Recipes San Francisco

a bread success!

I’ve been working on my sourdough bread for about 9 months now. It was a rough beginning with sad, flat loaves of super sour bread. Still, I was determined. I dreamed of crusty, deep brown, slightly sour loaves of airy but chewy bread. I tried different recipes, different flours, adding commercial yeast to supplement the wild yeast. My breads were ok, but nothing close to the better artisan breads you can get here in San Francisco.

Everything changed when my sister bought me the Tartine Bread cookbook for my birthday. I’ve raved about Tartine Bakery on the blog before, and now I will proclaim that their bread cookbook changed my life. In it are the secrets to amazing bread, simply yet throughly explained, with amazing pictures alongside. While I’m going to go through the process briefly here, if you want to make wonderful bread, you should just buy their book.

The general idea is this: Take your starter. Make a leaven by adding water and flour to a very small amount of your starter. The next morning, take part of your leaven and add more flour, water and a bit of salt. Then start the rising process. The first rise is in a large bowl or tupperware and lasts about 4 hours. Shape the loaves. Now for the second rise with the dough shaped in bowls. The second rise lasts about 4 – 6 hours. Now bake each loaf in a 450 degree oven for 40 minutes.

While each step of this process is extremely important to creating the bread of your dreams, perhaps the most obvious innovation that I took from Tartine was cooking the bread in a cast iron dutch oven. You heat the cast iron to 450-500 degrees in the oven, plop the loaf into the bottom of the pan, cover it with the top and bake for 20 minutes. The dutch oven creates a mini steam chamber very similar to a commercial bread baking oven, but impossible to achieve in a regular home oven. Steam is crucial for a proper rise and also for creating the chewy crust. Using the dutch oven in this way allows the bread to steam itself! Amazing! Then you remove the dutch oven top for the second 20 minutes of cooking and the bread browns to perfection.

Following Tartine Bread’s detailed schedule, I began a sourdough starter from scratch. After culturing my starter for a few weeks, I made my first loaf. It was beautiful, so tasty and almost perfect. My first real bread success! I was so pleased! I gloated by sending photos of this bread miracle to my mother, sister and friend.

I’ve since made bread many times using Tartine’s method and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the results. Seriously good bread.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit to match Jordan and I’s tastes, but it has turned out incredibly well every time. Bread from scratch is time-consuming —we’re talking a day of baking here— but it is so fulfilling when it turns out well.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with the rise and proofing times to figure out the best way to fit this bread into my regular schedule without devoting a day to baking. And, I think I’ve worked it out! I make the leaven before bed 2 days before I plan to bake. Around 3 – 4 pm the next day I mix the bread and do the first rise. I shape the loaves that night before bed and then put them in the fridge. Around 3 pm the next day, Jordan takes the breads out of the fridge for their final rise. They rise until 7 when I get home from work and have preheated the oven and then I bake! Maximum bread, minimum “wasted” down time!

And now I’m really going to brag … last night Jordan said that my bread was better (!!!better!!!) than Acme Bread! Maybe he is biased, but I’ll take the compliment anyway. I set out to make bread that was as good as Acme – and now I’ve done it!



baking therapy: sourdough soft pretzels

These pretzels are wonderful! Super easy (just one rise!) and added bonus: they make use of the cup of sourdough starter that you usually discard after feeding.

Sourdough Soft Pretzels, from King Arthur Flour 

For the Pretzels
1 cup sourdough starter, straight from the fridge
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup non-fat dried milk
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
1 T oil or butter
2 t yeast

In a kitchen aid, mix all of the ingredients together. Knead on low speed for 3 – 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour. Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Cut the dough into twelve pieces and shape into pretzels.  Place on a lined baking sheet. 

For the Topping
1 T sugar
2 T hot water
coarse salt or sea salt
1 T butter, melted

Mix the sugar with the water until dissolved. Brush the sugar water onto the shaped dough and then sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown.

After they come out of the oven, brush the hot pretzels with melted butter. Not like this will surprise you coming from me, but the butter makes these pretzels.



leek bread pudding

One of our favorite things is a nice loaf of fresh sourdough.  Another one of our favorite things is how versatile the leftover bread is when it gets stale.   Normally we just make toast with it, but I was inspired by Thomas Keller’s leek bread pudding from Ad Hoc at Home.  My sister and her boyfriend Kyle gave Emily and me this book as a gift.  After my sister confessed to reading the entire thing, she turned to page 213 and informed me that I must make this beautiful side dish.  The recipe calls for brioche and serves twelve, so I made a few minor changes.  With about half of an Acme sourdough batard leftover and leeks from our CSA box, I got to work.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the leeks and clean them in a bowl of cold water; the grit will fall to the bottom and the leeks will float.  When you’re confident that they are grit-free, add them to a dry saute pan over medium-high heat.  Season and stir until they release liquid (it won’t be much), then lower the heat to low, add about two tablespoons of butter, and stir to create an emulsion.  Cover and stir occasionally until the leeks are very soft.  Once they are done, taste and season with salt and pepper.

While the leeks are getting soft and sweet, cut your bread into one inch cubes and place in the oven and brown on both sides.  When the bread is toasted and the leeks are done, mix the two in a bowl and add a tablespoon of chopped chives and a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves.

Now that you’ve got your bread and your leeks, you need some pudding, right?  Kinda.  It’s a custard and while that sounds difficult, it’s actually really easy.  Whisk together one egg, one cup of whole milk, and one cup of cream.  Add a very small pinch of nutmeg and a generous pinch (maybe a half teaspoon) of salt and some fresh pepper.  That’s it.

Next, you need some cheese for extra decadence.  The recipe calls for comté or emmentaler, but any semi-soft, flavorful cheese will work.  I had some cave-aged emmentaler on hand, so I used that.  I shredded it all and got about half a cup.  Butter an appropriately sized baking dish (I used a medium sized, round casserole) and put about a third of the cheese on the bottom.  Then place about half of the bread mixture and top with another third of the cheese.  Then add the last of the bread and pour in the custard until there’s about half an inch of bread poking out of the top; you can push the bread into the custard a little bit if it looks like there’s not enough custard.  Here, the recipe says to let the bread pudding sit to absorb the custard for about 15 minutes, but Emily and I don’t really like a super gooey texture, so I just topped it with the rest of the cheese and threw it in the oven.  Bake until the center has set up and the top is browned, about 45-60 minutes.


It was very tasty, you don’t have to be very precise with it, you can switch thing out if you need to, and it make a great side dish.  The cookbook says it can be a main course, but that seems like a bit much.  It would be fantastic with any hearty fall or winter meal, but it may overshadow the main course.  As a matter of fact, I can’t remember what we ate this with.  I guess that means it was a winner, right?