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.
Sourdough cinnamon rolls: the new every-weekend tradition? I originally began work on this recipe with the intention that these would be a wonderful Christmas morning indulgence, the birth of a new holiday baking custom. But after making them several times for testing I’m convinced they should seriously be a weekend indulgence. Why limit ourselves and declare these only for special events and holidays? Seriously, let’s just make them every weekend.
Cinnamon rolls fit so perfectly with the cold weather. They’re like that warm blanket you left on the radiator, that puffy wool sweater you wear around the house or that cup of hot chocolate that breaks through the cold. Layers of tender dough segregated by ribbons of gooey cinnamon-sugar and topped with a creamy, white sugar glaze — it’s enough to make you completely forget it’s cold outside, or perhaps stop caring about winter altogether.
I get asked this question frequently when one looks at my Instagram feed: you bake so often what do you do with all of the sourdough bread that’s leftover? The truth is the majority of my bread gets eaten by my family and I (especially the host of “experimental” loaves), or I baked the bread for friends or perhaps an upcoming gathering at my house. And in the dire case as a loaf starts to sneak toward the end of its lifespan I always find a creative way to work it into another meal for dinner. This post is one way in which stale, aging bread can be transformed into something used to heighten other dishes around the kitchen — an incredibly easy way to further utilize bread made at home and it certainly ensures there’s hardly ever anything going to waste.
I’m a serious pizza eater. There were stretches of time back when I lived near my Dad’s restaurant where I’d eat fresh pizza almost every other day; I’d stop in for a slice (or a whole pie) on my way home from work to sort out dinner and not because I was lazy and didn’t cook, but because I loved pizza and I simply wanted some. I’ve had tons of different topping combinations but always fall back on classics: sometimes I think the simplest of things really are the best. But one of the most amazing things about pizza is that it can take on so many different toppings and taste fantastic. I know hardcore pizzaiolo will take issue with that statement but it’s pretty awesome to experiment with new flavors and see what we can come up with. Even in Italy I’ve seen some crazy pizza toppings (French fries? Yes, I’ve seen it) and as long as everything is in balance it usually works out. But for me, a good margherita pizza bares all and tells the story of how good a pizzeria is.
Pizza is a food I can eat at every single meal given the chance and when visiting a new restaurant I always struggle internally when I spot it on the menu. You see, I always want to order the pizza. It’s like the entire menu fades away right in front of me and pizza is all that remains. Even if it’s at some strange fusion restaurant that has nothing to do with Italian food, I want it. My meal companions can pretty much bet I’m going to order pizza and with about 99% accuracy I’ll inevitably complain about it right after the first slice. What can I say, I’m picky.
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 →