Experimenting with Sourdough

Baking is all about experimenting, and I also think it is incredibly important to enjoy yourself. Although this recipe is not for a traditional sourdough starter using wild yeast, this recipe gave me the confidence to bake my first loaf of sourdough bread. In the age of the internet, it is easy to compare yourself to others. It is also easy to find articles critiquing various baking techniques. I’m certainly going to give naturally leavened bread another shot, but this recipe is a great way to learn the basics of sourdough, without a lot of risk/disappointment.

Sourdough Starter barely adapted from The Heritage of Southern Cooking by Camille Glenn

Ingredients: 

2 cups of all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur)

2 cups of filtered water

1 package dry instant yeast

Instructions:

Day 1: 

Combine flour, warm water and yeast in a bowl. Mix all of your ingredients together throughly, and make sure no lumps of flour remain.

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Cover the bowl loosely with a sheet of plastic wrap. Then, set the bowl in a warm room (75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, a closed microwave provides a suitable environment). This mixture needs to sit at room temperature for 2 full days, or until the entire top of the mixture is incredibly bubbly.

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Day 3:

After two days at room temperature, set your starter in the fridge for another 24 hours. The mixture will continue to bubble, and will develop a fruity fermented scent. A yellowish liquid, known as hooch, will usually develop on top of the starter. You can mix this in, or spoon it out. I prefer to mix it in. If, at any time, your starter develops a liquid with a green, purple or blue color throw your starter away and start over.

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When you’re ready to bake: (I would not wait longer than 3 days without using or feeding your starter.)

Proof the starter

Take the bowl out of the fridge, and add 1 cup of warm water and 1 cup of flour. Mix thoroughly.

Set the bowl in the microwave, barely covered with plastic wrap, for six hours. Your starter should have doubled in size.

Now, your sourdough starter is ready to use. Any starter that is not used in your recipe can be put back in the fridge in a bowl or jar. Before placing it back in the fridge, add 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of warm water. Blend thoroughly. Make sure to feed your starter once a week with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Mix thoroughly. In the future, when you’re ready to use your starter, repeat the steps above, starting at proofing your starter.

Sourdough Boule recipe adapted from Sourdough Bread: How To Begin by S. John Ross

Ingredients:

2 cups of flour (or more depending on the consistency of your starter)

2 cups of proofed sourdough starter

2 tablespoons of olive oil (entirely optional, but I like the addition)

4 teaspoons of sugar

2 teaspoons of salt

Instructions: 

In a large bowl, combine proofed sourdough starter, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Then, add in flour 1/4 of a cup at a time. Do not allow your dough to become dry by adding too much flour. Trust yourself. Combine ingredients thoroughly.

Place the bowl in a warm spot, either the microwave or on top of a warm oven) for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled.

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down. Then, on a lightly floured surface, form a boule with the dough. If you want to cut the dough, now is the time.

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Allow the dough to rise in a well-oiled cast iron dutch oven until it has doubled in size once again.

While the boule is rising, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Once your boule has risen completely (roughly 2 hours), place the cast iron pan on a low rack in your oven, covered, for 30 minutes. On the lowest rack of your oven, place a small metal pan with ice cubes, this will help mimic the steam injection ovens that are in commercial bakeries.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid of your pan, and place the pan on a higher rack in the oven, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The boule should be thoroughly brown.

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Allow the boule to cool for 2 hours before slicing to serve.

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I hope you give this recipe a shot, and I also hope sourdough purists understand where I am coming from. This bread provides the perfect base for many dishes, especially sandwiches. We used our sourdough to make sandwiches with fried green tomatoes, bacon, country ham, cheddar, Duke’s mayonnaise and basil from the garden. It was a perfect southern, summer meal if I may say so myself.

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Easy-peasy Ham & Cheese(y) Puff Pastry

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I nearly always switch to the Food Network when Barefoot Contessa is on. There is an episode where she makes a ham and swiss puff pastry as an appetizer for a fabulous get together, and I thought about the recipe for months afterwards.

I finally purchased some puff pastry a few weeks ago, so I was able to give the recipe a shot. At the time, I didn’t have any Swiss, so I tried it out with extra sharp Cabot cheddar. I’ve made it both ways now, and I think it would probably turn out delicious with whatever cheese your heart desires. This is a great recipe for a quick dinner, unique breakfast or light lunch.

Ham & Cheddar Puff Pastry, barely adapted from Ina Garten’s Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

Ingredients: 

1 package of puff pastry (2 sheets, I like the Pepperidge Farm brand)

1 package of honey or smoked ham (or about 1/2 a pound of your favorite ham from your deli)

1 lb of shredded cheddar cheese or 12 slices of any melting cheese that you prefer (Ina uses Swiss, which is also really delicious in this recipe, especially if you’re making it for breakfast.)

1 egg

1/4 cup of dijon mustard

Salt, pepper, and parsley to taste

Instructions:

Set out your puff pastry sheets to thaw for about 20-30 minutes before preparing your meal.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil, or a silicon baking mat

Once the pastry is slightly defrosted (just enough for you to roll it out), flour your working surface.

Also, flour your rolling pin, and sprinkle a bit of flour over the top of the puff pastry sheet.

Roll the puff pastry sheet out to a 10 x 12 inch rectangle.

Roll up the puff pastry sheet on to your rolling pin, and then unroll the sheet on the prepared baking sheet.

Spread a fairly thin layer of dijon mustard across the sheet of puff pastry.

Next, spread the cheese over top of the layer of dijon mustard.

Then, add a single layer of ham across the top of the shredded cheese.

Next, roll out your second sheet of puff pastry to a 10 x 12 inch rectangle.

Lay this sheet of puff pastry over top of the ham.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and a teaspoon of water. This will be the egg wash for the top of the puff pastry.

Seal the edges of the puff pastry with a fork, or by twisting the sheets of puff pastry together. My video above contains a quick look at how to twist the sheets of pastry together.

With a sauce brush or a small spoon, brush a thin layer of egg wash over the top of your puff pastry.

Lastly, cut small slits across the top of the puff pastry, this helps the steam escape (or you will wind up with a giant bubble in the middle)

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Optional: Before I put the puff pastry in the oven, I like to shake a mixture of coarse kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and dried parsley over the top for taste, color and presentation purposes.

Place the baking sheet in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until it is completely golden brown. I start checking around 18 minutes in my oven.

IMG_5021Let the dish cool for several minutes, and then slice it into squares to serve. (I use a pizza cutter for this task.)

If you have any left, wrap the leftovers in foil and refrigerate. The next day, you can place a slice on some foil in the toaster oven at 450 degrees for about 3-5 minutes. Leftovers are only good for about 1-2 days max.

Dipping Sauce: 

3 tablespoons of dijon mustard

3 tablespoons of Duke’s mayonnaise

Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine equal parts dijon mustard and Duke’s mayonnaise. I prefer Duke’s because it does not contain any added sugar. Whisk together the ingredients, and add salt and pepper to taste. If the mixture is too thick for your liking, you can add in a dash of white wine vinegar to thin out the mixture. This sauce lasts in the fridge, covered, for 2-3 days.

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I served this for dinner, with a side of fried potatoes and green beans. The end result tastes a lot like a ham and cheese croissant, so I think it would also be great served at breakfast or brunch, maybe even with a side of eggs.

Ina Garten can really do no wrong in my eyes, so I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Adventures in Pie Baking: Peach & Dutch Apple

In my experience, pie is a big deal in the United States, especially in the south. Considering today is the 4th of July, I spent Saturday baking up a few pies in celebration. I’m not going to pretend that I’m entirely satisfied with this crust, so my only suggestion on that front is try out your own favorite crust recipe. However, I’m super pleased with the way the crust turned out visually, so my video should be helpful if you’re trying to make a lattice-topped pie for the first time!

The peach pie filling was made from delicious peaches I got at the South of the James farmer’s market. These were from an orchard in Nelson County, Virginia. I look forward to peach season all year long, these really tasted like sunshine.

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The apple pie filling was made from a bag of Honeycrisp apple that my grandma got me from Wegmans. However, my other grandmother (whose recipe for Dutch Apple Pie I am sharing) recommends using Granny Smith. I think both turn out delicious.

 

My Grandma’s Dutch Apple Pie:

Filling Ingredients:

8-9 medium sized apples (Granny Smith are grandma’s suggestion)

1/2 cup of sugar

1 cup of buttermilk

1 whisked egg

2 tablespoons of flour

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 stick of frozen, salted butter

3 tablespoons of flour

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Finely chop your apples. Then, combine the sugar, flour, buttermilk, egg and vanilla with your apples. Mix thoroughly. Empty contents of bowl into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

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To make topping. Freeze the butter for about an hour. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and flour in a bowl. Use a box grater to grate the butter into the dry ingredient mixture. Use your fingers to create small pebble sized pieces of topping. After the pie comes out of the oven from the initial bake. Place topping on pie. Put it back in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Allow pie to cool for 30 minutes up to an hour. This pie should be stored in the fridge between serving.

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Peach Pie Filling (original recipe can be found at Smitten Kitchen Peach Pie)

Ingredients:

7-8 medium sized peaches

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon of lemon juice (fresh is best)

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

dash of salt

dash of nutmeg

2 teaspoons of milk

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare your peaches, start by washing thoroughly. Then, place a small pot of water on the stove to boil. Cut small x’s on the bottom of the peaches, and let them boil for 2 minutes each. Place the boiled peaches in an ice bath (a bowl of cold water with several ice cubes added) for two minutes each. Then, peel the peaches, and remove pits. Slice each peach into roughly eight slices.

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Put all of your peach slices into a large bowl, and add in sugars, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Mix throughly.

Place down one sheet of pie crust in prepared pan. Add in all of your pie filling. Roll out second piece of pie crust to be 2 inches larger than your pie sheet. Use a pizza slicer to cut 1/4 strips of pie crust. Weave strips of crust across the top of your pie (watch video for detailed visuals). Use a fork to crimp the edges of your pie. Brush a light coating of milk over the top of the pie crust. Then, sprinkle coarse sugar over the top of the pie.

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Put a large baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any topping that spills.(otherwise, you’re going to have an incredibly smoky kitchen). Put pie into oven to bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Then, reduce the oven’s temperature to 375, and bake the pie another 30 minutes (or until peach filling is bubbling and pie crust is golden).

Allow peach pie to cool for several hours, and then enjoy. I also made homemade whipped cream to go on top, which I think it nearly essential.

Quick whipped cream recipe: About 1 hour before preparing, stick your bowls and your whisk/beaters in the freezer. Mix 1/2 a cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Use an electric hand mixer to beat this mixture until it is fluffy and stiff (about 4-7 minutes). This mixture will last in the fridge, covered, for about 36 hours. The powdered sugar helps ensure your whipped cream stays stiff.

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Pie making is a time consuming process, but I think it is always satisfying to learn to make every step of a classic dish. I’m going to try a few more crust recipes before I share one here, but please pass along any tried and true crust recipes that you like!

On a side note, happy July 4th American friends. I hope there is a big piece of pie waiting for you at a cookout today.

The farm

 

This is where I grew up. It is where my heart is most days, even when I’m not. We had a wonderful day visiting my grandparents. They have so much knowledge to pass down. Grandpa knows where and what all of the wild plants are. Exploring with him is truly the best/a privilege. I have so many daydreams about what to do with this place, but grandpa insists that you can’t make a living farming anymore.My grandma also gave me a family cookbook from her aunt (my great, great aunt) who makes the best fried chicken ever, so I now have cooking inspiration for the long July 4th weekend.

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We picked blackberries and raspberries. Some of them probably were a little unripe. If we had waited, the bears and birds would have gotten all of the berries before us. Grandpa also showed us the wild elderflower. He said his mom used to make elderflower wine, but it was a pain because the flowers/seeds would clog up the strainer. She also made wine from the blackberries and raspberries. She would make him and his brothers go down and pick berries during the summer for preserves and wine. Grandpa reports that this wine was pretty good.

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I can’t shake my connection with this place, and  I cannot wait to call this place home again one day soon.

Our June Garden

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2016 marks my third summer gardening in the backyard of my rental home. I was able to get the garden planted in late March due to the unseasonably warm winter we had in Virginia. However, there were a few late frosts that caused some issues with several of my plants. For example, I planted four poblano pepper plant starters in mid-April, and I haven’t seen a single flower on any of these. Also, none of my tomatoes have flowered yet, but I’m holding out hope that July proves bountiful.

I also was gone for a week in June, and, of course, it didn’t rain. This caused all of my white wonder tomato seedlings to burn up. I was really looking forward to seeing those grow, so I will definitely try planting these again next year.

In June, we were able to eat a lot of salad from the garden! The snow peas, siberian dwarf kale, butter lettuce, cabbage, sweet basil and dill have been plentiful this month. My strawberry plant also survived last winter, and I transplanted it this spring from a hanging basket to its own corner in the garden. We got quite a few strawberries, and even used some green strawberries on top of salads. The onions that I planted in early March were the perfect size this month to use in a few main courses and in salads. My grandpa has informed me that these won’t be full size until September or October. The zinnias I planted from seed in the spring also bloomed for the first time last week, and they have put a smile on my face every day since!

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Through the last two weeks of June, the garden has provided lots and lots of green beans. I planted an heirloom variety of haricot verts, which were absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed with the yield. I also planted bush beans, which have been sweet, delicious and plentiful. I cooked these up with chunks of homemade bacon, and the dish was a hit.

In July, I’m looking forward to seeing fresh corn, yellow squash, tomato blooms, cayenne peppers finally being ready, cucumbers and more fresh herbs. I’m also going to start planting my fall garden now because the garden gets very little sunlight during late fall.

Growing a summer vegetable garden has been a tradition since I was a kid, and it makes my heart sincerely happy. As the old saying goes, the corn will be knee high by the fourth of July. And I’m impatiently waiting.

Adventures in Smoking part 1: Homemade Bacon

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Well, this post is seriously lacking photos of the steps involved in making bacon. However, curing bacon is way easier than I thought it would be, so I hope that this recipe will encourage people to give it a shot. Curing meat has been one of my favorite experiments in the kitchen. I got inspired to make bacon after watching an episode of Mind of a Chef where they visit Benton’s. We got our pork bellies from my grandparent’s farm, and we have tried making bacon twice. The first batch was smoked just using our small Webber charcoal grill. The second batch we used our new smoker, which is pictured in the panorama photo. Here is a similar smoker (this is not an affiliate link, we just have had good luck with this brand so far). Most of the process is very hands-off, but make sure you have a shelf in your fridge reserved for the week. Two 3lb.pork bellies yield between 60-80 slices of bacon. Make sure to select, or purchase, a pork belly that is on the meatier side, or you will be a bit disappointed with the final product. All in all, the entire process is totally worth it, and I’ve used the bacon on everything from salads to carbonara since. I really hope you give this a shot.

Also, an electric deli slicer makes a HUGE difference when slicing the bacon. Even using a very sharp knife will likely yield in uneven slices (not to mention a tedious, labor-intensive experience.)

Now, for the recipe:

Homemade Bacon: 

Ingredients: 

2, 3lb. pork belly chunks (the meatier, the better)

3, 2lb bags of Morton’s quick cure salt

Pepper

Finely ground kosher salt

Brown sugar

Tools:

Smoker (directions below are for use with an electric smoker)

Wood chips (we like alder and applewood)

2 Disposable, aluminum trays (for easy clean-up)

Aluminum foil

Saran wrap

Meat thermometer

Gallon-size freezer bags

Freezer paper, coated with wax

Masking tape

Electric meat slicer

Instructions:

Day One: 

First, mix up the dry rub for your bacon. The ingredients in this step will vary based on your personal preferences, but a good ratio to start is about 3 tablespoons brown sugar to 1 tablespoon of pepper. I love a heavily peppered bacon, but that is not for everyone. Most of the salt flavor in the final product will come from the cure, but I blend 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt into this mixture, too.

Rinse your pork bellies, and pat each one dry with paper towels. Then, pour enough salt cure down to cover the bottom of each disposable tray. Before placing the pork bellies into the cure, thoroughly coat each pork belly with your dry rub. Make sure every inch of the pork belly is completely coated with the dry rub, this step has a huge impact on the overall flavor.

The last step for today is laying the pork bellies into the salt cure. Then, make sure you pour enough cure down to cover the pork bellies completely. There should be nothing visible in the pans except for salt cure. This is important because you do not want any air touching the pork. Lastly, cover the containers with aluminum foil and place them in the fridge.

Day Four: (72 hours later)

Remove the pork bellies from the pan, and try to keep as much salt cure on the pork as possible. Place the bellies in large, 1 gallon freezer bags. Then, place the pork bellies back in the fridge. Leave the bags partially unzipped.

Day Seven: (another 72 hours later)

Smoking day has arrived! In the morning, soak about 2-3 cups of alder chips, and 1-2 cups of applewood chips. Also, rinse the salt off of the pork bellies, pat them dry with paper towels, and place the pork bellies back in the fridge. This will allow the pork bellies to form a pellicle, which helps the smoke adhere better to the pork.

Place the pork bellies back in the fridge, uncovered, and allow them to sit for 4 hours.

While you’re waiting, you can get your smoker started. This amount of time this step takes will vary wildly depending on the type of smoker that you’re using. We smoke our bacon at a temperature between 200-250 degrees.

Once your bacon has been sitting, uncovered, in the fridge for 4 hours, it is time to get smoking!

The pork bellies need to be smoked for about 2 hours and 20 minutes. You want the bacon to be at an eternal temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and this is where the meat thermometer is critical for food safety purposes. I recommend using alder wood chips for the majority of the smoking process, and adding applewood chips during the last 30-45 minutes of cook time. However, we’ve also smoked bacon using 100% applewood chips, and that was delicious, too!

After the pork belly is done smoking, you should double wrap the pork bellies in aluminum foil and let them rest on the counter for 45 minutes-1 hour. Once this time has passed, wrap the pork bellies very tightly in saran wrap. (make sure they are wrapped like burritos, not just draped with plastic wrap). You will leave the pork belly to rest overnight in the fridge, so the smoke flavor can soak into the meat.

Day Eight: (your patience pays off!)

Today, you can use your electric slicer (ultra carefully!) to slice your bacon! The thickness you select really depends on your personal preferences, along with what you intend to use the final product for!

Once you’ve sliced the bacon, you can package it by staggering it on waxed, freezer paper. Fold the freezer paper into packets, tape it sealed, and place the packets into a freezer bag. Put the bags, labeled with the date, in the freezer immediately. If you intend to use the bacon ASAP, you can also place a package in the fridge. The bacon stays good in the fridge 1-3 days. The bacon also remains good in the freezer up to 3 months (if it lasts that long!)

I really hope you give this recipe/kitchen experiment a shot. There isn’t anything much more satisfying than curing your own bacon. This recipe also yields quite a bit of bacon, so it’s also a great product to make to give to family and friends!

Queen Anne’s Lace Cake

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This cake brings back so many fond memories from my childhood. My mom made this cake fairly often while I was growing up. Due to her severe food allergies, she actually substituted the all-purpose flour with barley flour, and the cake was still awesome.

My favorite way to enjoy this cake is ice-cold, with a glass of milk. Since there are carrots in the batter, I’ve also been known to eat a slice for breakfast. (it’s basically muffin, right?)

Make this for a party, make it for a carrot cake lover you know, and maybe make some extra icing to eat with spoon. I hope you like this cake as much as I always have.

Queen Anne’s Cake (very, barely adapted from The Heritage of Southern Cooking by Camille Glen)

Cake Ingredients:

2 sticks of room temperature butter

2 cups of sugar

4 eggs

2 cups of A.P. flour (King Arthur is best)

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ginger

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare two 9 inch baking pans. Grease the pans with butter, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

First, cream together the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture has become fluffy (5-7 minutes) Then, add in the eggs, and beat until the mixture is forming ribbons on the end of the beaters.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt. Whisk mixture together.

Use a rubber spatula to slowly combine the flour mixture into the egg and butter mixture until there are no remaining lumps.

Pour the batter equally into your two prepared pans. Place pans on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 5-8 minutes, before turning out onto a wire, cooling rack. Make sure cakes are completely room temperature before frosting.

Queen Anne’s Frosting (best darn cream cheese frosting on earth)

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter at room temperature

1 eight ounce package of cream cheese

2 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the cream cheese until there are no lumps present. Then, slowly mix in the powdered sugar and salt. Lastly, beat in the vanilla extract. Once the mixture is completely smooth, place bowl in the fridge for an hour, or overnight.

Place one of the cakes on a cake platter, and ice the top of the cake. Then, place the other cake on top of the iced layer. Ice the top of the second cake, and then frost the sides of both cakes. You will have a delicious two-layer carrot cake that will hopefully please a crowd.

Trials in No-Knead Bread Baking (+ a recipe for quick jam)

Last Christmas, I was generously gifted a Lodge cast-iron skillet by my boyfriend’s parents. I knew that I wanted to give baking bread a shot, but I was beyond intimidated.

  1. We have a tiny kitchen with a crappy oven. (1 out of 4 burners work)
  2. I’d never cooked with yeast, which I had convinced myself was a scary/impossible product to use.

Well, with such a nice piece of cooking equipment, I felt compelled to at least give bread baking a fair shot. I started off by reading the The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. She really did an incredible job writing a thorough book that instills confidence in home bakers. It is a gem that I highly recommend to anyone who is learning to bake at home. However, I don’t have much cooking equipment, so I got a bit discouraged by the recipes that called for a standing mixer. A nice mixer just isn’t in my budget at the moment (or probably for awhile), so I wasn’t sure where to start. After doing some googling, I came across the New York Times recipe for Jim Lahey’s No-Knead bread, which has been wildly popular since it was originally published.

Since I found this recipe in mid-January, I’ve made no less than 12 loaves of bread. I’ve made this recipe one boule at a time, split it into smaller loaves before baking, and I’ve also doubled the recipe to give loaves to family members. This recipe got me excited–and confident–about baking bread at home, in my own crappy oven! As someone who is passionate about eating bread, I’m so grateful to have this recipe in my wheelhouse.

This post is mostly an ode to the wonders of no-knead bread, with a recipe for a quick jam that I’ve been making this spring.

 

Quick Jam (makes enough for one boule, will last in the fridge for up to a week)

  • One package of berries (I prefer a blend of raspberries and strawberries, mostly raspberries, but anything seasonal will do)
  • The juice from 1/2 of a lemon and about a tsp of zest
  • 1/4 cup of sugar (white or brown will do)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (with some bits of vanilla bean if possible)

Cooking Instructions:

First, rinse all of the fruit thoroughly. Remove any stems from the fruit if you choose strawberries. Put a small pot on the stove and begin to warm the pan. As the pan begins to warm, start adding in the berries. Once all of the berries are in the pan, add the lemon juice and sugar. I recommend slowly adding in the sugar and lemon juice, so you can adjust the jam to suit your taste. I prefer tarter jam, which I cannot seem to find at the grocery store. You can also add the vanilla at this time. After all of the ingredients are in the pan, you can begin to stir with a spoon. If the berry mixture is not starting to bubble, you can increase the temperature slightly. At this time, I use a potato masher to blend my jam, but a fork or spoon will also work. The jam will be done when it starts to thicken. You will be able to tell because the top of the jam will be covered in small bubbles. Remove the jam from the stovetop, and put in a container that can be refrigerated. Enjoy on warm bread, waffles, or other breakfast items. It is also delicious stirred into coffee cake batter; I enjoy this recipe from King Arthur.

Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes, and baking bread quickly turned into one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. The process reminds me of a childhood science experiment, with delicious results.

In 2016, I’ve been experimenting with a bunch of new recipes, and developing my skills in the kitchen in different ways. I hope to use this platform to connect with other home cooks, and as a place to push myself to cook more, write, photograph and take risks in the kitchen.