A simple sourdough chocolate cake

sourdough chocolate cake no sprinkles

Simple. Small-batch. Sourdough. Chocolate. Cake. That’s all there is to this recipe, but it seems to be everything we’re craving right now.

This is a riff on the chocolate cake that will be in my cookbook, scaled down and adapted to use sourdough discard, AKA the portion of starter that you normally discard every time you do a feeding. I usually collect all my discard in a container in the fridge and use it within a week or before it starts to develop an overly acidic smell / layer of liquid “hooch” on top.

For the best cake texture, I like to use discard that has fallen and no longer bubbly. The discard is just here for flavor and not leavening; and using a super active starter can make for a “bready” texture — not what we want here.

I frosted this cake with about a cup of silky fudge frosting I had left in the freezer, but you could certainly enjoy this plain, with a simple dusting of icing sugar, or maybe some whipped cream and berries. Whatever you pair it with, I hope you enjoy!

sourdough chocolate cake slice

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Makes one single-layer 8″ cake

Ingredients:

  • 57g (1/4 c) unsalted butter
  • 28g (2 Tbsp) neutral vegetable oil
  • 120g (1/2 c) 100% hydration ripe sourdough starter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 63g (2/3 c) rye flour (all-purpose works too) 
  • 34g (1/3 c) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 160g (3/4 c) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80g (1/3 c)sour cream, at room temperature
  • 60g (1/4 c) hot coffee

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease the pan again and dust with cocoa powder.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the oil, starter, and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Whisk the sour cream into the butter mixture, followed by the egg. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Add the hot coffee and whisk just until smooth.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 28-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, run an offset spatula around the edges and turn the cake out to finish cooling completely.
sourdough chocolate cake sliced

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats, and Some News!

Hello, hi, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted here! I hope you all are staying safe and well during this crazy, confusing time. A lot of you are baking bread and making sourdough starters, which is certainly a bright spot amongst all the madness. As the days start to meld together, the rising and falling of my own starter provides a comforting rhythm to the days.

I’ve been baking a lot, though in smaller batches since I can’t give away extras as easily any more. Banana bread and brownies always, plus a lot of new recipes for my cookbook.

Sorry, I buried the lede there — I’m working on a baking cookbook! I can’t share too many details right now, except to say it’s a collection of 60+ recipes from cookies to cakes to yeasted and sourdough breads to pastries. It’s been a wild ride (I didn’t expect finding butter and eggs to be one of the challenges I’d face, but there you go) and I’ve questioned my sanity more than a few times. But now that the first draft of my manuscript is almost finished I’m starting to feel excited! There’s still a lot of work to do, but I can’t wait to see it all come together in the coming months.

I wanted to share a recipe for some funfetti rice krispie treats that I made a couple months back (pre-social distancing…) for a bake sale. These are a colorful variation of my brown butter rice krispie treats, and they never fail to put a smile on my face. If you want to add a sweet-salty kick you could sub some (or all) of the rice krispies with lightly crushed Ruffles potato chips. SO GOOD.

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats

Makes one 8×8 or 9×9 pan

Ingredients

  • 113g / 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 400g / 10 cups mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (use artificial if you want to emphasize the funfetti flavor)
  • 160g / 6 cups crispy rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies (about half a 12-ounce box)
  • 40g / 1/4 c rainbow sprinkles, plus more for the top

Method

  1. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 pan with foil. Lightly butter or oil the foil for easy removal. Measure out all your ingredients — this is a quick and simple recipe, but once you start, you do need to move quickly!
  2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, brown the butter. Place the cubed butter in a large, light-colored pot over low-medium heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir frequently with a heatproof spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as needed. The butter will crackle, foam, turn clear gold, then finally start browning. It’s done when the crackling subsides and you smell toasted nuts.
  3. When the butter has browned, immediately take the pan off the heat and add the salt, vanilla, and 8 cups of marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are melted and you have a smooth mixture. If the residual heat from the butter isn’t enough to melt the marshmallows completely, turn the heat back to low.
  4. Add the cereal and stir until evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture. Stir in the remaining two cups of mini marshmallows, followed by the 1/4 c rainbow sprinkles. Don’t overmix once you add the sprinkles or the colors will bleed.
  5. Immediately scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and, using a greased silicone spatula or a piece of greased parchment/wax paper, press it firmly into an even layer. Garnish with extra sprinkles. Let cool completely at room temperature before cutting into squares.
  6. Store in an airtight container and eat within 3 days. I’ve heard you can refrigerate or freeze them, well wrapped, for longer storage, though they haven’t lasted long enough around here for me to test that.

Linzer cookies

Linzer cookies are one of those classic Christmas cookies I’d never gotten around to making until recently. I love sandwich cookies, but to be honest they can be time-consuming with all the chilling / rolling / stamping / filling. I recommend making them on an afternoon when you don’t have a ton of other baking to do; just throw on your favorite tunes and enjoy the process.

A couple notes:
  • This dough contains a high proportion of nuts, which makes it very delicious but also extremely delicate. I found it easiest to roll between pieces of plastic and chill overnight before cutting and baking. I also recommend using simple cookie cutter shapes (i.e. circles and squares) for best results (I used this set).
  • Linzers are traditionally made with almonds and raspberry jam; I used walnuts because I had a lot on hand and filled them with the ends of jam jars I always have lurking around in the fridge.
  • You can bake these cookies several days in advance (store them at room temperature in an airtight container), but I recommend filling them on the day you plan to serve them as the cookies will gradually soften once they’re filled.
  • If you don’t want to bother rerolling the scraps, you can shape leftover dough into thumbprint cookies instead. Just roll into balls, indent with your thumb or the back of a wooden spoon, and bake until golden. Fill indents with jam once cooled.

Linzer Cookies

Makes about thirty 2-1/2″ sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

  • 105g (scant 1 c) toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 281g all purpose flour
  • 225g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c jam or preserves
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts, sugars, and salt. Pulse together until the nuts are finely ground and the mixture is the texture of damp sand.
  2. Add the flour and pulse to combine.
  3. Scatter the butter cubes over the top and pulse until the butter is well incorporated, with no large pieces remaining. Scrape down the sides of the food processor a couple times during this process.
  4. Whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and pulse just until a dough starts to form.
  5. Transfer about half of the dough to a piece of plastic wrap. Pat into a square about an inch thick. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top and roll the dough to about 3/16″. Lift and replace the top piece of plastic occasionally to avoid creases in the dough. Repeat with other half of dough. Slide one sheet of dough onto a baking sheet (still sandwiched between pieces of plastic) and slide the second sheet of dough on top. Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours or up to 24.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one sheet of dough from the fridge. Peel off the top piece of plastic, invert the dough onto one of the parchment-lined baking sheets, and peel off the other piece of plastic. Use a 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter to punch out as many rounds as possible. Remove the excess dough and set aside. Repeat with the second sheet of dough. Use a small round or other decorative cutter to punch out the centers of half the circles. Reroll and repeat process with dough scraps until you’ve used up all the dough (follow rolling process in step 5, chilling as necessary). If the dough is still firm, proceed straight to baking; otherwise, chill first until firm, about 15 minutes.
  7. Bake sheets one at a time for about 15 minutes, or until cookies are just barely golden on the edges. Cool cookies on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Sift icing sugar over the cookies with the center cutouts. Using a small spoon or offset spatula, spread about a teaspoon of jam on the flat sides of the bottom cookies. Top each with a sugared cookie. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper until serving. I recommend filling cookies the day you plan to serve them (see notes above).

Sourdough Epi Wreath

sourdough epi wreath with ribbon

Just popping in to share this simple, festive bread idea for your holiday baking inspiration! A bread wreath is perfect as a dinner table centerpiece (just put a bowl of good salted butter in the middle!) or edible gift. You can also use this technique with larger or smaller pieces of dough (the bake time might change slightly), though I like the crust-to-crumb ratio of this size plus the fact that it’s the size of an actual wreath! This would also work well with any lean bread dough that’s not too slack (hydrated).

Sourdough Epi Wreath

Makes 1 medium wreath

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a loose round. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina / cornmeal. (Note: I like to double up on baking sheets for these wreaths to keep the bottom from scorching.)
  2. Degas and shape into a tight, smooth boule (round). Lightly flour your hands and use your thumbs to poke a hole in the center. Gently stretch the dough to widen the circle. The wreath should be about 10 inches across and the hole in the center at least 4 inches (it’ll shrink back a bit when you put it down).
  3. Place the wreath on a prepared sheet, seam side down. Lightly mist with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature until the wreath is puffy and has increased by about 50% (this takes me about 1.5-2 hours). About an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the center rack and sheet tray on the bottom of the oven.
  4. When the wreath is ready to bake, have ready a measuring glass with hot water and a pair of sharp kitchen scissors. Dust the top of the wreath with rice flour. Use the kitchen scissors to cut the dough at a sharp angle (30-45 degrees) almost all the way through the dough. After snipping, pull the point away from the center (towards you). Repeat all the way around the wreath.
  5. Transfer the wreath to the oven and carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the sheet tray on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 450F and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the wreath is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
sourdough epi wreath

Oatmeal Raisin Pretzel Cookies

oatmeal raisin pretzel cookies

One of the questions I get most often is, “How do you find time to bake?” I’ll admit, it can be a bit of a juggling act. Since starting this blog, we’ve gone from zero to three children, ages 4 and under. Baking projects that I used to finish in an evening are now slo-o-o-o-wly pieced together over the course of several days. I could write a book about it, but thankfully, I don’t have to — Michelle Lopez’s new cookbook, Weeknight Baking will teach you everything you need to know about baking to fit your schedule.

weeknight baking and cookies

I received Michelle’s book as a literal birth day present — it arrived the same day our third child, Isabelle, did! Weeknight Baking was actually the perfect cookbook to help ease me into the new reality of baking with another tiny human around, because each recipe is either quick to make OR broken down into 15-to-30 minute tasks that you can piece together over a few days. And, as my family will attest, the recipes are delicious! So far, we’ve easily polished off a pan of her cheesecake bars and a batch of these oatmeal cookies.

I have always been partial to a good old fashioned oatmeal cookie, and I’m delighted to add this recipe to our rotation. These babies take about half an hour from start to finish — no chilling required! I made a couple small changes — first, I used sifted spelt flour instead of all purpose; and second, I popped a mini pretzel on each cookie (before baking) because I’m all about that salty-sweet combo. Feel free to go traditional with just raisins, or play around with the mix-ins — Michelle gives several fantastic sounding options. Whatever you do, make these cookies! And congrats, Michelle, on your new book!

Oatmeal Raisin Pretzel Cookies

Makes 20 cookies | Adapted from Weeknight Baking

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Oatmeal Cookie Mix-In of your choice (I used raisins and mini pretzels)
  • 1 1/4 c (5.65 oz) all-purpose flour (I used sifted spelt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2/3 c (5 oz) tightly packed dark brown sugar (I used light)
  • 1/3 c (2.35 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c (6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c (6.15 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats
Oatmeal cookie mix-ins
  • Classic oatmeal raisin: 1 c (5.5 oz) raisins
  • Oatmeal chocolate chip: 8 oz dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), from whole feves or a high-quality chocolate bar, chopped into 1/2-to-1-inch pieces
  • Oatmeal, Cranberry, and White Chocolate: 1 c (6 oz) dried cranberries and 3 oz white chocolate, from whole feves or a high-quality chocolate bar, chopped into 1/2-to-1-inch pieces
  • Oatmeal, cherry, and pistachio: 1 c (5 oz) dried cherries and 1/2 c (2.5 oz) shelled pistachios
  • Oatmeal and crystallized ginger: 1/2 c (3.5 oz) crystallized ginger, chopped into 1/4-to-1/2-inch pieces

Method:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Place the mix-in of your choice in a shallow bowl and toss to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars and butter. Beat on medium-high until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 2-3 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer to low, add the egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Scrape down bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Add the oats all at once and beat on low until combined, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed to fully incorporate oats. Add the mix-in all at once and beat on medium-low until the mix-in is evenly distributed throughout, about 1 minute.
  5. Use a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into 20 balls (about 45 g each, but may vary depending on mix-ins), placing them at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes, or until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey. Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies have set and feel firm to the touch. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough (or freeze it to bake later). Serve warm or at room temperature. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Sourdough Challah

sourdough challah six strand

Finding a solid sourdough challah recipe has been on my bread baking list for awhile. While I have a sourdough enriched sandwich bread recipe that I love, the appeal of challah to me is that it’s dairy free and the dough is easy to shape into beautiful braids — perfect for holiday celebrations! Leftover challah also makes excellent French toast, bread pudding, bostock…basically, I’m never sad to have a few extra slices!

After trying a few different recipes/methods, I’ve finally landed on one I like. The dough handles beautifully; and so long as you use fresh starter, there is barely, if any, a hint of sourdough tang. The formula is based on Maggie Glezer’s sourdough challah recipe, with a few adaptations to the flour mix and fermentation times. I’ve also been experimenting with add-ins and substitutions, so stay tuned for more challah-based recipes soon!

pumpkin challah
A few notes:
  • As with all bread recipes, proper fermentation is key to success. Although I’ve provided general timings which work in my kitchen, keep in mind they may vary greatly depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the strength of your starter. I’ve tried to provide visual cues to help you along — as they say, watch the dough and not the clock!
  • The original recipe called for all bread dough, but I prefer a mix of bread, all purpose, and whole grain for a balance of softness, chew, and flavor.
  • There are many ways to shape challah; I particularly like the 6-strand braid, 4-strand braid, and round challah. For best results, weigh out the dough into even portions for the most even-looking braid.
  • To make pumpkin challah, replace the 60g warm water in the final dough ingredients with 75g pumpkin puree. I like to use maple syrup as the sweetener in this variation. Pumpkin provides more color than flavor in this variation (see photo below), though for extra “pumpkin spice” you can spread the filling from this sourdough cinnamon raisin bread on the rolled out dough before shaping the dough into logs (replace the cinnamon with pumpkin spice). Make sure to firmly seal the seam and ends or liquefied sugar will leak out of the braid!
  • Like other enriched sourdough recipes, this recipe takes time — though most of it is hands-off. I like to break the work into the following 3-day schedule:
    • Day 1, right before bedtime: prepare stiff levain.
    • Day 2, morning: mix dough and ferment until doubled. Refrigerate dough once doubled.
    • Day 2, right before bedtime: shape challah and let proof at room temperature overnight.
    • Day 3, first thing in the morning: bake challah.
    • Note: If you want to mix and bake all in one day, you could shape and proof the dough right after the dough has doubled. Proof time will likely be a little shorter since the dough doesn’t have to warm back up to room temperature. I personally prefer the above schedule because I find cold dough easier to shape and I like having the bread freshly baked in the morning.
sourdough pumpkin challah cut

Sourdough Challah

Makes one large loaf (or two smaller loaves, or many buns) | Adapted from Maggie Glezer via The Fresh Loaf

Ingredients:

For the stiff levain:
  • 40g very active, fully fermented 100% hydration sourdough starter, refreshed 8 to 12 hours earlier
  • 52g warm water
  • 108g bread flour

Mix all ingredients together and allow to ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours, or until ripe (it should triple in volume).

For final dough:
  • 60g warm water
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 55g olive oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 65g honey or maple syrup
  • 250g bread flour
  • 100g AP flour
  • 50g whole grain flour
  • All of the levain
  • Sesame / poppy seeds or pearl sugar, for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk together all ingredients from water through honey/maple syrup until combined.
  2. Add the flour and levain (torn into several pieces to make it easier to incorporate). Use a silicone spatula or your hands to mix until ingredients are roughly combined.
  3. Mix the dough on a low-medium speed (3 or 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) until smooth, about 5 minutes. You can also do this by hand, which should take 8-10 minutes. The dough should be on the firm side but still easy to knead.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Ferment at room temperature until doubled. This took me about 4 hours, but will depend on the temperature of your kitchen and strength of your starter.
  5. Fold the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 12.
  6. When you are ready to shape, remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide equally into the number of pieces desired on a lightly floured surface. (I like to do 6 pieces for a 6-strand braid or 4 for a round challah.) Loosely round, then cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Also, whisk the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for the egg wash.
  7. Working one at a time, roll each piece into a thin sheet (about 1/8″ thick) — the shape isn’t important, but aim for an even thickness. Roll up tightly like a jelly roll, pinching the seams and ends to seal. Repeat with other pieces.
  8. Roll each piece into ropes of even lengths (I aim for 24-26″), tapering the ends. Braid as desired (see notes above).
  9. Transfer shaped loaf to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the entire surface with a coat of egg wash, then cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Cover and refrigerate the remaining egg wash; you will need it later.
  10. Allow the loaf to proof at room temperature until at least doubled and very puffy (but still defined). This takes me 8-10 hours at cool room temperature. About half an hour to 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Right after preheating the oven, uncover the loaf and brush with another coat of egg wash.
  11. When the oven is ready, brush the loaf with a final coat of egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame/poppy seeds or pearl sugar, if desired.
  12. Bake for 35-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking, or until the top is well browned and the loaf registers 200F. (Tent with foil if the loaf is browning too quickly). Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Sourdough Italian Rolls

sourdough italian rolls with tomatoes

Every so often my kids and I will walk down to our neighborhood Italian bakery. I usually let them pick a treat for the road, and my son almost always walks past the cookies and pastries and chooses a plain, white Italian roll. (Once he did ask for a rum ball. Good thing I asked the cashier what it was before agreeing.) And he absolutely has no problem demolishing the whole thing (they’re probably 6-7 inches long!) in one sitting.

As an avid bread baker, I was determined to make something similar that would garner the same enthusiasm. And this is it! Simple rolls that are crusty-but-not-too-crusty and a soft but chewy crumb. They are naturally leavened, but are very mild and slightly sweet in flavor.

Also, these rolls are a lot of fun to make. The dough is easy to handle, and you can either make them in one day or retard the dough overnight (I’ve noted in the method when to refrigerate the dough if desired.) They are the perfect all-purpose roll: use them for sandwiches, as an accompaniment for soups and stews, or just eat them plain, like my kid. Personally, I like them slightly warm from the oven with some good salted butter.

(By the way, I asked my son why he liked this particular recipe so much, and he explained that it was because the rolls were oval. What can I say? That being said, you can shape this dough any way you want — baking time may need to be adjusted.)

sourdough italian rolls

Sourdough Italian Rolls

Makes 8 medium rolls | Adapted from Wild Yeast Blog

Ingredients:

For the stiff levain:
  • 64g mature 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • 128g bread flour 
  • 128g AP flour
  • 192g water

Combine all ingredients and mix together until smooth. Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature until ripe, 8-12 hours (it should at least double).

For the final dough:
  • 224g bread flour
  • 64g AP flour
  • 32g semolina flour
  • 170 g water
  • 12g salt
  • 14g sugar
  • 28g olive oil
  • All of the levain

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low to combine, then raise the speed to low-medium (3 or 4 on a KitchenAid). Continue mixing until the gluten is moderately developed. The dough should be soft, but not sticky.
  2. Transfer the dough to an oiled container. Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled, folding every 30 minutes for the first hour. The time it will take to double will depend on how active your starter is and the temperature of your room; mine took about 2.5-3 hours. (Note: if you’d like, you can retard the dough overnight after it’s almost doubled. When you’re ready to bake, allow the dough to rest and come to room temperature for 30-45 minutes after dividing.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces, about 130g each, and shape into loose rounds. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a large sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina / cornmeal. (Note: I like to double up on baking sheets for these rolls to keep the bottoms from scorching.)
  4. Shape each round into a batard (oval) and transfer, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. For these rolls I like to degas fairly well and shape tightly for a nice, even crumb.
  5. Lightly mist the rolls with oil and cover. Allow to rise at room temperature until the rolls have increased by about 50% (this takes me about 1.5-2 hours). About an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the center rack and sheet tray on the bottom of the oven.
  6. When the rolls are ready to bake, have ready a measuring glass with hot water. Lightly dust the tops of the rolls with rice flour, if desired, and slash the top of each roll down the center with a sharp blade (I like a curved lame for this).
  7. Transfer the rolls to the oven and carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the sheet tray on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 450F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

This post is sponsored by Paderno Kitchenware. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
assembling chicken taco

Who doesn’t love a good taco? Personally, I think tacos are among the most fun foods to eat. I love getting to choose my own toppings and that you can pack so many fresh flavors into a small, handheld package. We have taco nights fairly frequently in our home, so I’m always brainstorming tasty and seasonal taco filling ideas to keep things interesting.

Chicken tacos might sound a bit dry and boring, but not this one! This chicken taco filling is tender and packed with flavor, thanks to a dose of homemade roasted salsa and the low-and-slow magic of the Paderno 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. I always spring for chicken thighs as they’re generally quite economical, not to mention a flavorful and forgiving cut. They only need a few hours in the slow cooker to turn tender and shreddable; and leftovers don’t dry out in the fridge.

While you could use a storebought salsa for this recipe, I definitely recommend trying this roasted version. Roasting the vegetables adds sweetness and smokiness to the salsa, and this recipe makes enough for both the chicken cooking liquid and for topping your tacos (and probably a bit left over to go with your favorite tortilla chips!).

Serve these tacos with your favorite toppings — I particularly like avocado slices, shredded cabbage, extra salsa and cilantro, and a touch of sour cream.

roasting veggies
adding onions to slow cooker
slow cooker chicken tacos unassembled
slow cooker chicken tacos assembled

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For the roasted tomato salsa:

  • 3 lbs fresh tomatoes (~10-12 medium)
  • 1 medium red onion, skin removed
  • 1 medium white onion, skin removed
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 large handful of cilantro, chopped (both leaves and stems)
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice (1-2 Tbsp), salt, and pepper to taste

For the slow cooker chicken taco filling:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeded if desired)
  • 3-4 medium cloves garlic, minced

To finish:

  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Reserved roasted tomato salsa
  • Your favorite taco toppings (i.e. avocado slices, cheese, shredded lettuce/cabbage, sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F with a rack in the upper third. Cut a deep “x” into the tops of the tomatoes and onions. Cut the jalapenos in half and deseed. Cut bell pepper into quarters and deseed. Peel and separate garlic cloves.
  2. Arrange vegetables in a single layer in a large roasting pan or baking sheet (I used the Paderno Stainless Steel Multi-Roaster). Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 10 minutes. Switch oven to broil. Broil for ~2 minutes or until vegetables are lightly charred. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. While vegetables are cooling, generously season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, sear on both sides over medium-high heat until browned. Set aside.
  5. When vegetables are cool enough to handle, pulse in batches, along with dried oregano and cilantro, in a food processor or blender until desired consistency (I like to leave it a bit chunky). Taste and adjust seasoning with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  6. Spread sliced onion, jalapeno, and garlic on the bottom of the Paderno 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Arrange seared chicken thighs in a single layer on top. Add enough roasted tomato salsa so that chicken pieces are just barely poking through the top. Reserve and refrigerate remaining salsa.
  7. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until chicken is fork-tender. Remove and shred chicken, then stir back into the cooking liquid.
  8. To assemble tacos: Warm tortillas in a dry skillet or in the microwave. Spread a layer of shredded chicken on the bottom of each tortilla and top with your favorite accompaniments. Enjoy!

Peach Crisp Ice Cream

peach crisp ice cream in container

Before we round the corner into September (!!), I have one last ice cream recipe for you. Churning frozen treats has definitely been my summer 2019 obsession — I’ve been making frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, eggless ice creams, and custard ice creams as fast as we can consume or share each batch. It’s just so addicting (and delicious)!

I’ve especially enjoyed trying to incorporate various seasonal fruits into ice cream. While either sorbet or an eggless (“Philadelphia”) ice cream base has been my modus operandi when incorporating fruit — I find the lack of eggs helps the fruit flavor shine through better — this time I was going for a peaches and cream vibe and wanted a bit of extra richness. I used the same buttermilk custard base from the toast and jam ice cream, but added in a honey-sweetened roasted peach puree. Swirls of peach jam amp up the “peachiness” while sprinkles of crisp oat streusel add texture and nuttiness. It’s like eating a peach crisp a la mode!

A few notes:

  • This makes a fairly large batch of ice cream — probably the largest amount my home ice cream maker can handle. If you have a smaller machine you will want to churn in two batches (or reduce the recipe by 25-30%).
  • The oat streusel recipe is adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and makes way more than you need for this batch of ice cream. But! It freezes beautifully and I have absolutely loved having a big batch on hand to layer in other ice creams / sprinkle on sundaes / snack on. So I definitely recommend just making the full batch and patting yourself on the back later.
  • My favorite containers for storing ice cream are these Cambro 1-quart Poly Rounds. They don’t take up a lot of room in the freezer and they’re the perfect size for a typical home batch. But you can use a loaf pan, empty yogurt container, or similarly-sized freezer-safe vessel. Whatever container you choose, I recommend sticking it in the freezer while you are churning your ice cream to help minimize melting!
peach crisp ice cream in cone

Peach Crisp Ice Cream

Makes a generous 1 quart | Inspired by Salt & Straw and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Ingredients:

For the buttermilk custard base:
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp / 125g granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp / 40g light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the roasted peach puree:
  • 12 oz ripe peaches, pitted and chopped
  • 80g (1/4 c) honey
For the crisp oat streusel:
  • 227g cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 188g AP flour (swap in whole grain if you’d like)
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 135g old-fashioned rolled oats
To finish:
  • ~1/2 c peach jam, homemade or store-bought

Method:

  1. Make the buttermilk custard base: Combine the cream and buttermilk in a large measuring cup.
  2. Combine 100g (1/2 c) of sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and whisk well. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and remaining 25g (2 T) sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in color, about 1 minute.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the corn syrup and half (1 1/2 c) of the buttermilk/cream mixture. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved (about 3 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking the yolk mixture and continue to whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the yolks.
  4. Scrape the entire mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should register ~170F on a digital thermometer). Strain into a heatproof and airtight container and whisk in the remaining buttermilk/cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.
  5. Make the peach puree: Preheat oven to 350F. Spread the chopped peaches in a single layer on a quarter-sheet baking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with honey.
  6. Bake peaches for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until the released juices have thickened. (The peaches shouldn’t be browned at all.) Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, scrape the peaches and all the syrupy juices into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until cold.
  7. Make the crisp oat streusel: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  8. In a large bowl, whisk together the all dry ingredients except the oats. Add the cubed, chilled butter and rub it into the dry mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the oats and stir to combine well. Spread the mixture in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet, aiming for clumps about 1/4″-1/2″ in size.
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and browned. Cool completely on a wire rack, then freeze in a ziplock bag or airtight container until ready to use.
  10. Churn the ice cream: Whisk 1/4 tsp kosher salt and chilled peach puree into the chilled buttermilk base. Churn according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-friendly container, alternating with dollops of peach jam and generous sprinklings of oat streusel. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months.

Beef rib shepherd’s pie

This post is sponsored by Paderno Kitchenware. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
beef rib shepherd's pie in pan

Shepherd’s pie is a favorite meal in our house. Typically a casserole of meat, vegetables, and gravy topped with mashed potatoes, it’s comfort food at its finest. It’s also a dish that can take on any number of variations, depending on your mood and what’s in the fridge. For this version, I decided to go decadent by replacing the typical ground meat filling with a beef rib stew simmered in the Paderno 6-quart Slow Cooker.

Part of the magic of a slow cooker is its ability to transform inexpensive but tough cuts of meat into melt-in-your-mouth meals. Here we take full advantage of low-and-slow cooking by simmering beef ribs overnight until the meat literally falls off the bone. The simmering liquid is reduced to a luscious gravy, and the whole stew is topped off with a thick layer of Yukon Gold mash. Delicious!

beef rib slow cooker
beef rib filling
assembling shepherd's pie

A few notes:

  • You can easily make the stew portion several days in advance. After slow-cooking the meat, simply cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until needed. When you’re ready to assemble the shepherd’s pie, skim the fat solids off the top and rewarm in the slow cooker on low for 1-2 hours before proceeding.
  • Since the stew is quite rich, I opted to make the mashed potatoes a little leaner by using the potato cooking water instead of a dairy product. If you prefer a more decadent mash, feel free to substitute milk/cream/sour cream.
  • Customize the stew with whatever vegetables you like or have on hand! Mushrooms and peas would be great additions (I’d add them in the last hour of cooking, or during the reheat if you make the stew ahead of time). You can also sub the apple juice for red wine or beer for a different flavor.

Beef Rib Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For the slow cooker beef ribs:
  • 5 lbs bone-in beef ribs, cut into single-bone portions
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Half a head of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes)
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 c apple juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 75g (1/3 c) unsalted butter
  • 40g (1/3 c) all purpose flour
For the mashed potatoes:
  • 2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 in. pieces
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
To finish:
  • Chopped chives or scallion greens

Method:

For the slow cooker short ribs:
  1. Season beef ribs generously with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  2. Grill or sear beef ribs on all sides. Meanwhile, in a large pot, sweat onion, garlic, and carrots in olive oil over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme for the last couple of minutes.
  3. Deglaze pan with apple juice. Add tomatoes, dijon, and worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine, and bring to a low simmer. Once simmering, remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Once finished grilling/searing ribs, transfer ribs to slow cooker, assembling in an even layer. Pour vegetable and liquid mixture over ribs. Add water so the liquid level falls just below the top of the beef.
  5. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and falls off the bones easily. (At this point you can refrigerate the stew for several days if needed; skim the fat and reheat on low for 1-2 hours when ready to proceed.)
  6. When ready to assemble and bake the shepherd’s pie, remove the bones and bay leaves from the slow cooker and discard. Strain the liquid into a large glass measuring cup. Transfer stew solids to an oven safe pan (I used the Paderno Classic Non-Stick Fry Pan) or casserole dish. Use two forks to shred any large pieces of meat.
  7. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Gradually add the reserved liquid, whisking constantly. Once all the liquid is added, raise heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thickened and reduced by about 1/3 (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Add enough gravy to nearly cover the meat and vegetables (reserve the rest of the gravy for serving).
For the mashed potatoes:
  1. Place the potato pieces in a large pot and add cold water to cover by about an inch. Add several generous pinches of salt.
  2. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Once the water is simmering, turn heat down to medium low and continue simmering until the potatoes are fork-tender (10-15 minutes).
  3. Drain the potatoes, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
  4. Return the potatoes to the pot over low heat. Add the butter. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, adding the reserved water as needed to reach desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To finish:
  1. Preheat oven to 425F with a rack in the middle.
  2. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the filling and score with the tines of a fork for texture, if desired.
  3. Place pan on a sheet pan to catch any drips and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly browned and the edges of the filling are bubbling. Garnish with chopped chives or scallions, if desired. Serve with reserved gravy.
beef rib shepherd's pie serving
beef rib shepherd's pie gravy