Cider Baked Apples

cider baked apples

This post is sponsored by Weight Watchers Canada. Find out more about the WW Freestyle program, which encourages the freedom to eat the foods you love while nudging you towards healthier choices using the SmartPoints system. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

Apple season is in full swing here. We’ve gone picking once already, and I suspect we’ll find our way to the orchards at least once more in the next couple of weeks to get our fill of Northern Spy, Ambrosia, Honeycrisp, Mutsu…you name it! Pulling a wagon through rows of trees and searching for perfectly crisp apples is truly one of my favorite annual activities.

While there’s always room for apple pies, galettes, cakes, and butters after these orchard runs, sometimes I crave something a little simpler but no less cozy. Enter these cider-baked apples. They make a lovely light dessert, but are healthful enough for breakfast — perhaps with a bit of yogurt and honey. You can also make them ahead of time, refrigerate, and gently rewarm in the microwave or low oven before serving.

hannah with apples

cider baked apples before bake

cider baked apples on plate

Cider Baked Apples

Serves 6-8 as a side

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs baking apples, washed (about 8 small apples)
  • 2 c apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick (feel free to add other favorite mulling spices!)

For the filling:

  • 60g raisins, finely chopped
  • 60g pecans, finely chopped
  • 60g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
  • 45g brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F with a rack in the middle.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the cider and cinnamon stick to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep while you prepare the apples.
  3. Combine the raisins, pecans, brown sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub it into the mixture to incorporate.
  4. Juice the lemon into a small bowl.
  5. Cut the tops off the apples and place the top into the lemon juice to keep from browning (keep track of which top goes with which apple for best presentation). Using a small spoon or knife, scoop out the core of the apples, leaving the bottoms intact so the filling won’t seep out. Stuff the apples with the filling mixture and place the tops back on.
  6. Place the stuffed apples into a baking pan just large enough to fit them snugly — an 8×8 pan worked for me, but will depend on the number and size of your apples. Pour the cider and cinnamon stick into the bottom of the pan.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven until apples are tender but not falling apart. The time can vary wildly depending on the size of your apples, but I’d start checking around the 30 minute mark (my smallish ones took about 40). If you’d like, baste the apples with the cider a couple of times during baking.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature. You can also make these ahead and refrigerate them, and reheat before serving.

Malted Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

malted cinnamon roll breakfast scene

This post was created in partnership with East Fork Pottery. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Happy Fall! Despite a bit of a heatwave this past week, I’m ready to fully embrace the change of seasons. Apple picking, pumpkin spice, chunky sweaters — bring it all on!

I’m so excited to share these malted sourdough cinnamon rolls with you today, in partnership with East Fork Pottery. Inspired by East Fork’s new malt glaze, I added the toasty notes of malt to these classic breakfast treats by subtly weaving it into the dough, filling, and frosting. I honestly don’t think I’ll make cinnamon rolls any other way now! Plus, these rolls just look extra inviting on that beautiful bread & butter plate, don’t you think?

hands on plate

malted cinnamon roll on east fork pottery plate

A few notes:

  • The base dough for these rolls is the sourdough Hokkaido milk bread that I’ve used several times on this site before. If you haven’t tried this style of bread before, I highly recommend reading through those posts for more tips and tricks.
  • To add the malt flavor I use both barley malt syrup malted milk powder (Ovaltine is easiest for me to find, but you can use Milo/Horlicks/Carnation/whatever is available in your local supermarket — just make sure it’s classic malted milk powder and not chocolate malt).
  • To have these rolls ready to bake in the morning, I recommend mixing the dough 24 hours before you plan to bake (build the levain the night before). Shape the dough right before going to sleep, proof at room temperature overnight, and bake first thing in the morning. It takes a little planning ahead, but the actual hands-on time is fairly minimal.
  • I highly recommend baking the rolls in an 8×8 or 9×9 square cake pan (square cake pan). They seem to bake most evenly in this kind of pan — ceramic dishes take too long to heat up and the tops dry out before the bottom is cooked.

Malted Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 9 rolls

Ingredients

For the levain

  • 18g starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour
  • Mix and ferment at room temperature until ripe (mine is usually ready in 6-8 hours, but it depends on the ambient temperature and strength of your starter). When ready it should be more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed. You should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

For the final dough:

  • 284g bread/AP flour (I use half and half)
  • 35g barley malt syrup
  • 21g malted milk powder
  • 53g egg (about 1 large)
  • 100g milk
  • 80g cream
  • All of the levain
  • 6g salt
  • 52g unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

For the filling:

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 15g malted milk powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • One egg, whisked with a bit of water or milk

For the malted cream cheese frosting:

  • 90g cream cheese, softened
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 20g malted milk powder
  • 75g icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45-60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough (with the dough hook attachment if using a stand mixer) until gluten is moderately developed (I use speed 3-4 on a KA mixer). The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Turn the mixer to low and add butter about a tablespoon at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer dough to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or at least 8 hours, and up to 24).
  4. When ready to shape, mix together the filling ingredients and prepare the egg wash. Lightly grease a 8×8 square baking pan. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle about 10″ x 14″, doing your best to maintain an even thickness.
  5. Brush the rectangle with an even coat of egg wash and sprinkle on the malted cinnamon-sugar mixture. Go all the way to the edges and gently press to adhere.
  6. Starting with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough up like a jelly roll, pinching to seal. Cut into 9 even pieces (~1.5 in. thick) using a sharp knife or dental floss (my preferred method). Transfer the rolls to the prepared pan, leaving space between each.
  7. Gently brush the rolls with a coat of egg wash (this keeps it from drying out) and cover with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature until the dough is very puffy and roughly doubled. This usually takes me ~8 hours, or overnight.
  8. About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes, rotating about halfway between. When finished, the rolls should be golden brown and register 195-200F in the center.
  9. While the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting. Beat the cream cheese, butter, and salt together on medium until smooth. Add the malted milk powder and about half the icing sugar and beat to combine. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for 1-2 minutes until fluffy.
  10. Allow the rolls to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before spreading with frosting. Serve warm.

Einkorn Rye Sourdough and Copper Chef Giveaway!

einkorn rye sourdough bloom
This post is sponsored by Copper Chef. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

Happy September! It seems like summer disappeared in the blink of an eye, but honestly I’m always happy to see fall arrive — the changing colors and warm spices signal my favorite time of the year. Plus, the cooler temperatures make me even more excited than normal to bake fresh loaves of sourdough bread. There’s something so comforting about the warmth of the oven and the aroma of fresh bread on a crisp fall day!

einkorn rye sourdough flatlay

This einkorn and rye sourdough loaf is a new favorite around these parts. If you’ve never tried einkorn flour, you’re in for a treat. It has a wonderful nutty/grassy aroma and gives dough a silky smooth feel. Einkorn is relatively low in gluten, which can make it challenging to incorporate in large percentages. Here I’ve kept it to 20% — enough to impart its unique flavor without making the dough too unruly.

einkorn rye sourdough crumb shot

Baking this loaf was easier than ever using my new Copper Chef Wonder Cooker. Many home bakers like to bake their hearth style loaves in preheated dutch ovens, which trap steam and retain heat similar to professional steam-injected ovens. Because I tend to shape my loaves as batards (ovals), I usually have to use a more complicated setup create steam in my home oven. The Wonder Cooker, though, can function as a dutch oven; and its oblong shape and 9-quart capacity easily fits my standard 1.5 – 2 pound batards — hooray!

Another of the Wonder Cooker’s winning features is the ability to configure it so that the shallow pan is on the bottom — I simply have to slide the prepared loaf onto the preheated pan rather than worry about dropping it into a deep (and blazing hot) pot. I definitely see myself baking a lot more loaves in the Wonder Cooker — it’s so easy, and the results are top notch.

einkorn rye sourdough on wonder cooker

I’m happy to announce that Copper Chef is graciously offering a free Wonder Cooker to one of my readers! I’ve enjoyed this versatile cookware not only for baking bread but also frying donuts; and I’m looking forward to testing out more of its 14 cooking functions in the very near future. Follow this link to enter the Wonder Cooker giveaway! Giveaway runs through September 18, 2018, and is open to residents of the lower 48 states.

Notes:

Einkorn Rye Sourdough

Makes one large loaf

Ingredients:

  • 150g AP flour (37.5%)
  • 130g bread flour (32.5%)
  • 80g whole einkorn flour (30%)
  • 40g whole rye flour (10%)
  • 70g 100% hydration ripe sourdough starter (17.5%)
  • 320g water, divided (80%)
  • 9g sea salt (2.25%)

Method:

  1. Mix together the flours and water (reserve 50g for mixing later) and autolyse (rest) for 2-4 hours, covered with a tea towel.
  2. Add the mature starter and about half the reserved water and mix until the starter is incorporated. Rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and pinch in. If the dough feels like it can handle it, add in the remaining reserved water and mix to combine. If you did a long autolyse, the dough should be decently strong at this point and you shouldn’t need to mix too much (maybe 1-2 minutes). If it feels weak, do a couple minutes of stretch and fold or slap and fold so the dough is moderately developed. It will continue to strengthen through bulk so it doesn’t need to be smooth at this point. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly oiled container and cover with a clean tea towel.
  4. Bulk ferment in a warm place, folding every half hour for the first 1-2 hours and hourly after that. Bulk fermentation is done when the dough has increased by 30-50%, you can see fermentation bubbles along the bottom and sides of the container, and the edges are domed where the dough meets the container. For me, with the dough kept around 74-76F, this took about 4.75 hours.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and gently preshape into a round. Let rest uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
    Prepare your basket (or other proofing vessel) by lining with a lint-free linen/cotton tea towel or lightly dusting with rice flour. Lightly flour your work surface and the rested round. Flip your preshaped round and shape as desired (boule or batard). Transfer to the prepared proofing container and cover with plastic. Proof at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 12-14 hours (or overnight).
  6. An hour before baking, preheat your oven to 500F (550 if it goes that high). You can bake this loaf in a Wonder Cooker (which you should preheat with the oven, covered with the shallow side down), or use your preferred method of steaming. While the oven is preheating, I also like to uncover my loaf (i.e. remove the plastic, but keep it refrigerated). This dries out the surface a little which I find makes scoring easier.
  7. When the oven is ready, invert your loaf onto a piece of parchment on a pizza peel. Score as desired, then transfer to the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 500F. If using a Wonder Cooker, carefully remove the preheated pan, remove the cover, and gently slide the scored loaf (still on the parchment) onto the shallow side of the pan. Place a few ice cubes around the edge of the pan (not touching the loaf — optional, but I think it provides an extra burst of steam) and immediately cover the loaf with the deep side of the pan and return to the oven.
  8. Bake with steam (or covered) at 500F for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 450F, remove the cover and bake for another 20 minutes at 450F or until your desired doneness, rotating a couple times for even baking. When finished, the crust should be nicely browned and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before cutting.

einkorn rye sourdough half crumb shot

Financiers

marcus eating financiers

I let out an audible “Oh, yay!” when I first received Mardi Michel’s delightful cookbook In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy. As I’ve mentioned a couple times on this blog, my older child is, as he reminds me often now, “Almost 3” and eager to help in the kitchen whenever possible. I’ve been looking for more recipes to try out with him, so this cookbook was truly a welcome delivery.

marcus reading in the french kitchen with kids

One of the things I appreciated most about In the French Kitchen with Kids is that it assumes kids are capable. There are recipes for quick croissants, creme caramel, eclairs, and steak frites — dishes one might not normally think of as “kid-friendly” but written up in a way that makes them very achievable for young people (with assistance). The book is thoughtfully well-written; the recipes are easy to follow and are peppered with historical tidbits and anecdotes to enhance the learning experience.

The first recipe we decided to make was financiers, or little almond cakes, because my son is currently very into muffin shapes and we had a few extra egg whites to use up. Buttery and nutty, financiers are the perfect little teatime treat and it’s all too easy to keep popping them into your mouth — they’re addictively delicious.

financiers

A couple of notes:

  • Michels’ recipe calls for melted butter, but I went the extra step to brown the butter. I love the extra nuttiness it lends and it’s worth the extra couple of minutes to me. Incorporate the browned butter while it’s still a little warm; this makes it easier to fold into the other ingredients.
  • I refrigerated the batter for a few hours after mixing because of time constraints (and I wanted to bake them off fresh for some guests). This isn’t necessary, but the batter does hold nicely in the fridge for a few days — it just might take a little longer to bake. My financiers took about 15 minutes to bake.
  • The recipe yield is 24 mini muffins, but naturally it depends on the size of your tin. I used this Wilton mini muffin pan and got 15 cakes, using OXO cookie scoop to portion the batter.

marcus mixing bowl
marcus pouring

Financiers

From Mardi Michels’ In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy. Reprinted by permission.
Makes 15-24 mini muffin financiers (see notes, above)

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) almond meal
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional; my addition)
  • Icing sugar, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). If you are using a nonstick mini muffin pan you may not need to butter them, but otherwise generously butter the cups of the pan.
  2. Melt the butter either in a small pot on the stovetop over medium heat or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute. Set aside to cool. (Note: I browned the butter and let it cool until slightly warm.)
  3. Beat the egg whites until frothy with handheld electric beaters on high speed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, almond meal, flour and salt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold them in gently with a rubber spatula until just combined.
  6. Add the cooled, melted butter to the batter and use a rubber spatula to gently mix until the butter is completely incorporated. (Note: at this point, I refrigerated the batter for a couple of hours.)
  7. Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin pan. You can do this with a 1 1/2-tablespoon cookie scoop or a small spoon. Fill each cup almost to the top.
  8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the center is slightly puffed and the edges are golden and slightly crispy and coming away from the pan. There may be cracks in the tops. That’s totally okay!
  9. Remove the financiers from the muffin pan immediately and allow to
    cool on wire racks.
  10. Once they have cooled completely, sprinkle them with icing sugar to serve. These are best eaten the day they are made, although they can keep for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Option: Raspberry financiers

  • Just before you bake the financiers, cut 12 raspberries in half and place one half, cut side down, on top of each financier. Press down gently.

marcus reaching for financiers

Buckwheat Plum Berry Crumble

This post is sponsored by Weight Watchers Canada. Find out more about the WW Freestyle program, which encourages the freedom to eat the foods you love while nudging you towards healthier choices using the SmartPoints system. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

I love a good rustic fruit dessert. Galettes, crisps, crumbles, pies — yes, please and thank you, to all of them. Homey and unfussy, they’re the kind of thing you want on a summer evening after a casual cookout with good people — a la mode, of course.

If you’ve been around these parts long, you probably know I like incorporating whole grains into baked goods when I can — not just for added health benefits but also for flavor! The nutty, toasty tones of whole grains pair especially well with fruit and give simple crumbles such as this one extra depth. In this plum berry crumble I’ve used buckwheat and oats; but you could easily substitute spelt, kamut, rye, or whole wheat if that’s what you have on hand. If whole grains aren’t your thing you can use all AP, but I encourage you to try some new flours if you have the opportunity! It really opens up a whole new world of flavors.

This crumble is very adaptable — substitute whatever fresh summer fruit you have on hand. You can also make the topping ahead of time and store it in the fridge or freezer — a great thing to have on hand for impromptu BBQs. And this is quite wonderful cold from the fridge with a bit of yogurt, should you want this to double as breakfast. (I always do.)

crumble a la mode

Buckwheat Plum Berry Crumble

Serves 9

Ingredients

For the buckwheat crumble:

  • 40g buckwheat flour
  • 80g AP flour
  • 30g rolled oats
  • 40g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 25g turbinado sugar
  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 100g cubed, unsalted butter, room temperature

For the plum berry filling:

  • 3 c plums, chopped
  • 3 c mixed berries, chopped if large
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2-3 Tbsp arrowroot starch (Use 3 if your fruit is particularly juicy or if you have a large proportion of strawberries)
  • 50g granulated sugar (or to taste)
  • A few turns of black pepper
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F and lightly grease an 8×8 pan or 9-inch pie plate.
  2. First, make the crumble. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add the cubed butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the dry ingredients until crumbs form. The crumbs shouldn’t be uniform in size — a variety of large and small pieces are good to have. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling (topping can be refrigerated for several days, or frozen for longer storage).
  3. Combine the fruit in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and stir gently to combine. Whisk together the remaining ingredients, pour over the fruit, and stir gently to combine. Scrape filling into prepared pan.
  4. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit, squeezing some of it together to form larger pieces so you have a nice variety of crumb sizes.
  5. Bake until the filling is bubbling, 35-45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Almond Creme (Almond Jello)

This post is sponsored by Weight Watchers Canada. Find out more about the WW Freestyle program, which encourages the freedom to eat the foods you love while nudging you towards healthier choices using the SmartPoints system. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

While visiting my family over the holidays, I spent some time going through my mom’s recipe box, looking for gems from my childhood. Almond Creme popped up, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to ask my mom for this recipe sooner! It’s no bake and quite light, perfect for warm summer days when no one feels like turning on the oven.

My family calls this dessert “Almond Jello”, but the texture reminds me more of panna cotta or silken tofu — smooth and creamy, and not at all rubbery. It’s a little too soft to unmold, so if you want to be fancy I’d suggest chilling it in individual glasses or ramekins. (Personally I’m lazy and just chill it in one dish and scoop it into bowls.) We ate this with fruit cocktail or canned mandarin oranges when I was a kid, but these days I prefer it with fresh fruit — sliced strawberries or mangoes would be my top choices.

Almond Creme

Serves 4-6

  • 1 1/2 c water, divided into two 3/4 c portions
  • 1 pkg powdered gelatin (7 g)
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 c evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Sliced fresh fruit (strawberries or mangoes are my favorite), to serve

Method:

  • Prepare an 8×8 square pan (or similar sized pan, or six small ramekins).
  • Measure 3/4 c cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over cold water. Let stand while you prepare the other ingredients.
  • Combine evaporated milk, remaining 3/4 cup water, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring just to the boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve the gelatin completely. Add vanilla and almond extract and stir to combine.
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan(s). If any bubbles form on the surface, use a silicone spatula to push them to the edge of the dish and they should pop. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
  • Served with sliced fruit.

Spelt Buttermilk Biscuits

This post is sponsored by Weight Watchers Canada. Find out more about the WW Freestyle program, which encourages the freedom to eat the foods you love while nudging you towards healthier choices using the SmartPoints system. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

Biscuits aren’t something I ate much growing up. Not that I was deprived or anything — it’s just that we were more a Denny’s Grand Slam or banana pancakes kind of family when it came to special breakfasts. So it’s only been the last few years when I’ve started to appreciate the humble biscuit — and not just for breakfast.

These spelt buttermilk biscuits are both versatile and and quick to whip up. While there’s a time and a place for big, buttery biscuits, these lean towards light and fluffy thanks to a modest amount of butter and a good dose of buttermilk; a bit of spelt flour adds a wholesome nuttiness. Use them for breakfast sandwiches or berry shortcakes, or simply split and slather with butter and jam. These biscuits also take less than 45 minutes to make and bake, which is perfect for busy weekdays or unexpected guests.

spelt buttermilk biscuits split

Spelt Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes 6

Ingredients

  • 120g / 1 c AP flour
  • 95g / 3/4 c spelt flour
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 57g / 1/4 c cold, unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3/4 to 1 c cold buttermilk

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 425F. Have ready an 8-inch cast iron skillet or line a cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and baking powder.
  3. Add the cold, cubed butter and use your fingers to flatten the butter. You want dime to nickel-sized pieces.
  4. Drizzle in 3/4 c of buttermilk and use a fork or spatula to combine until no dry bits of flour remain. You should have a shaggy, soft, and slightly tacky dough. If the dough won’t come together, drizzle in the remaining 1/4 c of buttermilk a teaspoon at a time until you have a cohesive mass.
  5. Lightly dust your counter with flour and turn the dough out. Using lightly floured hands, gently pat the dough into a square about 1” thick. Using a bench scraper, fold the dough in half. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat the patting and folding 2 to 3 more times. Work gently and quickly; the idea is to build in some layers while still keeping the butter cold.
  6. After you’ve patted out the dough 1” thick for the final time, trim the edges of the dough so you have a neat rectangle with clean edges. This helps the biscuits rise evenly in the oven. If the dough feels sticky or warm at all, stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Then, using a bench scraper, cut the dough into 6 even pieces. Use firm, downward strokes to preserve the layers.
  7. Arrange the biscuits closely together in the skillet or prepared pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Let them cool a few minutes in the pan before devouring. Biscuits are best served warm, but any not eaten right away can be stored in an airtight container overnight and toasted the next day.

Soft sourdough sandwich bread

sourdough sandwich bread

There are many variations of this soft sourdough bread already on this site, but not one for good old white sourdough sandwich bread. This recipe makes a wonderfully soft loaf that my kids gladly eat plain, but it makes a mean sandwich and french toast as well. Using sourdough adds depth of flavor and keeps it fresh for multiple days! You can see me mix a similar style of dough in my Instagram story highlights (“Swirl Bread”), and there are lots of tips in previous posts on how to successfully make this style of bread. In summary, a thorough kneading, proper shaping, and full proofing are key to getting the right “shreddable” texture. It takes a little practice but I think it’s well worth the effort!

sourdough sandwich bread loaf

sourdough sandwich bread slice shred[contact-form][contact-field label=

Soft Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Makes one 9x4x4 or 9×5 loaf (I absolutely love using my Pullman Pan for this!)
Adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Ingredients

For the levain:

  • 18g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 30g milk
  • 56g bread flour

Mix together and let ripen at room temperature until mature.

Final dough:

  • 276g flour (I use half AP/half bread)
  • 34g sugar
  • 34g butter, softened
  • 1 large egg (~50g)
  • 6g salt
  • 134g milk
  • 20g milk powder
  • All of the levain

Method

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 3 or 4 equal parts and lightly shape each into a ball. Rest for one hour, covered by lightly oiled plastic.
  5. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into an oval and roll up (like a jelly roll). Rest for 10 minutes. Roll each piece into an oval again, along the seam, and re-roll as tightly as possible. Transfer rolls to a loaf pan, seam sides down. Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise about 6 hours at room temperature. The dough should be well risen, puffy, and fill the pan about 80% (if using a Pullman Pan).
  6. About 1 hour before baking, preheat oven to 400F. After the dough has finished proofing, transfer to oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is at least 195F. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent a piece of foil over the top to keep from burning. When the loaf is finished, immediately turn it onto a rack. Brush melted butter over the top and sides while the loaf is still warm, if desired. Allow to cool before slicing.

sourdough sandwich bread slice

Fresh Fruit Tart

fresh fruit tart

After a decidedly wintry April here in Toronto (complete with snow and ice storms), May has brought some downright summery days. Seriously, I went from wearing a winter jacket to t-shirt + sandals in the span of a few days!

While chocolate is always in season for me, the warmer temps do put me in the mood for light, fruity desserts — preferably those that don’t require much oven time. Fruit tarts are one of my go-to desserts because they’re easy to make ahead. Both the crust and filling can be prepared a few days in advance. When you’re ready to serve all that’s left to do is fill the tart and pile on some fresh fruit, and you’re golden!

This classic fruit tart recipe is from Giselle Courteau’s Duchess Bake Shop: French-Inspired Recipes from Our Bakery to Your Home. This lovely cookbook is full of gorgeous recipes ranging from rustic pies to fancy gateaus to elegant pate a choux, all designed with the home baker in mind. It’s beautifully photographed and includes photo tutorials for items such as croissants and danishes — always a nice feature for those like me who learn visually. I love the mix of quick recipes and weekend projects, and look forward to test-driving more of these recipes in the months to come.

“Pastry and desserts are for celebrating, spending time with family and friends, and treating ourselves. Have fun with it and don’t take it all too seriously. If you don’t succeed on your first try, don’t give up: every time you make a recipe, you’ll learn something new to improve it next time. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes and be sure to take pride in your end result, whether it looks like the picture or not.”

-Giselle Courteau, Duchess Bake Shop (p. 14)

fresh fruit tart closeup

Fresh Fruit Tart

Makes one 8 or 9 inch tart

Ingredients

For the pastry cream:

  • 365g (1 1/2 c) whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced open lengthwise
  • 80g (1/3 c + 1 Tbsp) egg yolks
  • 15g (2 Tbsp) cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 40g (3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed

For assembly:

  • Fresh fruit of your choice (berries recommended)
  • 1/4 c apricot jam (I used apple)
  • 1 tsp water
  • Fresh lemon zest, for garnish (optional)

Method:

For the pastry cream:

  1. Heat the milk and vanilla bean in a saucepan until scalding.
  2. While the milk is heating, place the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until the yolks have lightened in color. This will take a few minutes of vigorous whisking. Whisk in the cornstarch and salt.
  3. Remove the vanilla bean from the heated milk and using the back of a knife, scrape the seeds back into the milk.
  4. Slowly drizzle the hot milk into the yolk mixture while continuing to whisk. If you add the hot milk too quickly the eggs will curdle and your pastry cream will come out lumpy.
  5. Once all the milk has been added, transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil and continue cooking for 5 minutes more, whisking the entire time.
  6. Remove from heat. Immediately strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Add the butter and whisk until smooth, or, if you want your pastry cream even smoother, use an immersion blender.
  7. Cover the pastry cream and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until set.

To assemble the tart:

  1. Use a spatula to slightly break up the cold pastry cream. Fill the tart shell with pastry cream to just slightly below the rim, spreading it out smoothly with a knife or a small offset spatula.
  2. Arrange the fresh berries or other fruit in a pattern on top.
  3. In a microwave or over the stove, gently melt the apricot jam with the water — without letting it come to a boil — and brush it generously over the top of the fruit. Garnish with fresh lemon zest. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until ready to serve.

From Duchess Bake Shop: French-Inspired Recipes from Our Baker to Your Home. Reprinted by permission.

Mini Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Ganache

mini chocolate cake
This is my favorite chocolate cake to make for small celebrations. It’s really simple to whip up, but it stands nice and tall for an impressive treat. The cake itself is sturdy (especially important for these minis), but still has a fine, moist crumb. We are big chocolate raspberry fans around here so I almost always fill it with raspberry jam, but use whatever floats your boat (peanut butter, nutella, another jam…). I often use up bits and bobs of frosting I have leftover from other baking projects, but if you don’t have anything on hand I highly recommend this ganache. It’s also super easy to make (just requires some time to set up to a frosting consistency), and it’s rich so a little goes a long way.

I typically bake this cake in my 4-inch cake pans. If I’m super lazy, I’ll just split the batter between the two pans (they’ll be about 3/4 full but I haven’t had any problems with overflowing), but usually I’ll bake some off in a little ramekin for a baker’s treat.

slice of chocolate cake

Mini Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Ganache

Makes one 6-layer 4-inch cake

Ingredients:

For the mini chocolate cake (adapted from Linda Lomelino):

  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 120g AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 34g dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 157g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 80g (1/3 c) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c hot coffee or espresso

For the strawberry ganache (adapted from The Cake Bible):

  • 204g bittersweet chocolate (~53% works best here — I used half milk and half 70%)
  • 51g white chocolate
  • 139g heavy cream
  • 81g strawberry puree

For assembly:

  • Simple syrup
  • ~1/2 c raspberry preserves or jam
  • Fresh berries, for garnish

Method:

For the mini chocolate cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 4-inch pans (plus an extra ramekin, if desired) with parchment paper, then grease the pans and dust them 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 milk and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium 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. Divide the batter among the pans (I usually put ~275g into each of the cake tins and the rest into the ramekin) and bake for 30-35 minutes (20-25 minutes for the ramekin), 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 pans are cool enough to handle, run a thin knife around the edges and turn the cakes out to finish cooling completely. For easiest assembly, I prefer to chill the cakes in the fridge before filling and frosting.

For the strawberry ganache:

  1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and process in a food processor until very fine.
  2. Heat the cream and strawberry puree in a small saucepan until just before the boiling point.
  3. With the food processor running, pour the cream mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth.
  4. Transfer to a bowl or glass measuring cup and allow to cool at room temperature until ganache reaches a spreadable consistency (this takes me 2-3 hours).

To assemble:

  1. Level the cakes and cut each into 3 thinner layers for a total of 6 layers.
  2. Place the first layer of cake on a cake board or serving plate (use a dab of ganache to “glue” it in place) and brush with simple syrup.
  3. Pipe a ring of ganache around the edge and fill the center with raspberry jam. Continue this process until you’ve used up all the layers.
  4. Spread a thin layer of ganache over the entire cake to lock in the crumbs, followed by a thicker coat. (My kitchen was on the cold side, so my ganache set pretty quickly and I didn’t need to refrigerate the cake between coats.)
  5. Garnish with fresh berries and serve at room temperature.

mini chocolate cake - dark