Sunday, March 27, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

RECIPE // Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

I know Robbie is disappointed that winter is over, but I am so excited that spring is here. I felt cheated out of a snow filled winter for a week or two. After a hyacinth filled trip to Terrain, I got over it. The temperature is perfect right now; the sun is warming everything, but there's a perfect breeze keeping it cool. If every day could be like Easter, that would be perfect.

This week I'm doing all of the prep work for Easter brunch. This is the second year that my mom and I have teamed up to make breakfast for my entire family. There will be quiches everywhere, scones for days, and endless mimosas. The amount of work that goes into it is daunting, but I love an opportunity to cook with my mom. A day that would normally be hectic is filled with relaxed cooking and fun music.

Brunch is certainly the main affair on Easter, but we still have to worry about dinner too. I normally sit back and enjoy the ham. This year I decided to contribute to the meal. I've been baking sourdough bread a lot recently, but rye bread is the most adventurous bread I've made. Hot cross buns seemed like a good bread to experiment with an enriched sourdough. The added fat, sugar, and eggs slow rising in doughs with commercial yeast, and sourdoughs also rise at a slower speed. I was worried that this was going to take a few days. Thankfully the rise was not as slow as I had feared. It's just slow enough that you can set it aside to rise while you work on the rest of dinner. If you time it just right, you can start it in the morning, and have them coming out of the oven as everyone sits down for dinner.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns:

for the buns:
1 heaping cup of unfed sourdough starter
1/4 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 egg
zest of half of a lemon
3 tbsp of grass fed unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp of honey
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of clove
2 tsp of salt, not iodized
1/2 cup of dried currants

for the topping:
2 tbsp of grass fed unsalted butter
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp of milk
1/2 cup of flour
1 egg
tbsp of heavy cream

In a stand mixer with a hook attachment, combine all of the ingredients except the currants. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Increase the speed to high and mix for another 4 minutes. Add the currants and mix on low for another minute to incorporate.

Cover the dough and let it rise until it doubles in size, about two hours. Punch the dough down and divide it into 1 1/2 inch pieces (an ice cream scoop works perfectly). Put the buns on a greased baking tray, three inches apart from one another. Cover the buns and let them rise until doubled in size, about two hours.

Near the end of the two hours, begin the topping. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar, and milk. Add the flour and mix until all of the flour is incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with a #6 tip with this topping.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg and heavy cream together. Brush this egg wash onto the buns. Pipe crosses onto each bun with the topping. Bake the buns for 18 minutes. Cool on a wire racks.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Easter is usually a difficult holiday for me. It means accepting that the winter is over and that we'll be forced into short pants and tank tops far too soon. Popsicles will melt quickly and lead to sticky hands and cuddling under piles of blankets will be something we only think about in overzealous air conditioning. I really love the cold seasons.

There is one exception. I love flowers! Of all sorts, really. Old fashioned portulaca and pansies, clumsy ranunculus, and even marigolds make my heart swell. The first daffodil to peek through the snow is enough to keep me smiling for days. Naturally, flowers are an important part of our Easter decor--even if their petals are waving goodbye to warm fires and hot coffee.

After browsing the Terrain site with Patrick's mom for easter decorating ideas, we kept coming back to this plantable iron trough with candle holders welded on the inside. I hesitated ordering it, but Patrick and I decided to change our weekend plans and we ended up in Glen Mills anyway. I picked up the trough right away and got to designing.

Terrain has beautiful natural beeswax candles, and I absolutely cannot resist anything in yellow. I opened the package in the store and began holding them up to different kinds of pansies. I kept coming back to the Antique Apricot variety. I absolutely adore the Oxalis--since they've been planted, they've sprouted tiny purple flowers--and they broke up the pansies nicely. For once, my enthusiasm and lack of editing skills paid off.


We got everything home after an amazing day of shopping and an incredible dinner at the cafe, and planted the trough with regular potting soil and a fantastic fertilizer we found last year at a herbal planter workshop.

Looking at this centerpiece really is easing my vernal anxieties. Maybe I'll even go outside and get some fresh air tomorrow--at the very least, I'll crack a window.

We have so much to share this week! Stay tuned!

XO - Robbie

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

RECIPE // Blood Orange Espresso Babka


About a year ago, Robbie and I decided to get rid of all TV except for basic cable. We had flipped through hundreds of channels without finding anything to watch, and realized that this scenario was occurring too frequently. It was so nice to go from watching TV every day to only watching it occasionally. Since then we have relapsed once, but during this cable-less period I discovered two of my favorite shows. The first was A Chef's Life, a PBS docuseries about a Southern-born, New York chef who returns home to open a farm-to-table restaurant. The second was The Great British Baking Show.


In the UK the show has been on for six seasons, but PBS has only aired the last two seasons. If anyone knows where I can watch the previous four, I would be forever indebted to you. The show is a baking competition, but it is the farthest thing from cooking competition shows in the US. Twelve bakers leave for the idyllic English countryside to leisurely cook. The cut throat attitude you're used to is gone; the bakers spend almost as much time helping each other as they do baking their own pastries. To make it even more relaxed, the bakers are get to practice and perfect their recipes during the week leading up to each episode. This show is the most relaxing thing to watch on TV.


On one episode the bakers were tasked with baking a pastry similar to babka. I've always wanted to make babka because its a close relative to my favorite bread, brioche. You basically roll out brioche dough super thin, cover it in a chocolate filling, roll it up, twist it into a loaf, and bake! Procrastination got the better of me though, and it was pushed to the back of my mind. Some time later I was watching PBS again, when Martha Stewart came on to bake, of course, babka. It seemed like a divine message brought to me by the Public Broadcasting gods. I couldn't ignore it. So if you have also seen that episode of the Great British Baking Show, and that Martha Stewart special, don't ignore this third message to bake babka.


Blood Orange Espresso Babka

For the dough:

1 package of yeast
1/3 c of milk, room temperature
3 tbsp + 1/2 tsp of sugar
zest of 2 blood oranges
4 large eggs
2 3/4 c of flour
2 tsp salt
1 c + 4 tbsp unsalted grassfed butter, softened and cubed

For the filling:
8 oz of bittersweet chocolate
1 c unsalted grassfed butter, softened
3 tbsp of instant espresso powder
1/4 c of 100% dark cocoa powder
1/4 c of sugar

For assembly:
Unsalted grassfed butter
1 egg
2 tbsp of cream

For the glaze:
Juice of one blood orange
3 tbsp of sugar

Begin the dough by mixing the yeast, milk, and 1/2 tsp of sugar in a bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins to bubble.

In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine the milk mixture with the remaining sugar, blood orange zest, eggs, flour, and salt. Mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Slowly add the butter, while increasing the speed to medium. Once all of the butter is incorporated, continue to mix for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Move the dough to a floured bowl and cover with linen or plastic wrap, and let rise for 2 1/2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

While the dough rises, make the filling. Chop the bittersweet chocolate as finely as possible. Crumble all of the ingredients for the filling together. The smaller the pieces are, the easier it will be later. Divide the filling in half.

Once the dough has finished rising, punch it down and divide it in half. Take one half of the dough and begin to roll it out on a floured surface. Continue to roll it thinner into a 14x18 inch sheet. Take one half of the filling and spread it evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch gap on all sides. Starting at a short end, roll the dough onto itself, until you have a 14 inch long roll. Wrap in parchment paper and put it into the freezer for 20 minutes. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough and filling.

Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans with butter and line each pan with two strips on parchment paper going lengthwise and widthwise. This will make removing the loaves so easy. Take the two rolls out of the freezer and uncover. Trim a half inch of dough from each end of both rolls. Cut each roll in half, lengthwise. Take two halves of one roll and begin to place them in a loaf pan. Starting at one end, twist the loaves around each other until both halves fit snugly into the pan. Repeat this process with the other two halves. Cover the loaves with linen or plastic wrap and put them into the refrigerator. Allow them to rise overnight.

The next day, remove the loaves from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk an egg with 2 tbsp of cream, and brush over both loaves. Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes or until they have reached a deep golden brown color.

While the babka bakes, start the glaze. Stir the blood orange juice and sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once it has reached a boil, remove the glaze from the heat. Remove the babka from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Immediately brush the babka with your blood orange glaze and allow to cool.