Remember how I told you I was going to introduce ‘him’ to all of you once my knee was better and I could start standing to knead some really amazing sourdough breads?
Well, that day never came, because I was a bad mama. Once my knee healed and I was out and about on two legs, no cane, I kind of forgot about him in the back of the refrigerator. When I remembered, it was probably three months since his last feeding. I tried to revive him, but there was mold, and the small amounts I took out, minus the mold, and fed, – eagerly awaiting his bubbles of life, had already been given last rites. It just wasn’t going to happen – it didn’t smell the way it wass supposed to, it was rank. The smell was clearly sourdough starter rigor mortis. I bid Herbie a sad adieu as I poured his thick liquid soul into the trash can.
Of course I later found out that he could have been saved by taking a tablespoon of him from the very center (his *sniff* heart), and giving him mad defibrillation with flour, sugar and water. Just one tablespoon, and Herbie would still be here.
Batter like sourdough starter aka Herbie II
Oh, well..no use crying over trashed sourdough starter. He gave me the best breads of his wild yeasted life. Besides, I could reincarnate him someday. That day has come, and may I introduce you to Herbie II? About 1 month ago, I just decided to do it, once again using Nancy Silverton’s grape starter method. There was no way any commercial yeast will ever step granule or cake in any sourdough starter I make.
Capturing wild yeast from everything around us, the air, atmosphere, our kitchens, etc…is the most amazing thing to watch develop – like gestating a baby, although not as wonderous and exciting of course, because this baby is not one you can cuddle and love and well, be human with – just one you can watch grow stronger and stronger, giving you the most complex, wonderful tasting breads, all with a lovely crumb and crust.
Firm sourdough starter
My weird intuition struck again…
Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create sourdough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with sourdough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our sourdough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen: Great British Food!
So, I had already started gestating Herbie II, and one week later, it’s announced as the Daring Bakers challenge. Although I loved that the challenge recipe for starter was all about capturing wild yeast, I’d already fermented enough grapes to capture Herbie’s wild yeast. There was no sense in making another one. I’m not a multi-starter type baker – one is enough, and from that one, I can make all kinds of starters for a variety of breads, and whatever is left over from those, is given away or used to the last drop. You will never see half-filled jars all over my kitchen or in my fridge labeled rye starter, oat starter, potato starter etc. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s cool that people do that, but if I could kill one starter with neglect, could you imagine the massacre of one plus?-
Yes, I have the potential to be a sourdough serial killer. *gasp*.
I needed to bake a bunch of challah braids for Hanukkah. I wanted to try Maggie Glazer’s recipe for sourdough challah for a long time, so I figured this would be a great time to do it. I had already planned on filling one of the challahs with a homemade salted caramel with apples, which I haven’t been able to get out of my mind for months now, so why not sourdough and salted caramel apples? Tangy, sweet, salty – God, YES.
Maggie Glazer’s dough calls for a firm starter to produce another firm starter for the challah. Fortunately, Maggie has directions on how to convert a batter like starter into a firm starter. I needed to take a tablespoon of Herbie and mix it with some water (I only use bottled) and bread flour until I had a dough that could be kneaded. I surveyed Herbie’s young, unused, not yet powerful, baby bubbles and hoped for the best.
The next morning, as you can see in the above ‘firm starter’ photo, I had a risen mass of thick, bubbly, ‘cracked window’, dough. Success! Looks like the original Herbie’s super strength had been passed on to his younger replacement. I proceeded on with the recipe,letting one more starter go to town – ending up with a lovely, silky dough. It smelled wonderful too, like most wild yeast doughs.
I finally had to stop sniffing it or else it would never rise, much less make it to the oven.
While the dough was doing it’s thing, I made the salted caramel, chopped up some apples, added some spice, then stirred the apples into the hot caramel. I think I will always keep a jar of this on hand. I’m in love..I desperately wanted to start eating it right out of the jar I put it in for not only storage, but for the photo above.
If you don’t want to make sourdough challah, traditional challah, or any doughy vessel to place some of these glorious salted caramel apples in, I beg you to just make the salted caramel apples. I’ve already had it over ice cream and well, straight out of the jar, but no double dipping, honest! It’s..it’s…just amazing..I can’t even put it into words.
SO, like my Unique Twist on Challah back in ’09. in which I made a 6-strand braid challah, each strand filled with chocolate raisins and cinnamon sugar, I set out to reproduce something similar with the salted caramel apple filling. This time I was only doing a 4-strand braid because I wanted thick ribbons and pockets of the caramel. This is where I made my first mistake. This filling is wet, so a small amount should be used for each strand to prevent any seepage and trouble braiding. I used 1/4 cup full for each strand.
Bad idea, I couldn’t roll the sealed strands to the 16 to 18-inches in length I wanted it to be for braiding, and the braiding was difficult, heavy, and there were several tears in between. I ended up with a very sloppy, lopsided, wide braid. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but I was presenting it to guests, and you guys.
Dark circles under the eyes? Concealer. Lopsided, fat, lumpy challah braid? Sesame seeds.
Next time I’ll only use 2 tablespoons of the filling per strand..IF it’s for guests. If not, who cares about lopsided, lumpy braids? It was delicious, and thanks to the wonderful ‘new’ Herbie, it rose like Mary Poppin’s umbrella with a turbo engine in each spoke – not to mention the beautiful oven spring, and just look at that crumb! I love how the gooey part of the salted caramel melts into it’s bready pocket, while the spiced apples kind of hang out, dropping into your hand occasionally when you tear off pieces.
You love challah french toast? Wait until you try salted caramel apple challah french toast (hopefully, a photo coming soon – if the few slices left are not eaten before this can happen). The sourdough has kept this bread silky soft and moist for 2 days now, so it’s not looking good! In fact, I’m already eyeing the remaining slices lustily.
Update, 15 minutes later : There will be no salted caramel apple sourdough challah french toast on this blog anytime soon. I caved.
If you get a chance, please check out my fellow Daring Baker’s sourdough starters and creations by clicking on the links to their blogs HERE. For the challenge sourdough starter recipe, and some great breads to make with it, click HERE.
I’m also submitting it to Bread Baking Day #45, hosted by Cindy of Cindystar.
The GIVEAWAY winner of the six jars of Bonne Maman preserves and the $25.00 gift certificate to use at OhNuts.com is Katrina of Baking with Boys, who was #38! Congrats Katrina! Will send you an email to get your info ASAP.
My recipe for salted caramel apples will be posted soon. Sorry that I’ve been a bit lazy when it comes to typing it out
Maggie Glazer’s Sourdough Challah Recipe (you can use any challah recipe you like, it doesn’t have to be sourdough)
Salted Caramel Apple Filling
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
!/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon flour
Squeeze of lemon juice
1. In a bowl, Combine the chopped apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon juice and flour. Set aside.
2. Pour the water around and over the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves (I prefer this over the brushing the sugar off the sides with a wet pastry brush).
3. When the sugar dissolves, turn to high heat, and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and the butter – it will bubble vigorously. Simmer and stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Stir in the sea salt.
4. Take pot off heat, let sit about 3 minutes, then stir in the chopped, spiced apples while caramel is still very hot. Let cool to room temperature. If not using immediately, refrigerate in an airtight jar or container.
5. You will not use all of the salted caramel apples for the challah or challahs (if making two), so enjoy it over ice cream, pound cake, as a homemade doughnut filling,, cake filling etc. The ideas are endless! Then again, I just eat it with a spoon. I’m a simple gal. I think.
Fill, Braid, and Bake Challah
1, Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. I used a scale for this. Take one piece (covering the other three pieces with plastic wrap) and roll into a flat, oblong 12-inch disk. Spoon two tablespoons of the salted caramel apple filling down the length of the disk, as shown in photos above.
2. Cover filling with both sides of dough, pimching to seal and making sure none of the filling gets into your seal..it won’t seal if that happens. Gently roll and taper the ends, to about 16 to 18-inches in length. Cover and repeat with remaining three pieces of dough. Once you have all 4 filled strands, pinch them together at the top and braid using this 4-strand weaving method. In a bowl or cup, beat one egg until uniform – this will be your egg wash.
3. Place loaf on a parchment lined pan and brush with egg wash (I don’t use all of the white in the egg. I let some spill out into a cup so my egg wash is more yolk than white – this gives it that nice burnished look)). Brush loaf all over and let rise until doubled in size – about an hour. Preheat oven to 350 F.
4. Once risen, brush again with remaining egg wash, getting into all the crevices that opened during the rise. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or nothing at all – your choice. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 35-45 minutes. Let cool a few minutes, then carefully lift off of pan, and place on a wire rack to cool fully.