Santa Barbara Sourdough Bread

Santa Barbara Sourdough

Disclaimer: This is an old sourdough recipe (March 2013!) that has been somehow overlooked. This was how I first learned sourdough, but I have since moved on to the Tartine recipe, which I now recommend. I post it now for completeness.

I have a love-hate relationship with sourdough. Mostly, actually, it’s love–especially because I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. The hate part only comes in when I try to make sourdough myself, and fail. I can, at last, say that I have successfully made a sourdough that I would consider as good as San Francisco sourdough. The yield isn’t quite there yet–I’ve had only a couple batches that I would consider AGASF (as good as San Francisco)–and it’s not as healthy as I’d like–I’ve only really had success with up to about 20% whole wheat–but it’s been a few months since I’ve used any commercial yeast, and we’ve had pretty good bread (on average) for the duration.

The sourdough starter we’ve got was, like all sourdough starters, a gift from a friend. I don’t have instructions for the creation of the starter, but the maintenance is pretty simple: 60g water and 60g white flour, twice a day. Well, twice a day is the ideal, it usually works out to be once a day in practice. The starter can be kept in the fridge indefinitely, as well–I recommend feeding and waiting about 12 hours before use when taking it out of the fridge.

The recipe comes in three stages: making the sponge, making the dough, and baking, with about 12 and 24 hours between each. Here are the details:

Santa Barbara Sourdough 2

55-60g starter
225g white flour
140g water

Combine all ingredients and mix until evenly distributed. Allow to sit for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature. If you’re not ready to use it after 12 hours, put it in the fridge at that point (for up to a week, probably).

all the sponge
567g white flour
400g water
18g salt

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix (with bread hook) on slow speed for 5 minutes. Wait 10 minutes, then mix 5 more. Repeat until there have been a total of four mixings, then divide into two oiled bowls, and put them in the fridge for at least one and at most seven days.

Take the dough out of the fridge two to four hours before baking. After one or two hours, shape the dough into a boule (a mound) on a well-floured pizza peel. Preheat the oven with a bread stone and a water pan (regular baking pan works fine) to 500 F. When ready to bake, make sure the dough isn’t make stuck to the peel and then quickly slide it onto the baking stone. Pour about one cup of water into the water pan, set the temperature to 450 F, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the internal temperature is 190 F. Allow to cool, and enjoy.

As I mentioned above, I’ve had success with limited amounts of whole wheat–about 200g and it still rises fairly well. Above that, I’ve tried increasing the water as well, with mixed success.

A New Sourdough Bread Recipe

The loaf in all its crunchy crusted glory

Despite previous reports, I’m still hale and hearty and a lover of a good sourdough. A recipe for Tartine’s country bread appeared in the New York times a bit ago. The Tartine bread book has been highly recommended to me (people tend to like it more than the Peter Reinhardt that I’ve been using for a while), and has been on my list of “things I’d like to probably get someday” for a while. So, naturally, I had to give this bread a shot. Since the recipe is given in full detail in the Times link, I’m not going to repeat it here, only point out what simplifications I made and still managed to be successful. And it does need simplification–the recipe as listed is a pain in the rear.

A wholey holey inside

Commentary on Tartine’s Country Bread, by Suzanne Lenzer, adapted from “Tartine Bread” by Chad Robertson

a) As I already have a starter, I do this recipe in three steps: make the leaven (wait overnight), make the dough (wait for the day), bake.

b) On Saturday night, make the leaven as specified in step 3.

c) On Sunday morning, make the dough as in steps 4-6. Use the remaining leaven for sourdough pancakes (it’s pretty darn close to the 3/4 of a cup as called for in that recipe). The recipe says to mix with your hands; for the love of god, don’t do that, it’s far too messy: just stir with a spoon.

d) Throughout the day, fold the bread as specified in step 7. (Do your best to work this into your Sunday schedule.)

e) I don’t have any fancy proofing baskets, so I mostly skip the specifics of steps 8-10. Instead, I split the dough in half and do my best to pull them each into a boule shape on a well-floured surface. I then put them in well-floured covered bowls, and put one of the bowls in the fridge, and leave the other out to continue rising.

f1) Bake one on Sunday evening/night: let it rise for as long as you can (maybe another half hour to an hour), then preheat the oven with the dutch oven in it, and bake as specified.

f2) Bake the other on Tuesday night: as soon as you get home from work, take the dough out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven and bake as before.

The only real failures I’ve had with this have been when I haven’t let the bread rise enough (while doing the folding) or haven’t let it come to room temperature before baking. As such, the Saturday/Sunday/Tuesday schedule is what works for me.

The bread is very, very good, and the crust is great. It is mostly white flour, though.


Like many things, I suspect that the kind of bagel one likes is the kind of bagel one had as a child. According to the various articles that have come to me as I trawl the internet, there are two kinds of bagels: the good ones, and the bad ones. The New York Times, unsurprisingly, takes as fact that the New York Bagel (whatever that is) is the standard to aspire to. But worry not, as apparently there are also bagels in places like Montreal and the Bay Area that will serve in a pinch.

Personally, I guess I am a bit of a bagel heathen: I always preferred the somewhat fluffy type of bagel found at a place like Noah’s over the “better” kind–which, as far as I can tell, is just denser. (This is judging by the bagels from the NYTimes-heralded Beauty’s.) I have, however, always liked homemade bagels, of any variety. The first recipe I tried was from somewhere on the internet; I thought it was the NYTimes (again) but I can’t find it now. Recently, though, I’ve made the recipe from Reinhardt’s book a few times and it has always been wonderful. The bagel is more of the New York style, and I think it is my favorite so far–so I guess home-cooked trumps regional prejudices yet again.

[Again from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day]

Dough [makes 8 bagels] (I always do this by weight)

1 Tbsp (20 g) barley malt syrup or honey
1 tsp (3 g) yeast
1.5 tsp (11 g) salt
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp (250 g) water
3.5 Cup (450 g) flour

Poaching Liquid (I don’t do this by weight)

2 to 3 quarts water (I don’t measure, just fill up at least 4″ of a big pot)
1.5 Tbsp barley malt syrup or honey
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Combine the dough in a large bowl and mix. Then mix some more, kneading some if you like, until well combined. You want to develop the gluten a bit here, but we’re not going to do any of that stretch-and-fold stuff that Reinhardt normally calls for (he doesn’t here). Cover and let rise for one hour, then refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 500 F. Separate the dough into 8 pieces. For each piece, roll into a rope-shape (Anna likes to insert raisins + cinnamon here) and them wrap around your hand and squish the ends together. Roll it off your fist and you’ve got a bagel!

Fill the poaching pot with (cold) water. Put one bagel in it, and if it floats you’re ready to go. If it doesn’t, wait 20 minutes and try again. Bring the water to a boil (without the bagels in it), then add the honey, soda, and salt to the water. Boil the bagels one minute per side (I can do 4 at a time in our pot). Put the bagels on a greased or oiled and parchment lined baking sheet–you really need the oil or it will stick to the parchment paper. I put them in the same orientation that I first put them into the poaching pot, as I think it looks a little nicer, but it really doesn’t make a difference.

Put them in the oven, lower the heat to 450 F, and bake for about 14 minutes. If they get too black on the bottom, but an empty baking sheet on a rack beneath the main sheet (mine always require this).

I’ve done up to 50% whole wheat successfully (and haven’t tried higher), with slightly more water, and they come out (unsurprisingly) somewhat denser. I once used barley malt syrup when I had some left over from a beer brewing (more on that later!), and didn’t notice a difference from the honey bagels–but I also used 50% whole wheat that time, and that difference probably swamped the difference in sugars.

Bread! (and so many other things)

Peter has been branching out with his bread baking.  It all started with the purchase of a small kitchen scale, and with the scale, some form of regularity in bread composition (whereas I just like that I can now use Nigel Slater’s recipes from Tender without having to guess how many cups of cut up vegetable weighs 100 grams).  After baking through the usual suspects, Peter started experimenting with things like rye bread, and more recently, San Francisco Sourdough.  Although really it’s Santa Barbara Sourdough, since I’ve read that no matter where your yeast colony starts out, it always ends up succumbing to the local yeast population.  And oh man, this sour dough is good!  So good that my friend Anna (I know, I accumulate lots of these) spent the first part of my birthday party writing down the rather long recipe for it.

There are quite a few dishes I wish I could share with you, but either due to business, ravenous hunger, or laziness, no pictures were taken.  And who would read a recipe without pictures?

  • We made a rather enormous pot roast using the recipe for Stracotto (Italian Pot Roast) from the Joy of Cooking Cookbook.  It’s always a bit of a shock to go from a vegetarian diet to a large piece of beef (somehow chicken is not so offensive in this way).  Maybe it’s the rich savoriness.  Or the heavy meatiness.  In any case, I have found that tomatoes make this transition much easier.  Not only with pot roast, but also with an Italian-inspired beef stew.
  • Chocolate chip biscotti!  Peter’s mom makes my favorite biscotti, but the recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything isn’t too bad.  I realized as I was eating my chocolate chip version that it’s the toasted nuts and almond or anise seed extract that really make them om-nom-nomable for me.  Just putting it out there for those of you interested in a mildly sweet cookie involving only 1/2 stick of butter (for a normal sized batch of cookies).
  • Eggs poached in a pepper-tomato sauce.  In the books Plenty and Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi, this delicious dish is called Shakshuka, but whenever I call it that Peter is confused.  So I stick to “eggs in tomato sauce” most of the time.  My favorite is a simple variation on this that replaces the spices and herbs with oregano and black pepper, omitting the sugar as well.  This is a very easy way to include vegetables in breakfast and could be infinitely varied.  I enjoy putting in a couple green beans (my garden only seems capable of producing a few at a time now that the voles destroy nearly one green bean plant per day) or a few tiny shoots of swiss chard or beet greens.
  • A chickpea, tomato, and bread soup, with the sourdough bread Peter made.  This is the ultimate cool-weather soup: tomato broth and hearty chickpeas, with the occasional tangy burst of soggy sourdough.  I may bring the cookbook Plenty home for the holidays just for this recipe (of course I could just write it down, but where’s the fun in that?).
  • And finally, just to keep you on your toes, how about a spiced beet cake?  Think carrot cake, zucchini cake, or even pumpkin bread.  The spices are warm and the batter is pink.  Then somehow the cake becomes yellow after baking.  I’m still not sure how.  Still on the docket is the rich and oh so moist-looking chocolate beet cake also in the beet chapter of Tender (of course first I need to grow more beets — stupid voles!).

In case the Western New York blizzards keep me from the interwebz, I had better wish you all a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays) now!  Stay safe, sane, and most importantly, well fed!  I promise to try to do the same (especially that last part).


Tuscan Pizza

Finally, a pizza recipe that I can make on a weeknight.  And this is not just any pizza, it’s a super-thin crispy crust pizza with only the simplest of toppings: homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil, and melty cheese.  While the large amount of dry instant yeast and olive oil may seem strange, I assure you that the crust comes out beautifully.  In fact, this was the easiest dough I’ve ever had to deal with.

Tuscan Pizza Crust (from In Late Winter We Ate Pears)
(Makes 6-8 small pizzas)
2 tablespoons dry instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 to 3/4 cups olive oil

To make the pizza dough:  Mix the dry instant yeast in the warm water in a small bowl and set aside.  Mix the flour and salt in a larger bowl and then add the water/yeast and olive oil.  Mix the dough with a spoon until it comes together.  The dough should be just a tad sticky.  If not, add just a bit more water.  Knead the dough, either in the bowl (I use a large bowl for mixing and kneading) or on the counter, folding the dough over on itself and pressing down with the palm of your hand.  When the dough is soft, supple, and uniform, form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl covered with a damp towel.  Let the dough sit in a warm spot until doubled in size, 30-60 minutes.  To expedite the rising process, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the bowl of dough near the oven vents (but not too near… you don’t want the dough to get cooked).

While the dough is rising, grate the cheese and keep it cool in the fridge for easy sprinkling.  I used a mild cheddar this time, but mozzarella would be better.  Then make some super-easy homemade tomato sauce, like pasta sauce except thinned a bit with water to make it more spreadable on the pizza crust.

Pizza Sauce
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

To make the sauce:  In a small pot, cook the minced garlic in the olive oil for just a minute, then add the canned tomatoes.  Since you’ll want to add some water to the sauce anyways, rinse the tomato can with a bit of water and add it to the pot (1/2 cup of water should do just fine).  Add the oregano, red pepper flakes, olive oil, salt, and pepper to the sauce and bring it to a low boil.  Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes then turn off the heat.  If you run out of time before the dough is done rising, you don’t have to cook the sauce at all, but I prefer a more mellow, cooked-garlic flavor, and the cooking gives the oregano time to release it’s flavor.

To make the pizza:

  • Before the dough is done rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Ideally, you’d use a baking stone to bake the pizzas (and a wooden paddle to get the pizza into and out of the oven), but a baking sheet would work too.  If using a baking stone, remember to put it in the oven when you start the preheat and remember that the stone keeps the oven from coming to temperature as quickly.
  • When the dough is done rising, cut it into 6-8 pieces (they should be about the size of tennis ball or a bit smaller).
  • Roll out one of the pieces of dough using a rolling pin until the dough is quite thin, 1/8 inch if possible.  Be careful not to tear the dough, but I found 1/8 inch pretty doable and didn’t tear a single pizza dough round.
  • Pre-bake each pizza dough round for 2-4 minutes before adding any toppings.  This makes it much easier to get the pizza into the oven with toppings later on.  I found 2 minutes just fine using a baking stone; baking the pizza on a baking sheet will take longer since the baking sheet has to warm up.
  • Top the pre-baked pizza crust with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce (spread up to 1/2 inch of the edge), scattered fresh basil leaves, and a thin layer of grated cheese, or the toppings of your choice.  Since the crust is so thin and crispy, err on the side of less toppings.  The crust is so delicious that you don’t want to make the toppings too distracting anyways.
  • Bake the topped pizza for 8-12 minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling and possibly starting to brown.  I found that 8 minutes on a pizza stone was perfect.
  • Eat the pizza as soon as possible so that the crust doesn’t get soggy.  I have not tried saving the baked and topped pizza for later in the fridge; somehow the idea of it being less crispy and bubbly just seems wrong.  If you won’t use up all the crusts, prebake them and keep those in the fridge instead of keeping the dough in the fridge.

100% Whole Wheat Baguettes

Hey folks, Peter here.  After much experimentation I have finally managed to bake a baguette out of 100% whole wheat flour.  The quality depends heavily on the flour, but the dough is easy to work with (or as easy as it ever was), and with the addition of some olive oil and honey, even delicious.

100% Whole Wheat Hearth Bread (from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day)
(Makes 2 baguettes or loaves)

This is more a variant of the basic high-hydration, overnight-cold-fermentation, no-knead bread than a recipe in its own right.  The measurements are copied from the book, but I rounded the weights. If you have a kitchen scale (as I do now) I recommend trying it once with the exact numbers, and if not, just go by feel the first time.

6.25 cups (800 g) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons (14 g) salt
2 tablespoons (30 g) sugar, or 1.5 tablespoons (? g–I use about 30) honey
1 tablespoon (9 g) instant yeast
2.75 cups (625 g) warm water
2 tablespoons (30 g) olive oil

The assembly method is essentially the same as in the original recipe, so I’ll go quickly (which is also, incidentally, how I put together the bread). Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix. Wait 5 minutes for the water to hydrate the flour, and then mix again. (Reinhart says to stir for a total of 6 minutes and to stir “more vigorously” for the last 20 seconds. I usually just knead for a minute or two until I get bored, and I think it accomplishes the same thing.) Then do the stretch and fold maneuver 4 times, spaced by 10 minutes each. Portion into two bowls and put in the fridge at least overnight and for up to 4 days.

Shaping and Baking:

I haven’t had success getting this to rise very much, and it’s never a particularly light bread. With that in mind, I advocate handling the dough as little as humanly possible after taking it out of the fridge, to keep whatever air bubbles are already in the dough inside. To that end, I’ve had the most success with a baguette thingy I inherited from my parents (and I certainly hope they didn’t pay $27 for): in one swift motion (confidence is important; the dough responds to surety of purpose) pick up the dough, stretch it to the length of a baguette, and put it on the (very well greased) pan. It is thus shaped with a minimum of handling. Let warm to room temperature for a long time (at least 1 hour) and preheat to 500 F. Put in the oven and reduce temperature to 425; bake for about 30 minutes. I recommend the usual tricks about water pans, etc., to get steam in the oven.

In my experience, if you’re not too demanding about the shape or density of your loaf, this recipe is pretty resilient. You can mix in other types of flour, use varying amounts of sugar and oil (but more is better, of course), bake in different shapes, etc., and the taste will be great (better, I think, than white bread). And that’s what matters, right?

Biscuits with Cheddar and Kale

This has got to be one of the crazier baked goods I’ve made lately.  Perhaps I’ll rationalize it by saying there’s pretty much nothing I won’t do to get rid of 2 cups of cooked greens.  I was also intrigued by the idea of biscuits that don’t contain butter (even if the reason they don’t contain butter is because they instead contain two cups of grated cheddar cheese).  Normally I try to only post recipes here that I know I would make again… this one?  Not so sure, at least not with kale.  The earlier versions of this recipe look more promising: the Cheddar and Mustard Greens version from Food in Jars and before that the Cheddar Scallion and Cheddar Chives recipes from Local Kitchen and Epicurious.  So while I will most likely never make these biscuits again with kale, I can’t get the thought of a caramelized onion and swiss chard version with a super-sharp cheddar out of my head.

Biscuits with Cheddar and Kale
(Makes 10-12 biscuits)
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt (or a bit less)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups of cooked and finely chopped kale
1 cup milk + extra if needed

Begin by finely chopping the kale and cooking it in a little bit of oil until tender.  It is hard to know exactly how much raw kale will equal 2 cups cooked kale, so I just cooked a very large bunch of it and it was scarily close to 2 cups.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F before preparing the rest of the ingredients (grating cheese etc.).  Mix together the flours, baking powder, and salt and then add the grated cheese.  Next add the cooked kale and mix to distribute the greens evenly (they like to clump together).  Add the 1 cup of milk and mix the dough with your hands to try to form a single cohesive ball of dough.  Add more milk (1/4 to 1/2 cup) bit by bit if the dough doesn’t hold together.  When the dough is holding together nicely, use a spoon to scoop 10 to 12 portions of the dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake the biscuits for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.