Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

I have recently switched to cooking with all whole grains for my husbands health. Since he loves sourdough I have cultivated a whole wheat sourdough starter so I can make a whole grain sourdough for him. However, I am finding that I have abundantly more sourdough starter than I need to make bread for us. So I started researching other ways of using up the extra starter and found many interesting ideas from some really old cookbooks, so now I’m going to play with them and updating the recipes to suit our tastes.

The first recipe I am going to try is actually the last one I collected but I was so surprised to find it in a collection of sourdough recipes that I was intrigued. It was actually a chocolate cake with two ingredients I never thought I would find in a chocolate cake: sourdough and cold coffee. I absolutely never put espresso powder or anything else “coffee flavored” in any of my recipes b/c I can’t stand coffee. But this recipe sounded so interesting that I decided to break that rule and raided my husbands coffee pot for the ¾ cup of coffee for this cake. This has met with rave reviews so far and is one of the simplest chocolate cakes I have every made. It was easy, yet stunningly delicious! While the dark chocolate buttercream icing wasn't included in the original recipe I did some research and modified it a bit to get the recipe below.  It really "takes the cake".

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

½ Cup Sourdough Starter
1½ Cups all Purpose white Flour (I use White Whole Wheat)
2 Cups sugar
¾ Cup Powdered Cocoa
1 Teaspoon baking powder
2 Teaspoons baking soda
2 Eggs
1 Cup milk
½ Cup vegetable oil
¾ Cup cold coffee
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Put the starter in a large bowl, cover loosely and allow to stand at room temperature until active and bubbling – at least an hour. Then add the reat of the ingredients, in the order given, beating well after each addition.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, pour the batter, which will be thin, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the layers test done when poked with a toothpick.

Allow to cool about 10 minutes before removing from the pans, then finish cooling the layers on wire rack. Do not frost until the cake is completely cold.

This is wonderful with dark chocolate butter cream icing.

Dark Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1 cup butter or margarine (NEVER, EVER, EVER use shortening in an icing recipe!)
7 (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups (approx. 1 lb.) confectioners' sugar sifted
4-5 tablespoons milk
3-4 tablespoons light corn syrup or vanilla infused syrup

Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add 3-4 tablespoons light corn syrup per recipe to thin icing if desired. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Cucumbers, Pickles, Relish…

Well you cannot say we are not blessed. One week ago 2 bushels of cucumbers were dropped on my doorstep; well, actually, he brought them all the way in and left them in the middle of my kitchen floor. Which is none to large and since trying to move around them as a centerpiece was just to difficult I had to do something with them ASAP.

I had my first order of business, to make 50 jars of bread and butter pickles for the church auction. Oh look, that used less than a ¼ bushel…what to do with everything else.

While this only used ¼ bushel, it took 16 hours to do alone and I didn’t even what to think about more bread and butter pickles, besides, I don’t like them. A little research and several conversations with people who had tried this method I was assured that the very best dill pickles ever come from an old fashioned recipe called “Old Fashioned Brined Dill Pickles” or “Old Fashioned 3 Week Pickles”. This recipe involves slicing the pickles according to your liking. Mixing 5 gallons of brine and layering pickles, spices and fresh dill & garlic in a 5 gallon bucket with the brine and letting them sit for 3 weeks before canning. So that recipe is in progress at the moment; if it turns out a success I will post it for those who are curious.

One 5-gallon bucket of whole dill pickles and another of sandwich slices and I still had cucumbers left. So off I sent several bags of them with my aunt to be made into salads, snuck into veggie dishes and made into Indian food. She brought me back a very delicious dish with paper-thin slices of cucumber mixed with dill, chives and sour cream, yum!

With still a drawer in my fridge full of cucumbers I decided to tackle making relish. Here I was met with a challenge. Every recipe I found contained a large amount of bell peppers, which I am allergic to. It took about three days of research to find the solution. In a relish recipe the vegetables themselves are not as important as the bulk of veggies so if you are short on one ingredient or, as in my case, allergic to one of them, you can sub it out for another vegetable of equal bulk. So with this in mind I took several relish recipes and 32 cups of shredded cucumbers and came up with the following recipe for relish. I did actually find people online with the same allergy who were looking for the same solution but none had yet been offered, so for those of you who are allergic, or just don’t like bell pepper here is the relish recipe for you! (It can be scaled down, I just had this large an amount of cucumber so I gave you the recipe as I did it. Remember the jars make great gifts!)

"Pepper Free" Relish

32 cups of cucumbers shredded
12 carrots shredded
(you can also sub in celery for some of the carrots if you like)
1-2 onions shredded
1 whole head of garlic peeled and separated into cloves
(add these to your veggies when shredding)

14 cups cider vinegar
2 ½ Tablespoons dill seed
1 ½ Tablespoons celery seed
1 ½ Tablespoons mustard seed
1 cup pickling salt

Mix your shredded veggies together and let stand in the fridge overnight then strain the liquid out of them, you can reduce the amount to be strained off my squeezing gentle when you mix the veggies and discarding the resulting liquid.

In a large stockpot mix vinegar and spices and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the veggies and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Fill hot relish into clean, hot pint jars leaving ½” head-space. Wipe rimes of jars with damp, clean paper towel and apply lid. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours and check seals.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


What would you do with 65 pounds of strawberries? Well when 65 pounds of strawberries landed on my dinning room table last week this is what I did with them. As strawberry season is descending upon the rest of the country soon I thought you might like to use some of the ideas.

Strawberry Jam

10 cups raw whole strawberries crushed to 6 cups
1 ½ box of Pectin
4 cups sugar

Wash your jars and lids in dishwasher on extra hot/sanitize cycle
Wash & hull strawberries crush to 6 cups
Measure sugar set ¼ cup aside
Mix reserved ¼ cup sugar with pectin and cook to a full boil
Add remaining sugar & bring to a boil again for 1 minute stirring constantly
Let stand for 7 minutes and stir again
Fill jar to within ¼ inch of tops and put lids on
Process jars in a boiling water bath, keeping them covered with at least 2 inches of water at a boil for 10 minutes.
Remove and cool jars

Strawberry Syrup

6-7 cups of crushed berries
7 Cups sugar

Wash your jars and lids in dishwasher on extra hot/sanitize cycle
Take your 6-7 cups crushed strawberries and blend in blender or food processor
Measure your sugar
Heat the berries in a big pot to boiling and simmer until soft (5 to 10 minutes)
Strain the hot berries through a colander
Combine the juice with 7 cups of sugar in a large saucepan, bring it to boiling, and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat
Fill jar to within ¼ inch of tops and put lids on
Process jars in a boiling water bath, keeping them covered with at least 2 inches of water at a boil for 10 minutes.
Remove and cool jars

Strawberry Vinegar

2 pints strawberries, rinsed, stemmed, and halved, ¼ cup reserved
1 quart cider vinegar
1 cup sugar

Combine berries & vinegar in large saucepan and let stand for 1 hour.
And sugar to saucepan and heat to a slow boil to dissolve
Simmer for 10 minutes
Strain the vinegar through sieve press out as much juice as possible
Add some of the reserved strawberries to each bottle. Fill jar to within ¼ inch of tops and put lids on. Store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks before using.

Strawberry Fruit Leather
(you know fruit roll-ups?)

8 cups of berries crushed
¼ - ½ cup of sugar

Process the berries in the blender and sweeten to taste. Put sheets of parchment paper on cookie trays. Spread the fruit puree as evenly as possibly on the trays, to between 1/4 and 3/8 of an inch thick. Dehydrate in your oven on dehydrate cycle or the lowest setting possible, with the door propped open, rotate the pans throughout the drying process to help ensure they dry evenly, to let the excess moisture escape the oven. When there are no tacky spots, the leather is dried. Drying times vary widely, depending upon the liquid content of the puree, the thickness of the puree on the trays, and temperature. Begin checking the leather after 2-3 hours. Roll them up on the parchment paper and store in gallon zipper bags.

Storage: at room temperature (in a dark place) -- three weeks

Refrigerated -- three months

Freezer -- twelve months

Strawberry Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
4 cups crushed strawberries
¾ cup sugar
2cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt

1 vanilla bean split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of cream and salt in medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and add the bean as well. Cover, remove from heat and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl whisk egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the pan.
Stir constantly over medium heat scraping the bottom until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir in the cream. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (if it is fully cold it will not set in the ice cream freezer) Follow the manufactures instruction on you ice cream maker to freeze, mix the strawberries into the ice cream in the last 15 minutes of churning.

Strawberry Smoothies

6 cups frozen strawberries
Flavored syrup
Vanilla yogurt or ice cream

Blend strawberries in blender; add yogurt or ice cream and flavored syrup to taste and texture.

Strawberry & Feta Salad

Sliced strawberries
Feta Cheese
Poppy seed dressing

Strawberry & Brie Salad

Baby lettuce
Brie chopped into tiny pieces
Sliced strawberries
Caramelized almonds (recipe below)
Strawberry dressing (recipe below)

Caramelized Almonds

slivered/sliced almonds (with skin)
2 cups
1/4 cup
4 tbsp 
1/2 tsp
2 tbsp
 Vegetable/Canola oil
2 tsp

Mix sugar and salt in a bowl. Heat a wide pan on medium and add honey, water, oil & stir. Allow to boil and add the roasted almonds and keep stirring and cooking till all the liquid has been absorbed by the nuts.
Immediately transfer to a bowl and sprinkle the sugar-salt mixture over it and toss so it's uniformly coated.

Spread this almond mixture on a covered baking sheet and allow to cool completely.
Tasty honey roasted nuts are ready to devour or pack and gift.

Strawberry Dressing

½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup strawberry vinegar (recipe above)
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch of mined onion
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Blend with until emulsified.