Monday, 26 August 2013

A cracker it’s not, savory bread, it is…

I tried to make more sourdough rosemary lavish crackers yesterday, but the dough wouldn’t let me. It wanted to be bread. So I made Sourdough Rosemary Focaccia instead.



I was feeding my sourdough starters and decided to make crackers with the discarded sourdough. I had invited a friend over who likes sourdough bread so I thought I would introduce him to the Sourdough Rosemary Lavish Crackers topped with roasted tomatoes. I had just slow-roasted some more tomatoes from my garden so I needed to use them up.

I had a little more discarded starter than I had used in the original cracker recipe so I tweaked the recipe a bit to include more starter and flour, etc., but when I mixed all of the ingredients and felt the dough, it wasn’t cracker dough. No, this was different. It was so smooth and buttery (I mean olive oily) and workable. I just knew it wasn’t meant for crackers. This was bread dough. Flatbread dough to be sure.

The good thing about this dough is it is versatile. If you want to make focaccia, use the version below.  If you prefer to make crackers, use the cracker version.  


Savory Sourdough Rosemary Focaccia

Makes: 2 small or 1 large Focaccias

Adapted from: Sourdough Rosemary Lavish Crackers


  • 1 1/2 cups unfed or recently fed sourdough starter
  • 2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped, additional for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon water, more if needed
  • Kosher salt, for sprinkling on the top
  • Roasted tomatoes, or your choice of toppings



1) Preparing the sourdough starter for use in the focaccia:

Remove the starter from the refrigerator, measure the amount needed, and let it warm up to room temperature. If you don’t have enough starter for this recipe, use this method to activate and increase your starter.


2) Mixing the Dough:

Stir the sourdough starter and oil together in a large mixing bowl using a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk.

Add in the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and rosemary) and mix until thoroughly blended.


3) Bulk Fermentation:

Let the dough ferment for 2-3 hours at room temperature. Do a fold after the first hour. The dough should double in bulk.



4) Preparing the Focaccia:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. with a baking stone on the middle rack.

Spray a piece of parchment paper with olive oil.  Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball.  Place the ball on the parchment paper.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes.

To make small focaccias, cut the dough in half and cover one half while you’re preparing the other one.



5) Shaping and Topping the Focaccia:

Using lightly oiled fingers, spread the first ball of dough into an oval shape on the parchment paper.

Drizzle more olive oil over the top and press lightly with your fingertips to make indentions in the dough. 

Sprinkle kosher salt over the top and place the roasted tomatoes evenly around the edges and middle of the focaccia.  Press them gently into the dough. Drizzle with more olive oil, if desired and garnish with fresh rosemary.



6) Baking the Focaccia:

Slide the focaccia onto the preheated baking stone using a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet.  Bake until it is golden brown about 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper partway through baking to make sure the bottom get’s baked through and evenly browned.


7) Cooling and Serving

Remove the focaccia and let it cool slightly before serving.  You can slice it or break off pieces to serve.

The roasted tomatoes puffed up during baking. It was pretty cool.



Someone told me recently that bread just wants to be, well bread. I agree. There’s no doubt that this dough wanted to be bread. It looked like it, smelled like it, felt like it, and ultimately, it was, bread. So I let it be bread.

And, since this savory Sourdough Rosemary Focaccia is not a cracker, I’m submitting it to the Twelve Loaves challenge for August. 


Happy Baking!


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sourdough Rosemary Lavash Crackers

The Sourdough Surprises challenge for August is sourdough crackers. I’ve been experimenting with sourdough crackers for several months so this wasn’t a challenge so much as an opportunity to make some more crackers. 

Since I’ve made sourdough crackers before, I decided to do something different this time. I made a cracker that was big enough to hold slow roasted tomatoes. It can be eaten as an appetizer or a snack.



Ever since I made the Bruschetta with roasted tomatoes, I’ve had that flavor and crunchy texture in my head. The tomatoes were roasted with rosemary and thyme so I decided to continue that theme by adding rosemary to the cracker dough. 

I chose lavash because it’s a crispy flatbread that can be broken into pieces. I had made lavash crackers during the BBA Challenge, but I must admit the experience and the result was less than memorable. In fact, my oldest son tasted them and rated them a fail. That was not a good start to my cracker-baking adventure.  Not to worry…

Fast forward several years, take a different recipe, add sourdough and rosemary to the mix and what you have my friends is a crunchy and light Sourdough Rosemary Lavash. I give this one an A.


Sourdough Rosemary Lavash

My inspiration for these crispy rosemary crackers came from:

Makes: 4 sheets of crackers, rolled thinly

The key to making crisp Lavash is to roll it paper thin. I’m starting to get the hang of it.




  • 1 cup sourdough starter (fed or unfed)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons water, more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, more for rolling



1) Mix the sourdough and oil, then add in the flour, sugar, salt, rosemary and water.  Mix using a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk.



2) Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for at least seven hours. Or, let the dough rest on the counter for a couple of hours, then place it in the refrigerator overnight.

After making these crackers several times, I think I like them better baked just after the seven hour, room-temperature rest, but having the option of putting the dough in the refrigerator works if you’ve got a tight schedule or you want to bake them for dinner the next evening.



3) Divide the dough into four equal pieces using a knife or bench rest. You can divide it into more pieces if you prefer, but this seemed to be the right amount to roll on the parchment paper.



4) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  If you want to use a baking stone, preheat it at this time. I tried baking these crackers on a pizza stone, but they seemed to burn more easily so I switched to just using a baking sheet.

5) Roll each piece as thinly as possible on lightly greased parchment paper.  If you only want to make one or two batches of the crackers, just wrap the other balls back up and place them in the refrigerator.  They will last a couple of days.

6) Spray the top with water and add extra salt or sprinkle sesame or other seeds on top if you prefer, but I didn’t think it needed anything extra, especially since I was going to top it with the roasted tomatoes.



7) Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top.   The time will depend on how thinly you rolled the dough.

8) Remove the pan from the oven and let the crackers cool for about 10 minutes.  Snap off shards and serve.




I ate a lot of the crackers plain, but I also enjoyed some of them topped with roasted tomatoes and feta cheese. Yummy!



Happy Baking!


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Pane alla Cioccolata … a bread to be shared

I love to share bread stories with everyone who reads this blog, but I also tend to talk about bread with anyone that will listen. Most everyone around me, family, friends and acquaintances, know I’m a bread-baking fanatic.

The more I learn about bread baking, the more I find that it’s not about the baker, it’s about the bread. Making bread is a simple pleasure, a stress reliever, an art and a necessity, at times. But most importantly, it’s a way of bringing people together. Bread is a gift that’s meant to be shared.


Over the past couple of years, I’ve been doing a good bit of shipping through my local UPS store. I ship bread and other goodies to my sons who live in different cities, but I also ship items related to the Bread Experience.

When the owner of the UPS store found out about the Bread Experience, she asked me if I had any breads with dried fruit. Since I don’t bake and sell bread for a living, this often confuses people. Once I explained that I don’t actually sell bread, but I teach people how to make it, she asked if I had a good recipe. I gave her my card so she could visit the site, but I decided to do one better and actually make her some bread with dried fruit. 

That was several months ago, and I’ve been in the store numerous times since then. Recently, I shipped my youngest son some bread and she kindly reminded me that I had promised to make her some bread. Busted!  It was time to make good on my promise. I figured it should be a really good bread since I had made her wait.

I’ve had this chocolate bread with dried cherries bookmarked to make for a special occasion. I decided now was time to make it.


Pane alla Cioccolata



Makes: 2 Loaves

Adapted from: The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking by The French Culinary Institute



Liquid Levain:

  • 225 grams/ 8 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 280 grams/ 9 3/4 ounces water
  • 25 grams/ 3/4 ounces liquid levain culture

Final Dough:

  • 320 grams/ 11 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 32 grams/ 1 1/8 ounces Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 30 grams/ 1 T water *
  • 530 grams/ 1 pound 2 2/3 ounces Liquid Levain
  • 1 large egg 
  • 20 grams/ 3/4 ounce milk
  • 15 grams/ 1/2 ounce (~1 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 grams / 3/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 6 grams/ 1/4 ounce (1 1/4 tsp.) sea salt
  • 70 grams/ 2 1/2 ounces (5 T) organic sugar
  • 130 grams/ 4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 50 grams/ 1 3/4 ounces dried cherries

* I used a large egg so this added more liquid. I reduced the amount of water to compensate for the extra liquid in the egg. You may need more water so adjust accordingly during the mixing cycle.

Egg Wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water



Prepare the liquid levain:

Mix together the all-purpose flour, water and liquid levain culture with a wooden spoon or a Danish dough whisk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature (75 degrees F.) for 14 to 18 hours.



Making the Final Dough:

1) Prepare the mise en place. The egg and butter should be at room temperature.



2) In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the all-purpose flour and cocoa powder, water, liquid levain, eggs, milk, butter, yeast, and sea salt. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix until everything is well blended. Add more flour or water as necessary.

3) Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time and mix well after each addition.  Continue mixing until the gluten is completely developed.  This could take about 10 minutes.



4) When the gluten is sufficiently developed, add the chocolate chunks and dried cherries and mix on low speed until incorporated.



5) Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl or container.  Cover with plastic or a kitchen towel and let it ferment for 1 hour.

6) After an hour, uncover the dough and fold it one.  Cover it again with the plastic wrap and let it ferment for an additional hour.

7) Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour.  Uncover the dough and divide it into 2 pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball and cover with plastic.  Allow the dough balls to rest for 10 minutes



8) Butter two 9-inch loaf pans. Uncover the dough balls. Lightly flour the work surface again if necessary. Press the dough gently to degas and shape the balls into loaves. Shape it into a log shape or a batard.  I did one of each.



9) Place each loaf in a prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let them proof for 2 hours.



10) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the egg wash by combining the large egg and tablespoon of water.  Whisk to combine.  Brush the egg wash onto the top of the loaves using a pastry brush.



11) Bake the loaves for 35 minutes at 350 degrees F., or until the crust is deep brown and the sides are firm to the touch.

12) Remove the loaves from the oven and turn out onto wire racks to cool.


I gave one of these loaves away and enjoyed the other one myself.  It tastes great toasted with butter. It also freezes well.

Happy Baking!


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Roasted Tomatoes & Feta Bruschetta

I slow-roasted some of my heirloom black cherry tomatoes the other day, and I’ve been finding all sorts of delicious ways to enjoy them. So far, my favorite way to eat them has been as Bruschetta.



According to Wikipedia, “Bruschetta is an antipasto which originated in Italy in the 15 Century or earlier. Bruschetta consists of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. It is usually served as a snack or appetizer.”  There are numerous variations for the toppings, tomatoes being one of the most common.

Italians may serve Bruschetta as a snack or appetizer, but I enjoyed it as a meal. I spread a couple of slices of bread with olive oil and then topped them with some roasted tomatoes, Italian herbs and feta cheese. I toasted the bread on a preheated baking stone until it was crispy and oh my!  I’ve enjoyed this for dinner several nights in a row.

The first time I made Roasted Tomatoes and Feta Bruschetta, I used a few slices from a crusty artisan boule and the next time, I used some of my favorite sourdough bread (which had been frozen for several months). Both versions tasted great. I served the frozen bread when a friend came over for dinner the other night. I thawed the loaf and prepared it in the same manner as before, and it tasted just as good as the first version. It was a great way to use old bread.


Making Bruschetta




Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. with a baking stone on the middle rack. Let it preheat for 30 minutes while you prepare the crostini.

Start with a loaf of crusty bread.  I used a round boule which I adapted from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes Master Loaf formula.

Slice the loaf and brush the slices with olive oil. You can also spread garlic on the slices if you want. The slow-roasted tomatoes had garlic in them so I didn’t add any extra.



Add the toppings of your choice. I started with these roasted tomatoes. Then I added some Italian herbs and feta cheese.



Toast it in the oven on a preheated baking stone at 400 degree F. for a few minutes until it is crispy on the bottom. Remove the slices and let them cool slightly before serving. Just cool them long enough so you don’t burn your tongue. They should be enjoyed warm.



By the way, my friend took one bite of the Bruschetta and his face lit up. He said, “Ohhh!” I just smiled because that was exactly my experience when I tried it.

He enjoyed it so much, he’s going to roast some of his heirloom tomatoes. He has an abundance and has been trying to keep up with them. This is a great way to use the tomatoes. I’ll even supply the bread.


Happy Baking!


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Smooth & Delicious Rosemary Peach Butter

It’s peach season! I just love this time of year because I get to go to my favorite farm and pick out peaches for peach butter.


The funny thing is… I didn’t like peaches when I was younger. I know, that’s kind of odd for someone that grew up in Georgia, a state known for it’s peaches. I enjoyed the flavor of peaches, but not the fuzz. I’m a texture-oriented eater and peach fuzz just doesn’t feel right on my teeth. I missed out on enjoying Georgia peaches for a long time, but once I got into canning, I made up for lost time.

I particularly enjoy making peach butter. Over the past few years, I’ve made several different types of peach butter. I love the tried and true peach butters, but I wanted to try something different this season.

The problem is, I get stuck in my box sometimes. When I need to come up with a creative idea and have a mental block, I turn to Pinterest for ideas. It’s amazing what you can find there.

I knew I wanted to add something different to the peach butter, but I couldn’t think of what that should be. I happened upon a couple of photos of Rosemary Peach Butter and decided rosemary was the missing ingredient. 

Why didn’t I think of that?  I love rosemary. I have a rosemary bush that beckons to me everyday as I walk by.  And, I’ve been using rosemary quite a bit lately in baking and cooking.

I decided to come out of my box and make this Rosemary Peach Butter. Now, it’s your turn to come out of the box.


Rosemary Peach Butter



Makes: 5 –6  Eight ounce jars

Idea inspired by: Food Babbles Rosemary Peach Butter 

Canning method adapted from: Put ‘em Up! by Sherry Brooks Vinton


  • 4 pounds ripe peaches
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 small sprigs Rosemary



Step 1: Place the water and the lemon juice in a large nonreactive pot. Then prepare an ice-water bath by placing ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl.

Step 2: Fill another large pot with water and bring it to boil. Carefully drop 2 peaches at time into the boiling water and blanch them for 30 seconds to loosen the skins.

Step 3: Using a slotted spoon, remove the peaches from the water and place them in the ice-water bath.  Repeat the process with the remaining peaches. Let them drain in a colander.

Step 4: Peel the peaches.  This should be really easy now that they been blanched. Cut them in half and remove the pit.  Take the peach and smash it with your hand, then add it to the large pot with the lemon juice mixture.  Repeat this process with the rest of the peaches.


Step 5: Bring the peach mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the peaches are soft, about 10 minutes or so. 

Step 6: Cool the mixture slightly, then puree with a stick blender. Place the pureed mixture back in the pot and add the sugar.

Step 7:  Wrap the rosemary sprigs in cheesecloth and fasten with string. Place the rosemary pouch in the pot with the peach puree and simmer this mixture over medium-low heat until it thickens.  This could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or so. I placed a dollop on a plate that had been placed in the freezer to check if the gel was set. If the butter doesn’t spread around it’s perimeter, then it is ready.


Step 8: Remove the butter from the heat. Retrieve the rosemary pouch and discard. Ladle the butter into clean, sterilized, hot half-pint jars.  Leave 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles if necessary with a bubble remover and headspace tool. Wipe the edges clean. Center lid on jar.  Then screw the band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight. 

Step 9:  Place the jars in the canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes in altitudes up to 1,000 feet.  If you live in a higher altitude or need more detailed instructions on water-bath canning, please refer to the instructions at the National Center for Home Preservation.

Step 10: Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars, and let them sit on the counter for 24 hours to cool and ensure they are sealed correctly. You should hear the lids pop if they are sealed properly.

Place the sealed jars in a cool, dry place for storage for up to a year.  If any of the jars do not seal properly, place them in the refrigerator. They will last for a couple of months in the refrigerator.



The flavor of this Rosemary Peach Butter is wonderful!  It has just a hint of rosemary so it’s not overpowering. I could eat it by the spoonful.


Happy Canning!


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes


I’ve been participating in a community garden this year. It’s been neat watching all of the vegetables, flowers and herbs grow and I’ve learned a lot from the other gardeners.

I started my community plot a couple of weeks after I got back from visiting the UK.  This is a photo of the plot at the beginning of the season. I put a big blue butterfly in my garden, but some of the other gardeners got really creative and put scarecrows, hand painted signs and other special touches in their gardens. I’ll have to think of something special for next season.



I planted three tomatoes plants. The one on the far left produces big tomatoes like beefsteaks, the one in the center is a pink stripey and the one on the far right is a black cherry tomato plant. I also planted a cucumber plant, several types of peppers, two types of basil, pole beans and some other herbs and flowers. This is a photo of the plants mid-season.



About the time the tomatoes were starting to ripen, the oddest thing began happening. Some animal (human or otherwise) started snatching my big tomatoes before they had the chance to ripen. It’s happened every time a tomato started to get a little bit pink. I’ll see the tomato one day and the next day, it’s gone. I still haven’t figured out what’s going on.

I was really looking forward to some roasted tomatoes, but since the tomato caper has been snatching all of my big tomatoes before they become red and juicy, I couldn’t use them in this recipe. However, for some reason, he/she/it doesn’t like my beautiful black cherry tomatoes so I’ve had an abundance.

It just so happens, that slow-roasted cherry tomatoes make a delicious treat as well so all was not lost. 


Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

You can use beefsteak tomatoes, heirloom, or cherry tomatoes for this recipe.  The slow-cooking method really brings out the flavor of  tomatoes.  It makes them more concentrated and delicious!


Adapted from The Sous Chef Series: Anup Joshi’s Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Makes: About 1 Quart


  • Black Cherry Tomatoes, 5 pounds (halved)
  • Garlic, one head (cloves peeled and lightly smashed)
  • Fresh thyme, 5 – 7 sprigs
  • Fresh rosemary, 3 -4 sprigs
  • Red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 – 3/4 cups (more or less depending on your preference and the size of your jar)
  • Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon
  • Freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon



Step 1: Preheat the oven to 275°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  You may need more than one baking sheet if you’re roasting cherry tomatoes. Be sure to use the parchment paper because it catches the juices and helps with cleanup.

Step 2: Toss together the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, rosemary, vinegar, salt, freshly ground pepper and 1/4 cup of the extra virgin olive oil in a large mixing bowl, using your hands. Yes, use your hands for this part.



Step 3: Next you’ll place the tomatoes skin side up on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the garlic and herbs around the tomatoes. Discard any extra marinade that’s left in the bowl.



Step 4: Roast the tomatoes for 1 hour. After an hour, rotate the pan and reduce the oven temperature to 175°. Continue to roast the tomatoes until the skins crack and the tomatoes feel soft to the touch, about 3 hours longer (less if you’re roasting cherry tomatoes). Turn off the oven and let the tomatoes rest in the oven for 2 hours (or overnight, if you have a gas oven with a pilot light).

Step 5: Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Peel the skins off the tomatoes and discard the garlic and herbs. This part took awhile because there were so many tomatoes, but it was worth it.



Step 6: Place the tomatoes in quart-size (or smaller) glass canning jars. Top with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil. You may need more or less oil depending on the size of your jar(s). I used 2 pint-sized jars and one 8 oz. jar. Be sure to leave a ¼-inch space at the top of the jar. The tomatoes should be completely submerged in oil. Place the lids and rings on the jar(s) and tighten. Refrigerate the tomatoes for up to 2 weeks.



I’ve really been enjoying these roasted black cherry tomatoes.  The roasting definitely brings out the flavor.  They taste great over pasta or spread on crusty bread.


Happy Canning!


Friday, 2 August 2013

Spelt Pizza on the Grill

Last weekend, I visited a friend who had never tried grilled pizza. It just so happened, that I needed to make some pizza for the Grain Mill Wagon Challenge so he was the lucky recipient of Margherita Spelt Pizza on the grill.



The dough for this pizza is made completely with Spelt flour. I used a mixture of all-purpose Spelt flour and whole grain spelt flour that I milled in my grain mill. I also added some herbs to give the dough a boost in flavor. I had tried this with the Pepperoni Braid I made a few months ago and it really made a difference.

For the toppings, I used fresh tomatoes and basil from my garden, and fresh mozzarella. I also added some pizza sauce and Italian herbs. It was a delightful combination and my friend really enjoyed it. In fact, he liked it so much that he graciously accepted the leftover pizza.

I used his gas grill which is a little bit different from mine but it was really easy to use. He got the grill going and then sat back and watched me do my thing. That was fine by me. When I’m in my zone, I’m all over the place preparing the dough, taking photos, dancing around and you get the picture. It was probably best that he stayed out of the way. 

I brought my pizza stone, but it didn’t fit on his grill (because I brought the round one instead of the rectangular one) so we decided to grill the pizza directly on the grates. This is actually the way you are supposed to do it, but it’s tricky if you don’t have a work space near the grill. He doesn’t so I placed the pizza on parchment paper and transferred it to the grill with my pizza peel. Now if you’re more proficient with a pizza peel than I am, you probably could transfer it directly from the peel to the grates without the parchment paper. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of that (the dough always sticks to the peel) so I grilled the pizza (on the parchment paper) on the grates for a few minutes, then I removed the parchment paper to get the nice grill marks.

If you want to learn more about this grilled pizza, check out my Making Pizza Margherita on the Grill post on the Grain Mill Wagon.  This was my final post in the challenge. I had a lot of fun.


I rode the Grain Mill Wagon


Happy Grilling!