Sourdough Waffles and Low Tide

What is a recipe for a perfect Sunday morning? How about sourdough waffles followed by a trip to the reef at low tide?

Good to eat on Sunday morning.


Not good to eat, but nice to look at on Sunday morning.

A waffle iron is a necessary contraption. Although I’m pretty good at jury rigging equipment, I haven’t quite figured out how to make waffles without one.

  

I have a Cuisinart Belgian waffle maker and I love it. The surface is truly nonstick and it makes perfect waffles if I remember a few things:

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Lazy Baking — Oat Bran Sourdough Muffins

It’s Tuesday night and I can’t make bagels. I want to make bagels, I have all the ingredients for bagels, and I love making bagels. But after putting in a full day of work, my energy is sapped and I can’t face rolling 18 bagels and then staying up for another three or four hours waiting to put them into the fridge overnight. What I need is to mix, bake, and go to bed. (Well, OK, I might sneak an episode of Breaking Bad in there somewhere.)

Mix, bake, sleep… sounds like muffins to me. Sourdough, of course. And using some of that big bag of oat bran that stares me in the face every time I look at the pantry shelf seems like a good idea, too. Sourdough oat bran muffins are not in my repertoire, but what the hell, I’ll just try something. At worst, I’ll have lost 30 minutes and 63 cents’ worth of oat bran, and I can go to bed saying I tried.

Believe me when I say a new recipe almost never works for me on the first attempt, but these are actually pretty good! They have the texture I appreciate in a muffin — coarse and chewy and nothing like a cupcake. The 15-muffin batch size is a bit unconventional, but I can live with that. And they’re rather plain looking, aren’t they?

But they really do taste very good, although I can imagine all sorts of ways they could be spruced up with the addition of nuts, fruits, spices, gumball machine rings, etc. What are your ideas? Share them in the comments, or better yet, bake up your own take on these very easy muffins and send me a photo and a link to your recipe (must include sourdough starter and oat bran!). If I have any takers, I’ll post them in a roundup in a couple of weeks.

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Pandoro and Friends

2012, be warned: 2011 is a tough act to follow. The beautiful and exciting things that came my way in 2011 are too numerous to count, but Number Two on the list has to be the trip Jay and I took to Morocco and Venice in November (with Number One being our wedding a month later). And while the highlights of that trip are also too numerous to count, our day in Verona is on that list for sure.

The charming city of Verona is an easy 80-minute train ride from (equally charming) Venice, and we thought it would make a lovely day trip. Jay was thinking history, culture, architecture, photography. I — obviously! — was thinking Pandoro pans. I have been coveting genuine Italian pans for this star-shaped golden holiday bread forever, and they just can’t be found in the US. But Pandoro originated in Verona, so I was sure I could find some there.

And find them I did, but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was how I found them. I remembered that the lovely and talented Cinzia also hails from Verona, and when I emailed her to ask about where I might buy the pans, she not only came through with the name of a shop (Plurimix), but she came into the city to meet us! Over lunch and a slice of Nadalin (another Veronese holiday bread, reportedly the forerunner of Pandoro), I found Cinzia to be every bit as warm and delightful as her blog.

And that, my dear friends, is the real pleasure I derive from writing this blog: connecting with wonderful people all over the globe, whether face-to-face or through virtual pathways.  I can’t think of a nicer way to observe BreadBakingDay — the monthly event that celebrates baking and breaking bread together — than with Pandoro dedicated to Cinzia (who happens to be hosting BBD this month, too!), Zorra (creator of BBD), and all of my bread-baking friends everywhere.

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Stollen

Today is December 16, 2011. Is this an important date because …

A) It’s the posting (and my hosting) day for the Bread Baking Babes

B) I get married today

C) Both of the above, and by the time you read this I will have pulled the Stollen from the oven, dusted the flour off my dress, and made my way to City Hall to exchange vows with my beautiful, brilliant, sweet, funny, gentle, loving…

Ahem. Back to the Stollen. A perfect choice for this month, because it practically makes itself, leaving us Babes to occupy our minds with… whatever other things we may wish to occupy them with.

Stollen is one of my favorite holiday breads, and quite easy to make. It is a traditional bread from Dresden, Germany, and the shape is said to represent the swaddled child in the manger. You kind of have to use your imagination to see this.

Mixing the dough is simple if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, although it takes some time. Just throw the ingredients in the mixer, turn it on, and go buy a wedding dress or something.The dough will be ready when you get back.

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Gibassier

Gibassier-wild-yeast

When I was a student at SFBI, if you had asked any of us for a short list of our favorite sweet breads, Gibassier would have been on it every time. To get an idea of our collective response to the mere mention of this regional brioche, delicately flavored with orange and and anise and enriched with olive oil, think Les Simpsons en Provence: “Mmmm…. Gibassier!”

There seems to be some disagreement about whether Gibassier and Pompe à ‘Huile — one of the thirteen Provençal Christmas desserts — are the same thing. I don’t know the answer, but why quibble? I’m pretty sure no one will complain if this bread winds upon your dessert table — at Christmas time or any other time, with or without twelve other sweets — or on your breakfast table or your coffee table.

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Banana Crumb Bread

For this banana bread, inspired by my all-time favorite from The Moosewood Cookbook, I replaced a portion of the flour with fine dry bread crumbs. The crumbs I used were from a slightly sweet oatmeal molasses bread, but any crumbs should work if your banana is good and ripe.

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