December 18, 2012
Meet the new guy I’ve been obsessing over for the last couple of weeks.
He’s a sourdough starter and I raised him myself! Back in the old days, before you could get those packets of yeast at the supermarket, bakers would have to catch and raise their own yeast if they wanted leavened bread. The cool thing is that when you catch wild yeast, some beneficial bacteria get caught too; these are the bacteria that give sourdough that tangy flavor. And the combinations of yeast and bacteria are different in every region, which is part of the reason why a French pain au levain tastes different from San Francisco sourdough.
Raising a starter is as simple as mixing together some flour and water, then letting it sit in a warm spot for a few days. The yeast and bacteria in the air work their way into the flour and water slurry and start eating the carbohydrates in it. Then you “train” the little guy by discarding a bit, then feeding the rest with more flour and water. Eventually the culture grows, eats, and burps little carbon dioxide bubbles in a predictable manner, and that’s when it’s ready to use for baking. It really is very much like having a pet: daily feedings, a little warm corner for him to sleep in, and he has the potential to give you many years of joy.
His name is Jean-Bapyeast. I wanted a really French name, a friend suggested Jean-Baptiste, and Edna punned it into Jean-Bapyeast. Excellent, non?
There are a lot of things you can do with a natural sourdough starter, including, of course, making bread. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of loaves but haven’t quite nailed down my perfect recipe yet. The loaf above was my first, and unfortunately it deflated a bit while I was transferring it to the baking vessel, resulting in a denser loaf than I prefer. We’ll get there, and until then, try raising a sourdough starter for yourself. There’s really nothing cooler than making tasty bread out of nothing but flour, water, salt, and some microorganisms you gathered from the air.
December 11, 2012
These bright green pancakes happened while I was in Nice, and hadn’t figured out how to turn on the oven yet. Of course, being far from home and lonely, I also had a huge sugar craving. What’s a sweet-toothed girl to do when there’s no way to make gooey cinnamon rolls or chewy cookies?
These hot cakes were a perfect answer. With a base of my usual hot-cakes-for-one recipe, with the intriguing addition of matcha (finely milled, high quality Japanese green tea) powder, they had a hint of floral bitterness that was the perfect foil for creamy butter and a big drizzle of syrup.
October 19, 2012
I made and ate these pancakes at 4pm on a weekday afternoon. Afterwards, I texted the gentleman to say that I had made the best pancakes I had ever tasted, but they weren’t any left for him because I ate the whole batch. You see what this guy has to put up with?
This is another recipe from the accidental goodness chronicles. I wanted pancakes. I had figs and hazelnuts. I was short on flour so I added some cornmeal.
The figs stayed in big, ripe chunks that made some bites of these pancakes deliciously juicy. The hazelnuts provided some up-front crunch, with the cornmeal playing backup toothsomeness. They were, in the words of GLaDOS, a triumph.
October 10, 2012
Let’s play pretend for a moment. Let’s pretend that the world is a much smaller place, and I can ask you over for an old-fashioned sleepover party on a Saturday night and, despite you being wherever in the world you are and me being in Paris, you can accept and bring over a big bottle of wine and a DVD of Love Actually.
Let’s pretend we’ve played board games all night with a few of our better friends and gossiped about boys and had lots and lots of wine and probably cheese and bread, and we’ve woken up late the next morning, groggy but without hangovers. This is what I would make for us to eat for breakfast while we were drinking coffee and putting on a touch of Sunday-makeup.