Naan Bread for the Ooni Koda Pizza Oven

If you’ve been on social media over the past year you’ve probably seen advertisements for the Ooni Koda Pizza Oven. I have always loved Italian-style pizza and after watching so many videos and researching brands, I decided to purchase it. The oven itself took six months to arrive (thanks to being backordered and difficulty getting products right now). After using it for the past month, I can definitely tell you it was worth the wait. I’ve been dabbling with pizza (recipes will be coming soon) and recently I made this amazing naan bread in the Ooni Koda Pizza Oven that I knew I had to share. This naan is light, fluffy, chewy and just delicious to sop up some curry or eat plain. Seriously so good! The Ooni Koda is not just for pizza. It’s also for amazing naan bread.

Ooni vs a Tandoor Oven

We love naan bread. When we lived in Japan we ate at many different Indian restaurants, all with delicious naan made in tandoor ovens. Those ovens give naan a delicious crust while still being nice and soft. The Ooni Koda mimics the high heat of a tandoor oven which makes for amazing naan bread. I’ve been using this naan recipe for years and love it grilled on a skillet. This new recipe is a game changer when made in an Ooni Koda Pizza Oven. The high heat puffs up the naan so well and forms a beautiful chewy crust. Brush on some melted butter and it will be the highlight of your meal.

Use Bread Flour

Using bread flour is a key to light, delicious, chewy naan bread. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all purpose flour and higher protein content gives bread more chew. All purpose flour can work in a pinch, but I highly recommend using bread flour in all your breads if you can. It will significantly increase the quality of your baked goods just by using bread flour in place of all purpose. In a pinch you can add 1-2 Tablespoons of vital wheat gluten to all purpose flour to increase the protein content and chew of the bread. 

Kneading the Naan

I love using this Bosch Mixer to knead bread. This naan bread is no exception. Pour all the dough ingredients into the bowl except the flour. Mix together while adding the flour a cup at a time. As the dough kneads, continue adding flour as needed. Be careful not to over-flour the dough. Once the dough collects on one side of the bowl and the consistency is such that you can pinch off a piece of dough and roll it up in your fingers with just a little sticky residue, stop adding flour. Set a timer and knead for 8-10 minutes. You can also do this by hand or using a different mixer. The dough will become smooth and silky as you knead it.

Rising and Shaping

After the dough has been kneaded, transfer it to a large container and let rise for 1-2 hours until doubled or tripled in size. The ambient room temperature will affect how fast your dough will rise. Once the dough has risen, use a bench scraper or a large knife to separate the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball by cupping your hand around the dough and tightly dragging the dough around into a circle. See the pictures below for an example. 

Refrigerating Naan Dough

Once the dough is shaped into tight balls, cover lightly with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 1 to 24 hours before baking. Chilling the dough makes it much easier to work with using the Ooni Koda Pizza Oven. This is a great recipe to make a day in advance or in the morning before baking in the evening for dinner. 

Shaping Naan

Pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Use a rolling pin and a scant dusting of flour, if needed, to roll the dough into a small circle. Then use your fingers to stretch the dough into a larger circle shape. Do your best not to rip the dough. If the dough rips, it will still be delicious, the naan just won’t puff up quite as high when baked. Stretch the naan as thin as you can without ripping it so it will bake evenly.

Naan dough that’s been stretched a little too far with holes won’t puff up quite as much as naan without any tears. Still delicious, just a little different look.

How to Bake in the Ooni Koda Pizza Oven

Preheat the Ooni Koda on the highest setting for about 20-30 minutes before baking your first piece of naan bread. The oven should reach a temperature of over 500 degrees Fahrenheit before you bake. On a wooden cutting board, sprinkle a little bit of flour or cornmeal (something to keep the naan from sticking to the cutting board). Stick the naan dough on the cutting board and launch into the pizza oven by quickly thrusting the board forward, moving the naan off the board and into the oven. Bake for about 1 minute until the naan puffs up and is a little charred on the outside. Use a pizza peel to take the naan out of the oven and transfer to a plate. Repeat this process until all of the naan has been baked. You can fit at least two pieces of naan at a time in the Ooni Koda 16 oven once you get the hang of using the pizza oven.

How to Serve Naan Bread

Brush the hot naan with melted butter and top with fresh herbs if desired. Serve the naan bread right away for the most delicious addition to your meal. We eat naan with curry or as a side to a salad or other main dish. Another family favorite is topping day-old naan with pizza toppings for a quick lunch or dinner. If you haven’t tried anything other than pizza in an Ooni Pizza Oven, then what are you waiting for? Try this delicious Naan bread paired with a savory curry or eat it as your main meal. It will be a new family favorite either way.

Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t have a pizza oven. Can I bake this Naan Bread in a regular oven?

If you don’t have a pizza oven, the next best way to bake the naan is on a pre-heated pizza stone in your oven. Crank your oven to 500 degrees and preheat your pizza stone at that temperature. Bake the naan for a few minutes on the pizza stone until puffed up and crispy. You can also bake this bread in a frying pan or using a griddle, though it won’t have quite the same puffy texture and results. It should still taste delicious.

Can I use dry active yeast instead of instant yeast?

Yes. Proof the yeast with the warm water and sugar in a small bowl for about 10 minutes. Once it gives off a sweet, yeasty smell and bubbles, you know it is ready to use.

Can I substitute all purpose flour for bread flour?

You can make this Naan bread with all purpose flour. I recommend adding 1-2 Tablespoons of vital wheat gluten along with the all purpose flour to help increase the protein content of the flour. However, in a pinch you can use only all purpose flour.

What do you serve with Naan Bread?

We love to eat curry with our naan bread. Sometimes we’ll make a salad and pair it with naan or top leftover naan bread with pizza toppings for a quick meal.

How do I store leftover Naan Bread?

If you don’t eat all the naan at once, place leftover naan in a ziplock bag. It can stay on the counter for 24 hours. After 24 hours I would stick it in the freezer to use within a couple of months.

Naan Bread for an Ooni Koda Pizza Oven

Perfect naan bread made in the Ooni Koda pizza oven. Light, chewy and absolutely perfect, this naan bread bakes up in a minute's time and will be the star of your dinner.
Prep Time 3 hrs
Cook Time 1 min
Course Bread
Cuisine Indian
Servings 12 pieces

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup warm water (temperature of baby's bathwater) 8 oz
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt 9.5 oz (see recipe notes)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 4.5-5 cups bread flour 27.5 oz (see recipe notes)
  • 6 Tablespoons melted butter salted or unsalted
  • a bunch of fresh herbs if desired

Instructions
 

  • To a stand mixer add warm water (temperature of baby's bathwater), instant yeast and sugar. Let sit for a minute until the instant yeast smells and bubbles just a bit.
  • Add the salt, plain yogurt and olive oil to the mixer. Turn the mixer on and add the flour a cup at a time until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should be tacky to the touch but not overly sticky.
  • Mix the dough in a stand mixer for 10 minutes to develop the gluten in the dough. Add a bit more flour as needed.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise until doubled or tripled (about 1-2 hours).
  • Once dough has risen, turn out onto the counter and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a tight ball and set on a baking sheet.
  • Cover and refrigerate the dough balls on the baking sheet for 1 hour or up to 24 hours before baking. Cold dough is easier to shape for the Ooni pizza oven. A longer time in the refrigerator deepens the flavor of the naan bread.
  • Preheat your Ooni Koda Pizza oven for 20-30 minutes on high.
  • Once your oven is pre-heated, take the dough out of the fridge. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a small circle. Use your hands and fingers to stretch the dough out into a larger circle without breaking the bread. Repeat this process with all of the dough balls.
  • Place a piece of naan dough on a wooden cutting board. Using a quick motion, toss the naan bread from the cutting board into the pizza oven. Watch carefully as the naan bread bakes. Each piece should take about 1 minute.
  • The naan is ready when it puffs up and is a little charred on the outside. Use a pizza peel to take the naan out of the oven. The Ooni Koda 16 can bake at least two pieces of naan at a time (it could probably hold four pieces if you can get them all out in time without burning!).
  • Once the naan is out of the oven, slather each piece with melted butter and sprinkle with herbs if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

Yogurt: This recipe works best with regular, plain yogurt. Greek yogurt can work but may require a little less flour because the Greek yogurt is thicker. You can substitute sour cream for yogurt in a pinch.
Bread Flour: Bread flour works best in this recipe because of the higher protein content. If you don’t have bread flour, you can substitute all purpose flour and add a Tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to increase the protein content of your all purpose flour. This will give the naan bread more chew. In a pinch you can substitute with all purpose flour, though it really is worth picking up a bag of bread flour at the store for this naan bread.
Keyword naan, ooni, ooni koda, pizza oven, yeast bread

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a very small amount from qualifying purchases.

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread, like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest for more baking ideas. Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake.

19 Gifts for A Home Baker

With the holidays coming up, I thought it would be nice to make a list of my tried and true favorite baking tools that would make great stocking stuffers or “big ticket” gifts. I started this as a “top ten” list, but the more I listed the things I love to use in my kitchen on a weekly basis, the more this list grew! So here it is: 19 things that would make the perfect gift for a home baker or someone who just loves to bake. Everything that made this list is something that I use and love in my kitchen (or something I want for myself for Christmas) and would be thrilled to receive as a gift over the holidays. If you have an aspiring baker in your life or someone who just loves baking in the kitchen, check some of these ideas out. I hope it helps!

Disclaimer: These are all products that I use and purchased myself or a few that I would love to receive. I am a member of Amazon affiliate. Clicking on any Amazon link and purchasing through my link will earn me a very small amount through qualifying purchases. Thank you for supporting me in running this website so I can bring you more great content.

  1. 1. Zester: Whether I’m zesting lemons, frozen ginger, oranges or limes, this zester comes in handy to add bright flavor to many baked goods or dinners. It’s the perfect size for a stocking stuffer too!

  1. 2. USA Pans: These are my long-time favorite pans. They are the easiest to clean of any pans I’ve ever used. I found them at Costco a few months ago, so be sure to check there as well. I love their traditional loaf pans, baking sheets and cookie sheets the most. They are perfect for baking brioche buns or these cloverleaf dinner rolls.

  1. 3. Pastry Mat: Using a pastry mat to roll out and work with dough is a game changer for me! I love turning out my dough onto a pastry mat instead of the countertop. I also love how easy it is to have the measurements right in front of you when making cinnamon rolls, rolling out pie dough or shaping a cookie cake.

  1. 4. Sourdough Bread Lame: I love the UFO bread lame from Wire Monkey which I received last year as a Christmas gift. It is easy to hold and makes bread scoring very easy. I’ve also liked this one you can grab on Amazon. Either of these options will change the way you score bread and give your finished bread a beautiful look!

  1. 5. Tartine Bread Book: This is the book that started my love of sourdough. It has beautiful images and amazing recipes from the beginning of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. It is not an easy book to start with, but would be perfect for someone who loves baking with sourdough or wants to learn more complex recipes. I also love their second book of mostly pastries, and their third book (all about baking with whole grains) is making its way on my Christmas list this year.

  1. 6. Potato “Bread” Pot: I’ve waxed poetic about this potato pot to bake bread in before on Instagram. It is not necessary. You can make awesome bread with a baking stone or using a dutch oven (I used a pot like this for many years before upgrading and it worked really well). But, if you want to splurge on someone for Christmas who loves baking sourdough, this pot is the way to go! At the time of posting Costco online also carries these pots if you want to save about $40. This is where I purchased my pots (and I have four of them!).

  1. 7. 00 Pizza Flour: Have a pizza lover in your life? Grab them a bag of this Italian-style pizza flour to mix up their next batch of pizza dough. It costs more than a regular bag of flour but makes delicious chewy and crispy crust, just the way they eat in Naples.

  1. 8. Cookie Dough Scoop: I use this cookie scoop ALL. THE. TIME. From small batches of cookies to scooping out my favorite muffin batter, it makes my life easier. I like the 2 Tablespoon size which is good for most cookie recipes, mini muffins or scoop twice to fill a muffin tin. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer or small gift for anyone who loves to bake.

  1. 9. Meat Thermometer (Candy Thermometer): I went too many years without using a thermometer in my kitchen. I love using this one to cook meat on the grill to the perfect temperature. I also love that I can use it when making caramel sauce on the stove to check the temperature as I go. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer.

  1. 10. Danish Dough Whisk: Want a unique Christmas gift that looks neat and is so much fun to use? This Danish Dough Whisk is fun for any baker, whether it’s for mixing up waffles or stirring together a wet sourdough. I bought mine a few years ago and use it every week. This dough whisk is perfect for a unique gift exchange or to place under the tree for your favorite baker.

  1. 12. Bread Banneton: If you have been around here for awhile, you know how much I love to bake sourdough bread. These bread bannetons are perfect to hold sourdough bread while it proofs. I love the circular lines that form on the bread loaves when I use these (compared to small kitchen bowls). For someone who wants to bake sourdough or up their bread game, this is a great gift.

  1. 13. Bench Scraper: I use a bench scraper every time I make sourdough bread and almost anytime I work with roll dough. I bought this nice one from King Arthur Flour, but this one on Amazon would make a great gift too.

  1. 14. Sourdough Starter: If you want a really unique and fun gift for your favorite baker, grab this sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour. It will save time vs making one from scratch and is really good quality.

  1. 15. Parchment Paper: My all-time favorite parchment paper is this Kirkland brand you can find at Costco. I tried so many different brands of parchment paper during the pandemic when the supply of parchment paper was running low and this is far and away my favorite. If you don’t have a Costco membership, go with a friend or you can grab a roll or two on Amazon (but Costco is much cheaper)!

  1. 16. Metal Measuring Cup and Spoons: I’ve been meaning to upgrade my measuring cups and measuring spoons and these are the ones I’ve got my eye on with their many great reviews on Amazon. Maybe they will find a place in my Christmas stocking this year. Wink, wink to my hubby.

  1. 17. Bosch Mixer: If you’re looking for the best bread mixer for a home baker, the Bosch Universal Plus cannot be beat. This is definitely a high ticket item but it will last years and there’s nothing better than turning it on and letting the high quality motor knead the dough for ten minutes to really develop the gluten. I find this is best for large (two loaves or more) batches of dough.

  1. 18. KitchenAid Mixer: Another high ticket item that any home baker will love. I love using a KitchenAid for cookies, cakes, frostings and marshmallow. My daughter uses it a lot for her cookie business. Definitely go with the Professional 600 or higher series for the higher power motor. This mixer can also knead bread with a dough hook, though it isn’t quite as powerful as a Bosch for bread.

  1. 19. Ooni Pizza Oven: This one is a big splurge but it puts out amazing pizza and naan bread. Be prepared for a long wait time when you order (it may take awhile), but the wait is worth it. I love experimenting with the Ooni Koda Pizza Oven and will be posting more recipes as I use it more. I chose the Ooni Koda 16 specifically because it can make larger (16 inch) pizzas, and I have been very happy with it.

And there you have it! Nineteen awesome gifts for a home baker. I hope this is helpful as you are gathering your Christmas gifts and buying for those you love. And really, the best gifts are the gifts of time spent together, enjoying family and friends and making memories. I wish I could bring you a plate of Christmas cookies this year as a thank you, but a recipe for the Best Christmas Cookies Ever will have to do. Thank you for being here and have a wonderful holiday season!

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a very small amount from qualifying purchases.

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread, like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest for more baking ideas. Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake.

Easy Apple Crisp

Apple picking is on the top of our family’s list as a favorite fall activity. We spent Labor Day weekend in Michigan this year and enjoyed a day at Crane’s Orchard where we picked over 100 pounds of apples! We’ve been enjoying this apple crisp recipe on repeat. It is delightful and full of our favorite fall flavors. This apple crisp is so easy to throw together, the hardest part is deciding if you want to take the time to peel the apples! Eat it warm with a scoop of ice cream for dessert or room temperature for breakfast the next day. No judgement here! This easy apple crisp is a crowd pleaser and a family favorite.

Peeling and Slicing the Apples

We prefer our apple crisp with peeled apples, though if you don’t mind the texture and taste of the skin, it would save you a bit of time and still taste good leaving them on. You can use a vegetable peeler to peel apples but if you really want something that makes peeling apples easy and fun, I highly recommend one of these apple peelers (affiliate link). They work perfectly to peel and slice your apples. I love the uniform slices for baking and dehydrating. Side Note: we love this dehydrator for apples. Once the apples are peeled and sliced, I cut them into small chunks and pour them in a baking dish. Keep the apple chunks about the same size as you chop them for even baking.

One Bowl, One Baking Dish

As a busy mom, I love recipes that only require one bowl. These one-bowl pumpkin muffins or this sourdough gingerbread cake are some of my favorite one-bowl recipes. Less dishes to wash just makes me love a recipe even more. In this apple crisp, I mix the apples together with the sugar and spices directly in the baking pan. Sometimes I’ll use a bowl to mix the apples together, dump that mixture in the baking pan and then use the same bowl to mix up the crumb topping. Either way, one bowl is the way to go for this simple apple crisp.

Soft or Melted Butter

For the apple crisp topping, I like to use very soft or melted butter. Mix the butter with the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, flour and oats until you get a crumbly topping. If your topping feels too dry you can add another small pat of butter to help moisten it a bit. Crumble the topping on top of the apple crisp.

Glass Pan or Metal Pan?

Should apple crisp be baked in a glass pan or a metal pan? I love my metal USA pans but apple crisp is really best baked in a glass pan. Metal pans are perfect for cakes, brownies, cookies and biscuits while cobblers and fruit crisps fare better with glass pans. Glass pans take longer to heat up, which make them perfect for anything you bake for a longer length of time at a moderate heat (in this case, about an hour). This is the glass pan that I use most frequently in my kitchen (affiliate link). If you don’t have a glass pan, a metal pan will work in a pinch.

I hope you enjoy this delicious treat. It’s quick, easy and perfect to share with family or friends on a cold fall night. We love dolloping a big scoop of ice cream on top for an extra indulgent dessert.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Apples Should I use in Apple Crisp?

Any tart apple or a combination of tart apples work well in this apple crisp. I’ve used Granny Smith, Honeycrisp and McIntosh with great results.

How should I store leftover apple crisp?

Leftover apple crisp can be covered and left on the counter for 24 hours. After that, stick it in the fridge for a couple of days and reheat as needed.

Do I have to add almond extract?

You don’t have to add the almond extract, but it adds a subtle flavor that complements the apples and enhances the flavor.

Can I use other fruit instead of apples?

This crisp would work well for a variety of fruits. Berries would be great and you could even use peaches during peach season. We love mixing cranberries in with the apples for a beautiful tart flavor. It’s perfect for fall.

Easy Apple Crisp

The perfect fall dessert. Sweet, tart apples topped with a delicious oat topping and baked low and slow. Top this apple crisp with vanilla ice cream and you have the perfect taste of fall!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 9 people

Ingredients
  

Apple Filling

  • 4 large apples see recipe notes
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice squeeze of about half a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract optional but delicious
  • pinch of salt

Apple Crisp Topping

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened or melted
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 by 8 glass baking dish (affiliate link) with butter or non-stick cooking spray . Set aside.
  • Using an apple peeler (affiliate link), peel, core and slice the apples. Chop into chunks and pour into the glass pan.
  • Sprinkle the brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt over the top of the chopped apples. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract and almond extract. Toss together with a spoon until the apples are completely coated.
  • To a small bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, flour and oats until it forms a crumbly topping. The mixture will be crumbly but should clump together. If it is too crumbly, add another half Tablespoon of butter. Press the crumb mixture on top of the chopped apples. Place in preheated oven.
  • Bake apple crisp for 50-60 minutes until the juices from the apples are bubbling around the edges. Pull out and serve warm with a scoop of ice cream if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

Apples: My favorite apples to use are Honeycrisp or Granny Smith. Sometimes I will mix a few of these tart and tangy apples with a few Fuji or Gala apples (really any apples I have in my fridge). 
Keyword apple crisp

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a very small amount from qualifying purchases.

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread, like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest for more baking ideas. Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake.

Chocolate Sourdough Zucchini Cake

Chocolate, sourdough and zucchini. At first I wasn’t sure those three words belong together, but after making this chocolate sourdough zucchini cake on repeat…they do! After baking and sampling with dollops of the ethereal chocolate whipped cream, I kept coming back throughout the day for just one more nibble. I couldn’t stop after just one piece. This chocolate sourdough zucchini cake is rich with a deep chocolate flavor and has a perfectly moist crumb (thank you zucchini).Top it with chocolate whipped cream and it’s pretty much perfection.

Jump to Chocolate Sourdough Zucchini Cake Recipe

Sourdough Discard

If you’ve followed my site for long, you know how much I love sourdough. I have many favorite sourdough recipes using sourdough starter. This Babka or my favorite no-knead bread are, well, favorites. This zucchini cake benefits from the leftover sourdough discard that I almost always have hanging out in the back of my fridge. I don’t like to waste the excess flour/water from feeding my sourdough starter. Instead I find ways to incorporate discard into baked goods. The older the discard (the longer it’s been sitting out), the stronger the sourdough flavor. I typically prefer a mild sourdough flavor in sweet baked goods, like this sourdough blueberry crumb cake or these brown butter sourdough chocolate chip cookies. I don’t mind as strong of a flavor in these discard rolls or these amazing sourdough pretzel bites. Whatever your preference, this is the perfect cake to add some sourdough discard. It is moist, fluffy and delicious.

Zucchini

We love zucchini at our house. I make this favorite zucchini bread often and we love sautéd zucchini as a side for our dinner many weeknights. When we want to use zucchini in a dessert, though, this chocolate sourdough zucchini cake is it. I love that this recipe has you shred the zucchini and immediately toss it into the batter—no squeezing out excess water required. It definitely makes it super quick to throw together. And don’t worry, zucchini is the perfect vehicle to increase the moistness of the cake. If you shred it finely on a box grater, you (or your picky eaters) won’t even know it’s there. Promise!

Chocolate Whipped Cream

Whipped cream is my favorite in all forms, but this chocolate whipped cream topping takes it up a notch. While this chocolate zucchini cake can definitely stand on its own, the chocolate whipped cream is absolutely amazing. It is the perfect deep chocolate flavor, not too sweet and so good you won’t mind the extra step of pulling out the beaters and licking them clean! We love to top each slice of cake with a scoop of chocolate whipped cream for an extra decadent bite.

9 by 13 pan

My favorite pan to bake this zucchini cake in is a 9 by 13 pan. I love this USA pan (affiliate link), because it is non-stick and bakes the cake so evenly. I typically like to bake desserts in smaller pans (too tempting!), but this one is worth the larger pan. It is perfect for a crowd and I can even trick myself into thinking this is healthy…it’s mostly vegetable, right?!

If you’re looking for the perfect way to use up zucchini and sourdough discard, this chocolate sourdough zucchini cake is it. Perfect to serve at a family gathering or just for fun, it is worth picking up some zucchini and starting up your sourdough starter again just for this cake. Chocolate sourdough zucchini heaven!

Chocolate Sourdough Zucchini Cake

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I substitute for sourdough discard?

If you want to make this recipe without sourdough discard, you can increase the flour to 1 1/2 cups and increase the buttermilk to 3/4 cup.

Can this sourdough zucchini cake be made in a smaller pan?

Yes. This recipe works well in an 8 by 8 pan, (affiliate link). Just cut the ingredients in half and bake at the same temperature. Check for readiness of the zucchini cake a few minutes early. The smaller size may bake a bit quicker.

Should I squeeze out the liquid from my zucchini?

Some recipes call for squeezing out the excess liquid and water in zucchini, like this zucchini bread. Zucchini has a very high water content (over 90%) which can affect the texture of some baked goods if not squeezed dry. This is a very moist zucchini cake and one of the benefits of it is not having to wring dry the shredded zucchini (though you can if you want to).

What are the best recipes to use sourdough discard?

Sourdough discard (the byproduct of sourdough starter) can be used in small quantities in most baked goods. I don’t like to waste food or discard, so I add it to many of my recipes. Some of my favorite discard recipes are these sourdough discard rolls or pretzel bites. This sourdough discard blueberry crumb cake is delicious too. It’s so easy to add some discard to pancakes or waffles for breakfast. Sourdough discard works especially well in these sourdough cheddar biscuits with a nice hearty soup.


Chocolate Sourdough Zucchini Cake

Amy
Chocolate sourdough zucchini cake is rich with a deep chocolate flavor, perfectly moist crumb and topped with a downright delicious chocolate whipped cream. The perfect cake for a party or family gathering.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 1 9 by 13 cake

Ingredients
  

Chocolate Sourdough Zucchini Cake

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk see recipe notes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or any neutral flavored oil
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sourdough discard see recipe notes
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour about 5 oz
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups finely shredded zucchini

Chocolate Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

Chocolate Sourdough Zucchini Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 by 13 pan, affiliate link, by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Finely shred the zucchini on a box grater until you have 2 cups of shredded zucchini. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs. Add the buttermilk, oil and granulated sugar. Whisk to combine. Pour in the sourdough discard and vanilla extract. Whisk until completely incorporated and smooth.
  • In a small bowl, use a fork to incorporate the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Fluff with a fork until completely combined.
  • Pour the dry ingredients on top of the liquid ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the shredded zucchini and mix together until just incorporated.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Stick a knife or toothpick in the middle of the cake to check for doneness. The cake will be very moist, rise and spring back lightly when touched with your finger. Once baked through, allow the cake to cool.

Chocolate Whipped Cream topping

  • Using wire beaters, whip together the heavy cream, cocoa powder and powdered sugar until thick and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Dollop on top of each slice of cake.

Notes

Buttermilk Substitution: Mix together 1/4 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup milk and replace for the buttermilk if you don’t have it on hand.
Sourdough Discard: The discard I use is 100% hydration. I prefer using discard that has not been sitting long in my fridge in this recipe for less sour undertones. You can also substitute sourdough starter for the discard.
Flour: When I measure flour, my 1 cup weighs about 5.3 ounces.
Keyword beginner sourdough, chocolate cake, chocolate zucchini, sourdough discard, sourdough zucchini cake,, zucchini cake

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Brown Butter Sourdough Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I think it was at the beginning of the pandemic a year and a half ago – when people were going crazy putting sourdough discard in everything – that I first heard of adding sourdough discard to cookies. Now I don’t bat an eye at adding sourdough discard into recipes and it has produced some pretty amazing bakes i.e.: sourdough blueberry crumb cake, I’m looking at you! In the beginning, I did have a few misses with an overly-sour flavor that just wasn’t the flavor I wanted. As I’ve baked more and more with sourdough discard, I love creating recipes with the addition of discard. These brown butter sourdough chocolate chunk cookies are no exception. The brown butter combined with the sourdough discard (or bubbly starter) adds such a complex and delicious flavor. I wish I was eating one right now! Thin and crispy or thick and chewy, these brown butter sourdough cookies are only about half an hour away from this screen to your stomach.

Jump to Brown Butter Sourdough Discard Cookies

Brown Butter in Sourdough Discard Cookies

Browning the butter is one of the key steps to these sourdough cookies. If you’ve never browned butter before, it’s a pretty simple process. Heat butter over medium heat, stirring every couple minutes. It is easiest to use a pan with a white bottom, but you can also use a darker bottom pan. As the butter heats it will start to brown. This can take 5-10 minutes, so it’s important to watch closely. Brown butter can easily turn into burned butter if you don’t watch it and that is no good for cookies! Once you notice little brown bits on the bottom of the pan take it off the heat. It will smell nutty and delicious. Pour the butter with the brown bits into a bowl to cool a bit before using in the cookie dough.

Sourdough Discard in Cookies

In working with sourdough discard recipes, I have found some recipes complement the discard and enhance the flavor. Other recipes don’t necessarily need sourdough discard, but they are a great vehicle for using up sourdough discard so it doesn’t go to waste while still tasting delicious. This is the case with these Brown Butter Sourdough Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Brown butter cookies don’t necessarily need sourdough discard (plenty of recipes out there don’t call for sourdough discard in their cookies) but these cookies taste amazing with the discard. The brown butter complements the discard and makes for a deliciously complex cookie that you can feel good about. No waste, plus a delicious flavor. The sourdough discard in this recipe is made from starter that is 100% hydration. If you use discard that is fed at a different hydration, you may need to add more or less flour to the cookie dough.

Thin and Crispy or Thick and Chewy Cookies?

There is one simple trick for turning a thick and chewy cookie into a thinner and crispier cookie. Less flour! I prefer my cookies to puff up, be a little bit thick and gooey in the middle with crispy edges. The flour called for in this recipe is the perfect amount for a thick and chewy cookie. If you want to make these thinner and crispier…which is also super delicious, reduce the flour by 1/3 cup. Only add 1 cup of flour instead of the 1 1/3 cups flour and you will get cookies that look like this. Still delicious, just spread a bit thinner with a crispier bite. Either way, these brown butter sourdough chocolate chunk cookies are delish.

Convection Bake for Cookies

I have waxed poetic before about using convection bake when baking cookies. I make a lot of cookies (my kids run a little bake shop that sells awesome cookies and yours truly helps them create the recipes, etc…). Convection bake is one of the secrets to a delicious crispy edge with a gooey or chewy middle. If you have convection bake on your oven, use it! If you don’t have convection, you can increase the temperature by 25 degrees (400 degrees Fahrenheit for this recipe) and preheat your oven for 15-20 minutes to get it really hot. 

Chilling the Dough

The brown butter in the dough is warm and melted which means that these cookies will spread even more in the oven if you don’t chill the dough. If I’m in a hurry, which let’s face it, I usually am when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, I’ll stick the bowl of dough into the freezer for 15 minutes. It is just long enough for the dough to firm up a bit, which helps solidify the fats. This will help the cookies hold their shape while baking. If you want even better flavor, you can chill the dough for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. This dough also freezes well. Shape the dough into balls and freeze. When you’re ready to bake, pull the dough balls out of the freezer and set them out for 10-15 minutes to thaw a bit, then bake according to the recipe directions. 

Chocolate Chunks, Dark Brown Sugar and Sea Salt

I love using dark chocolate chunks in these cookies. They add a yummy pop of rich chocolate flavor that complements the brown butter. Dark brown sugar is another key ingredient to these cookies. Can you use light brown? Yes, you can. However, the dark brown sugar complements the sourdough and brown butter flavor much better than regular brown sugar. If you can grab some dark brown sugar, do it (though not having any wouldn’t keep me from making these cookies). Adding a sprinkle of flaky sea salt (affiliate link) also takes these cookies to next-level deliciousness! You can also use chocolate chips in these cookies if you don’t have chocolate chunks on hand.

Cookie Scoop

My grandma gifted me this cookie scoop many, many years ago (affiliate link). It has made hundreds and thousands of cookies and held up so well. I use it for scooping mini muffin batter with these banana muffins, scooping meatballs and of course cookies. It is the perfect size and I highly recommend investing in one of these if you are cookie connoisseur. And if you don’t have sourdough discard on hand and want some awesome chocolate chip cookies, check these favorites out here.

If you love using sourdough discard and a deep, complex cookie flavor, these cookies are for you! They are chewy, rich and downright delicious. These cookies are kind of addicting, it was hard to stop at one or two. My kids gobbled them up and didn’t even know they had sourdough discard in them. I hope you love them too!

Brown Butter Sourdough Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Thick, chewy and deep flavor – these brown butter sourdough chocolate chunk cookies are perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth. Add a sprinkle of sea salt for a more complex flavor or a little less flour for a thinner, crispier cookie.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 7 mins
Chill Time 15 mins
Course cookies, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 20 cookies

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sourdough discard see recipe notes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour see recipe notes
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks or chocolate chips
  • flaky sea salt if desired

Instructions
 

  • Brown Butter: Heat the butter in a pan or pot on the stove over medium heat. Swirl the butter around and stir every few minutes until little brown flecks are on the bottom of the pan and the butter smells nutty and delicious. Be careful not to overheat as it can burn the butter. Pour the brown butter along with all the little brown bits on the bottom of the pan into a medium sized bowl and let sit for 5 minutes to cool.
  • Add the dark brown sugar and granulated sugar to the bowl with the brown butter. Stir to combine.
  • Mix in the egg yolk, sourdough discard and vanilla extract. Mix together with a spoon until the mixture turns light and fluffy.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to the middle of the bowl. Mix together using a light hand so the flour mixture is evenly dispersed throughout the dough.
  • Add chocolate chunks (or chips) and stir into the dough.
  • Place the whole bowl into the freezer and chill the dough for 15 minutes. It is possible to bake these cookies right away, but they will not be quite as puffy and will spread a lot more than the chilled dough. You can also chill the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or freeze the dough in small balls. Let the balls come back to "chilled" temperature before baking.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees convection. Scoop the dough into balls and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet (my favorite linked here, affiliate link), about 12 cookies per baking sheet. Sprinkle the top with flaky sea salt if desired.
  • Bake cookies at 375 degrees convection for 6 minutes until cookies are puffed up and the edges are a little crispy. Let the cookies sit for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet to set up before removing. If your oven doesn't have a convection setting, preheat oven for 20 minutes and bake cookies at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes.
  • Repeat with the remaining cookie dough and enjoy!

Notes

Substitutions: This recipe has the best flavor with dark brown sugar. You can substitute for light brown sugar, but the cookies may have a little more sourdough tang.
Sourdough Discard: I feed my starter with equal weights of water and flour for a 100% hydration starter. If your starter is fed differently, you will want to adjust the amount of flour called for in the recipe; adding more flour for a starter that is fed with a higher percentage of water and less flour for a lower hydration starter. The longer your discard sits in the fridge, the more “tang” it will have. I prefer using a younger discard in this recipe to balance with the other flavors.
Flour: This recipe has been tested with more and less flour. If you want a thinner and crispier cookie, use 1 cup of flour. If you prefer a thicker cookie, use 1 2/3 cup flour. I’ve found 1 1/3 cup flour to be perfect for the way we like our cookies. FYI: When I scoop flour, 1 cup is about 5 oz.
Keyword beginner sourdough, chocolate chip cookie, cookies, sourdough discard

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Perfect Peach Cobbler

We are at the tail end of peach season, but this recipe is one I’ve been working on perfecting over the summer – and I’ve got it just where I wanted it. This perfect peach cobbler is a combination of biscuit/cake topping, perfectly spiced peaches and absolutely divine with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. Even thought I may be a bit late to the game posting it for this season, I want it somewhere I can come back to again and again, because it tastes like summer in a pan. While I love fall and have many pounds of apples sitting on my kitchen counter, I’m still holding on to the tail end of our warm days while I can.

Jump to Recipe

Cake or Biscuit?

Peach cobbler is often made with a biscuit topping or a cake topping. Both are delicious in their own right. This peach cobbler combines the flavor of a biscuit topping with the spreadability of the cake topping. It is not overly sweet like cake toppings sometimes are, allowing the fresh peaches to really shine through. The cake topping benefits from baking powder and buttermilk which give it a beautiful rise and the combination of a crispy crust with tender cake and mixed with fresh peach…it can’t be beat!

Fresh, Frozen or Canned Peaches

This perfect peach cobbler is definitely best with in-season, fresh peaches. Can this be made in the “off season” with frozen or canned peaches? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is, make sure to drain the canned peaches or for frozen, bring them to room temperature, then drain off the juice and excess water. You may also want to increase a Tablespoon or two of flour in the peach mixture to help thicken the peach mixture. This will help your peach cobbler from turning into peach soup!

Use a Glass Baking Dish

I love USA bakeware metal pans (affiliate link) that I use daily for almost all my baking. Originally I baked this peach cobbler in a metal baking dish but when I switched over to a glass dish (affiliate link), my results were consistently better. Cobbler is baked for a long time and the slow heating of the glass pan helps the cobbler bake evenly and retains the heat when the cobbler is finished baking in the oven. If you can use a glass dish, it will improve your finished cobbler.

One Bowl, One Baking Dish

If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know that I love using one bowl when I can. My favorite one bowl pumpkin spice muffins here. Applesauce bread using one bowl is here. This favorite sourdough discard zucchini bread here. Perfect peach cobbler is no different! The less dishes, the better. I mix together the peaches with the sugar, flour and spices right into the baking dish. Then I’ll mix up the cobbler topping in a bowl and spread it on top. I love how simple this recipe is and how you really only need to wash one bowl.

If you’re looking for a way to use up the last of those summer peaches, give this perfect peach cobbler a try. I’m hoping to make this cobbler or my favorite sweet peach bread at least once more this season. Either would be the perfect end-of-summer dessert, and I won’t tell if you happen to have a bowl or two for breakfast!

Perfect Peach Cobbler

Perfect Peach Cobbler

Perfect peach cobbler with fresh peaches, spices and the perfect topping that tastes a little bit biscuit and a little bit cake.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 1 8 by 8 pan

Ingredients
  

Peaches

  • 5-6 cups peaches sliced
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Peach Cobbler Topping

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour about 6 oz
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cut and slice 5-6 cups of fresh, soft peaches. Add them to the bottom of an 8 by 8 glass pan (affiliate link). Add the brown sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla to the peaches and stir to combine.
  • To a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and whisk together until no dry streaks remain.
  • Spread the batter over the top of the peaches.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick is inserted into the center of the cobbler and no batter streaks remain.
  • Serve the cobbler warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Notes

For canned or frozen peaches: Bring frozen peaches to room temperature and drain the excess liquid before using. Drain canned peaches before using. Add a Tablespoon or two of extra flour to the peach mixture before topping with cake topping.
Buttermilk substitution: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, substitute 3 Tablespoons sour cream with 2.5 Tablespoons milk, mixed together.
Peeled or unpeeled: Peaches can be peeled or unpeeled depending on your preference.
Keyword peach, peach cobbler

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Sweet Peach Bread

Have you ever had fresh Georgia peaches? Twice a summer the peach truck stops in our little town bringing fresh Georgia peaches to all who want a 25 pound box. Twenty five pounds is a lot of peaches. I had dreams of all the baking I would do with these beauties which were quickly dashed as my son ate 12 peaches on that first day! Slow down kiddos! I couldn’t really blame them though. Ripe peaches are what summer dreams are made of. Sweet, juicy and if you’re lucky you can save a few of them to make this absolutely perfect peach bread. What more could you ask for?

Are the Peaches Ready?

Part of the beauty of this peach bread is how the peaches just melt into the bread giving a beautiful moist texture and delicious flavor. To get this texture and flavor, it’s important to use very ripe and soft peaches. I often let my peaches ripen on the countertop for a few days until they are very soft and even start to wrinkle. Then I chop them up to use in the bread. These slightly over-ripe peaches seem to have the best peach flavor and texture for the perfect peach bread. I’ve only ever used fresh, ripe, peaches, though I think that canned peaches would work as long as they are well drained.

Jump to Sweet Peach Bread Recipe

Peeled or Un-Peeled?

Do you have a preference? We love eating peaches with the skins on and I truthfully don’t mind the peach skin on peaches in my peach cobbler, but for this perfect peach bread, I prefer the texture using peeled peaches. I know you can throw the peaches into some boiling water to help remove the skins, but I don’t ever do that. I use very ripe peaches that pucker a bit on the skin. Then I will gently cut the peach into quarters and peel the skin back, using a paring knife and my fingers to separate the peach from the skin. Dice the peaches into chunks until you have two cups worth of ripe peaches for this recipe. 

Coat Peaches in Flour Mixture

This peach bread can be made all in one bowl and a liquid measuring cup (my favorites linked, affiliate link). I whisk together the dry ingredients first. Then add the diced peaches to the flour mixture and coat the peaches in the flour mixture. This flour coating helps suspend the peaches throughout the bread and keeps them from all sinking to the bottom. Definitely don’t skip this step! I’ve found this method works great for blueberry breads or anytime you are adding a mix in to a quick bread. Giving it a quick toss in the dry mixture before adding the liquid ingredients helps make the perfect loaf. After coating the peach chunks in the flour mixture, whisk the liquid ingredients together in a liquid measuring cup, pour on top and stir until just combined.

Crumb Topping

Basically, any quick bread is better with a crumb topping. It gives a little extra sweetness and sets this bread apart from a more traditional loaf. Mix together the butter, brown sugar, flour and spices with a fork or your fingers and sprinkle over the top of the loaf. If you want to omit this step, you can. I like a little extra sweetness to the top of my bread.

Parchment Paper

Line your pan with parchment paper and thank me later. The first time I made this peach bread the flavor was delicious but we were scooping it out of the pan because it stuck to the edges. I love my nonstick USA pans, but whenever I make something sticky like this swirled brioche or this cinnamon chip bread, I always line my pan with parchment paper. It’s a small step but you will be happy when you can pull the whole loaf out of the pan to cool and it looks perfect! One other note about this recipe, it works best in a 9 by 5 pan which is slightly bigger than my trusty USA bread pans. Check out this pan (affiliate link) if you’re looking for another good option.

We love peach season at our house and this peach bread has made its way into our yearly rotation. It is moist, flavorful and really the perfect peach bread. 

Sweet Peach Bread

Amy
A delicious loaf of bread dotted with sweet peaches and topped with a crumb topping. This bread is delicious with fresh peaches and makes the perfect breakfast or snack on a summer day.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Bread, Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

Fresh Peach Bread

  • 2 cups fresh, ripe peaches peeled & chopped (13.5 oz)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (11 oz)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (6 oz)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract optional, but delicious

Crumb Topping

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Choose peaches that are very soft, ripe and feel like the skin will come off easily when cut open. Peel and chop the peaches until you have 2 cups worth. I like using a liquid measuring cup (affiliate link) to measure the chopped peaches and later to whisk my liquid ingredients together.
  • To a mixing bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk together to combine.
  • Pour the peaches on top of this flour mixture and lightly coat the peaches in the flour mixture until dispersed throughout.
  • To a liquid measuring cup (affiliate link), add the oil, milk, egg, vanilla and almond. Use a fork or whisk to mix it all together.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the peach/flour mixture and stir gently to combine until a thick batter is formed.
  • Make the crumb topping by mixing together with a spoon or your fingers, the softened butter, brown sugar, flour and spices. Set aside.
  • Line a 9 by 5 loaf pan with parchment paper. This recipe is perfect for a 9 by 5 pan. If you use a smaller bread pan it may be a little too much batter and you'll want to leave some out or have an overflowing pan.
  • Pour the batter into the parchment-lined pan. Top with chunks of the crumb topping.
  • Bake for about 60-70 minutes until a toothpick is inserted in the middle and comes out clean. Let rest for 5 minutes in the pan and then pull out and cool on a cooling rack. Let the bread cool to room temperature. Slice and enjoy!

Notes

Canned Peaches: I haven’t tried this recipe with canned peaches, though I think it would work well. To substitute them, drain as much juice as possible, chop and use in the recipe.
Keyword peach, peach bread

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One Week in The Florida Keys (with Kids)

Spring break is a week I look forward to all winter long. In Kentucky we don’t have particularly harsh winters but I still feel like we are cooped up inside more often than not. By the end of winter I’m always feeling the pull of warmth and sunshine, and a trip to the Florida Keys is the perfect antidote for cold weather blues. With the pandemic still not quite under control, we decided to drive the seventeen hours down to the Florida Keys instead of flying, though you could easily fly into Miami or Key West and grab a rental car. Just FYI: When we went in April 2021, we were able to pay tolls with cash throughout Florida until around Miami and the Keys. There, they took a picture of our license plate and mailed us the toll bill.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands that are off the coast of Florida. Connected by miles of bridges, many of which are one-lane, this area is best known for its beautiful reefs, fishing and abundant ocean life. Palm trees dot the islands and beautiful clear water surrounds you. Whatever you do, make sure you get out on the water in some way: boat rental, kayaks, snorkeling expedition, etc so you can enjoy the beauty of the ocean around you.

Getting Around

If you are planning to visit many different Keys, a rental car or driving yourself is the way to go. We loved having our own car to visit many of the different beaches, take a day trip to Key West and to pick up takeout from a variety of restaurants. If you are driving from the Miami area, you will pay a toll for the fastest route to the Keys (you can buy a Sunpass, use toll-by-plate where you will receive your toll in the mail a few weeks later or pay through your rental car agency). If you fly into the Keys there are no tolls on the overseas highway. Plan on some traffic once you are in the Keys, especially on weekends. The highway is often one lane, sometimes two and can become congested.

Accommodations

We stayed in two rentals on our trip, one in Marathon and one just outside of Marathon. Both had kitchens (a big plus when traveling with kids). I would recommend both of these places to stay with a few reservations (I’ll come back to that later). We used VRBO and Booking.com to book these and were overall very happy with them. Wherever you book for your trip, try to find a place that includes kayaks and paddle boards. This will save you in the long run!

Seascape Resort and Marina

This resort was absolutely beautiful. The space was large for our family. The kitchen was old and not in the best condition. This resort seemed to cater to couples as opposed to families, and though it had the space for us, we felt like we had to “hush” our kids a bit more than we like to while on vacation. The pool was a highlight and the beach area included the use of kayaks and stand up paddle boards, which we loved. 

Little Conch Key

Our second rental was at Little Conch Key. It was a small rental house on a private island. The location was beautiful and we enjoyed the semi-private pool every day. This location is where the TV show Flipper was filmed and the island used to be owned by Walt Disney! This location also had stand up paddle boards and kayaks for us to use and during low tide we could kayak out and see hundreds of conch in the ocean (make sure you put them back!). That will forever be a highlight.

Warning: Our only drawback of this place was the Cassiopoea Jellyfish. They were all over this area which made the beach difficult to use for swimming. We didn’t experience them in other areas of the Keys, but they could be there. Cassiopoea are small jellyfish and their “sting” is really just an irritant in the water. It doesn’t bug many people but one of our children has very sensitive skin, so this was difficult for him. If you plan to use the beach area for boating and no swimming, then we 100% recommend it. Just be aware in advance that it’s not really a swimming beach. 

Favorite Beaches near Marathon

The Keys are surprisingly not known for their beaches. They are known for the snorkeling, reefs and beauty in the water. With that said, we were able to find some awesome beaches to enjoy during our time in the Keys. As you drive down the overseas highway, you can pull off at different parks and beaches. Check the time of the tides and make sure you experience at least one low tide and walking way out in the ocean at a beach stop. This was a highlight for our family.

  • Sombrero Beach: A local beach in Marathon with free parking and free access. The kids loved the giant covered playground, some sand volleyball courts and the soft sand. This beach can become crowded later in the day and especially on weekends. 
  • Bahia Honda State Park: A state park which requires an entrance fee. You can set up on the bay side or the Atlantic side depending on the weather. The bay side was great for kids with calm water. The walk up to the old bridge is also fun and has beautiful views. Bring beach chairs, snorkel masks and water shoes (if you are sensitive to rocks and sea grass).
  • Veterans Memorial Park Beach: A free beach off the side of the highway. The water was clear and beautiful. Wait until low tide and you can walk far out into the ocean with the water only coming up to your knees. It’s a great spot for kids to learn to snorkel and has some nice sand and sea critters to find.

Snorkel Masks

Purchasing these snorkel masks before our trip was one of the best investments we made! They are full-face snorkels and are so easy for kids to wear, put on and have almost no learning curve. The kids used their masks every day and our four year old could even figure it out in about three seconds. If you have a beach trip or are headed somewhere with snorkeling, check these out! This is the adult style that fit our 9 and 11 year old as well as adults. This option was better for our four year old (affiliate link).

Things to do in and around Marathon

We spent our days swimming, snorkeling and kayaking, but we also added in some fun day trips and excursions. Here are a few of our favorites in the Marathon area:

  • Turtle Hospital: This was the most fascinating tour. We learned all about sea turtles, how to help protect them and the work that is being done for rescued turtles at the turtle hospital. We saw many of the injured turtles in different tanks and fed them at the end of the tour. It was very informative, and we loved supporting this cause with our dollars. It was a little long for our four-year-old, but our nine-year-olds loved it.
  • Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters: If you had to pick only one aquarium to visit in the Keys this one is worth it. For a small fee you can feed many different sea creatures in their habitats. They also offer aquarium encounters. My boys snorkeled in an aquarium tank and fed stingrays and sharks. It was a highlight of our trip! 
  • Robbie’s to feed Tarpon: Feeding the Tarpon at Robbie’s is a fun activity. You can buy a bucket of fish and feed the giant tarpon in the water. Be careful of the Pelicans who will try and snatch the fish out of your hands! Robbie’s also offers water sports, kayaks, dining and other island fun.
  • Day trip to Key West: Take a day trip down to Key West to enjoy more of a small city feel and see the southernmost point in the U.S.! You can check out my post all about our day in Key West here.

Next Time: We’d love to check out the Dolphin Research Center and I have kids already saving their pennies so they can swim with dolphins. The Crane Point Hammock in Marathon looked like a fun nature walk and you can get a fish foot pedicure!

Favorite Eats

Typically when we go on vacation, we bring food for two meals and eat out our third meal (could be breakfast, lunch or dinner). Groceries in the Keys were more expensive than those in our hometown. We planned ahead and brought groceries with us but there were ample grocery stores to pick up a few things we needed. We loved all the outdoor dining in the Keys and enjoyed eating outside or picking up takeout to eat on the beach. Here are some of our favorite place we ate on our trip:

  • Key Fisheries: We ate here a couple of times which is saying a lot for us! We usually like trying new places but we absolutely loved this spot. Fresh seafood, grilled or made to order (the mixed seafood plate was our favorite), tasty fish tacos and a yummy lobster reuben. We loved the ambiance with the boats, and if you want to see the sunset, get there a bit early. It is worth it.
  • Irie Island Eats: This food truck serves fresh, delicious food. The fruit salad, poke bowl and tacos were amazing, and the cute little setup has a laid-back feel that is perfect to bring kids to or enjoy lunch. They are open during lunch hours, so plan accordingly.
  • Meze Morada: Outstanding Mediterranean food with house-made pita. This was a highlight lunch for our crew. The dips were delicious. The za’atar seasoned fries were out of this world good (wish I could go back just for those!). The food was fresh and the pita bread was amazing. If you need a break from seafood…or even if you don’t and just want a delicious meal, add this to your list.
  • Lazy Days: This was a fun restaurant in Islamorada. We loved the ambiance and the kids loved feeding the pelicans and watching a shark swim in the water below. We ate on the beach and enjoyed yummy seafood. The crab cakes were especially good here.

Where to Get the Best Key Lime Pie

We tried so much key lime pie and it was all super delicious! Key Lime Pie originates in the Florida Keys where key limes are plentiful. Traditionally, meringue topped the key lime pie, but many replace that with fresh whipped cream. Both are delicious! The chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick was our favorite variety. Here are some of our “not to miss” places to grab some key lime pie when you’re in the Keys.

  • Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory: Located in Tavernier, Florida, this was our favorite key lime pie on a stick that we sampled. Rich chocolate, creamy key lime pie. It is definitely worth a stop on your drive down to the Keys.
  • The Trading Post: This small grocery store sells Key Lime Pie from the Key Lime Pie Lady. It can be found in the refrigerated/frozen section and is absolutely delicious. If you’re looking for a key lime pie to feed a crowd (or even a smaller one to snack on throughout the week), stop here and pick up an insanely delicious key lime pie. 
  • Key West Key Lime Pie Company: Their flagship store is in Key West, but many places around the Keys carry their frozen key lime pie on a stick. It is delicious and worth grabbing one if you’re at the aquarium, a convenience store or make it to their shop in Key West.
  • Island Fish Company: If you want to try a unique type of key lime pie, order the deep fried key lime pie from Island Fish Company. It’s a more mild flavor coated in cinnamon sugar and tastes like a key lime pie donut. Yummy.

More Activities: We could have spent a lot longer than a week in the Keys and we put many things on our “to do” list for next time we make it back. Here are a few that we have on our bucket list:

  • Rent a boat for a half day or day: We made such good use out of the free kayaks at our accommodations that we didn’t do this, but we would have loved to rent a boat for a day or half day to go fishing, snorkeling out in the reef or to just enjoy a day on the water. 
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: We heard so many great things about this state park. It is located in Key Largo. You can take a snorkel excursion from the park to view the coral reef. This is on our bucket list for next time!
  • Dry Tortugas National Park: Another bucket list national park. Take a boat out to this 19th century historic fort surrounded by crystal clear water. This is a full day excursion or you can camp on the island (make sure to reserve EARLY).

On our drive home we spent a few hours in the Everglades National Park. Be sure to use your “Every 4th Grader in a Park” pass if you have a 4th grader for free entry to a National Park. The Everglades definitely deserves more than a couple hours of a visit and it definitely left us wanting. But it was back to school and back to real life after a perfect week in the Keys. We will return again some day!

If you like reading about our travel adventures you can find other write ups about recent trips we’ve taken to Perdido Key, Florida and our fall getaway to Brown County, Indiana.


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One Day in Key West (with Kids)

We spent a beautiful week in the Florida Keys over spring break. The weather was tropical and the perfect spot for a spring break. Most of our time was spent in the Marathon area, but one of the days we drove about an hour south to Key West. This was a great day trip with kids or could be a spot to stay to explore the Keys. As you drive south, watch for the Florida Key deer or take a stop at the Florida Keys Deer Refuge if you have time. We bypassed this in order to arrive in Key West as early as possible to start our day.

Parking in Key West

Key West seemed to have small parking lots scattered throughout town. We opted to park at this lot near the Butterfly Museum and toward the south of the city. If you can find a free spot for parking, go for it! I recommend getting there early to grab yourself a parking spot if you plan to be in the city most of the day.

Key West Walking Route (with kids in mind)

Key West is a fairly walkable city, even with kids! We walked from the Southernmost Parking lot to the Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S. and then took Whitehead Street all the way north, past the Key West Lighthouse, Ernest Hemingway House, US 1 Mile Marker 0 (where the highway ends) and straight up to Mallory Square. After hanging around the square for a bit, we headed back down Duval Street, grabbing some tasty ice cream and cookies from Mattheessen’s (I’m still dreaming about their peanut butter fudge cookie) and finished up our walk down the quaint streets of Key West until we reached the Butterfly Museum again. The whole walk took a couple of hours and was about 2.5 miles round trip. It was quite the walk for little feet, but stopping at different points of interest along the way definitely helped. If you don’t want to walk it, you could consider taking the Key West Conch Train

Butterfly Garden

The Butterfly Garden was a favorite stop in Key West and the kids put it at the top of their list. It is not very big but the greenhouse area was filled with butterflies. Everywhere you looked, different colors of butterflies were flying around and would land on you if you stood still. The kids especially liked this. It was clean, educational and a beautiful spot to spend part of your day.

Hemingway House and Lighthouse

We opted not to go into the Hemingway House or Lighthouse, though we enjoyed some educational chats with the kids about them. Traveling with a family of six we have to pick and choose which experiences are most important to us to pay for. Of course if our kids were a bit older, we have chosen a a few things differently. 

Mallory Square

Mallory Square seemed fairly quiet, though we heard it is often bustling with street performers, especially in the evening for the sunset. Due to COVID there were no cruise ships in port which made the square feel extra empty. Fingers crossed that cruise ships will be back there soon. It was a good spot to play around for a few minutes and take a breather after our long walk. I recommend checking it out in the evening if you have time.

Stopping to explore along our walk up to Mallory Square helped the kids keep going…that and the promise of ice cream!

Roosters Roaming

One of the unique things about Key West is all the roosters that roam the streets. This was especially fun for the kids to search for throughout our walk. We loved finding families with baby chicks and watching the roosters strut around as if they owned the streets. 

Ice Cream and Lobster

Mattheessen’s was a great halfway point in our walk to get a little refreshment! Not only did they have delicious ice cream that helped us cool down, they had amazing giant cookies that we are still thinking about. At the end of our walk, we picked up lobster rolls from The Lobster Shack Key West. We took them to a little park complete with wandering roosters and enjoyed a late lunch by the ocean. The lobster rolls rivaled those we’d eaten in Maine and were absolutely delicious. I highly recommend trying them out if you love a good lobster roll. If we’d had extra time in Key West we would have loved to try Garbo’s Grill for their fish tacos or check out the Key West Key Lime Pie Company (though we did try their chocolate covered Key Lime Pie Bars at other places in the Keys).

Next Time

By the end of our walk around Key West, the kids were all pretty tired and just wanted to go back to our vacation rental and swim in the pool, so we bypassed the beach we had been planning to go to. We heard great things about Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and wished we had time to meander through the fort, swim at the beach area and snorkel in the crystal waters. Definitely add this to your list if you want to check out a beach in Key West. 

Key West is also the jumping off point to visit Dry Tortugas National Park. This excursion will take an entire day and make your reservation ahead of time if you want to see this beautiful, one of a kind National Park. We’ve added it to our to-do list for our next visit. Key West makes for a fun day trip from a week in the Florida Keys and is rich with history that could keep you busy for many days! 

Check out this post if you’re looking for our favorites from our week in the Florida Keys.

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Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar Babka

This Babka bread is decadent. It is filled with buttery cinnamon sugar. It is light, soft, tender and uses 100% sourdough to make a really delicious loaf of sweet bread. The sourdough has a bit of a learning curve that includes making a sweet leaven, but when you open the oven door and see two beautifully risen loaves of Babka, all the time is completely worth it. If you’ve never made a Babka before, this advanced sourdough cinnamon sugar babka recipe should make your list.

Jump to Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar Babka Recipe

What is babka?

Babka originated in Eastern Europe and is an enriched bread dough that is usually swirled with a sweet chocolate or cinnamon sugar filling. If you’re looking for a chocolate filling, try out this one I’ve used for a swirled brioche before. It would be delicious with this recipe. Pronounced “bahb-kah,” this bread has become very popular at bakeries and in home kitchens this past year with the beautiful swirl braids and outstanding flavor. I love that this recipe gives two loaves of Babka. If I’m going to trouble with a three day sourdough recipe, I always like to share a loaf or freeze one for later (or who am I kidding…eat the day after we eat the first loaf).

Sample Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar Babka Schedule

I find it personally helpful to see a sample schedule when making sourdough because it does take longer than a traditional dough using commercial yeast. This dough is enriched with a lot of eggs, butter and sugar which takes even a bit longer to rise. 

Day 1 (Make Sweet Leaven)
  • 8 AM: Mix sweet leaven, let rise and bubble
  • 8 PM: Take 120 grams of the sweet leaven and feed it again with the measurements in the recipe. Cover and let it rise and bubble until morning.
Day 2 (Mix Babka Dough, First Rise)
  • 8 AM: Mix together Babka dough ingredients (except salt and butter), rest. Add salt, mix, rest. Add butter a Tablespoon at a time and mix using stand mixer for 10 minutes.
  • 11 AM: First set of Coil Fold
  • 1 PM: Second set of Coil Folds
  • 2 PM: Cover dough and rest in refrigerator overnight (12-24 hours)
Day 3 (Assemble and Bake)
  • 8 AM: Roll out and shape Babka
  • 8:30-3PM: Let Babka rise (the rise time will vary depending on the warmth of your kitchen, but allow for at least 6-8 hours)
  • 3-4PM: Bake Babka

Sweet Leaven

One of the unique things about this sourdough recipe is making a sweet leaven before actually making the bread. Typically with sourdough, the longer the bread rises, the more tang you will taste from sourdough. I love the tang in this recipe in my Basic Country Artisan Loaf or my no-knead sourdough loaf but in a sweet babka, I don’t want to taste the tang. Making a sweet leaven helps temper the tang and mellows the flavors, letting the sweet cinnamon be the overpowering flavor. The addition of sugar to the leaven also helps temper the sour flavor. The taste of the Babka is sweet, light and delicious when using a sweet leaven. You can create this leaven directly from your current sourdough starter and through a series of power feeds (feeding it twice in a 24 hour period before using it), have it ready to mix your Babka in just 24 hours. Sweet leaven is also fairly stiff compared to a regular 100% hydration leaven. Due to the low water content, this stiff leaven ferments slowly and helps the bread keep its texture and maintain the gluten structure. This helps the bread rise slowly to keep the sweet flavor expected from a Babka.

Enriched Dough

Babka is made with an enriched dough. Lots of milk, butter, eggs and sugar go into this beautiful loaf. One of the keys to making a great Babka is the process of incorporating the butter. Once the leaven, flour, milk, eggs, sugar and salt have been mixed together to form a dough, it is time to add the butter. This takes a somewhat thick dough and turns it into a silky, smooth and a little bit sticky enriched dough. Cut the softened butter into chunks and add it to the center of the dough hook as the dough is mixing. Plan to knead the dough for about 10 minutes. I like to set a timer and let my dough get to work developing the gluten and incorporating the butter. I highly recommend using a stand mixer for this process. It can get very sticky and is difficult to knead for the length of time required with cold hands (so the butter doesn’t melt and leak everywhere)

Coil Fold

The coil fold is a technique of picking up the dough from the middle and letting the dough fall down onto and under itself, resulting in a coil. Wet your hands with water. Place your hands under the middle of the dough and pull up. The dough will stretch up (but should not tear) and release from the bottom of the bowl. Once the dough releases, let the dough fall back under itself. Repeat the process for both sides of dough. Then turn the container and repeat the coil fold. This process of folding the dough increases tension and strengthens the strands of gluten in the dough. If you skip this step, the dough can bake up flat because it lacks structure. Watch the coil fold process below to help visualize the process.

Refrigeration

Refrigerating the sourdough cinnamon sugar babka dough overnight or 12-24 hours (not much longer than that) chills the butter, enhances the sweet Babka flavor and makes the dough easy to work with when you pull it out in the morning to shape your Babka. The dough will not double in size and may not even look like it did much rising. Don’t worry! Once it comes back to room temperature it will rise again. When you pull the dough out of the refrigerator to roll out, it will be a little stiff and hard because it is cold. This chill actually makes it easier to work with the Babka dough. Add a little bit of flour on the bottom and on top of the Babka to help roll it out. 

Babka Filling

Babka can be filled with any kind of sweet (or sometimes savory) filling. When mixing the filling, use softened, room temperature butter to mix with the dough. If the butter is too cold, it will not incorporate fully into a paste. If it is melted, it will leak all over the dough and make the Babka difficult to shape. I also love the addition of a bit of flour to the filling. This keeps the filling sticking to the dough and not falling all over your pastry mat. Mix the ingredients together to form a thick paste and set it aside. I have also made this Babka into a strawberry flavored version, using white sugar and crushed up freeze dried strawberries, that was insanely delicious. Check the recipe notes for the full substitution.