An Evening of Sourdough at Fire Island Bakeshop

sourdough from Fire Island Bakeshop

A good homemade sourdough has eluded me to this point.  My bread was dense, decent flavor, flabby crust.  My starter was sluggish.  I could give up and head to nearby Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop and grab a loaf there.  But wait!  Even better, they are offering a course on DIY sourdough.

Sourdough Fire Island Bakeshop

Fire Island is offering a series of Monday evening classes ranging from vegan baking to home smoking.  See the class schedule for their offerings.  There was a group of ten of us, and we were put to work immediately.  Friendly and knowledgeable baker, Carlyle, had us start with shaping dough.  Three doughs were already prepared for us.  A whole wheat, a 50/50 wheat/white blend and an all white.  We started shaping the loaves to give them time to proof before baking.  Starting with the wheat as it was easiest to handle with our newbie boule shaping skills.  By the time I reached the full white (which was a sticky and stretchy beast) I was getting a rhythm down, the idea is to create surface tension over the top of the loaf to let it rise.  This is done with a gentle rolling motion while pulling the top edge of the loaf down but keeping it attached to the counter surface.

Fire Island Bakeshop

Fire Island Bake shopFire Island Bakeshop

Next was on to preparing our own dough to make at home.  We were provided with prepared starter, white or wheat.  A formula was provided and any wheat/white flour combo was ok.  We used the fold method, where every 30 minutes the dough is pulled and folded over until it no longer stretches.  A nice option, avoiding the 20 minutes or so of hand kneading I usually do, but this does require a bit more babysitting as you need to be near your dough for the next 3 hours or so.

Sourdough at Fire Island Bakeshop

Plenty of small breaks provided time to enjoy snacks and ask questions.  Why is my bread so dense?  How do I steam inject my oven?  Then on to the baking.  Our loaves were baked in their own fancy steam injected oven.  At home you can put a oven safe pan in your oven while oven preheats, once you put in the bread pour about a 1/2 cup hot water into already heated pan to give a nice bit of steam to provide that shiny, chewy crust we are all striving for.

I left with three loaves, one batch of dough to finish myself and a large bucket of starter.  Maybe some sourdough pancakes are in my future as well.

Fire Island Bakeshop

Eating in Seattle

I like it when others cook for me.  February is a perfect time to get out of Alaska and be somewhere that doesn’t require a hat and gloves to get to the car.  The forecast in Seattle was 50s and 90-100% chance of rain, downright balmy.  The kitchen remodel gets a rest and the husband and I get a weekend without drywall dust and 5-6 trips to Lowe’s.

I have treated Seattle mainly as a stopping point to somewhere else, I figure it’s so close that I can always go there but rarely do.  I am sure I have spent more time in Sea-Tac airport than actually staying in the Seattle area.  But when some good friends moved down there, who like to eat almost as much as me, I got a reason to visit more often.  My favorite place to visit (besides Anthropologie) is Pike Place Market.  Yes it’s insanely busy with tourists, but there is nothing else like it. I loved wandering between food stands, happy to be out of the rain, a bag of mini doughnuts to warm my cold hands and enjoying the aroma of cinnamon sugar while my hair dried out.

Pike Place Market (more…)

Slow Cooker Pork and White Bean Stew

11-DSC00188 I am still amazed at what low heat and time can do to improve most anything.  It is rare that something non-delicious comes from my slow cooker, I do not take credit for that.  It does even better if I am actually gone for the day, leaving it to do it’s business without my constant poking, stirring, tasting and tongue burning.  I am an impatient cook.  I like to watch my water boil, I like to stir.  Yes I love making risotto, it makes me feel needed.  My slow cooker doesn’t need me, it likes it space and sometimes that’s a good thing.

Someday I would like to make a cassoulet.  This is not a cassoulet as much I would like to say it is and as much as I like to say “cassoulet.”  It has beans and meat and cooks for a long time and has some similarities, but is a lot less work.  This recipe is adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz.  The beans become smooth and creamy and complement the salt from the ham, and does deserve an overnight in the fridge if you can handle it.

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Slow Cooker Salted Caramel Brownies

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I have moved out of the world of slow cooker stews and into the realm of desserts.  My lack of an oven is requiring this.  The kitchen is making progress daily, albeit slow.  The doorways has been moved.  The wiring is near completion.  The biggest setbacks of the week: our cabinets have turned out to be particleboard held together by glue (not gonna work) and lack of companies wanting to ship large chunks of butcher block counter tops to Alaska.  They will ship to the lower 48 states, and they will ship internationally, but if you are in the death zone of Alaska or Hawaii you are expected to down your own trees as it was likely your choice to live in such rural and inaccessible reaches.

18-DSC00283 (more…)

Refrigerator Blood Orange and Maple Syrup Marmalade

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Yes it is blood orange time, even in Alaska!  These citrus are similar to other oranges but can be more tart in flavor and can have a berry like flavor to them.  The bright and fragrant citrus helps bring me hope of summer during a cold and dark winter.  This one has been a challenge in particular.  I normally enjoy winter by cross country skiing and appreciating the quiet stillness of a snowy night.  Our snowfall this winter has been near nothing, leaving a layer of dirty ice covering all surfaces. (more…)

Italian Sausage with Kale and Orecchiette

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Just because my kitchen has gone from small and not very useable to the approximate size of a twin bed (extra long at least) does not mean I can’t cook a decent meal. Right? Because I thought no better time to start a food blog than while in the middle of a kitchen remodel. I am ripping down drywall saying a fond farewell to chipped baby blue laminate counter tops.

Just take a deep breath and think positive

Just take a deep breath and think positive

I have been dreading/anticipating this endeavor with the husband for the past couple years. The thing is I don’t like remodeling, I like the finished outcome but I don’t like dust and loud noises. From our spare bedroom/temporary kitchen/office/nursery (more on that later)/wine cellar/shoe closet I will now be cooking and preparing our meals.

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