appetizers, Desserts, Fermenting, Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Sourdough Fun

Update 12/6/16:  I baked the sourdough sugar cookies again yesterday, and when I got out my paper copy of the recipe I’d printed off from Cultures for Health, I realized I had made a number of rather important changes to get the good result I had from my first batch.  I thought I’d better post an update, so here’s the amended sugar cookie recipe.  The link to the original recipe on Cultures for Health appears in the original post below.

Sourdough Snickerdoodles

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar in the cone)*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Gently mix in the sourdough starter. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonful onto a PARCHMENT PAPER–COVERED cookie sheet. (If you do not have parchment paper, spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.  I used a bare pan in one trial, and the cookies stuck a bit.) Sprinkle the cookies with cinnamon and sugar if desired. (I did, it was good and made them taste like Snickerdoodles.)

Bake 12 minutes. (I baked 14-15 min. at my altitude, depending on the size of my spoonfuls.)

Notes:  Because of recent experiences with sourdough starter recipes being too wet, I reduced the amount of starter the original recipe called for and omitted the water.  My starter is 100% hydration, so it is wet and fairly thin.  I used whole wheat pastry flour in the dough. The original recipe called for types of unprocessed sugar I’d never even heard of before.  I did have some piloncillo in the house, which is an unrefined, Mexican brown sugar. It comes pressed into cones of varying size and weight.  It was a pain to break up (I had to pull out the food processor), but it made a delicious cookie.  I see no reason why subbing white sugar, organic or not, wouldn’t work.  Regular brown sugar will work. I have made one version with regular brown sugar, spices, and nuts, but I still need to tweak it a bit before I post the recipe.

~~~

In my last post, I said I would share links to other sourdough discard recipes if anyone wanted them, and my faithful reader and friend, Kelly, said yes!  So here are my favorite discard recipes so far.  I’m sure there will be others as I explore the sourdough websites, in particular, Cultures for Health.

First, the sourdough cookies.  I really liked these cookies, and my son and granddaughter did too.  I used piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) instead of the sucanat called for (raw sugar), which I will not use again because it is a pain to deal with that cone of hard sugar.  Next time, I’ll use organic white sugar and reduce the amount by 1/4 cup, and I think that will make them taste even more like Snickerdoodles, my son’s favorite cookie. I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the tops of the cookies and called them Sourdough Snickerdoodles.  I have ideas about other incarnations of this recipe too, which I’ll be exploring shortly.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/soft-sourdough-cookies

Another favorite recipe for using sourdough discard (remember, this is just sourdough starter batter that you have to use up before your starter becomes too big to be manageable) is the pizza dough.  I really, really liked this dough, so much so that after I tried it the first time, I made two batches of fresh dough the next day and froze them for future fuss-free pizzas.  The dough should be thawed overnight in the fridge, and I would take it out several hours before rolling to let it come up to room temperature.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/sourdough-pizza-crust

The third recipe I liked for sourdough discard is an onion ring batter.  This recipe came from Cultures for Health also, but the recipe was for onion fritters.  I decided to add a little sugar and use the batter for apple fritters, which I love. I was very disappointed with the result.  The fritters would not hold together, and I finally figured out one reason was the lack of egg in the recipe.  A batter needs eggs, people!  Also, the batter wasn’t thick enough, and I ended up adding a lot of additional flour before I got something resembling a fritter.

However, I decided to try the batter, with the addition of an egg, for onion rings.  (Mostly, I wanted to use up my discard, and I had a lot of fat leftover from the apple fritter experiment that I wanted to use up.) I wasn’t terribly surprised when my altered batter created yummy onion rings.  So here’s that recipe, for those of you who aren’t afraid to fry.  (I really don’t like frying myself, but onion rings are about the easiest thing to fry, so don’t be timid.)

Fried Sourdough-battered Onion Rings

(serves 4-6)

  • 1½ cups sourdough starter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne (optional)
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • ½ cup brown rice flour (or any flour you prefer)
  • Preferred fat for frying (I used a mix of refined coconut oil–not unrefined because it will burn at the temp needed for frying—and avocado oil.  I don’t feel guilty about frying when I use “healthy” fats.  You can use vegetable oil or peanut oil, also.)

Turn your oven to warm, and set cooling racks over paper towel-lined cookie sheets inside the oven.  You will probably need two racks.

Start fat heating in a deep, 2-quart saucepan. You’ll need several cups of fat, and this is why I prefer using a deep saucepan with a small bottom rather than a cast iron skillet.  You can get a deep fryer effect with less fat.  The fat should be at least 4 inches deep in the pan when melted/heated.  If you happen to have a deep fryer, follow manufacturer’s instructions for using.

It’s wise to have a candy thermometer or digital thermometer to monitor the heat of the fat.  The fat should come up to between 350 and 360 degrees.  (Hotter than that, and this delicate batter coating will burn immediately.  Cooler than that, and they will absorb too much fat and will not be crispy.)

Separate onion slices into individual rings.  In a medium bowl, combine sourdough starter, beaten egg, sugar, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne with a whisk. Combine baking soda and baking powder and sprinkle over batter; whisk until just combined.  Batter will foam and increase in volume.

Working in small batches, toss a few onion rings in flour to coat (a Ziploc bag works well for this).  Dip flour-coated rings in batter with a fork or tongs, and place immediately into hot fat. Don’t try to fry too many at a time; cook three or four at time, maximum.  If you crowd the pan, you’ll lower the temperature of the oil, with the results noted above, and it’s also harder to flip a bunch at the right time than a few. Fry until bottom is golden brown, turn, and fry for about a minute longer.  These onion rings cook very quickly.  They are done in just about 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove from fat and place on racks in oven to drain.  You can salt them now if you wish, but they don’t really need additional salt.  These onion rings are light and crispy. Enjoy!

The last recipe for sourdough discard also comes from Cultures for Health.  I like the recipes on this site, obviously.  This one is for Sourdough Egg Noodles.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/rustic-sourdough-noodles

I made these for my Thanksgiving turkey carcass soup because, yeah, I needed to get rid of some discard, and I love homemade pastas!  This recipe calls for incubating the dough for 8 hours, so starting it early in the morning for dinner that night, or the night before for a lunch dish, is key.  However, when I was planning to test this recipe, I forgot that the dough was supposed to sit for 8 hours, and I didn’t get it started until 11 o’clock in the morning.  I figured I’d cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put the dough by the heating stove and see what happened in the time I had.  I was very surprised that in just 4 hours, the dough had more than doubled in size.

I took half of it out of the bowl (and I had only made half a recipe anyway because I didn’t want to sacrifice 6 eggs on an experiment) and rolled it for noodles for the turkey soup. I covered the rest of the dough and left it sitting on the counter, thinking I’d roll the other half when I got home from my granddaughter’s basketball game, if I felt like it. I could tell I’d have plenty from the one half for my pot of turkey soup.

I rolled the dough out on a floured board and cut it with a pasta cutter (which is old and dull, so I think I’d have been better off with a sharp knife), then spread the noodles on racks to dry for a couple of hours before being added to the soup.  Then I went off to my granddaughter’s game.

  

An hour and a half later, I got home and decided I was too tired to finish the soup and roll the rest of the noodles.  I cooled the soup and put it in a bowl to chill in the fridge so I could skim the fat (that wasn’t done when the carcass and pan drippings were put in the bags by SOMEBODY at my daughter’s house and frozen—wasn’t me!). I wanted to skim the fat off the soup before I added starch in the form of noodles.  The leftover noodle dough had risen again, even in the cool kitchen, so I stashed it in the fridge to deal with the next day. The rest of the noodles were left on the drying rack overnight. (Sometimes my ambition is too big for my energy’s britches.)

When I got up the next morning, I decided to finish drying the noodles in a warm oven, so they’d last for a few days before I had to use them up.  I decided to roll out the rest of the noodle dough that afternoon, dry it for just a bit, and then add it to my soup.  I love fresh pasta, and I didn’t want to pass up that fresh, tender pasta texture.  I’ll use the dried noodles in venison or bear stroganoff later in the week.

The noodles were wonderful, tender as only homemade fresh pasta can be. That half-recipe of dough made enough noodles for a big pot of turkey soup and one other dish for two.  If you are an empty nester, like I am, I’d definitely cut the linked recipe in half, or even quarter it, so you don’t end up making more noodles than you can easily use.  If you have a large family, by all means, make the recipe as it is in the link.

That’s it for this round of sourdough fun.  I’ve found a bread recipe I’m testing, and I’ll report on it soon.  The recipe was posted on a Facebook group by a guy who’s a doer, not a writer, and as is usual in such things, it’s a bit confusing as written.  As soon as I get the kinks worked out, I’ll share that.  It looks promising. The grandkids ate half a loaf when they came over after school to make dog biscuits. My grandson wanted to take the rest of it home, and that’s quite an endorsement from the food critic in the family!

Standard
Desserts, Gluten-free, Recipes

Blackberry Cobbler

Update 8/19/2016:  For a delicious gluten-free version, scroll to the end of this post.  Dennis agreed with me that the gluten-free version was as good or better than the original!

___

I rediscovered this old recipe, written down more than thirty years ago, when I unpacked some of my cookbooks and recipe files from the box I’d packed them in at the start of the kitchen renovation.  This dish was a potluck staple of my former pastor’s wife in Klamath, Joyce Fleshman.  I’ve tweaked it just a bit, substituting butter for margarine (we all baked with margarine back then before we knew how bad for us it was), and adding a splash of my homemade vanilla.  I also substituted organic, whole-wheat pastry flour for all-purpose flour.  And this coming week, after I pick berries again, I propose to make this recipe with the Bob’s Red Mill bean-based gluten-free flour that I use so often.  I’ll let you know how that turns out, but I’m sure it will work, as I’ve subbed it for all-purpose flour in other recipes like this.

Usually when I make cobblers, I make a soft, sweet biscuit dough to top the hot fruit, which has been mixed with sugar and some kind of thickener, cornstarch or tapioca.  I made one of these a couple of weeks ago, and it was good, as always.  But somewhere in the back of my mind was the memory of this other cobbler that I always loved when Joyce made it all those years ago.  When I found the recipe, I was really eager to try it, and the dish lived up to my memory.  The batter for this cobbler produces a more cake-like texture, and as it bakes, it makes layers in the pan, with the berries in the middle layer, separating the two cake layers.  The fat in the pan produces a crisp, shiny surface.  It’s really good.

Joyce’s Berry Cobbler

½ cup (1 stick) butter

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups milk (whole is best for baking)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

4-6 cups of ripe blackberries (Use lesser amount if your blackberries are super ripe and rendering juice.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the butter in a 9X13 inch baking pan and place in oven to melt.  While butter is melting, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Beat in milk, eggs, and vanilla until mixture is smooth.  Pour batter over melted butter in pan, mix in slightly, swirling batter through butter with a spoon.  Sprinkle berries on top of batter evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until bottom layer is set when tested with a sharp knife.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Note:  The berries sink to the bottom or middle as the batter rises and the cobbler bakes.

The cobbler may need more baking time if your berries are very juicy, or you use the larger amount of berries.  I live at about 4500 feet, and it took about 50 minutes in the oven at 350 to get the bottom layer of the cobbler set.  Baking this at a lower altitude will probably take less time, so keep an eye on it.

We ate this warm out of the oven with ice cream the first day, and oh, baby.  It was very good cold with whipped cream the next day.  My granddaughter, who loves to bake, helped me pick the berries and make the cobbler, and she was a fan after she tried the dish.  For me, eating it brought back a lot of memories of church potlucks with good friends when my kids were little, and of Joyce, whom I loved.

Gluten-free version:

For the wheat flour, substitute same amount of gluten-free flour  (I use the bean-based flour from the bulk bin at Winco, which is Bob’s Red Mill).

Add 2 teaspoons xanthan gum to dry ingredients.

Follow directions as above.

This version might take an extra 15 minutes or longer to bake.  The texture is slightly different, more like a sponge cake crumb.

Standard
Desserts

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (with variations)

I don’t know why I’ve never shared this recipe before now.  It is the best cookie recipe I’ve ever found, because you can make the basic dough and then add all kinds of delicious variations.   I use it all the time.  I make these cookies at least twice a month, keeping that cookie jar full for Dennis and the grandkids.

Today when I made them, I couldn’t find the big bag of chocolate chips.  We packed up the pantry cabinets last weekend, and I couldn’t find the right box that held the bag of chocolate chips.  (I found them after Dennis got home from work, but it was too late.)  I had about 1/3 cup of semi-sweet chips, some white chocolate chips, and some peanut butter chips in a storage jar out in the laundry room/pantry, so I combined those, and boy, these cookies were really good!  The grandkids noticed the difference right away, but they liked them.  I think they ate three apiece.  At least they are getting fiber with their cookies!  Hee-hee.  Nana sneaks in some fiber, and they don’t even know it.

Most of the time when you say oatmeal cookies, people make a face.  Oatmeal cookies are often thick and doughy, or thick and dry.  These aren’t.  These are thin and soft and delicious when they are warm, then cool to crisp and equally delicious.  I have found that the texture is better, thinner and yummier, when I use old-fashioned rolled oats rather than quick oats.  And all the variations below are equally good.  This is a basic recipe you can add all kinds of different things to and have fun with.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1¼ cups softened butter (2 ½ sticks)

¾ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1½ cups flour (I often use whole wheat pastry flour)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt, mix into butter/sugar mixture. Stir in oats; stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 min. or until lightly browned. Cool 1 min. on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack. Store tightly covered. Yield: about 4 doz.

Variations:

  • Use half white chocolate chips and half semi-sweet chips for black and white chocolate chip cookies
  • Add 1 cup chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans for chocolate and nut cookies
  • Use all white chocolate chips and add 1 cup chopped pistachios (these taste like Trader Joe’s)
  • Use half peanut butter chips and half chocolate chips, can add 1 cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • Use milk chocolate chips for sweeter chocolate taste

For Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies:

Make dough as above, except add to dry ingredients:

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

Substitute 1 ½ cups raisins for chocolate chips. Bake, cool, and store as above.

 

 

Standard
Dairy, Desserts, Gluten-free

Blackberry Sour Cream Custard Pie

I owe the inspiration for this pie to two people: my friend, Wes Reid, who brought me an Apple Sour Cream Custard Pie one day many years ago (his partner, Lori Farias, had baked it), and my friend, Tara Johnson, who mentioned in a Facebook post that she was making a blackberry cream pie. Lori’s apple pie recipe evolved into my Rhubarb Sour Cream Custard Pie last summer. Tara’s blackberry cream pie turned out to be a riff on the Pioneer Woman’s blackberry cheesecake squares. But Tara’s choice of words got me thinking. I had Loganberries (a thornless blackberry) still ripening. Hmmm . . . would a sour cream custard work with blackberries? How would the cinnamon streusel topping go with the blackberries? I had to give it a try.

For some reason, I had a brain freeze when I got out my 10” pie plate and rolled out my gluten-free pie dough. Duh . . . the recipe is for a 9” pie! So my pie turned out a bit thinner than it should have. You’ll see that in these pictures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In a 9 inch crust, the custard layer would be thicker.  It is typical for the fruit (both rhubarb and blackberries) to float to the top of the custard as it bakes.  I made a few adjustments to the sour cream custard filling because although rhubarb is quite sour and releases a lot of water when it cooks, I’ve seen the juice that cooked blackberries release, and I had a feeling that they might water the custard down too much. Other than the goof with the pie crust size, the pie turned out perfectly! So here is the adjusted recipe, and I sure hope you still have some blackberries so you can try it. If not, you can use frozen blackberries, but thaw them and drain the juice off first. (Save it to drink—yummy—or make a syrup out of it to pour over some vanilla ice cream on top of the pie later!)

Blackberry Sour Cream Custard Pie

One 9-inch, uncooked pastry crust. See my gluten-free version if you like; I used some *homemade vanilla sugar in the crust for this pie.

Filling:

1 ½-2 cups blackberries (if you rinse them, drain them really well before adding to pie crust)

3 Tablespoons flour* (see notes)

1 cup sugar + ¼ cup sugar (keep separate)

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 large or extra-large eggs (I used my chickens’ eggs, which are a bit small, so I used 3 eggs)

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Streusel topping (recipe below)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out pastry crust and place in 9 inch pie plate. Crimp edges as you prefer. Sprinkle blackberries on crust. Sprinkle 3-4 tablespoons of reserved ¼ cup of sugar over blackberries. (How much sugar you use depends on how sweet or tart your blackberries are. Taste them, so you can decide how much sugar you want to use.)

For custard filling: Mix the flour, 1 cup of sugar, and salt together. Beat eggs, add to sugar mixture along with sour cream and vanilla extract, and mix well. Pour over blackberries in crust.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 30-35 minutes, or until custard is set in the center. While the pie is baking, prepare the topping.

Streusel Topping:

¼ cup softened butter (not melted)

1/3 cup flour* (see notes)

1/3 cup sugar* (see notes)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Optional: scrapings from 1 vanilla bean* (see notes)

Mix topping ingredients together to make a streusel, set aside.

When custard is set, remove pie from oven and increase temperature to 425 degrees. Gently sprinkle topping evenly over the pie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bake at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until topping is bubbly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Remove pie from oven and cool thoroughly on a rack. You can eat this pie cooled, but it is best chilled with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top. Store in fridge, covered.

Notes:

*I bumped up the vanilla in this recipe in several ways: more vanilla extract than usual in the custard (and I used my homemade vanilla extract), vanilla sugar (scraped vanilla beans buried in a jar of white sugar) in the pie crust, and vanilla bean seeds in the topping. Why? Vanilla and blackberries go very well together! Vanilla adds the illusion of sweetness to a tart berry without adding more sugar.

*For the streusel topping, I used brown sugar this time, and I liked it with the blackberries. I have used white sugar and coconut palm sugar in previous versions of this pie (apple and rhubarb), and they all work quite well.

*I also used brown rice flour instead of all-purpose flour to keep it gluten-free.  I’ve discovered that brown rice flour is a perfectly acceptable substitute in all applications in this recipe (and many others).

I wish I’d been inspired to make this pie earlier in the summer, when blackberries were more plentiful. If you still have blackberries or can find them at a market, I hope you’ll give this pie a try.  My wild berries have been gone for a month, and the Loganberries are nearly done now, too. However, the sour cream custard idea is still inspiring me. Who knows where I’ll go with it next? I did can a whole lot of blueberries this summer . . . .

 

 

Standard
Beverages, Canning, condiment, Desserts, Recipes

Berry Recipes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is berry season for all those berries that grow on canes.  I have raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, and Loganberries in the garden, and they bear in that order.  The raspberries are almost finished (until fall, when another variety will start to bear), the boysenberries also are nearly done, and the blackberries are just getting started.  Loganberries will start ripening in mid-to-late August.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve posted berry recipes before, but I’m gathering the links together for you, so you can more easily find what you might be looking for.  In some cases, you might have to scroll down (or read down) to find the recipe at the end of a post.

Blackberry Cordial and Syrup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I just made a batch of blackberry cordial and a batch of mixed berry cordial (Logan berries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blackberries), and the mixed berry cordial is delicious.  This recipe will work with any berry juice.

Raspberry Cordial, Jam, Vinegar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a reason to make blackberry jam or jelly, Blackberry and Wine Poached Pears

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a recipe to use your berry-infused vinegar in, Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And finally, since I just made a different version of blackberry syrup, I’m going to post the recipe here, with a few notes.

Blackberry Syrup

4 cups of blackberry juice

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of agave nectar/syrup

Simmer the blackberry juice and sugar together for 8 minutes, then add the agave nectar and boil for 2 more minutes.  Keep at a low simmer while ladling into hot, sterilized jars (pints, quarts, or half-pints) and add flats and rings.  Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Note:  My old syrup recipe, in the first link above, called for light corn syrup, a cup.  This recipe makes delicious pancake syrup (or it can be used in cocktails or spritzers), but with the concerns about corn syrup today, I went looking for a new recipe.  I found the one above that uses agave nectar, one cup, and it’s really good.  However, when I compared calorie and sugars numbers between corn syrup and agave, I was somewhat surprised.  Light corn syrup contains 5 grams of sugars per tablespoon and 15 grams of carbohydrates.  Agave nectar contains 16 grams of sugars and 16 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon.  Of course, corn syrup is problematic for other reasons, but if you’re just counting calories, it’s a bit of surprise that the syrup made with corn syrup has fewer calories than the one made with agave nectar.

The choice is yours:  both recipes make an excellent syrup for pancakes, cocktails and spritzers, or to drizzle over ice cream sundaes or mix up in a milk shake, or stir into some thick Greek yogurt . . . . What would you put it on?

Standard
Beverages, condiment, Dairy, Desserts, Recipes, Side dishes

Making Buttermilk

Now, some of you might be asking, why would you want to do that? Well, buttermilk is probiotic. It’s a culture/ferment that uses lactobacilli to alter the chemistry of milk. I must confess, I do not drink the stuff, although my father loved it. One of his favorite snacks was a big glass of buttermilk poured over a bowl of cold, crumbled cornbread, with a couple of fresh green onions from the garden on the side. I never developed a taste for that dish, but I have learned that buttermilk in baked goods lends a lightness only rivaled by sourdough. And it is excellent in salad dressings, and as a marinade for chicken, so I’ve been told, though I’ve never done it. I’ve come to love the stuff, and I keep a small jar of it in my fridge at all times. I enjoy knowing I have something freshly probiotic to mix into a salad dressing, for instance. I’ll be sharing a couple of my favorite buttermilk recipes with you in future posts.

Making your own buttermilk is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is mix 1/3rd cup of cultured buttermilk from the store with 1 cup of fresh milk. Shake it up in jar with a good lid, let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, and you’ll have buttermilk. On the left is the old jar, with what’s left of the buttermilk I made a couple of days ago, and on the right is the fresh batch that will be ready in 24 hours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You’ll know it’s ready when you tilt the jar and the buttermilk pulls away from the side of the jar. It will be thick and viscous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At this point, it will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

I’ve learned through experimentation that the more often you culture buttermilk, the tangier and thicker your buttermilk will become. Also, you can make buttermilk from milk of any fat content, but the more fat, the thicker the buttermilk tends to be. Buttermilk mixed into half and half or heavy cream will produce sour cream that is similar to crème fraiche. For that recipe, click here.  You can use this cultured cream just as you would any sour cream or crème fraiche, in dips, in baking, as a topping for baked potatoes or cheesecake!

Always save 1/3 cup of cultured buttermilk to mix with 1 cup of fresh milk for a new batch. Of course, you can double or triple these amounts, keeping the same proportions, if you wish to make a larger volume of buttermilk.

Check back with me in a few days for a recipe using fresh, homemade buttermilk.

Standard
Desserts, Recipes

Blackberry and Wine Poached Pears

Update:  December 19, 2015

I made Blackberry and Wine Poached Pears for dessert tonight–the first time this winter. I just love this dessert.  Tonight, I gave it a little twist.  To the spice mix, I added a half-teaspoon of mixed peppercorns that I crushed slightly in my marble mortar.  They added an interesting little zing to the pears and the syrup.  Yum!  I hope you’ll try this dessert this winter, if you missed it last year.

This is one of my favorite fall and winter desserts, and it’s so easy to make.  I am not an elegant plater, but if you have the right dishes and plate this dessert properly, it’s pretty as well as delicious.  Be sure to give this one a try before pears disappear from your grocery store.

Blackberry and Wine Poached Pears

Serves 4

2 cups red wine (pinot noir or merlot are best)

½ cup blackberry jam or blackberry jelly

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1-2 cinnamon sticks

10 whole allspice berries

3 whole cloves

4 ripe but firm pears suitable for cooking, with stems if possible (Anjou or Bosc are best, but Barletts can be used as well)

Vanilla ice cream

Combine wine, jam, and spices (ground spices can also be used:  1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and a pinch of ground cloves) in a pot or pan  large enough to hold the liquids and the pears; bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Peel pears, leaving stems on fruit. Carefully lower pears into poaching liquid and simmer, covered, until cooked through (15-30 minutes depending on the ripeness and type of pears you use).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rotate fruit as needed to ensure even color and flavor.  Check doneness with a fork near the base of the fruit, where it is thickest. The fork should slide in easily all the way to the core. Do not overcook the pears, or they will simply fall apart.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Remove pears from poaching liquid and set aside in warm oven to stay warm while sauce reduces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turn poaching liquid on high and boil rapidly until it begins to thicken, then turn down and continue reducing at a medium low temperature until syrup is as thick as pancake syrup. Strain syrup off into glass measuring cup or pitcher to cool slightly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plate each pear with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of slightly cooled spiced blackberry-wine syrup.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you have any syrup left over, save it for pouring over ice cream alone or for topping pancakes and fruit for a luxurious winter breakfast or brunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Standard