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Brioche Hamburger Buns

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a workshop by the one and only Sandor Ellix Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation (essential reading!). I walked away from the workshop infused with inspiration and a head full of fermentation ideas. Of course it wouldn’t be a hands on workshop if I didn’t leave with a jar of bubbling veggies — a relish of sorts. The fermenting relish we created by hand during the workshop had numerous spicy New Mexico chiles1, onion, corn, tomato, sweet potato (cooked) and garlic added to the mix. After getting my hands dirty with mixing, mashing, and packing I began to ponder what I’d first like to use this spicy concoction on, and then it came to me: hamburgers!

Coincidentally, the upcoming weekend of July 4th has always been a big grilling weekend out here and what better way to celebrate our Nation’s independence than to fire up the grill and throw on some burgers and veggies. I’ve made hamburger buns several times in the past but have yet to formalize a recipe for my favorite version. This formula has evolved over time and is similar to my cinnamon roll recipe in that it’s based on an enriched brioche dough, but with changes to butter, milk and flour types. Continue reading


  1. As is the custom here in New Mexico, if it’s not spicy let’s first make it spicy, then figure out the rest of the details.

Build Your Own Dough Retarder

Over the numerous years I’ve baked bread, and the countless nights my dough has proofed overnight in the family fridge, there have been (so many) times where I yearned for the luxury, and sometimes necessity, of a dedicated space for my dough. An open, wide space where I could control the temperature and didn’t have to fight with those items that spoil at warmer temperatures. Oh that precious fridge real estate, something highly tussled for in a family with two kids. I finally decided it was time, time to remove my dough as a contender for that sought after space and construct it: a place just for dough.

This may seem like an extravagance. But when you bake as often as I do, and in ever increasing quantity, this dough retarder1 has gradually elevated to necessity. The actual physical space was one motivator but I’ve also yearned for the ability to experiment with warmer proof temperatures (45ºF and above) to test the effect on the resting dough overnight. If you’ve read my posts for a while now you’ll know that I typically push bulk fermentation pretty far and/or I’ll leave the dough out, in shape, for some period of time before retarding in the fridge at 39ºF. This, in effect, helps further the fermentation in the dough but in a different way due to the warm ambient temperature, whereas proofing at a cooler temperature, say 50ºF, has the effect of slowing yeast activity in relation to bacteria activity (more on this below). These varying proof temperatures, warmer than a typical household fridge but cooler than ambient temperatures, are something I’ve wanted to test and experiment with for some time now.

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  1. I like to colloquially call it a fretarder (freezer + retarder)

Sourdough with Roasted Potato and Rosemary (Potato Bread)

“This is really good but you should try to make potato bread sometime, it’s delicious.” I’ve probably heard my Dad utter a version of that fifty times to date, usually just after eating a slice of my fresh sourdough bread.

I love how eating good food tugs at an invisible, interconnected web of food-memories we’ve constructed over the course of our lifetimes. This complex web, with scattered connections between foods, smells, experiences and memories, is gradually filled in and ever-evolving: it shapes the corpus of foods we enjoy, giving them significance in place and time. Perhaps the construction of this web is instilled at a primal level, maybe it’s a way we’ve evolutionarily progressed to favor foods that provide proper nourishment by exciting our senses, pushing out hollow foods that provide nothing or are uninteresting. I believe it’s one of the many reasons we’ve stayed alive for so long, eating the things we need instead of those we don’t.

But this web might not be as invisible and hidden as it might first seem. We see evidence of the intermingled connections each time we sit down to eat: “this cake reminds me of that one you made 2 years ago when…,” or “this salad reminds me of that time we were traveling through Italy and stopped at…” In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say just about every meal I eat with my family we talk about other meals eaten, or other dishes enjoyed in the past — and its through that traversal of the food-memory web where we are instantly, and clearly, transported to a significant time and place in our otherwise blurred history.

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Weekend Baking Schedule

The primary goal in this post is to help you get into a schedule for baking fresh, healthy bread every weekend without having to worry about refreshing your sourdough starter during the week. Ok, I know it’s hard to bake every weekend, but I do believe this post outlines a manageable schedule for fresh bread most weekends. It can be challenging to carve out time from our busy work schedule day after day to devote to sourdough starter maintenance — with two kids at home believe me, I get it. So what can we do? What kind of weekend baking schedule can we devise to help reduce the amount of worry while still ensuring we can have fresh bread when we want it? This post will go day-by-day through an entire week and outline exactly what I do each day to address exactly that.

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Sour Cherry, Toasted Pecan and Buckwheat Levain

My childhood home had a craggy, sprawling cherry tree in our backyard where my brother and I would climb day after day. The heightened frequency of our climbing adventures and the arrival of cherry season was not entirely unrelated. Each trip up, swinging and snaking through the litany of maroon branches, was punctuated with a delectable snack somewhere near the end. Of course the acquisition of said snack didn’t come without its battle with a brash bird or two1 and even the occasional angry ant, but this was the price the tree demanded. Serendipitously stumbling upon that bunch of ripe cherries was reward enough for the surprising sting or feather in the face.

It’s during cherry season that I remember my childhood backyard the most. Probably because of the endless cherries we snacked on but also because the tree seemed to be an integral part of our yard, a friend almost, even if it was just one amongst many other fruit trees. During the hot summer days off school we walked barefoot under its branches only to have the soles of our feet stained red from the fallen fruit discarded by the birds or scattered about by the rough winds.

While it’s not cherry season right now, I just couldn’t quite shake a recent happy accident which was the impetus for this entire recipe: a friend’s cherry preserves spread on my toasted sprouted buckwheat sourdough. The flavors instantly transported me back to childhood and my favorite tree. I knew I wanted to work with cherries right then and a flavor profile for this formula began to take shape in my head: cherries, buckwheat, and roasted pecans for a slight buttery, rich note.

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  1. Seriously, birds have way too big of an advantage when it comes to eating cherries off a tree, something they take FULL advantage of.