Time to Make the Sourdough!

Norwich Sourdough

The weather is warming up here in the Northern Hemisphere. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, now would be a great time to start one from scratch. Flour, water, and patience are the only ingredients. You could be baking up a few loaves of Norwich Sourdough in as little as one week from now!

Panettone, In Miniature

mini-panettone-wild-yeast

It’s panettone time again! I bake this rich, light, citrus-and vanilla-scented bread every holiday season. It’s one of my favorite things to make because, although it requires meticulous mixing and handling, a more festive bread never graced a holiday table.

This year I used my go-to recipe, which I detailed in last year’s panettone post. The only difference is that, for the first time, I baked it in these wonderful diminutive molds. Although it was a bit more work, I loved ending up with 20 small breads — each perfect for one, or sharing with a friend.

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Pan de Muerto

pan de muerto

Pan de muerto is the traditional Mexican sweet bread eaten during Día de los Muertos, observed November 1 and 2 to honor loved ones who have died and celebrate the eternal cycle of life. The signatures of this soft, sweet, orange- or anise-scented bread are the “skull” and “bones” and that decorate its top and sides.

This pan de muerto recipe is richer in butter than one I have made in the past, and zestier with the use of sourdough starter. I present it in honor of mis muertos, who made my life richer and zestier in countless ways:

My father: Charles W. Tenney, Jr., a brilliant mind and playful wit, who encouraged me to dream first and ask questions later.

Charles W Tenney Jr

My maternal grandparents: Mary Strawson, who taught me  to make things with my hands, and Stanton Strawson, who thought hammering together wooden vessels to float in the tide pool was a perfectly wonderful pursuit for little girls.

Stanton and Mary Strawson

My paternal grandparents: Mildred Tenney, who loved nothing more than sitting down at the piano to play a lively tune, and Charles W. Tenney, Sr., who gave me stamps that inspired me to learn how to use an atlas and discover more about the big world out there.

Mildred and Charles Tenney

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Panettone

I started making panettone at Christmastime in 2006. Over these few years, I have tried variations on the recipe (here’s a chocolate one, and here’s one studded with bits of chocolate and ginger), but this is the one I keep coming back to. I still hold my breath each time I make it, because it’s fussy and needs to be pampered. But given patience, discipline, and a loving hand, it does not disappoint. Light and buttery, citrus-y sweet and holiday-special, its baking is a ritual that comforts and satisfies me. Sharing it with my family, and with you, makes me unreasonably happy.

 I first posted this panettone in 2007, and the recipe hasn’t changed. But I have accumulated a few refinements and lessons learned, so I thought it was time, once again, to tell you everything I know about making panettone.

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Apple Kuchen

For this month’s Bread Baking Babes assignment, Gretchen Noelle (Provecho Peru) chose this Apple Kuchen, a German apple …. cake? Yes, “kuchen” is German for cake, but this yeasted pastry is more like a cross between a cake, a bread, and a scone, topped with apple pie filling. It is a snap to make and keeps fabulously well. In fact, now, four days after baking, I think it is even better — more moist and richer-tasting — than on day one.

You will find the Apple Kuchen recipe on Gretchen Noelle’s blog. I followed it pretty much whole, except for a couple of things. I  – being me — used instant yeast (5.2 grams) instead of active dry. Like Gretchen Noelle, I made up my own definition of apple pie spice: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/4 teaspoon each allspice, ginger and nutmeg; and 1/8 teaspoon cloves. And I forwent the cream cheese topper because I just felt like going topless.

This is a recipe I would encourage tweaking, especially the filling. The other kuchen-conquering Babes have ideas and advice: Elizabeth (blog from OUR kitchen), Elle (Feeding My Enthusiasms), Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups), and Lien (Notitie van Lien). Details about baking with us as a Buddy are at the end of Gretchen Noelle’s post. Happy holidays from the Babes!

Sourdough Carrot-Ginger Cake

sourdough-ginger-carrot-cake-wild-yeast

Although carrot cake has been around for centuries, I think of it as the 1970s’ attempt to rationalize dessert.

Come on… it’s dessert! Putting carrots into your cake doesn’t make it any better for you than, say, putting sourdough into it. Together they make a pretty good cake, though. And a nice way to use leftover sourdough starter.

(And if you really want a healthful cake, you can substitute collard greens for carrots, spirulina powder for sugar, and fish oil for vegetable oil. There. Don’t say I never do anything for you.)

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