Category Specialty Ingredient

Sprouted Buckwheat Sourdough

After a few minutes shy of finishing my typical hand mix, I looked down at the dark dough oozing between my fingers and thought to myself: “Wow, this looks and smells remarkably wonderful.”

When working again and again with bread dough, you come to expect a certain color palette: deep reds, nut-browns, soft tans, milky whites, and every possible shade therein—for the most part, this palette neatly defines your bread baking world. Even when changing to freshly milled flour or a new type of grain you can usually be assured the color will be along that spectrum. Not so with whole grain buckwheat. Just a small percentage of the milled, dark and menacing grain-like seed transformed the entire dough to something more like itself: a stunning dark gray, almost black, hue. The earthy aroma surfaced memories of fresh cut soba noodles I had in a modest but astounding restaurant in Japan.

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Apricot, Lavender, and Walnut Sourdough + 2016 Saveur Awards

As you may have caught on my Instagram feed last week I was totally shocked and honored to find out The Perfect Loaf won both Editors’ Choice and Readers’ Choice for The Food Obsessive award in the 2016 Saveur Blog Awards! In addition, I met some incredibly talented and passionate people at the event in New York City — so passionate I could have probably talked with them for weeks upon weeks about food, cooking and baking. A huge thanks goes out to everyone who nominated, voted and supported this site (and me) — I really can’t convey enough thanks. And congratulations to all the other nominees and winners!

Now back to sourdough! I recently had an opportunity to attend a lavender event at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, a local farm here in the heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico. They offered a small glimpse of their lavender fields, organic farming practices and an introduction to their growing lavender distillation process. The lavender grown on the farm is not culinary lavender, it’s actually only used for cosmetics (essential oils, lotion, etc.), but it was incredibly interesting to see how they follow sustainable growing practices throughout the farm and produce so much local lavender each year. Continue reading

Seeded Sourdough

My three year anniversary for The Perfect Loaf just passed and I felt like it was only fitting for me to (sort of) revisit an old idea, an old recipe of mine for a seeded sourdough I posted a long, long time ago. I make this whole wheat version intermittently and I do enjoy it, but I wanted to explore some new flavors, textures and techniques. I mean, after baking hundreds of loaves since the beginning days of this site my process has changed and evolved quite a bit, perhaps it was time to take a new look at this old favorite.

Of course there are endless combinations of seeds and spices one can bake into a loaf of bread, but finding just the right balance of flavors and textures can prove to be a challenging task. Personally, I find a lot of the seeded sourdough I try to be a little heavy with seeds; conceivably I’m just more sensitive to the deep umami flavors of sesame, the spicy nature of flax or the anise-like flavor of fennel, but I like to keep it light. Of course there is a time and place for hearty bread, but I like my seeded sourdough a little more like a gentle peck and less like a heavy, flapping punch.

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Polenta and Rosemary Sourdough

Growing up I never really liked polenta. My grandmother would frequently cook the gritty yellow mash and I’d just kind of eat it with this muted disdain, asking for something else after I was done. I remember her customarily cooking it in water and then serving a warm bowl fresh from the stove but I’ve had it a number of ways: boiled in water, boiled in chicken stock, cooled and then pan-fried and of course cooled and simply topped with parmesan. Nowadays I’ve somehow developed a deeper appreciation for the yellow stuff and I actually find myself craving that deep, luxurious corn flavor which can readily be summed up as comforting.

Polenta is a typical Northern Italian dish that we’d have in some form or another just about every time we visited family. Maybe this is what slowly developed my admiration for the meal over the years, or maybe it was just my ever-developing palette when growing up (something I know all to well now with my young son — one week he loves chicken the next week he’s moved on to something better), either way you’re sure to find a bag of polenta in my pantry at all times.

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Fig and Fennel Sourdough (Plus a Little Family History)

I have childhood memories of my dad trying desperately to grow fig trees in our backyard here in the dry and hostile desert. Every couple of years he would plant a new tree, watch as it would grow a few seasons, shed some fruit, and then inevitably a cold winter would come along and take all that hard work like it never existed. Nowadays each winter he covers his fig trees with burlap and Christmas lights that are ever-on (yes, it’s true) to keep them warm. A true Italian Christmas tree, if you will. They seem to live a bit longer but they definitely do not thrive like they do in a temperate climate.

With all this reminiscing, and since I talk about my dad I wanted to give you a mental image of him and us back then, you’ll have to bear with me through the next photo…

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