Sourdough Focaccia

Focaccia bread – where have you been all my life? I have made focaccia before but it wasn’t until I started using my sourdough starter that focaccia has become a staple around our house. Airy, filled with craggy holes and a crisp, crunchy bottom, this focaccia bread is perfect for sandwiches, to dip in some oil and vinegar or just to eat plain. Every time I make this recipe, the bread disappears within a day. My family can’t get enough of it and I don’t blame them. It is show-stopper worthy!

This is an advanced sourdough recipe. Click the links some beginner sourdough tips, tools and recipes.

Jump to Sourdough Focaccia Recipe

Sourdough Takes Time

One thing to always keep in mind when working with sourdough is that it takes time. Sourdough starter is not the same as instant yeast. It’s going to take at least 24-48 hours for this focaccia bread to make it from your mixer to your belly, and that’s okay! Leaven is mixed and rises. Dough is mixed and folded using the coil fold technique. The dough is spread in a pan and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator giving a beautiful crust and flavor to the focaccia bread. You can find a sample schedule below:

Focaccia Sample Schedule

Day 1: Build Leaven

10 PM: Mix the leaven using ripe sourdough starter. Cover and let sit overnight.

Day 2: Mixing/Developing Dough 

8 AM: Mix the dough using a stand mixer (affiliate link). 

9 AM: Use coil folds to strengthen the gluten in the dough. Let the dough bulk rise

12-1 PM: Stretch the dough into an oiled pan, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3: Bake Day

8 AM: Pull Focaccia out of the fridge, let it bubble up and come to room temperature.

12 PM: Top and bake focaccia

High Hydration Dough

This recipe for focaccia uses a very high hydration dough. Hydration is the percentage of flour to water in a recipe. For this focaccia you will be working with a dough that is 85% hydration. This can be a little tricky because the dough is so wet. The benefit of this high hydration is the beautiful crumb that will result in your focaccia. It will be airy, bubbly and have lots of holes throughout. To help deal with such a high hydration dough, keep a jug of water nearby to continuously water your hands as you work with the dough. This prevents dough from sticking to your fingers. The dough is initially mixed in a mixer on low speed for five minutes and then high speed for five minutes to develop the gluten. It will be very, very wet. Don’t worry! You will see a beautiful change in the dough as you proceed with folding the dough over the period of a few hours.

High Gluten Bread Flour

Another trick to help with the high water content is to choose a high gluten bread flour (affiliate link). High gluten bread flour will have a protein content at or above 14%. You can find it here. Please do not substitute all purpose flour for this recipe as written. Transforming the gluten in this dough is very important to a beautifully risen focaccia bread. If you don’t have high gluten bread flour, use bread flour and add vital wheat gluten (affiliate link) to the dough. You can find more information about the benefits of using vital wheat gluten in your bread baking here. Check the recipe notes for the exact measurements. If you are adding the vital wheat gluten instead of using high gluten bread flour, you can also try decreasing the amount of water in the dough by 25 grams to make the dough easier to work with.

Coil Folds

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. Once the dough is initially mixed, it will be very sticky. Place the dough in a rectangular container or glass pan. Cover it and let it sit. After half an hour, open the container and perform 4-6 coil folds. The dough will be very sticky for this first set of coil folds but will strengthen over time. 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. Don’t worry if the dough is super sticky for the first one or two coil folds. It will transform into beautiful dough throughout this process.

I find it very helpful to watch this process before attempting it.You can watch the process here:

Focaccia Pan and Refrigerated Rise

After the dough has been developed through coil folds, let it bulk rise for an hour or two. Then it is time to put the dough in a pan. I have tried this recipe in a glass pan and a metal pan – the metal pan (affiliate link) wins hands down. I personally love using this pan. Coat a metal pan with olive oil and transfer the dough to the pan. Stretch lightly to get the dough into all four corners of the pan. If the dough resists, wait a minute and then try again, lightly stretching until the dough fills the pan. Cover the pan and place in the refrigerator overnight. This refrigeration process adds flavor and texture to the focaccia bread. I have baked the focaccia before without the refrigeration, and I think the bread turns out best when it has been refrigerated. If you really can’t wait, you can let the focaccia rise in the pan for another hour or two and get bubbly on top. Then dimple, cover with toppings and bake. For best results, though, use the overnight refrigeration method.

Good Quality Olive Oil and Salt

Another important step to amazing focaccia bread is using good quality olive oil. Olive oil coats the bottom of the pan that the dough is baked in. The focaccia will take on the flavors of the olive oil and give the most beautiful crispy crust. It may just be my favorite part of the focaccia bread. Top the focaccia bread with a flaky sea salt, some fresh herbs and maybe parmesan cheese for a delicious flavor. You can also top focaccia with tomatoes, olives, peppers, really anything that would be delicious in bread.

Dimpling the Dough

Focaccia bread is known for its dimpled look. Once the dough has been refrigerated overnight, pull it out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature (this may take longer in the winter months and shorter in the summer). Watch for the dough to bubble up and see that fermentation happening. Once the dough is bubbly and puffed up, top with desired toppings. Then take your fingers and press down lightly into the dough all around the pan. The entire top of the bread should look dimpled and bubbly. At that point it is ready to bake.

The Perfect Slice

Once the focaccia has been baked at high heat, let the bread sit in the pan for about 5-10 minutes. This lets some of the oil soak into the bread dough a little more and keeps the bottom nice and crispy. Remove it from the pan after 5-10 minutes and let cool completely on a wire rack. We all agree that focaccia is one of those breads that tastes better cooled or room temperature. The flavors have a chance to blend and it is just perfection!

If you’ve never made focaccia before, what are you waiting for? It is one of our favorite breads to snack on and never lasts more than a day around our house. If I ever have any leftovers I love to slice them up and freeze them in a big ziplock bag. I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!

Sourdough Focaccia

Crispy, light and airy sourdough focaccia bread. This recipe is made with 100% sourdough starter and makes delicious bread to eat as a sandwich or to enjoy plain.
Prep Time 1 d 12 hrs
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 1 d 12 hrs 25 mins
Course Bread, Sourdough
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1 9 by 13 pan

Ingredients
  

Leaven

  • 1 teaspoon ripe sourdough starter
  • 50 grams room temperature water
  • 50 grams all purpose flour

Focaccia Dough

  • 100 grams leaven
  • 425 grams room temperature water
  • 500 grams high gluten bread flour (14% protein or higher) see recipe notes for substitution
  • 13 grams salt

Instructions
 

Leaven (night before you mix the bread, day 1)

  • Mix together 1 teaspoon ripe sourdough starter with 50 grams water and 50 grams flour. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature until bubbly and passes the float test. You can also substitute 100 grams of bubbly sourdough starter if you have some on hand.

Focaccia Dough (Mixing/Developing Dough day 2)

  • To a bowl with a stand mixer, add 100 grams leaven, 425 grams water and 500 grams high gluten bread flour. Mix together with a spoon until a sticky dough forms. Cover and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
  • Add the salt. Place the bowl into the stand mixer and fit it with a dough hook. Mix for 5 minutes on low speed (I use a 2 on my KitchenAid, affiliate link). After five minutes, on low speed, mix for 5 minutes on high speed (6-8 on my KitchenAid). Don't add more flour. The dough will be very wet but stays together.
  • Get your hands wet and transfer the dough to a shallow container. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Coil Fold 1: Open the container and perform 4-6 coil folds. The dough will be very sticky for this first set of coil folds but will strengthen over time. 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. I find it very helpful to watch this process before attempting it. You can watch a video of the coil fold here. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Coil Fold 2: Wet your hands. You will notice the dough is stronger than your first set of coil folds. Repeat the coil fold 4-6 times. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Coil Fold 3: Wet your hands. Repeat the coil fold 4-6 times. Notice the dough is getting stronger and the coil folds are easier to perform. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Coil Fold 4: Repeat the coil fold 4-6 times. Cover and rest for 1.5-2 hours.
  • After the long bulk rest, prepare a 9 by 13 baking pan (my favorite here, affiliate link) with 1/4-1/3 cup good quality oil. Pour the oil in the pan and tip the pan around to cover the entire bottom.
  • Turn the dough out into the pan and stretch slowly to fill the edges of the pan. Pull up gently on the underside of the dough to stretch it into place. If it doesn't want to stretch, let the dough rest for a minute and then try again.
  • Cover the pan with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge to rest overnight.

Baking the Focaccia (day 3)

  • Take the pan of dough out of the fridge and set on the counter. Let it come to room temperature (2-4 hours). The focaccia dough will begin to bubble up as it sits on the counter.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • After the dough is at room temperature, puffed up and you see little air bubbles, take your fingers and gently dimple the dough. Start at the top and work your way down the dough until the entire focaccia is dimpled and bubbly.
  • Drizzle olive oil over the top of the dough. Top with your choice of fresh or dried herbs, salt and parmesan cheese (or any other topping you would like ie: cherry tomatoes, peppers, olives, etc…).
  • Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly, crispy and light golden brown on top. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
  • Cool to room temperature before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes

High Gluten Bread Flour: The high protein content in high gluten bread flour is really important for this recipe because of the high hydration level in this dough. Flour with 14% protein content or more works best. You can buy that here or if you don’t have bread flour, you can substitute with:
440 grams all purpose flour and 60 grams of vital wheat gluten
475 grams bread flour and 25 grams vital wheat gluten
The vital wheat gluten adds enough protein to the flour to give a similar texture to the high gluten bread flour. 
Keyword focaccia, sourdough

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Sourdough Carrot Cake Loaf

Something about this time of year with the warmer weather, flowers pushing their way out of the ground and birds singing in the trees makes me want to pull out my pans and whip up a loaf of quick bread. I have some delicious recipes on my site; this sourdough zucchini bread, gingerbread snack cake and this delicious applesauce bread, not to mention some favorite muffin recipes. But springtime and Easter season have me eyeing carrots and dreaming about a nice slice of carrot bread. Last year I made these carrot cake muffins for our Easter dessert. This year, I decided to mix in some of my sourdough discard to make a loaf of carrot cake bread and let me tell you, it is delicious!

Jump to Sourdough Carrot Cake Loaf Recipe

Shredding the Carrots

One of the biggest tips about this carrot cake: please do not use the shortcut of “pre-shredded” carrots at the grocery store. I have made this mistake before and the bread just doesn’t have the same texture. Pre-shredded carrots get all crunchy and don’t melt into the bread like freshly-shredded carrots do. The best carrots for this recipe are traditional, large and long carrots. You can also use baby carrots in a pinch. Shred your own carrots, please! I use a food processor (affiliate link) to make quick work of the carrots, but you could also use a cheese grater for good results. The carrots melt into the quick bread, giving it beautiful pops of orange and delicious flavor.

Sourdough Discard

Not all sourdough discard is created equal. Some discard might have been sitting around in your fridge for a week or two and some is only a day or two old. I prefer to use a “young” discard because it isn’t quite as strong as an older discard. I like a light sourdough flavor instead of a strong flavor in my carrot loaf. You can use what you prefer. I typically use a 100% hydration sourdough discard–equal weights of water and flour mixed with the starter. If your discard is maintained at a different hydration you may need a splash of milk for a thicker discard or a little extra flour for a thinner discard.

Mixing the Loaf

Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off. This bread is super quick and will come together in just a few minutes. The hardest part is shredding up the carrots (and that isn’t very hard). Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl with the spices. Add the carrots and mix until the carrots are lightly floured. To a liquid measuring cup (affiliate link…I use it almost daily and it’s my favorite), mix together the sourdough discard, vegetable oil, yogurt, eggs and vanilla extract. Slowly add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. 

Baking Tips

One of my favorite tips when baking quick breads is to keep the heat high for the first few minutes of baking and then reduce the temperature. This activates the rising agents and gives the bread a nicely domed top. I also like using a 9 by 5 pan (affiliate link) for this bread, though it would probably work in an 8.5 by 4.5 pan too (just be careful not to overfill it).

Cream Cheese Icing

This sourdough discard carrot loaf is amazing without any cream cheese icing, and you can definitely serve it that way. However, I love cream cheese icing that just gives a hint of cream cheese but isn’t overpoweringly “cream cheesy.” This icing fits the bill. It is rich, buttery and has just a hint of cream cheese flavor that pairs beautifully with the carrots and spices in this loaf. If you’re looking for a little extra luxurious taste, whip up this cream cheese icing and top the loaf with it. The carrot loaf with the icing puts this recipe dangerously into the “yearly family tradition” category. It is that good. 

Sourdough Carrot Cake Loaf would make the perfect addition to your Easter spread. We also love it for a spring dessert or an afternoon snack. It looks delicious, tastes divine and is just all around a yummy bake. I hope you love it as much as we do!

Sourdough Carrot Cake Loaf

A delicious loaf of spiced, carrot-flavored quick bread made with sourdough discard and perfect for any carrot-cake lovers. The creamy topping adds a delicious sweetness to this moist carrot cake loaf.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 55 mins
Course Bread, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 1 9 by 5 loaf

Ingredients
  

Carrot Cake Loaf

  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, shredded see recipe note
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sourdough discard see recipe note
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil any neutral flavored oil works
  • 5 Tablespoons plain yogurt sour cream can be substituted in a pinch
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts or dried fruit optional

Cream Cheese Topping

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 1 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions
 

Carrot Cake Loaf

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Shred the carrots in a food processor (affiliate link) or grate them on a box grater. Set aside.
  • To a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add the shredded carrots and mix with a spoon to combine.
  • To a large measuring cup (affiliate link and my favorite), whisk together the liquid ingredients: vegetable oil, plain yogurt, eggs and vanilla extract.
  • Pour the liquid mixture on top of the flour/carrot mixture and gently stir to combine. Add 3/4 cup chopped fruit, nuts or a combination of both if desired.
  • Line a 9 by 5 loaf pan with parchment paper or use a good quality non-stick loaf pan (affiliate link).
  • Spread the carrot cake loaf batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 45-50 minutes. Insert a toothpick or sharp knife in the center to check for doneness. If it comes out "clean" with no crumbs, it is ready. If it comes out wet, let it bake for another few minutes and check again.
  • While the loaf cools, prepare the cream cheese topping.

Cream Cheese Topping

  • To a small bowl, whip the unsalted butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and a tablespoon of heavy cream. Whip together. Add the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Continue whipping until light and fluffy. Add a little more heavy cream as needed if the topping is too thick.
  • Spread the cream cheese topping on the cooled loaf and enjoy!

Notes

Carrots: The best carrots for this recipe are traditional, large and long carrots. Peel and grate them (or use a food processor) for best results. You can also use baby carrots. I do not recommend pre-shredded carrots which you can buy at the grocery store. They do not hold the moisture needed for this recipe and don’t melt into the loaf as well.
Sourdough Discard: I prefer to use fresh sourdough discard (or even young sourdough starter) in this recipe. I find it doesn’t give an overpowering “sour” aftertaste to the finished loaf. If you want more sour flavor, use discard that has been sitting longer in your fridge.
Keyword beginner sourdough, carrot cake, carrot cake loaf, quick bread, sourdough discard

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Hearty Bread Bowls

I think one of my all-time favorite foods when I was growing up was clam chowder in a bread bowl. I spent my teenage years in the San Francisco area and I loved the delicious seafood and sourdough, especially the chowder in a bread bowl. Recently, my daughter planned to make soup for dinner and I decided to whip out these bread bowls to complement our soup. While they are not sourdough like the bread bowls of my childhood (I’ll be working on that recipe soon, I promise), they definitely gave me a nostalgic feel for my favorite hearty and chewy bread bowls that stand their own against a delicious soup.

The Best Hearty Bread Bowl for Soup

These hearty bread bowls are perfect to hold a delicious soup. I wouldn’t recommend this recipe as a normal roll recipe. They have a bit more flour than I normally like and are not quite as light and tender as a regular roll. Light and tender is actually not what you want when making a bread bowl because they will tend to disintegrate into the soup leaving you with gummy bread in your soup. That is NOT this recipe. The combination of whole wheat flour and bread flour makes these bowls extra hearty and perfect to stand up to a cup of soup. The soup softens the bread a little and makes for the perfect bite of soup with bread. The bowl itself doesn’t get soggy and has the perfect crumb and chewy exterior which complement the soup so well.

Refrigerated or Overnight Rise

If I know ahead of time that I want bread bowls for soup, I will mix up the dough in the morning and then stick the dough in the fridge to rise throughout the day. This extra refrigeration step adds flavor to the bowl, promotes a chewier crumb (which is perfect for bread bowls) and has a better color crust. If you don’t have time to refrigerate the dough, you can proceed with the recipe but for best results, refrigerate for the first rise for 8-12 hours. Then shape the bowls, let them rise again and bake them.

Shaping Hearty Bread Bowls

This recipe makes six good-sized bread bowls. I shape my bread bowls in a similar way to how I shape rolls. I take the dough and push the edges down around the center, pinching them together and then circling the dough on the counter to form a tight, round shape. You can watch a video of that below.

Scoring and Cutting the Top of the Bowl

Once the dough has risen for a second time, score the top of the bread bowl with a bread lame or sharp knife. Bake the bowls and then let them cool completely before cutting into them. Once the bowls are cooled, use a sharp knife to cut into the bowl like you would a pumpkin. Cut at an angle creating a circle in the bowl. Use your fingers to scrape out the middle of the bread bowl until you have a nicely sized cavity for about a cup of soup. Serve the bread bowl with or without the top.

When I pulled out these bread bowls the other night, my kiddos didn’t even care that there was broccoli in their soup! They gobbled it right up and had so much fun getting to eat their bowl. It makes me think that I need to make bread bowls for soup a lot more often! I hope you enjoy them too.

Hearty Bread Bowls

A hearty bread bowl with chewy crust that is the perfect complement to any soup.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 28 mins
Rise Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Bread, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 6 bowls

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/4 cups milk warmed, temperature of baby's bathwater
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4-4 1/2 cups bread flour

Instructions
 

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the warm milk, instant yeast and granulated sugar. Let sit until foamy and you smell the yeast activating.
  • Add the olive oil, salt, whole wheat flour and 4 cups of the bread flour. Knead together, adding a little more flour at a time as needed. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and be tacky but not overly sticky. Knead for 8 minutes (set a timer and let the mixer do the work for you, or knead for 10 minutes by hand). The kneading time is very important because it develops the gluten, creating good structure, chewy crust and a tall bowl to hold the soup in.
  • Lightly oil a container and transfer the dough to the container for the first rise. Let the dough rise until doubled or tripled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. For more flavor and chewy texture, stick the dough in the fridge to rise for 8-24 hours. Then proceed with the shaping and follow the recipe.
  • Once the dough has risen, cut the dough into six pieces. Shape into large round spheres, pulling the dough tightly into a large round ball. Watch how I shape rolls here. Place rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet (affiliate link). Cover and let rolls rise for about an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Once rolls are puffed up, score the top with a bread lame or sharp knife.
  • Toss a handful of ice cubes into the preheated oven and immediately put the pan of bread bowls into the oven. Bake for 25-28 minutes until crusty and golden. Top immediately with melted butter if desired.
  • Let bread bowls cool completely before cutting a hole in the center and using your fingers to pull out the interior of the bread bowl. Fill with your choice of soup and enjoy!

Notes

Bread Flour: This recipe works best with bread flour. If you need a substitute for bread flour, add a Tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to all purpose flour to increase the protein content. 
Refrigerated Rise: For more flavor and an extra chewy crust, let the dough rise in the fridge for 8-24 hours. Shape, rise and bake.
Keyword bread bowl, soup

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Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays that makes a normal day just a little extra special. We love to celebrate with a visit from the leprechaun and a festive meal. Often we’ll serve this Irish Soda Bread to accompany our dinner and some years we choose to make these cloverleaf dinner rolls. We love them for any special meal, though they are especially fun on St. Patrick’s Day. Shaped like a clover, three little bread balls are set in a muffin tin to rise and create the perfect, fluffy, pull-apart dinner roll. Cloverleaf rolls are tender and would be a tasty addition to your March 17th. 

Honey and Oil

One of my favorite tips whenever I’m using a recipe that calls for both honey and some kind of oil or melted butter is this: Pour the oil (or butter in this case) in first, then use the same measuring cup for the honey. In the case of this recipe I melt the butter in a liquid measuring cup and then add the honey to the same measuring cup. The honey slides right out and doesn’t stick to the measuring cup.

Bread Flour or All Purpose Flour?

Bread flour really gives these rolls a nice texture. The exterior is chewy and the rolls bake up nice and tall. I recommend getting your hands on a bag of bread flour if you can. If you only have all purpose flour, go ahead and use it, but the rolls might not rise quite as much. Adding about a Tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to the all purpose flour is a good substitute for bread flour in this recipe. And if you don’t have vital wheat gluten, check out this post that tells you all about why you need it in your kitchen.

Eight Minutes of Kneading

One of the keys to good bread and dinner rolls is in the long kneading time. You can knead this dough by hand, but it will be an arm workout. I like to use a Bosch Mixer (affiliate link) or a Kitchen Aid (affiliate link) stand mixer. Any mixer that is fitted with a dough hook should work. When I mix bread dough, I add flour just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Pinch a piece of dough off, roll it into a ball and notice if you have just a bit of sticky residue left. These are clues that you can stop adding flour. After I’ve determined that the amount of flour is correct, I’ll set a timer and let my mixer go for about 8 minutes. Doing this develops the gluten strands in the dough. These gluten strands are what will trap the gases from the yeast and give your rolls a beautiful shape. If you want to improve your bread skills, start with kneading the dough for a good eight minutes (ten to twelve minutes if you are doing it by hand).

Shaping Dough into Large Rolls

After the dough has risen, it is ready to be shaped. This recipe makes twelve large rolls. If you’d like to make them a little smaller or even four-leaf-clover shaped, cut the dough into more pieces. Separate the dough into twelve (or more) equal-sized pieces. Taking a piece at a time, cut it into three equal-sized balls. Place each ball into the cup of a lightly greased, non-stick muffin tin (affiliate link). Let the dough rise until puffy and just over the top of the muffin tin before baking.

Festive St. Patrick’s Day

If you really want to get festive with these, you could brush the top with a little bit of green-dyed egg wash, like I did with these pumpkin-shaped rolls in October. They would be a lot of fun for a green-themed meal. With or without the green dye, I hope the leprechaun shows up at your house so you can create a little St. Patrick’s Day magic with these cloverleaf dinner rolls.

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

Light, fluffy and tender, these cloverleaf dinner rolls are a fun take on a traditional roll. Easy to pull apart and delicious for any dinner or fun to make for St. Patrick's Day.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Rise Time 2 hrs
Course Bread, rolls
Cuisine American
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup 2% or whole milk, warmed temperature of baby's bathwater, see note
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2-4 cups bread flour see note
  • melted butter for topping

Instructions
 

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the warm milk, instant yeast and honey. Drizzle in the melted butter and add the salt.
  • Turn on the mixer and add three cups of bread flour, a cup at a time. Knead together and continue adding flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough moves away from the sides of the bowl and you can pinch off a piece, roll it up in your fingers and have just a little bit of sticky residue left on your fingers. More tips for checking the readiness of your dough here.
  • Knead the dough for 8 minutes. I like to set a timer to make sure my dough gets the full eight minutes. This helps develop the gluten strands in the dough which gives a better crumb, rise and texture to your bread.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise about an hour or until doubled in size. The warmth of your kitchen will impact how long it takes for the dough to rise.
  • Lightly grease a muffin tin (affiliate link) with cooking spray.
  • Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a countertop and cut into twelve (for large rolls) or sixteen (smaller rolls) pieces. Take each dough piece and cut it into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place the three balls into one cup of the muffin tin to create a cloverleaf shape. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough until all of the muffin cups are filled with dough.
  • Cover and let rise 45 minutes to an hour until puffy and about doubled in size.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for 20-22 minutes.
  • Top with melted butter as they come out of the oven. Enjoy!

Notes

Milk: 2% or whole milk is best in this recipe. If microwaving milk, warm it in 20-30 second increments, stir the milk and check the temperature in the middle of the milk (it can sometimes be hotter than the edges). The temperature of the milk should be warm, not hot. Milk that is too hot will kill the yeast. 
Bread Flour: These rolls are best made using bread flour. If you don’t have bread flour you can use all purpose flour and add 1 Tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to help increase the protein content and texture of your bread.
Amount: This recipe makes 12 large rolls. If you want the rolls a little smaller, make 16 rolls and bake for a minute or two less.
Keyword Clover, Dinner Rolls, St. Patrick’s Day

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One Week in Perdido Key, Florida

This past Thanksgiving our family chose not to fly due to COVID. Typically we spend our Thanksgivings in Oregon with extended family in a little coastal town. Cozy, chilly and a warm fireplace are the staples of our traditional Thanksgiving beach vacation. This COVID year, after having disappointed our kids for what felt like the 10th time changing vacation plans, we decided to find a beach that we could drive to. We’d been to the Gulf Coast before (Dauphin Island, Alabama) and because we love trying new places we decided to look a bit further down the coast to Perdido Key, Florida

Perdido Key State Park

Most of the lodging we have seen along the Gulf Coast has been either little beach houses or giant hotels dotting the coastline with sunbathers and swimmers gathering on the beaches. One thing that attracted us to Perdido Key is Perdido Key State Park. This state park spans about two miles of the coast with beautiful views in every direction (though you can see a few giant hotels off in the distance). The beach itself is not too large and was never crowded the entire time we were there (November isn’t exactly high season, so take that with a grain of salt). Accommodations are available at a few of the larger hotels/condos nearby on either end of the two miles of state park beach or you can stay across the street from the state park beaches at a number of vacation rentals. Many of the rentals back to a beautiful lagoon and some of them have access to put a boat in.

VRBO House Rental 

We searched for a house rental that we could enjoy as a family of six and ended up with this awesome one we found on VRBO. It was a three story townhouse that was well furnished and had all the amenities you could want in a beach rental. The deck boasted views of the gulf, the bay and it overlooked a swimming pool that was shared with the three other townhomes. Being November, we didn’t have to worry much about sharing the (unheated) pool, there was never a time we were using the pool that another family was using it too. Another tip in searching for vacation rentals: Sometimes you have to book for a whole week or a minimum number of days on rental sites. It can also get you a better deal or open you up to more options if you increase the number of days you are looking for.

Beach Time

One of the best parts about this rental was the short walk to the beach. It was just about 3 minutes away, and we enjoyed many morning walks, evening strolls and daytimes playing in the water, building sandcastles, reading and lounging in our little piece of paradise. If you are searching for a beach house rental, definitely scour reviews or ask the host a few questions about what kind of beach items are included. Our rental came with a beach wagon, boogie boards, sandcastle-building toys, frisbees, balls, beach chairs, umbrellas, etc… You name it, they had it. This made spending our time at the beach so relaxing that everything was already taken care of. If you have kids who love to boogie board I would recommend bringing a couple life jackets too. The weather was just perfect for boogie boarding, we lucked out with about 70-80 degree days our entire seven days.

Grocery Pickup

One of our favorite vacation hacks whenever we are staying in a rental with a kitchen is grocery pickup. I always plan out our meals before we go, including restaurants we want to try (curbside pickup due to COVID this year), breakfast foods, lunch/dinner foods and we usually eat out or takeout about once a day. Before we leave I’ll pack up our pantry staples and then place a grocery pickup order. This makes it super easy to drive into town, stop for our grocery pickup time and then head straight to the rental without having to run around with a list gathering all the perishable foods we need for a week. If you are planning a family trip where you’ll be making meals this year, definitely do yourself a favor and order your groceries ahead of time.

Bike Rental Gulf Shores State Park

We kept things super simple this year due to Covid. Usually we like to get out and explore the area we are visiting a little more, but thanks to Covid we basically just swam, beached and ate. The one exception to this was a trip to Gulf State Park just over the Florida/Alabama border, where we felt we could appropriately social distance and wear masks when needed. This was one of the highlight activities of our trip and we had such a good time. We rented bikes from Beach Bike Rentals which was literally a stones throw from one of the bike trails at the park. They had bikes for all the kids and even a trail-a-bike attachment for our little guy. We rode all around the state park and enjoyed observing the lakes, alligators, marsh area, butterflies, armadillos and the beautiful views. Toward the end of our ride we were riding on boardwalks and even up and over an overpass to get to a beautiful beach. That beach was a little more crowded than we were used to at our Perdido Key beach, so we just headed back to turn in our bikes after our 9 mile ride around the state park. It was a definite highlight, and if you are in the Alabama/Florida gulf area it is definitely worth checking out.

Favorite Eats

One of the things we were most looking forward to on our trip was the gulf shrimp and fresh seafood. We are big foodies when we go on vacation, especially when it comes to seafood. Have you ever had gulf coast shrimp? It’s amazing and our favorite. Here are a few of our favorite spots we ate at on our trip:

The Gulf: Orange Beach We loved their fish tacos, poke bowl and lobster rolls and the ambience. This was the only place we actually sat and ate because you order your food and then sit at picnic tables right on the water. The ambience is so fun, and we were able to socially distance in the open air. The food was delicious.

Deep Blue Seafood Truck: We loved their fish tacos and took them to go to eat on the beach. Follow them on Facebook, they post a different special every day. 

Shrimp Basket: Good fried shrimp and other fish. This seems to be a regional/local chain. It was a quick place to grab some fish. We specifically liked the shrimp and fish tacos.

On a normal trip we often eat out once a day or so in order to sample all the regional deliciousness. Because we stayed mainly in the Perdido Key area and didn’t go in to eat at restaurants, we didn’t have quite as many food options but if we had ventured twenty minutes in either direction to Pensacola or down to Gulf Shores there are many more options.

Next Time

I had a whole list of things we would have loved to do in a non-Covid year. These are a few more options for our next trip when things have hopefully returned more to normal (fingers crossed):

Kayak Rental: We wanted to do this but didn’t get around to it. There are some beautiful bays to kayak in.

Blue Angels: Watch the Blue Angels practice on select days throughout the year. If you have the right credentials you can also check out the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Blackwater River State Park: This park is about an hour away from Perdido Key but it looked like such a fun day trip. I would love to rent a canoe and spend the day on the river.

Fort Pickens: An old military fort on the coast that is now a national park. Bring flashlights for the kids to explore and don’t forget to print out your “every 4th grader in a park” pass if you have a 4th grader (free national park pass for the whole year!).

We love Perdido Key as a vacation destination because you can make it as laid back or as “go-go-go” as you want it. The kids are already asking when we can go back and it has made the list as a top spot for a family beach vacation. What is your favorite beach destination? Are you heading to a beach for spring break this year? We love trying out different places and would love any recommendations!

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Best Basic Banana Bread

You know how some recipes just seem elusive? I felt that way for a long time about cookies. I could make a good cookie, but the best? That was hard to find. Now I help my kids run a cookie business and after much trial and error we’ve baked our way into some pretty amazing cookies. I feel the same way about banana bread. I’ve always had good banana bread. Even very good banana bread, but I just keep trying recipes because I couldn’t find a recipe that I really loved. After tinkering around for years, I’ve finally come up with a recipe that I will be making again and again.

Jump to Best Basic Banana Bread Recipe

My Perfect Banana Bread

My perfect recipe makes a great loaf but could also be used for 24 muffins. It tastes of banana but not overpowering. It is light, tender and can hold up to some mini chocolate chips thrown in. I like a banana bread recipe best if I can use one bowl for easier cleanup and I especially love a recipe that all of my kids like. This banana bread hits all of those notes. Even my daughter who is not typically a fan has been begging me to make this recipe again…and again! It is delicious 

Combining Butter and Oil for the Perfect Bread

A lot of quick bread recipes call for just butter or just oil. I love using a combination of the two in this recipe. Both oil and butter bring different properties to banana bread. Butter brings a rich flavor and oil helps with a tender, moist and delicious crumb. I find a combination of the two results in the best loaf of bread.

Brown, Over-Ripe Bananas for the Best Flavor

Banana bread has the most flavor when the bananas are really brown…disgustingly brown…even black. The “riper” the banana, the more flavor your bread will have. If you want a milder flavor, use a more brown/yellow banana. I often keep bananas on my counter and whenever I have one that has gotten overripe and no one in my family will eat it, I’ll let it sit a little bit longer until the peel is pretty dark. Then I’ll make a batch of banana bread if I have enough of them, or I’ll peel the banana and pop it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it. To use frozen bananas, let the bananas thaw and then drain a little bit of the excess water before using.

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Makes Moist Banana Bread

I used to always use white sugar in my banana bread. Never again! Brown sugar adds the perfect moistness, sweetness and flavor. The yogurt in this recipe also helps increase the moistness in this bread. If you want to substitute Greek yogurt, you can. The batter will be a little bit thicker than a regular plain yogurt.

Banana Bread Mix-Ins

My kids love this recipe plain, but they really love it when I add some mini chocolate chips into the batter. In my younger years I used to put almost as many chocolate chips as cups of flour into the banana bread for a resulting baked good that tasted more like chocolate bread with a bit of banana. Over the years I’ve cut back, and I love the addition of little mini chocolate chips. They give the perfect pop of chocolate with the sweetness and compliment the banana bread flavor instead of trying to hide it. You could also add some chopped nuts instead of mini chips, or leave them out all together.

A Few Tips

This recipe works perfectly in one bowl. You can mix the dry ingredients together first, but more often that not I pour the flour on top of the liquid ingredients and then the salt and baking soda on top of that. Lightly combine the dry ingredients and then mix the whole thing together carefully. This results in fewer dishes for me and seriously yummy banana bread. Another trick to get a nice high domed top is to bake the bread at a high heat for the first few minutes. The high heat reacts with the baking soda in the recipe and give the tall, domed loaf that you would find at a bakery. I’ve used this technique with great results in these amazing chocolate chip muffins, this sourdough zucchini bread and our favorite applesauce bread.

Bread, Muffins and Mini Muffins

I love this recipe so much because it makes one loaf of bread or twenty-four regular-sized muffins. These muffin tins (affiliate link), are my favorite because they don’t need to be greased. If i’m being honest, we make banana bread muffins far more often than actual banana bread because they are so helpful for a quick breakfast or to stick in school lunches. I also love that this recipe makes perfect mini muffins for when you don’t want to eat an entire muffin. It’s just an all around perfect banana bread! If you’re looking for a stellar sourdough discard banana bread, check out my other favorite banana bread recipe that uses sourdough discard. You can’t go wrong with either one of these recipes. Enjoy!

Best Basic Banana Bread

The best basic banana bread recipe. Tender, full of banana flavor and easy to whip up. This recipe makes one loaf of banana bread or two dozen muffins.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Bread, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

  • 3 brown/black bananas mashed, about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt see recipe notes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips or other mix-in optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • To a liquid measuring cup, mash the brown bananas until you have about 1 1/2 cups of mashed banana. It's okay if you have a few little chunks of banana. Set aside.
  • To a medium-sized bowl, whip the softened butter with a hand mixer until creamy.
  • Add the brown sugar and mix again until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix again until completely incorporated.
  • Drizzle in the vegetable oil while mixing and add the yogurt and vanilla extract. Add the mashed banana and mix together.
  • Put the hand mixer away and pull out a wooden or large spoon. Add the flour to the bowl. Add the salt and baking soda right on top of the flour and carefully mix (not letting any of the baking soda or salt leave the bowl as you mix). Mix just until the flour is just incorporated and only a few dry streaks remain.
  • Add mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts or dried fruit and lightly mix.
  • Lightly grease or line with parchment paper a 9 by 5 pan, affiliate link (see recipe note for muffin instructions). Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. After ten minutes, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 45-55 minutes until baked all the way through. Stick a sharp knife or toothpick into the center of the banana bread. If it comes out clean (with no batter sticking to it), it is ready to pull out of the oven.

Notes

Plain Yogurt: If you don’t have plain yogurt, you can substitute sour cream. Greek yogurt will make the batter a little thicker, but you can also substitute it for the plain yogurt if you don’t have anything else on hand.
Banana Muffins: Recipe makes about 24 muffins. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake muffins for 5 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 15-16 minutes until baked all the way through.
Mini Banana Muffins: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake mini muffins for 4 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 8-10 minutes until baked through.
Keyword banana, banana bread

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Soft Sourdough Pretzels

Is there anything better than a fresh, hot pretzel? The chewy texture, salty exterior and just all around deliciousness! My husband and I both lived in Germany as kids (not at the same time and we didn’t know each other at the time). One of our favorite shared food memories are the “Laugenbrezel” (a traditional German soft pretzel) and the “Laugenbrot” which was basically a roll or bun made from pretzel dough. Top it with some melty cheese or dip the soft pretzel in some mustard and you have yourself the perfect snack or lunch. This recipe for sourdough pretzels brings us back to those childhood days and fills our kitchen with the aroma of a German bakery. Soft sourdough pretzels are being made on repeat right now because we love them so much. This recipe takes almost 24 hours start to finish (with lots of hands-off time). If you are looking for a quick and simple recipe, try these pretzel bites with sourdough discard.

Jump to Sourdough Pretzel Recipe

Sample Soft Sourdough Pretzel Schedule

Working with sourdough takes time. I find it helpful to see a sample schedule so I have a reference point for making the recipe fit in my own life. When I make soft sourdough pretzels, this is often how I do it. You may need more or less time depending on the warmth of your kitchen and how quickly your sourdough rises.

Day 1 (night): 8-10 PM: Mix Leaven the night before baking

Day 2 (morning): 8 AM Mix the dough and give it a long rise with one stretch and fold

12-2 PM: After the dough has risen and is a bit puffy: pre-shape, rest, shape pretzels and refrigerate

2-4 PM: Score and bake

Building the Pretzel Leaven

The night before you want to make the pretzels, build the leaven. Take 1 Tablespoon of ripe sourdough starter (i.e. starter that has not been recently fed and needs to be refreshed). Add 150 grams all purpose flour and 150 grams of water. Stir it up, cover it and let it work overnight. The next morning, your leaven should have doubled in size and be nice and puffy, ready to use. These pretzel use a large percentage of leaven and no commercial yeast. The recipe has been developed based on the percentage of flour and water in the leaven. If you choose to use bubbly sourdough starter instead, you may need to increase or decrease the amount of flour and water in the dough recipe relative to your leaven. 

Diastatic Malt Powder in Pretzels

One ingredient you may not be familiar with in the list of ingredients is diastatic malt powder. This can be purchased online (affiliate link) or you may be able to find it in your local grocery store. The technical explanation is that diastatic malt powder contains the amylase enzyme, which consumes the starches in your pretzel dough and creates sugars. This helps create an evenly browned pretzel and good crust. Diastatic malt powder also promotes a good rise. The yeast has “more food” from the breakdown of starches into sugars, which gives your pretzels a better rise. When working with diastatic malt powder, a little goes a long way. Typically you only want about 1/2 a teaspoon of diastatic malt powder per cup of flour. This recipe only calls for a small amount. Too much diastatic malt powder and your pretzels will overproof quickly. If you don’t have diastatic malt powder you can add a teaspoon of brown sugar to the dough.

Soft Sourdough Pretzel Dough

Once your leaven is ready, add the dough ingredients to a stand mixer and mix together using a dough hook. Every time I make soft sourdough pretzels, I wonder if I’ve added too much flour to the dough because initially it looks and feels a little stiff, almost crumbly. Don’t worry! This is normal. As you add the chunks of softened butter to the dough while it’s mixing, the dough will change from a little shaggy into the most perfect soft pretzel dough. After kneading for 5-6 minutes, let the dough rise and perform one stretch and fold about an hour into the bulk rise (you can watch a video on folding techniques here—stretch and fold is about halfway through the short video). The bulk rise time takes about 4-6 hours (remember this is sourdough and will take much longer than commercial yeast), depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Shaping Soft Sourdough Pretzels

In the past I’ve struggled shaping pretzels. I’ve found that this dough is the perfect consistency for shaping. No extra flour is needed, just a good countertop space. Once the dough as risen, use a bench knife to cut the dough into twelve equal pieces. Let the dough rest for another 20 minutes to relax before shaping.

To shape: Take a ball of dough. Roll it out like a rope, using both hands starting in the middle and going out toward the ends of the dough. Repeat this process, leaving the middle of the “rope” larger as you taper out toward the ends. Once you have the length you want, pull the ends up and around, twisting them together and then bringing them back down to the dough. Pinch the ends into the dough and set the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet (my favorite baking sheets here, affiliate link). Repeat with the other balls of dough until you have 12 shaped pretzels. Check out this video to watch the process below.

It is also possible to shape the dough into “logs” or even rolls for a German-style “Laugenbrot” pretzel roll. These rolls may need an extra few minutes of baking time because of their thicker shape.

Refrigerate Pretzel Dough

One of the keys to keeping a good shape on the pretzels and not letting them break apart when soaking them before baking is to refrigerate the shaped dough for an hour. You just need it long enough to help the pretzels keep their shape. After shaping, stick the soft sourdough pretzels in the refrigerator on their baking sheet for about an hour. I have never kept them in the refrigerator for a longer period of time. They could most likely be refrigerated overnight and baked the next day, though I haven’t tried it yet. I wouldn’t let them sit much longer than 24 hours refrigerated before baking. If you try it out, let me know!

European-Style Soft Pretzel Flavor

To get the traditional pretzel flavor, you have one of two options before baking. Your can dip the pretzels in a lye solution or you can boil them in a baking soda bath. The lye solution is traditional and will produce a beautiful mahogany color, glossy sheen and a chewy crust. Lye is also caustic and you need to take safety precautions when using it. The baking soda method is a bit more cumbersome ie: boiling water, adding baking soda, boiling the pretzels and then baking them. Pick which method works for you. I’ve done both and both produce delicious pretzels. If I’m going for most “authentic,” I will choose the lye method.

Lye Method

Disclaimer: lye is caustic. Always use safety glasses and rubber gloves. Wear long sleeves/pants and closed toed-shoes. Use paper towel to wipe up spills and throw them away. Rinse everything that touches lye with large amounts of water. Be sure to wash your hands and arms throughout and if you do feel anything burning, re-wash wherever it burns with soap and water and rinse dry. Lye should not be around children or pets.

I bought food grade lye here (affiliate link). It comes in a large jar and you add small amounts of lye to water to dilute it which makes it safe to consume once baked. To use the lye, begin by putting on your protective gear (including protective goggles and rubber gloves). To a large bowl, add 5 cups of water and 3 Tablespoons of food grade lye. Stir together with a spatula until dissolved. Dip each pretzel in the lye solution for 15-20 seconds. Place pretzel back on the parchment-lined baking sheet to bake.

Baking Soda Method

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 6 Tablespoons of baking soda once the water is boiling. The water should be vigorously boiling, not just a simmer before boiling the dough. Taking a few pretzels at at time, place them in the boiling water for 90 seconds per pretzel. Remove the pretzels and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Scoring/Salt

Once the pretzels have been soaked or boiled, take a bread lame and score the bottom, thicker- part of the pretzel. A bread lame (affiliate link) will help give you the perfect score but a sharp knife will work in a pinch. Sprinkle the top of the pretzel with some flaky sea salt (affiliate link) or pretzel salt (affiliate link) for the perfect flavor. Bake the pretzels at 475 degrees for 15 minutes. 

These sourdough pretzels evoke all the best memories and are just delicious. We love them dipped in mustard, covered in melty cheese or just eaten hot and plain. The crisp, chewy crust with the flaky sea salt means that these are basically devoured once they come out of the oven, though they do freeze well after they cool to enjoy a few days later. Enjoy!

Soft Sourdough Pretzels

European-style soft, sourdough pretzels made with baking soda or lye and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. Chewy, soft and delicious!
Course Bread, Snack
Cuisine American, German
Servings 12 pretzels

Ingredients
  

Leaven

  • 1 Tablespoon ripe sourdough starter
  • 150 grams all purpose flour
  • 150 grams water

Sourdough Pretzel Dough

  • 850 grams bread flour see note
  • 420 grams water
  • 250 grams leaven
  • 19 grams salt
  • 3 grams diastatic malt powder
  • 68 grams unsalted butter softened

Lye or Baking Soda Solution

  • 3 Tablespoons food grade lye OR
  • 6 Tablespoons baking soda
  • flaky sea salt for topping

Instructions
 

Leaven

  • The night before making the pretzels, mix together 1 Tablespoon of ripe sourdough starter with 150 grams flour and 150 grams water. Cover and let rest overnight.

Sourdough Pretzel Dough

  • The next morning, in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the risen leaven, water, flour, salt and malt powder using a dough hook. The dough will be very thick, almost crumbly at first, but will come together as you add the butter.
  • Within the first minute or two of kneading, add the softened butter, 1/2 Tablespoon at a time and knead for 5-6 minutes until completely incorporated.
  • Let dough rise for 4-6 hours until puffy and just about doubled in size. After the first hour, perform one stretch and fold: reach down onto the side of the dough, pull the dough up and stretch it over the top, pushing it back down onto the other side of the dough. Rotate the bowl and repeat two or three more times as you go around the bowl. The warmth of your dough/kitchen will determine the length of rise time, though this is typically 4-6 hours.
  • After 4-6 hours, pre-shape the dough into 12 equal-sized balls, cover and rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  • Shape the pretzels by rolling them into a long rope. Begin rolling in the middle and then easing your way out. The middle of the "rope" should be thicker than the ends. Pull the thinner ends up, twist and press down into the pretzel. (LINK to video). See recipe note for pretzel rolls.
  • Place pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet. Stick in the fridge for 1 hour.

Baking Sourdough Pretzels

  • Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Lye Method: Put on protective goggles and rubber gloves. Lye can burn your skin or eyes. It should not be around children or pets. To a large bowl, add 5 cups of water. Add 3 Tablespoons of food grade lye (affiliate link). Stir together with a spatula. Dip each pretzel in the lye solution for 15-20 seconds per pretzel. Place pretzels back on the parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Baking Soda Method: Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 6 Tablespoons baking soda. Place pretzels in the boiling baking soda water and boil for 90 seconds per pretzel. Remove pretzels from the boiling water and place on the baking sheets.
  • Score the bottom half, thick part of the pretzel with a sharp knife or bread lame.
  • Sprinkle with pretzel salt or my favorite flaky sea salt.
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Let cool or enjoy warm. For longer-term storage, freeze pretzels in a ziplock bag and re-heat when ready to eat.

Notes

Bread Flour: To substitute for bread flour, use 810 grams all purpose flour and 40 grams vital wheat gluten.
Using Lye: Lye is caustic. Always use safety glasses and rubber gloves. Wear long sleeves, pants and closed-toed shoes. Wipe up any spills with paper towels and throw away. Rinse everything that touched the lye with large amounts of water and wash hands and arms thoroughly. If you feel anything burning, re-wash affected area with soap and water, rinse and dry.
Shaping: These pretzels can also be shaped into logs or rolls for a traditional “Laugenbrot” roll. Roll up into a cylinder or shape into a roll. Proceed with recipe. Add a few minutes to the baking time so they are baked all the way through.
Keyword pretzel, sourdough

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High Rise Yeast Biscuits

A few weeks ago I visited a local Kentucky bakery. On a whim I picked up a package of rolls. They looked a little hard on the outside but I was intrigued by the name: Biscuits, though they looked a lot more like yeast rolls. The biscuits were amazing! This lead me on the hunt to try and recreate these rolls, something I’m still in the process of doing. Along the way, I stumbled upon these amazing high rise yeast biscuits. I don’t even want to tell you how many times I’ve made them since…they are so good. Adding yeast to biscuit dough increases the rise, fluffiness and absolute melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of these biscuits. They are the perfect biscuit to serve with Sunday dinner, spread with jam or use with some lunchmeat for a sandwich. I have a few different biscuit recipes on my site that I love for their ease and flakiness, but this one is worth the extra rise time for the tender, melt-in-your-mouth, high rise biscuit.

Jump to High Rise Yeast Biscuits Recipe

Three Rising Agents

A traditional biscuit uses self-rising flour or a lot of baking powder to give it a large oven rise. These high rise yeast biscuits use a combination of rising agents. Instant yeast and an hour rise gives them height and makes them fluffy and delicious. The baking powder and buttermilk react with each other to help create a beautiful rise for the perfect biscuit. One note: I like to use room temperature buttermilk. If you can, pour the buttermilk into a liquid measuring cup before making the biscuits and allow it to come to room temperature. Usually biscuit recipes call for cold butter and cold ingredients to help the biscuits rise in the oven. These biscuits actually benefit from room temperature ingredients (with the exception of the butter) because a warmer environment helps activate the yeast, which gives the biscuits their big rise.

Grated Butter and Shortening

The easiest way to mix up little pieces of butter into dough is to take a cold stick of butter from the refrigerator and grate it. This gives the perfect size pieces of butter for biscuits and is quick and easy, especially if you don’t have a pastry cutter. I also love that the butter pieces are all uniform and combine simply. If you want to substitute the shortening for butter, go ahead. Shortening reduces gluten development or in other words, it shortens the strands of gluten in making biscuits tender and crumbly. Butter, on the other hand, melts in the dough and creates little pockets of steam that lift and puff up the dough. I like including both butter and shortening in my recipe to get a tender, crumbly, flaky biscuit. If you want to just use one over the other, that works. Just beware that you may be sacrificing texture by doing so.

Fold in Half and Top with Butter

I love that these high rise yeast biscuits are rolled out, cut and folded in half before placing in a greased baking dish. The fold gives the biscuits more height and makes them the perfect vehicle for a biscuit sandwich. I think these would be great with some bacon, egg and cheese or even as a nice hearty biscuit to top with some sausage or chocolate gravy. After the biscuits come out of the oven, use a pastry brush to brush them with melted butter. You may think a single coating is enough, but keep coating them until all the butter is used up. The extra butter on top takes these high rise yeast biscuits over the top.

Gluten-Free Option

I made these biscuits gluten-free for my sister who doesn’t eat gluten and she was blown away by how delicious they were. I even sampled some of the gluten-free biscuits and I must say they were delicious. If you want to make these gluten-free, follow the recipe exactly as stated, but substitute in Cup4Cup flour (affiliate link). I’ve found Cup4Cup does a great job in making cookies, muffins, and pancakes gluten-free. If you are looking for a great gluten-free biscuit, these are amazing using gluten-free flour.

Even though these high rise yeast biscuits take a little bit longer than a traditional biscuit recipe, they are worth every hour of that rise time. Still faster than traditional rolls because they only need one rise, you will love having these biscuits at your dinner table! Enjoy!

High Rise Yeast Biscuits

Fluffy, light, buttery and downright delicious. These biscuits have three rising agents, resulting in the most tender biscuit ever. High rise yeast biscuits deserve a special spot at your dinner table.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 24 biscuits

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast see note
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 cups all purpose flour see note
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening Crisco or similar brand
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups buttermilk room temperature
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for topping biscuits

Instructions
 

  • To a small bowl, add the instant yeast, warm water (temperature of baby's bathwater) and sugar. Set aside while you mix the other ingredients. The yeast will smell yeasty and become bubbly during this time.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to a large bowl. Stir together to combine.
  • Cut the shortening into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter (affiliate link), your fingers or two knives. Continue until the shortening is in very small pea-shaped pieces.
  • Using a box grater, grate the cold butter on the edges of the grater. Add the cold butter to the flour mixture. Mix to combine.
  • To the flour/butter mixture, add the reserved yeast and the buttermilk. Mix gently until the dough forms a ball.
  • Turn the dough out on the counter and fold over once or twice, being careful not to overwork the dough.
  • Pat and roll the dough into a large rectangle (roughly 20 inches by 13 inches) and 1/2 inch or more thick. Cut the dough into 20-24 rectangular pieces (depending on how many you want) using a bench knife (affiliate link) or sharp knife.
  • Fold each rectangle in half and place in a greased 9 by 13 baking pan. Continue filling up the pan and nestling the rolls together.
  • Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise about an hour. The time may vary based on the temperature of the buttermilk and the temperature of your kitchen.
  • Once the biscuits have risen (puffed up and approximately doubled in size), preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Bake biscuits for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.
  • As soon as they come out of the oven, brush melted butter on top of the biscuits. Continue brushing until all the butter is used up. Enjoy immediately!

Notes

Dry Active Yeast: This recipe will also work with dry active yeast. Use the same amount of dry active yeast as you would instant yeast. Be sure to let the yeast mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast has activated with the water and sugar. 
Gluten Free Flour: If you want to make these biscuits gluten-free, you can substitute Cup4Cup flour (affiliate link) for the all purpose flour in the recipe. I do not have experience with any other gluten-free flours. Cup4Cup works very well in this recipe. Substitute the flour and proceed with the recipe as outlined.
 
Keyword biscuit,, fluffy bread

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All About: Vital Wheat Gluten (And why It deserves a Place in Your PANTRY)

Vital Wheat Gluten. What is it? Is it a staple in your pantry? Why should you have it on hand if you are baking bread? All of these questions I asked myself as I started baking bread many years ago. As I would research a recipe, oftentimes I would find the author recommending vital wheat gluten. Initially I had no idea what it was or why it should matter, but I started using it. I don’t always keep bread flour (or high gluten flour) on hand. If there is one ingredient that has made a big difference in my bread, vital wheat gluten is it. I’ve compiled some information on what it is and why you should have it in your kitchen as a home baker if you want to make some seriously delicious loaves of bread.

What is Vital Wheat Gluten? 

Vital wheat gluten is the natural protein that is found in wheat. It is made by hydrating wheat flour (this activates the gluten) and then processing the flour to remove everything except for the gluten. This gluten is then dried and ground back into a powder and voila: vital wheat gluten! Many people who buy vital wheat gluten use it to make seitan which can be used as a “meat substitute.” It is very popular in some Asian cultures, where it is mixed with water and some spices to form a “dough” and then cooked. It becomes very chewy and has a meat-like texture. 

The Importance of Protein Content in Flour

Vital wheat gluten is made from the protein in the endosperm of a wheat berry. I’ve written about wheat before; if you want to learn more about wheat to pick the best type of flour for your bake, you can read here. Typically, vital wheat gluten is made up of anywhere from 75%-90% protein. The more protein in flour, the stronger the gluten bond is in the flour. A strong gluten bond traps the gas produced by the yeast and gives a strong rise to your loaf of bread. If you are having issues with your bread not rising well or recipes not turning out exactly as you like, check the flour you are using. Protein content matters. 

  • Soft Flour: Anywhere from 5%-10% protein, best used in pancakes, waffles, quick breads where you want soft, tender quick breads and don’t want the gluten to develop.
  • All Purpose Flour: 9%-11% protein, best all-around flour for your kitchen. Can be used to make pancakes, waffles, muffins, breads and give a good result. If you are making bread, add some vital wheat gluten for superior results.
  • Bread Flour (hard flour): 11%-13% protein, best for baking bread (no need to add vital wheat gluten, unless you are working with whole wheat flours).

All Purpose Flour vs Bread Flour

In a standard home kitchen, you may use only all purpose flour. It is the most common flour and has a protein content of anywhere from 9-11%. You can make good bread from most brands of all purpose flour. If you want to make superior bread, it is best to increase the flour’s protein content. You can do this by buying bread flour which has a higher protein content OR you can add vital wheat gluten to your all purpose flour, essentially making your own bread flour. This increases the protein content of your flour, which results in a better loaf of bread. For best results, sift the vital wheat gluten together with the all purpose flour, though if I’m being completely honest here, I often just throw in a few Tablespoons about halfway through adding flour, and it works well too.

How Much Vital Wheat Gluten Should I Add?

When baking with vital wheat gluten, you want to be careful not to add too much to the recipe. My rule of thumb is to add 1 teaspoon for every cup of flour the recipe calls for. Wheat gluten absorbs liquid at a higher rate than traditional flour, so you may need to increase your liquid by a few Tablespoons. Let the dough be your guide.

Whole Grains and Vital Wheat Gluten

Vital wheat gluten is especially helpful when baking with whole wheat and whole grains. Adding a little to bread made with whole wheat flour produces a soft, light and fluffy texture to a bread that can often be a little coarse. Whole wheat flour typically has all of the bran, germ and endosperm in it. The bran has little shards or sharp edges that cut the strands of gluten forming in the dough. Whole grain loaves tend to be more dense and don’t rise quite as tall as loaves made with processed white flour. Adding a little vital wheat gluten and some extra liquid to these whole grain doughs helps soften the texture and give more oven rise in baking.

Substitutions

So what should you do if you come across a recipe that calls for vital wheat gluten and you don’t have any? In a bread recipe, the vital wheat gluten is there to help give structure to the bread. If the recipe calls for all purpose flour and vital wheat gluten, you can substitute bread flour (you may need a little less flour due to the high protein content in bread flour). If a recipe calls for whole wheat flour and vital wheat gluten, you can leave out the vital wheat gluten. Your whole wheat bread will not rise quite as high and tall or taste quite as soft as it will if you add in the wheat gluten, but it shouldn’t stop you from making a delicious loaf.

A Pantry Staple

I have never made seitan, but I use vital wheat gluten almost weekly in my baking. I buy this large bag from Amazon (affiliate link) and it lasts me a long time. You can also find smaller sized bags (affiliate link) at your grocery store, usually in the baking aisle. A small amount of vital wheat gluten added to yeast bread recipes improves the texture and elasticity of the dough. It helps produce tall, round loaves and gives a light and fluffy texture when used in moderation. Vital wheat gluten also helps soften breads made with whole grains and results in a superior bread bake. Add it to your grocery list and start using it in your baking. You won’t regret it!

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One Year

When I started this journey, I told myself I would give it a year. As a busy mama of four elementary-school and preschool aged kids, I was at a place in life where I needed an outlet for myself. I’ve always loved to bake, share recipes and critique the things I create to make them better. And so, after a lot of thought and research, I decided to start a recipe blog. I brainstormed recipe ideas, made recipes and I hit publish on my first post, exactly one year ago today.  

A Turbulent Year

As I was feeling an impression to start this website (and acted on it), I never would have imagined the life-saver it would be to me during the pandemic. Those spring months were hard. Lonely. Filled with uncertainty. Writing and creating recipes helped me get through a pandemic, a difficult medical diagnosis, the death of my wonderful grandma (these lemon bars were her favorite) and a move to a new house. Creating recipes, baking in the kitchen with my kids and having a purpose (other than my role as mama) during this year has saved me in a way. I am forever grateful for this community. For those of you who take the time to try a recipe, share a post or leave a comment: Thank you for being here. Thank you for supporting me in this endeavor. Your love, support and comments have meant more than you know. 

Learning Experiences

This past year has taught me so much. I’ve learned how to work with wordpress. How to create recipes in wordpress (you can see from some of my old recipes that I didn’t even know how to add a “recipe card” into the recipe at first–I’m still working on updating them). I’ve learned to make recipes over and over again and that when it doesn’t turn out exactly right, to just eat the soupy peach cobbler (for the 3rd time) and shelve the recipe to come back to next year. Pro tip: if using frozen peaches, thaw them and drain excess extra liquid before making your cobbler or just use fresh peaches to begin with. I am grateful for every experience I have in connection with running this website. Each experience teaches me and helps me do better in the future.

Top Five Recipes

I love looking at the analytics of my blog, so without further ado, the top five recipes on my blog this year. Is it any wonder that all of these recipes have something to do with sourdough? It seems fitting because Sourdough has become so popular this year with the pandemic.

5th. Coming in at number five: Sourdough Discard Banana Bread

This banana bread uses sourdough discard and a combination of white and brown sugar to deepen the flavor. Delicious banana bread, and perfect if you are looking to use up some sourdough discard.

4th. Fourth place goes to these: Cinnamon Sugar Muffins Two Ways

Make your muffins with our without sourdough discard. After baking, the top of the muffin is dunked in butter and then cinnamon sugar for a sweet and delicious crunch.

3rd: Third place: Sourdough Discard Crispy Crackers

These are definitely one of my favorites and we make them a lot. The perfect crispy cracker that can use up a lot of sourdough discard and tastes incredible.

2nd: In second place: Crispy Sourdough Discard Waffles

If you want seriously amazing sourdough waffles, these are them. They are crispy on the outside; soft and fluffy on the inside. Basically the perfect waffle.

1st Coming in first and knocking all the others out of the park really, these: Sourdough Discard Soft White Roll

These rolls have been number one on my site for the past few months. They are soft, tender and delicious with just a hint of sourdough tang. So glad so many of you love them too!

Statistics for the Year

I always find it so interesting to see how the statistics side of blogging works, so I thought I’d share a few blog statistics with you. Last year, my first full month of writing this blog, I had about 1400 page views. This year (looking at the last full month in January) that has increased to about 14,000 page views a month. Thank you for being here! I love more than anything seeing all the recipes you are making. I so appreciate every share to an audience big or small. My biggest blogging takeaway is to just keep writing. Slow and steady. Keep adding good content.

Profitability: One Year In

Well, I said I’d give it a year and I am still going. Am I making any money off this endeavor? No. Not yet. I have made a little revenue from affiliate links on this blog, but nothing to cover the cost of the site itself just yet. I’ve learned this year that I love developing recipes, writing them up and posting them. I also feel a need to balance my time with my family. My hope and goal is for this blog to pay for itself one day and maybe some of the ingredients I’m using through affiliate links and ads on the site. It took a year, but finally google Adsense qualified this website for ads. These ads are what will continue to allow me to give you all of this free content.

High Hopes for the Future

I have high hopes for this upcoming year. I want to share more sourdough recipes, give more baking tips and definitely share more of my family’s favorite baked goods with you. My little preschooler will be starting kindergarten next year (cue tears) and I will have more time to devote to this space once he is in school full-time. I hope to travel more (a few trips booked and planned already) and bring a little more travel content to this space as planning vacations and traveling is one of my favorite things to do with my family. I’m grateful that this year my love for baking and sourdough has been able to ease the loss of travel for the year. Most of all, I’m planning to keep developing recipes, keep writing and keep posting on this website.

And with that, a big giant thank you! Thank you for being here. Thank you for all your comments and shares. Thank you for trying my recipes and coming back to them. Thank you for supporting me in this endeavor. Here’s to year two!

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread, like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest for more baking ideas.

Only posting the best recipes to make you a rockstar in the kitchen.