Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sourdough Surprises March: Irish Soda Bread Two Ways

As soon as the dish for Sourdough Surprises is revealed, I go into planning mode. What can I do that is different? Cinnamon rolls? Let's add strawberries and mangoes. . But for this month, I thought I would stick to tradition. (Well, tradition plus the required sourdough starter.) I've never had Irish Soda Bread in any form so why not start with the basics?  I started looking for traditional recipes and that's when I came across the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread and they take this thing SERIOUSLY.

Let me share some quotes.

"If your "soda bread" has raisins, it's not "soda bread! It's called "Spotted Dog" or "Railway Cake"! If it contains raisins, eggs, baking powder, sugar or shortening, it's called "cake", not "bread." All are tasty, but not traditional Irish Soda Bread!"

"Would "French Bread" (15th century) still be "French Bread" if whiskey, raisins, or other random ingredients were added to the mix? Would Jewish Matzo (unleavened bread) used to remember the passage of the Israelites out of Egypt still be Matzo if we add raisins, butter, sugar, eggs, and even orange zest? So why is traditional "Irish Soda Bread" (19th century) turned into a dessert and labeled "Traditional Irish Soda Bread?" OK, maybe you don't like the analogy, but you get the point!"

Alrighty then.

The recipe provided for white (as opposed to brown - which is whole wheat) has

4 cups of all purpose flour.
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
14 oz of buttermilk

I used 1/2 cup of sourdough starter to replace some of the flour and the buttermilk. I also halved the recipe. So here's what I did:

Sourdough Irish Soda Bread 

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sourdough starter, 166%
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 F
Mix flour, baking soda and salt together. Add starter and buttermilk. Mix lightly to bring together into a ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional buttermilk or water by the teaspoon.
Place the ball into a lightly greased cake pan. Flatten slightly and make a half inch deep cross in the top of the dough.
Cover with another cake pan and place in the oven.
After 30 minutes, remove the top cake pan and continue baking for another 10 minutes.

This was the end result. It had a yellowish tint which I associate with not having enough acid in the dough to neutralise the baking soda.. However, it didn't taste soapy so I didn't worry about it. But here's the thing. This was just OK. I wasn't in love. We needed to do something to this bread.

So let's add cheese, garlic and parsley and make it Cheddar Bay style. Now this bread? This bread I LOVED. This bread I shoved into my mouth every time I walked by it. This would not be approved Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. And that's fine by me.

"Cheddar Bay" Irish Soda Bread

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sourdough starter, 166%
1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix flour, baking soda, salt and garlic powder together.Toss in the shredded cheese.  Add starter and buttermilk. Mix lightly to bring together into a ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional buttermilk or water by the teaspoon.
Place the ball into a lightly greased cake pan. Flatten slightly and make a half inch deep cross in the top of the dough.
Cover with another cake pan and place in the oven.
After 30 minutes, remove the top cake pan and continue baking for another 10 minutes.
Combine melted butter, garlic powder and parsley.
Remove bread from oven and immediately brush with butter mixture.


    An InLinkz Link-up

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ramblings I

Lots and nothing much have been happening lately. Yes! You can certainly have both. I've wanted to post about my latest exercise exploits, things I'm loving on TV, and things I'm burning in my kitchen. But instead of waiting until I have all the words for individual posts, I figured that I would just put it all together.

  1. I have been trying to exercise consistently since December. I may not have an intense workout every day but I do something so that exercising stays a part of my daily activities. I haven't seen any major improvements so far but that could be directly related to me not giving it my all.
  2. This week, I am giving it my all. I have several videos lined up to do each day. I get bored easily so I am cycling through all the videos available to me. My lineup includes - Fitnessista's Winter Shapeup 2013 (I did this for 4 weeks in Jan/Feb), Fitness Blender videos (LOVE this site), Jillian Michaels videos and any other videos available on Amazon Instant Video.
  3. I still want to try running again but I haven't made it outside to run yet. (I still do long walks (8 miles) each week.) While it was relatively cold in South Florida would have been an excellent time to try. Alas, it's hot again. It may still happen though. I am hoping that as I gain strength from my at home workouts, running might be easier when next I try. Plus, I was dealing with some dizziness issues. I'd get extremely dizzy when I'd stop running. Rapid blood pressure changes? Who knows?
  4. I don't hate my body but I want to have a body that I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE by the end of the year. Toned abs, come to me!
  5. In my drafts folder there is a post about hate-watching television shows. I should finish it.
  6. I just finished season 1 of Orphan Black (it's on Amazon). Great show! I am shocked that the actress was not nominated for an Emmy. When are the Emmys anyway? September? What's the deal, Powers That Be? BBC America gets no love?
  7. I am still posting over on Passion Kneaded (and still have no idea what my ultimate goal is for my two corners of the internet). Anyway, I started cooking with the Crazy Ingredient Challenge back in August. Then in January, I started with the Bundt Bakers. Bake a cake every month? Oh, twist my arm, won't you?
  8. Posting can get pretty hectic (particularly for someone who doesn't post regularly) because all 3 cooking groups post about the same time and sometimes on the same day. Sourdough Surprises (that I still blog over here for logistical purposes) always posts on the 20th. CIC is the 20th also. Bundt Bakers posts on the third Thursday but that has either been on the 20th (February & the upcoming post for March) or pretty close to it.
  9. Kudos to you food bloggers who post religiously several times per week! You guys rock! I wish I had your blogging, cooking and photography skills. One day, I will. Well, the last two anyway. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strawberry & Lime Monkey Bread - Sourdough Surprises February

I was really excited about this month's Sourdough Surprises. I made a sourdough monkey bread once before but it was savoury. And while it's written up somewhere, I never got around to posting it. I tried the loaf-style pull-apart bread some time ago too. That flopped. My dough just wasn't enough to fill the pan and it didn't rise much. And so, I actually chickened out of trying that loaf-style one here.

This monkey bread was supposed to be a strawberry lemon one. That is, until I started thinking about evenings spent at Flanigan's and their delicious (and CHEAP!) strawberry daiquiris. And then I thought - well, why not use lime instead? I was nervous - really nervous. Would there be too much lime? Too little?

I need not have worried. It was simply perfect. I finished making this late one night. And I really wanted to wait until morning to take pics. But I realised that there was no guarantee that I would be able to resist grabbing pieces throughout the night. It was best to take the pics right then and if possible, take more in the morning.

Strawberry & Lime Monkey Bread

9 oz sourdough starter, 166% hydration
3 oz water
3 oz sour cream
0.5 oz oil
1 tablespoon sugar
15 oz all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 cup melted butter, cooled
1/2 cup strawberry preserves

Mix together starter, water, sour cream, oil and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Add flour then mix at medium speed for two minutes then allow to rest for 20 minutes. After resting, add salt and knead for four minutes. Cover the dough and allow to bulk ferment for four to six hours or until doubled.

While dough is resting, rub the lime zest into the cup of granulated sugar and set aside.

When dough has doubled, take a bundt pan and spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of strawberry preserves onto the bottom. Combine the melted butter and lime juice in a small bowl. Pinch off approximately 2 tablespoon-sized pieces of dough and roll into balls. Dip each ball into the melted butter mixture and then roll into the lime zest-sugar. Place each ball into the bundt pan. Top each layer of dough balls with approximately 2 tablespoons of strawberry preserves.

When all the dough balls are in the pan, pour over any remaining  melted butter, sugar and preserves. Cover the bundt with a damp towel and and allow to proof for 2 - 3 hours.

Bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 50 minutes. If the top (later bottom) is browning too quickly, cover with foil. The dough balls at the bottom will take a bit longer to cook. Use a thermometer to check if the bottom balls are at approximately 205 F.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before inverting on a serving platter. The syrup is HOT (and delicious). Be careful.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sourdough Surprises January: Focaccia

When I first started making bread, I read a lot about hydration and was pretty sure that I would never make anything with a hydration higher than 70%. In fact, when I first made rolls without knowing the hydration of the starter the recipe writer used, I was horrified at the wet dough in front of me. I started throwing in as much flour as I could and it just never seemed enough.

And then I saw a video of Martha Stewart making focaccia. I wanted it.  I didn't care about the high hydration. I had to have it. It went well. I loved my first focaccia and really wanted to make one again. But there were so many other breads to make do it never happened. So of course, I was extremely excited when Sourdough Surprises announced focaccia for this month.

I made this on Christmas Eve and enjoyed pieces with breakfast on Christmas morning. I tried to be a little creative and make a pattern on my focaccia. (Can you guess what it is? Hint: It should have been a flag.) The pattern wasn't perfect but, the taste was amazing!

I adapted Peter Reinhardt's focaccia in ... It's a long x hours before you can bite into your bread. Worth it? Perhaps. I'll let you know when I make one that is done in a shorter time frame and can compare the two.

Sourdough Focaccia

Adapted from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday
Garlic Oil
4 oz olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed 

18 oz flour
12.5 oz water
4.5 oz sourdough starter
0.5 oz oil

Banana Peppers

Warm the 4 oz of olive oil and add the cloves of garlic and set aside. 

Combine flour, water and starter for one minute. Allow to rest for 20 minutes then add oil and 0.5 oz of oil. Resume mixing on medium to low speed with a paddle attachment for 1 minute. The dough will be extremely sticky. Using a wet bowl scraper, transfer dough to an oiled bowl and let rest for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stretch and fold* the dough inside the bowl. Then let rest. Repeat this 3 more times. 

After the final stretch and fold, line a half sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of garlic oil over the pan then transfer it to the pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of oil over the dough then use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it over about half of the pan. Make sure that the dough is covered in oil then cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator, drizzle some oil over the dough and begin working the dough from the center to cover the entire pan. When the dough starts resisting, stop, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. Drizzle more oil then dimple the dough for another minute moving it to cover the entire pan. 

Cover and let rise at room temperature for 11/2- 2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 500 F. 

Top with more oil, if needed, olives and peppers. Place pan in oven and lower temperature to 450 F. Bake for 12 minutes then rotate pan and bake for another 10 - 15 minutes. The underside should be mottled golden brown. 

Transfer focaccia while still on parchment or mat to a wire rack. Cool slightly then serve.

*Stretch & Fold Video by Peter Reinhart
Stretch & Fold Video by Weekend Bakery
More Stretch & Fold

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises December: Sugar & Spice Popovers

I had a great post planned in my head (you know, the usual). I wanted to talk about how in the days following the 20th of each month I stalk the Sourdough Surprises Twitter, Facebook and blog pages to ensure that I see the challenge the moment it's revealed. I wanted to talk about how in the hours following seeing the challenge, I plan and plot in my head and most times know exactly what I want. And then suddenly, it's the 19th of the month and I am wondering if I have eggs much less flour.

I wanted to talk about how much I love being a part of this sourdough baking community. I wanted to talk about how much I love doing the blog hop each month. Oh! And I definitely wanted to tell you about my amazing birthday cake.  But then suddenly, it is the night of the 19th, I am sitting down to write with episodes of Chopped streaming from Amazon Prime in the background and BAM - I get sick.

Say what?

It's been three hours and I'm not sure what exactly is (was?) wrong. Did my body not like the cake and cookies I fed it today? Was it the coffee? It might have been the coffee. I don't like coffee (the drink, i.e. - love coffee desserts). I'm not sure why I grabbed some tonight. Whatever it was, it certainly threw a damper on my plans. So I am just going to post these pics and the simple recipe, implore everyone to make popovers - sourdough or not, curl up in  bed and watch Chopped while praying that whatever it is passes and that I can keep the French's Fried Onions that I am currently snacking on down. Whew, that was a long sentence.

Sugar & Spice Sourdough Popovers 

For the popovers: 

2 tablespoons of butter (for pan)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup 166% hydration sourdough starter
2 tablespoon melted butter, divided
3/4 cup all purpose flour

For the sugar and spice mix:

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground  cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Note: I used a muffin pan for this.

Divide the 2 tablespoons of butter among wells of a muffin pan or popover pan. I used 9 wells of my muffin pan. Place muffin pan in oven and turn oven to 450 F.

Blend the eggs, milk, starter, 1 tablespoon of melted butter and flour together in a blender or food processor for 30 seconds.

Remove muffin pan from oven and carefully pour batter into each well - about 3/4ths full. Return pan to oven.

After 15 minutes, reduce oven to 350 and bake for another 12-15 minutes.

Remove pan from oven. As soon as possible, pierce the underside of each popover, brush with melted butter and roll in sugar mixture.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises November: Black Cherry Kolaches

I remember one Spring Break that I got it into my head that I'd make a Trinidadian dish called doubles. I had never seen nor tasted doubles before. But based on the description (fried yeast dough that's then filled with curried chickpeas), I absolutely had to have it. I got some yeast (my first time working with yeast), followed the recipe given by an acquaintance, fried my dough, cooked my curried chickpea filling and produced one of the most delicious lunches that I'd ever made. Some time later, I went to a Trinidadian restaurant with a friend and ordered doubles. It looked NOTHING like what I had made. The fried dough was amazingly soft and, the curried chickpeas melted in my mouth. Bliss.

When Sourdough Surprises announced kolaches as this month's challenge, I figured that my kolache - experiment would be similar to that doubles-experience. But I wouldn't let that deter me. So here you have one Jamaican girl's sourdough(!) interpretation of a Czech treat.  I must admit that this one was particularly challenging. Every picture of kolaches that I saw looked different. I read different opinions on how to handle the dough and what left me puzzled most of all was the VERY high hydration that I saw. And no one seemed to comment on it. Instead I saw comments about the "beautiful dough".

I figured that America's Test Kitchen would not lead me astray and nervously converted their recipe to sourdough. Yeah. It was sticky. Actually, this was more than sticky. This was bordering dangerously on batter-land. But I didn't want to add too much flour so I pressed on.  Even though the ATK recipe does not call for a cold nap, I knew that I had to refrigerate mine if I wanted to do anything with it.

On Sunday morning when I was ready to form the kolaches, I knew that I had to remake them. There was no forming these into the nice round shapes that I saw. I grabbed a loaf tin to simply make a loaf with the dough but then I changed my mind and gingerly pinched balls off and placed them on my baking sheet. I let them rise for a bit, filled them with black cherry preserves and put them in the oven.

Sorry about the extra yellow lighting. Yuck

I can't say that these tasted just like kolaches. Because I've never had them before. They look like some of the pics I've seen. Kinda. But they were definitely delicious. I do love an enriched dough and the sour cream ensured that the dough stayed nice and soft.

I really wanted to make these again - play around with the ingredients. Decrease the butter and eggs. Something. But when I had time on Monday to try again, I realised that I was dangerously low on all purpose flour. This was certainly not the time to experiment with rye and whole wheat. And I opted for extra sleep on Tuesday morning instead of an early morning trip to the supermarket. Ah well. I guess the lemon and cheese version will just have to wait. It's probably for the best though. I have been eating these at an ALARMING rate. Add that to the oatmeal and raisin spice cake and onion rolls that I also made over the weekend and my body is having a happiness carb overload.

I can't wait to read about everyone's experiences with kolaches this month. I posted on Facebook about the very wet dough and was glad that I was not alone. I am sure we all have delicious takes on kolache though. You really can't go wrong with  enriched dough.

Serious lighting issues

Black Cherry Sourdough Kolache

240 grams 166% Sourdough Starter
350 grams All Purpose Flour
56 grams sugar
1 egg
2 yolks
113 grams melted butter
30 grams sour cream
10 grams salt
6 tablespoons black cherry preserves.

Combine all ingredients except salt and preserves in a mixer for 2 minutes. Dough will be very wet. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Add salt and knead for 10 - 12 minutes.
Place in refrigerator overnight.
Dough should be less wet after overnight cold rest. Divide dough into 12 even pieces and shape into a ball. If dough is still very sticky, just do the best that you can.
Allow to rest for 1 hour then use a floured cup (small) or end of a rolling pin to make indentations in the middle of each ball and fill with half a tablespoon of preserve.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Allow kolaches to rest for another hour then  place in oven and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Conquering Lateness

In true Kelster-fashion, I was almost late posting a blog post about conquering lateness. I originally started this on September 30 but then I don't know what happened. I know it was a crazy week due to the events of September 30th but still...

Yesterday I looked at my to-do list and sighed. There were five major items on the list and all five needed to be completed by 11:59 pm today. Also, each item would take a significant amount of time. I often tell myself that I work best under pressure. Do I really? Or is it that I always wait until the last minute to do things so I only ever experience working under pressure? I think it is the latter. In fact, I am sure. Leaving things to the last minute means that I run the risk of being late and additionally, other items get pushed to the back burner while I hurriedly try to put out the current fire(s).

This is where I paused this post and ran out to donate blood. I planned to give blood then head home to work on my list. What instead happened was a lesson in not procrastinating and trying to actively stop being late to start on projects. I should note that I am never late to an event or meeting. I am the girl who shows up 10 - 15 minutes before. But when it comes to other things? Sigh. But let's continue with the story of this Monday that changed my blog post a bit. 

 I actively try to be extra hydrated on days that I know that I will donate blood. I've been dehydrated before and that just makes the process longer and the phlebotomist must spend a great deal of time trying to coax my blood out. When I got to the blood mobile, there were three persons ahead of me. It occurred to me that I should probably use the bathroom before I donated but I figured that I could wait since there were only three persons ahead of me. One girl's iron was too low so we were down to two persons. I could wait.


For some reason, everything seemed to be moving much slower. The screenings were taking longer. And while I thought there was only one person actively donating, that process seemed to be taking much longer than normal. It occurred to me again that I should probably go to the bathroom. Nah, I can wait.

Finally, after 40 minutes, it was my turn to be screened. That went quickly and I was ushered to a bed. But again, I had to wait. Finally, an hour after arriving at the mobile, I was finally hooked up and my donation had started.  Luckily, that extra hydration had paid off so the donation was going quickly. But unluckily, now I really needed to use the bathroom. This would not be good. After my donation was complete, it seemed that the phlebotomist took a very long time to attend to me. Granted, I am supposed to lie there for a few minutes anyway but I really needed to go. I felt fine, no dizziness, so I left the bloodmobile as quickly as I could and found the nearest bathroom. I still felt OK.

A few minutes after leaving the bathroom, I felt slightly dizzy. Hmm. I ate one of the cookies I had grabbed on my way out of the bloodmobile and sat down. I didn't feel that slight dizziness anymore so I headed on my way. All was well as I walked towards the crosswalk for a busy road and pushed the button. And then things started to go black.


 I stepped away from the crosswalk and started to head back. I made it a few feet to a palm tree and realised that I could not go any further. I leaned against the palm tree and implored my body not to faint. It didn't listen and I slid to the ground as everything went black around me. I don't think I was out for very long.  And I apparently didn't look distressed since people walked by me and no one seemed concerned. (Remind me one day to talk about the psychological effect called the bystander effect. Classic bystander effect here.)
The sky as I walked home last Sunday evening. Beautiful.

As I sat there, I thought about the to-do list. I cursed myself for procrastinating. I wondered if I would be able to get things done. By now, I estimated that it was around 5:30 leaving me with 6 hours and 29 minutes to do five major things while feeling like crap.

I sat there in the grass by that palm tree for an hour and a half unable to move. I thought of calling someone to come get me but there were two things working against me: 1) I honestly could not move. If I lifted my head up, things would immediately start going black again so there was no way I would risk standing up even if someone was going to support me. And 2) my cell phone was now dead. Because, of course.

I finally made it home around 6:30, crawled into bed with my laptop and tried to get as much done without lifting my head too high. It was a rough night. I was too weak to go downstairs to make dinner or even get anything so I relied on the snacks that I had gotten from the bloodmobile. And this is why at 6 am on the first day of October Unprocessed, I ate packaged cookies. I was starving and afraid to get out of bed so cookies had to suffice until I felt OK to get out of bed.

I got all the items on my to-do list done but that incident really set the tone for my week as I had to take it easy until I felt like myself again. I vowed to make some changes to help me stay on track, avoid procrastinating and hence avoid being late. That way, in case of another emergency like this, I wouldn't be completely thrown off.

I LOVE the remind function on Google Now. For this task, I simply told it to remind me to get yogurt when I got to Publix using the voice function. It automatically pulled up the address of the Publix closest to me. When I eventually went to Publix days later, I was pleasantly surprised with a reminder. 

One major change is to use apps more. It's so easy to use Google Now to set reminders. Additionally, I use to schedule daily tasks. Sometimes I add the simplest tasks - Wash Dishes - just to try to keep myself on track. Additionally, will automatically ask after a missed call if you want to set a reminder to call that person back. LOVE it. That has been truly invaluable.

This is a screenshot of my current list on As I complete tasks, I can cross them off. I can also set the individual time-specific reminders for each task and snooze etc, if necessary. There are also tasks that recur everyday. I need to go do dishes. Ha.

I've still been late with things (see: this blog post, almost) but I'm getting there. Slowly. How do you conquer lateness? How do do you stay on track?

Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post in exchange for an entry into the Conquering Lateness Sweepstakes. BlogHer through Citibank is sponsoring this. Citi has a great card called Citi Simplicty that has no late fees, no annual fees and no penalty fees.   I would have told that fainting story and mentioned my love for Google Now and regardless of this Sweepstakes. Eventually.