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February 27, 2015

My Top 3 Leftover Sourdough Starter Recipes

Leftover sourdough starter recipes

Should we take a break from baking for a bit? How about just one entry… Trust me it will be worth it when you try a few of these starter recipes. Plus, it still is related to baking when you get down to it, this entry is just going to help us make even more incredible food from our family member Brutus1, or whatever you named your sourdough starter. There is no limit to his providing.

The following recipes are tried and true here in my kitchen. Being that my sourdough starter is always feed twice daily I have plenty of excess in the morning & evening and you can add in a bit more to your feeding if you need a little more. Many people see this excess as “waste” but it’s something that can be used for many things besides going into your trash bin. After all, this “waste” is the levain we typically use to give life to our sourdough loaves from a mixture of simple ingredients — the life of your bread if you will.

Adjust the liquid portion of these recipes to suit your starter hydration: a stiff starter needs a bit more, a liquid a bit less.

As a short aside, even though you’d typically pitch your excess starter into the trash, I actually toss mine into my weekly compost bin that I bury in my garden or anywhere I know I’ll be doing some plantings the next season. I mix my starter up with whatever organic scraps are created from cooking with my farmer’s market produce and a weekly pail is saved for the weekend dig. Simple, and it’s just one more use for your starter.

I know I’ve been working with a stiff starter and levain recently, but my previously outlined schedule for feeding a liquid starter will work equally well with any of these recipes, in some cases actually a bit better. Depending on the hydration of your starter you might have to tweak each recipe a bit to get the consistency you want: some people like pancake batter to be more runny, some like it thicker, and the same goes for waffle batter.

Let’s get on to some recipes with a sourdough starter.

Golden Sourdough Starter Waffles

Golden leftover sourdough starter waffles

One of the best waffles I’ve ever eaten was at Mother’s Bistro in Portland. My brother, who lives out there, goes there just about every weekend and somewhere around 90% of the time orders their incredibly fluffy, crispy, golden brown waffle-from-heaven. It’s really a no frills ordeal: a golden brown waffle, a little fruit, a little syrup and a little whipped cream. But I tell you, it’s a life changer. Get there early to avoid the line.

rome cast iron waffle iron

My take2 on a morning waffle of course incorporates a bit of my sourdough starter, and these “golden sourdough starter waffles” come out a crispy golden brown at just the right ratio of sweetness to savory (with a welcome slight tang to them at the end). They do take a bit of preparation, so you need a smidgen of a plan to make these happen on the weekend. The batter is prepared the night before with some buttermilk and left to ferment overnight. There really isn’t a tight schedule, though, you can get to it whenever you wake up in the morning.

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I made these recently on a snowy day here in Albuquerque which somehow fits perfectly with warm waffles. Arya, our German shepherd, wanted to go outside to do some hiking and investigating in the snow. It’s funny to watch shepherds outside when it snows: they just go ballistic running around eating it, rolling around in it, digging through it and generally creating a little storm of their own. It’s like their revert to some primal instinct to just go out there and have fun.

We (maybe just me?), as adults, are always so hesitant to get dirty and get on with making a mess, sometimes it’s great to see kids or your pets just throw all that aside and care only about the moment and having fun. Safe to say after we chased each other around and hiked around a bit I had a cleaning session on my hands before she came back in the house. Worth it.

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Sometimes I’ll make a few extra and freeze them in Ziplock bags — perfect for a quick morning breakfast via the toaster.

Let’s talk about waffle irons. I love my Rome cast iron waffle iron but if you plan to have guests over to eat these waffles, you better have an apparatus that can make more of these bad boys at a time. It’s a bit laborious for me to make a stack of waffles but I just dig the way these waffles cook up in a smokin’ old cast iron pan. A little bit of golden color all over, a little bit of char here and there, and crunchy & crispy throughout.

My pan and I actually have quite a long, quarrelsome history together. As you can see it doesn’t have any area that remains cool and I still have a few burn marks on my hands from accidentally grabbing the handles. In the end, though, we’ve come to terms and I keep it clean and it cooks my waffles to crunchy-perfection.

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  1. My starter was donned the name Brutus after trying to get a few of his kin started unsuccessfully. I was just in the middle of reading a brief history of Julius Caesar and the name seemed appropriate for such a stubborn character in my life.

  2. These waffles are a hodgepodge of Jennifer Latham’s and King Arthur’s with my own twist.

February 5, 2015

Tartine Millet Porridge Sourdough

Tartine millet porridge sourdough

I’ve baked many Tartine-style loaves through the years, but really only a few from their third book, Tartine No. 3: Ode to Bourdon whole wheat and their oat porridge loaf. Both extremely good loaves and worth the little bit of extra work required, but why haven’t I made more of the several dozen, sometimes very unique, recipes? The answer is simply that I haven’t had the time to derail my focus on the constant improvement of my country loaf. Each time I get the opportunity to bake I want to do a “simple” country loaf to try and open up the crumb, get a more gelatinized interior and increase the caramelization of the outward crust.

However, we recently had a need in the kitchen for millet and I just knew there was going to be a recipe in Tartine No. 3 for this whole grain. Sure enough, a millet porridge recipe almost opened up to itself as I was perusing the tome. Before heading to my local market to pick up the small amount we needed, I decided to double it and attempt this porridge recipe a few times. My previous oat porridge bakes produced some of my favorite sourdough to date and I just knew, if executed properly, a millet porridge bread would rank equally high on my favorite recipe list.

Tartine No. 3, Millet Porridge

Millet is high in fiber and relatively rich in iron and phosphorus; the bran layers of millet are a good source of B-complex vitamins.

I’ve never really eaten millet before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve read adjectives like “nutty” and “crunchy” so how could I go wrong. Holding the grain in my hand it really does look like what most people call it: bird seed. I believe millet has actually been used as bird food for a long, long time. Isn’t it funny these once cheap and undesirable grains are now becoming highly desired for their health benefits and flavor?

I knew going into this bake hydration was going to be an issue. However, my lessons learned from the oat porridge loaf had me prepared this time. I dialed back the initial hydration of the loaf in preparation for a super-hydrated dough by the end of bulk. A few minutes planning before executing saved me from one of those cursing-while-shaping scenarios I’ve been through in the past.

Onward to baking our version of the Tartine millet porridge sourdough!

Prepare the millet – the night before (for me, around 10:00pm)

The Tartine recipe specifies first gently toasting your raw millet and then soaking the toasted grain overnight. Toast 150g raw millet on a baking sheet at 350ºF for about 20 mins. The millet should darken slightly but not burn. Then, remove from oven and place in a bowl with 2 cups cold water poured over.

Cover and leave overnight until the morning.

Cook millet porridge – 9:00am

Take your soaking millet and pour all the contents into a saucepan and bring to a boil. After boiling reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook for around 20 minutes or so, until all the water added from the night before has cooked away. Be sure to stir often near the end of this 20 minutes to ensure your millet doesn’t burn on the bottom.

Once cooked, fluff up the porridge with a fork in your pan and then pour out onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Keep covered with aluminum foil with a little vent here and there to let hot air escape. You don’t want it to try out too far but you want it to cool down as much as possible before adding into your dough.

Millet porridge

We will let this porridge cool significantly until we’re ready to use it later this afternoon (around 3:00pm).

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January 30, 2015

Sourdough Baking Tools Roundup

the perfect loaf sourdough baking tools roundup

Tools, tools tools. I’ve always been told by my father: having the right tools makes the job that much easier. True statement right there but finding the right tools can be quite a challenge (and expensive). Over the years I’ve accumulated a large number of baking items I’ve either loved or hated immediately. Those I’ve loved have stuck around and helped me bake many a loaf, a gradual natural selection process right here in my kitchen.

Starting out baking can be an intimidating thing: it’s hard to determine exactly what you need to get started, what tools make it easier when you get more experienced, and what tools are just “nice to have”. Well, I’ve finally created a page that lists all my most used and favorite sourdough baking tools, a “Sourdough Baking Tools Roundup” if you will. When I first started baking I had many questions on what to use at each step of baking: “what am I going to proof this dough in?”, “what’s the best and cheapest scale I can get to measure out these ingredients?”, “what kind of jars can I use to keep my starter in that will make it as easy as possible?”, and so on. In an attempt to help everyone out there to find these tools (without having to scour through old comments here on the site) I’ve listed everything out in an easy to read page. All of these items I’ve either acquired by searching myself or by reading books, asking questions, and posting on websites.

I’ll keep my tools page updated with any new items I acquire and will only add them as I determine they are worthy. I hope these tools that have evolutionarily passed the test help you as well!

You can find a link to my tools page up top or check out my tools right here.

If I’ve missed any must-have tools send me an email to let me know or drop a comment below. I’m always trying out new items and have a bit of a problem when it comes to acquiring new baking gadgetry.

January 20, 2015

“foodtravelthought” now “the perfect loaf”

the perfect loaf

What’s in a name?

When I started this site a long while ago I sat down for a couple days brainstorming on a name, it’s harder than you’d think! So much goes into the naming of things — your pets, your kids, your first car, your soccer team, your sourdough starter, and back then, my website. I decided to combine words from things that were important to me: food, travel and thought.

Food, as you might know, is something that has always played a crucial role in my life, starting from childhood. It’s not just the eating part, it’s the detailed recipe preparation, the precise chopping and mincing, the attentive sautéing and grilling, and finally, the enjoyment of eating your hard work. Cooking food for others brings on a whole new set of enjoyments, and having friends over to enjoy a home cooked meal is truly satisfying.

Travel. I can’t ever seem to get over the thrill of stepping foot in a new country, a new state, or a new city. International travel, despite the inherent airport hassles and unknowns, is above and beyond my preferred travel. It throws you into a new, sometimes completely unknown, culture with new people and new customs — there is no experience like it. Some of my friends used to comment that traveling to places with little English is a hassle, well I would say that’s the best kind of trip. I’ve traveled to many countries around the world and back to my family in Italy countless times throughout my life. Turkey, Greece, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Austria, France, Spain, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, Budapest, Belgium, and the list goes on… I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit all these places and wouldn’t take back a single trip (despite a few close encounters with the hospital).

Thought… that sure seems ambiguous. Well, in a way it is one of those potentially mushy and nebulous things. However, one of my spare time pursuits is reading as much as possible1, and I really enjoy ancient texts on various schools of thought. My primary focus for the past several years has been stoicism, which totally gets a bad wrap. It really has nothing to do with that mental picture imagined by most people when they hear the word “stoic”, you know, that lifeless robot of a person who feels nothing and shows no outward expression. I’m not sure how that came to be, but stoic has been warped over the years. Anyways, this is where the word thought came from, and I had hoped to write more on the topic, but something happened along the way…

I became completely and utterly swept off my feet with baking. It started out with the gift of Tartine Bread and a “cool hobby” quickly spiraled into a full-fledged obsession once my first starter (Brutus) was up and running. Since then this site has transformed, I think for the better, to one that completely revolves around all things sourdough. Thus the impetus for the name change.

The old byline for this site used to be “a quest to bake the perfect loaf”, and that still resonated with me. That perfect loaf, ever so elusive, it is always the goal. After some thought, and discussion with some friends, the perfect loaf really seemed to fit. And, there you have it, a new name but the same old me writing, snapping photos, baking mean bread, and helping where I can: “foodtravelthought” now “the perfect loaf”.

Onward!

Oh, if you were following this site via RSS you might have to update your RSS feed, especially if you didn’t get this post update. However the easiest way to get notified when I post new entries is to join my mailing list through the signup box in the upper-right.


  1. I try my hardest to cut out almost all TV, save for a few wonderful shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Killing, and House of Cards.

January 16, 2015

Natural Sourdough with Spent Beer Grains

Spent beer grains sourdough bread

The beer scene here in New Mexico has really taken off with some of the country’s top ranking breweries, and several of their recent entries in the Great American Beer Festival have earned gold, silver and bronze medals. Notably, Marble Brewery 1 was named Small Brewing Company of the Year — amazing thing for a city like Albuquerque. With so much beer talk and so many beer purchasing options for every night of the week, it’s also motivated many would-be-brewers to try their hand right in their own homes. Shops around town sell a multitude of grain varieties from all over the world and all the tools and necessities one would need to get started. Several of my good friends have picked up this (dare I say it?) important hobby and have made some stunningly good beer, so good I could have sworn they picked up a microbrew 6-pack and did a behind-the-scenes-swap before I could spot them.

It’s interesting to hear my friends talk about beer, because you know what, it sounds exactly like the sort of processes we bakers go through to make a great loaf of bread. Yeast, bacteria, fermentation, sugar & starches, and temperature control: all the things we wrestle and wrangle with to cajole those tall, dark loaves out of the oven. As one of my friends quipped, “fermentation, man, it’s a wonderful thing.” Indeed.

You might have heard somewhere, at some point, that beer is simply “liquid bread”. Well, there is actually a little bit of truth to that statement. German monks adhering to their religious duties at certain times of the year2 would abstain from eating almost all solid foods. One way to “cope” with this restriction was to cook and ferment their bread grains, thereby converting their bread into “liquid bread” to be consumed in copious quantities. Sounds more like a 46 day party than religious atonement.

Spent beer grains

I digress. As my friends and I chatted on, and I discovered more and more about their process, I found there is actually a fair amount of waste when a batch of beer is made. Grains that are soaked to release starches as food for brewer’s yeast are essentially thrown out after they produce what’s needed, wasting what could be used as a nutritious component to many dishes. More on the process below, but I asked a few of them to save their spent grains for me so I can perform a set of test bakes and determine what taste profile these grains would impart on the resultant bread. In a few words: a very hearty bread. I’ll get back to the taste and flavor later on but that sums it up in a nutshell.

What exactly are “spent grains”?

One of the first steps in brewing beer is to make food for brewer’s yeast to consume and produce alcohol. This step is dubbed “mashing”: hot water is mixed with grains, usually malted barley, which converts the sugars in the malted grain to a starchy liquid that will later be used in conjunction with the brewer’s yeast to start fermentation. As fermentation progresses yeast metabolizes the starches in the liquid, alcohol and carbon dioxide are produced, essentially turning this starchy liquid (“wort”) into beer. This is very similar to how our sourdough starters ferment, feeding off the starches found in our grains producing a small amount of alcohol, acids and carbon dioxide.

After the sweet, starchy liquid is extracted from mashing the leftover grains, these now, spent grains, are no longer needed. Some breweries will either donate or sell the spent grains to farms for feeding livestock or a variety of other uses. For the home brewer, however, it is usually thrown away or composted.

Instead of just pitching these grains, why not put them to good use, like, in bread.

Preserving Spent Beer Grains

Like other cooked grains I’d imagine these would last probably a week or so in the fridge. My friend’s small batch of beer produced quite a big bag for me to use and I ended up freezing three-quarters of the bag for a later date. I simply wrapped the grains up in several layers of saran wrap and placed them into two nested freezer bags.

Next time I receive a large bag like this I plan to split them up into small bags with a small amount in each, say 250 grams like I used in the recipe below, and then just defrost a bag at a time per my baking requirements.

Prepare the stiff levain – 9:30am

For a description of my stiff starter and levain, see my earlier post on its benefits and how it compares to my typical liquid one. For this bread I decided to use my stiff starter to help confer strength to the highly hydrated final dough.

Weight Ingredient
50g Mature stiff starter
50g Giusto’s whole wheat flour
50g Central Milling Organic Arstisan Bakers Craft (malted)
65g H2O @ 85ºF

 

Keep your stiff levain in a warm area and wait about 5 or so hours until it’s matured enough to leaven your dough. Time to take a walk with the dog, do some chores, or if you’re like me, read some more about sourdough and plan for the next bake.

Stiff sourdough starter and levain

You can see above just how stiff my levain is, so stiff you almost tear it out of the bowl to lay on top in preparation for mixing. It makes for a bit more work when incorporating the levain, but it does help strengthen up the dough.

Autolyse & Mix – 1:40pm

We will do a one hour autolyse with this dough.

Ingredients:

You will want to keep in mind with this recipe that spent grains will still have quite a bit of water contained within, unless whomever gave them to you dried them out. When I received my bag they were still very wet, almost like a porridge. Adjust the hydration of your dough to suit: start with lower hydration, maybe around 700g, and increase in small increments. I ended up here at 800g total water and I could have done with about 20g less in the end, but the crust & crumb didn’t suffer — I got lucky.

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  1. Marble is one of my favorite local microbreweries that has been in business here in Albuquerque for a long while now with a strong following.

  2. Strict rules for some monks denote that they are not allowed to eat solid food during certain periods of the religious calendar, most notably Lent.

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