Semolina Sourdough with Plums, Walnuts, and Fennel

I am notoriously bad at planning. I’ll be in the market when I’m hit with the overwhelming urge to bake with, say, pumpkin seeds. So I buy some up, oblivious to the fact that I might have three or four small remnant bags of same lurking in the recesses of my freezer. And now my freezer is starting to complain about the buildup.

So I made a deal with myself: I am not to buy any new dried fruits, nuts, or seeds, but I can buy as many flours as I like so I can bake away until my odd lots are used up. (I tried to negotiate different terms — something involving a new sports car in exchange for ingredient restraint — but I couldn’t manage to sell it to myself. Clearly I need a better agent.)

Fortunately, I have some workhorse recipes that work wonderfully with the “one from Column A, one from Column B” approach. This semolina-fennel sourdough recipe, originally conceived with currants and pine nuts, baked beautifully with dried plums (commonly, but less charmingly, known as prunes) standing in for both currants and caramelized fennel, and walnuts for the pine nuts.

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National Doughnut Day!

Some people keep lists and calendars to remind themselves of food holidays: National Raisin Bran Cereal Day, International Nacho Day, Lobster Thermidor Day, and so on. I prefer to keep track of these things the way nature intended: by taking a morning peek at Facebook and noticing doughnuts everywhere. Doh! It’s national Doughnut Day! I was caught off-guard, but it was early in the day so I had time to recover.

I made baked yeasted doughnuts that you can really sink your teeth into. If you like those soft, lighter-than-air Krispy Kreme things, don’t make these. These are to those what Guinness Stout is to cotton candy (it’s also National Mixed Metaphor Day, by the way).

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Blueberry Sourdough Scones

blueberry-sourdough-scones-wild-yeast

In baking school I learned that freezing scones prior to baking makes the dough easier to cut and helps them retain their shape during baking. At home I learned that it’s also a great way to have freshly-baked scones for Sunday morning breakfast.

I baked these in my minimalist sometime-weekend-kitchen. By minimalist I mean a kitchen in a town whose one market doesn’t carry parchment paper… a kitchen whose oven temperature I can only guess at… where you make do with the ingredients you have… where fingers substitute for a pastry brush… where the ellipsis has free rein…. But I still have the best 25-year-old Robot Coupe food processor in the world. A food processor is not absolutely necessary, but it makes short work of cutting the butter into the dry ingredients.

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I Bake, Therefore I Freeze

I bake a lot of bagels. I freeze a lot of bagels. It took me a while to get the freezing routine right, to avoid 1) freezer burn; 2) undue time spent wrapping and thawing; and 3) throwing away a lot of plastic wrap. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Make sure the bagels are completely cool before preparing for freezing. Freezing while warm guarantees ice crystals. Letting them sit for a few hours even after they are cool makes them slice  more cleanly.
  • Slice the bagels. A bagel guillotine saves time and emergency room visits.
  • Place each bagel in a zip-top sandwich bag. Try to squeeze air out as you close the bag, but don’t be fanatical about it. These bags can be reused for the next batch, and the next …
  • Place the bagged bagels in a larger zip-top plastic bag. This does not have to be a heavy “freezer bag,” since you have the additional protection of the small bags. Of course, these bags can also be used multiple times.
  • Our bagels are usually eaten within a week, but they will keep in the freezer for several months.
  • It is not necessary to thaw the bagel before popping it in the toaster or toaster oven; just toast for a little longer.
  • Don’t forget to save and reuse your plastic bags!

In case you have a lot of plastic bags sitting around with nothing to do, may I suggest:

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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Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

I made this dulce de leche cheesecake for my daughter M’s 21st birthday. She loves cheesecake, so I was pretty sure she’d like this, and she did. It’s a great cake for cheesecake lovers. It turns out it’s also a great cake for turning non-cheesecake lovers (people who say “I don’t like cheesecake”) into cheesecake lovers (people who say “this is the most awesome cake in recorded history” — yes, these were the actual words). That makes me happy, because she is the most awesome daughter in recorded history, so I’m glad everyone liked her cake!

Dulce de leche is caramelized sweetened milk, and it is amazing. There is no way anyone can not adore it. You can buy it in jars at Latin American markets, or make your own. I used David L’s recipe. It both flavors the filling and serves as the light-colored accent on the caramel topping. I made it less dark than some dulce de leche I’ve seen, although it’s not quite as pale as it appears in my photo.

Some hints for perfect cheesecake :

  • For a smooth batter, the cream cheese needs to be very soft. Leave it out overnight, or put it in the microwave a few seconds at a time.
  • Keep the mixer on low-medium speed, to avoid incorporating too much air.
  • Scrape the bowl and paddle diligently. There’s nothing worse than noticing a lump of unincorporated cheese stuck to the bottom of the mixing bowl as you’re pouring the filling into the pan.
  • A Springform pan can allow water to seep into the crust when you bake the cake in a water bath, even if you protect the bottom with foil. A deep, straight-sided cake pan is better. Unmold it by inverting it onto a plate and then again onto a second plate. It might stick a tiny bit but this is a creamy cake so you can smooth it out with an offset spatula and no one will notice it if the cake has a topping. If it’s to be left bare, try lightly buttering the plate onto which you invert the cake, as well as the plastic you wrap it with.
  • Cool the cake completely at room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Leaving it in the water bath helps it cool slowly and prevents cracking.
  • For clean cuts, dip the knife in hot water and dry it with a towel before cutting each slice.
  • For a completely gluten-free cake, make the crust with gluten-free graham wafers.

I’m sorry there are no photos of the sliced cake. It went too quickly.

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