Friday, March 20, 2015

Cupcakes and English Muffins - Sourdough Surprises

This month, Sourdough Surprises is celebrating its third anniversary! It just so happens that this month is also marks 4 years since I started my sourdough journey. This calls for a celebration. Our challenge this month was to choose any of the items from the past 36 months to remake. I had been waiting for this for the longest while. There are so many that I wanted to re-do either because I didn't love how they turned out or most likely because of horrible photographs. There were also 8 or 9 months that I missed and a couple items there that I definitely wanted to make.

It was really hard to choose. I eventually decided on English Muffins because they were one of the first sourdough items that I attempted. I failed miserably at making them and never tried again. And I also missed the month that they were chosen for Sourdough Surprises. I also needed some kinda bread item the week I made them so it was a good choice.

But you know what every celebration needs? Cake. It is a rule. So earlier this week, I also baked up a few simple sourdough chocolate-banana cupcakes to really celebrate Sourdough Surprises and my own starter!


Happy Anniversary, Sourdough Surprises! Thanks for starting this Shelley and Jenni! I hope to celebrate many more years with you, guys.

Sourdough Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sourdough starter (I used 100% hydration)
1/2 cup mashed banana
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate container, mix together the remaining ingredients until thoroughly comibined.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients mixing until no dry streaks remain.
Even divide among cupcake wells, filling each about two-thirds full.
Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out dry.

Sourdough English Muffins
(adapted from Wild Yeast Blog)

110 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter
160 grams flour
50 grams rye flour
50 grams milk
155 grams milk
120 grams milk

Final Dough
All of preferment
75 grams flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt

Mix together all the pre-ferment ingredients. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 8 - 10 hours.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix for about 7 minutes. The dough will be extremely sticky at first but should become a little less sticky as you mix. Do not add additional flour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle the top with additional flour and pat the dough out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch circles and place them on a cornmeal dusted sheet. Transferring may be a little tricky if your dough is very sticky. Use a floured spatula, if needed. The muffins can be reshaped while cooking.

Let proof for 45-60 minutes. They'll get puffy but not necessarily double.

Lightly oil a skillet and heat it over medium heat. Cook each muffin for 5-7 minutes on each side until browned.

Split with a fork to get the best nooks and crannies.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sourdough Beignets - Sourdough Surprises

I keep giving up the wrong thing for Lent. Well, maybe I am choosing the right thing considering how much I struggle. Do you remember 2 years ago when I gave up cake? That March, Sourdough Surprises chose cake as the dish to make. I also had to make 4 dozen cupcakes for a friend's party. Oh, the struggle. I made do by making other sweet things. I survived. I didn't break down once. I just rolled a lot of things in sugar.

This year, I decided to give up refined sugar. Sigh. I noted that we needed to make beignets this month. No problem. All I had to do was make them before Lent. I could have made stuffed savoury ones but that's no fun. Do you want to know when I made these? Ash Wednesday. I clearly hate myself. But I made them and tasted them BEFORE I dusted them with powdered sugar. Sure, there's some sugar in the dough but I realised that I was going to have to give myself some leeway or I'd never be able to survive blog anything during Lent. The beignets without sugar just weren't that satisfying. I mean, it's fried dough so it's going to taste good. But when you know that this fried dough should be covered in sugar but you can't eat any of the sugary ones? It leaves you very unhappy. I made it through the cake-free Lent. I even gave up chocolate last year and survived. But sugar-free? I don't think I can do it. *bites into a cookie*

My friend who lived in New Orleans for a bit gave me two New Orleans cookbooks. I've read through every recipe several times but never made anything. This was the perfect time to finally use them. The beignet recipes in both books were almost identical. One used milk while the other used evaporated milk and water. Pretty much the same.

However, the methods differed. For one recipe, you mixed the dough, immediately chilled it (no time specified) then you rolled them out and fried them. For the other, you were to bulk ferment and proof them. I figured that I'd give my starter some time to do something so I wanted to bulk ferment then roll and fry immediately. My bulk ferment turned into a cold ferment as I ran out of time and had to stash it in the fridge. I also used some buttermilk and added some baking powder.

I added the baking powder because I've seen a few sourdough donut recipes that call for baking powder. Additionally, the beignet mix sold by Cafe du Monde has "baking soda, baking powder and/or yeast". I wanted to add baking soda too since I used buttermilk but I forgot.

So here's the breakdown:

Sourdough Beignets

1 cup 100% mature sourdough starter
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour (divided)
2 teaspoons baking powder
oil, for frying


Mix together the starter, buttermilk, oil, sugar, 2 cups of flour, salt and egg. Dough will be very sticky. Cover and bulk ferment.

When dough is ready, stir in the baking powder and the remaining flour.

Heat a pot with at least an inch of oil to 360 F.

Place the dough on a well floured surface and roll out to a quarter inch thick. Cut into two inch squares.

Fry until golden brown on the underside, turn and fry the other side.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sourdough Bao - Sourdough Surprises

I first heard about Chinese steamed buns (bao or baozi) when Julie over at Willow Bird Baking made some cheeseburger stuffed baozi. I didn't make them then because these buns require a steaming basket and I didn't want to buy one and wasn't sure how to rig one. But here we are, three years later, and it's the chosen dish for this month's Sourdough Surprises. Time to try the bao!

I still didn't buy a steamer but instead did some rigging. I placed a cake dish on top of a smaller pan in a large pot of water. It worked well enough. I was worried that condensation would drip on the buns and I read on The Fresh Loaf that this could lead to buns collapsing. I am sure some hit my buns without ill effect but I did use a wooden spoon to keep the lid slightly ajar.

So let's talk about shaping these steamed buns. I oohed and aahed at the lovely pictures online and not for one minute did I think that I may not have been able to do it. It's like I don't know myself. I was filling the buns with some leftover chicken breast that I shredded and added some barbecue sauce, cabbage, carrot and extra spices to. Nothing fancy. When that ran out, I mixed up some peanut butter, chocolate and powdered sugar. Again, nothing fancy. But let's get back to shaping and pleating. I gathered up my first ball of dough, flattened it, pleated, and did a little twist. It looked OK. Not perfect but OK. I moved on to the next and then I looked over at my "OK bun". It was now sad and slouching and losing all of the little pleats and the twist.

That's when I decided to watch a YouTube video on shaping. My shaping only got worse. I think part of the problem was that the outer edges of circles were a bit too thick. It's OK though. I am pretty sure that shaping does not affect the taste.  And if you want to see really beautiful bao, take a look at all the ones made by everyone else for Sourdough Surprises today! They are a talented bunch. Lots of thanks to Jenni and Shelley for choosing a great dish again this month!

Sourdough Baozi (adapted from A Bread A Day)

1.5 oz 100% sourdough starter
2.25 oz all purpose flour
2.25 oz water

11 oz all purpose flour
1 oz cornstarch
3 tablespoon sugar
5 oz milk 
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. 
Vinegar for steaming 

Filling Suggestions
Pulled pork
Shredded chicken
You'll need ~3 tablespoons of filling per bun

Mix the starter ingredients and leave overnight or until mature and bubbly. 
Add the flour, cornstarch, sugar and milk and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic but still soft. Let the dough rise until doubled. 

After dough has doubled, gently flatten into a disk and sprinkle baking powder over the surface. Seal the baking powder in the middle and knead until baking powder is incorporated (about 5 minutes). Let the dough stand for 30 minutes. 

Cut 16 3" squares of parchment paper. 

Divide the dough into 16 equal balls. Flatten each ball out to a roughly 4" circle with the center thicker than the edges. Fill each with roughly 3 tablespoons of filling and shape according to this video. Place each filled bun on a square of parchment. 

Let each bao rest until slightly risen. 

Set a steamer rack inside a large pot.  Add enough water to come to within 1/2 inch of bottom of rack, and add about 1 tablespoon vinegar.  Bring to a boil.  Carefully place as many buns (still on parchment paper) as will fit on the steamer rack, being sure not to let them touch.  Cover loosely, reduce heat to keep water at a low boil, and steam until buns are puffed and set, about 20 minutes.  Add additional water and vinegar as needed.

I made a second mini batch in which I held back some of the flour. My dough was then relatively sticky. I then added the remaining flour to the baking powder and kneaded it in at the baking powder 
step. I think there was more even distribution of the baking powder that way. 
If you don't have a steamer rack or a steaming basket, you can do what I did. Place a cake pan on top of a much smaller pan or ramekin in a large pot. Place bao in the cake pan.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sourdough Stollen - Sourdough Surprises

I am somewhat of a Grinch. All around me people are talking about Christmas cookies and cakes and I am just not feeling it. In December, my main focus is usually on what kind of birthday cake I want to make for myself and Christmas baking is tossed to the wayside. If I am home with my mother, I will bake the traditional Jamaican Christmas cakes - rum, wine and fruit laden cakes. I love booze in my cakes but I do not like the fruit. But I "suffer" through it for the sake of tradition. Plus, if I am making them, I get to blend the fruits to oblivion and use as little of the brightly coloured peel as possible. Look, let me totally honest here, you won't tell anyone, right? For years, I barely ate a bite of those cakes. But now? If you gave me a slice, I would gobble it up - fruits and all. I really don't think I dislike the fruits that much anymore. Plus, it's hard to resist a slice of home. I just stick to the story and use it as a reason not to bake. Don't tell anyone. 

Mmmm. Melted butter.

I had no intention of doing any sort of holiday themed baking though. However, Sourdough Surprises insisted otherwise. I do love this group - my Grinchdom (not a word,  I know) is not tolerated! This month we are baking stollen - a German Christmas bread that is stuffed with lots of liquor soaked fruits. Fret not, if you are a dried fruit hater, you can simply choose ones you don't dislike. Cranberries? Mango? Homemade candied orange peel? That's what I used. And if you really don't like any at all - go for chocolate chips. If I weren't already riding a chocolate high, I would have gone chocolate. If you don't like chocolate, I have nothing to say to you. We can't be friends. That much I know. Wait...actually, we can be friends. You would give me any chocolate that you got and I would never have to share my chocolate with you ever. This could work. 

Do you think that's enough powdered sugar?

Now, I have never seen or tasted stollen before (another reason I love this group - introducing me once again to new things). This means that if you're a stollen expert reading this, you may be clutching your heart. I didn't use marzipan. I used non-traditional fruits. I didn't shape it correctly.  I'm sorry that I messed up your wonderful bread. If it's any consolation, what I made was delicious so your lovely stollen will not get a bad name from me.  

I really wanted to make a beautiful wreath but my dough just felt a little too soft. I didn't think it would show the cuts in the dough well so I shaped it in an oval instead. 

Be sure to scroll down to see all the beautiful stollen that the other Sourdough Surprise bakers made!

Sourdough Stollen
1 cup dried fruit (I used 1/2 cup of dried cranberries then a mix of candied citrus peel and dried mango)
1/2 cup rum, orange juice or brandy
250 grams 166% sourdough starter
35 grams oil
1 egg
12 grams sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
280 grams flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
melted butter for brushing dough
powdered sugar

At least a day before baking, soak the dried fruit in rum. On baking day, drain the fruit. 

Combine all the dough ingredients except cinnamon, cloves and salt. Mix until just combined - about two minutes then let rest for 20 minutes. 

After resting, add the spices and salt and knead for an additional 5 minutes. Cover dough and let rest at room temperature for 6 hours. Every two hours, perform three or four stretch and folds on the dough.

On the third stretch and fold, pat the dough out into a rectangle and add the drained fruits. Fold the dough several times to incorporate the fruit. If dough is extremely sticky, use a little flour to help this process. 

Place dough in an oiled container, cover and refrigerate overnight. Dough may only rise slightly.

Let dough come to room temperature and then shape into a log or oval. Place the dough on a parchment (or non-stick foilor baking mat) lined baking sheet and let sit at room temperature until puffy. This dough is slow to rise because of all the fruit and spices. Your dough may feel puffy but not double. I let mine sit about 4 hours before baking. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake loaf for 30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 190 F. 

Immediately brush dough with melted butter. Wait until it seeps in and brush with more melted butter. Dust a generous coat of powdered sugar over dough. Allow to cool completely. You can dust with another coating of powdered sugar, if desired. 

Apparently, this bread tastes better if left to sit for a few days. Uh yeah...I wasn't that patient. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dinner Rolls - Sourdough Surprises

Little flecks of basil

Soft dinner rolls were one of the first recipes that I tried when I first started baking with a starter 3.5 years ago. I was still very averse to kneading and when I saw Weekend Bakery’s No Knead Dinner Rolls, I thought they would be perfect. They were not. The dough was a goopy mess. Back then, the post made no mention of hydration/thickness of the starter used. I used a high hydration starter and probably even added more than called for. Oops. I left a comment on that post asking about the starter and found out that it was a thick (stiff?) one. Ah well.

I never tried dinner rolls again after that. There were too many other things to bake and I was not sure that I could achieve soft rolls. Thankfully, this month’s Sourdough Surprises has forced me to try dinner rolls again. Armed with a little more knowledge and a tiny bit more confidence, I was ready to take on the dinner rolls challenge. This time, I based my recipe on Txfarmer’s Pani Popos. (Side note: I baked and blogged about some amazing pumpkin pani popos over here. Stop by some time.) This time things were much better. The house smelled amazing as the garlic basil rolls baked. 

I had intended on brushing them with garlic-basil butter when they came out of the oven but I had to leave immediately after pulling them out. I only had time to grab a hot roll from the pan to eat on the go. Soft. Tasty. The sourdough flavour was shining too. Loved them. It’s a pity that I only made a small batch. 
Brushed with butter
I then made a second batch of rolls but this time, I left them plain. I needed some crumbs for a sweet recipe so didn’t want to add herbs and garlic to them. I loved how buttery they were. Less than ten minutes out of the oven, I had already devoured two. I was hungry and they were good. This second recipe was really me just playing it by ear. I’m glad it worked out. I have a future plan for dinner rolls and hope to use this as a base. I'm only listing the garlic basil recipe below. I have had a hectic week. It's 5:30 am and I have not slept yet. I think I am supposed to leave home in 2.5 hours. Ha! So yeah, I'll have to update this tonight. Sorry!

Less than 5 minutes out of oven

Garlic Basil Rolls
50 grams 166% sourdough starter
18 grams milk
41 grams flour
Remaining dough
205 grams flour
12 grams sugar
20 grams oil
3 grams salt
50 grams sour cream
20 grams milk
1 egg.
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil

Combine all the levain ingredients and leave at room temperature for 8-12 hours. Add the remaining ingredients and knead well. Dough should be tacky but not sticky. If it's sticky, add more flour. Cover and let bulk ferment for 2 hours then refrigerate overnight. 
Let dough come to room temperature and divide into 9 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place in a greased baking pan. Let rise at room temperature until doubled. 
Bake at 350 F or until rolls are 200 F.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sourdough Croissants - Sourdough Surprises

My phone died 11 days ago and while I knew that I was wholly dependent upon the device, I certainly did not realise how much until I woke up that morning to an eerie error message. I feel almost cut off from the world. And I don't mean from phone calls and texts. I rarely did either. Facebook, Feedly and Twitter were daily rituals.

Sure, I can access all three from the web. But the experience is just not the same. I vaguely saw that Sourdough Surprises asked a question about their Pinterest board. I tried to shout - "YES! YES! I love the inspiration board!" But my browser froze or something and I don't think I hit send on that post. There are several other things that are not social media related that I'm missing. Evernote is one. I used to use Springpad but the company went out of business and I turned to Evernote. It's just not the same trying to quickly scroll through my recipes from the browser and I keep forgetting to download the desktop app. Runkeeper. MyFitnessPal. The list goes on and on. I'll be out of the dark ages soon enough. I hope.

 The day of the phone mishap, I started working on these croissants. I have a love - not-really-love relationship with laminating dough. I love the effect. I love eating flaky layers. I love smelling the buttery dough baking. But I just can't stop my butter from leaking. I sprinkle some extra flour and roll with it but I wish it wouldn't leak. Geez. Laminating really isn't that hard. You just need to make sure everything is cold. If you live in a hot climate, like I do, freeze everything. Ice down surfaces. Lower the a/c. Put the dough in the fridge or freezer very often. You can do it! And even if it's not perfect, mine certainly weren't, rest assured that buttery dough will always taste good.

 One thing I thought about after I placed these in the oven was that I should have taken the vol-au-vent (puff pastry) approach and chilled the croissants right before baking. That would have hardened the butter a bit then it would melt and give off steam in the oven and would have given that extra lift that they so desperately needed. I'll try that next time. I will also sprinkle some cinnamon sugar over them right before baking. I am really kicking myself for forgetting that. Buttery, flaky, cinnamon-y dough? I missed out.

 Well, here's the recipe. I only used my starter instead of adding the commercial yeast insurance. I did not get the lift that I would have liked but I know that it can be done without the commercial yeast so I wanted to try. Also, I use a very wet starter so very little liquid was required after adding my starter. There's clearly lots room for improvement here but it's definitely a good (delicious) start.

 Sourdough Croissants

213 grams mature 166% starter
180 grams flour
12 grams water
15 grams oil
33 grams sugar
130 grams cold butter
egg for egg wash

Combine starter, flour, water, oil and sugar. Knead at low speed for 10 minutes. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Roll out the cold butter between two sheets of wax paper into 5 inch square. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into a 7 inch square. Place the chilled square of butter into the center of the dough with the corners of the butter facing a straight side of the dough. Fold over the four flaps to encase the butter.
Roll the dough out into a 6" x 14" rectangle. With the 14" edge facing you, fold a third from the left and the third from the right. That's the first book fold. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll out to 6" x 14" and perform another book fold. Refrigerate for 1 hour. That's the second book fold.

Once again, roll out to 6" x 14" and do the third book fold. Chill for at least two hours.

Roll the dough out to 8" x 16". Rest the dough often in the fridge while doing this if necessary. If at any point it feels sticky, put it in the fridge.

Divide the dough into 4 4" x 8" rectangles. Slice each diagonally into triangles.

Stretch each triangle then roll up into the croissant shape.

Proof until puffy. This can take up to 3 hours.

Mix the egg with a tablespoon of water. Gently brush over each croissant and bake for 10 minutes at 425 F and 10 minutes at 375 F.


    An InLinkz Link-up

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mealie Muffins for Sourdough Surprises

There are very few foods that I will not eat. Typically, when I dislike something, I may still try it (e.g, tofu). But when it comes to cornmeal, I just cannot do it. I don't even like the smell. Corn tortillas - no. Festival (a jamaican fried dough - flour, cornmeal, baking powder and sugar) -only when I am extremely homesick. Cornmeal porridge - are you trying to kill me? But I LOVE corn. I could eat a pound of corn kernels in one sitting. Roasted. Boiled. Raw. Love it all. But once it has been turned into cornmeal, I run the other way. 

So I was a bit distressed when Sourdough Surprises announced cornbread for this month. I did not want to sit the month out. But how would I get around the cornmeal? Should I just make it and have others taste it? That could take a while.Should I try to figure out the ratio of cornmeal to flour that I would like? I recently added Jiffy cornbread mix to a few loaves of bread. And after the initial whiff of cornmeal when they were just out the oven, it was fine.  Then I remembered mealie bread. 

Mealie bread is a type of corn bread made in southern Africa. It's made with corn kernels (mealie) instead of cornmeal. I saw several versions - some with and without wheat flour. Some steam the mixture in much the same way that Jamaicans make cornmeal pudding. I opted to use flour and to bake it. I then crossed by fingers and hoped that I would like it. 

Fresh out the oven, these were delicious! I didn't blend all the corn and enjoyed biting into a few kernels here and there. They were light and wonderful with butter. I had to stop myself from eating the entire batch all at once. But then they cooled. And there was that unmistakable cornmeal smell. It's weird how my beloved corn transforms like that. Ah well, this just means that I will have to warm or toast these delicious muffins before I bite in. I can live with that. 

Sourdough Mealie Bread


1 cup of flour 
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups corn, divided 
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter 
1/2 cup 166% sourdough starter


Preheat oven to 350 F. Thoroughly grease 8 wells of a muffin pan. 

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, red pepper flakes (if using) and salt. Blend eggs,oil and 1 cup of corn until smooth. Add the remaining half cup of corn and the starter. Pulse for a few seconds. You want some larger pieces to remain. You could also leave the kernels whole or completely blend everything. 

Pour mixture into the dry ingredients and gently stir until just combined. 

Divide evenly among 8 muffin wells. 

Bake for 15 minutes.