Friday, January 16, 2015

Historical Sourdough Part 2 -- Sourdough Tomato and Basil Bread

Last March I was given a batch of 200+ year old sourdough starter named "Melissa."

The story behind it was that an ancestor of the woman who gave it had created the starter and one of her descendants, Melissa, inherited it.  Melissa brought it with her as she walked from the East Coast of America to the West Coast with a covered wagon.  Her descendants have been using it since.

My daughter was home and we decided to play with the starter in different ways.  Not all of the recipes themselves were historical but they were very tasty.  See Historical Sourdough Part 1 for our first play time.

This time we got into my favorite bread machine cookbook, Great Bread Machine Baking by Marlene Brown.  I have had this book for years and have loved the various breads the recipes have yielded.  It has an entire chapter on sourdough.

ISBN 0-7607-1353-7

On page 131 is "Sourdough Tomato and Basil Bread:"

For a two-pound loaf.

3/4 cup warm water (80 degrees F)
1 cup sourdough starter, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 ground black pepper
3 2/3 cups bread flour, unsifted
2 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, well drained and chopped *

* You can use dried tomatoes.  Simmer them in water for a few minutes to plump them up.  Drain well and chop.

1.  Measure all ingredients into the bread pan (except sun-dried tomatoes) according to the manufacturer's directions for your machine.  Measure sun-dried tomatoes to add at the beep or when manufacturer directs.  Set the CYCLE to sweet, LOAF SIZE to 2-pound, and CRUST SETTING to whatever you desire.

2.  After about 5 minutes of kneading, check the consistency of your dough.  If dough is not in a smooth round ball, open lid and with machine ON, add liquid a tablespoon at a time if too dry, or add flour a tablespoon at a time if too wet.

3.  Remove the bread promptly from the pan when the machine beeps or on completing the cycle.  Cool on rack before slicing.

My Notes

I use my bread machine to mix the dough and then I shape it by hand and bake it in my oven.  It is also fine to mix it by hand or use a mixer with a dough hook.  Do whatever you are comfortable with!

I used the non-oily tomatoes and I added a little bit of olive oil to the dough to make up for it.  I know, the recipe didn't call for it but I have made this once before a few years ago and noted that 1/2 teaspoon might be good.

The dough was beautiful when it came out of the machine.  I shaped it into two loaves at approximately one pound each.  Yes, I used my kitchen scale.  This doesn't happen too often with me.

After letting them rise about 45 minutes in a warm, draft-free place (the inside of my oven), I put the loaves on the counter and let them rise another 15 minutes while the oven heated to 350 degrees F.  I used that temperature because the pans were glass and they required a 25 degree F lower temperature than a metal pan.

The dough shall rise again
They baked for about 30 minutes, until thumping their tops made a hollow sound.  Also, the crust was nicely browned.  I immediately took the loaves out of the pans to cool on a rack.

The Verdict

The finished loaves were not particularly beautiful but their scent was rich with basil.  We ate one loaf completely before I remembered to take a picture.  The flavor was excellent -- the tomatoes had colored the dough and made the loaf brown inside, which was nice.  The basil was a highlight flavor and the tomatoes added a chewy element along with a light meaty taste.

Beautiful taste
A light toasting brought out the basil flavor even more.

It was good by itself, warm with a little butter, and a good sandwich base.  Success!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Historical Sourdough Part 1 -- Waffles and Popovers

Last March I was given a batch of 200+ year old sourdough starter named "Melissa."

The story behind it was that an ancestor of the woman who gave it had created the starter and one of her descendants, Melissa, inherited it.  Melissa brought it with her as she walked from the East Coast of America to the West Coast with a covered wagon.  Her descendants have been using it since.

Not only is using sourdough starter an historical cooking treat, but the starter itself is historical!

My daughter was home and we decided to play with the starter in different ways.  Not all of the recipes themselves were historical but they were very tasty.

I have to admit that I had neglected Melissa for a few months while she resided in the back of my refrigerator.  I was too busy to bake with her and didn't even think to feed her, so when I opened her container I found a grayish, tart-smelling liquid on top of the thicker batter.  It was not appealing and I thought I had ruined her.  However I recalled some reading that suggested to pour off the foul liquid and most of the batter, feed her well, and leave her on the counter to bubble.  She was sluggish at first.  For each of three days I let her bubble, poured off about half of the contents, fed her roughly equal parts of flour and warm water, and then let her bubble some more.  Her odor was getting more appealing.

Then I recalled the advice to use water in which a potato had been boiled.  I let it cool until it was comfortably warm and then mixed it in with more flour.  Wow!  Melissa started bubbling throughout and was no longer separating into the liquid and batter layers.  She smelled of the right kind of sour, making me willing to cook with her.

So my daughter and I started having some fun in the kitchen.  Our first recipe was for sourdough waffles, which I did not think to take pictures of or otherwise document.  (I chalk it up to the excitement of having my daughter home.)  I can give a link to the recipe, though.  Here it is:  King Arthur Flour Sourdough Waffle Recipe.  We had them for breakfast and stacked them with ham, Swiss cheese, a scrambled egg, and mayonnaise.  An open faced breakfast sandwich!  Yum.

Next we tried sourdough popovers.  The link to the recipe is here:  King Arthur Flour Sourdough Popovers Recipe.  You can see my daughter is a fan of the King Arthur Flour recipe collection.  She says they are all good and never had one fail.  This recipe I documented:

Sourdough Popovers

1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Only five ingredients!
1) In the microwave or in a small saucepan, warm the milk until it feels just slightly warm to the touch.

2) Combine the milk with the eggs, sourdough starter and salt, then mix in the flour.  Don't overmix; a few small lumps are OK.  The batter should be thinner than a pancake batter, about the consistency of heavy cream.

A few small lumps exist


3) Heat a muffin or popover pan in the oven while it's preheating to 450 degrees F.

4) Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray, or brush it generously with oil or melted butter.  Quickly pour the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the top.  If you're using a muffin tin, fill cups all the way to the top.  Space the popovers around so there are empty cups among the full ones; this leaves more room for expansion.

Four fifths full?
5) Bake the popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until popovers are golden brown.

They smell good, too.
6) Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately.

Yield:  6 popovers.

Well, five popovers anyway.

Our Notes

This was easy to mix and took very little time.

We used a non-stick pan spray on a popover pan; I happened to have a spray that was designed for the high temperatures of grilling.

We used a ladle to put the batter in the cups but this was awkward and we spilled a little.  I would recommend trying something with a pouring spout, like a large, glass measuring cup.

We filled the cups nearly full but only got five popovers out of it.  I think we should have filled them each about 2/3 full to get six.

The Verdict

Success!  They were a beautiful golden brown and they slid out of the pan easily.

Their flavor was egg-y and a little sour from the sourdough starter.  They were chewy, with a good crust and full of holes, as they should be.  They had a good "pop."  Our guest taster is a fan of Yorkshire pudding and said these were very, very good.

We ate them hot with butter.  My daughter had one the next day, slightly warmed in the microwave oven, and thought it had fewer large air pockets.  That was the smallest one where the cup was only half full of batter.

Tomorrow I'll post the other adventure in sourdough baking.


We made them several times again over the next few weeks.  We mixed the batter in a large, glass measuring cup and it poured into the pans with a minimum of mess and drips.  It was also easier to get to six popovers, too.  It just took a bit of practice to judge the right quantity to put in the cups. Each and every batch popped well and was very tasty.

Batter fits nicely
Six achieved!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year Four! Playing with Kitchen Toys

I am finding it hard to believe that I have completed three years of blogging.  When I first started I was skeptical that I could fulfill even one year, and yet here it is with over 13,300 page views from all over the world and this, the 87th post.  My blog is linked into Top Food Blogs at and into Tasty Query.  Each post goes on a Pinterest board, too.  All of these have helped make my fun more visible.  It would not have happened at all without my daughter's encouragement and computer support.  Thanks, Girlie!

One major change in my cooking is that my confidence level for playing with recipes or just creating my own dishes has risen considerably.  I have read enough and practiced enough that I have ideas and concepts that can guide me through judging when a flavor seems "right" and what sorts of items to combine for a tasty meal.  Not everything I try works out but my successes far outnumber the failures.  I have a wonderful sense of freedom in the kitchen.

On this, my first posting for a new year, I like to set some goals.  This year has two:  to continue to explore historical or traditional recipes from a variety of countries, hopefully with a greater emphasis in using vegetables; and to explore some old kitchen gadgets to see how they are used.  With those in mind, I present to you a gadget that has been in my possession for years, mostly in storage, and I had no idea what it was designed for.

Lid on.
Lid off.
It is made of metal, in shiny chrome, has metal feet on the bottom, a flat cooking surface in the center, a well around that, a handle, a lid, and a flange on the raised rim.  Every time I saw it I wondered about its use.

I decided to figure it out.  My major clue was the manufacturer's stamp on the bottom:

The manufacturer was the Everedy Company, Frederick, Maryland, USA
It is called the Bacon-Egger, Jr., and a quick look around the 'net showed me that they were for sale in 1956: see this ad in the Spokane Daily Chronicle.  I think I inherited it from my grandparents, so this time period seems reasonable.

The description in the ad says, "Fries bacon, keeps it hot till eggs are done."  Ah ha!  Now I know what to do!

It is used on the stove top and first I cook the bacon.

Four half pieces fit comfortably on it.
The lid is used to keep the bacon flat and the well catches the grease.

The holes in the lid let out steam.
I was ambitious and cooking for three people, so I tried several batches of bacon.  Once cooked, the bacon went on the flange where it stayed warm without cooking and drained extra grease.

The problem was the well filled with grease and I couldn't drain it without removing the pieces from the side.  That means the cooking area flooded, more steam came through the holes making it too hot to hold the knob, and little geysers of hot grease erupted from the lid edges.

My conclusion is that this was designed to cook enough bacon for one to two people with built-in portion control!

I tried cooking one egg in the grease flood but didn't really like how it turned out.  I cooked it over-easy and thought it was too coated in bacon fat.
Room for two!
So I removed the bacon to a plate, drained off the excess grease, returned the bacon to the flange, and cooked a second egg.  It was much better.  Yes, the bacon stayed warm.

The Verdict

Overall it worked well. Success!  The only other issue I found was that it had two "hot spots" on the cooking surface which tended to cook items on them faster than the rest of the surface.  You can see some scorching to the right and left of the egg in the picture above.  I just had to be aware of them and make sure to move the food items around while cooking.

It was easy to clean and easy to drain off the excess bacon fat.

If you are a bacon and eggs fan, this is a handy gadget to have.  I saw them for sale on eBay for about $5.  I also think it might be a good pan for cooking crepes, but I'm not sure if the well will be a help or a hindrance.

I looked up the Everedy Company on the history of Fredrick website and found this description:
The Everedy Company was founded as the Everedy Bottle Capper Company in May of 1920. It began with a factory building on East Street in 1922, producing a range of metal items for domestic use, including “Speedy-clean chrome cooling utensils, Everedy Door Hardware, Everedy Home Bottling Equipment, Evercraft Modern Gift Merchandise.” This larger complex was completed in 1942 and connected the East Street buildings to the new warehouses on E Church Street Extended. The total complex had nearly doubled in size and took advantage of this space by securing numerous World War II manufacturing contracts.  After the war the Everedy Company produced “Anti-Tank Mines, navy Anti-submarine floats, grenades, grenade adapters, rocket parts, bomb parts.”
Remnants of the company's location still exist:
The buildings of Everedy Square were once the home of the Everedy Company, where the Everedy Bottle Capper was invented and manufactured. The product met with national success following the enactment of Prohibition. Prospering for 50 years, The Everedy Company ultimately produced a line of kitchenware that is still used in many households today.
(Citation:  Everedy Square)

I even found a legal description of Everedy's wares on Trademarkia, showing the trademark was first in use in 1936.