Banana Bread Crumb Muffins (Alpha Version)

If you like your muffins light and sweet and soft — in other words, miniature cakes — these will not be the muffins for you. (These are not Barbie muffins.)

If you think a muffin should give you something to sink your teeth into, with more substance than sugar, these might be the muffins for you. (These are real-woman muffins.)

I still consider these a work in progress, but as a proof of concept — the concept being that a lusty muffin can be made with dry sourdough bread crumbs as the sole “flour” — they’re not bad.

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Rosemary – Cornmeal Grissini

My daughter M (the one who hid a dog in her room for several days before springing the news? yes, that one) has moved on to her own apartment but is often over here, killing time between work and class, radiating sweet smiles and depositing piles of unfolded laundry wherever she goes. She is content to graze on whatever she finds, and rarely comments on it — a change, on the whole, for the better. I no longer hear “Why can’t you buy macaroni and cheese in a box like a normal person?” or “Why do you have to put fruit in everything?” whenever she goes near the kitchen.

Occasionally, M does weigh in.  “These are good.”

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Ginger-Pecan Sourdough Biscotti

Sourdough biscotti have been on my mind for a while, but they posed a bit of a challenge: with sourdough starter comes water, and extra water is not something that we usually want in any cookie dough, never mind biscotti. For these “twice-baked” cookies, the dough is formed into a log and partially baked, then sliced and baked again until dry. Extra water is just not helpful here.

The solution I came to, in addition to using a stiff (50%-hydration) starter, is to cut down on the sugar, which behaves very much like a liquid ingredient in a dough. (If you don’t believe me, try taking a basic unsweetened dough and mixing in a bunch of sugar; you’ll swear you just dumped a bucket of water in there.) So these have about 30% less sugar than you’ll see in many biscotti recipes, but interestingly, they taste plenty sweet to me. I would not market them as “diet biscotti.” They’re definitely dessert.

The dough is still plenty wet, and log-forming is a little tricky. I found a plastic dough scraper helpful to scrape up and shape and smooth the sides once the dough is on the parchment-lined pan. But even if you make your log nice and compact, it’s going to start flattening out before it even hits the oven, and after a few minutes in there will look like a praline on a hot New Orleans sidewalk. Don’t panic. It will rise (a little) and have a pretty good biscotti shape by the time it’s done.

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Bake a Better Bread Stick

I’ve said it before: I love grissini. These thin, dry bread sticks are a perennial crowd-pleaser — rustically beautiful, always whimsical but never frivolous, a snap to make and (literally) to eat. Their flavor is eminently versatile, subject to the baker’s inclination — the toss of a fennel or sesame seed here, the grind of a pepper mill there. I’ve made them plenty of times, sourdough or straight, and they’ve been toothsome and quick to disappear every time.

These are better, and I have the numbers to prove it.

I would not presume to say that the addition of ground flaxseed and a bit of rye flour to the dough make the grissini taste better, as that is a matter of, well, taste. My taste says they taste pretty fine. My daughter’s taste says so, too.

But even if you disagree with our taste (and I don’t think you will), numbers don’t lie. Consider these numbers:

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Holiday Pocky

Pocky - chocolate dipped breadsticks

Quick, for 10 points: Pocky is/are:

  1. a quintessentially Japanese snack
  2. a thin sweet bread stick coated with chocolate and optionally topped with something else delicious
  3. a fun alternative to traditional holiday cookies
  4. easy to make at home
  5. all of the above

(Hint: it’s E.)

I got the idea from Not Quite Nigella’s enchanting Pocky Christmas Forest, and used her recipe. Finely diced candied orange peel, shredded coconut, chopped pistachios, and crushed peppermint candy make fine toppings, but the possibilities are limitless.


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Rye Crostini

rye toasts

SFBI Update: It’s the end of week four, and we’ve been off baguettes for a week, but that doesn’t mean we have any less bread at the end of the day. Plain sourdough four ways, sour rye, multigrain sour, buckwheat levain, ciabatta, overnight baguettes (did I say we were off baguettes? liar!), egg bread, Portuguese sweet bread, more baguettes (I kid you not!), pan sandwich bread.

I give away as much of the stuff as I can. My freezer is now almost completely ruled by bread. Torta di Pane was good but didn’t make an appreciable dent in the supply. Only one thing to do: make toasts. Or if you’re Italian, call them crostini.

What’s not to love about thin crisps that can be made from even stale bread, keep for days-to-weeks, and serve as a platform for just about anything else you might feel like putting in your mouth?

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