starter was a small pamphlet with feeding instructions and a few basic recipes.  The first one was Rustic Sourdough Bread and looked like a super basic loaf and a good place to start.

One of my biggest problems with I first started baking bread was adding too much flour to the dough in order to make it “workable”–whatever that meant.  I’ve since learned that dough will become less sticky as it is kneaded and adding more flour at the beginning will only lead to sadness and a dry loaf.


I added only a touch of flour to this dough and it came together despite being a fairly wet dough.  Just keep working on the dough and trust in the gluten development.  And commit to having nasty dough covered hands by the end of the experience.  Your hands are washable.

After  a couple of rises and a bake, the bread was perfect.  I made these two freeformish loaves but I’ve since made this a few times and am now usually baking it in a 8×4 loaf pan to give myself nice sandwich slices for lunches.

I’ve also been halving the recipe since this bread does not keep for long.  Its kind of a shame but its so delicious we usually end up finishing a loaf in the few days we have with it.  This is also a super easy dough and has become a standard twice a week bake here the last few weeks.

bread

 

The One Loaf Sourdough Option

1/2 cup fed sourdough.  You’ll probably end up discarding another 1/2 cup from your feeding but I find its easier to dump 1/2 cup of starter than an entire loaf of bread.

3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

generous 1 teaspoon salt

300 grams AP flour

Combine all ingredients and knead until the dough comes together and forms a smooth ball.  Place in an oiled bowl to rise until doubled (about 90 minutes).  Turn out and fold a few times to gently deflate.  Shape into a loaf and place in an 8×4 loaf pan.  Cover and allow to rise for about an hour (it won’t double but it will rise a bit). Preheat oven to 425 near the end of the second rise.  Slash tops and bake for 20-25 minutes until nicely golden brown.  Remove from oven and turn out of loaf pan and allow to fully cool.

Herbs de Provence Crackers

  
Crackers?  I never really considered making them myself since I have a pretty mean addiction to cheezits.  I came across this recipe for Sourdough Crackers over at King Arthur Flour when I was looking for ideas for my starter.  The ingredients were pretty minimal and I’d never made crackers before…so, why not?

 

  
I grabbed the ingredients and then pondered herbs.  Oregano? Rosemary?  Then I found this jar of Herbs de Provence–something I hardly ever use.  The topping called for sea salt or kosher salt but since I was feeling FANCEE, I grabbed my jar of Fleur de Sel salt.

  
The dough was incredibly easy to bring together and, after a rest in the fridge, rolled out easily.  I was skeptical I’d be able to roll a wheat dough out so thinly since my usual sourdough bread doughs are so stretchy and elastic.  This dough rolled out in a jiff and I set to work brushing it with olive oil, sprinkling on the salt and cutting it into squares.  The last step was to prick the crackers with the tines of a fork but, next time, I’ll do this before cutting.  My fork kept grabbing the dough squares and lifting them off the parchment.

  
Baking them was…interesting.  The edge crackers brown well before the center ones are done.  I found myself removing the pans and pulling off the outer ring a couple of times.  It made the bake time longer with so many interruptions but if I had left them all in until the centers were done, the edges would have been inedible.

  
These are quite delicious and surprisingly easy to make. Nice and crisp and a great way to use up some herbs (and sourdough starter) that otherwise would either be discarded or languish until expired.  I could see these being  a regular thing around here with different herbs mixed in.  I bet this dough would make excellent long thin crispy breadsticks for pairing with italian meals.

 

Fancee Crackers

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup unfed sourdough starter (mine happened to be fed and they still turned out fine)

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence or other dried herbs

olive oil for brushing

Fleur de Sel or other coarse salt–about a tablespoon

Mix together the flour, salt, sourdough starter, butter, and optional herbs to make a smooth(not sticky), cohesive dough.  I ended up adding about an extra tablespoon of flour to get mine to the non-sticky stage. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a small rectangular slab. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a couple of hours, until the dough is firm.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Very lightly flour a piece of parchment, your rolling pin, and the top of the dough.

Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough to about 1/16″ thick. The dough will have ragged, uneven edges; that’s OK. Just try to make it as even as possible.

Transfer the dough and parchment together onto a baking sheet. Lightly brush with oil and then sprinkle the salt over the top of the crackers.

Cut the dough into 1 1/4″ squares and prick each square with the tines of a fork.

Bake the crackers for about 20 minutes, until the squares are starting to brown around the edges.  I checked mine at 18 minutes and started removing outside crackers every minute or so until the interior crackers were finished.

When fully browned, remove the crackers from the oven, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

Sourdough Pretzels

  
My sourdough starter met an unfortunate fate during our recent move across the country. At first, I thought maybe I didn’t need to get another one since my other sandwich bread and basic loaves were coming along. hahahahahahahaha. yeah. That feeling didn’t last long. After we were settled, it didn’t take long for me to order a new batch of starter from King Arthur Flour.

I’ve kept my starter on the counter for a while to get it chugging along before it goes to its usual home in the fridge. Since a room temperature starter needs to be fed twice a day, I’ve had a lot of starter to use up. Technically, what I have is fed starter since it has been recently fed with flour and water but I used it in the Sourdough Pretzels recipe from King Arthur Flour anyway.

The dough itself came together easily without a lot of kneading. It took just a couple of minutes to go from this pile of junk:

  
 

to this beauty:

 

  
After a rise, it was time to shape the pretzels. All those years of play doh work have really paid off, no?

 

  
 

These were completely delicious. Soft and chewy with just a little bit of that nice crust on the exterior. They are soft enough that I’m considering using them for an amazing hamburger bun next time I make a batch. These were met with rave reviews by everyone and will definitely make a regular appearance around here to use up all the extra starter I have. I may try to par bake a few next time and freeze them. Sourdough pretzels from the freezer? Could it happen??

Sourdough Pretzels
From King Arthur Flour

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup unfed sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) non-diastatic malt powder
1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Topping:
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or sugar
2 tablespoons water
pretzel salt
2 tablespoons melted butter, optional

Mix and knead the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a cohesive, fairly smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky; if it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 45 minutes. It will rise minimally. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface, fold it over a few times to gently deflate it, then divide it into 12 pieces, each weighing about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 ounces.

Roll each piece of dough into an 18″ rope. Shape each rope into a pretzel or any other shape youd like. These would be delicious as long pretzel sticks.

Dissolve the malt in the water. Brush the pretzels with the solution, and sprinkle lightly with coarse pretzel salt.

Bake the pretzels for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Note: This is correct; there’s no need to let the shaped pretzels rise before baking.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush with melted butter.

The Search for Sourdough

finished

I’ve had a sourdough starter for quite a few years now and, amazingly, I’ve never made sourdough bread with it.  Most of the time, I just use it to make amazing sourdough waffles.

My starter needed some reviving last week which means several days on the counter producing extra starter that mostly went to waste. I saved some of it for my first attempt at a real sourdough loaf. I used the recipe from King Arthur Flour: Sourdough Baguettes. I love that I can change their website from volume to weight measurements.

Rise, RISE, Yeastie bubbles!!

yeast bubble

For daily bread and pizza crusts, I rely on the no-knead technique from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Its amazing bread but, sometimes, you just need to knead something, you know? Instant stress relief and, as a bonus, you get flour all over yourself so you can feel like a legit baker all day.

kneading

I divided it into 6 pieces. I used a serrated knife here but it was a bit of a pain. Ill be sure to get a dough scraper/knife thing before I try another set of loaves.

six pieces

Shaping it was the difficult part. They make it sound as simple as rolling out some play-doh. But the reality was that my dough was as sticky as cheap movie theater floor. Shape it how? Should I add more flour? I did my best by just kind of stretching it out into a longish shape and they looked pretty terrible.

shaped kind of

I was hoping the final rise would even out my loaves uniqueness and it mostly did. I didn’t bother doing the fancy slashing since you can’t polish a turd.

Final rise

By the time they were baked, they looked pretty acceptable even though they were woefully flat.

sliced

They actually tasted delicious but I’m not where I want to be with this recipe yet. More kneading? More flour during shaping? I have a few ideas to try out as I work on my sourdough loaves.