Honey Whole Wheat Loaf – Sourdough Starter Version

Warning: PICTURE HEAVY POST – Please remember, the post is mostly to help me remember what I did so I can recreate or improve my efforts. Especially since often I don’t make the dishes again for a year or more. I’m happy if the research I did from various sources and synthesized here helps others too, of course.

The crumb looks a bit moist and the shaping isn’t as tight and even as I would have liked. In the interest of full disclosure, I under baked the loaf by 5 minutes compared to the yeast loaf. I just wanted it to be DONE! And I cut it after 35 minutes NOT an hour so it was still warm. On the whole though, I’m pleased with my results.

All Sourdough Starter

The Five Steps of Bread Baking

1. Mixing

I wasn’t sure if I had enough yeast in my starter to ‘lift’ the loaf so I fed 1/2 cup of active sourdough starter with 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup of warm water.

Pictures right after mixing and 1 hr later.

Two hours afterwards – I tried the float test, which failed. I’ve been advised that with such a thick/stiff starter, that bit of dough would never float.

At that point, I added the salt, the rest of the water, some honey and enough bread flour to get a soft supple dough. I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes, let it rest for 5 minutes under a bowl and then kneaded it for another 5 minutes, as with the yeast version

2. First rise or Bulk proofing – It should double in size before being shaped … I think it did.

Time: 1/2 hr and 1 hr

Time: 1 1/2 hr and 2 hr

3. Shaping – I didn’t take my time with this and seal the roll so it’s a bit uneven.

4. Proofing or Second Rise – I estimated that it had doubled in size by eye. Didn’t even do the ‘finger poke’ test. Google it if you’re curious

5. Baking

After 30 minutes, the loaf was removed from the metal baking pan and baked directly on the shelf in the oven for an additional 10 minutes to brown the bottom and finish cooking. (Note that this loaf was ONLY baked for an additional 5 minutes, which probably accounted for the ‘moist’ and what was called ‘underdeveloped’ crumb on my FB sourdough baking group.)

The finished loaf brushed with melted butter and allowed to cool until room temperature.

Mini Honey Whole Wheat – makes one 400 gm loaf

Version 2 – Whole Wheat Pineapple Sourdough Starter

Step 1: Increasing the amount of starter

1/2 cup of active starter
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup warm water

Mix well in a bowl and place into a warm place (microwave with a measuring cup with 2 cups of very hot water in it) for 2 hrs.

Step 2: Mixing the dough

3/4 cup bread flour, divided
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp salt

In a small bowl, dissolve the salt and honey in warm water.

Add the warm water, honey and salt mixture to the sourdough mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon until it’s well incorporated. Stir in about 1/4 cup of bread flour and beat gently. Keep adding the flour until the batter gets too thick to stir and forms a ball around the wooden spoon.

Transfer to a lightly floured working surface and knead using as much flour as you need to get a smooth and supple dough, about 10 minutes.

Let rest for 5 minutes covered with a large bowl then knead for another 5 minutes.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and a towel and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a loaf. Place on a prepared baking sheet or in a loaf pan and let rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Bake for 30 minutes, take out of pan, and bake directly on the oven shelf for another 5-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown and when rapped, the loaf gives a hollow sound.

Spray top with water after placing in oven and a second time 5 minutes later.

Brush the top with melted butter after removing from the oven.

Let cool to room temperature before cutting.

Honey Whole Wheat Loaf – Yeast Version

WARNING: PICTURE HEAVY POST … I split the one I was going to post in 2 but there are still a lot of pictures as I’m a visual learner/teacher.

I have to admit that I don’t actually care for the taste of sourdough bread. I don’t DISlike it but it’s not something I prefer. However, making a tasty and attractive loaf of sourdough bread is on my cooking bucket list, even if it’s only the mental one. So, I’ve set out to figure out what I need to do to succeed starting with making a sourdough starter from scratch.

To date, I’ve made two sourdough starters. One with all purpose flour and water and, most recently, one with whole wheat flour and unsweetened canned pineapple juice. Time is important. It takes at least 2 weeks of feeding for the balance of yeast and bacteria to adjust and turn a neutral flour mixture into one with the proper pH balance to sustain the right kind of yeast. And there’s no substitute for time. Don’t let that early bubbling and rising fool you after day 4 or 5. It’s NOT ready yet to substitute for yeast in your bread baking.

It’s fall and the house temperature is set to 70 deg F so I’m doing all my proofing in a microwave with 2 cups of hot water to provide as optimal a rising environment as possible.

In this post and the one following, I’m going to try to replicate a honey whole wheat (33%) and all purpose flour bread made with yeast, and a touch of starter for flavour with an all sourdough starter. There’s more whole wheat flour in the all sourdough starter loaf than in the yeast version as my starter is mostly whole wheat and my secondary addition of flour (bread only) didn’t end up needing as much flour to get a nice, soft dough.

Yeast and a Touch of Sourdough Starter

Shaped, proofed for 1 hr and baked for ~40 minutes at 375 deg F.

Nice oven spring on the mini (400 gm of dough) loaf

Brushed with melted butter

This is the kind of crumb I want with my all sourdough starter bread

Mini Honey Whole Wheat – makes one 400 gm loaf

Version 1 – Yeast

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
~ 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp honey plus 1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sourdough starter

In a small bowl, mix together the warm water and honey until the sugar is dissolved. Add the yeast, stir and let rise for 10-15 minutes until the mixture is foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup of all purpose flour and salt. Stir in the yeast-honey mixture and the starter with a wooden spoon and beat until you get a nice smooth batter. Gradually stir in another 1/2 cup of all purpose flour until the dough gets too stiff to stir and forms a ball around the spoon. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured working surface.

Knead for 10 minutes using the reserved flour and as much as you knead until you get a nice smooth and supple dough. Let rest for 5 minutes covered with a large bowl then knead for another 5 minutes.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and a towel and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a loaf. Place on a prepared baking sheet or in a loaf pan and let rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Bake for 30 minutes, take out of pan, and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown and when rapped, the loaf gives a hollow sound.

Spray top with water after placing in oven and a second time 5 minutes later.

Brush the top with melted butter after removing from the oven.

Hybrid/Semi-Leaven Soft Italian Bread Sticks

I didn’t get a chance to go to the bakery to pick up some burger buns this weekend, so I decided to make them myself today. And instead of using a recipe I had already tried, I found a recipe for soft Italian bread sticks that sounded interesting, and used that.

After the major fail of trying to get my new pineapple sourdough starter dough to bulk proof (24 hrs and it didn’t rise much at all), I was going to pitch it but then I decided to keep it going for at least a few weeks and then freeze it until next summer when I have time to play. I had about 1/2 a cup or so of discard starter and threw it into the bread stick dough mixture as a flavour enhancer.

Crumb of one of the twists

I usually bulk proof my dough in the microwave with a 2 cup pyrex cup full of very hot water and check the rise after 40-45 minutes. Today, I decided to let it go the full hour and the dough had started to go over the top of the bowl. Luckily, I had a large sheet of plastic wrap tightly covering the bowl or I would have ended up with a mess.

The recipe makes 24 bread sticks but I divided my 2 pounds of dough in half and made a half dozen burger buns with one half and 6 twisted bread sticks and 5 twists with the other half.

Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding

Some time ago, I made two babkas filled with chocolate chips, Nutella and pecans. I gave away one, but only ate a few slices from the second loaf before freezing away the rest. After spending three days on preparing and cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to invest more time and energy on a dessert, so I went scrounging through the freezer and pantry, to find out what I had available already.

I found the frozen babka and decided to make bread pudding. Instead of making a vanilla custard sauce to serve over the pudding, I warmed up some leftover caramel sauce.

I ended up having enough babka to make two small and one medium bread pudding. Each small pudding served two while the medium pudding was enough for four generous servings. A tasty transformation of leftovers out of the freezer with little effort.

Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka Bread Pudding – serves 4

4 cups cubed babka
1 cup 2 % milk
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk ** (or 3 tbsp sugar)
1 tbsp sugar (optional as the babkas weren’t too sweet)
1 tbsp margarine or 1 tbsp melted butter
1-2 tsp vanilla extract.
2 eggs

** Leftover sweetened condensed milk used cause it was available

Divide up the babka cubes among 2 unbuttered mini aluminum foil pans.

Warm up milk, stir in condensed milk, sugar and margarine until the sugar and margarine has dissolved. Let cool in the fridge, then stir in vanilla and eggs and whisk well.

Pour over the bread cubes, cover and let the custard soak into the babka cubes in the fridge overnight.

Next day, preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Place the pans in a larger container, fill to about half way up the pans with hot water and bake the puddings for 30-40 min or until the custard is no longer wet in the middle.

Slice and serve with ice cream or a vanilla custard sauce.

Thanksgiving 2016 – An Economical 12 Pound Turkey

Sorry for the picture overload but I wanted to show how many meals you can get out of one 12 pound turkey … 16 servings of boneless breast meat, 10 turkey patties, at least 2 or 3 turkey mole wraps or whatever you want to do with the drumsticks. And then there’s the turkey stock from the carcass. Oh, and that wingette snack.

The best part was that it was only 99 cents a pound.


This year’s turkey was a frozen, young male, utility grade and weighed twelve pounds. Tasty and, as always, economical. He’s missing his left wingette and wing tip, which is what makes him utility and not Grade A.

Thanksgiving 2016 Supper – four servings just from the tenderloin roll

Leftovers – Hassleback potatoes and the rest of the swiss chard and mushrooms stuffing instead of a salad.

Because I had boned a whole chicken before, I thought I’d be able to bone this turkey too. However, I forgot all the tendons and ligaments on the drumsticks (pliers would have helped), and, my less than optimal boning knife had a hard time removing the flesh from the bone. It didn’t help that I decide to try de-boning from the front. I ended up hacking up the skin of the back.

After spending about 15-20 min on one drumstick (the guy in the video I watched did the whole turkey in 20 minutes) I gave up on boning the other drumstick.

Mostly boned turkey – Those are most of the tendons found in the drumstick, on the blue plate.

The breast on the left was marinated with garlic, dried sage and rosemary, salt and pepper and lemon zest. The one on the right was stuffed with sauteed swiss chard, mushroom and diced onions as were the 2 tenderloins (pounded flat first) in the middle. All three were tied and baked at 350 deg F for about an hour.

Close-ups of the sage and rosemary marinated turkey breast

After baking and cooling, the two breasts were wrapped up tightly in saran wrap and foil and frozen away in a large freezer bag. Each one will provide 6 servings of boneless breast meat.

The wingette was baked along with the carcass (stored away for stock) and served on Saturday … my reward for that boning job.

Drumsticks, bone in and mostly boned, seared and then braised in mole sauce.

Thighs and some of the white meat (ie drumsticks and breast trimmings) were ground up along with green onions, water chestnuts, an egg, soy sauce, 1/4 cup of seasoned Italian bread crumbs, and salt  and pepper before being formed into 10 quarter pound patties.

Perfect Vanilla and Crumbly Maple Pecan Fudge

This weekend I stopped in at the new city market and did some browsing. With less than $5 cash in my wallet, all I was looking for was an avocado.

They didn’t have any avocados at either the regular or organic garden fruit and vegetable kiosks but they DID have a kiosk  with Dutch apple pies etc and one with raw chocolate and fudges. It was early and there weren’t a lot of customers there yet so I struck up a conversation with the owner of the fudge stand. Even though I ‘hinted’ that I wasn’t in a position to buy on THIS visit, she offered to let me try her samples. I stuck with two, chocolate chili and chocolate cherry. They were ok, but honestly, I’ve had and even made better. I didn’t ask the price per pound/kg but it wasn’t cheap … $8 for the pre-cut and wrapped blocks which I estimate weighed ~150 gm.

In any case, I got a fudge craving so after a Saturday of watching the dough I had made with a new pineapple sourdough starter not rising, I dug out my recipe for vanilla fudge and made a batch. I haven’t made fudge for over three years, so I was a bit nervous about the process.

One thing you NEED when making fudge is an accurate candy thermometer. Mine claims water boils at 87 deg C/188.6 deg F so I use the soft ball test. I may have jumped the gun ‘just a bit’ when I took it off the heat and started cooling and then beating, but it looked good when I let it cool overnight. The remnants of the fudge left on the pot tasted very good.

This morning, I dug the slightly soft vanilla fudge out of the aluminum pan I had poured it into, and threw it in the fridge for a half hour or so cause I wanted to get a nice clean cut.

Perfection … melt in your mouth, creamy smooth and delicious.

Vanilla Fudge – makes ~1 pound/500 gm

300 ml milk ( >1 cup, use homogenized milk, half and half is even better)
350 g granulated sugar ( 1 1/2 cups)
100 g unsalted butter ( 1/2 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
unsalted butter for pan

Butter an 8″x8″ square glass pan, or line it with a sheet of parchment paper which has some overhang on 2 opposing side. (Your fudge will end up VERY thin so try to use a smaller pan with sides.)

Put the milk, sugar and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring all the time, until the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted. Bring to the boil and boil for 20-25 minutes, stirring all the time.

When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (115°C/239°F on a candy thermometer), remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. (You may see some brownish bits suddenly appear in your fudge just before the temperature is reached. This happens if you miss stirring the MIDDLE of the pot because the fudge WILL stick.)

Leave the mixture to cool for 5 minutes in the pan.

Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon for 5-10 minutes until the fudge starts to thicken and the gloss disappears.  Pour into a prepared pan and leave to set at room temperature (do not put it in the fridge).

Once set, cut the fudge into small squares and store in a sealed container.

Maple Pecan Variation: Replace the white sugar with brown sugar and add 3 tbsp of maple syrup. Stir in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans at the same time you add your vanilla.

Of course, I pushed the limit and made a batch of maple pecan fudge too. I over-cooked it cause I kept cooking past the soft ball to the soft crack and then I transferred the fudge (the butter was separating as I stirred) into a large metal bowl where it started to get all crumbly. I scraped the fudge into my prepared pan, and learned it was too big for the amount of fudge I had. So, I shaped the fudge into a rough rectangle using the parchment paper and let it cool. The crumbly bits aren’t grainy in your mouth, though, and are tasty as well.

Fudge at start and towards the end of the cooking when you want to start your soft ball test.



Lesson Learned: Even a less than perfect fudge is edible.

Shiso (Perilla) and Mitsuba Seeds

This post features my first attempts to germinate shiso and mitsuba seeds … the timing isn’t the best but I think I learned a lot for next spring.

As a fan of Japanese dishes, especially sushi, I’ve heard of shiso, also known as perilla, and its various uses in both its green and red forms.

Most simply the green version can be included in hand rolls or as an edible garnish under sashimi. The red form is most famously used for coloring pickled plum, or umeboshi. I happened to whine express my culinary interest in acquiring some in correspondence with a blogging Swiss friend and she offered to send me some seeds from her plants. I emailed her my snail mail addy, and as it was almost the end of summer, thought I’d have something to look forward to in the spring. I was pleasantly surprised to find an envelope in the mail in almost no time as well as detailed growing instructions and the assurance that more seeds would come for spring planting.

So, with nothing to lose, I gave it a shot.

The shiso seeds are small and round, similar to basil seeds in size. And like with basil seeds, you get the first embryonic leaves peeking through a light covering of soil about 4-5 days after planting. Wait until the first TRUE leaves appear and the stalk is about an inch in height before thinning and transplanting the seedlings into larger pots. I planted 10 seeds and got 5 germinating.

Shiso seeds were planted in the back row … you can see the first 3 seedlings.

D-shaped embryonic leaves with more normal oval shaped leaves in the middle.

Shiso leaves have their 2nd and 3rd set of ‘true’ leaves. Only one of the mitsuba seedling has its first set of ‘true’ leaves. They were planted at the same time.

Also included in the package were seeds for mitsuba, also known as Japanese parsley, which is said to have a celery like flavour with a number of uses, including as a garnish in soups and as a sushi ingredient.

Mitsuba seeds are long, thin and black, similar to cumin seeds. I attempted to germinate about 10-12 seeds but only 3 sprouted. The embryonic leaves reminded me of leaves of grass so I wondered if I had actually managed to sprout one when the first hint of green peeked through the soil. Only the husk of the seed coat, which was still attached let me know I had succeeded.

At first I thought only one seed had germinated but over the course of the next 10 days, a second and then finally a third sprout was seen. It took almost 3 weeks for the first ‘true’ leaf to appear.

And even longer before I felt confident enough to transplant them into pots. Parsley like ‘true’ leaves.

ETA: 10/10/2016 Since I was having so much trouble with the mitsuba germination, I tried a method suggested by the friend who sent me the seeds to germinate the shiso – on damp cottonballs misted with water daily after 2 days of refrigerating.

It took a bit over 3 weeks but 2 out of the 11 seeds germinated… so far. I covered 6 of the seeds with a damp paper towel as well, as a test.

Ham, Potato and Corn Chowder, Chicken Breast Duo and Honeycomb

It’s fall time again and with the nip in the air, and my kitchen, I’m planning more substantial cooking projects that will warm me up.

Like this ham, potato and corn chowder I found on someone’s blog. The ingredients are similar to a previous soup I’ve posted, other than using a roux to thicken it up to the consistency of a chowder. You can add whipping or half and half cream if you want to add richness to the dish. And don’t mind the extra calories.

In the meantime, however, I thawed out the last of the boneless, skinless chicken breasts from my freezer (1 pound in total) and turned them into chicken and kale pesto spaghetti

… and a fast and tasty marinated Middle Eastern dish on skewers called chicken tawook.

Both are dishes I’ve made before so no recipes.

I recently got a late afternoon craving for something sweet and whipped up this variation on a peanut brittle. Honeycomb is a nut free toffee in which, similar to a brittle, baking soda is added to a caramelized sugar mixture. The sugar used and, most importantly, the amounts of baking soda added vary. The extra baking soda used in the honeycomb creates lots of bubbles resulting in a sponge-like texture that shatters in your mouth as your crunch down on it. I started with a brittle recipe but added an additional teaspoon of baking soda. Next time, I’ll make a traditional honeycomb with brown sugar and molasses in place of the white sugar and corn syrup I used.

NOTE: DO NOT disturb your molten sugar mixture once you’ve poured it out onto your buttered or greased baking pan in order to even it out. You’re flattening out all of those lovely bubbles if you do so.

In Memory of Summer: Strawberry Summer Flan and Chili Cheese Dogs

When my brother and I were kids, my mom would make us this simple sponge cake topped with fresh strawberries and strawberry jello to set them onto the cake, in the summer. We loved it. Sometimes she’d make sweetened whipped cream to dress it up. I made a very fancy version which I posted here.

However, with the arrival of the cool fall weather, I was struck by nostalgia for the taste of summer which is one of the reasons why I gave this the title above.

Cake, jello, strawberries and whipping cream

Or just the jello and strawberries

Hot dogs aren’t just for summer barbecues. Transform regular or jumbo dogs cooked in the oven into chili dogs.

Your younger kids may be full with just the chili dog and a few fries, but throw in some raw broccoli and ranch dip for the teens and adults.

The jumbo dog above was served in the last regular hot dog bun I had but I used a bakery subway bun below.

Broccoli and Danish Blue Cheese Souffle

I hate wasting food, but for some reason, I seem to be discarding broccoli stems. Just one stem and a few florettes and you have a delicious addition to a plain cheese souffle. This is a variation of my basic cheese souffle recipe for two. Over the years, I’ve made it with leftover shredded salmon, spinach, sauteed mushrooms and various cheeses.

Lovely moist interior

Unlike the usual souffle recipe, in which the eggs are separated and the eggs whites are beaten until stiff and then folded into the souffle mixture, whole, beaten eggs are added in this version. The souffle won’t rise as much as the regular method, and will fall quicker, but you can make the souffles, bake one and refrigerate the second one for the next day.

If you don’t like the strong taste of blue cheese, replace the 2 oz of blue cheese with 1 oz grated Parmesan and 1 oz crumbled blue cheese. I used a generous pinch of dried thyme instead of the chives.